WI district wants to fine students for cell phones at school

Officials at Kewaskum High School in Wisconsin’s Washington County wanted a new three strike policy for students who violate the school’s cell phone policy, including fines for a third-offense, but village officials shot down the plan.

Vice Principal Mark Bingham told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel cell phones have become the district’s top discipline problem, and officials requested a village ordinance to ticket and fine students for using the devices in class.

“We want to try to eliminate those distractions and truly utilize that classroom time for learning,” Bingham said. “Obviously … our hope is that we don’t get to that situation where we have to involve law enforcement.”

The Journal Sentinel highlighted a vast differences in school cell phone policies across the state, from schools that ban them outright, to others that allow use in classrooms for educational projects. Some schools also allow students to keep their phones on them during the school day, but only allow them to use the devices during lunch and breaks.

Liz Kolb, a University of Michigan professor who studies technology in the classroom, said schools have generally shifted to more lenient policies as smartphones have become more popular.

A 2015 Pew Research Center report claims about 88 percent of 13- to 17-year-olds have access to a cell phone or smartphone, and nearly a quarter of them are online “almost constantly,” the Journal Sentinel reports.

“Plenty of studies show that it can be very distracting and can reduce the cognitive capacity in the classroom – students can be distracted just knowing they may be getting a text,” Kolb said.

On the other hand, “there is a lot of potential for cellphones to … extend learning to students’ real lives, especially for high-needs, low-income students for whom the family cellphone may be the only device they have to navigate the outside world and digital resources.”

The Kewaskum Village Board discussed the school district’s proposal, which “crashed and burned badly,” village board president Kevin Scheunemann told WISN. School officials did not attend the meeting to discuss the proposal, not a single person spoke in favor of it, and the board ultimately voted 7-0 to kill the idea.

The proposed ordinance would have confiscated phones from students the first time a student was caught with it at school, and a second offence would require a parent to collect the device. A third offense would have come with a $124 ticket, police chief Tom Bishop told WISN.

“If the school district wants to do something like this in the future, they have to at least be here to defend the proposal,” Scheunemann said after the vote. “I think that’s what really hurt them here tonight.”

While the proposed Kewaskum ordinance wasn’t successful, several “pedagogical” schools have improved learning by dialing down the technology to help students focus on what really matters.

Researchers with the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture noted the impact of low- or no-tech policies in “The Content of Their Character,” a summary of character education in a variety of schools.

The Waldorf, Montessori, Friends, Democratic, and International Baccalaureate high schools studied, among the most sought after in the U.S., “had some limits on the use of technology in the classroom – for example, minimal projector use, no Smart Boards, and no cell phones in the school,” education researcher David Sikkink wrote.

The “pedagogical” schools, Sikkink said, were defined by a commitment to particular modes of learning that limited technology based on the principles of the pedagogy.

Teachers in other schools, including ninth-grade government teacher Ken Halla, have successfully integrated mobile devices into classroom lessons. Halla explained on the NEA union blog why he thinks smartphones can be an education booster with the right kind of supervision.


Schools are monitoring student social media to address problems earlier

Lakeview School District Superintendent Blake Prewitt wakes up each day and scrolls through a dozen or more alerts from Firestorm, the Georgia-based service the district uses to scan through student social media pages across several networks.

Firestorm flags public posts that contain certain keywords and images of violence, or those that mention the district’s schools or community, giving Prewitt a jumpstart on addressing issues before they snowball into something bigger, Wired reports.

The program has helped in an abduction investigation, allowed officials to reach out to families with questions about the dress code, and Prewitt considers the alerts an important tool to keep the district’s 4,000 students and 500 staff safe.

“If someone posts something threatening to someone else, we can contact the families and work with the students before it gets to the point of a fight happening at school,” he told the technology site.

Firestorm is among a host of companies offering to help schools monitor student social media posts in the wake of high-profile school shootings in recent years, most notably the rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in February that left 17 dead.

