Our analysis examines students’ responses to the following five items, which have been used consistently on the Survey since 2014 and which speak to each of the major domains of school climate that we sought to assess:
- Bullying in the School – At this school, students harass, bully or intimidate other students.
- Classroom Safety – I feel safe in my classes at this school.
- Academic Engagement – This school offers a wide enough variety of programs, classes and activities to keep me interested in school.
- Adult Relationships – There is at least one adult in the school that I can confide in.
- Cultural Background – I feel that my teachers respect my culture/background. 
Answers to the items ranged from 1 to 4 on a Likert scale, with 1 typically being “Strongly Disagree” and 4 typically being “Strongly Agree.”  Student responses were mostly positive, with the median response among students in our sample being a 3, equivalent to a response of “agree.”
How do schoolwide perceptions of climate vary by race?
To measure the degree to which students have equitable access to a positive school climate, we aggregated all responses by school and year to create school-wide average measures of perceptions for each of these five items. As we have found in other analyses of school climate measures, the vast majority of schools have climate ratings somewhere close to the average, with a much smaller number of schools having extremely high or extremely low ratings.
We then examined how students of different backgrounds experience their schools. Figure 1 below reports schoolwide averages for all Asian, Black, Latinx, and White students across the City. Except for Adult Relationships, where average schoolwide perceptions were consistently lower for all students (with an average schoolwide perception of 2.92-2.94 on the 4-point scale), the remaining domains show a consistent pattern of White and Asian students attending schools with better reported perceptions than Latinx students, who in turn attended schools with more positive average perceptions of school climate than Black students.
Figure 1: Average Schoolwide Perceptions of School Climate Items by Race
This analysis provides evidence not only of differences’ in students’ perceptions of school climate by race, but suggests that these differences are driven at least in part by the characteristics of schools that students attend (rather than different experiences in the same schools). Black students, in particular, appear to attend schools with climates that are generally rated much lower than average. Given the documented links between perceptions of school climate and student wellbeing and academic outcomes, these disparities represent a significant cause for concern. In subsequent School Climate spotlight posts, we will dig deeper into the schools at the top and bottom of the distribution of perceived climate to better understand these inequities.
- Which students have access to the schools with the most positive perceptions of school climate? Conversely, are there particular student groups who are overrepresented at the schools with the most negative perceptions of school climate? An upcoming post will begin to explore these questions.
- What school factors or characteristics are associated with notably positive or negative perceptions of climate? We will also explore whether factors such as the student demographic composition or school size are associated with being in the lowest or highest 10 percent of the school climate distribution.
- How do disparities in perceptions of climate vary over time? We plan to investigate whether the schools with the most and least positive perceptions of climate have changed meaningfully in recent years, including looking into the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This post was authored by Spenser Gwozdzik and Kristin Black (December 2022).
 For example, see the literature review of Cohen, J., McCabe, L., Michelli, N. M., & Pickeral, T. (2009). School climate: Research, policy, practice, and teacher education. Teachers College Record, 111(1), 180-213. Or more recent studies such as Daily, S. M., Mann, M. J., Lilly, C. L., Dyer, A. M., Smith, M. L, & Kristjansson, A. L. (2020). School climate as an intervention to reduce academic failure and educate the whole child: A longitudinal study. Journal of School Health, 90 (3), 182-193.
 National School Climate Center. (2020). The 14 Dimensions of School Climate. For a discussion of recommendations and policy implications, see also: NSCC. (2007). The School Climate Challenge: Narrowing the Gap Between School Climate Research and School Climate Policy, Practice Guidelines and Teacher Education Policy.
 For an overview of the importance of 9th grade see Allensworth, E. M., & Easton, J. Q. (2007). What Matters for Staying On-Track and Graduating in Chicago Public High Schools: A Close Look at Course Grades, Failures, and Attendance in the Freshman Year. Consortium on Chicago School Research. For work on high school transition see, e.g., Pharris-Ciurej, N., Hirschman, C., & Willhoft, J. (2012). The 9th grade shock and the high school dropout crisis. Social Science Research, 41(3), 709-730.
 We pooled the responses from the 2014-2015 and 2015-16 school years to enlarge the sample size for this analysis. The sample includes responses from all 9th graders, including those who are repeating the grade. It is important to note that the responses of 9th graders may not be representative of all students in the school.
 In 2015, this question was asked with a slightly different wording: “I feel that my teachers appreciate my culture/background."
 For Bullying, responses correspond to the categories “None of the Time,” “Some of the Time,” “Most of the Time,” and “All of the Time.” For all other questions, they correspond to the categories “Strong Disagree,” “Disagree,” “Agree,” and “Strongly Agree.”
 These five measures have a high degree of consistency, with Cronbach’s alpha coefficients of .79 in 2015 and .80 in 2016, supporting the methodological decision to use the Composite School Climate measure.