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Teachers and School Climate: Effects on Student Outcomes and Academic Disparities
Student-teacher relationships are at the core of student experiences in schools and, arguably, fundamental to influencing student outcomes. Using a statewide, student-level school climate survey from Massachusetts, we investigate teachers’ contributions to school climate, which we refer to as climate value added (VA), and how it varies by student race/ethnicity. We first show that climate VA contributes to student learning: Teachers whose students report positive feelings about climate also contribute more to student test scores and to an aggregate of nontest student outcomes (student absences, suspensions, and grade progression). And teachers identified by students of color as contributing to better school climate have outsize effects on learning gains for these students. Differences in teachers’ climate effects across racial/ethnic groups are largest on topics aligned with cultural competency, school participation, and comfort with faculty. Lastly, we find that Black students assigned to Black teachers report better school climate than Black students assigned to other teachers.
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