Caring Schools Initiative Survey Results are Worth Giving “Thanks!”

By Reed Gabhart, Head of Goshen Campus8thGradeBuddies

As we enjoy the musical rehearsals leading up to Grandparents’ Day performances next week (and who doesn’t enjoy the great songs of 50 years ago to celebrate our Golden Anniversary!), I thought I’d share some information with you about a survey our Middle School students in Grades 6 – 8 recently took.  

For the second year in a row, we have decided to take part in a national survey administered by the Harvard Graduate School of Education and known as the Caring Schools Initiative. We are one of just 200 schools worldwide included in this survey, and it provides us with important data on how our Middle School kids view their school in terms of safety, behavior, bullying and other important issues. The faculty take a similar survey so we can have their perspective as well. Here is some more information from a letter we received from the Harvard Graduate School:

Making Caring Common (MCC), a project of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, is delighted to invite middle and high schools across the country to join our 2015-16 Caring Schools Initiative (CSI). Schools in the CSI use survey data and research-based strategies to promote safety, caring, and respect, and to develop responses to reduce bullying and students’ behavior-related troubles. This initiative is built on the prior success of MCC’s work with 94 schools & more than 30,000 students.

Our surveys will help you better understand how students and staff experience the school community—whether they feel safe and respected, are connected to other adults and students, and how they experience and respond to bullying and related behaviors. The data collected using these surveys may also be used by MCC for educational or research purposes. The data will be aggregated and schools will not be identified.  Students will not identify themselves on the anonymous survey.

The Making Caring Common Project seeks to place moral and social development at the center of conversations about raising and educating children, and seeks to strengthen the ability of schools, parents, and communities to support the development of children’s ethical and social capacities, including the ability to take responsibility for others, to think clearly about and pursue justice, and to treat people well day to day.  For more information, visit:  http://sites.gse.harvard.edu/making-caring-common

Some of our students who have already taken the survey have remarked how it “doesn’t really apply to us” in terms of the degree of bullying or disrespect that takes place in our school. That is refreshing to hear, although no school is perfect in that regard! And on that note, I thought I’d share with you some highlights from the student survey results from last year:

  • 66% of our students are aware that we have core values (not something Middle School kids probably focus on a great deal!). When asked to name some, the most common answers were: Compassion, Cooperation, Respect, Responsibility, Integrity, Individuality and Joy.
  • When asked what the adults at St. Francis School value, the #1 answer choice was, “Students who care about each other” ( as opposed to academic achievement, for instance).
  • When asked if they feel safe in varying campus locations (classrooms, hallways, lunchroom, bus, recess outdoors), students reported feeling “mostly or very safe” over 95% of the time in all these locations (including 100% of the time in classrooms!).
  • When asked how safe they feel from teasing and harassment in the same locations, students reported feeling “mostly or very safe” at an 88% rate or higher everywhere (interestingly, the lowest positive rate, at 80% occurred on social media away from school).
  • When asked if they had been “bullied” in the past two months (basically since the start of the year), over 90% said it had occurred zero times (and most of the rest of the 9-10% said 1-2 times, although I think we need continual student and community education as to what really constitutes “bullying.”).
  • And if they needed help from students harassing or bullying them, over 80% of our students said they would feel comfortable going to an adult in the building.

These results are very affirming and how we’d hope our students would feel. But it’s a wonderful feeling to see it come to life in a nationally-normed, anonymous survey. We hope to learn from this experience and are committed to participating in this important nationwide educational survey now and in the future. I hope it makes you feel “safe” too!

And on that note, I hope everyone has a meaningful Thanksgiving holiday with their families! See you in two weeks!