Chat with us, powered by LiveChat Developmental Contexts of Adolescence Reading Reaction  Reading reactions should be about one page, typed, single-spaced, and must consist of the following:  1) brief summaries of the w | Wridemy

Developmental Contexts of Adolescence Reading Reaction  Reading reactions should be about one page, typed, single-spaced, and must consist of the following:  1) brief summaries of the w

 Developmental Contexts of Adolescence Reading Reaction 

Reading reactions should be about one page, typed, single-spaced, and must consist of the following: 

1) brief summaries of the week’s readings

 2) connections or contradictions across the readings

3) synthesis of the readings (e.g. how do they together speak to the topic of the week)

4) a commentary of your thoughts about the readings or any lingering questions you have about the content. 

Students will receive up to one point for each of these four areas and these reactions must demonstrate critical thinking about the readings. This reading reaction must cover all three readings about schools (e.g., the textbook chapter and two articles).


The Racial School Climate Gap: Within-School Disparities in Students’ Experiences of Safety, Support, and Connectedness

Adam Voight1 • Thomas Hanson2 • Meagan O’Malley2 • Latifah Adekanye1

Published online: 16 September 2015

� Society for Community Research and Action 2015

Abstract This study used student and teacher survey data

from over 400 middle schools in California to examine

within-school racial disparities in students’ experiences of

school climate. It further examined the relationship

between a school’s racial climate gaps and achievement

gaps and other school structures and norms that may help

explain why some schools have larger or smaller racial

disparities in student reports of climate than others. Mul-

tilevel regression results problematized the concept of a

‘‘school climate’’ by showing that, in an average middle

school, Black and Hispanic students have less favorable

experiences of safety, connectedness, relationships with

adults, and opportunities for participation compared to

White students. The results also show that certain racial

school climate gaps vary in magnitude across middle

schools, and in middle schools where these gaps are larger,

the racial achievement gap is also larger. Finally, the

socioeconomic status of students, student–teacher ratio,

and geographic location help explain some cross-school

variation in racial climate gaps. These findings have

implications for how school climate in conceptualized,

measured, and improved.

Keywords School climate � Race � Adolescence � Youth

development � Schools � Diversity


Racial and ethnic disparities in academic achievement and

school discipline are fundamental problems of educational

equity in the United States. A chorus of research findings have

demonstrated that Black and Hispanic students achieve at

lower levels than their White1 peers (see Duncan and Murnane

2011) and are suspended and expelled from school more often

(Losen 2015; Skiba et al. 2011). Racial2 gaps exist due to both

school segregation as well as racial disparities within indi-

vidual schools (Fryer and Levitt 2004; Page et al. 2008).

Reducing these racial gaps is central to the priorities of the US

Department of Education and to the values of community

psychology (Sarason 1996; Weinstein 2002).

One feature of schools that may be related to these gaps

and that has garnered increased attention of late among

researchers and policymakers is school climate (e.g., Kim

et al. 2014; US Department of Education 2014; Voight

et al. 2013). Climate refers to experiences of safety, con-

nectedness to school, opportunities for meaningful partic-

ipation, and the quality of relationships between students

and staff, and these factors are related to student achieve-

ment and behavior (Hanson and Voight 2014; Thapa et al.

2013). Conceptually, climate is generally understood as a

characteristic of schools, though there is mixed evidence—

reviewed below—to suggest that students within the same

& Adam Voight

[email protected]

1 Cleveland State University, 2121 Euclid Avenue, JH 377,

Cleveland, OH 44115, USA

2 WestEd, San Francisco, CA, USA

1 The racial/ethnic labels ‘‘Black,’’ ‘‘Hispanic,’’ and ‘‘White’’ were

used herein in lieu of ‘‘African American,’’ ‘‘Latina/o,’’ and ‘‘White,’’

respectively, as they correspond with the California Department of

Education’s racial/ethnic designations, and thus our subsequent

operationalizations. Where appropriate, more specific racial/ethnic

labels are used. 2 While we appreciate the distinction between the terms ‘‘race’’ and

‘‘ethnicity,’’ we use the term ‘‘race’’ herein to refer to both for the

sake of brevity.


