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The Effect of School Social Environments on Student Success

by Ashly Garris, studioD

Whether your child is entering school for the first time as a kindergartener, approaching adolescence in middle school, or enrolling as a freshman at the university, his academic success depends greatly on several factors. Your involvement as a parent, your child's peers and a strong sense of community within the school and classroom all play a crucial role.


In schools where there is a strong sense of community, students are less likely to engage in violence or drug abuse. Researchers attribute this to the students' feelings of belonging at a school in which they are engaged in supportive, respectful relationships with peers and adults. When students' basic needs are met, they are more willing to follow the rules and behave in a way that is in line with the school's values. This is called "school bonding" or "social bonding."

Peer Support

Students of all ages need social support to experience academic success, but adolescents are especially in need of direction. Because so much of a student's day is spent at school, middle schoolers use this as a venue in which to figure out who they are outside of their family relationships. When students of any age avail themselves of positive peer relationships in an academic setting, such as peer tutoring programs, they can experience academic success.

Parental Involvement

Children supported by their parents experience higher achievement.

Parents who are involved in their child's education often have more of an effect on the child than the school itself. Checking your child's homework, discussing classes and school programs, and attending parent meetings are all ways to become more active in your child's education. There is a direct correlation between student achievement and parental involvement with the school. It would require an estimated $1,000 per pupil to replace its positive effects.

School Environment

When a student, especially an adolescent, attends a school in which his teachers and peers are friendly and helpful, a 2008 study published in "Adolescence" found that he will tend to succeed not only academically but also psychologically and socially. Forming bonds with other positive role models, such as coaches and older students, can also lead to the development of a positive academic identity. Improving a school's resources can also help, but it doesn't always guarantee student success, since parental involvement -- a stronger determining factor of a child's success -- may actually decline.

About the Author

Ashly Garris has worked in education for more than 10 years. She serves as a reading, language arts and social studies teacher for grade school students. Garris holds a Master of Arts in Teaching and a Bachelor of Arts in English.

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