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Poll Adds 'Youth Voice' on Schools

Information on well-being aimed at dropout problem

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More than a third of students in grades 5-12 who were surveyed this spring are struggling or suffering in school and life, according to a new polling project that aims to present the “youth voice” on school issues.

The Gallup Student PollRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader, organizers say, will track for 10 years the “state of mind” of students across the United States through an online survey administered in schools. The America’s Promise Alliance, a Washington-based nonprofit group that is working to increase the high school graduation rate, and the American Association of School Administrators, of Arlington, Va., will use the results to help school systems and communities craft solutions to the dropout problem, the groups said last week in a news release.

How They Are Feeling

The first of the polls was conducted in March, asking more than 70,000 students in 18 states and the District of Columbia about three key areas that research has shown have an impact on educational outcomes—hope, engagement, and well-being—and that can be improved by educators, administrators, community leaders, and others.

Jim Clifton, the chairman and chief executive officer of the polling firm Gallup Inc., said the question items have a high correlation with graduation and can be used by communities to focus strategies to keep students in school. The poll will be conducted in March and October of each year.

Half the students were hopeful, with numerous ideas and abundant energy for the future, the poll found, but the other half were either “stuck” or “feeling discouraged.”

Nearly two in three students were thriving, defined as thinking about their present and future life in positive terms, being in good health, and having strong social supports. One third said they were struggling, defined as evaluating life in negative terms, having difficulty meeting daily demands, and lacking resources they need to succeed, the poll found.

When it comes to engagement with school, the pollsters found a downward trend that suggests “we may be losing the hearts and minds of some students in middle school.” Half of the students polled said they were engaged at school, while 30 percent were not and 20 percent were actively disengaged.

Despite reporting problems, 94 percent of those surveyed said they would graduate from high school, and more than eight in 10 believed they would find a good job after graduation.

Vol. 28, Issue 31, Page 4

Published in Print: May 13, 2009, as Poll Adds 'Youth Voice' on Schools
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