Methods: Students (N=485) from 7th to 10th grades in a school district serving many low income families completed the School Success Profile (SSP), a reliable and valid measure of risk and protective factors, including school climate, parental expectations, grades, and behavior. The response rate was 75%. School climate was measured with a composite scale of students' perceptions of the support they receive in school and their feelings about their school. Parental expectations were measured with a composite scale of students' perceptions of how their parents would feel about various problem behaviors in school. Grades were measured by students' reports of grades on their last report card. Behavior was measured by a composite scale assessing the frequency of problem behaviors at school. Participation in the free and reduced price lunch program, gender, ethnicity, and school (middle/high) were included as control variables. Hierarchical linear regression analyses examined the associations between the independent variables and grades and behavior.
Results: Positive perceptions of school climate were associated with fewer problem behaviors (β=.356, p<.001) and better grades (β=.193, p<.001). Similarly, higher parental expectations were associated with fewer problem behaviors (β=.252, p<.001) and better grades (β=.193, p<.001). A statistically significant interaction was observed between school climate and parental expectations for grades (β=.905, p<.01). Positive perceptions of school climate did not serve to buffer the effect of low parental expectations as expected. Rather, positive perceptions of climate had the strongest positive effect among students whose parents had high expectations and had no effect when parental expectations were low.
Implications: Although these cross sectional data do not allow for drawing causal inferences, the data suggest that both high parental expectations and positive perceptions of school climate are important for promoting success in school. In order to help students most effectively, social workers will likely need to work with families and school personnel. In particular, interventions that promote strong school-family partnerships may be an essential foundation for school success.