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.