Summary:

School Connectedness

Spotlight on Key Indicators: School Connectedness
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Learn More About School Connectedness

Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs
Bullying and Harassment at School
College Eligibility
Community Connectedness
Food Security
Dating and Domestic Violence
Disconnected Youth
High School Graduation
Math Proficiency
Emotional/Mental Health
Gang Involvement
Pupil Support Service Personnel
Reading Proficiency
School Safety
School Connectedness
Truancy, Suspensions & Expulsions
Suicide and Self-Inflicted Injury
Teen Sexual Health
Why This Topic Is Important

When students feel connected to their schools (i.e., they feel treated fairly, close to people, happy, part of, and safe at school), they are more likely to succeed academically and engage in healthy behaviors. Specifically, school connectedness is associated with better school attendance, retention, and test scores, and lower rates of emotional problems, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts/actions, substance abuse, early sexual initiation, violence, and other risky behaviors (1).

Schools can foster student connectedness by promoting caring and supportive relationships with adults, consistently communicating high expectations for youth (i.e., that they can and will succeed), and providing opportunities for meaningful participation in the school environment (2).

For more information on school connectedness, see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2009). School connectedness: Strategies for increasing protective factors among youth. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/protective/pdf/connectedness.pdf

2.  WestEd. (2010). California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS): California school district secondary school survey results Fall 2009/Spring 2010, Core Module A. Retrieved from “Core Narrative” at http://chks.wested.org/reports

How Children Are Faring
About half of California 7th, 9th, and 11th graders reported a high level of agreement that teachers or other adults at school had high expectations of them (47-56%) in 2008-10. However, only 31-38% expressed a high level of agreement that those adults cared about them, and just 13-17% reported a high level of agreement that they had opportunities for meaningful participation at school. Levels of total school assets (a summary measure that includes student reports of caring adults, high expectations, and meaningful participation) vary by demographic group. Consistently, 7th and 11th graders more often express a high level of school assets than 9th graders. Of all groups of students, non-traditional males least often report a high level of school assets. Among racial/ethnic groups, reported levels of school assets are highest among white students and lowest among Latino students.

School connectedness (a summary measure that includes student reports of being treated fairly, feeling close to people, feeling happy, feeling a part of, and feeling safe at school) varies by grade and race/ethnicity. Consistently, 7th graders more often report a high level of school connectedness than 9th and 11th graders. Also, white and Asian students more often express a high level of connectedness than students in other racial/ethnic groups. However, from 2004-06 to 2008-10, the percentage of students with high levels of school connectedness rose for all racial/ethnic groups, as well as for all grade levels and for both boys and girls.
Policy Implications

Students’ sense of connectedness to school is influenced by the level and nature of adult support, peer groups, and the school environment. Classroom management, discipline policies, school size, and opportunities to participate in and contribute to activities during and after school all can affect the level of student connectedness. Education leaders can pursue policies that enhance school connectedness, thus increasing a key protective factor correlated with better school outcomes and less risky behavior (1, 2). Students who experience frequent school transitions, such as youth in foster care or in military families, may need additional support staying engaged in school (3, 4).

According to research and subject experts, policy options that could improve school connectedness include:

  • Creating learning environments that allow for better connections between students and caring adults, which can contribute to students’ emotional and behavioral health (1, 3)
  • Developing fair and consistent school discipline policies that are equitably enforced (1, 3)
  • Improving the classroom climate, such as facilitating student self-management (e.g., monitoring and regulating their own behavior), involving students in decision-making, and ensuring that teachers foster an environment of mutual respect (1, 3)
  • Creating clean physical environments, which can raise student expectations for safety and promote respectful interactions (1, 3)
  • Offering professional development and appropriate decision-making authority to teachers and school administrators so that they can be more supportive of students’ multi-faceted needs (1)
  • Creating opportunities for parents to participate actively and meaningfully in their children’s education, and creating trusting relationships between parents and school staff (1, 3)
  • Providing students with opportunities to develop the skills necessary to stay engaged in school, e.g., problem-solving, relationship skills, self-regulation, decision-making, and academic skills, along with high expectations and the support necessary to achieve them (2, 3)
  • Promoting a school climate that is responsive to the diverse cultural norms and values of its students, their families, and the broader community (5).

For more policy ideas and information, see WestEd and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Also see Policy Implications on kidsdata.org under Emotional/Mental Health, High School Graduation, Bullying/Harassment at School, Pupil Support Service Personnel, and Truancy, Suspensions & Expulsions.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2009). School connectedness: Strategies for increasing protective factors among youth. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/protective/pdf/connectedness.pdf

2.  Monahan, K., et al. (2010). Predictors and consequences of school connectedness: The case for prevention. The Prevention Researcher, 17(3), 3-6. Retrieved from: http://www.pitt.edu/~adlab/People%20pics%20and%20links/Publications%20page/Predictors%20and%20Consequences%20of%20School%20Connectedness.pdf  

3.  Blum, R. (2007). Best practices: Building blocks for enhancing school environment. Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Military Child Initiative. Retrieved from: http://www.jhsph.edu/research/centers-and-institutes/military-child-initiative/resources/Best_Practices_monograph.pdf

4.  Courtney, M., et al. (2011). Midwest evaluation of adult functioning of former foster youth: Outcomes at age 26. Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago. Retrieved from: http://www.chapinhall.org/sites/default/files/Midwest%20Evaluation_Report_4_10_12.pdf

5.  Ross, R. (2013). School climate and equity. National School Climate Center. Retrieved from: http://www.schoolclimate.org/publications/documents/sc-brief-equity.pdf

Websites with Related Information
Key Reports
County/Regional Reports