Academic stress and homework issues top the list of concerns identified by Lyons Township High School students, staff and parents in a 2013 climate survey.
Overall, respondents expressed high levels of satisfaction as in the 2011 survey administered by School Perceptions LLC, based in Slinger, Wis. The firm contracts with similar high schools in various parts of the country so comparisons can be made.
School officials were concerned in 2011 when 42 percent of students reported bullying was a problem at school. Questions were refined in 2013 to determine how many instances were experienced or witnessed of physical or verbal threats, harassment through texting or social media and being picked on
Average responses indicated most parents, staff and students never or rarely witnesses such events. Responses varied from a 4.43 to a 4.89 on a scale with 5 as never and 4 indicating one or more times during the year, but not one or more times a month.
In 2011, academic stress as a problem was reported by 85 percent of the students, 47 percent of the parents and 74 percent of the staff. Some improvements were reported in a decrease of stress levels in 2013, but LT students continued to express feeling more stress than students at similar schools.
Board President Mark Pera said he was most concerned with the survey finding that 25 percent of students reported their stress level as overwhelming. With nearly 4,000 students, that could mean 1,000 teens are overwhelmed, Pera said.
Of potential contributing factors, homework led the list, followed by meeting personal expectations, competitive college requirements, getting into a chosen college, no time to study outside school and class rank.
Also identified were time in clubs or sports, poor study habits, outside activities and family obligations.
“I definitely have a lot of homework, but I’m not overwhelmed,” said student representative and senior Brendan Weibel, who is taking five Advanced Placement courses.
“If I am disciplined to take two or three hours, I can definitely get it done,” Weibel said. “It takes longer if I take breaks every 20 minutes to go on Facebook.”
But Weibel also said he sees little coordination among departments assigning major projects or tests, often at the same time.
Board members questioned whether additional study courses could be offered teaching time management and organization. Members also noted how 53 percent of parents perceived academic stress as a problem, compared to 75 percent of staff and 79 percent of students.
The board is considering forming focus groups to evaluate homework, review current guidelines and explore best homework practices with teachers.
In October, 222 fewer parents and 1,018 fewer students took the 20-minute survey than in 2011. But School Perceptions analyzed the student demographics and determined the survey takers to be reflective of the student body, as well as their parents for the most part, Katie Smith, LT coordinator of assessment and research, told the School Board March 17.
The 2011 survey targeted three areas for improvement, communication, bullying and academic stress.
To improve communications, electronic newsletters via email were implemented, based on parents’ preferences. Staff members in 2013 reported improvements in internal communications, and students said they had a better idea of how they were performing in their classes through the Infinite Campus grade portal.
The 2013 survey also identified technology concerns. A task force is expected to be formed to study making a computing device available to every student.