Environmental Control, Support, and Challenge: Influences On School Success
Methods:Student responses on the School Success Profile, an ecological school practice survey that measures students’ experiences across microsystems, were analyzed to examine how various combinations of control, support, and challenge predicted academic success. Factor analyses were used to identify sets of items that specifically measured these factors. Multiple regression analyses were performed to determine how well each construct predicted academic outcomes, as well as their relative predictive ability when paired with low or high reported levels across the other factors.
Results: Analyses showed that 3.3% of variance in academic outcomes (DF(1, 17168)=624.87, p<.001) can be attributed to levels of control, with B=.59 (p<.001) increase in academic success (average letter grades) when control is adequate. Second, we found that when control is inadequate, levels of support account for .60% of the variance (DF(1, 5465)=32.36, p<.001); when control is adequate, support accounts for 1.8% of the variance (DF(1, 10574)=214.37, p<.001), with B=.03 (p<.001) increase in academic success. Final analyses showed that with adequate control and low support, level of challenge does not account for significant variance; with adequate control and high support, challenge accounts for .30% of the variance (DF(1, 3956)=13.86, p<.001), with a B=.001 (p<.001) increase in academic success with high challenge compared to moderate challenge. When all three constructs are entered into the model, they account for 4.8% of variance (DF(3, 14451)=263.29, p<.001) in academic performance.
Conclusions and Implications: Our analyses supported all three hypotheses: 1) levels of control predict academic outcomes, 2) support is a stronger predictor of academic outcomes with adequate control, and 3) challenge is a stronger predictor of academic outcomes with adequate control and high support. Results indicate the centrality of safety for children’s academic success and that challenge cannot be effective unless children feel safe and supported across microsystems. Implications for practice include the development of educational policies at the level of local government and school district that simultaneously address all three factors – control, support, and challenge – across children’s microsystems. Key adult figures in a child’s life, including teachers, parents or guardians, and members of the community, could be recruited to collaborate in developing programs that link all three microsystems and create an integrated environment in which the child can be assured of his safety, access to emotional and material support, and opportunities for growth.