Model Programs/Best Practices

Improving School Climate Leads to Positive Youth Development, Safer Schools

Location: Nationwide Published March 2018

Increased attention to school safety over the past 20 years has included increased recognition of the importance of school climate for positive youth development. A recent publication from the National Institute of Justice’s Comprehensive School Safety Initiative, Creating and Sustaining a Positive and Communal School Climate, considers how a school climate can influence both the safety and success of a school and the behavioral and academic outcomes of its students.

According to the report, students attending school in a positive climate demonstrate increased engagement, higher academic achievement and better socio-emotional health along with lower levels of absenteeism, truancy, dropping out, victimization and substance use. Teachers experience greater efficacy, morale and satisfaction in addition to lower levels of absenteeism, turnover and victimization (pp. 20-21). Available by download from the National Criminal Justice Reference Service (, the 30-page report looks at the factors that make up school climate and how to assess them, associated outcomes and influences, and ways to improve school climate. It also makes four recommendations related to defining, accessing, exploring and improving school climate.

The research included in this report was conducted by an independent researcher using NIJ funding, and opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice. NIJ’s Comprehensive School Safety Initiative (CSSI) is a research-focused initiative aimed at increasing the safety of schools nationwide, created in response to disturbing, high-profile incidents of school violence. CSSI develops knowledge about the root causes of school violence, develops strategies for increasing school safety and rigorously evaluates innovative school safety strategies through pilot programs (inside cover).

Through a different funding stream, NIJ also provided partial funding for another recently released school safety publication, School Safety Policies and Programs Administered by the U.S. Federal Government: 1990–2016. This 160-page PDF details federal school safety programs, policies, research and technical assistance resources for K–12 public schools administered by the Department of Education, the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services. It includes background history on federal school safety efforts prior to 1990. As with the report on school climate, research was conducted by independent researchers using funding from NIJ and other agencies located with the Office of Justice Programs, and opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the official position or polices of the U.S. Department of Justice.