School Connectedness

“No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship.” - James Comer

School Connectedness is the belief 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.

The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health looked at the impact of protective factors on adolescent health and well-being among more than 36,000 7th–12th grade students. The study found that family, school, and individual factors such as school connectedness, parent-family connectedness, high parental expectations for academic achievement, and the adolescent’s level of involvement in religious activities and perceived importance of religion and prayer were protective against a range of adverse behaviors.

Research has also demonstrated a strong relationship between school connectedness and educational outcomes, including school attendance; staying in school longer;  and higher grades and classroom test scores. In turn, students who do well academically are less likely to engage in risky behaviors. 

What are the factors that can increase School Connectedness?

Adult Support
School staff can dedicate their time, interest, attention, and emotional support to students.

Belonging to a Positive Peer Group
A stable network of peers can improve student perceptions of school.

Commitment to Education
Believing that school is important to their future, and perceiving that the adults in school are invested in their education, can get students engaged in their own learning and involved in school activities.

School Environment
The physical environment and psychosocial climate can set the stage for positive student perceptions of school.

What do AASD schools and staff  do to encourage and foster  School Connectedness?

DOTS - Depending On Teachers and Staff

The DOTS interactive process gives school staff a visual picture of the relationships they have with the students in their school. This staff development opportunity builds community among building staff and offers an opportunity to ensure every student feels connected and can learn in an environment of safety and trust.  

Kindergarten/New Family Orientation Night

Many of our schools host a night for parents of incoming Kindergarten students and new families to learn more about our school, our routines, and opportunities for involvement with our PTO. All families tour the school inside and out with a special emphasis on the routines in each of the areas. 

Link Crew

Link Crew is a program that provides freshmen students a safe and welcoming transition into high school introduced and led by Junior and Senior year students. Link Crew provides the freshmen on outlet for “how things are done” from a student’s perspective. Older students are able to create relationships and shape the culture that all are accepted into the school family. All Link Crew activities support the smaller learning communities as well as helping the freshman students adjust to the new larger environment. 

Northward Bound

The Northward Bound program at Appleton North is targeted primarily at Sophomore students that have struggled in the regular academic setting for their core courses. The goal of the program is to help students find the best pathway for their success by working in smaller classes on academics and community connections.

School Counselor Connections with New Students

AASD guidance counselors provide ongoing support for new students by meeting with them and talking about how their transition is going.

Smaller Learning Community (SLC)

One of the cornerstones to the continuous school improvement efforts at Appleton North is to continue developing more personal connections within their large high school. Five years ago, they piloted a Smaller Learning Community (SLC) at the freshmen level. 

The premise of SLC’s is to create a team structure in which a group of students share the same teachers. Each team of content teachers will have a structured, common planning time in order to better address the academic, developmental, social, and personal needs of freshmen students. This is especially critical during transition periods, such as going from middle to high school. 

Staff Mentoring Program

Students who are both behind grade level in reading and who are in need of social/emotional support have been identified to pair up with interested staff members to build positive relationships within the school environment in various AASD schools.

Student Ambassador Program

Students are identified in each of the classrooms to serve as ambassadors for new students. Ambassadors meet with the new students on their first day and are responsible for touring them around the school, showing them the routines for recess/lunch/etc. and to sit with or play with them during lunch and recess. 

Terror Time

Terror Time is an opportunity for Highlands/Odyssey students to have lunch with several Appleton West High School students who have experienced some of the challenges our students face. The West students offer our elementary students friendship and acceptance, while they provide positive role models for resiliency and grit. 

Highlands/Odyssey students are recommended to Terror Time by Highlands/Odyssey teaching staff and administrators. Terror Time is held two days per month and is supervised a District Culturally Responsive Practices Coordinator.