Perceived School Climate Across the Transition From Elementary to Middle School

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Abstract

The implications of the transition from elementary to middle school are of major concern for educators and researchers worldwide. Previous studies have yielded ambiguous findings; some have indicated negative outcomes of school transition, whereas others have demonstrated null or even positive effects. The aim of the current research was to explore the impact of school transition on students’ perceived educational climate while distinguishing between transition effects and age-related effects by comparing students who transitioned to middle schools at the end of the sixth grade versus those who did not. The research included 2 complementary studies. Study 1 was based on a large-scale national survey in Israel (N = 71,739) that compared students from fifth to eighth grades using a cross-sectional design, in which the students completed a survey once in the middle of the school year. Study 2 followed a sample of 415 students across 2 years including 4 waves of survey completion, at the beginning and the end of 2 consecutive school years, during which 55% of the students experienced a transition and 45% remained in elementary school. In both studies, the students completed self-report surveys assessing the perceived school climate. Both multilevel and nonlinear growth-curve analyses consistently indicated that the students who transitioned reported positive perceptions of the school climate before the transition that declined more quickly and become equal to or lower than those of the nontransitioning students. Teachers should apply practices that enhance students’ sense of support, specifically following school transitions.

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