Caring Relationships with Adults at School (Student Reported), by Sexual Orientation
Definition: Estimated percentage of public school students in grades 7, 9, 11, and non-traditional programs who have caring relationships with adults at school, by sexual orientation and level of agreement (e.g., in 2013-2015, an estimated 26% of gay, lesbian, and bisexual students in grades 7, 9, 11, and non-traditional programs in California had a high degree of caring relationships with adults at school).
Footnote: Levels of caring relationships are based on a scale created from a student's responses to three questions about having a teacher or other adult at school who cares about the student, who notices when the student is not there, and who listens when the student has something to say. Years presented comprise two school years (e.g., 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years are shown as 2013-2015). County- and state-level data are weighted estimates; school district-level data are unweighted. Students in non-traditional programs are those enrolled in community day schools or continuation education. The notation S refers to (a) data for school districts that have been suppressed because there were fewer than 10 respondents in that group, and (b) data for counties that have been suppressed because the sample was too small to be representative. N/A means that data are not available.
Learn More About School Climate
Measures of School Climate on Kidsdata.org
On kidsdata.org, student-reported data on school climate include:
Level of academic motivation: This scale is based on student responses to four questions about being interested in schoolwork and being motivated to do well, understand new things, and do better at school
Level of school connectedness: This scale is based on student responses to five questions about feeling safe, close to people, and a part of school, being happy at school, and about teachers treating students fairly
When school climate is positive—for example, when students feel safe and connected to school, and when they have caring relationships with adults and meaningful ways to participate—students are more likely to succeed academically and engage in healthy behaviors (1, 2). When schools support students’ social, emotional, and physical needs, behavioral problems can be avoided and academic performance improves (2, 3). Improving school climate also is a promising strategy to narrow achievement gaps between lower and higher income students and among students of different racial/ethnic backgrounds (4). California law now requires school districts to address school climate as part of the Local Control and Accountability Plans (2).
For more information on school climate, see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section.
In 2013-2015, 52% of California 7th graders, 45% of 9th graders, 43% of 11th graders, and 36% of non-traditional students had high levels of school connectedness, estimated on the basis of reports about feeling safe, close to people, and a part of school, being happy at school, and about teachers treating students fairly. Among racial/ethnic groups with data, estimates of high levels of school connectedness ranged from 37% (African American/black) to 54% (white). Statewide, the percentage of gay, lesbian and bisexual students with high levels of school connectedness was 28% in 2013-2015, compared with 47% of straight students, and the share of those with low connectedness (21%) was more than double that for their straight peers (9%).
Students with higher levels of school connectedness tended to have higher levels of academic motivation in 2013-2015. Among California students in grades 7, 9, 11, and non-traditional programs with high levels of school connectedness, 43% had high levels of academic motivation, compared with 20% of students with medium school connectedness and 13% of students with low connectedness. Younger children, girls, and students with higher parent education levels also tended to have higher levels of academic motivation in comparison with their counterparts.
Levels of school supports (a summary measure based on student reports about the quality of their relationships with adults at school and their opportunities for meaningful participation) also varied by race/ethnicity and level of parent education; e.g., 27% of Hispanic/Latino students in grades 7, 9, 11, and non-traditional programs statewide were estimated to have high levels of school supports in 2013-2015, compared with 37% of white students, while 24% of students whose parents did not finish high school had high levels of school supports, compared with 37% of students with a parent who completed a college degree.
In 2013-2015, 26% of responses by California elementary school staff, 24% of responses by middle school staff, 21% of responses by high school staff, and 35% of responses by staff at non-traditional schools reported that youth development, resilience or asset promotion was fostered a lot at their school. When asked whether students at their school respect each other's differences, one in four responses by elementary school staff (25%) reported strong agreement, compared to fewer than one in five reports from middle school (14%), high school (16%), and non-traditional staff (19%).
A positive school climate—determined by factors such as students feeling safe and connected to school, and having caring relationships with adults and meaningful ways to participate—is linked to higher academic achievement and improved student behavior (1, 2, 3). A positive school climate has the potential to reduce achievement gaps between students of different income levels and racial/ethnic backgrounds (4). Recognizing this as a promising strategy to improve student outcomes, California law requires school districts to address school climate (as well as student engagement, parent involvement, and other priorities) in annual Local Control and Accountability Plans (2). While California districts have made progress in recent years, considerable room for improvement remains (2). Education leaders can continue to strengthen policies and practices that build positive school-family-community partnerships and support students’ social, emotional, and physical needs (3, 5). Students who have become disconnected from school or experience frequent school transitions may need additional support (3, 6).
Policy and practice options that could improve school climate include:
Engaging all school stakeholders—leaders, staff, students, families, and community members—to develop and maintain a shared understanding of positive school climate and how it can be achieved, thereby creating an inclusive, comprehensive, and ongoing approach to school improvement (3, 6)
Creating environments that foster caring relationships, trust, and open communication among students, teachers, staff, administrators, families, and community partners (3, 6)
Engaging students in decision-making processes and meaningful activities during and outside of school hours, such as providing opportunities to participate in cooperative learning, class meetings, and service learning projects (3)
Creating opportunities for families to participate actively in school activities and decision-making processes as part of fostering stronger partnerships with families (3, 6, 7)
Offering training and coaching to teachers and school staff so that they can effectively support the diverse needs of students, develop meaningful student-staff relationships, promote healthy behavior, and support a whole-child approach to education (3, 5)
Providing students with opportunities to develop pro-social skills, e.g., problem-solving, relationship-building, self-regulation, and decision-making, along with the support necessary to achieve them; as part of this, incorporate social-emotional learning as an intentional part of classroom instruction (3, 5)
Implementing school-wide, prevention-oriented discipline policies that are fair, consistent, and promote a positive learning environment; such policies should be based on a tiered system of appropriate responses to misconduct that keep students in school when possible (5, 6)
Creating clean, appealing physical environments, which can communicate respect to students, foster a sense of community, and reduce violence (6)
Ensuring that school practices and policies reflect and respond to the diverse cultural norms and values of its students, their families, and the broader community (3, 5, 6)