Two articles in a special issue of the Teachers College Record, which is about the education of English-language learners and immigrant students, stress the importance of meaningful school relationships. (Only summaries of the articles are available free online.)
An article based on a study of 407 recently arrived immigrant youths found that "supportive school-based relationships strongly contribute to both the academic engagement and the school performance" of those students. In that article, "The Significance of Relationships: Academic Engagement and Achievement Among Newcomer Immigrant Youth," Carola Suarez-Orozco, Allyson Pimental, and Margary Martin use data from a five-year study that resulted in the book Learning a New Land: Immigrant Students in American Society, to examine school relationships. See my earlier post about another research paper that was a spin-off of that long-term study.
Another article in the special issue, "Bridges to Success in High School for Migrant Youth," reports on four years of data about migrant students at a California high school and finds that support provided by migrant resource teachers was particularly crucial for students' success. Here's an excerpt from the summary of the article, by Margaret Gibson and Nicole Hidalgo:
A key to the teachers’ effectiveness was the holistic nature of their relationships with students and their ability to connect students with the resources and networks needed for school success. In addition, the migrant teachers’ own identities as academically successful Mexican Americans, many of them the children of migrant farm workers themselves, increased their ability to serve as role models and to help students build bridges between their multiple worlds.
The other articles about research studies look interesting as well, though some of the summaries don't say exactly what the findings are. I'm eager to get my hands on the actual issue of the journal.