Am J Community Psychol (2015) 56:252–267

DOI 10.1007/s10464-015-9751-x

school may experience safety, support, and relationships

differently based on their race. This study examines the

nature of the racial school climate gap using a large sample

of California middle schools. It further examines the rela-

tionship between a school’s racial climate gaps and

achievement gaps and other school structures and norms

that may help explain why some schools have larger or

smaller racial disparities in climate experiences than


Literature Review

Racial Disparities in Education

Education inequity is a persistent reality of American

culture. Almost 50 years ago, the Coleman Report (Cole-

man et al. 1966) put race-based achievement gaps on the

national radar. Since that time, achievement gaps have

remained largely unchanged (Duncan and Murnane 2011).

As early as kindergarten, there are marked differences in

academic performance between racial minority students

and their peers (Fryer and Levitt 2004). These differences

are sustained as students progress through school (Clot-

felter et al. 2009; Hanushek and Rivkin 2006).

Various reasons have been proposed to explain the racial

achievement gap. One of the simplest explanations is that

race is inextricably connected to socioeconomic status in

the United States. Poor students have fewer resources for

learning and must overcome greater barriers, and a dis-

proportionate number of poor families are racial minorities

(Hanushek and Rivkin 2006). However, even when

socioeconomic status is taken into consideration, an

achievement gap among racial groups remains (Clotfelter

et al. 2009). Social psychologists note ‘‘stereotype threat’’

as a possible contributor to the gap, wherein test takers of

stigmatized racial groups worry that they may confirm

stereotypes about intelligence, and thus perform worse due

to this stress (Steele and Aronson 1995). Other explana-

tions are socio-cultural, suggesting that minority peer

groups reward disengagement or that certain racial identi-

ties are not conducive to valuing academic success (Fryer

2010), although this explanation has been strongly con-

tested and met with much countervailing evidence (e.g.,

Warikoo and Carter 2009). Finally, some scholars point to

the disproportionate rate at which Black, Hispanic, and

American Indian students are disciplined and suspended,

distracting from learning time and undermining school

connectedness. This disparity is presumed to be a function

of either objective differences in student behavior or dis-

crimination on the part of school staff in their subjective

interpretation of student behavior (Gregory et al. 2010). A

common thread to these explanations is that the divergent

school social experiences of racial groups contribute to

educational inequalities.

School Climate

School climate refers to the school social experience (Co-

hen et al. 2009). Seidman et al. (Seidman 1988; Seidman

and Cappella, in press; Tseng and Seidman 2007) describe

climate as a social process or ‘‘within-setting social regu-

larities’’ that affect members’ subjective experiences of the

setting. The conceptualization and measurement of social

climate are longstanding projects of community psychol-

ogy (Henry, in press; Moos 1973; Trickett and Moos 1974).

A recent study identified several specific dimensions of

school climate in a survey of California middle school

students, including: (a) safety and connectedness; (b) adult-

student relationships; and (c) opportunities for meaningful

student participation (Hanson and Voight 2014). Based on

this definitional framework (which is characteristic of and

encompassed by other common definitions in the research

literature; see Cohen et al. 2009) a positive school climate

is characterized by a school environment that makes stu-

dents feel emotionally and physically safe, part of the

school community, that adults in the school respect them,

care about them, and have high expectations for their well-

being and success, and that they have opportunities to

provide input in how things work at the school.

Theoretically, having caring, supportive, respectful

relationships with adults and peers and having opportuni-

ties to meaningfully engage at school (that is, having a

positive school climate) is particularly important for mid-

dle school students, as early adolescents are understood to

have an increasing desire for autonomy and social accep-

tance (Eccles et al. 1993). Person-environment fit theories

suggest that middle schools with positive climates are a

good fit for students, leading to improved achievement

through increases in academic interest and motivation

(Moos 1987). These theories suggest that performance and

well-being are maximized when members of a setting see

their personal characteristics, abilities, and preferences as

congruent with the social processes of the setting (Moos


There is empirical evidence that a positive middle

school climate is associated with higher levels of student

achievement and lower rates of suspension and expulsion

(Brand et al. 2003; Hanson and Voight 2014). McCoy et al.

