School Climate: Responding to Latino Youth’s Educational and Socio-emotional Inequality

Which aspects of school climate hold promise for responding to educational and socio-emotional inequalities experienced by Latino youth?

Latino students are a large and growing population in U.S. public schools, but they are often marginalized within schools and have experienced a number of threats in the current political climate. While many studies have focused on maximizing individual and family resources to improve academic performance and adjustment, the investigators are concerned with the practices and policies within institutions of power, such as schools, that can reduce risk and/or protect youth from poor outcomes. School climate matters because schools are experienced differently by marginalized groups. Academic engagement and mental health may be influenced by objective facets of school climate, such as ethnic composition, and subjective aspects of school climate, such as connectedness and sense of belonging. Given that different conceptualizations and operationalizations of school climate and varied findings across different ethnic groups have limited researchers’ ability to make inferences and recommendations, Delgado and colleagues will undertake a two-part study to explore ways school climate can reduce inequality and/or serve as a protective factor for Latino youth. In the first phase of the study, the team will conduct a series of focus groups to elicit perspectives from 48 sixth- to eighth-grade Latino students, and one parent for each student from three Arizona middle schools with high proportions of Latino students, to inform the development of a measure of school climate for Latino youth. In the second phase of work, the team will recruit 200 Latino adolescents from the same schools, half of whom will be Spanish-speaking. These students’ teachers will complete the newly developed measure and identify aspects of school climate that are associated with academic success and positive mental health.

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