Measuring school climate in high schools: a focus on safety, engagement, and the environment.J Sch Health. 2014 Sep; 84(9):593-604.JS
School climate has been linked to multiple student behavioral, academic, health, and social-emotional outcomes. The US Department of Education (USDOE) developed a 3-factor model of school climate comprised of safety, engagement, and environment. This article examines the factor structure and measurement invariance of the USDOE model.
Drawing upon 2 consecutive waves of data from over 25,000 high school students (46% minority), a series of exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses examined the fit of the Maryland Safe and Supportive Schools Climate Survey with the USDOE model.
The results indicated adequate model fit with the theorized 3-factor model of school climate, which included 13 subdomains: safety (perceived safety, bullying and aggression, and drug use); engagement (connection to teachers, student connectedness, academic engagement, school connectedness, equity, and parent engagement); environment (rules and consequences, physical comfort, and support, disorder). We also found consistent measurement invariance with regard to student sex, grade level, and ethnicity. School-level interclass correlation coefficients ranged from 0.04 to .10 for the scales.
Findings supported the USDOE 3-factor model of school climate and suggest measurement invariance and high internal consistency of the 3 scales and 13 subdomains. These results suggest the 56-item measure may be a potentially efficient, yet comprehensive measure of school climate.