School Climate as an Intervention to Reduce Academic Failure and Educate the Whole Child: A Longitudinal Study

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Background: Preventing student academic failure is crucial to student health and life success. Previous studies suggest a positive school climate may reduce students' risk for academic failure and contribute to academic success. The purpose of this study was to determine the longitudinal associations between school climate and academic grades in a group of middle school students who transition into high school.

Methods: Parallel latent growth curve modeling was used to examine changes among study variables longitudinally using a sample of 2604 in 6th, 7th, and 8th‐grade students across 16 regional schools located in 3 counties in West Virginia.

Results: Students with higher perceptions of a positive school climate exhibited sustained or improved academic achievement over time (β = 0.22 to 0.30, p < .01). Higher positive perceptions of school climate appear to sustain students who earn As/Bs (β = 0.20 to 0.27, p < .01) and strengthen students who earn Cs/Ds/Fs (β = −0.16 to −0.46, p < .05).

Conclusions: Positive student perceptions of school climate may sustain high academic performance while strengthening students who earn Cs/Ds/Fs. School climate may be useful as an intervention to support school‐based health promotion to reduce the achievement gap in the United States.