In the Florida shooting, the alleged perpetrator vented his frustrations on social media before the attack – something Firestorm and its competitor, Vermont-based Social Sentinel, are designed to catch.

Gary Margolis, CEO of Social Sentinel, said business is “definitely booming,” and it’s helping administrators track down guns in schools and other threats.

Others, meanwhile, are raising concerns that adults monitoring teens’ social media conversations can easily take things out of context and create more work for themselves than it’s worth.

“Even if you have people directly looking at posts they won’t know what they’re looking at,” said Amanda Lenhart, researcher with the New America Foundation who focuses on teen internet use. “That could be exacerbated by an algorithm that can’t possibly understand the context of what it is seeing.”

Columbia University professor Desman Patton is working with social workers in Chicago to monitor social media in an effort to reduce gang violence. He believes schools may benefit from tracking students’ posts, but warned that interpreting language used by black youth could pose problems and draw increased scrutiny from school officials, Wired reports.

“I think there’s an opportunity for schools to use this as a way to support people but I would do so with extreme caution,” Patton said.

While some focus on effective ways to monitor students on social media, others are examining the underlying reasons why teens – and many adults – are seemingly addicted to Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites.

Chad Welmon and Julia Ticona wrote in The Hedgehog Review, a publication of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture:

Believing that we as individuals are solely responsible for our technology-suffused lives, we risk overlooking the ways in which our individual incapacity to say no to Facebook is a cultural incapacity, one that Facebook is not only keen to exploit but also eager to preserve.

The fact sheet “Social Media and School Crises” from the National Association of School Psychologists analyzes the risks and benefits of social media for schools and students, and offers resources for educators to learn more about the issue.

UT students create ‘Be Strong’ to take lead on mental health, bullying issues

At Utah’s Olympus High School, students are taking the lead to combat bullying and mental health issues like anxiety and suicide.

The school’s student body launched an initiative to start the 2018-19 school year called “Be Strong,” and it’s aimed at creating “safe spaces” for the Salt Lake City students to discuss important issues including bullying and mental health in a supportive environment, KUTV reports.

“I know the affects of bullying,” Be Strong student leader Keziah Mayer told the news site. “I have 10 other officers who work with me and we come together at forums once a month.”

The forums rely on experts to come in to speak with students about mental health issues, how students can seek help, and the close connection between those issues and others like bullying.

“We’re going to have a lot of speakers come in and talk about anxiety awareness,” Mayer said. “I know that a lot of people who suffer from anxiety take it out in … not the best ways. And I know that can lead to bullying.”

Other efforts are as simple as challenging students to say “hi” to a new person every day, said Ian Jones, student body president.

“You hear stories of kids saying ‘hi’ to each other in the halls and it goes a long way,” he said. “So, simple things like that, to counteract the bullying that goes on.”

The group is reaching out to parents to speak with their kids about bullying, and promoting free resources like the SafeUT app – which allows students to report bullying anonymously. Granite School District spokesman Ben Horsley told KUTV he expects Be Strong will prove effective than other anti-bullying efforts, simply because the message is coming from the students themselves.

“Frankly, students listen to their fellow peers a lot more than they listen to their adults,” he said. “We’ve seen a lot more in the last few years of them taking on these roles of anti-suicide, anti-anxiety, welcoming, anti-bullying messages.”

The Be Strong leaders are working to establish new habits and traditions at Olympus that focus on kindness and empathy for peers struggling through life’s challenges, which sociologist James Davison Hunter points out in his book “The Tragedy of Moral Education” is critical for prompting people to take action.

“What empathy we feel may help us understand someone else’s needs, and even feel the desire to help that person,” Hunter wrote. “But without embedded habits and moral traditions, empathy does not tell us what to do, nor when, nor how.”

At Olympus, one of the major avenues for action is the SafeUT app, which “is a statewide service that provides real-time crisis intervention to youth through texting and a confidential tip program – right from your smartphone,” according to the website, which is run through the University of Utah.

