School Staff Crucial to Creating a Positive Campus Climate, Study Finds

A new paper co-authored by Social Welfare Professor Ron Avi Astor assesses the critical role of school staff members in creating a campus climate that fosters student development and achievement. The paper, just published in the Journal of Community Psychology, is a departure from previous research that focused on school climate from the student’s perspective. “School staff members have enormous social responsibility and great influence over students. Understanding their perceptions and beliefs about school climate is critical,” wrote Astor and co-authors Gordon P. Capp of Cal State Fullerton and Hadass Moore of Hebrew University of Jerusalem. To conduct the study, the researchers spent seven months interviewing teachers, secretaries, coaches, counselors, school social workers, principals and district-level personnel at two elementary schools and two high schools in Southern California. They also observed formal and informal staff interactions, classroom and recreational activities, and contacts with parents and other members of the community. The study underscored that the school principal’s vision and efforts to engage staff members are crucial in determining the campus culture. One surprising finding was that a school’s socioeconomic status was not a significant factor in staff discussions of school climate. The research also showed that school staff tend to prioritize the student experience over their own work life when assessing school climate. The authors concluded, “Findings from this study strongly suggest that the quality of climate rests with the staff, and without staff reporting a positive climate, how could there be a positive climate for students?”

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