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IES Grant

Title: Developing a Research and Policy Agenda to Improve School Climate in Virginia
Center: NCER Year: 2017
Principal Investigator: Miller, Luke Awardee: University of Virginia
Program: Researcher-Practitioner Partnerships in Education Research      [Program Details]
Award Period: 2 years (7/1/17–6/30/19) Award Amount: $399,618
Type: Researcher-Practitioner Partnership Award Number: R305H170016

Co-Principal Investigators: Burkholder, Jo Ann; Piver-Renna, Jennifer; Saimre, Maribel; and Cornell, Dewey

Partners: University of Virginia and Virginia Department of Education (VDOE)

Purpose: This project supported the Virginia Department of Education's (VDOE) efforts to systematically measure school climate and working conditions, provide targeted technical assistance to schools to improve their school climate and working conditions concerns, and incorporate school climate metrics into Virginia's school accountability system in order to help VDOE gain a better understanding of how school climate is related to student education outcomes.

Partnership Activities: Under this project, the partnership administered and analyzed data from a new school climate and working conditions surveys to (1) describe statewide variation among districts, schools, teachers, and students in school climate and working conditions, (2) estimate associations between school climate and student education outcomes, (3) provide information on how school climate measures may be incorporated into VA's School Quality Profiles, and (4) integrate school climate and working conditions measures into the Department of Education's technical assistance programs to schools.

Setting: The project took place in the Virginia public schools.

Population: The survey included all students in grades 4, 5, and 9–12, teachers, and staff.

Research Activities: The researchers administered surveys in January-March 2019. The student survey was focused on school climate and was informed by the analysis of a pilot climate survey given in the 2016-17 school year and feedback from school divisions. While a school climate survey for teachers and staff was developed, the researchers replaced it with a working conditions survey that the Virginia General Assembly mandated in the 2018 Appropriations Act. 93% of schools participated in the teacher survey for a 67% response rate, 62% of elementary schools participated for an 84% response rate, and 67% of high schools participated for a 61% response rate. While 91% of schools participated in the staff survey, the researchers were unable to estimate a response rate as the size of the staff population was unknown. The researchers carried out four sets of analyses. The first examined the psychometric properties of the surveys’ measures of school climate and working conditions. The second examined variation in the measures of school climate and working conditions by school and by respondent characteristics. The third analysis explored the extent to which survey-derived measures of school climate surveys might provide different signals on school climate than the current test-based measures. Finally, the researchers assessed the association of school climate with high school students’ progression through science and mathematics pipelines.

Key Outcomes: The outcomes of the partnership include the following:

  • increased capacity of VDOE to survey school climate and working conditions statewide;
  • a database on school climate and working conditions that can be used by VDOE to inform its technical assistance to schools;
  • presentations, briefings, and publications on the perceptions of working conditions by teachers and staff, the perceptions of school climate by students, and the links between school climate and student education outcomes; and
  • a basis for further research on school climate and working conditions. This includes a new IES-funded project, Teacher Working Conditions and Equitable Student Outcomes (R305A200106).

Project Website:

Products and Publications

Working Papers

Miller, L. C., Sadowski, K., & Piver-Renna, J. (2019). The Fifth Indicator: Does School Climate Provide New Information on School Quality? EdPolicyWorks Working Paper Series No.71.