“Licensed clinicians in our 24/7 CrisisLine call center respond to all incoming chats, texts, and calls by providing supportive or crisis counseling, suicide prevention, and referral services,” according to the site. “We can help anyone with emotional crises, bullying, relationship problems, mental health, or suicide related issues.”

Schools install laundry facilities on campus to combat student absenteeism

Schools across the country are realizing one of the main reasons students are absent from class is because of a lack of clean clothes, so administrators are teaming with Whirlpool and the education group Teach for America to do something about it.

Principal Akbar Cook told WCBS about 85 percent of students at West Side High School in Newark, New Jersey are absent between three and five days a month, and a big reason is they’re embarrassed by their dirty clothes.

“They were being bullied and it wasn’t just in the building, it was on Snapchat – I’m sitting behind you and take a picture of your collar ‘look at this dirty guy,’” Cook said. “So you go home and you couldn’t even escape it if you were on social media.”

Student Nasirr Cameron said the harassment isn’t uncommon.

“I’ve seen kids in the back of the class talk about kids in the front of the class and how they smell and how their clothes look dirty,” he said.

The news site points to data from the nonprofit Feed America that shows nearly 75 percent of poor families skip doing laundry or washing dishes because they can’t afford it. Cook decided to change the situation in Newark and secured a $20,000 grant through the utility company PSEG to build a laundromat for students in the school’s former football locker room. He’s also worked to solicit donations from the community to stock the facility with soap and other essentials.

The idea is modeled after a partnership between Whirlpool and Teach for America called “Care Counts” that has installed laundry machines in 10 school districts in recent years. And the results speak for themselves.

“In the first year, the program provided approximately 2,000 loads of clean clothes to students across two districts. After examining the correlation between student attendence and the loads of laundry washed and dried, over 90% of tracked students in the program improved their attendance, averaging 6.1 more days in school than the previous year,” according to the Care Counts website.

Teachers surveyed through the pilot program reported increased motivation in class, more participation in extracurricular activities, more interaction with peers and school, and better grades.

“Every single day of school matters. When students miss school, they are missing an opportunity to learn,” said Martha Lacy, principal at David Weir K-8 Academy, one of the participating schools. “Absenteeism strongly impacts a student’s academic performance. In fact, students with excessive absence rates are more likely to fall behind, graduate late and even drop out.”

“It’s incredible to see how the simple act of laundry can have such a profound impact on students’ lives and we are excited to bring this resource to even more schools across the country,” Whirlpool brand manager Chelsey Lindstrom said.

James Davison Hunter, founder of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, notes in his book “The Death of Character,” that the most successful strategies for getting students to class often involve collaboration – between schools and parents, administrators and local leaders, and others – in the problem-solving process.

“Moral education can work where the community, and schools and other institutions within it, share a moral culture that is integrated and mutually reinforcing; where the social networks of adult authority are strong, united, and consistent in articulating moral ideals and their attending virtues; and where adults maintain a ‘caring watchfulness’ over all aspects of a young person’s maturation,” Hunter wrote.

The education site Education Week highlights several studies examining various factors impacting student absenteeism, offering insight into things like how the way students get to school can make a difference, as well as ways to identify and address issues.

Michaela Weinstein was a freshman when she decided to take action.

The barrage of racist messages at California’s Albany High School – scrawled in hallways and on text books, along with attacks on social media – convinced her the only way to change the situation was through a cultural shift, led by students.

An Instagram post in March 2017 depicting the lynching of a black female student by the Ku Klux Klan served as the final straw, and Weinstein partnered with good friend Melia Oliver to create Speak, a social justice program focused on educating elementary students about empathy, racism, sexism and anti-Semitism, The Jewish News reports.

“The Friday the Instagram account was discovered, Melia and I had this really big conversation,” Weinstein said. “We realized that there was this need and we had a responsibility as citizens of our school and citizens of our world to make this change.”

The two recruited classmates to join the group and help lead discussions, then went to work designing a curriculum to cover a variety of topics, from bullying to LGBTQ discrimination, for students in grades three through five.

