Academic achievement is but one aspect of student success. To develop the “whole child” we must also nurture a student’s social and emotional skills. Research shows that a positive school climate impacts both academic achievement and the development of social and emotional skills. As recent concerns about school safety intensify, a stronger focus on school climate could help ensure that students remain safe and engaged.
According to the National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) six out of 10 Delaware children meet the Promoting School Success Index. This index measures student engagement, participation in extracurricular activities, and feeling safe at school. The survey provides data on various aspects of a child’s life, from physical and mental wellness, to neighborhood, school, and social contexts.
Eight out of 10 of eighth graders reported feeling safe in school in 2016. Still, almost half of students in eighth grade feel that violence is a problem at their school, according to the Delaware School Survey. The same pattern can be seen in fifth and 11th grade.
Research shows a correlation between student engagement in school and student achievement. Student engagement, often defined as students actively participating in learning, focusing attention to the topic at hand and staying on task. When students remain engaged, they learn better and perform better.
A positive school climate—one where students feel safe and cared for—influences not only academic performance, but behavioral outcomes and emotional health, according to the National School Climate Center. In fact, supporting positive school climate can be a preventative method for violence, bullying, and distraction.
Some solutions: Prioritizing Student Engagement and Safety
While the majority of Delaware students report feeling safe and engaged, it’s fair to ask: Is that enough? Student Success 2025 has a goal for all students to feel safe in school, and aims to raise the number of students that are consistently engaged in school to 95 percent. Thankfully we have some possible solutions to consider.
There is a growing body of research suggesting that a more diverse teacher workforce increases student wellbeing and academic success. However, in Delaware—and the nation—the teacher workforce is far less racially diverse than the student populations they serve.
Here we’ll explore:
(Note: For the purposes of this “Digging Deeper” analysis, we will focus specifically on teacher student and racial demographics—one of the few comparative attributes we can measure with publicly available data.)
What Does Research Say about the Benefits of Teacher Diversity?
A more diverse teacher workforce could help narrow the achievement gap. According to research evidence, placing students with teachers of the same ethnicity/race could have implications for closing the achievement gap:
Increasing access to high-level coursework: Research from the University of Colorado examining the Impact of Black Teacher Role Models on Rigorous Math Taking showed that black math teachers had a positive impact on the likelihood of a student enrolling in advanced math courses.
There are social and emotional advantages to having teacher diversity. According to the Brookings Institute, some of the social and emotional benefits include:
What is the Current State of Educator Diversity In Delaware?
Delaware teachers and principals are less diverse than the students they serve. According to the Delaware Department of Education data, students of color represent more than half of Delaware’s student population while teachers of color comprise only about 14 percent of the teacher workforce. These gaps are also evident at the district level.
Who is taking action?
Diversifying Delaware’s educator workforce could positively impact student success. There is a growing body of research indicating that teacher diversity can have a positive impact on students’ academic achievement and social and emotional learning. Furthermore, action is underway to make Delaware’s—and the nation’s—teacher workforce more diverse.
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