Stressed Out Student Program: Survey Data

In 2006-7, SI began a three-year investigation into the symptoms, sources, and possible solutions to the issue of stress among our students. A team comprised of faculty, administrators, parents and students was formed and the initial year involved listening to the stakeholders. Three avenues of data-gathering were pursued.

  • Three Parent Evenings on the topic were held and notes were compiled
  • A student survey was conducted by Stanford
  • A faculty survey was designed and administered by the SOS team

PARENT EVENING RESULTS

Over the course of four evenings in the Fall of 2006, large parent meetings were held wherein the parents met in small groups of 11 or 12 to discuss the issue of stress. Each group had a facilitator and/or note taker. The three questions discussed were "What are the sources of stress in our children's lives," "What are the signs of stress," and "What are some possible suggestions to relieve the stress?" The notes were collected, comments were categorized, and the number of similar comments were tallied. There was some inconsistency between groups reports, as some groups listed each individual's comments and otherssummarized the discussion. The tally gives an accurate general feel of the parents' perceptions. In summary:

  • The most often named sources of stress were
    • General over-scheduling--124 comments
    • Homework load (especially "busy work")--141 comments
    • Peer pressure--102 comments
    • College admissions--102 comments
    • Grades--83 comments
    • Parents expectations--71 comments
  • Most common signs of stress were
    • Irritability--131 comments
    • Withdrawn--110 comments
    • Poor sleep habits--32 comments (Interestingly, in light of the research, relatively few groups saw this as a sign or a source of stress.)
  • There were far fewer common responses to the "suggestions" question. Top suggestions were:
    • Teach time management skills (56)
    • Less homework/no homework on weekends or breaks (54)
    • Increase communications between family and school (33)
    • More coordination among teachers regarding tests, projects, and homework (27)
    • More social events (25)

The next step was to survey the students regarding their perceptions of the sources and signs of stress.

STUDENT SURVEY RESULTS

In December 2006, over 600 students completed an online survey comprised of over 200 questions related to school engagement and stress. The results were presented tot he faculty as part of the March 2007 In-Service. Some of the data needed further disagregation and a follow-up report was complete and delivered in december. The results are synopsized here and PDFs of the reports are available through the links below.

In-service Data

At our SOS in-service last March, Denise Pope of Stanford presented a substantial amount of data, most of which focused on student survey results (click here for a PDF of the data handout). Denise’s presentation addressed five main topics or areas: Time Spent (how students use their time), Academic Integrity and Cheating, Engagement, Health and Stress, and Perception of School Goals.

This initial report of student data indicated several possible areas the school might examine:

  • Amount and quality of homework – 60.3% report too much homework (3.4 hours/night).
  • General lack of sleep – Students report on average 6.8 hours /night.
  • Prevalence of cheating behavior – 77% report that copying homework happens “often” or very often”; 47% report that cheating on tests happens “often” or very often.”
  • Increasing student engagement – 51% report being either “purposefully” (40%) or “fully” (11%) engaged.
  • Health and Stress – 71% students report they are “often” or “always” stressed by schoolwork; students report moderately-high levels of worries about school (3.3 on a 1-5 scale), and a moderate level of mental health concerns (2.6 on a 5-point “never-sometimes-always” scale).
  • Perception of school goals – Students reported that mastery goals (emphasis on learning) are communicated somewhat more frequently at school than performance goals (emphasis on test scores and high grades), 3.6 vs. 3.1, respectively (based on a 1-5 low-high scale).

Other interesting highlights from this review of the data:

  • Students perceive their teachers as quite caring (81% report having at least one teacher they can go to with a problem).
  • The number of hours per day students spend IMing was almost equal to the number of hours spent on extracurriculars.

Updated Report

Over the summer, we emailed nine questions to Denise, asking her to clarify and/or expand on several of these topics or areas. Because almost half of the students surveyed were freshmen, we were concerned that the data was skewed. Mollie Galloway, one of Denise’s assistants, responded a couple of weeks ago to most of our questions by disaggregating and analyzing these data. Summarized below are several highlights of this follow-up report (click here to download the complete updated report).

  • How students spend their time – females reported doing more homework per night than males, and males spend significantly more time on extracurriculars than females.
  • Academic integrity and cheating – older students and less engaged students cheated more.
  • Student goals – females reported being significantly more mastery oriented and performance approach oriented than males.
  • Student school stress – 11th graders reported being more stressed by schoolwork than 9th and 12th graders, and females reported being significantly more stressed than males.
  • Academic worries – Females reported significantly greater academic worry than males, and 11th graders reported significantly more academic worry than 12th graders.
  • Stress-related physical symptoms – the strongest predictors were gender (females), hours of homework, and parent performance focus.
  • Mental health – females reported significantly poorer mental health than males, and 11th graders significantly poorer mental health than 9th and 10th graders.
  • Perceptions of school climate – 9th graders perceive the school as more mastery oriented than 11th and 12th graders, and 11th and 12th graders perceive the school as more performance oriented than 9th graders.
  • Perceptions of parents – 9th graders perceived their parents as more mastery focused than both 11th and 12th graders.

In her email comments, Mollie noted or highlighted the following:

  • The number of APs does not seem related to academic worry, stress over schoolwork, mental health, physical health, or cheating behavior.
  • Neither grade level nor gender had any significant correlation to homework perceptions.
  • The two “worry” items with the highest means (over 4 on a 1-5 scale) were “college worries” and “pressure to perform well in school.”
  • The factor that bore strongest relationship to stress was gender. Females are significantly more likely to feel stressed and to exhibit physical health problems.

In summarizing, Mollie suggested four areas the school might examine:

  • Hours of homework
  • Student perception that parents were “performance” oriented, emphasizing test scores and high grades (as opposed to a “mastery” orientation)
  • Gender issues (females experiencing more physical and mental health issues)
  • Engagement

We’re interested in learning more about the school engagement statistic (51%), specifically its relationship to “fully engaged” (11%), “purposefully engaged” (40%), and “cognitively engaged” (14%). We’re also interested in comparative data from schools with similar populations.

FACULTY SURVEY RESULTS

After the in-service, a faculty survey was administered using variations on some of the questions from the Stanford survey. Twenty one questions were asked regarding faculty perceptions of their own (and their peers') connectedness between faculty and students, perceptions of student sleep patterns, and students' priorities regarding Mastery vs. Performance objectives. (Click here for the faculty survey results.) In summary:

  • 93% of the faculty believe all or almost all their students can be successful
  • 82% believe they do NOT spend more time and/or energy on the smartest students
  • 99% believe they have not given up on any of their students
    • In all three items above, the faculty believed the same were true about their peers, though to a slightly lesser extent.
  • The vast majority of the faculty felt that the students were more concerned with performance than learning.
    • Of the seven "Priority" questions, the two with the lowest means were "Developing interst in a particular subject" and "Learning new things."
    • The top was "Getting into a highly selective college."
  • The faculty had an accurate understanding of the hours of sleep students were getting (6-7 hours)
  • Comments noted most common sources of stress as:
    • Over commitment and inability to prioritize
    • Time management
    • Parent expectations (or students' perception of their parents' expectations)
    • Grade consciousness and emphasis on College admissions
    • Adults telling them they are stressed