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Funding Approaches for Building Strong Relationships in Schools

Students are returning to school with unprecedented social and emotional needs due to pandemic-related disruptions. Researchers say that isolation—like that caused by school closures and quarantining—is leading to a “mental health tsunami.”
School and district leaders can take several approaches to strengthen relationships and social-emotional supports, including investing in advisory and scheduling for lower teacher loads.
Our downloadable guide explains how school leaders can improve student outcomes by investing ESSER funds into key components of their advisory approach and strategically scheduling and staffing to lighten teacher loads. 




What Is Advisory?

Advisory is when school staff are assigned a small group of students to meet with regularly. This small-group connection creates a consistent and safe space for students to build skills, relationships, and trust.


The purpose of an “advisory program” is to ensure that each student is known well by at least one adult in the school and can rely on them for support and guidance.


Advisory can contribute meaningfully to students’ health and success by building relationships, developing social-emotional competencies, and supporting post-secondary plans.



What Are the Benefits of Lowering Teacher Loads?

Strategic scheduling and staffing approaches can promote strong relationships and support students by:

  • Facilitating shared student collaboration among teachers.

  • Helping maintain consistent relationships.

  • Increasing the attention students receive.

  • Making the teaching job more manageable and rewarding.


How to Spend ESSER Funds to Support Relationship-Building

To invest sustainably, district and school leaders will need to size the full cost of key components of their advisory approach, including:

  • Dedicated time for advisory.

  • Professional learning opportunities.

  • Advisor collaboration and planning time.

  • High-quality, standards-aligned curricular materials.

  • Program development and management.


Download Our Guide to Learn How to Use ESSER Funds to Build Strong Relationships in Schools




Additional Resources on Building Strong Relationships


Helping Students on the Road to Graduation: A Q&A Session on Credit Recovery with DC Public Schools.  

DCPS administrators Shemia Anderson and Liz Wiemers Smith highlight how the district improved its credit recovery program by providing greater access and flexibility for students to help them get back on track to graduate, while keeping the academic rigor high. 

5 Ways High Schools Need to Look Different 

The COVID-19 pandemic illuminated and intensified long-standing patterns of inequity and unmet needs across the nation—perhaps none more pronounced than those in our nation’s high schools. ERS President and CEO Karen Hawley Miles reflects on how high school teachers and leaders can improve, including building strong relationships with students and among educators.

Webinar: Innovations in Teaching During the Pandemic 

ERS Partner David Rosenberg joined FutureEd and Education Counsel for a virtual conversation about how leaders redesigned schools to play to teachers’ strengths, provide them with more instructional support, and better serve students.  

Video: Schoolwide Values, Systems, and Routines at Ridge Road Middle School

Ridge Road Middle School in Charlotte, NC, transformed its student and adult culture by instituting strong schoolwide systems and routines with a focus on building strong relationships. 




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