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Strategies for Increasing Protective Factors Among Youth

posted Sep 15, 2012, 9:27 AM by Maria Geueke
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new strategies for school connectedness - the belief held by students that adults and peers in the school care about their learning as well as about them as individuals. Research has shown that young people who feel connected to their school are less likely to engage in many risk behaviors, including early sexual initiation, alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use, and violence and gang involvement.

Six Strategies to Promote School Connectedness

School administrators, teachers, and other school staff can use the following six strategies and the supporting action steps to increase school connectedness: 

1. Create decision-making processes that facilitate student, family, and community engagement; 
academic achievement; and staff empowerment. 
a.  Lead the school community in a process to develop a shared vision of high standards for learning and 

b.  Solicit teacher and staff input and involvement in all efforts to improve the school climate and students’ 
sense of connectedness to school.

c.  Engage students, parents, school staff, and com­munity members in teams to develop school policies and plan school-wide activities. These teams can also assist in writing proposals for grants and solicit support and supplies from local businesses.

d.  Give teachers and principals appropriate decisionmaking authority over how school resources are 
used, including people, time, facilities, and funds.

2. Provide education and opportunities to enable families to be actively involved in their 
children’s academic and school life. 
a.  Provide opportunities for parents to increase their own skills and competence in areas that will help them be more involved in their children’s school life. Opportunities could include educational courses such as General Education Development (GED), English as a second language, and effective communication and leadership skills.

b.  Implement training workshops that provide parents with skills to better manage their children’s behav­
ior. Skills can include identifying desirable and undesirable behaviors, communication strategies, conflict resolution, listening skills, setting expecta­tions for behaviors, and appropriate praise. Parents also can learn about how to teach their children self-restraint and problem-solving.

c.  Provide parent workshops that teach academic support skills, such as how to talk with teachers about ways parents can help their children develop academic skills.

d.  Seek alternative ways to provide hard-to-reach parents with skills training, such as by using a telephone-based parent education program.

 3. Provide students with the academic, emotional, and social skills necessary to be actively 
engaged in school. 
a.  Implement tutoring programs to provide one-on-one assistance to students. Tutors can provide weekly academic help in reading and math, help students with decision-making, and work with students to develop specific academic and social goals.

b.  Support positive academic competition within and among schools. For example, schools can estab­lish interscholastic team competitions in academic subjects and offer activities such as debate and physics projects. 

c.  Offer extended learning opportunities for all students, such as summer and vacation camps, to improve academic and social skills.

d.  Provide opportunities for students to improve their interpersonal skills, such as problem-solving, conflict resolution, self-control, communication, negotiation, sharing, and good manners. Other skills that could be taught include listening, stress management, and decision making.
 4. Use effective classroom management and teaching methods to foster a positive learning 
a.  Communicate clear expectations for learning and behavior. Ensure that expectations are 
developmentally appropriate and that all students are held to the same expectations. 

b.  Ensure that lessons are linked to standards and are sequential to ensure that students’ learning builds 
upon prior lessons.

c.  Clearly describe lesson goals and how the informa­tion relates to students and the real world.

d.  Assess students continuously and use the results to guide the direction of the class and teaching 
methods used.

5. Provide professional development and support for teachers and other school staff to enable 
them to meet the diverse cognitive, emotional, and social needs of children and adolescents. 
a.  Employ teachers who have been trained in child development, and demonstrate effective implemen­
tation of student-centered pedagogy, a variety of classroom management techniques, and teaching 
methods (e.g., cooperative learning).

b.  Offer professional development on ways to organize and structure the classroom to promote 
a positive environment. Developmentally appropriate discipline strategies emphasize positive behav­iors and values and assist students in developing self-control. 

c.  Educate school staff on strategies to effectively involve parents in their children’s school life. Impor­
tant skills include how to establish regular commu­nication, communicate effectively with parents from diverse cultures
, conduct effective parent–teacher– student conferences, involve parents in homework assignments, and organize classroom events that engage parents.

d.  Provide training on all curricula the school plans to use, as well as effective teaching methods (e.g., 
cooperative learning, active learning), to maximize the curricula’s effectiveness. Ensure that teachers have the necessary materials, time, resources, and support to effectively use the skills learned in train­ing.

 6. Create trusting and caring relationships that promote open communication among 
administrators, teachers, staff, students, families, and communities. 
a.  Consider structuring the school so that teachers stay with the same students for 3 years in elementary 
and middle school and 2 or more years in high school. This can provide better continuity in learn­ing and might allow the development of stronger teacher–student relationships.

b.  Allow students and their parents to use the school building and property outside of school hours for recreational or health promotion programs. This can increase their feeling of being part of the 
school community. 

c.  Apply reasonable and consistent disciplinary policies that are collectively agreed upon by students and staff and are fairly enforced.

d.  Hold school-wide activities that give students opportunities to learn about different cultures, 
people with disabilities, and topics such as arts or sports. This will increase students’ respect for diversity and form connections among students. Increasing understanding of similarities and differ­ences can engender respect. 

Click here, for more information about school connectedness and strategies for increasing protective factors among youth.