“Fourth- and fifth-graders are so influenceable,” Weinstein said. “They are really malleable, so you can give them information and they are willing to talk about it and they don’t have these walls built up yet.”

“We realized that we really needed a cultural shift, through education at a young age, to not tolerate hate. Obviously it’s not something that can be solved so quickly, but with something like Speak and other activist groups, hopefully some things like this can be helped.”

Speak held 38 presentations in fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms at three Albany elementary schools last year, and now has plans to spread the message to sixth-graders, as well, in 2018.

Weinstein, now a junior, recently won $36,000 to continue her work from the 2018 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards, a national program that recognizes Jewish students who exemplify the values of their faith.

“At the end of the presentations we often have a closing circle and we ask what have you learned in the past hour, and they’ll sometimes say, ‘I want to make a difference like you’re making a difference,’” Weinstein told The Jewish News. “If a girl in her freshman year with her friend was able to create a program that can reach all these people, it shows we have the ability to make a difference.”

Students in Speak crafted the program to address the specific issues of racism and anti-Semitism gripping the high school, and educators and administrators who encouraged the program will undoubtedly benefit from the positive changes to school culture.

“We can only care for the young in their particularity,” researchers at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture wrote in “The Content of Their Character,” an analysis of character education in a wide variety of schools. “If we are not attentive to and understanding of these contexts, we are not caring for real, live human beings, but rather abstractions that actually don’t exist at all.”

Speak offers more information about the program, including its mission, presentations and team biographies at AHSStudentsSpeak.org.


Texas district prioritizes kindness as a means to improve school safety

The Hutto Independent School District wants students to know they’re safe and valued while at school, and local leaders are findings some creative ways to get the message across.

School resource officer Michelle O’Neil spent the summer crafting an “encouragement box” for every school in the Texas district, and she’s asking people in the community to contribute positive notes for students.

She’s collected thousands of Post-it notes with messages like “Be Exemplary,” “eat less sugar you’re sweet enough already,” and “Run the day!”

“I thought it’s a good idea to bring them up instead of the students always bringing each other down,” O’Neil told KXAN.

A new Project Kindness launched this year also encourages parent volunteers to spread similar messages in schools, in both English and Spanish.

“School’s not easy sometimes,” Hutto ISD parent Gloriana Price told the news site. “Sometimes there’s bullies, and sometimes there’s just not-so-nice people. You just need to remind yourself that you’re capable of doing good things while you’re in school.”

School board president Connie Gooding said Project Kindness installed inspiring words on bathroom mirrors and stall doors because that’s where they often retreat if they’re down.

“What we’re trying to do is just when they walk in and maybe don’t feel their best,” Gooding said, “we give them something to smile about, something to think about.”

Hutto ISD Superintendent Celina Estrada Thomas told KXAN the words of encouragement are part of the district’s broader focus on improving school safety, which also includes the hire of two new crisis counselors.

“The best thing that we can do to make our kids feel safe is to make them feel safe, first and foremost, psychologically and physically in their own schools,” Estrada Thomas said. “I think the positive message is just about that establishing that message from the get-go so that no child is a stranger, and no child feels like they’re not worthy.”

The push to instill more kindness in students and school comports with findings from the Institute of Advanced Studies in Culture’s “Culture of American Families” report, which documented parents’ explicit commitment to moral character.

“The overwhelming majority of American parents (96 percent) say ‘strong moral character’ is very important, if not essential to their child’s future,” according to the publication.

Harvard University’s Making Caring Common Project cited the IASC research in pointing out the “rhetoric/reality gap” that exists between what parents claim they want for their children and what kids believe is most important.

The kids magazine Highlights asked students between the ages of 6 and 12 what their parents want most for them: to be kind, happy, or to do well in school. The survey, detailed in the 2017 State of the Kid Report, showed kindness ranked last.

The Making Caring Common Project offers several ways parents and educators can turn the trend around, from building acts of kindness into the daily routine to ways to have meaningful conversations that promote good character.

