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Text Transcription of Part 2 Greg Austin Video

Text transcription of Resilience, School Connectedness and Academic Achievement Video Presentation by Greg Austin.

The following is a text transcription of the presentation Part 2: Student and Staff Data from the California Healthy Kids Data System (WMV; 01:12).

Resilience, School Connectedness and Academic Achievement Video Presentation

June 2006
Sacramento, California

Table of Contents


Jack O'Connell

  • Hello. I’m Jack O’Connell, State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Welcome to this presentation about resilience, school connectedness and academic achievement.
  • It is my pleasure to greet you today on behalf of the Learning Support and Partnerships Division staff that helped plan this outstanding opportunity for professional development.
  • Your participation today demonstrates that you care about young people and helping schools provide the developmental support all youth need to thrive academically and in life.
  • I believe that schools must understand the developmental needs of youth in order to continue improving academic achievement. .
  • The roadmap for continued success can be found in a growing body of research from the field of youth development.
  • Today you’ll hear about research showing the importance of fostering resilient youth and ensuring that students have a strong sense of connection to school. These protective factors are critical to helping young people to succeed academically and live healthy lives.
  • Youth are more successful when they feel valued, supported, and cared about by the adults in their school.
  • We need to offer young people meaningful opportunities to participate in the classroom, school and community. 
  • And it’s important that as educators we have high expectations that all youth can succeed and contribute. All students will work to reach the highest academic levels when they know that adults listen to them, believe in them, and expect their best.
  • We’re fortunate to have with us today to discuss important research in youth development Bonnie Benard and Greg Austin. As Program Director of WestEd's Health and Human Development Program, Dr. Gregory Austin has responsibility over health-related and youth development projects. He has more than 20 years of experience as an epidemiologist and prevention specialist.
  • He has authored and edited numerous research articles, resource tools, and prevention guides. Currently, he directs the California Healthy Kids Survey project in the Safe and Healthy Kids Program Office. This project is designed to provide every school district with local data on risk behavior and resilience. Dr. Austin has been the recipient of numerous federal research grants.
  • As a Senior Program Associate at WestEd, Bonnie Benard is responsible for developing applications of resilience and youth development research. She has primary responsibility for the development of the Healthy Kids Survey's Resilience and Youth Development Module, which surveys students on their perceptions of supports and opportunities in their schools.
  • Ms. Benard has written widely, provided training, and made presentations for national and international audiences in the field of resilience and youth development. She is the author of Resilience: What We Have Learned, 2004 and has been a recognized leader and expert on resilience and youth development for over 20 years.
  • Please join me in welcoming Bonnie Benard and Greg Austin.

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Greg Austin

Alright. Thank you for coming back. I always love coming after Bonnie. You hear compassion and caring and motivation, and then I get to come on and talk about data. [General laughter] But I do want to plug a fabulous book that Bonnie has written that WestEd publishes - it’s an update of basically all the research in the field. So, if you haven’t seen it, get it. Wonderful. And I am going to be talking about data, because in California, you are fortunate to have the best data system about kids behavior in the nation. And it’s been a great pleasure of mine to be part of this system and to be able to present to you data that we have collected.

So, part of what I want to do is just to provide an overview to you about what this data collection system is - these tools you have to use - particularly as it relates to looking at school improvement, and what’s going on in the schools. And then we are going to look more specifically at the data about level of school assets and school connectedness, and then at the correlational research we’ve been doing about how these developmental assets are related to API (Academic Performance Index) scores, SAT-9 (Scholastic Aptitude Test) scores, and other measures of academic performance. And we will look at both of the staff and the student surveys that are part of the California Healthy Kids System. So, I have got a lot of slides with data. We are not going to talk a lot about statistics. You can look at the graph yourself to sort of delve into the actual percentages. But we will focus on patterns, and look at how these data support so much of what Bonnie has already said, and also how you can use these tools to monitor how successful the schools in California are in the future in meeting these goals.

So, the California Healthy Kids Data System has two components - a Student Survey and the Staff School Climate Survey. They were both initiated to respond to a mandate from No Child Left Behind Title IV Safe and Drug-Free Schools. But given that this was a mandate from the Feds, we wanted to make sure that we created systems that were responsible to the needs of schools in general. If we are going to go out and collect data, let’s make it possible to get the most information as possible this opportunity for the entire youth of the school. So, we really pushed the envelope to try to get information not only relevant to help in prevention for Title IV people, but also for curriculum instruction and school improvement. These are some of the areas that we are really focused on: Were student behaviors linked to achievement, the climate, and the environment? What are the major fundamental barriers to learning? We need to explore, teacher, student, and staff relations. It's not going to surprise you that Ms. Benard was there at the very beginning of this process, so it’s infused with her concepts and her approach, and school connectedness and motivation to learn.

