Academic Optimism of Schools
Academic Optimism of Schools is a collective set of beliefs held by the faculty as a whole that:
- The school faculty believes it can teach even the most difficult students - collective efficacy.
- The school faculty trusts students and parents - faculty trust.
- The school faculty emphasizes academics - academic emphasis.
The academic optimism of school evolved from general work on positive psychology, which goes beyond the traditional focus on pathology to examine human experience in terms of hope and fulfillment; that is, academic optimism is rooted in humanist psychology. The theoretical foundations of academic optimism are Albert Bandura's social cognitive and self-efficacy theories, James Coleman's social capital theory, Wayne Hoy and his colleagues' work on culture and climate, and Martin Seligman's study of learned optimism.
Many conceptions of optimism treat it as a cognitive characteristic - a goal or expectancy based on knowledge and thinking, but our conception of academic optimism includes both cognitive and affective (emotional) dimensions and adds a behavioral element. Collective efficacy is a group belief or expectation; it is cognitive. Faculty trust in parents and students is an affective response. Academic emphasis is the push for particular behaviors in the school workplace; it captures the behavioral enactment of efficacy and trust. Optimism is the overarching theme that unites efficacy, trust, and academic emphasis because each of these elements contains a sense of the possible.
The three facets interact with each other to produce a positive force for learning. These elements are not only similar in nature and function but also in their potent and positive influence on student achievement; in fact, Hoy and his colleagues (Hoy et al., 2006) have demonstrated at the collective level that the three properties of schools come together in a unified fashion to create a positive academic environment, which they label academic optimism of a school. Further, they demonstrate that the academic optimism of the school positively influences school achievement even controlling for socioeconomic status (SES), prior student achievement, and urbanicity. Additional research (McGuigan & Hoy, 2006; Smith & Hoy, 2007) has also supported the academic optimism link with student achievement (controlling for SES) in urban schools and elementary schools.
Measurement of Academic Optimism (Form-SAOS)
The measurement of academic optimism at the school level is comprised of three parts. First measure sense of collective efficacy, then faculty trust in students and parents, and finally, the school's academic emphasis. Combining the measures of these three components creates an index of school academic optimism. The items for each of the measures are presented below.
Collective Sense of Self-Efficacy Item
- 1. Teachers in this school are able to get through to the most difficult students.
- 2. Teachers here are confident they will be able to motivate their students.
- 3. If a child doesn't want to learn teachers here give up.
- 4. Teachers here don't have the skills needed to produce meaningful results.
- 5. Teachers in this school believe that every child can learn.
- 6. These students come to school ready to learn.
- 7. Home life provides so many advantages that students are bound to learn.
- 8. Students here just aren't motivated to learn.
- 9. Teachers in this school do not have the skills to deal with student disciplinary problems.
- 10. The opportunities in this community help ensure that these students will learn.
- 11. Learning is more difficult at this school because students are worried about their safety.
- 12. Drug and alcohol abuse in the community make learning difficult for students here.
Faculty Trust in Student and Parents Items
- 1. Teachers in this school trust their students.
- 2. Teachers in this school trust the parents.
- 3. Students in this school care about each other.
- 4. Parents in this school are reliable in their commitments./li>
- 5. Students in this school can be counted upon to do their work.
- 6. Teachers can count upon parental support.
- 7. Teachers here believe that students are competent learners./li>
- 8. Teachers think that most of the parents do a good job.
- 9. Teachers can believe what parents tell them.
- 10. Students here are secretive.
Academic Emphasis Items
- 1. The school sets high standards for performance.
- 2. Students respect others who get good grades.
- 3. Students seek extra work so they can get good grades.
- 4. Academic achievement is recognized and acknowledged by the school.
- 5. Students try hard to improve on previous work.
- 6. The learning environment is orderly and orderly.
- 7. The students in this school can achieve the goals that have been set for them.
- 8. Teachers in this school believe that their students have the ability to achieve academically.
SAOS (School Academic Optimism Scale)
Clicking on the pdf icon at the top right of this page will download the questionnaire containing all these items as well the scoring directions.
Scoring the SAOS
I. Collective Efficacy (CE) of the School (items 1-12)
- First, reverse scores on the following items: 3, 4, 8, 9, 11, 12, that is, score 1=6, 2=5, 3=4, 4=3 5=2, 6=1.
- Next, compute the average score for each individual on the first 12 items; that is, for each person, sum all the scores on the first 12 items and divide by the number of items for which you have responses.
- Finally, sum the average individual scores for all teachers and divide by the number of teachers in the school who responded; this is the average collective efficacy (CE) score for the school and will be between 1 and 6.
II. Faculty Trust (FT) in Parents and Teachers (items 13-22)
- First, reverse scores on item 22, that is, 1=6, 2=5, 3=4, 4=3 5=2, 6=1.
- Next, compute the average score for each individual on the items 13 through 22; that is, for each person, sum all the scores on those 10 items and divide by the number of items for which you have responses.
- Finally, sum the average individual scores for all teachers and divide by the number of teachers in the school who responded; this is the average Faculty Trust in Parents and Teachers score (FT) score for the school and will be between 1 and 6.
III. Academic Emphasis (AE) of the School (items 23-30)
- Score all the items with a score from 1 to 4.
- Next, compute the average score for each individual on the items 23 through 30; that is, for each person, sum all the scores on those 8 items and divide by the number of items for which you have responses.
- Finally, sum the average individual scores for all teachers and divide by the number of teachers in the school who responded; this is the average Faculty Trust in Parents and Teachers score (AE) score for the school and will be between 1 and 4.
IV. Compute Academic Optimism Score - Secondary Schools
- Create standardized scores (SS) for each component as follows:
- Standard Score for Collective Efficacy (SSCE) = [100X(CE-3.96)/.33] + 500
- Standard Score for Trust (SSFT) = [100X(T-3.65)/.39] + 500
- Standard Score for Acad. Emphasis (SSAE) = [100X(AE-2.75)/.26] + 500
Academic Optimism = [(SSCE)+(SSFT)+(SSAE)] divided by 3
Note: This formula is based on our work of a fairly representative sample of 96 secondary schools from Ohio.
Interpreting the School Academic Optimism Score (SAOS)
This academic optimism score for the school can be interpreted by comparing the school's score with a typical set of schools. The scores have been standardized using the earlier formulas such that the mean for a typical school is 500. Thus, a score of 650 on academic optimism represents a very high score just as a score of 350 depicts a very pessimistic view on academic optimism. Most school scores, however, fall between these extremes. The range and interpretation is based upon the normal distribution.
If the score is 200, it is lower than 99% of the schools.
If the score is 300, it is lower than 97% of the schools.
If the score is 400, it is lower than 84% of the schools.
If the score is 500, it is average.
If the score is 600, it is higher than 84% of the schools.
If the score is 700, it is higher than 97% of the schools.
If the score is 800, it is higher than 99% of the schools.
Hoy, W. K., Tarter, C. J., & Woolfolk Hoy, A. (2006). Academic optimism of schools: A force for student achievement. American Educational Research Journal, 43(3) 425-446.
McGuigan, L. & Hoy, W. K. (2006). Principal Leadership: Creating a Culture of Academic Optimism to Improve Achievement for All Students. Leadership and Policy in Schools, 5, 203-229.
Smith, P. A. & Hoy, W. K. (2007). Academic optimism and student achievement in urban elementary schools. Journal of Educational Administration, 45, 556-568.