School can serve as a protective factor, or a risk factor, for a child or adolescent receiving a public education. Risk factors are individual, family, community, or environmental elements (behaviors, attributes) that increase the likelihood of negative life outcomes, i.e., dropping out of school, unemployment, and incarceration. Protective factors can be characteristics / conditions that increase positive life outcomes, or characteristics / conditions that help protect against existing risk factors. For example, living in a high poverty urban setting may be a drop out risk factor for adolescents attending a local, underfunded high school. Living in an affluent suburban area may be a protective factor for adolescents attending the local, public high school. Regardless of economic resources, school size, or family dynamics, school connectedness can be a protective factor for students (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2009). When children feel that teachers care about their learning, and are invested in their success, those children are at increased likelihood for positive life outcomes, e.g., academic achievement, employment. So how do educators increase school connectedness? How do we ensure that high school students feel cared about and valued by their teachers?
Hirsch et al. pointed out one of the underlying factors to influence teacher caring (and school connectedness) in the title of their report, Teacher Working Conditions are Student Learning Conditions. Specifically, Hirsch et al. found that working conditions “have a direct impact on teacher retention” (p. 14) and student achievement (p. 51). Poor working conditions adversely effect teacher commitment to their current jobs, and thus, their long-term investment to student life outcomes. Hirsch et al. demonstrated that positive working conditions increased teacher retention and student achievement, and recommended that building and district leaders strive to create positive school environments by improving working conditions for teachers. Positive working conditions for teachers ultimately enhance student learning.
Working conditions, according to Hirsch et al., cover a wide range of variables, including facility cleanliness, environmental safety, teacher empowerment, school leadership, professional development opportunities, and availability of resources necessary for task completion. This review is focused on school leadership, specifically, how administrator – teacher interactions effect teacher perceptions of school climate. The purpose of investigating working conditions and school climate from such a narrow frame of reference is to identify specific behaviors, skills, or strategies that administrators may employ to foster a positive school climate.
Although the field of organizational psychology is well established, dating back to the 1800’s, there is a lack of up-to-date literature meeting current legislative and policy demands. The passage of the No Child...