So, how do we motivate kids to learn, and how can we find out how motivated our kids are and monitor this? Also, I just want to acknowledge that this has all been funded and supported by Safe and Healthy Kids Program Office up in the sixth floor, and Robin Rutherford is our fearless leader up there. Hi Robin, you want to wave to everyone? And really just to not repeat myself too much; this has been the most exciting thing I have ever been involved in in my entire career. And it just always makes me feel good to come out and talk about it. And I hope when you leave, you are going to be as excited as all of us who have been involved in this are.

So, starting with the Student Survey, it is the nation’s largest, most comprehensive local student behavior data system in the nation, and it covers grades 5 through 12. It began in ’97, but didn’t become required of schools in California until 2003 in response to No Child Left Behind. But we did try to make it so that it was a single data collection system that can meet multiple data needs at the local, regional, and state levels, and ultimately to reduce the survey burden on schools and the cost of collecting data in schools. This is very important to us because we were getting a lot of complaints from schools about, “ more surveys, more surveys.” So, [we are dedicated to] maximizing the amount of information we could get that is of use to schools during this one opportunity. And, just to plug our Web site, everything you need to know about the survey – all the materials the schools need to do the survey – are located in there. If you need to know anything more, just go there. And if you can’t find it, give me a call.

Real quick on the requirements, every school district that takes Title IV or tobacco-prevention money in the state has to do the survey once every two years in grades 5, 7, 9, and 11. And [also] continuation schools, and we actually hope they will do it in all of the non-traditional schools. It is voluntary on the part of students. It’s anonymous and it needs parent permission, and we have standardized administration procedures and protections throughout the whole thing. And all the results are processed through WestEd, so that we have all the data from every kid that has ever taken this survey from 1997 to analyze.

This is the current size of the data set as of spring of 2005. We had data from 1.8 million kids from 937 school districts. So, we are getting about 500,000 kids a year added on to that from roughly – it depends - the odd years, like this year, it’s our heavy year, and we get 560 districts on the odd years. And for 85 percent of those districts, we are getting school-level data. That means we are collecting data from every kid in every school in that district. And 90 percent of the counties now are coordinating their survey administration, often with County Offices of Education collaborating with Departments of Health Services, or even providing funding to schools, to coordinate their survey efforts so they can have representative data for the entire county to do county-wide planning. So, this is really - when you think about potential for information about kids - when you combine this data set with CBEDS (California Basic Education Data System), and then start looking at test scores and how as a unit it is an incredibly powerful system that California has created to look at what’s going on with kids and what’s going on in our schools.

So, the secondary survey itself is modular, and there is a core survey that is the minimum requirement that covers your basic demographics, school grades, and truancy, substance use, violence, and some basic health measures. So, every school is collecting that. The second biggest module is the Resilience and Youth Development Module - what a surprise given our previous presentation. Within that, what is required of all schools is the questions about school connectedness and external assets in the school and the community. And I will talk about what those are later. We ask about the external assets in the Home and the peer group, and then Internal Assets as part of that. And then, there are supplemental modules that the schools can elect to administer on their own. Part of that modular structure is so that they can customize the survey to meet their needs.

The elementary survey for fifth grade covers developmentally appropriate questions from the core and the resilience module, and that’s just a single survey. Then, on both secondary and elementary, they can add any questions they want to the survey. So, they can add questions about curriculum, instruction, about a program evaluation. Anything that’s a concern to the schools, we add to the survey. So, it’s important to think of it not just as a survey, but as a data collection system.

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California Healthy Kids Survey School Indicators Related to Resilience and Achievement

Now, since our focus is achievement, I just wanted to quickly review the school indicators that are in the core, some of which I’ll provide data from. But there are 41 items in the survey core that directly relate to what’s going on in the school and kids behavior. We ask them about what grades they normally receive, how often they skip or cut school, their transience, substance use at school, effect of substance use on their school-working behavior, violence perpetration and weapons possession at school, victimization and harassment at school, their perceived safety, and then, as I already mentioned, the environmental assets and school connectedness. So, there is really a wealth of information that you can gain from this about what is happening at the school. And beyond that, the questions in this survey are, they are not specifically about what’s going on in the school, they’re about behaviors that our advisory committee in CDE identified as really representing fundamental barriers to learning that we needed to look at in providing the learning supports kids need.

