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Date of Award

Spring 6-24-2021

Author Requested Restriction

Open Access (no restriction)

Work Type

Dissertation in Practice

Degree Name

Doctor of Educational Leadership (EdD)



First Advisor

Dr. Robert Macgregor

Second Advisor

Dr. Julia Aguirre

Third Advisor

Dr. Wade Barringer


Sense of belonging (SOB) is of critical importance to students as it impacts multiple aspects of a student’s life (Penergast et al, 2018). The need to belong is a fundamental human need (Maslow, 1954). A student’s SOB can be measured by the foundational Psychological Sense of School Membership (PSSM) scale (Goodenow, 1993). SOB is of particular importance for students of color (SOC). When SOB is negatively impacted in SOC this can cause declines in motivation and achievement (Penergast et al, 2018). The first three goals of this dissertation were quantitative. First, there was a calculation of the levels of the SOB in 58 Latinx student study participants enrolled at a comprehensive suburban high school in the suburban Puget Sound area of Washington State. Second, a comparison of mean measures of SOB between different Latinx student groups, such as Puerto Rican and Mexican American was completed through an analysis of variance (ANOVA). Third, a determination of the relationship between students’ SOB and academic achievement as measured by cumulative GPA was explored through a correlation analysis. The fourth and fifth goals of this dissertation were qualitative involved exploring student-reported and school-based factors that impacted the student’s SOB and the student-reported impacts of the COVID-19 school closure on SOB. Student responses to two open-ended questions were coded for acceptance, respect, inclusion, and support factors and themes were identified within each code. Quantitatively the average PSSM score of all participants was 3.12 on a 5-point Likert scale. The ANOVA determined that there were no statistically significant differences between the mean measures of SOB for the Latinx student groups and there was a slight positive correlation between the students’ measures of SOB and their cumulative GPA. Qualitatively, several themes emerged within the codes for acceptance, respect, inclusion, and support factors including the importance of the teachers’ knowledge and support of students. Adverse impacts of the COVID-19 school closure included but were not limited to decreased teacher knowledge of the students, increased student workload and decreased student motivation while a positive impact identified by students was their ability to move at their own pace during remote learning. Implications for future practice related to a focus on people and relationships through strategies to be incorporated in the school’s improvement plan including staff development in culturally responsive education, restorative justice practices, and ongoing measures of student SOB.