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Supportive Teacher-student Relationships in Early College High Schools: Perceptions of Students, Teachers, and Principals Open Access

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Supportive relationships between teachers and their students help create an environment for student success, but there remains a need for additional understanding about how to effectively promote positive teacher-student relationships in order to support stronger policy and practice in modern schools. In this qualitative analysis, I seek to deepen the research about supportive teacher-student relationships by analyzing how students, teachers, and principals described their experiences in early college high schools (ECHS) in North Carolina. Early college high schools represent a relatively new school model in which high school students earn college credits while working toward their high school diplomas. Quantitative analyses of the performance of ECHS students suggest students in early college high schools outperform their peers from comprehensive schools on a variety of measures. One important design element of these schools suggests that teachers must know students well to help them achieve academically and it is my assertion that supportive teacher-student relationships may contribute to ECHS students’ success. For this study, I analyze qualitative data previously collected as part of a larger longitudinal study from students, teachers, and principals studying and working in 19 early college high schools in North Carolina. I employ Giddens’ theory of structuration as a lens for understanding the relationships between the agents (students, teachers, and principals) and the social structures that influence the experiences of those in the schools. I consider the leadership practices of the principals to promote supportive teacher-student relationships as well as teacher practices, and compared the adults’ claims to the students’ perceived experiences with their teachers. My findings reveal three elements in the social systems of the ECHS contribute to supportive teacher-student relationships which include the following: (1) the beliefs of teachers, students, and principals; (2) deliberate actions of principals and teachers; and (3) programs that create social spaces for such relationships to grow.

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