Now, this may look a little familiar to you. [Laughter] This is the model that Bonnie presented as we conceptualized it into the survey. So this is how we operationalize her framework into a data collection tool. So, here you see the external assets (caring relationships, high expectations) and we ask - these are scales, there are three questions to each scale - and then we ask each of these scales about kids, “Do you have these in the school, home, community and [from your peers]?” So, from there, here you have those developmental needs that those external assets will develop, and that, in turn, will promote the internal assets. And we will ask about cooperation, empathy, problem-solving, self-efficacy, self-awareness, and goals and achievement. And then that will lead to the improved outcome.

So, here are the questions we ask about those basic protective factors and skills that we need to monitor. And this is the actual questions for school assets. So we ask, “In the school, is there a teacher or someone else who really cares about me, who notices me, who listens to me?” Then, high expectations,” to help me when I do a good job, wants me to do my best, believes I will be a success?” And then, opportunities for meaningful participation; decision-making, interesting activities, and doing things that make a difference. So the schools get the data for each of these scales, and then we categorize students as high, medium and low in these assets. And then we also give them the total school assets, which is the combination of all of these.

And this is the internal asset – and I just wanted to draw your attention to the darker rows there, because I think those are three assets that I think are very important that we monitor if we are looking at school improvement and how well we are doing. Because we are talking about self-efficacy, their perceptions of how well they can do their work and solve problems. The next one is problem-solving, and then goals and aspirations involving, particularly, planning to graduate from high school and plans to go to college or some other school after high school. So this is information that the district skips that I think really helps them monitor how well they are turning around their low performing schools.

Bonnie mentioned the Add Health study. We were so impressed with their findings about how their school connectedness scale was related to improved health outcomes and academic outcomes as well, that we incorporated it into the survey. So they also get data from this school connectedness scale. And this is, I think, this differs from the external assets because this is personally how kids feel about the school, where the other question is, “What are your perceptions about what the school provides you?” So they are sort of complementary, but you will see the data are very similar that we get from them.

I am also going to provide some data from our newer data tool, the Staff School Climate Survey which just started last year, I think, was the first school year. Schools are required to administer it along with their student survey to all teachers, administrators, and staff in grades five and above. However, staff is voluntary. They don’t have to do it. One of the things those of you who are working with schools – the message I hope you will take back with you to the schools – is the importance of this data to them because we really need to get more teachers doing this. And the only way it's going to happen is for them to see the value. So, we are really pushing this as a tool for the entire school to understand the school environment and to guide decision-making and school improvement. And we purposely made it short. It's online, it's low cost, it's very easy, it takes about 10 minutes to do, and they can add any questions they want about the school to the survey, as well.

The most exciting thing recently is the firm that has the contract to do the national evaluation of Safe Schools Healthy Students grantees, which is the largest department of their prevention program, have selected this as the best school climate survey in the nation, and we are now requiring it of all the grantees. So, starting next year, we are going to be administering it to over 2000 schools across the country as part of this evaluation. So, and that’s very exciting. And part of the process of determining the value when they were analyzing it, we did something along with them. We looked at how the item scaled, and there we found, much to our happiness [General laughter] - that’s not a very professional word, is it? I don’t want to say ‘surprise,’ I can't say ‘surprise.’ But it scaled exactly the way we hoped it would the most. The largest scale, 24 items, all relates to positive learning environment. And there were three subscales. One is staff-student relationships and school connectedness, the next is school norms and standards, and the third subscale was student behaviors that facilitate learning.

So this alone can provide schools with an incredible resource for monitoring their efforts for school improvement. And then the other scales were staff and student safety, the implementation of rules and policies. That gets students into the discipline issues that Bonnie was talking about. And then, the last two are more about the impact, more prevention oriented, about the impact of AOD (alcohol and other drug) use and the adequacy of health and prevention programs.

So what this survey can tell the school, and this relates to some of the types of questions that are on it, “Is the school an inviting and supportive learning environment with high standards? Are students well-prepared, able, and motivated to learn? Are they connected to the school? Is the school a supportive and respectful place to work? Do staff feel responsibility for school improvement? How much is academic achievement a priority? Do staff feel safe? What are the perceived barriers to learning?”

