Adults engaged in discussion at round table with others standing in the background.
Photograph courtesy of Search Institute
Partner Spotlight

Search Institute

The Problem

  • Research shows that young people who experience strong developmental relationships are more likely to show positive development in academic motivation, social and emotional growth and learning, and personal responsibility. As a result, they have higher grades and feel more connected to school. However, young people don’t experience these relationships as often as they should.50
  • One in 5 youth in grades six through 12 report no strong relationships in their lives. Educators need guidance on specific actions they can take to cultivate these relationships, especially with youth of color and youth from low-income communities who have experienced systemic discrimination.51

CZI Support

Search Institute conducted research with schools and educators to validate adaptations to their Developmental Relationships Framework — a research-based framework of teaching practices correlated to academic and life outcomes — and to ensure it’s more culturally responsive. Search Institute also developed an adult-to-adult version of the framework that equips teachers to create environments where all students can thrive.52

Search Institute worked in partnership with parents to research the power of relationships in schools. In a national survey, more than half of parents reported a strong student-teacher relationship positively impacts their children’s growth and strengthens the priorities parents have for their children.53

The Impact

Search Institute launched the Cultural Adaptation of Developmental Relationships in Education (CADRE) project. This project supports teachers’ understanding of the specific actions they can take to improve and strengthen relationships with students in their schools. CADRE is being piloted in three school districts across the United States. When complete, this research will give educators additional strategies and tools to foster strong developmental relationships that benefit students’ academic achievement and well-being.

Search Institute also conducted focus groups with teachers to understand the impact that relationships between educators can have on their students. This research outlined essential elements of adult-to-adult relationships and identified steps that school leaders can take to strengthen them.54




Search Institute partners with organizations to conduct and apply research that promotes positive youth development and advances equity.

Developmental relationships play an essential role in helping young people learn and grow. When schools take an intentional approach to building connections between students and caring adults, it pays off in increased academic achievement and well-being.

Benjamin Houltberg, Ph.D.