Press Release

Key to Closing Teacher-Student Relationship Gap is 1:1 Connections – New Report by Gradient Learning


Students are craving one-on-one time with their teachers and a comfortable space to connect to truly feel seen and understood, according to How to Close the Relationship Gap in Schools, a new report from Gradient Learning, a nonprofit organization that creates solutions to meet the holistic needs of every child. As the pandemic continues to affect in-person learning and reveals the ongoing inequities in our classrooms, this report finds that students with inclusive and trusting teacher relationships are more engaged and motivated in school.

“In the third year of disrupted learning due to the pandemic, we wanted to understand how best to support students,” said Andrew Goldin, executive director of Gradient Learning. “The findings in this report showcase the clear impact that strong teacher-student relationships have on students’ social-emotional well-being and engagement in the classroom. Through our offerings, Along and Summit Learning, we will continue to provide educators the tools they need to connect with their students at such a critical time.”

The findings in this report are based on a survey of 1,031 students aged 13 and older. The survey aimed for a broad student perspective and included students who identified from diverse racial groups (47% white, 28% African American/Black/Caribbean, 15% Mixed Race, 5% Asian or Pacific Islander, 4% Prefer not to say, and 2% Native American). Out of this racial population, 24% of students identified their ethnicity as Hispanic and 74% identified as not Hispanic. Students identified from multiple school settings (18% Private, 77% Public, 4% Charter, and 1% Other). The survey did not screen for students who use Gradient Learning programs.

The report reveals several key findings:

  1. Strong relationships with educators correspond with student belonging. Of students surveyed who indicated that they have a strong relationship with a teacher, 70% or more said that they pay attention or participate in class more and look forward to and enjoy class. At the same time, a total of 72% of students surveyed said that they wish they had an opportunity to share more about what’s on their mind with teachers.
  2. Access to strong relationships with teachers is unequal. The findings indicate that more students of color – Asian Pacific Islander (33%), Hispanic (28%), and mixed race (31%) – did not feel they had a strong relationship with a teacher in the past year, compared to white students (20%).
  3. Barriers stand in the way of students having more direct communication with their teachers. A total of 35% of students surveyed said that they are not reaching out to a teacher because it’s awkward or uncomfortable for them to do so.
  4. Teachers initiating 1:1 is key. The survey indicated that almost half of students (49%) prefer to connect with a teacher 1:1, however 31% (nearly a third) of students said they are not having regular check-ins with a teacher.

Teachers, however, have time constraints when it comes to building these important 1:1 relationships. That’s why Gradient Learning partnered with researchers, practitioners, teachers, and youth to develop Along, a free digital reflection tool that enables educators to easily check-in one-on-one with each student. Teachers can exchange quick video, audio, or text-based reflections with each student before, during, or after class, and students can respond at any time without peer pressure. For more information, please visit

This report was conducted by Gradient Metrics on behalf of Gradient Learning. Gradient Metrics is not affiliated with Gradient Learning.

About Gradient Learning

As a nonprofit organization led by educators, Gradient Learning is a trusted partner — to communities, schools, educators — that creates captivating solutions to meet the holistic needs of every child while fostering success for all. We are empowering an underpowered educational system to work for students of today and tomorrow. Our offerings include the Summit Learning program — a research-based approach to education designed to drive student engagement, meaningful learning, and strong student-teacher relationships — and Along.

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