One of the things when we did this is try to map questions about resilience for the staff as well as parents. So we asked the staff about questions that get their perceptions of kids, but also, what are their relationships among the staff? As Bonny points out to me all the time, you can’t have positive youth development within these kids if the staff also doesn’t have the same kind of resilient, supportive, caring environment. So, that gets to leadership environment, and so again we are trying to provide the data to guide that process.

So data folks, here it is, our first little graph. This is total school assets. It's the combination of the three skills, protective factors and I just let's just look at it quickly, not at the specific statistics but the pattern. So we have 5th, 7th, 9th, and 11th going down. Those are low, middle, and high. So, first of all, one of the things that happens is, kids progress in their school. The percentage who are low go up; the percentage who are high go down; and we are going to see this pattern over and over again. And I think it really points out the challenge we have in high school reform. This data, over and over, says, “How do we connect kids and improve them?” Because we are only getting 25 percent of kids showing high-end assets in the secondary schools. And, at best, in elementary school, we are not even getting half the kids. Overall, by the time they get into high school, the percentages that are low are almost up to the percentages that are high.

So, this is the data for caring relationships, high expectations. So [the data] end at three individual protective factors. And again, even in elementary school, for each one, we’re not getting more than half, and then they go down. But there are some interesting things you see in each one of them. Caring relationships has the biggest drop as kids age. This being the most important, it's also the thing that falls most. High expectations: what are we seeing here? I think what we are seeing here is really the academic push that is going on. That kids are getting the message. That we are being more successful in getting them to feel that they can succeed in emphasizing that.

But what happens with meaningful participation? I mean, it's in the toilet! [general laughter]. I mean, kids do not feel they are a part of any decision-making in the schools. And it’s at all grade levels. So it's clearly an area [of concern], and because of this, we are not seeing better total school assets. This is just pulling everything down.

Now this is data from our companion survey, which is the CSS (California Student Survey), otherwise known as the Attorney General’s Biennial Survey, also known as the Skager Survey. It’s now integrated within the Healthy Kids, so that they ask the same questions and districts can do it at the same time. And it is what we use to monitor change over time. So, this is looking at ‘low’ between 2003 and 2005, and the total school asset scores between the two. So the data I previously presented was combined for two years for everything from all the schools that had done the survey. This is from a representative state sample at one point of time, 2003-2005. So the good news is that the percentage low in 7th and 11th grade is going down. The not-so-good news is that we are not improving in ‘high.’ And the other point I mentioned in the other slides, if you want to go back at your leisure and check it out is, where we really see low assets or ‘not high’ assets, is in 9th grade. And I think that really points out the problems of 9th grade as a transitional year when they come into a new environment. And it really needs to be a focus of attention. And so here we actually see we lost ground on 9th graders.

This then is the percent high in each of the protective factors between the two years. This is a little more encouraging because we are actually, so when we look at caring relations and high expectations we are actually seeing the ‘high’ did improve. So why do we see improvements here, but when we looked at total school assets in the previous one, we didn’t? Look at our meaningful participation – it's going down. So, not only is it low to begin with, it's going down. So, it's clearly an area that schools – when you talk about disconnect, involvement, participation, and decision-making – is one of the main areas where kids feel disconnected.

So this then is the result for school connectedness - the Add Health scale. The pattern is very similar. For this one, we are getting a little bit higher percentages, which is encouraging, but still 39 percent top. Oh, it does not include fifth grade because the CSS is only seventh, ninth, and eleventh grade. And you do have a handout that gives you all the data from that survey in 2003. So, you can read about this more thoroughly. But anyway, it’s the same pattern. And again, when you get into eleventh grade, only 26 percent of kids are ‘high,’ and the same percentage are ‘low.’

And these are then the trends between 2003 and 2005. And again, the ‘low’ has gone down. But, except for eleventh grade – which is encouraging – we are not seeing ‘high.’ And that’s where we really focus in when we work with schools with this data. It's the ‘high’ that we focus on. That’s what we want to see. We want to see kids ‘high,’ [general laughter] and we don’t want to see kids ‘low.’ And we want to see them high in assets [more laughter]. And, as you will see in a few more slides, if they are high in assets, they won't be high on other things [more laughter].

So anyway, the first two columns are ‘low;’ so that’s ‘low’ 2003, ‘low’ 2005. And the next two columns are the ‘high’; ‘high’ 2003 and ‘high’ 2005. I’m sorry. I meant to explain that. I realized after we put it all together I should have put a break there or something. It's a little bit hard, but if you want to look at ‘low’, you look at the first two bars for change. And then ‘high’ is the next two bars.

