Students who are connected to their school achieve at high levels, have low rates of absenteeism, have a decreased risk of engaging in substance abuse, prolong sexual initiation and tend not to engage in a variety of risk behaviors. The Marshalltown Community School District understands the importance of what is referred to as school connectedness. By taking an active role in creating conditions for a connection to school, staff supports the promotion of student achievement and keeps students safe and healthy. There are many factors that help generate a feeling of connectedness.
Adult support is very important. Nationally, research conducted in many schools has demonstrated that when students have AT LEAST one positive relationship with an adult in the school, achievement rises. When students know they are cared for and believe someone is looking out for them, they do better in school.
Belonging to a positive peer group is also important. Peers can be very influential for adolescents. It is important for parents to know their child's friends and understand the influences peers have over one another.
Another aspect is a commitment to education. As adults, we clearly communicate the importance of education and good decision making through the actions we model. When children believe we value education, they will do the same.
The school environment and climate is important. A feeling of physical, as well as psychological, safety goes a long way in making students feel connected to school. When students believe school is a place free from physical and emotional harm, they are able to concentrate on their academic goals and are a part of the school community.
The staff in all Marshalltown Schools understands the importance of creating the conditions for students to make positive connections with their schools. Trend data collected from student surveys over the past several years indicate our efforts are making a difference. When we all work together to ensure these connections are made, students achieve at higher levels and feel safe and secure.
Matt Tullis is the Director of Equity and Learning Supports and is the Project Director for the Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative in the Marshalltown Community School District. He can be reached at the Central Administration Office by calling 641-754-1000.