School Connectedness (Student Reported), by Grade Level

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Learn More About School Climate

Measures of School Climate on Kidsdata.org
On kidsdata.org, student-reported data on school climate include:
These indicators are derived from the California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS) and are available by grade level (7, 9, 11, and non-traditional), gender, parent education level, and sexual orientation.
State-level CHKS estimates, although derived from the Biennial State CHKS, may differ from data published in Biennial State CHKS reports due to differences in grade-level classification of students in continuation high schools.

Kidsdata.org also provides staff-reported data on the extent to which:
These indicators come from the California School Staff Survey (CSSS) and are available for elementary, middle, high, and non-traditional school staff.
School Climate
Bullying and Harassment at School
College Eligibility
Children's Emotional Health
High School Graduation
Math Proficiency
Disconnected Youth
Pupil Support Services
Reading Proficiency
Gang Involvement
School Safety
School Attendance and Discipline
Youth Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drug Use
Why This Topic Is Important
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.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  California Department of Education. (2019). Positive school climate. Retrieved from: https://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/ss/se/schoolclimate.asp

2.  Lee, B. (2016). Improving school climate through LCAPs. Fight Crime: Invest in Kids California. Retrieved from: https://www.strongnation.org/articles/165-improving-school-climate-through-lcaps

3.  National School Climate Council. (2015). School climate and pro-social educational improvement: Essential goals and processes that support student success for all. Teachers College Record. Retrieved from: https://www.iirp.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/SC-and-Prosocial-Educational-Improvement.pdf

4.  Berkowitz, R., et al. (2017). A research synthesis of the associations between socioeconomic background, inequality, school climate, and academic achievement. Review of Educational Research, 87(2), 425-469. Retrieved from: https://journals.sagepub.com/stoken/rbtfl/1T3lGnRAnqVJ6/full
How Children Are Faring
In 2015-2017, an estimated 60% of California 7th graders, 46% of 9th graders, 42% of 11th graders, and 34% of non-traditional students had high levels of school connectedness—meaning they felt safe, close to people, and a part of school, were happy at school, and that teachers treated students fairly. Among racial/ethnic groups with data, estimates of high levels of school connectedness ranged from 36% (African American/black) to 59% (white). Statewide, the percentage of gay, lesbian and bisexual students with high levels of school connectedness was 32%, compared with 51% of straight students, while the share of those with low connectedness (18%) was double that of their straight peers (9%).

Students with higher levels of school connectedness tended to have higher levels of academic motivation in 2015-2017. Among California students in grades 7, 9, 11, and non-traditional programs with high levels of school connectedness, 51% had high levels of academic motivation, compared with 15% 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—which reflect 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., 28% of Hispanic/Latino students in grades 7, 9, 11, and non-traditional programs statewide were estimated to have high levels of school supports in 2015-2017, compared with 38% of white students, while 25% of students whose parents did not finish high school had high levels of school supports, compared with 38% of students with a parent who completed a college degree.
In 2015-2017, 30% of responses by California elementary school staff, 26% of responses by middle school and high school staff, and 39% 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, 27% of responses by California elementary school staff reported strong agreement, compared with 14% of responses of middle school, 18% of responses from high school, and 23% of responses from non-traditional staff.
Policy Implications
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, incorporating 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)
For more information, visit kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section or see California Safe and Supportive Schools. Also see Policy Implications on kidsdata.org under Bullying and Harassment at School, Pupil Support Services, and School Attendance and Discipline.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  California Department of Education. (2019). Positive school climate. Retrieved from: https://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/ss/se/schoolclimate.asp

2.  Lee, B. (2016). Improving school climate through LCAPs. Fight Crime: Invest in Kids California. Retrieved from: https://www.strongnation.org/articles/165-improving-school-climate-through-lcaps

3.  National School Climate Council. (2015). School climate and pro-social educational improvement: Essential goals and processes that support student success for all. Teachers College Record. Retrieved from: https://www.iirp.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/SC-and-Prosocial-Educational-Improvement.pdf

4.  Berkowitz, R., et al. (2017). A research synthesis of the associations between socioeconomic background, inequality, school climate, and academic achievement. Review of Educational Research, 87(2), 425-469. Retrieved from: https://journals.sagepub.com/stoken/rbtfl/1T3lGnRAnqVJ6/full

5.  Voight, A., et al. (2013). A climate for academic success: How school climate distinguishes schools that are beating the achievement odds. WestEd. Retrieved from: https://www.wested.org/resources/a-climate-for-academic-success-how-school-climate-distinguishes-schools-that-are-beating-the-achievement-odds-full-report

6.  Morgan, E., et al. (2014). The school discipline consensus report: Strategies from the field to keep students engaged in school and out of the juvenile justice system. Council of State Governments Justice Center. Retrieved from: https://csgjusticecenter.org/youth/school-discipline-consensus-report

7.  California Department of Education. (2014). Family engagement framework: A tool for California school districts. Retrieved from: https://www.wested.org/resources/family-engagement-framework-a-tool-for-california-school-districts
Websites with Related Information
Key Reports and Research
County/Regional Reports
More Data Sources For School Climate