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Analysis of California Healthy Kids Survey Data

So, now I would like to provide you some analysis that we did of a report that was funded by the Stuart Foundation and the CDE. This is the actual report (you can download it from the WestEd Web site) where we looked at the relationship between health risks and resilience and standardized test scores in California. And this has been one of the most downloaded documents on WestEd’s Web site. So, as I mentioned, the funding was from Stuart through the CDE, and we looked at two questions: Are California's students in low performing schools exposed to more health risks and fewer developmental supports or assets than students in other schools? That’s the cross-sectional question. We looked at one point of time. And then we looked at a more interesting longitudinal question: How are these risks and resilience factors related to changes in test scores in a year? So, the time we did it was just before the survey was mandated, so it was just with the data that had been collected up through 2002, I believe. But it still included 1,700 schools and 800,000 students.

The Resilience module was smaller, because at that point, it was totally supplemental. So, for the concurrent analyses, we looked at how these were related to API scores, and then we looked from longitudinal to differences in SAT-9 scores. We looked at 39 health variables. It was a school-level analysis, so we looked at data from the schools for how health risks and resiliencies were related to the average API score for that school. And then we used regression analysis and adjusted or controlled the data for the racial and ethnic composition of the schools, parental education, ELL (English Language Learners) students, free/reduced meals for an SES (Socio-economic Status) factor, and then on the longitudinal for baseline. So, we wanted to make sure that any of the results that we found weren't because of poor schools versus rich schools – well it would be poor students in schools – or race or language issues.

So, this is the overall finding when we looked at the concurrent analysis: That students in low performing schools, in other words, who had low API scores, were characterized by more health risks and fewer external assets than students in higher performing schools - even after accounting for these SES and demographic factors. And then the longitudinal analysis was; Test score gains were larger one year later in schools where students reported high levels of physical well-being, safety, and resilience, and low levels of substance use, violence, and poor mental health – again controlling for baseline scores and SES. So, for the concurrent analysis, we found this association in 75 percent of the measures, and for the longitudinal change, it was in 40 percent of the measures. And actually 40 percent of measures defined significant correlation with change, which is actually a more significant powerful finding than the 75 percent of the other. So, since this report provides all the data about all the risk factors, I am only going to talk about the significant findings on the assets.

Now, at this time, I will do a better job of it and actually explain what the graph means. So, all the results, almost all the resilience measures were significant correlation between level of assets and API scores. This is sort of a visual demonstration of that, breaking down schools into quintiles according to their API scores. So, each one of these bars represents 20 percent of scores, so this is the lowest performed 20 percent of schools on the API, this is the highest. This mid bar right here, 61 percent in this case, is the mean. So, the middle bar is the mean for total school assets, and this is all grades combined seventh, nine, and eleven. So that’s another difference. And each one of these bars then represents one standard deviation from the mean. So, what you see here is sort of a stepwise progression between the percentage of kids in the school who are high in total assets and their API scores. So, those whose scores were about 95 percent for total school assets were in the highest quintile for the API scores. And then if they were in lowest two quintiles, they were under 61 percent.

When we look at [the slide] high in School Caring Relationships, the differences become even stronger. And we see almost the exact same thing for [the slide] high in School Expectations, although reflecting the data we saw earlier, you see that the mean is higher. Here we’ve got 74 percent as the mean, and it occurs in the fourth quintile. Now, remember our poor, pathetic, meaningful participation scores? Okay, well here I think you are seeing this problem: Even though this is a significant correlation across all schools, when you break it down in the quintile, it’s not as clear. It’s sort of muddled. I mean you see here that the highest API schools are obviously higher than the lowest, but you don’t get a real, clear-cut stepwise progression. I think it is because meaningful participation is lousy in all schools. This is something we need to work on.

Okay, so now we are going to take the step to looking at actual change in SAT-9 scores, and we are going to look at reading, language, and mathematics. Again, the bars here are standard deviations. The mid bar here is the mean, and each one of the bars again is one standard deviation above or below the mean. And these are National Percentile Rankings based on national norms. So, let’s look at language. So you see that the mean in language in schools where 64 percent were high in caring relationships, their scores went up 1.5 NPR (National Percentile Ranking) in one year. So, at the lowest, which was 52, two standard deviations below, it went up still, but only under one point. And where it was highest, it went up 2.2 NPR (National Percentile Ranking) points. And here, when we look at reading, we actually see in the lowest caring relationships, scores went down. But there is basically in language and math a two-point difference, particularly in math. Now we see these differences between reading, language, and math a lot, and I can't really explain it, but you sort of just look at the overall trend and what it means.

