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A Little Data Throw a Lot of Light on How to Improve High School Instruction

Posted By: Dick Schutz on August 31, 2005
 
Just happened to stumble across some data that supports Hammack’s armchair contention that curriculum, teaching, and instruction are the best-bet focus for high school improvement initiatives. The “High School Survey of Student Engagement” (a mouthful), acronym HSSSE, (still a mouthful) just released a summary of data obtained from 80K high school students , Grade 9-12 in 87 schools in 19 states. She schools tend to be in suburban Midwest settings, and each school had to pay $1-3K to participate. So the sample can be considered as pretty much best case. However, ethnic representation closely mirrors the national population.

“Student Engagement is close to a misnomer. The data speak more to matters of curriculum, teaching and instruction than to “Student Engagement,” but few schools would likely to be eager to pay money for a survey more directly labeled. School and student confidentiality is maintained, however. And if a high school is seriously interested in improving the instruction it delivers, the cost of the survey is a bargain.

The full 14-page summary is well-worth reading, but I’ve cherry-picked a few snippets.

**Courses primarily honors/college prep
Latino 16%
Asian 44%
African Am. 20%
White 33%
Hmm. Take a guess on how the “minority achievement gap” comes about.

***9 % of the sample said that they would receive a two-year associate degree. 39% expected to get a four-year degree and 35% were going for a masters or higher.

Hmm. These kids are living in a dream world regarding the requirements and realities of post-secondary education.

***20% of the sample spent one hour or less outside of school preparing for their whole set of classes. 32% spent 2 hours or less. 50 % spent 4 hours or less.

Hmm. Half the students are spending less than an hour a day in any sort of out-of-school prep. Looks like they are putting in perfunctory time in school, and then kissing it good bye.

***9% of the sample said that they never received prompt feedback on course assignments, and 41% only sometimes did..

Hmm. A good share of teachers appear to be just going through the motions.

***65% of the students agreed or strongly agreed that at least one adult in the school cared about them and knew them well, and 64% said that that they were supported and respected by teachers.

Hmm. But not when it comes to giving them feedback on their assignments.

***36% said they had written no paper in any course more than five pages long in the school year. 39% had written no more than three papers more than 3-5 pages long

Hmm. And these are kids who are expecting to get bachelors and advanced graduate degrees.

***67% of the students felt that their school experience was contributing “quite a bit” or “very much” to Writing Effectively, 65% to Preparing for College, 61% to Thinking Deeply and Critically, 51% to Developing Clear Career Goals.

Hmm. Who’s conning who?

There’s more, but you get the drift. The implications of the findings are straightforward. And they don’t suggest “smaller schools,” “more tests,” or “more money,” “reforms”, do they.

Dick Schutz
3RsPlus@usinter.net
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 A Little Data Throw a Lot of Light on How to Improve High School Instruction by Dick Schutz on August 31, 2005
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