SHELDON—Most students in the Sheldon School District have a positive attitude toward school, according to data from a recent climate survey, though principals in each building want to address persistent shortcomings.
Administrators discussed the data at the July 13 school board meeting as well as possible ways to help students feel more comfortable in school.
For high school principal Sherrie Zeutenhorst, the most disturbing number to emerge from the spring 2022 data had to do with the survey’s prompt: “Students treat each other with respect during school hours.”
An average of 64 percent of students in grades 9 through 12 agreed or strongly agreed that this was the case. This figure was higher than it was in the spring 2021 high school climate data: 53%.
The classes that recorded the lowest percentages for this question this spring were juniors and seniors, at 41% and 43%, respectively. Freshmen were at 62% and sophomores at 72%.
Juniors and seniors came in at 43% agreement with the prompt: “Students treat each other with respect on social media.”
Freshmen and sophomores were slightly better at 56% and 58%, respectively, on the social media prompt.
On the other hand, Zeutenhorst noted that an average of 91% of students in grades 9-12 agreed with the prompt “My teachers care about me” in the fall. This response rate slipped slightly to 86.5% in the spring.
The rate of agreement with the statement “I feel safe in my school” decreased slightly, from an average of 83.5% in the fall to 80% in the spring among all grades 9-12 year.
Students in grades 9-12 reported having a positive attitude towards school at an average of 82.75% in the fall, and this attitude dropped to 75% in the spring.
Zeutenhorst will share the survey data with its teachers in the fall to develop ideas on how to make students feel safer at school. The student leadership team and representatives from each major class in the school will also be reviewing the data to think about ways to learn more about why some students are dissatisfied with school.
East Elementary’s survey had similar prompts about students feeling safe and respected at school, and principal Jason Groendyke noted that the data showed “a lot of positives.”
Ninety-seven percent of students at East Elementary, for example, reported having a positive attitude toward school, with individual grade levels ranging from 95% to 98% in response to this prompt.
The two main areas of concern highlighted by Groendyke were the prompts asking whether students felt safe on the bus and whether they felt respected by their classmates.
Specific issues that students brought up during the bus prompt included fears that the bus might crash or overturn, as well as instances of other students being mean to them on the bus.
Fourth graders had the lowest percentage for prompting on respect – 81.7% – the second highest being third grade at 87%.
“These are things that Bailey Hennings and I are going to talk about, how can we integrate this more into our orientation lessons and everything,” Groendyke said, referring to the school counselor. “We will also talk about it as a staff at the start of the year.”
College principal Cindy Barwick was happy with most of the survey results at her school, but discussed a handful that stood out. Similar to the elementary and secondary school surveys, the middle school survey showed gaps in prompting students to respect each other.
From grades 5 to 8 throughout the school year, the highest percentage of students who said their peers respected each other was around 85%. This statistic came from fifth graders during the first term of the year.
After that, however, responses to the prompt dropped dramatically across all domains, with the second highest being around 70% for fifth-graders in the fourth term. The averages for the four years during the year ranged from 55% to 65%. A low point came from sixth-graders in the fourth quarter of the year, when the rate was just over 40%.
Barwick said the response data for this prompt contrasted with the prompt “I treat students in my school with respect,” which was about 97% for all four grade levels.
“It’s an interesting disconnect between these two,” Barwick said.
She also mentioned that students felt safe at school, felt like they belonged there, and had an adult at school they trusted and were comfortable talking to.
The highest percentages of students feeling safe hovered above 90% and in the middle 80%, but were recorded in the first term survey. After that, students feeling safe dropped across all grades to around 76% in the fourth quarter. Sixth and seventh graders in this term felt slightly less safe at just over 70% each.
Incentive to belong was not included in the first quarter survey, although subsequent quarter responses also tended to decline from the second to fourth quarters.
Meanwhile, all grades hovered between 75% and 85% throughout the year when it came to having a trusted adult to talk to at school. Seventh-graders fell at the lowest rate at around 69% in the third term.
Barwick said college counselor Sarah Nelson intended to address teachers’ concerns at the start of the new school year. Another specific change the school will be implementing is a tally system where staff ensure each student has had a check-in with an adult.
“If I’ve been in contact with a child this week, I’m counting it so we can see very quickly, ‘This student has had no contact with adults this week. We need to make sure we get to this student “said Barwick.