And here we are looking at high expectations, so I’d say reading here actually is the lowest where caring relationships scores went down. But again, with language, it went up over one point more than in the lowest level, and almost two points more in the highest. And here, we have meaningful participation in the community. Now, you notice I just switched to the community and didn’t talk about the school, because the school data wasn't significant for meaningful participation. And I don’t think at this point I have to explain to you why. And because of that, total school assets wasn’t significant. But, when we look at the community level, you see that if [students] feel that there are meaningful opportunities for participation in a community, it did affect the scores. So, what this says is, this is still a measure that is important in affecting the schools. We are just doing a rotten job of it. It’s an important measure related to test scores, but we are not doing enough in our schools to get that effect.

So, there were some methodological limitations of this survey. One especially relating to resilience because there were only 600 schools and, at that time, they were sort of self-selected. But we still see these differences even within that potentially biased sample. It’s not experimental, so other unmeasured factors could have influenced some of these. We need to explore that in more detail. We want to take it from the school-level to the student-level at some point, but that’s a much bigger study. And we want to be able to examine, in the future, how change in the resilience data is related to change in SAT-9 scores. And, fortunately, we have now funding through the Western Regional Educational Laboratory to do another round of analysis of this, which we will be starting in the fall. So we are going to be looking at some of these questions and ethnic differences and school-level differences more – the differences between school characteristics. But, even taking these limitations into consideration, the results clearly indicate that promoting school environmental assets and school connectedness as measured by this survey, can be an important component of any effort to turn around low-performing schools and improve test scores as the research Bonnie presented and indicated.

And here are some other data that are not as sophisticated. It’s not controlled for all these other factors – demographics, and SES – but it is looking at data from the Healthy Kids or the CSS. And it shows what a school can do on its own with its dataset, looking at how these things are related, and why these are on [the survey]. So, here we are looking at skipping school or cutting classes and school assets. So, that’s the percentage of kids that said they ever cut school in the past 12 months, and how that’s related to assets. And again, we see the same kind of stepwise progression as the assets go up – so we have low, medium, high – the percentage that report that they skip school or cut classes goes down. And that even holds true for the non-traditional, continuation schools.

Outside voice: Greg, why don’t you explain what school assets are?

Oh, I’m sorry. That’s the total school assets. So, it is all that we looked at previously. It’s the three protective factor scores combined into one scale.

And here again, we are looking at the total school assets as it’s related to poor grades, mostly Ds and Fs. These are self-reported grades, so you take it with a grain of salt, but it does differentiate levels of risk and resilience very well. And it’s an anonymous survey, so there is no reason why they – assuming they believe it’s anonymous – they shouldn’t be truthful. We don’t see that stepwise progression that we saw previously, but we see even a greater difference between the seventh grade low in assets and high in assets. So you get to ninth and eleventh grade and, the kids who are low are almost four times more likely to report grades of Ds or Fs than the kids that were high. So, if we want to improve grades, let’s look at what we are doing with the kids.

Now, Bonnie mentioned that one of the virtues of the youth development approach is sort of a ‘twofer.’ It’s found to both reduce barriers to learning and risk behaviors, as well as promote academic outcome. So I just wanted to show you some of the data real quickly to support that. So, here we have bringing weapons to school and school assets. And, across grades, as the school asset scale score goes up, the percentage of kids who say they carried a weapon to school in the past 30 days, goes down.

So, the other thing we have been looking at is how assets and risk behaviors are related at a personal level. But I think it’s important to understand that kids who are bringing their risk behaviors to schools are affecting the learning environment for everybody. So this is just looking at heavy drug users and heavy alcohol users. And I am looking at 9th grade because it’s a population where we can start making a difference if we intervene. So, heavy drug users are 9 percent of ninth graders, but they are responsible for 21 percent of the school fighting – roughly a quarter of school vandalism, poor grades, and chronic truancy (meaning once a month or more), and a third of weapons possession. So, they are disproportionately responsible for these kinds of things in the school campus that affect overall environment and therefore the learning of everybody. So, when people say, “Why do we pay attention to these factors of risk behaviors in schools?" it is not just for what it does for the individual, but how it affects the whole school.

