Date of Award

Spring 2021

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Education, PhD

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Saul Maldonado

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Mary Poplin

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Nancy Frey

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

June Hilton

Terms of Use & License Information

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Subject Categories



The purpose of this research was to explore the relationships between fifth grade students' perceptions of three school climate indicators as measured on the California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKSS) and their academic achievement as measured by the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress Smarter Balanced Assessment in English Language Arts (ELA). Students' CHKSS and ELA achievement scores were obtained from ninety-nine K-5 elementary schools in the San Diego Unified School District. Although this study was informed by 6,670 fifth-grade students, the unit of analysis was schools. Students' individual responses to the CHKSS and ELA achievement scores are confidential; this study examined correlations using the collective data of the fifth-grade students in various subgroups at each of the elementary schools to preserve student privacy.Students' perceptions of school climate were recorded in the following three domains: high expectations, caring adult relationships and social emotional supports. In addition, for each school in the study, the percentages of fifth-grade students in specific racial/ethnic subgroups (African American, Asian, Hispanic and White) and the percentages of students who were English Learners and/or economically disadvantaged were calculated for each fifth-grade population at the ninety-nine schools. These sub-groups were purposely chosen for investigation because they represent typically vulnerable populations with available achievement data. It was determined that there exists a moderate, significant correlation between fifth-grade students' perceptions of adults' high expectations and academic achievement for all students. In addition, a small, significant relationship was found between fifth-grade students' perceptions of adult caring relationships and academic achievement. Furthermore, there existed small, significant relationships between high expectations and caring adult relationships specifically for Hispanic and economically disadvantaged subgroups. No significant relationships were determined between the three school climate indicators and the African American, Asian and White student subgroups. An ancillary analysis was conducted when nine schools were removed from the study sample because the percentage of fifth-graders at these schools who had taken the CHKSS was less than 40%. In this analysis, a large and significant interaction was found between African American students who meet or exceed ELA achievement standards and their perceptions of whether adults at their schools have high expectations for them. In general, for all fifth-grade students at all school sites, the greater students felt that adults on their campus held high expectations for them and had caring relationships toward them, the greater the schools' overall ELA achievement scores. This is special true for students who are African American, Hispanic and economically disadvantaged. On the other hand, no relationship was found between social emotional supports and any student group. The study includes a discussion of these findings, including a conclusion and recommendations which emphasize that educational parity for vulnerable students requires teachers to provide the instruction and support that enable students to reach the highest levels.





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