WI student’s simple act of kindness pays off for cancer-fighting nonprofit

Wisconsin’s Waylon Klitzman was unhappy to learn his favorite teacher at Evansville High School was leaving the profession to dedicate her time to Beat Nb, a nonprofit working to cure neuroblastoma.

The teacher, Kim Katzenmeyer, announced the decision this spring after her niece was diagnosed with the disease just days before her fourth birthday.

Initially, Klitzman offered “Miss K” all the money he had – $52 – to change her mind and remain in the classroom. But when that didn’t work he concocted another plan to raise money for Beat Nb that ultimately took in more than $10,000 for the cause in just one hour.

The Washington Post reports:

The day after Katzenmeyer announced her departure, Klitzman marched in and laid $52 in cash in her hands. It was all he had left from his purchase of two pigs earlier that spring. Klitzman had bought the pigs as part of his involvement with the Evansville chapter of 4-H, a national youth organization that teaches leadership in part through agricultural work.

He originally planned to sell the pigs for meat — and for a profit — at the county fair in July.

Klitzman hoped his money, offered as a donation to Beat Nb, would be enough to induce Katzenmeyer to stay. She was touched, but it didn’t change her mind.

Klitzman, though, wasn’t done. He lost a teacher, but he found a cause.

He also had a plan: sell Roo – the 265-pound pig he spent months raising for the fair – and donate the proceeds to Beat Nb. He reached out to several potential buyers to explain the situation in hopes of driving up the price from the typical $3 to $5 per pound, but the response was not exactly what he expected.

“When the bidding kicked off, the price jumped to $11 – but then one of the bidders, Dan Drozdowicz, had an idea and struck a deal with his competition,” the Good News Network reports. “He won the bidding on the pig – then he donated it back to be auctioned again. The second bidder bought it for $10 a pound – then he gave it back, too.

“Finally, a third competitor, Dave Moll, was free to buy – then, he, too, unexpectedly donated the pig back – for a third time,” according to the site.

“I had … no intention of spending that much money or giving the pig back,” said Moll, who owns the construction company that employs Klitzman’s father. “But that’s what the people ahead of me did, and I felt like it was the right thing to do, so I did.”

Roo was bought a fourth time by a pork producer for $5.50 per pound, bringing in a total raised for Beat Nb to $10,070.

“I did not see that happening,” Klitzman told the Post. “Usually, they just sell it once! My dream got bigger and bigger every time they said, ‘Give it back.’”

Miss K, of course, was more than grateful for his efforts.

“I am bursting, my heart is bursting with pride for him,” she said. “He doesn’t know the impact that he is having … Someday he will.”

James Davison Hunter, founder of the Institute of Advanced Studies in Culture, highlighted the importance of practicing kindness to develop strong character in his book “The Death of Character.”

“It is through experience that students participate in moral community and practice moral action,” Hunter wrote. “Experience is always a precursor to the possession of character and practical wisdom.”

The website Kindness.org offers a variety of ways both kids and adults can practice kindness in their everyday lives, from “Ideas for your first act,” to “Summer kind act ideas” and ways to “Carry out a random act of kindness.”

The site also offers ideas for “Digital acts of kindness” to help “cultivate a kinder world online.”



AL schools connect students with heroes from history to develop character and civic responsibility

Dothan City Schools is launching a new civics education initiative that will help connect hundreds of Alabama middle school students with role models from American history to tackle subjects like character development, civic responsibility, financial literacy and others.

“Not everyone has great examples of character building in our lives, so to have a component like this in our school system, where we are investing again in our youth, is a huge peace that will come back to pay large dividends for our community,” Dothan Mayor Mark Saliba said at a press conference announcing the new “American Character Program” in August.

The program is a joint venture between DCS, the Liberty Learning Foundation, and the Dothan Area Chamber of Commerce, which donated $30,000 to bring the program to about 650 students at Girard, Honeysuckle, Beverlye Magnet, and Carver middle schools, the Dothan Eagle reports.