And then, we add in heavy drug users, which is 18 percent, and we find that they are responsible for 30 percent of fighting and vandalism, and 40 percent of truancy, poor grades and weapons possession. So, just my little spiel here; Resilience promoting strategies targeting youth involved in or at high risk of substance abuse and other problems may not only reduce the odds of school failure but improve the learning environment for the whole school. And so I think when we are working with low performing schools that are heavily impacted by these problems, we need to make sure that they are looking at this data.

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Analysis of Staff School Climate Survey Data

So now we are going to turn to the staff data, and this is the first time this has ever been out. I don’t think even people on the 6th floor have seen this data [laughter]. And this is for that Positive Learning and Working Environment Scale that I reviewed earlier, and this is percentage high, medium, and low. And here we don’t go by grades. It’s by school type. So we have elementary, middle, high, and continuation in each of these four columns. So what we see is very similar to what the students report. The faculty see it the same way. The learning environment sort of disintegrates across the schools as kids get older and the challenges are getting greater. So again, we are seeing the challenge of high school reform here. Almost half of high schools and continuation schools are ‘low’ in the working environment, and we are only getting roughly under 20 percent that are ‘high’.

These are the three sub-scales, so staff and student relations (this sort of corresponds to the kids’ perception of caring relations), then we have student behavior to facilitate learning, and norms and standards. This I think is very interesting, if you look at the continuation schools. As you would suspect in an environment where they are trying to give [students] individual attention, they are really showing up much better than regular high schools in terms of staff-student relationships and also norms and standards. Now, the teachers clearly perceive that they have got a major problem with behavior of kids though, and that’s where we see the biggest drop as kids progress in their careers at school.

So then this is looking at percent ‘high’ on that positive learning and working environment scale in API. And, not perfectly, but it sort of mirrors what we saw from students. So, each of these columns…First, it’s the overall scale, and then we have the staff-student relations second; third is learning behavior; and fourth is the norms and standards. So, the main thing is just how low the scores are in the lowest API. These are staff perceptions of each of these things. So, some of these questions are about staff’s view of the school, their relationship with other staff, and their perceptions of the focus on academic achievement in the school. What we want to do is have schools look at what staff think and what students think and whether there is a discrepancy. If there is a discrepancy, how consistent are they? But they are asked in different ways, so you can’t just map them right on top of each other. We can put them side-by-side so you can see the pattern, and I actually started to try to do that, but I only have – oops! [general laughter] OK, so moving right along…

These are just the three resilience indicators. You got it. You can look at it. But I think that the main thing to point out here is, here again, staff and school are consistent. “The school strongly encourages opportunities for decision-making.” The lowest. And here is, “I believe students will be a success” and “really care about all students.” I mean, none of this is exciting. Let me tell you. I mean, even the staffs don’t see that this is exciting.

I will go over this. These are just three other measures from the survey to give you a flavor of the kinds of questions that are asked. But, you can look on our Web site and look at the whole survey. So, do staff feel students are motivated to learn? Alright, this is our fundamental question. I mean, all this has been about, really, how do you promote assets and connect kids to motivate them to learn so they will achieve? I think we overlook this issue of motivation in trying to just cram more instructions into a kid to pass a test. And motivation is critical, and even the staff are not encouraged in terms of how they feel students are motivated to learn. So look at ‘for nearly all’ and then at ‘for none and few.’ So, these are not encouraging findings. And then we ask them one of the other questions, “Do schools promote resilience or assets?" Well, actually I was trying to figure, is this half full or half empty? Because, in a way, I was actually quite surprised. If you look at ‘a lot‘ and ‘some together,’ there seems to be something going on in promoting youth resilience through the schools right now. And trying to really get them to understand what it is, and how to go about doing it. But, look at the ones that are ‘not at all.’

So, the question we have to ask ourselves when we look at all this data is, if we had 50 percent saying ‘a lot,’ how much better would this presentation be? And that’s the fundamental question that we have. I hope that’s what you leave today thinking about. And when you go in working with underperforming schools, that you will see that. And you can read the conclusions. I’ve said them all over and over again. I think the data stands for itself that, one, these factors are related to performance, and two, these are tools to gauge how well our schools are doing. And when they are really trying to turn around low-performing schools, we should be looking at this data to guide their decision-making.

