Does my teacher know anything about my life? If I make a mistake, how will my principal treat me? Do I believe working hard in school will propel me to college, a good job, and a happy and healthy adulthood?
How students respond to those questions reveals important insights into how they view their schools, whether they feel valued while they are there, and how they see their relationships with educators.
And how students feel about school has high-stakes implications for the rest of their lives. We know well the hallmarks of a disengaged student—poor attendance, low achievement, and too often, giving up on school completely. Likewise, the signs of an engaged and motivated student—coming to school regularly, working hard, and staying on track toward a bigger goal, be it graduation, college, or a job—are well understood by educators.
But cultivating the conditions and nurturing the relationships that allow all students to thrive in school require hard and deliberate work. In this report, Education Week takes an expansive look at student engagement and motivation and a range of strategies schools, educators, advocates, and parents are using to help students get—and stay—vested in their learning. In the resulting stories, it’s clear that relationships are the linchpin.
An Oregon district is forging ties with families and tribes to combat chronic absenteeism among its Native American students. New ways of recruiting and holding onto mentors are helping deepen connections between students and the adults or peers who mentor them. An innovative take on engaging parents—especially those who work in low-wage jobs—in their children’s education has taken root in New Orleans and is about to spread to Boston.
The Cleveland school district—where nearly every student is low-income—has scrapped the isolation of in-school suspensions in favor of building trust with students who are disruptive. And if you’re an English-learner, seeing your peers succeed has a powerful influence on your own success with learning a new language.
Finally, in a pair of explainers, we explore how simple, low-cost “nudges” show promise for influencing students to act in positive ways, while the research on using financial incentives to coax higher performance is far more mixed.
A version of this article appeared in the October 18, 2017 edition of Education Week as Editor’s Note