Students' Feelings About Their Schools Vary Widely Across California, Survey Data Show
Most California secondary school students surveyed feel happy, safe, and connected at their schools, though these positive views are not shared equally by students across the state, according to 2008-10 data now available on kidsdata.org and its companion Query CHKS. However, student levels of “school connectedness” decline between middle and high school, and a strikingly small percentage of students report feeling that they have opportunities for meaningful participation at school.
Data on “school connectedness” come from the California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS), a survey of students developed and administered by WestEd for the California Department of Education (CDE) and used by schools throughout the state. School connectedness refers to student reports of being treated fairly, feeling close to people, feeling happy, feeling part of, and safe at, school. Research shows that students with higher levels of school connectedness are more likely to succeed in school and have lower rates of emotional and behavioral problems.
Since 2010, CDE, WestEd, and the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health have partnered to make CHKS data available on kidsdata.org, allowing users to create graphs, maps, and tables comparing key CHKS data by demographic groups and across districts and counties in California.
These new data include student reports of school connectedness, as well as caring adults at school, high expectations from teachers, and opportunities for meaningful participation at school. In addition, a summary measure of total school assets is provided, which combines caring adults, high expectations, and meaningful participation. All indicators are available by gender, grade level, and race/ethnicity at the school district, county, and statewide level.
Majority of California students surveyed feel happy, safe, and connected at school.
According to 2008-10 data, 87-90% of 7th, 9th, and 11th graders, and 82% of students in non-traditional schools, report medium or high levels of school connectedness. While school connectedness varies by county/school district and by racial/ethnic group, from 2004-06 to 2008-10, the statewide percentage of students with high levels of school connectedness rose for all racial/ethnic groups, as well as for all grade levels and for both boys and girls. However, the most recent data show that the percentage with high levels of school connectedness declines markedly between 7th grade (50%) and 9th grade (43%).
Opportunities for meaningful participation in school vary by race/ethnicity.
Overall, in 2008-10, only 12-17% of California students surveyed reported a high level of agreement that they have opportunities for meaningful participation at school, such as doing interesting activities, helping to make decisions, and doing things that make a difference at school. Among racial/ethnic groups, about one in 10 Latino students (11%) in grades 7, 9, and 11 expressed a high level of agreement that they have meaningful opportunities to participate in school, compared to 17% of white and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander students and 16% of African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, and multiethnic students.
Student views about their schools vary dramatically across California.
As noted, CHKS provides a summary measure of the support provided to students by schools, called “total school assets,” based on student reports of caring adults at school, high expectations, and meaningful participation. In 2008-10, the percentage of 7th graders reporting a high level of school assets ranged from 26% to 53% across counties in California. Similar variation exists for other grade levels and for other measures of school connectedness, as well as among school districts within counties.
Find School Connectedness Data for Your Community>>
Use These Data in Your Work
These free CHKS data are available at the school district, county and state level, and can be used by community organizations, parents, government agencies, foundations, media, researchers, and others. You can use these data, as well as related measures of school safety, bullying, and emotional and behavioral health, in reports, presentations, proposals, policy and advocacy work, program planning, and other efforts.
Also See: School district-level CHKS data reports can be downloaded at http://chks.wested.org/reports or http://dq.cde.ca.gov/dataquest.
Only 12-17% of California students surveyed reported a high level of agreement that they have opportunities for meaningful participation at school, such as doing interesting activities, helping to make decisions, and doing things that make a difference at school.