Sept. 5, 2013
Virginia’s public middle schools are receiving results of the first statewide school climate survey, developed by a research team at the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education. “Overall, the results are positive,” lead investigator Dewey Cornell said.
Surveys were collected from 43,805 seventh and eighth-grade students and 9,134 teachers from 423 public schools. Most of the schools were middle schools, but in some school divisions the seventh and eighth grades are part of elementary or high schools.
The survey assessed school “climate domains” such as the strictness of school discipline, the quality of teacher-student relationships and the degree of student engagement in learning and school activities. The survey also assessed “safety domains” that included bullying, teasing and other aggressive behavior. Both students and teachers were asked about safety concerns.
More than 60 percent of Virginia’s seventh and eighth-grade students say that they enjoy school, feel like they belong at their school and feel comfortable asking their teachers for help with their school work. More than 75 percent of students say that they feel safe in school, but 50 percent report that bullying is a problem in their school and 13 percent report being bullied on at least a weekly basis during the school year. Approximately 30 percent of students reported being physically attacked, pushed or hit in school.
More than 90 percent of Virginia seventh and eighth-grade teachers report that they feel physically safe at school, and nearly 80 percent feel that they are treated with respect by students. The teachers had more mixed views about discipline, with only 59 percent agreeing that their school’s disciplinary practices are effective.
High school students and teachers in grades nine through 12 will be surveyed in spring 2014.