Fostering Student-Teacher Trust

What's New

UChicago Impact has partnered with hundreds of schools across the nation to identify areas of opportunity for improving school culture and climate and implement data-informed improvement plans. In 2015, UChicago Impact established a partnership with Chicago Public Schools’ James B. McPherson Elementary School to work toward repairing trust between students and teachers. McPherson’s 5Essentials Survey results showed the school as “weak” in the area of Student-Teacher Trust, an indicator of whether a school has established a supportive environment. The 5Essentials Survey is a school culture and climate assessment that provides insight into a school’s strengths and areas for improvement on the five key factors research shows are predictive of school success: Effective Leaders, Collaborative Teachers, Involved Families, Supportive Environment, and Ambitious Instruction. In partnership with UChicago Impact, McPherson used 5Essentials data to map out a plan to help rebuild student-teacher relationships. School leadership instated clear social and academic expectations for students and provided teachers with new strategies for interacting and strengthening trust with students.  Within just two years, the school’s 5Essentials results for Student-Teacher Trust improved 20 points—outpacing the improvement by four points for Chicago Public Schools overall. Read the full case study here.

Why It Matters

Decades of research reveal that a supportive environment that fosters trust between teachers and their students is essential in establishing a supportive learning environment for students and, ultimately, improving our schools. Under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), states are now required to include “school quality or student success” indicators in their accountability plans—in addition to traditional indicators for academic outcomes. This new requirement has created the opportunity for states to move beyond the use of multiple-choice bubbles and standardized test scores alone, and to measure the conditions that help children succeed—the non-academic factors essential to student growth and school-wide improvement, such as student-teacher trust. While only a handful of states are reportedly including school climate surveys in their ESSA plans, several cities, including Chicago, New York City, and California’s CORE districts, are now using school climate surveys that measure the quality of classroom relationships as part of their local accountability systems.