Meaningful Participation in the Community (Student Reported), by Grade Level
Definition: Percentage of public school students in grades 7, 9, 11, and non-traditional students reporting each level of agreement (high, medium, and low) that they have opportunities for meaningful participation in their community (e.g., in 2011-13, 46.6% of students in grades 7, 9, 11, and non-traditional classes in California public schools expressed a high level of agreement that they have opportunities for meaningful participation in their community).
Footnote: The 2011-2013 time period reflects data from school years 2011-12 and 2012-13. District- and county-level figures are weighted proportions from the 2011-13 California Healthy Kids Survey, and state-level figures are weighted proportions from the 2011-13 California Student Survey. The grade levels included in school district data depend on the grades offered in each district; for example, high school districts do not include 7th grade data. "Non-Traditional" students are those enrolled in Community Day Schools or Continuation Education; according to Ed-Data, these schools make up about 10% of all public schools in California. N/A indicates that the survey was not administered in that period or that data are not available for that group. LNE (Low Number Event) indicates that for a specific answer there were fewer than 25 respondents. N/R indicates that the sample is too small to be representative. This is a summary measure based on student reports of whether they participate in community-based group activities, help others in their community, and are involved in music, art, literature, sports, or a hobby. See the guidebooks for the “Core” or “Resilience and Youth Development” survey modules at http://chks.wested.org/about for more information.
Learn More About Community Connectedness
Measures of Community Connectedness on Kidsdata.org
Like home and school environments, communities can play a critical role in promoting the healthy development of children and youth. Research has shown that the following key factors are linked to positive youth behavior, success in school, and avoidance of high-risk behavior such as substance use; all of these factors can be cultivated in community environments (1, 2):
Caring relationships with adults: Supportive connections to others who model and encourage healthy development and well being
High expectations by adults: Consistent communication of direct and indirect messages that youth can and will succeed
Opportunities for participation and contribution: Involvement of youth in relevant, engaging, and interesting activities with opportunities to contribute
Caring relationships with adults in the community that convey high expectations and encourage youth participation in meaningful activities can increase chances that youth flourish in school, work, and life (1, 2). Research indicates that children with at least one caring adult in their lives (e.g., a relative, family friend, neighbor, after-school program worker, coach, etc.) are more likely to handle challenges well, show interest in learning, volunteer in the community, and get regular exercise; and they are less likely to feel sad/depressed and bully others (1, 2).
For more information related to community connectedness, see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section.
According to 2011-13 data, about two-thirds of California public school students (in grades 7, 9, 11, and non-traditional classes) expressed a high level of agreement that adults in the community had high expectations of them (66%) and that adults in the community cared about them (63%), but less than half reported a high level of agreement that they had opportunities for meaningful participation in their community (47%). Within each measure, students in grades 7, 9, and 11 reported similarly, but percentages were substantially lower among students in non-traditional schools (i.e., Community Day Schools or Continuation Education).
Levels of total community assets – a summary measure that includes student reports of caring relationships, high expectations, and meaningful participation – were similar among California 7th, 9th, and 11th graders in 2011-13, with 63-66% reporting high levels. As with other measures related to community connectedness, percentages were lower among non-traditional students (41% reporting high levels). Levels of community assets also vary by gender, race/ethnicity, and by county and school district. For example, among racial/ethnic groups in California, the percentage of students reporting high levels of community assets in 2011-13 ranged from 59% for Latino and American Indian/Alaska Native students to 75% for White students.
Home and school environments are widely recognized as critical influences on child well being. The larger community, too, can influence children's lives in powerful ways (1, 2, 3). Youth connections to individuals, groups, and organizations in a community can provide important sources of support to promote healthy development. In particular, connections to caring adults outside of the home and school -- such as after-school program staff, mentors, coaches, relatives, family friends, or others -- and opportunities to engage in meaningful community activities can help youth develop positive strengths and skills, and can increase the likelihood that they grow into healthy, productive adults (1, 3, 4). Community support can be especially important for vulnerable children, such as those in foster care or those in disadvantaged
neighborhoods with a lack of resources for youth (1, 5).
According to research and subject experts, policy and program options that could improve youth community connectedness include:
Providing opportunities for meaningful youth participation and contribution outside of school, e.g., service learning programs, volunteerism, employment, or leadership opportunities such as youth advisory councils (4, 6)
Supporting high quality mentoring programs that foster trusting relationships between young people and caring individuals (7)
Supporting high quality after-school programs, as they can provide positive relationships, learning opportunities, meaningful activities, and safe environments during hours when many youth otherwise would be unsupervised (4, 8, 9)
Focusing on services that support vulnerable populations who are sometimes
alienated from their peers both in and out of school, such as LGBT youth
and foster care youth (5, 10, 11)
Developing comprehensive, community prevention strategies that encourage connections and collaboration among individuals, families, schools, and community organizations, as these efforts have been linked to positive youth outcomes, including lower rates of substance use and delinquent behavior, and improved emotional health and academic success (2, 10, 12)
5. Ahrens, K., et al. (2011). Qualitative exploration of relationships
with important non-parental adults in the lives of youth in foster care.
Children and Youth Services Review,33(6), 1012-1023. Retrieved from:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3363001/
9. Smith, E., et al. (2013). Measuring collective efficacy among
children in community-based afterschool programs: Exploring pathways
toward prevention and positive youth development. American Journal of Community Psychology, 52(0), 27-40. Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3760513/
11. Kosciw, J., et al. (2014). The 2013 National School Climate Survey: The experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth
in our nation’s schools. Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network. Retrieved from: http://glsen.org/nscs