Family and consumer sciences teachers' characteristics, attitudes toward poverty, and learning environment climates
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The proportion of low-income students enrolled in public schools is staggering. Consequently, it is likely that most family and consumer sciences (FCS) teachers will teach low-income students at some point in their careers. A review of the literature has established that teachers’ perceptions and the learning environment climate influence students and the teaching and learning process. Furthermore, previous literature as well as the 3P Model of Teaching have demonstrated that teachers’ perceptions affect the learning environment climate. Therefore, it is important for researchers to understand FCS teachers’ perceptions toward poverty/low-income students, their learning environment climates, and the relationship between these factors. This study investigated the relationships between FCS teachers’ characteristics, their attitudes toward poverty/low-income students, and their learning environment climates. Two-hundred and seventy FCS teachers in Texas completed the FCS Teachers’ Attitudes Toward Poverty and the Learning Environment Climate survey. This survey was comprised of 90 questions, including questions about teachers’ characteristics (e.g., genders, ages, years of experience), schools’ contexts (e.g., Title 1 status, regions), attitudes toward poverty/low-income students (i.e., excerpts from the Attitudes Toward Poverty and Poor People Scale (ATP) by Atherton et al. ), and learning environment climates (i.e., excerpts from the Learning Environment Inventory (LEI) by Fraser et al.  and excerpts from the Teacher Expectations Survey (TES) by Gallahar, 2009]). Using descriptive statistics, the findings of this study indicate that FCS teachers’ attitudes toward poverty/low-income students are slightly more positive than neutral. Additionally, teachers who have lived in poverty and teachers with advanced degrees have more positive attitudes toward poverty/low-income students. The results also suggest that FCS teachers’ learning environment climates are relatively positive. Moreover, teachers who have not lived in poverty, who have an alternative certification, and who have attended more continuing education workshops about low-income students have more positive learning environment climates. Using structural equation modeling (SEM), the results of this study indicate that FCS teachers with more positive attitudes toward poverty/low-income students have more positive learning environment climates. Besides FCS teachers, this study also has implications for schools, teacher education programs, other FCS professionals, and future researchers.