School Climate and Staff Perceptions
A school’s professional climate, in particular the existence of a strong shared purpose among staff members and cooperative interactions among people at the school, is likely to contribute to its effectiveness. As an illustration, Newmann and Wehlage (1995) found that when teachers feel a sense of community at their schools, they can better communicate consistent goals to students and collaborate more effectively on raising student achievement. Similarly, another study (Bryk and Driscoll 1988) found that teachers who work toward shared goals express higher job satisfaction and have lower absentee rates than do other teachers. Among the elements that shape a school’s climate are several examined in this section: the extent to which the staff shares a commitment to the school’s central mission, teachers collaborate and share ideas, parents support teachers’ work, the principal provides clear direction and priorities to the staff, and the administrators communicate expectations clearly and enforce rules of student conduct.
Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS:1999–2000) data indicate that teachers in private schools for the most part have positive views about their jobs and the extent of staff cooperation and collegiality at their school. For example, private school teachers were more likely than public school teachers to "strongly agree"5 that they were generally satisfied with teaching at their school (66 versus 54 percent) and with their class size (60 versus 36 percent) (table 9). In addition, greater proportions of private school than public school teachers agreed that teachers consistently enforce rules of behavior, that most colleagues shared their beliefs about the school’s central mission, and that cooperative effort among the staff was high. Moreover, teachers at private schools (42 percent) were much more likely than teachers at public schools (16 percent) to state that they received a great deal of support from parents for their work. No differences were detected between sectors or among private school types in the percentage who agreed that they consciously coordinated course content with other teachers.
Teachers at other religious schools agreed with five positive statements about their school’s professional climate and working conditions at higher rates than those of teachers at Catholic and nonsectarian schools. Topics of these statements concerned satisfaction with teaching at the school in general, colleagues’ shared beliefs about the school’s mission, staff cooperative effort, support from parents, and teachers’ consistent enforcement of rules.
Most private school teachers agreed that their principal enforced school rules, expressed expectations for staff, and clearly communicated the kind of school he or she wanted (table 10). A majority of private school teachers also agreed that the administration was supportive and encouraging and that necessary materials were available. For each of these aspects, as well as thinking that staff members were recognized for doing a good job, public school teachers were less likely than private school teachers to agree with the positive statement. Indeed, no more than 50 percent of teachers in public schools agreed with any of these statements.
Within the private sector, teachers at other religious schools were more likely than those at the other two private school types to agree with several statements regarding school management: that the administration was supportive and encouraging, that their principal enforced school rules, that school goals were communicated clearly, and that staff members were recognized for doing a good job. Forty-six percent of other religious school teachers agreed with the last statement, compared with about 36 percent of teachers in the two other school types.
5 "Agree" and "agreed" are used
hereafter for brevity, but all the data discussed in this section reflect the percentage
of teachers who said they strongly agreed with the statement mentioned.
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Figures and Tables
Table 9: Percentage of teachers
who strongly agreed with various statements about the school’s professional
climate and working conditions, by sector and private school type: 1999–2000
Table 10: Percentage of teachers who strongly agreed with various statements about the school’s principal and management, by sector and private school type: 1999–2000
Table S9: Standard errors for
the percentage of teachers who strongly agreed with various statements about the
school’s professional climate and working conditions, by sector and private
school type: 1999–2000
Table S10: Standard errors for the percentage of teachers who strongly agreed with various statements about the school’s principal and management, by sector and private school type: 1999–2000