17 August 2008

Youth State

The Horatio Alger Association has released its report on the State of Our Nation's Youth. Findings were summarized in a recent Education Week article (reg. req'd):
  • The proportion of students reporting that pressure to get good grades creates a problem for them increased from 62 percent in 2001 to 79 percent this year.
  • Over that same period, the percentage of those reporting grade pressure who classified it as “major” has risen 19 percentage points, to 45 percent.
  • In the latest report, 21 percent of students said they spent more than 10 hours a week on homework, up 9 percentage points from 2005.
  • The latest survey found that the proportion of high schoolers feeling hopeful and optimistic about the country has fallen 22 percentage points since 2003—from 75 percent that year to 53 percent in 2008.
  • Eighty-eight percent of the 1,006 public and private school 9th to 12th graders, ages 13 to 19, who were surveyed in April described themselves as confident, and 66 percent said they were optimistic about their own futures. Peter D. Hart, the president of the Washington-based polling company Peter D. Hart Research Associates, which conducted the survey, said in a statement: “What emerges from the research results is a portrait of a generation who believe in themselves and their abilities, despite anxieties about the country.”
  • Despite intensive efforts to improve public schooling in recent years, the grade point average high schoolers assigned their schools this year—2.7—is the same as it was in 2001.
  • As for their own grades, the proportion of students reporting that they got mostly B’s or better on their latest report cards has fluctuated—from 61 percent in 2001 to 70 percent in 2004 to 67 percent this year.
  • In this year’s report, 70 percent of respondents said they were headed to bachelor’s-level institutions—down 6 percentage points from 2005. Over that same time span, the proportion of students reporting plans to attend a community or technical college after high school rose 5 percentage points, to 23 percent.
  • Surveyed teenagers reported spending more than 13 hours online per week communicating with friends and entertaining themselves, compared with not quite five hours per week online for homework.
  • On a list of possible improvements to their schools, students (38%) say more up-to-date technology would have the biggest impact.
  • Students (34%) believe science and technology classes are the most important to take when it comes to succeeding in the global economy.
  • Two-thirds (64%) of teenagers report spending time each week playing or practicing a sport for an average of 10.3 hours per week.
The snapshots here are interesting, if difficult to summarize into a cohesive picture. I find it interesting how grades are used as measures within the surveys---can we really relate average GPA to school quality? I also think that the statement about "more up-to-date technology would have the biggest impact" is telling about how today's youth want to learn. Ed research says that teacher quality is the greatest factor for student achievement. Students might not agree. They may be more interested in using various resources to teach themselves, with teachers as facilitators. Social networks are integral for them, but these are the very first things we take away when kids walk through the school doors.

What, if anything, do we do with this information? Is it important that building hope and optimism be a focus---while deemphasizing grades? Should we change the goal of "college readiness" for every child to something broader...something that represents the variety of post-secondary options? How do we take these pieces and make a more personal experience for students in our classrooms?


Dr Pezz said...

In one study where students were surveyed, students in the 1960s said their main reasons for attending college was for self-betterment and to learn more about the world and themselves. In 2003 the answers were to make money and to get a better job. Things are changing all over the educational landscape.

Students also view themselves are ethical and honest even though over 75% admitted cheating on a test and over 85% admitted cheating on any type of assignment. They also did not view plagiarism as wrong (not seen as intellectual theft).

However, a vast majority of the surveyed students stated that technology made school more fun, and they wanted to be able to run in work electronically. Lastly, they also stated that project-based classes were preferred over all others.

I wish I could give you the link for this, but I can't remember where I read it.

The Science Goddess said...

I seem to remember reading something about that, too.

Do both student expectations of the system and the system itself change? Or is it just the students?