- At a time when the nation is focusing on making schools safer and more supportive, survey results from California show that just over a third of high school students and less than half of middle school students feel positive about their school’s culture, according to YouthTruth Student Survey.
- YouthTruth Student Survey responses from 63,000 students, from 2010 through 2018, however, show that 59% of middle and high school students report being engaged in school, but a smaller proportion (52%) say they enjoy coming. Less than half of students at both levels also reported feeling that what they learn in school is relevant to their lives outside of the classroom.
- YouthTruth — which works with school districts and charters to collect and analyze feedback from students, parents and school staff members — also examined students’ college aspirations. Over 90% of Asian students and over 80% of students from other racial/ethnic groups say they want to go to college, but overall, 70% said they planned to attend a 2- or 4-year institution.
The survey measures school culture based on students’ level of agreement with statements, such as "Most students in this school want to do well in class," "Most students in this school treat adults with respect," and "Discipline in this school is fair." At last week’s public "listening session" before the Federal Commission on School Safety, most speakers advocated for efforts to make schools more caring and to reduce discipline practices that appear to be weighted against minority students and those with disabilities.
While the results focus on only one state, YouthTruth leaders stress that with more than six million students — 12% of the nation’s entire student population — California is a good barometer for the rest of the nation. Experts also recommend using these types of survey results to have conversations with students about their experiences and what they would like to see changed in their schools. Chicago Public Schools, for example, has been spreading student voice committees throughout the district, allowing students more input into decisions about their schools.