School-Connect is named for one of its major goals: to increase students' sense of belonging and connectedness to school. Why is this so important?
“School-connectedness” Affects Learning
Students who feel connected to school and their teachers are more likely to attend class, enjoy school, and perform well academically. Conversely, those who feel anonymous, unsafe, or unsupported at school are more likely to disengage both socially and academically. Research bears this out:
- By high school, four in 10 students have become chronically disengaged from school (Busteed, 2013)
- A survey of high school dropouts found top reasons for not finishing school were: a lack of connection to school, feeling bored and unmotivated, academic challenges, and real-world events (Bridgeland et al., 2006)
- School culture affects all students. Many intellectually capable students under-perform to avoid peer rejection, while other students act out to gain peer support (Bishop et al., 2004; Ford et al., 2008)
Ninth Grade is a Critical Year
As students enter high school, they face increased academic rigor and have fewer social supports. For the first time, their academic record will affect their post-high school opportunities. Many struggle in this more demanding, high-stakes environment, and need special attention during this critical period. Research highlights this need as well:
- School-connectedness is an important protective factor against emotional distress, violence, substance use, academic apathy, and dropping out (Bond et al., 2007; Resnick et al., 1997)
- Student's grades are most likely to suffer in the ninth grade, and most students who fail to progress directly to tenth grade never recover. In one study, up to 40% of ninth-grade students in cities with the highest dropout rates repeat the ninth grade, but only 10% to 15% of those repeaters go on to graduate (Kennelly &Monrad, 2007)
- Nationally, 15% of Caucasian youth, 24% of Latino youth, and 32% each of African-American and Native American youth fail to graduate high school in four years (U.S. Department of Education, 2012)
- Students need practice in skills essential to school and workplace success. Creating smaller, more collaborative and personalized learning environments increases the percentage of freshman progressing to tenth grade (Bernstein et al., 2008)
Many Graduates are Unprepared for College and the Workplace
Of the students who graduate from high school, many lack sufficient skills for success in college and the workplace. These deficits include social and emotional skills critical to today's economy, i.e., the ability to communicate effectively; work in teams; think critically; solve problems; and exhibit professionalism, a work ethic, ethical behavior, and social responsibility (Caster-Lotto & Barrington, 2006). In a recent Association of American Colleges and Universities survey, students consistently ranked themselves higher than employers did on key workplace skills (Hart Research Associates, 2015).
School-Connect classrooms create a work-like environment in which students practice collaborative problem solving, active listening, effective communication, emotional management, and responsible decision-making.
What Parents are saying...
“[This class] offers real world, practical information with opportunities to implement and see results. From handshakes and making eye contact, the class lessons and “hands on” scenarios have led to some very interesting conversations at home. I wish my employees had this class in high school - my life would be much easier.”
— Parent of a Freshman Seminar Student
“One morning, as we were driving to school, my daughter turned to me and asked, ‘Would you like to talk?’ Or, ‘is it OK if I put in my EarBuds and listen to music on my iTouch? I don't want to tune you out.’
I was astonished! This miracle of teenage concern was the beautiful result of a video and discussion in her MAPS (freshman seminar) class about how electronics usage affects relationships. Thank you, Mr. Matheny!”
— Parent of a Freshman Seminar Student