Abstract: (see Poster Gallery) Supportive School Environments: Measuring and Assessing School Climate (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

All in-person and virtual presentations are in Mountain Standard Time Zone (MST).

SSWR 2023 Poster Gallery: as a registered in-person and virtual attendee, you have access to the virtual Poster Gallery which includes only the posters that elected to present virtually. The rest of the posters are presented in-person in the Poster/Exhibit Hall located in Phoenix A/B, 3rd floor. The access to the Poster Gallery will be available via the virtual conference platform the week of January 9. You will receive an email with instructions how to access the virtual conference platform.

269P (see Poster Gallery) Supportive School Environments: Measuring and Assessing School Climate

Friday, January 13, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
James P. Canfield, PhD, Assistant Professor, Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge, Baton Rouge, LA
Lauren Shute, Doctoral Student, Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge, Baton Rouge, LA
Wendy Wilson, Doctoral Student, Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge, Baton Rouge
Dana Harley, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Cincinnati, OH
Background: A consistently safe and supportive school environment has been shown to increase student engagement and promote the overall achievement and well-being of adolescents. Further, school environment and climate can either serve to ameliorate potential risk factors for poor outcomes or exacerbate situations leading deleterious results. However, there is a dearth of measurements validated on student perceptions of supportive school environment. A measure of student perceptions would allow practitioners a way to rapidly assess the environment and make changes for the people whose outcomes (academic, behavioral, etc.) depend upon said climate. This study aimed to identify a measure of how high school students perceive a safe and supportive school environment, the Student Perceptions of Supportive School Environment Scale (SPSSES).

Methods: A dataset comprised of routine needs assessment responses from 297 high school students was used for analysis. Participants averaged 16.1 (SD=1.373) years old with a relatively even split between gender (Identified as Female=52.9%). There was also a relatively even distribution of students across grade level: ninth (26.3%), tenth (21.2%), eleventh (31.3%), and twelfth (20.9%).

A Midwestern high school conducted a routine school-wide needs assessment examining student perceptions of the school environment, the community, hope, and mental health. In particular, 54 survey items were focused on student perceptions of school environment. Experts in school social work, child mental health, and adolescent development reviewed these items, resulting in a final 23 items for analysis. With no a priori factor structure in place, an exploratory factor analysis was conducted.

Results: A three-factor structure was identified through factor analysis. The three factors each had acceptable levels of internal consistency: safety (α=.922), readiness (α=.855), and engagement (α=.909). Initial evidence of convergent validity was found via correlations with theoretically related single item indicators.

Implications: These findings indicate initial validation findings for the SPSSES, identifying an internally consistent three-factor structure. This can be a valuable tool for school social workers and related practitioners as it allows for rapid assessment of a school environment and climate as students perceive and navigate them. Further confirmatory validation studies are needed to corroborate these findings. Additional study would allow further detailed examination of whether the factors, as subjectively identified, maintain validity. In addition, future research should focus on scale scoring and interpretation. As it stands now, higher scores of this scale indicate higher levels of supportive school environments or each subconstruct, but the clinical meaning behind the scores needs to be developed. As our understanding of the processes of going to school deepen and continue to encompass factors outside of traditional classroom perspectives, more study is needed to purposefully and accurately measure notions of supportive school environments.