Fostering School Connectedness: Improving Student Health and Academic Achievement

Information for Teachers and Other School Staff

This fact sheet provides guidance for fostering school connectedness and creating a more welcoming and supportive school environment for all students.

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Students feel more connected to their school when they believe that the adults and other students at school not only care about how well they are learning, but also care about them as individuals. Young people who feel connected to school are more likely to succeed academically and make healthy choices.

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All school staff, including teachers, principals, counselors, social workers, nurses, aides, librarians, coaches, nutrition personnel, and others, can have an important and positive influence on students’ lives. The time, interest, attention, and emotional support they give students can help them learn and stay healthy.

Why is school connectedness important for your students?

School connectedness is an important factor in both health and learning. Students who feel connected to their school are

  • More likely to attend school regularly, stay in school longer, and have higher grades and test scores.
  • Less likely to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, or have sexual intercourse.
  • Less likely to carry weapons, become involved in violence, or be injured from dangerous activities such as drinking and driving or not wearing seat belts.
  • Less likely to have emotional problems, suffer from eating disorders, or experience suicidal thoughts or attempts.
What steps can teachers and school staff take to increase school connectedness?

School Connectedness: Strategies for Increasing Protective Factors Among Youthpdf icon (Division of Adolescent and School Health, CDC, 2009) summarizes the research on school connectedness and describes six science-based strategies that can foster it. The chart below outlines those six strategies and lists specific actions under each that you can take to enhance the connections at your school.

Strategies and Actions Teachers and Other School Staff Can Take to Increase School Connectedness

School Connectedness Is Especially Important for At-Risk Youth

School connectedness is particularly important for young people who are at increased risk for feeling alienated or isolated from others. Any student who is “different” from the social norm may have difficulty connecting with other students and adults in the school, and may be more likely to feel unsafe. 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.

What should be considered when planning for action to improve school connectedness?

A team effort is needed to improve school connectedness. Your team should involve those in the school along with individuals, groups, and organizations outside the school. Your team needs to be committed and involved in planning, implementing, and evaluating actions that can improve students’ health and education outcomes.

Some actions will require small changes in how your school works and can be done easily. Others might require more time, money, or administrative change. Schools and school districts should determine which actions are most feasible and appropriate, based on the needs of the school and available resources.