High Achievers: To Boost Academic Results, Evaluate Teachers

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Among several factors that could help raise the national level of academic performance, periodic teacher evaluations were cited most often by high-achieving juniors and seniors polled in a recent survey.

The survey of 2,043 academically successful high-schoolers was conducted last spring by Who's Who Among American High School Students, a national recognition and service program for juniors and seniors in public and private schools. The 1985 results, released this week, mark the survey's 16th year. Questions on the state of American education were added to the poll for the first time this year.

(Because respondents could give more than one answer to survey questions, percentages do not add up to 100 percent.)

The students were asked to choose the factors that in their view would contribute most to a higher national level of academic achievement. In addition to 73 percent who said periodic teacher evaluations would be helpful, 64 percent chose raising qualification standards for teachers; 58 percent suggested periodic evaluation of school administrators; and 51 percent cited more parental involvement in student academic activities.

The majority of black students queried, however--68 percent--cited parental involvement as an important factor in increasing academic achievement. Periodic evaluation of teachers and raising professional standards for teachers were next in line, with 58 percent of black students terming them important.

Prayer In Schools

With regard to prayer in the nation's public schools, 40 percent of the students said prayer in public schools does not violate the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment.

Some 62 percent said prayer in public schools should not be required, but should be allowed. Fifty percent said prayer, if allowed, should be nondenominational; 8 percent said prayer should be neither required nor allowed.

In evaluating their high-school classes, seventy-one percent listed computer science as the course most helpful in preparing them for the future. Driver's education ranked as the second-most-important course in this category, with 50 percent citing it. Economics and business management were a close third and fourth on the list, with 48 percent and 47 percent of the vote, respectively.

Would Vote Republican

The students surveyed were chosen demographically from the 400,000 "student leaders" represented in the current edition of Who's Who Among American High School Students, according to the Who's Who organization. Who's Who students are recommended to the group by high-school principals and guidance counselors.

Of the 2,043 students surveyed, 64 percent were female and 36 percent were male. Caucasians represented 87 percent of the group and blacks 4 percent; 7 percent classified themselves as "other." The majority, or 69 percent, attended public schools; 16 percent attended parochial schools; and 14 percent attended nondenominational private schools.

About half of the students came from rural or small-town areas; 37 percent lived in the suburbs; and 12 percent lived in urban areas.

If the 1988 election were held now, exactly half of the students said they would vote Republican, with 24 percent favoring the Democrats and 15 percent voting as independents.

Ten years ago, Who's Who notes, 24 percent of the student leaders aligned themselves with the Republican Party, while 37 percent supported the Democrats and 25 percent said they were independents.

Social Trends

With respect to alcohol and drug use, the survey found that 33 percent of the high-achievers have never used alcohol, another 24 percent have tried it but no longer drink, and another 25 percent drink less than once a month. More than 80 percent of the teen-agers have never used marijuana, and 95 percent of the group have never used either cocaine, "angel dust," or hallucinogens.

To questions involving sexual mores, 76 percent of the students responded that they had never had sexual intercourse, and 82 percent said they believe that sexual intercourse is not an expected part of a "steady romantic relationship."

Concerning the issue of suicide, 40 percent said they knew a young person who had either tried to commit or had committed suicide. One-third of the group said they had friends who had considered suicide, and 28 percent said they had considered suicide themselves.

In comparing this year's responses with those of students questioned 10 years ago, Who's Who found the widest difference of opinion on the question of abortion.

In 1975, 41 percent of the girls questioned said they would have an abortion if they became pregnant, while 40 percent of the boys said they would encourage a girl to have an abortion.

This year, fewer than 9 percent of all girls responding said they would have an abortion if they became pregnant, while 10 percent of the boys favored abortion.

Vol. 05, Issue 02, Page 9

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