The latest results from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) provide the first in-depth look at school connectedness a student's feeling of being part of and cared for at school. Previous research suggests that school connectedness helps protect teenagers against a number of risky behaviors because it has been linked with lower levels of substance use, violence, suicidal thoughts and attempts, pregnancy, and emotional distress.
Among the major findings:
* At schools that have classrooms where students get along with each other, pay attention, and hand in assignments on time, teenagers report substantially stronger feelings of connectedness than do other teens.
* Classroom size, long a concern of parents, is not related to students' connection to school.
* School size is related to how students feel about school: as school size increases, school connectedness declines.
* Teachers' experience or completion of an advanced degree has no bearing on school connectedness.
"What goes on in the classroom is key to keeping kids from becoming disenchanted with school," said study author Robert Blum, M.D, Ph.D., professor and director of the University of Minnesota's Center for Adolescent Health and Development. "It doesnt matter whether you have 20 or 30 kids in a class. It doesnt matter whether the teacher has a graduate degree. What matters is the environment that a student enters when he walks through the classroom door.