On Wednesday, April 14, Bethlehem Superintendent Jody Monroe shared results of two Student Wellness Surveys of students in grades 6-12. The results of the surveys — one for middle school and one for high school — were presented at the Board of Education meeting. The surveys, which were administered the last week in February, were used to gather data about the social-emotional wellness of secondary students in the district in the 2020-21 school year.
The two surveys were nearly identical. They each asked students to describe a range of emotions and to share their thoughts on how the middle school and high school could better meet the needs of students academically and emotionally. More than 1,900 students participated in the surveys and included responses from students who attend school daily, attend school every other day or are remote learners.
“In recent years, the district has used an in-depth School Climate Survey to measure student opinions on school safety, facilities, peer relations, social and emotional support, alcohol and drug use, and school discipline,” said Monroe. “This year, the questions were pared down to reflect the current climate and the ongoing pandemic and to focus on the basic social and emotional well-being of students.”
At the time of the survey, approximately 55% of high school students were in the hybrid model (in-person learning every other day and remote learning every other day), 7% were attending school daily, and 38% were remote only. Of the middle school respondents, 48% were hybrid; 35% were attending daily, and 17% were remote only.
Student Survey Highlights
- 86% of students in grades 6-8 say they feel safe “almost always” or “frequently”
- 78% of students in grades 6-8 say they feel loved “almost always” or “frequently”
- 67% of students in grades 6-8 say they feel happy “almost always” or “frequently”
- 33% of students in grades 6-8 say they feel frustrated “almost always” or “frequently”
- 89% of students in grades 6-8 say they have a friend at school they can count on to help them
- 86% of students in grades 6-8 say they have access to teachers and adults at school
- BCMS students attending daily (most grade 6 students are in school every day) reported feeling “happy” more frequently than other students
- BCMS students identified math and science as the two main subject areas where they could use extra help
- When asked an open-ended question about “…what feels hardest to you right now?” the most frequent answer from BCMS students included “school” (183 mentions)
- 90% of students in grades 9-12 say they feel safe “almost always” or “frequently”
- 80% of students in grades 9-12 say they feel loved “almost always” or “frequently”
- 61% of students in grades 9-12 say they feel happy “almost always” or “frequently”
- 36% of students in grades 9-12 say they feel frustrated “almost always” or “frequently”
- 92% of students in grades 9-12 say they have a friend at school they can count on to help them
- 87% of students in grades 9-12 say they have access to teachers and adults at school
- BCHS students who are remote-only reported feeling “frustrated” more frequently than other students
- BCHS students identified math and science as the two main subject areas where they could use extra help
- More than 41% of BCHS students who were remote-only at the time of the survey indicated that “restrictive quarantine protocols” were the main reason they were choosing to learn exclusively from home
- When asked an open-ended question about “…what feels hardest to you right now?” the most frequent answer from BCHS students included “school” (248 mentions)
Monroe said student responses were generally more positive than expected given current circumstances but she added that school and schoolwork were identified overwhelmingly as primary sources of stress for students this year.
“Certainly the frustration of spending an entire school year learning partly or mostly online was evident in the responses to these questions,” Monroe said. “Students who commented made it clear that while they respected their teachers for doing their best juggling in-person and online students, having to be plugged in all day to their devices and having to log back in for homework has made learning more difficult and less engaging for students.”
Monroe said that while survey responses at both the middle school and high school were similar, district administrators were examining the data closely, by demographic subgroups, grade level and this year, by whether students are learning from home, from school or in a hybrid combination.
The superintendent said traditionally the district uses data from the student survey to identify trends and gaps to adjust long-term priorities and redirect staffing and resources to the areas of greatest need. She said that due to the unique situation of this school year, the district has focused on more immediate action items to address the survey’s findings.
In the last month, the district has prioritized the following based in part on the results of the surveys:
- More students in school every day: High school and middle school administrators and counselors have reached out to families to increase the number of students attending in either hybrid or daily models. There are still space limitations as six-foot distancing is still the requirement for schools in Albany County. Both schools have seen a significant number of students returning to schools since April 1.
- Providing more after-school support: More teachers and students are meeting in person after school for academic extra help. Teachers are also still providing virtual support to students.
- Promoting counseling services: School counselors have contacted families to promote available school counseling services and family services offered through a partnership with the Saratoga Center for the Family.
- More student opportunities: Schools have been working on expanding extracurricular activities for students while maintaining health and safety protocols.
- Supporting more families in need: The district has extended support from the Holiday Drive to assist families in need with gift cards for food and essentials through the end of the school year.
- Canceling end-of-year assessments: The district announced earlier last week that final exams would be canceled. The decision was made to ensure equity and empathy for students. It reflects the decision of the New York State Education Department, which has canceled all Regents exams except for four required by the federal government. Those exams are strictly optional.
The survey results for grades 6-12 can be viewed below: