This experiment is part of the Adolescence Challenge Grant. Browse more projects

Discipline, race, and school climate: what matters and for whom?

National School Climate Center
New York, New York
EducationPsychologyGrant: AdolescenceGrant: Adolescence
Raised of $2,500 Goal
Ended on 12/15/16
Campaign Ended
  • $295
  • 12%
  • Finished
    on 12/15/16

About This Project

Students of color are disciplined more punitively than white students for similar infractions during the adolescent years, placing them at risk for the "school to prison pipeline." A supportive school climate lessens this risk, but which aspects of school climate relate to school discipline practices, and how does this vary according to racial identity? Answering this will help us learn how school climate and discipline interact to foster or hinder adolescent success.

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What is the context of this research?

Schools are more likely to use exclusionary discipline practices (e.g., suspension, expulsion) on students of color than white students, a gap which widens during the adolescent years. Research suggests that implicit racial biases play a large role in this disparity, as the gap persists when accounting for student behavior and poverty. Exclusionary discipline predicts a range of negative outcomes for adolescents, and acts as an entry point into the "school to prison pipeline." A supportive school climate is linked to less use of exclusionary discipline and better educational, social, and emotional outcomes for students. However, few have examined which aspects of school climate are linked to exclusionary discipline, and how this varies according to racial identity.

What is the significance of this project?

Educational policies such as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) increasingly prioritize school climate initiatives and closing racial disparities in school discipline. Research has established that these issues are deeply interconnected and cannot be treated as separate. However, research has largely focused on isolated components of school climate, such as racial climate, anti-bullying policies, and zero tolerance policies. By exploring which aspects of school climate link to exclusionary discipline practices (e.g., social support from teachers, clarity and consistency in school rules, etc.) and for whom, we can inform prevention, intervention, and school improvement efforts in ways that benefit adolescents who need them most.

What are the goals of the project?

The funds will be used to hire a research assistant to assemble, clean, and analyze the data. Specifically, we will use student, parent, and school personnel reports of school climate from 250 secondary schools across 20 states during the 2013-2014 school year. These data were collected with the Comprehensive School Climate Inventory 3.0, a nationally-recognized survey that covers 12 dimensions of school climate. We will match these data with school-level discipline data from the same year, collected by the Office of Civil Rights, and conduct a multi-level analysis. We will report our findings in a series of briefs that explore the relationship between individual perceptions of school climate, self-reported racial identity, and school discipline patterns.


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We already have student, parent and school personnel reports of school climate from over 250 schools, but we need to match these to publicly-available data on school discipline. A research assistant will enable us to assemble, clean, and analyze this data.

Endorsed by

This project could not be more timely with the election upset. While the new administration wants to abolish (or at least drastically scale back) the Department of Education and leave education policy to states, those of us who care deeply about every child's right to education, and especially those in school environments that undercut this right, need to step up to support the work of caring and smart organizations like the National School Climate Center. As many are asking ourselves "what can I do?" Here's an opportunity to act positively.
This is an important project that will shed light on critical issues. The findings from this work will support NSCC promoting even safer, engaging, and more equitable schools across America.

Meet the Team

Leighann Starkey, PhD
Leighann Starkey, PhD
Research Director


National School Climate Center
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Ashley Duffee, MA
Ashley Duffee, MA
Research Associate


National School Climate Center
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Team Bio

The National School Climate Center consists of a dynamite team that is passionate about supportive schools as a means to educate, transform, and empower. We hold many decades of collective expertise in education, leadership, research, and psychology; we seek to translate this knowledge into practice for schools as we simultaneously learn from them to expand our understanding of the role of school climate in education.

Leighann Starkey, PhD

As a first-generation college graduate, I have always been interested in how our environments and experiences interact to shape our educational and life trajectories. This interest led me to major in psychology as an undergraduate at the University of Pittsburgh, where my experience as a research assistant inspired me pursue a PhD in Developmental Psychology at City University of New York. To complete my dissertation, I studied how school climates protect children against the impacts of experiencing violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Currently, I continue to explore how school climates foster student well-being and success as Research Director of the National School Climate Center. I believe that with this understanding, schools can become institutions by which true equality of opportunity is achieved.

I have authored and co-authored peer-reviewed publications appearing in the Journal of Education in Emergencies, Annals of Behavioral Medicine, and the Journal for Research on Educational Effectiveness.

Ashley Duffee, MA

I am the Research Associate at the National School Climate Center. I received my Bachelor's from Rutgers University, and my Master's degree from Brooklyn College, where I studied Mental Health Counseling and Experimental Psychology. I love working with children and have taught students of varying backgrounds, from preschool age through high school. I use my psychology training to approach teaching from a holistic standpoint, considering the impact that mental health, social conditions, and student-teacher relationships have on student academic performance. I believe in the importance of using data to make informed decisions, and am most interested in research relating social well-being to academic success.

Project Backers

  • 7Backers
  • 12%Funded
  • $295Total Donations
  • $42.14Average Donation
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