School connectedness is the belief held by students that adults and peers in the school care about their learning as well as about them as individuals.1
Students are more likely to engage in healthy behaviors and succeed academically when they feel connected to school. Research has shown that young people who feel connected to their school are less likely to engage in many risk behaviors 2, including early sexual initiation, alcohol, tobacco and other drug use, and violence and gang involvement. Students who feel connected to their school are also more likely to have better academic achievement, including higher grades and test scores, have better school attendance and stay in school longer.3-6
School connectedness is particularly important for young people who are at increased risk for feeling alienated or isolated from others. Those at greater risk for feeling disconnected include students with disabilities, students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or question their sexual orientation, students who are homeless or any student who is chronically truant due to a variety of circumstances.7 Strong family involvement and supportive school personnel, inclusive school environments and curricula that reflect the realities of a diverse student body can help students become more connected to their school. 7
Strategies for Increasing Student Connectedness
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that schools use the following strategies to increase students’ feelings of connectedness to school. 1
- Create decision-making processes that facilitate student, family and community engagement, academic achievement and staff empowerment.
- Provide education and opportunities to enable families to be actively involved in their children’s academic and school life.
- Provide students with the academic, emotional and social skills necessary to be actively engaged in school.
- Use effective classroom management and teaching methods to foster a positive learning environment.
- Provide professional development and support for teachers and other school staff to enable them to meet the diverse cognitive, emotional and social needs of children and adolescents.
- Create trusting and caring relationships that promote open communication among administrators, teachers, staff, students, families and communities.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2009). School Connectedness: Strategies for Increasing Protective Factors Among Youth. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
- Resnick, M., Bearman, P, Blum R., Bauman K., Harris K., Jones, J, et al.(1997). Protecting adolescents from harm: findings from the National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health. JAMA 1997;278(10):823-832.
- Klem, A. and Connell, J. (2004). Relationships matter: linking teacher support to student engagement and achievement. Journal of School Health 2004;74(7):262-273.
- Rosenfeld, L., Richman J. and Bowen G. (1998). Low social support among at-risk adolescents. Social Work in Education, 20:245-260.
- Battin-Pearson S., Newcomb M., Abbot R., Hill K., Catalano R., and Hawkins J. (2000). Predictors of early high school dropout: a test of five theories. Journal of Educational Psychology,92(3):568-582.
- Barber, B. and Olsen J. (1997). Socialization in context: connection, regulation and autonomy in the family, school and neighborhood, and with peers. Journal of Adolescent Research, 12(2):287-315.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2009). Fostering School Connectedness Information for School Districts and School Administrators. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/protective/pdf/connectedness_administrators.pdf (PDF, 1.72MB)
School Connectedness: Improving Students’ Lives
The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Military Child Initiative produced this report summarizing effective programs and strategies that promote school connectedness for youth (PDF, 3.9MB).
School Connectedness: Strategies for Increasing Protective Factors among Youth
Describes evidence-based strategies that teachers, administrators, other school staff and parents can implement to increase the extent to which students feel connected to school.
Enhancing Student Connectedness to Schools
The Center for School Mental Health Analysis and Action’s report (PDF, 153KB) summarizes research about school connectedness and evidence based strategies to increase school connectedness.
National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments
The National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments (PDF, 1MB) is funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Healthy Students and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to help address issues as bullying, harassment, violence and substance abuse. The website includes research, reports, webinars, webinar recordings and searchable resources by profession, topic, grade level and a compendium of school climate assessments.
YouthInfo.gov is the U.S. government Web site that helps you create, maintain and strengthen effective youth programs. Included are youth facts, funding information and tools to help you assess community assets, generate maps of local and federal resources, search for evidence-based youth programs and keep up-to-date on the latest, youth-related news.
Promoting School Connectedness
This issue of the Prevention Researcher features articles on how adults can increase school connectedness for LGBT youth, urban youth of color and engage diverse families.