Background: Social justice orientation (SJO) is the motivation to promote justice and equity among all in society. Researchers argue that students of Color with high SJO can resist structural racism in their schools/society and have positive academic outcomes.
Purpose: In the present study, a longitudinal model of cultural and environmental predictors (i.e., school relational climate, school language climate, Spanish language background, and English proficiency) and civic/educational outcomes (i.e., community engagement, grades, school engagement, school dropout) of SJO among Latina/o youths was developed and tested.
Participants: The study was conducted with a subsample of Latinas/os taken from the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988. Participants were enrolled in eighth grade (N = 1,472), sampled from different schools and regions in the U.S., and followed through three waves of data collection from 8th through 12th grade.
Research Design: A longitudinal, correlational design was used to explore the association among the constructs studied.
Data Collection and Analysis: Secondary data analyses were conducted. Structural equation modeling techniques were used to analyze the data.
Results: Early school relational climate (8th grade) was a positive predictor of SJO, which in turn predicted more community and school engagement, higher grades, and decreased likelihood of dropping out of school (12th grade) via personal agency. In addition, school language climate and language skills predicted a greater sense of personal agency, which in turn predicted higher grades and a decreased likelihood of dropping out.
Conclusions: The results of the present study underscore the importance of strengths-based and cultural approaches in education in a sample of Latina/o students. Specifically, close attention should be paid to school cultural climate variables in which positive relational climates and cultural language climates are addressed in schools. The integration of sociopolitical context, critical consciousness, and SJO may be key factors in improving the educational and counseling experiences of Latina/o youths.