Patti Yancey, who founded the Liberty Learning Foundation provide “civic education programs and live experience that improve child, community and country,” told those in attendance at the Girard Middle School press conference that the 10- to 12-week program focused on building students’ character wouldn’t be possible without buy in from school officials and other local leaders.

“One person can’t do it by themselves; one organization can’t do it by themselves,” she said. “(DCS Superintendent) Dr. Edwards, (DCS Director of Curriculum) Teresa Davis, and (DCS Board Chairman) Mike Schmitz are just great at putting their money where their mouth is, and putting their purpose where their mouth is of truly seeing the whole child and not just the academic side.”

Darius McKay, principal of Girard Middle School, agreed that the American Character Program will undoubtedly have a positive impact on students in the school this year, but said he expects a ripple effect that could carry over for years to come.

“(When siblings of middle school students) look up to their middle school brother or sister and see they’re setting a good example, that may rub off on you,” McKay said. “(The program) will encourage students to have conversations about doing the right thing and honoring your country and things of that nature.”

“As our kids have conversations about what’s right to do,” he said, “incidents of wrong things won’t happen.”

James Davison Hunter, author of “The Death of Character,” points out that helping students develop a sense of morality – through historic role models or other means – is a crucial component of effective character education.

“(W)e must acquire a moral sensibility – we learn what is right and wrong, good and bad, what is to be taken seriously, ignored, or rejected as abhorrent – and we learn, in moments of uncertainty, how to apply our moral imagination to different circumstances,” Hunter wrote. “Over time, we acquire a sense of obligation and the discipline to follow them.”

For students and adults alike, the sense of obligation comes with a desire to help others through service projects or other contributions to the community. The nonprofit Learning to Give offers a starting point for helping students develop their passion, or “spark,” and “build self-efficacy, empathy for others, and confidence in one’s ability to do something to make a difference in the world.”

“Developing and nurturing one’s spark is the result of a three-part formula. First, you have to know your spark. Second, you need three champions (family, school, community) who help you develop your spark. Third, you must have the opportunity and the freedom to develop your spark,” according to LearningtoGive.org. “When students follow this formula, they not only find their spark, they thrive with it and experience school success, engagement, compassion and a sense of purpose.”


Schools transform culture through ‘trauma-informed’ approach to student discipline

In many schools, a “trauma-informed” approach to student discipline is leading to fewer suspensions and expulsions, and school leaders credit restorative justice practices and collaboration with staff, community groups, and parents for driving the change.

Godwin Higa, former principal of San Diego’s Cherokee Point Elementary School, recently explained to Nonprofit Quarterly how he worked to transform the school culture when he arrived in 2008, and the impact a “trauma-informed” approach made on student learning.

Higa started by forcing misbehaving students to sit out a recess, rather than send them home, when they acted out in class, and eventually implemented a restorative justice system, which focuses students on acknowledging their action and making amends to those they harm. He also arranged for free breakfasts for all his students, and developed partnerships with local nonprofits to bring in “an array of new services on campus to benefit not only the students and parents, but also the neighborhood,” NPQ reports.

Cherokee Point has since become a distribution center for a local food bank, and a place where medical professionals now offer free dental, eye, or physical exams, along with free counseling for any parent or student.

According to Higa:

When a student at Cherokee Point acts out, punishment is not the first response. An administrator or teacher will likely ask, “What happened to you?”—not “What’s wrong with you?” As Higa explains, “When you ask, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ it’s totally negative right away, versus ‘What’s happening to you, you don’t seem right.’ As soon as we say that, the kids look at you like ‘How did you know that I’m feeling down today?’” When they’re done talking, usually the child feels better and returns to class, the disruptive behavior occurs less often and generally fades away after a few more talks, and a trusting bond is formed, he said.

The trauma-informed approach greatly improved behavior and learning among the school’s roughly 600 students, many of them dealing with serious life issues like drug abuse, gangs, violence and domestic abuse in their families.

