School membership is the extent of personal belonging, respect, and support students feel in school. To evaluate this construct, Goodenow (1993) developed the Psychological Sense of School Membership (PSSM) questionnaire. In a recent factor analytic study, Hagborg (1994) found that the PSSM measured three dimensions rather than one. The present investigation examined the psychometric properties of a shortened version--the PSSM-Brief. This unidimensional measure of school membership was administered to 120 middle school students (grades 5 to 8). The PSSM-Brief demonstrated high internal consistency. In addition, a median sample split was performed to investigate the scale's criterion validity. Consistent with prior PSSM research, the high-scoring group reported higher grades, more time spent on homework, and greater school motivation than did the low-scoring group. Supportive of Wehlage's theoretical model of school membership (Wehlage, Rutter, Smith, Lesko, & Fernandez, 1989), the high group reported a more i nternal locus of control. A small but statistically significant positive correlation was also found between school membership and educational aspirations.
Researchers have found that the school milieu and instructional practices are often poorly matched to the developmental needs of children and adolescents (Eccles & Midgley, 1990). In light of this, proposals for reform often recommend various changes aimed at creating a more supportive social-emotional environment for students. For example, the first recommendation of the Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development (1989), in their report "Turning Points," was the development of a community of learning for middle school students. They explained that a middle school should "be a place where close, trusting relationships with adults and peers create a climate for personal growth and intellectual development" (p. 37). This important notion of community has been variously described as school belonging, attachment, identification, and membership (Finn, 1989; Sizer, 1984).
Based on research conducted at 14 alternative schools for at-risk youth, Wehlage and his colleagues constructed a theory of school membership (Wehlage, Rutter, Smith, Lesko, & Fernandez, 1989). They described the four components of school membership: (1) …