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Virginia Secondary School Climate Study

The Virginia Secondary School Climate Study is designed to examine school climate and safety conditions in Virginia middle and high schools. This study builds upon the work of the previous Virginia High School Safety Study but expands our assessment to grades 7-12. A central research goal of this study is to develop standardized measures of school climate (disciplinary structure, student support, student engagement) that are predictive of both school safety conditions (discipline problems, suspension rates, bullying and other forms of peer aggression, teacher mistreatment) and academic outcomes (such as school academic performance and graduation rates).

A key practical goal of the project is to provide Virginia secondary schools with a biennial report of school climate and safety conditions based on student and teacher surveys. Detailed individual school reports have been sent to 746 secondary schools. Copies of these reports are available from the individual schools.

This study was initiated in 2012 in collaboration with the Virginia Center for School Safety of Department of Criminal Justice Services and the Virginia Department of Education. A draft of the final report for Grant #2012-JF-FX-0062 is available here.

This project was supported by Grant #2010-TY-FX-0005 awarded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Justice. 

For information on our survey see our summary of research on the Authoritative School Climate Survey.

Middle School

In the spring of 2013, anonymous online surveys were completed by 43,805 students and 9,134 teachers in grades 7 and 8 from 423 public schools. Participation rates were high for schools (98%), students (85%), and teachers (79%).  The 2013 middle school technical report is available

The middle schools were surveyed again in spring 2015. Anonymous online surveys were completed by 56,508 students and 8,585 teachers and other staff from 415 schools with grades 7 or 8. Participation rates were high for schools (93.3%) and students (80.5%), but lower for teachers and staff (52.8%). The 2015 middle school technical report is available.

High School

In the spring of 2014, anonymous online surveys were completed by 48,027 students and 13,455 teachers in grades 9-12 in 323 public high schools. Participation rates were 99.7% for schools, 88.7% for students, and 56.5% for teachers. The high school technical report is available.

The high schools were surveyed again in spring of 2016. Anonymous online surveys were completed by 68,951 students and 14,619 teachers in grades 9-12 in 320 public high schools. Participation rates were high for schools (99.3%) and students (85.9%), but lower for teachers (52.8%). The 2016 high school technical report is available.

One Page Research Summaries

To communicate key study findings more concisely to our school partners, we prepared a series of one-page research summaries. For copies, click below.

Issue 1: What is an authoritative school climate?

Issue 2: Authoritative schools have less teasing and bullying.

Issue 3: Less student aggression toward teachers in authoritative schools.

Issue 4: Authoritative schools have fewer disciplinary infractions for aggressive behavior.

Issue 5: Authoritative schools have high achievement test passing rates.

Issue 6: Authoritative high schools have less fighting and weapon carrying at school.

Issue 7: Students in authoritative high schools report less alcohol and marijuana use.

Issue 8: Authoritative high schools have less student aggression toward teachers.

Issue 9: Authoritative high schools have lower suspension rates for black and white students.

Project Team 

The 2014-2015 Youth Violence Project research team, from left to right: Dewey Cornell, Joy Yuane Jia, Kathan Shukla, Anna Heilbrun, Sara Millspaugh, Pooja Datta, Juliette Berg, Elizabeth Xiaoxin Wei, Patrick Meyer, Allie Anderson, Tim Konold, Marisa Malone. Not pictured is Francis Huang.

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