Student survey results can help districts improve learning conditions
A recent survey shows a mixed bag when it comes to the perspectives of Iowa’s students as they see life at school and home.
On the plus side: Students feel that the staff and faculty at their schools are more engaged with them. On the downside: Bullying reports are on the rise.
The Iowa Youth Survey, conducted by the Iowa Department of Public Health, in collaboration with the Iowa Department of Education, the Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy, the Iowa Department of Human Services and Iowa Department of Human Rights, is a snapshot survey among sixth, eighth and 11th grade students at a majority of the state’s districts. The survey, conducted every other year, is meant to be used by districts to improve the internal and external environments of the students they serve.
“At a school level, the survey enables them to look at the data and see any red flags,” said Iowa Department of Education Consultant Molly Hammer. “From there, they can work on those red flags by talking to students to understand why there are issues and how best to address the problems.”
The survey covers a wide host of issues, from whether students feel supported at school and home to whether they use tobacco, alcohol and drugs.
“All these issues are interconnected,” Hammer said. “If a child is in a hostile environment at home, there’s no question that will affect school performance.”
The vast majority of the survey shows positive trends, such as:
- Increasing commitment to school and learning, in which students are more likely to respond positively to doing homework and planning to graduate.
- Growing self confidence, in which students are more apt to have positive views of themselves.
- Avoiding violent and aggressive behaviors, in which students are saying they are less involved in destructive behavior.
- More staff support, in which students say they are experiencing more positive relationships with staff and faculty.
- Increased positive family relationships, in which students report having happier homes and an ability to speak with family members about tough issues.
Bullying reports have increased in the last two years, but an overall trend has not been established. Department officials speculate that perhaps students are better tuned in today to the issue of bullying.
Still, the information enables school officials to combat bullying, Hammer said.
“They may find that bullying is happening in a particular ‘hot spot’ like the school bus, or that students are using a lot of sarcasm that others don’t perceive to be funny,” she said. “That enables a school to create a system of supports and interventions to mitigate those events.”
To see specifics from the survey, go to http://www.iowayouthsurvey.iowa.gov/trend_reports/index.html.
- 89% of students reported there is at least one adult at school they could go to for help with a problem
- 94% of students agreed or strongly agreed that students have friends at school they can trust and talk to if they have a problem
- In 2012, 57% of students reported being bullied at school at least once in the past 30 days, compared to 50% in 2010.
- 13% of youth reported having seriously thought about killing themselves in the past 12 months
- 30% of 11th grade students reported using alcohol