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. 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, 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.
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.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.
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.
2. Provide education and opportunities to enable families to be actively involved in their children’s academic and school life.
3. Provide students with the academic, emotional and social skills necessary to be actively engaged in school.
4. Use effective classroom management and teaching methods to foster a positive learning environment.
5. 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.
6. Create trusting and caring relationships that promote open communication among administrators, teachers, staff, students, families and communities.