(2013) conducted one of the only studies that used longi-

tudinal data analyses to examine the directionality of the

relationship between school climate and academic

achievement in Chicago elementary schools, finding a

positive bidirectional relationship between the two vari-

ables. Furthermore, middle school students’ perceptions of

positive adult-student relationships are associated with

Am J Community Psychol (2015) 56:252–267 253


higher self-esteem and lower rates of depression and

behavior problems (Way et al. 2007). Student participation

and positive adult–student relationships have been corre-

lated with lower rates of secondary school violence in both

quantitative (Khoury-Kassabri et al. 2004) and qualitative

research (Johnson et al. 2012). Elementary and middle

schools with more positive relationships between adults

and students were found to have greater success imple-

menting a classroom-based violence intervention (Gregory

et al. 2007). A positive school climate appears to be gen-

erally beneficial for middle schools students.

Within-School Racial Disparities in School Climate

As mentioned above, person-environment fit theories con-

cern individuals’ appraisals of the congruence between

their personal characteristics and their settings. Different

people within the same setting can have different views of

what goes on in the setting, or how well it is working for

them based on their identity. Theorists of educational

inequalities suggest that students’ race may be an important

personal characteristic that conditions the way they expe-

rience school social processes, with Black and Hispanic

students reporting less favorable relationships and oppor-

tunities to participate at school than White students, due in

part to objective differences in how Black and Hispanic

students are treated (e.g., tracking them into less rigorous

courses) and in part to students’ subjective interpretations

of the school environment (e.g., not relating to dominant

culture teachers; Hill 1993; Noguera 2003). Thus, there is a

question as to whether the notion of climate can be gen-

eralized across an entire school. Is there a ‘‘school’’ climate

or are there ‘‘microclimates’’ of unique experiences, for

example based on a student’s race? The former under-

standing is representative of a positivist ontology, wherein

a single unified representation of climate adequately

describes any school environment, and the latter a con-

textualist one, suggesting that different students within a

school carry different representations of their school (see

Tebes 2005).

Few research studies have directly addressed this ques-

tion, but some studies of student perceptions of school

climate have included race as a control variable and report

correlations and regression coefficients that provide evi-

dence for racial disparities. Using a racially diverse sample

of middle school students pooled across schools in Illinois,

Way et al. (2007) found that students’ racial minority status

was weakly correlated with their perceptions of several

dimensions of school climate (-0.08 r 0.08), includ-

ing adult-student relationships and opportunities for

meaningful participation. Using data from 19 middle

schools in a large district in Maryland, Bradshaw et al.

(2009) found that Black and Latino students were less

likely than White students to report feeling safe at school,

although these findings were not statistically significant.

These studies do not distinguish within-school differences

from between-school differences.

Several studies have documented a within-school racial

gap in school climate experiences. Shirley and Cornell

(2012) analyzed data from 400 students in one suburban

middle school in Virginia and found that Black students

were more likely than White students to report that their

peers supported aggressive behavior and less likely to

express willingness to seek help from their teachers for

bullying and threats of violence. Kuperminc et al. (1997)

examined one urban middle school in New York state and

found that being Black or Hispanic was weakly correlated

with the positivity of a student’s school climate percep-

tions. Using multilevel analyses, research in two separate

samples of Maryland schools found that, within particular

schools, White grade-5 (Mitchell et al. 2010) and high

school (Bottiani et al. 2014) students had significantly more

positive perceptions of school climate than their Black

peers. Fan et al. (2011), in a multilevel analysis of the

nationally representative Educational Longitudinal Study

of 2002, found that Hispanic students had less favorable

perceptions of school safety, and Black students reported

less positive teacher-student relationships than did their

same-school White peers. Evidence from various geo-

graphic locations and grade levels suggest that Black,

Hispanic, and White students experience their schools

differently from one another. The presence of within-

school climate gaps across middle schools in California is

addressed in the present study’s research question #1.

