School Effects in the Era of Accountability: the Complex Relationship Between School Composition,school Climate, and Student Outcomes

Open Access
Kotok, Stephen A
Graduate Program:
Educational Theory and Policy
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
July 28, 2015
Committee Members:
  • Katerina Bodovski, Dissertation Advisor
  • Katerina Bodovski, Committee Chair
  • Erica Frankenberg, Committee Member
  • David R Johnson, Committee Member
  • Soo Yong Byun, Committee Member
  • school effects
  • school climate
  • high school
  • structural equation modeling
Using data from the High School Longitudinal Study 2009 (HSLS:09), a large, nationally representative sample of U.S. high school students, this study uses structural equation modeling (SEM) to answer the following research questions: 1) To what extent does school climate vary by the compositional characteristics of schools (i.e. school SES; percentage minority)?; 2) To what extent is there an association between school structure (sector and size) and climate? 3) To what extent do different aspects of school climate affect student math achievement and attainment? ;4) To what degree does school climate mediate the relationship between compositional factors on high school students’ math achievement and high school attainment?; 5) To what extent are the effects of school climate on achievement moderated by race? School climate is measured by three latent variables measuring academic climate, disciplinary climate, and school attachment. This study builds upon previous studies and improves them in several key ways. First, previous studies suffer from bias since traditional regression methods are not designed to be used with latent variables. Moreover, this is one of the first large-scale quantitative studies to capture school climate effects at the high school level for students and schools who came of age during the No Child Left Behind policy era. Specifically, this study aims to provide policy makers with a more cogent understanding of the complex relationship between school composition, school type, and climate with student expectations and math achievement. The study suggests that school attachment is the most salient school climate factor related to student attainment and it is an important factor for minority students’ math learning. Additionally, this study indicates that several other school characteristics such as percent minority and school SES are associated with improved school climate and math learning. Structural elements such as school size and school type were related to climate and some academic outcomes. However, since SEM is not able to capture casual relationships, further research is required to better understand the findings on school type.