REACH | Search Institute

A relationship-based system to strengthen student motivation



Do you have questions about any of the REACH tools and resources? Please look over our list of FAQs, or feel free to contact us with your questions. 


How do I get started with REACH?+

The best place to start is to get in touch with Mary Shrader, Search Institute’s Client Relationship Manager. She can work with you on understanding your needs and outline available and appropriate options. If you have REACH-related questions, they can also be directed to Eric Kalenze, Search’s Director of Education Solutions.

What support is included?+

To support the use of REACH research and resources, Search Institute works at a number of different intensity levels to meet the schools’ wide range of improvement needs, available professional-development time, funding, etc.

While some schools work with Search Institute in to provide one-time learning sessions on targeted portions of REACH, others schedule multiple, progressive learning engagements over the course of a year. Other schools assign REACH leadership teams to work intensively with Search Institute on planning a school-wide implementation of REACH as a school-improvement strategy, while still others arrange virtual facilitation sessions with Search to review and analyze their REACH Survey reports andcreate an action plan.

We will work with schools and districts to design the best, most useful, and most appropriate support possible for your site’s needs and realities.

Do you come to us? Or will we need to travel for training?+

We have both on-site (at your location) and open-enrollment (workshops we host in various locations) learning opportunities available throughout the United States. For more information on each, see and/or contact Mary Shrader.

When should we do the survey?+

Ideally, the REACH Student Survey should be given early in the year (September-October) to provide diagnostic information about the student population. Schools becoming more familiar with the research insights of REACH can then use this information to (1) overall bring greater intentionality and specificity to their motivation-building work and (2) prioritize, organize, and sequence the REACH Guidebook’s Anchor Activities and Techniques. Schools wishing to gather more information from students about their motivation- and relationships-related attitudes and perceptions as the school year proceeds can give the Student Survey more than once.

Schools becoming more familiar with the research insights of REACH can then use this information to (1) overall bring greater intentionality and specificity to their motivation-building work and (2) prioritize, organize, and sequence the REACH Guidebook’s Anchor Activities and Techniques. Schools wishing to gather more information from students about their motivation- and relationships-related attitudes and perceptions can give the Student Survey more than once.

Where can we order a guidebook?+

The REACH guidebook is available when you purchase the REACH survey (PDF version) or attend some of the workshops. For individuals who have attended a workshop, additional copies can be ordered. Please contact our Client Relationship Manager for more information.

Does the school need to purchase the REACH tools and resources?+

Yes, the REACH Guidebook, Survey, and professional-learning opportunities all have associated costs.

We offer a free download of the Relationships chapter of the REACH guidebook to try out.

How can REACH improvements be tracked?+

REACH Student Surveys can be given at multiple points throughout a school year if the school/district wishes to use the survey as a monitoring instrument. Some caution should be exercised, however, as self-report surveys can sometimes be unreliable measures of ‘gains’ or ‘losses’. Ideally, survey results–whenever obtained–would be used to apply toward prioritizing issues and designing improvement actions, not strictly as a progress monitor.

How do the 40 Developmental Assets fit into REACH?+

REACH research and resources are built upon a wide-ranging and diverse body of developmental-psychological study that includes Search Institute’s work with the 40 Developmental Assets. An Anchor Activity in REACH’s ‘Relationships’ section, for example (see REACH Strategies Guidebook, p. 50, ‘Identifying Assets’), is adapted directly from the Assets.

Where do you do workshops?+

We have open enrollment workshops throughout the year that are held in various locations in the United States.

Search Institute can arrange professional learning sessions for your team/school. To explore this option further, contact Mary Shrader, Search Institute’s Client Relationship Manager.

What is the cost for the REACH program to be implemented in a school?+

Several options exist for schools interested in implementing REACH, with Search Institute-provided support ranging from minimal (just PD workshops, for example) to intensive (continual implementation support and guidance). Pricing follows suit with the level of support a school would like to have.

To discuss options and find the best level of support for your school and your improvement goals, start by contacting Mary Shrader, Search Institute’s Client Relationship Manager.

Will this work well with students in a Continuation or Alternative Ed site?+

REACH can help all educators in all types of sites think more deliberately about how to improve their relationships with students toward strengthening students’ motivation.

How long does it generally take for an educator to change from traditional behavioral control thinking to sensitive students?+

While we cannot assign a general amount of time this takes, since all individuals are unique, many educators we work with report really appreciating the suggestions of practice their experiences with REACH include. Several report ‘getting through’ to students in ways they never quite could previously.

What is the number one thing we can begin with to increase student motivation?+

Understand what makes up effective Developmental Relationships, then design structures to teach, monitor, and improve your school professionals’ capacity to build such relationships.

How were cultural and socio-economic differences among students and families considered in the development of REACH?+

A large amount of the REACH research base identifies effects observed for students of color and of low-income status in regard to aggregate research results. Additionally, Search Institute’s research-to-practice approach highly values the construction of site-effective practices over ‘plug and play’ program execution. This approach urges–and coaches, where applicable–schools toward translating and adapting REACH’s research, activities, and aligned practices for their own population and needs. This accounts for differences in students and families.

How would this program work for younger students?+

REACH materials were constructed with middle grades and above in mind, but could well be adapted for younger students.

No elementary grade versions of REACH activities or the survey currently exist at this time, however.

Is there anyone using REACH in an after school program?+

Yes, REACH activities are being used in out-of-school time programs, with professionals being appropriately trained in REACH’s foundational research. Early feedback from mentors and other program staff report positive feedback about the structure and themes provided by REACH research and resources.


Can you explain how REACH aligns with other frameworks, such as PBIS, trauma or culturally sensitive practices, and restorative+

Though REACH does not attempt to explicitly align with behavior intervention-and-support approaches like these, we’ve found that REACH’s research base can provide great insights toward enhancing them. Several schools working with REACH, for instance, have reviewed their existing behavior policies/practices in light of REACH’s child-developmental research to be sure that policies’ messaging and procedures are working in concert with practices growing at classroom levels.

One school, for example, used its work with REACH’s ‘Effort’ category to infuse a PBIS routine with something more growth-mindset-fostering: after their REACH work they recognized that its PBIS-informed incentive system (students earning attendance at a monthly Friday dance) was based on performance criteria (i.e., students would earn the incentive if they had a certain GPA at midterm, were below a certain number of discipline referrals, etc.). They decided to alter the incentive-winning criteria to things more mastery-oriented (i.e., students would earn the incentive if they completed at least 80% of their assignments over a time period, were on time and prepared for every class session, etc.).

Another school adopted ideas from REACH’s ‘Cognition’ category to give teachers and students a shared language when attempting to de-escalate tense interactions. After training, teachers first taught students about human brains’ ‘fast’ and ‘slow’ (or ‘hot’ and ‘cool’) thinking systems, then began using the terminology to help students better think about their own thinking on their way to calming and controlling themselves.

So while REACH’s research and resources don’t directly plug into or align with school approaches to behavior like PBIS and restorative practices, it can provide greater shape and consistency to such practices–and if thoughtfully applied can work best for each site’s needs and realities.