Eventually, suspensions evaporated entirely and Higa let the school’s resource officer go in 2015 because “all he did was stand around.”

Cherokee Point’s story isn’t unique.

“The same trauma-informed approach now practiced at Cherokee Point is being adopted in schools across the US. The state of Washington has implemented a Compassionate Schools Initiative; Massachusetts created a Flexible Framework for Helping Traumatized Students Learn program, which arose from a sustained campaign by the Massachusetts Advocates for Children for trauma-sensitive approaches at schools,” NPQ reports.

“Several state departments of education now provide resources to address trauma, including, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Massachusetts. In Idaho, 75 percent of school districts have sent staff to attend Idaho State University’s mental health training program, which includes trauma education.”

The successes at Cherokee Point and elsewhere stem from improving what researchers at the Institute of Advanced Studies in Culture refer to as the “moral ecology” of a community.

In “The Content of Their Character,” a summary of character education in a variety of schools, editors James Davison Hunter and Ryan S. Olson write:

When social institutions – whether the family, peer relationships, youth organizations, the internet, religious congregations, entertainment, or popular culture – cluster together, they form a larger ecosystem of powerful cultural influences.

The trauma-informed approach was spawned by research in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine that explains the “Relationship of Childhood Abuse and Household Dysfunction to Many of the Leading Causes of Death in Adults.”

The 1998 study, referred to as “The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study,” delves into how childhood trauma can damage the function of a child’s brain, which can lead to other serious problems in school and adulthood.

Research shows students’ sense of belonging in schools is critical

A recent report by the Australian Council for Educational Research highlights what many educators have observed themselves: certain students lack a sense of belonging, and it impacts their success in school.

According to ACER:

While the majority of Australian students feel a sense of belonging at school, there is a solid core of students who do not feel this way – roughly one in five, or five students in the average classroom.

Researchers examined the response of 15-year-olds to questions regarding their sense of belonging in school administered through the Programme for International Student Assessment, which collected data on a total of 36 countries, including the United States.

The education site The Conversation points to research that shows students’ sense of belonging at school can have a profound impact on their success in academics and life. Those that feel less like they belong are more likely to misbehave, use drugs or alcohol, act violently, or drop out of school, while those who feel a strong sense of belonging are typically more motivated, engaged, and eager to participate in school and their communities.

“Teachers play an important role in nurturing students’ sense of belonging. If a student considers their teacher to be caring and accepting, they’re more likely to adopt the academic and social values of their teacher,” The Conversation reports. “This can influence how students feel about school work and how much (or how little) they value it.”

The site offers a video from the Australian Psychological Society that explains “Mental health benefits when kids feel they belong at school,” and a list of teaching practices that are key to fostering a sense of belonging in the classroom.

The recommendations include developing high-quality teacher-student relationships, creating a supporting and caring learning environment, offering emotional support, sensitivity to student emotions and needs, offering respect and fair treatment and positive classroom management practices.

“Other significant approaches include giving students a voice, working with community partners to meet students’ needs, student participation in extra-curricular activities, and developing a culture of high standards and behaviours across the whole school,” The Conversation reports.

Education researcher Richard Fournier highlighted how a sense of belonging can strengthen the moral culture of a school in “The Content of Their Character,” a publication of the Institute of Advanced Studies in Culture summarizing character development in a variety of schools.

“One common goal among the schools’ administrators, often acknowledged by teachers, was to create a sense of belonging among students and staff,” Fournier observed. “This sense of belonging built trust, which in turn gave teachers and administrators more clout when pointing students in the right directions.”

Educators can develop a better understanding of how the world’s 15-year-olds view themselves and their place in school from data collected by the Students’ Well-Being survey, PISA 2015.

The survey “explores a comprehensive set of well-being indicators for adolescents that covers both negative outcomes (e.g. anxiety, low performance) and the positive impulses that promote healthy development (e.g. interest, engagement, motivation to achieve).”