A new pilot program In the Anchorage School District is looking to get more students connected with their teachers in a way that might even produce better grades.

"Capturing Kids' Hearts" is the Program ASD is piloting in four schools including West High School, Bartlett High and Begich and Romig Middle Schools.

Bartlett principal Sean Prince said part of the program is very simple; it involves getting to know students so they will feel more connected to school. He said he starts each day with a handshake for every student. Prince said a recent survey showed that many students don't have that connection at school.

"A rather high percentage said they felt there were only one or two people in the building who would care if they were absent," said Prince. "Or that there was an adult in the building that they felt comfortable talking to in a crisis."

The goodwill effort isn't just happening in the hallways, it's also happening in the classrooms. At Bartlett, students in every class draw up what's called a "social contract" with their teacher. It's more than just a set of rules. The contract includes behaviors students expect in the classroom. Not just from fellow students but from the teachers themselves.

Prince said he doesn't know if the effort will translate into better grades but he believes that if students are engaged at school they are more likely to show up and try harder.

"It's easier if you have a strong relationship, and you know that I believe in you as much as you should be believing in yourself," said Prince. "I think if we can establish that in school and we have a very positive school climate, then all those other things are unintended consequences."

District Spokeswoman Catherine Esary said the Capturing Kids' Hearts program involved two days of training for 407 staff members at a cost of $151,500. Esary said that breaks down to about $30 per student in the four schools piloting the program this year.