Demographic-related school climate and educational expectations : the roles of academic preparation, race, and SES




Fernandez, Celeste Cleo

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Students’ expectations for their own educational attainment are strongly associated with actual educational attainment (Beal & Crockett, 2010), and thus, understanding factors that may be associated with students’ educational expectations can aid in increasing educational attainment among youth. One factor that may impact students’ educational expectations is their school’s climate. Dimensions of school climate such as student-teacher relationships and their impacts on academics have been extensively studied (Thapa et al., 2013); however, given the increasing diversity of the U.S. population (National Center for Education Statistics, 2019), demographic-related aspects of school climate (such as school misfit for under-represented demographic groups and interracial climate) are crucial to consider because these reflect a school’s respect or devaluation of demographically underrepresented students. Feeling devalued in school, in turn, may lead students to feel discouraged from engaging in academic preparation, resulting in lower educational expectations. Therefore, demographic-related school climate may be indirectly related to educational expectations through academic preparation. There were three aims in the proposed study. The first aim was to examine the longitudinal associations between various dimensions of school climate and educational expectations using regression analyses. Second, I assessed whether academic preparation mediated the relationship between school climate and educational expectations by using path analysis in a structural equation modeling (SEM) framework and testing indirect effects. The third aim was to assess whether the central pathways of interest varied by students’ race and SES using multiple group analysis in an SEM framework. Results from the current study indicate that none of the measured dimensions of school climate (i.e., global perceptions of student-school misfit, subjective social status, interracial climate, student-teacher relationships) were significantly associated with students’ educational expectations nor does academic preparation mediate the relationship between school climate and educational expectations. However, results do find main effects for the link between school climate and academic preparation, such that more positive student-teacher relationships, better interracial climate, and higher global perceptions of student misfit are related to higher levels of high school and college planning. In addition, multiple group analysis revealed that student-teacher relationships have a stronger association with college educational planning for Latinx compared to White students. Multiple group analysis by students’ SES generated errors that could not be resolved, and thus these results are not presented. The current study brings awareness to the struggles marginalized students face in school and how the school context can shape students’ academic preparation behaviors.


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