Student Assistance Programs: Helping to Close the Achievement Gap
Youth development involves providing the critical support and opportunities youths need to thrive academically, socially, and emotionally even when they are challenged by risk and adversity. Youth development recognizes the importance that relationships and the feeling of belonging have for adolescents. Bonding at school is the known school-related factor that consistently protects students from engaging in unhealthy behaviors. Students are more connected to school when they have teachers that are caring and believe in the students’ ability to succeed. A positive school climate is one in which adults listen to students, take student perceptions into account, and engage students in making decisions. Most importantly, adults need to communicate the expectation that all students can succeed in a standards-based approach to instruction.
How a Student Assistance Program Can Help
Student Assistance Programs (SAPs) afford struggling students the opportunity to experience positive relationships with adults. SAPs demonstrate to students that school staff members care about them by providing needed prevention, intervention, and support services. The ability of SAPs to help struggling students stay in school is critical given the effect that bonding to school has on protecting youths from unhealthy behaviors. Research shows that SAPs can boost students’ resilience by tailoring developmental support as indicated by specific individual needs, risk factors, or behavior (Flaugher et al, 1998, 1999).
Getting Results: Developing Safe and Healthy Kids:
- Update 1: Positive Youth Development: Research, Commentary and Action (PDF)
- Update 5: Student Health, Supportive Schools, and Academic Success (PDF)