No research of which we are aware has directly exam-

ined the relationship between racial disparities in both

school climate experiences and achievement in a school,

but given the theoretical and empirically demonstrated

connection between climate and achievement, it stands to

reason that this relationship may exist and that racial dis-

parities in climate experiences (specifically safety and

connectedness, adult-student relationships, and opportuni-

ties for meaningful participation) could, indeed, explain

racial achievement gaps, as depicted in Fig. 1. This asso-

ciation is examined in the present study’s research question


School Characteristics Associated with Students’

Experiences of School Climate

Why might some schools have larger or smaller racial gaps

in school climate experiences? Little is known about school

characteristics that are differentially related to student

school climate perceptions and experiences based on race.

School setting characteristics that may influence students’

school experience, in general, include setting norms (e.g.,

254 Am J Community Psychol (2015) 56:252–267


respecting racial diveristy; Katz and Kahn 1978), structural

characteristics such as the average background character-

istics (Moos 1973) of students and teachers in the school,

and whether the school is located in an urban, suburban, or

rural location. In this section we review characteristics of

schools that have been empirically associated with stu-

dents’ school climate perceptions and experiences, inde-

pendent of race in most cases. Though few among the

reviewed studies examined how these school characteris-

tics are differentially associated with climate experiences

among student racial subgroups, their linkage with school

climate may serve as a starting point for an exploratory

investigation of school factors associated with greater

equity. An exploratory examination of the relationship

between these school structural characteristics and norms

and within-school racial climate gaps is described in this

study’s research questions #3 and #4, respectively.

School Norms of Respect for Diversity

When schools foster an appreciation and respect for student

diversity and culture—for example by encouraging stu-

dents of all racial and cultural backgrounds to enroll in

rigorous courses and using instructional materials that

reflect the culture—students may feel safer and more

supported, especially students of color, like Black and

Hispanic students. Mattison and Aber (2007), using a

sample of Black and White high school students in a

Midwest town, found reductions in the Black–White dis-

cipline gap in schools with high levels of racial fairness,

reported by students. Datnow and Cooper (1997), in a

qualitative investigation of Black students attending afflu-

ent, predominantly White high schools, found that

involvement in cultural groups and clubs such as Black

Student Unions, Black Awareness clubs, and multicultural

alliances was related to a greater sense of school con-

nectedness. Chang and Le (2010) found that Hispanic

middle school students were more empathic to their peers

when they felt their schools respected cultural diversity

(e.g., providing opportunities to learn about diverse cul-

tures and ethnic groups in the curriculum and work with

diverse students in school activities). Tan (1999) found that

Hispanic middle and high school students who felt that

their culture was respected by other students and teachers

reported more interest in school. Bellmore et al. (2012),

using a racially diverse sample of grade-9 students, found

that students, in general, reported less racial discrimination

in schools that had strong norms of respect for racial

diversity, evident, for example, in celebrations of traditions

and music of various cultures and teachers encouraging

collaboration among students of diverse cultural groups.

Two experimental studies found that interventions

intended to improve a school’s culture of respect for

diversity also improved students’ perceptions of school

climate. One intervention that involved a racially and

socioeconomically diverse sample of grade-8 students in a

10-week racism and prejudice awareness program was

found to improve student relationships and decrease

fighting and racist attitudes (Schultz et al. 2001). The

second intervention involved enrolling students in an urban

middle school who self-identified as being of African

descent in an African and African American culture class

and was found to improve participants’ sense of school

connectedness (Lewis et al. 2006).

Teacher Race

Research that examines the association of teacher race and

school climate outcomes is scant, but there is evidence to

suggest a connection between teacher race and student aca-

demic engagement. Goldsmith (2004) used a nationally

representative sample of grade-8 students to show that a

higher proportion of Black and Hispanic teachers in a school

was associated with more positive attitudes toward school

for Black and Hispanic students but was not significantly

associated with the attitudes of White students. Using a

sample of Texas school districts, Meier et al. (1999) found

that, after controlling for poverty rate and expenditures,

districts with more Black and Hispanic teachers had higher

levels of student academic performance, both for racial

minority students and for White students.