So, a school climate that motivates to achieve, provides these caring supportive relationships, provides messages that students can and will succeed, and does involve them in meaningful decisions. And so when we go out, and we work with schools, and they want to know, “What do we know?” As Bonnie has mentioned, one of the things we do, is Bonnie has this workshop where we bring kids in and talk to them about what they think would be a positive, encouraging school environment. And with that, I will turn the podium back to the queen of resilience and let her wrap up. [applause]

(Informal Talk)

Bonnie Benard: So, our whole goal with the survey is, we don’t want the schools to get it back and it just goes and sits right up on the shelf and collects dust and all that. What we really hope is that schools will use their data to really improve their schools. And our goal is that we want them to improve the schools by involving the students more and bring their voice into some of the decision-making. And as you could see, it’s extremely low. One study I didn’t show you this morning, Michael Rutter did the greatest study in 1979 called 15,000 Hours, and found the most effective schools serving children in poverty were those where students had responsibilities in making decisions. And so, what we do is model in these workshops what we have been so blessed to be supported by the Safe and Healthy Kids Program Office in doing. We will do these workshops in all the 11 regions across the state.

This is a little technological break down. Our AA (Administrative Assistant) had a fancier program, so things that are supposed to fly in and leave are flying and blocking the rest of the words, so I will tell you what it says. [general laughter] We will ask people after they get their data back – and people can be kind of upset when they see their school ASSET data. And so we provide them, first of all, there is a handbook called the Resilience and Youth Development Handbook that’s on the Web site. There is part of a picture of it here on the bottom. And we say, “If you were concerned about the low percentage of students that said that it was ‘true’ and ‘pretty much true’ – which is how we measure ‘high’ on the survey – that there is an adult at school that listens to them and cares about them, here are some things you might do.” So, we have got several pages of strategies. We also have the great Getting Results document that I had the slide up earlier for, with lots of good strategies. There is my book here that has lots of good strategies, and actually an article that I passed out that is in a book called Closing the Achievement Gap that ASCD (formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, now ASCD) published a couple years ago. If you go through that article, it’s got, “Here are some things you can do to be that turnaround teacher.” And it goes through, and then it’s got, “To be a turnaround school here are some things we can look at.”

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Understanding Data in the Context of Resilience

So, we are not going to go over all of that, but what we have found to be so utterly powerful is when we can bring in a group of students, and sit in basically a fishbowl circle, and have adults sit around them, and we’ve done this at specific schools too, and explore the questions I talked about earlier. You know, “How do you know an adult at your school cares?” When teachers can hear the little things that matter – I mean, this actual process which is supposed to give schools more than just an idea of some next steps to do because the students will suggest really good ideas – what we find is the process itself is very powerful. And probably the students will tell us, “I feel more cared about just by doing this group. I feel like people believe in me since they want to hear what I have to say, and I feel like I have had a voice in making, coming up with some suggestions or strategies.” So that very process embodies the protective factors. But what it does, it really gives those young people a voice and a way to start some school improvement based on their data – not my list, or Search Institute list, or what the state says you should do, but what students said here in this group. And we can see doing this kind of process also with the staff, and often the students and staff do want to just use this as a springboard to talk to each other.

Greg Austin: And just to add one more thing. Often I get this question about, “What do you mean by promoting assets in school and caring relationships? Are you talking about just hugging the kids every day?” And, what I want to reinforce is that what Bonnie has created in this handbook that we give to schools is really some practical, targeted strategies that they can use. So, we really are operationalizing this in ways that they can understand what they can do within the school to promote, to create this caring, supportive environment.

Bonnie Benard: And probably, in hearing what the students say, and then in reading a lot of – you know, there are different cities that have heard that to do effective school reform – “We are going to get our students involved. And we are getting our students involved in doing surveys and doing data and all of this.” And, I have come to the conclusion that this listening to students – and sometimes [schools] understand if [students] say, “Oh, we really want some more field trips,” and maybe they’re at a community day school and they don’t have the resources to do a lot of these. They will hear that [students] feel better just if they can express their needs and they can talk to adults. And [students] will understand if it's something that can’t happen. But, it is that power of giving them a voice.

This is a statement by Michael Fullan. Last slide, I promise. And he says that educational change, indeed most education will fail unless people have meaningful roles. And that’s the same. Teachers need meaningful roles just like the students. And he says, “I ask the reader not to think of students as running the school, but to entertain the following question. What would happen if we treated the student as someone whose opinion mattered in the introduction and implementation of reforming schools?” And if you read a lot of the more recent drop-out studies, kids leave because nobody cared about them. They weren’t challenged. Nobody respected them, and they never had a voice.

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Last Reviewed: Monday, April 24, 2017
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