Wednesday, 10 Dec 2003

MEDIA RELEASE Wednesday 10 December 2003 Positive school climate helps students achieve positive results School programs that promote a positive view of school may also influence student achievement a new study shows. In a report released today, the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) found that students who attend schools with a positive school climate achieve higher scores on tests of reading comprehension and mathematics. The study examined factors that influence levels of achievement in literacy and numeracy by examining data on more than 27,000 Year 9 students and 600 schools. Students took a reading comprehension test and a mathematics test, and completed a questionnaire that provided other student background information. The questionnaire included items that describe students’ Quality of School Life (QSL), such as ‘my school is a place where I feel happy’ and ‘my school is a place where I feel safe and secure’. Schools with higher scores on these questions also achieved higher average scores on tests of reading comprehensions and mathematics, suggesting a positive link between a school’s climate and the achievement of its students. “Schools that work to develop a positive school climate may also develop greater academic achievement in their students,” ACER’s chief executive Professor Geoff Masters said. In other key findings, approximately one-sixth of the variation in scores on tests of reading comprehension and mathematics could be attributed to differences between schools, and the remaining five-sixths to differences between students. This is consistent with findings for Australian students who participated in international studies of student achievement. Socioeconomic status (SES) influenced achievement in two ways. First, schools with a higher level of SES also scored higher on the tests. Second, students from higher SES families scored higher on the tests, regardless of the school they attended. “Literacy and numeracy remain at the top of the agenda for Australian education, so it is imperative that researchers continue to examine the literacy and numeracy skills of Australian school students and understand better why some students achieve higher levels than other students,” Professor Masters said. “Understanding the influences on students’ achievement in literacy and numeracy remains a major topic for education research in Australia. In turn, ensuring that all students, regardless of background, are literate and numerate must be a primary goal for Australian educational policy makers.” The report, Influences on achievement in literacy and numeracy by Sheldon Rothman and Julie McMillan, is research report number 36 in the Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY) research program jointly managed by ACER and the Commonwealth Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST). ****************ENDS*************