Student–Teacher Ratio

Research has shown that lower student–teacher ratios are

associated with lower frequencies of student victimization

in elementary and middle school (Bradshaw et al. 2009;

Khoury-Kassabri et al. 2004). In schools with large

Fig. 1 Conceptual model of the relationship between within-school

racial disparities in school climate experiences and academic

achievement. Note Concepts or linkages addressed by each of the

study research questions are noted

Am J Community Psychol (2015) 56:252–267 255


student–teacher ratios, it can be difficult for teachers to

effectively manage student behavior, which may in turn

provide more opportunities for bullying to occur and

influence students’ perceptions of safety (Koth et al. 2008).

Research has shown that higher student–teacher ratios in

grade 5 are associated with more negative overall student

perceptions of school climate (Mitchell et al. 2010).

Student Racial Composition

The racial composition of a student’s school peer group

may condition her own social behavior, and this condi-

tioning may depend on the student’s own race. For exam-

ple, Voight et al. (2014) found that White urban middle

school students exhibited less prosocial behavior in edu-

cational settings with higher compositions of Black stu-

dents but Black students’ behavior was unaffected by racial

composition. Thus, the proportion of Black students in the

setting was related to the racial disparities in student

prosocial behavior.

Student Socioeconomic Status

Waters et al. (2010), using a sample of grade-8 Australian

students, found that in schools with more poor students,

students felt less connected to school. A number of studies

have shown that, across diverse contexts, students experi-

ence more violence and victimization in schools with

higher poverty rates (Bevans et al. 2007; Bradshaw et al.

2009; Khoury-Kassabri et al. 2004; Koth et al. 2008).


Where a school is located may have some bearing on how

students of different races experience climate. Rural

schools have been shown to have lower rates of student

victimization and higher student reports of feeling safe than

schools in suburban and urban locales, respectively

(Bradshaw et al. 2009).

When schools maintain a norm of respect for diversity,

Black and Hispanic students may have more equitable

experiences of safety, connectedness, positive relation-

ships with adults, and engagement, compared to their

White peers. Further, a number of school structural

characteristics have been linked to students’ general

perceptions and experiences of school climate. While

many of these latter studies did not examine the moder-

ating effects of student race, they point to school struc-

tural characteristics that could be explored for their

equity-enhancing value. The conceptual relationships

between school norms and structural characteristics and

within-school racial disparities in school climate experi-

ences are shown in Fig. 2.

Rationale and Research Questions

As the above review shows, there is limited evidence for

racial gaps i

Our website has a team of professional writers who can help you write any of your homework. They will write your papers from scratch. We also have a team of editors just to make sure all papers are of HIGH QUALITY & PLAGIARISM FREE. To make an Order you only need to click Ask A Question and we will direct you to our Order Page at WriteDemy. Then fill Our Order Form with all your assignment instructions. Select your deadline and pay for your paper. You will get it few hours before your set deadline.

Fill in all the assignment paper details that are required in the order form with the standard information being the page count, deadline, academic level and type of paper. It is advisable to have this information at hand so that you can quickly fill in the necessary information needed in the form for the essay writer to be immediately assigned to your writing project. Make payment for the custom essay order to enable us to assign a suitable writer to your order. Payments are made through Paypal on a secured billing page. Finally, sit back and relax.

Do you need an answer to this or any other questions?

About Wridemy

We are a professional paper writing website. If you have searched a question and bumped into our website just know you are in the right place to get help in your coursework. We offer HIGH QUALITY & PLAGIARISM FREE Papers.

How It Works

To make an Order you only need to click on “Order Now” and we will direct you to our Order Page. Fill Our Order Form with all your assignment instructions. Select your deadline and pay for your paper. You will get it few hours before your set deadline.

Are there Discounts?

All new clients are eligible for 20% off in their first Order. Our payment method is safe and secure.

Hire a tutor today CLICK HERE to make your first order

Related Tags

Academic APA Writing College Course Discussion Management English Finance General Graduate History Information Justify Literature MLA