Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York

Research Project
“Early Adolescents’ Experiences of Continuity and Discontinuity of School Micro-contexts: Implications for Place-based Treatment Effects”
Financed by:
William T. Grant Foundation: Grant #10439; 2009-2011

Primary Investigators:
Joshua L. Brown (Fordham University)
Maria D. LaRusso (New York University)
Stephanie M. Jones (Harvard University) 
Project Team at Fordham:  
Regin Tanler (Project Director)
Ben Gologor (Coordinator)
Leighann Starkey (Research Assistant)
Jacqueline Horan (ADP graduate student
Batya Rotter (Clinical graduate student)
Zachary Kornhauser (ADP graduate student)

Dr. Joshua L. Brown
Principal Investigator


Both elementary and middle school students’ positive perceptions of school climate have been found to decline over time (Gest, Welsh & Domitrovich, 2005; Way, Reddy & Rhodes, 2007). However, no longitudinal studies of school climate to date have followed children across the transition to middle school to examine patterns or directions of change in school climate perceptions across the transition. The middle school climate and changes in climate across the elementary/middle school transition may be particularly important because early adolescence is a time when students are beginning to think more abstractly, to consider multiple social perspectives, and to question authority and social norms, particularly in their efforts to become more autonomous and make their own decisions (Seidman, Aber & French, 2004).


The present study builds on (a) a three-year (6 wave) longitudinal experimental test of the impact of the 4Rs Program (Reading, Writing, Respect and Resolution) on the social-emotional and academic development of children, the professional development of their teachers, and the quality of classroom and school environments in 18 New York City public elementary schools , and (b) a longitudinal follow-up study examining whether the 4Rs intervention in elementary school produces changes in children’s health risk behaviors (aggression/violence, depression, substance use, and school disengagement/failure) over the transition from elementary to middle school to high school (see project description). In particular, the present study examines the climate of middle schools, focusing on variation within schools, including both formal instructional settings (i.e., classrooms) and non-instructional micro-contexts (e.g., lunchroom, playground, hallways/stairwells) that comprise the typical multi- period day of a middle school student. This study also examines continuity and discontinuity in the climate of school micro-contexts from elementary to middle school and their implications both for youth developmental outcomes and for sustained intervention effects of exposure to school-wide social-emotional learning and literacy intervention during elementary school.


This study includes quantitative assessments of student, teacher, school aide reports, and observational walk-throughs of middle school micro-contexts (instructional and non-instructional settings) for approximately 350 “follow-up study” students in 18-20 New York City middle schools, focusing on the middle schools that received the largest cluster of students from the 18 elementary schools that previously participated in the randomized study of the 4Rs Program. This study also includes the collection of qualitative data through full day observations, student focus groups, and individual interviews with students and staff for a targeted subsample of students.


This project is currently in the data collection phase.

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