School Connectedness: A Literature Review. Bill Ziegler Cabrini College EDG 501. Definition(s).
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School connectedness is an idea that refers to how students feel about attending school. School connectedness can also be referred to as: school bonding, school climate, teacher support, and student engagement (Blum, 2005).
Frick and Frick (2010) cite the terms: community building and cooperative welfare.
Stefkovich and Begley (2007) and Stefkovich and O’Brien (2004) examine what is in the best interest of the student in relation to connectedness .
School-family-community partnerships are especially important for low-income children because the school is one of the most important institutions in urban areas which usually have a lack of businesses and community organizations (Bryan & Henry, 2008).
By high school, as many as 60 percent of all students in all school settings are chronically disengaged from school (Blum, 2005).
Students that disconnect themselves from school permanently will experience higher unemployment rates, reduced lifelong earnings and higher crime rates (Croninger & Lee, 2001).
Dropout rates are also higher among racial and ethnic minorities, low income families, single parent families and families where at least one of the parents failed to graduate from high school (Croninger & Lee, 2001).
As many as 20 percent of students surveyed give up on work when they experience difficulty, and 60 percent reported feel that teachers do not recognize them when they try their best (McNulty & Quaglia, 2007).
McNulty and Quaglia (2007) recommend eight conditions that make a difference in school: belonging, heroes, sense of accomplishment, fun and excitement, curiosity and creativity, spirit of adventure, leadership and responsibility, and confidence to take action.
These qualities were established after a five year research initiative with 75 high schools in ten states.
“At risk” students are often in need of greater amounts of support and services and their experiences of low achievement can add to low self-esteem and affect their hopes about their futures”(Kerka, 2003).
Ethics are primarily culturally derived and may not be applicable in situations that involve multicultural issues.
School leaders need to realize: how easy it is to ignore the voices of those who literally have the most to lose, it is incumbent upon school leaders to make ethical decisions that truly reflect the needs of the students and not their own adult self-interest (Stefkovich and Begley, p. 215).
One program that was found in the research that highlights the ideals of school connectedness is known as: Strength-Based Partnerships.
Strength-based partnerships are a collaboration of school counselors, school staff members, families and community members.
Strength-based partnerships take advantage of the assets found in schools, families and communities to promote positive student-teacher relationships, strengthen social support networks, nurture academic success and empower children (Bryan & Henry, 2008).
Can be cultivated when schools intentionally find ways to celebrate all children and their families.
Celebrations create feelings of validation and affirm a sense of belonging for students.
Staff members purposefully change their ideas about parents of struggling children from negatives to strengths.
Strong schools also tap into the assets of their communities. Using colleges, non-profit organizations, places of worship, police and fire departments, and schools of the arts, strength-based schools form partnerships to create programs and resources to support children and their families (Bryan & Henry, 2008).
One of the strength-based programs that was highlighted by Bryan and Henry (2008) was the Gentlemen’s Clubs and Ladies Clubs.
These clubs were first established by Stephen Peters and have since been featured on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”
In this program, students meet weekly in separate groups with teacher-mentors. Throughout the school year, community members come in to speak with the clubs and cover topics such as choices and consequences, self-worth, goal setting, attitude, and leadership.
The clubs also give the students opportunities to do things they have never had the ability to do, including attending college and professional athletic events and having dinner at an upscale restaurant.
The clubs finish out the year by participating in service projects, discussing future plans for school, and compiling their ultimate goals and dreams
The ideology behind school connectedness has plenty of positive aspects to support its approach to education. I believe connectedness identifies the root cause to failures in education. Once the student feels engaged all other impediments to education can be reduced, even eliminated. Ideology alone does not make a program. In the few programs that were found, only one program seemed to have legs that could be implemented elsewhere. Until more proof can be cemented, schools will likely continue to have a wait and see attitude towards connectedness.