A relationship at the heart of student retention



For many years, the Québec government, school boards and numerous community groups have been relentless in their fight against dropping out of school.

The problem is made all the more complex by the fact that the causes are multiple and vary from one student to the next. Anne Lessard, a researcher in the Special Education Department at Université de Sherbrooke, wanted to study the impact of the student-teacher relationship on dropout risk. She analysed the relationship between student perceptions of teacher support and structure and student attitudes towards teachers. She also examined the connection between teachers' attitudes towards students and dropout risk, and determined whether there is reciprocity between students' attitudes towards their teachers and teachers' attitudes towards their students.

Since the establishment of the Trait d'Union program in 2008, the dropout rate within this school board has dropped from 36% to 24% (2012).

For the purposes of the study, the researcher interviewed one hundred teachers from schools in the Sherbrooke Regional School Board (CSRS), many of whom are participants in the Trait d'Union program, a school dropout prevention program based on individual interaction between teachers and students. Her team also surveyed 878 students on their assessment of the relationship they have with their teachers. Since the establishment of the Trait d'Union program in 2008, the dropout rate within this school board has dropped from 36% to 24% (2012).

The program provides teachers with another way to interact with their students, and facilitates the establishment of new relationships that have a positive impact on the academic trajectory of at-risk students. The teachers interviewed recognized the importance of their relationships with students in encouraging their engagement and success, and the students also reported a positive appreciation for these relationships.