Building and Measuring Student Relationships: Two Examples

Relationships with students are important, duh. They engage, motivate, and buffer trauma. Good ones result in higher attendance and graduation rates. Two of my recent conference presentations can be tied together by the ideas that (1) Relationships with students are vital, (2) we can get better at building relationships, and (3) we can measure their impact.

1) Through the Good Shepherd Services Improvement Fellowship I co-designed and facilitated, we brought together schools and programs to tackle the issue of chronic absenteeism with improvement science methods. Each site developed a theory for why students are not present (ie. negative peer influences, academic fatigue] and then tested ideas. The result: three interventions that focused on building adult and peer relationships. That might sound weird. We were trying to raise attendance, but the solution was NOT outreach, attendance awareness campaigns or incentives. The solutions were peer groups, afterschool career exploration, and case conferencing. And, for some students, we saw increases in their attendance. See more about the fellowship and out outcomes here.

Ready by 21 National Meeting, Forum for Youth Investment, April 2019: The Problem with Attendance: Using Continuous Improvement to Tackle the Root Causes of Chronic Absenteeism.

2) At South Brooklyn Community High School, we found that if we asked students which adults they were connected to, the ones with more connections had higher attendance, on average. So, we adapted some activities with staff to figure out who we are connected to and WHY. Turns out staff were more connected to females, interns, students who had been enrolled longer, and students who were either struggling or excelling academically. This reflection with staff, and at the Transfer School conference, was important in starting the conversation on HOW to build better connections going forward.

NYC Transfer School Conference, June 2019: Building Connections for Student Success

Alison HolsteinComment