High school students are often bored and disengaged during school hours and spend relatively little time on schoolwork or preparing for classes in their free time, according to a recent report from Indiana University’s High School Survey of Student Engagement (HSSSE). The report, Voices on Student Engagement, also found that nearly one in four high school students has considered dropping out of high school.
“The fact that this many students have considered dropping out of high school makes the numbers of dropouts that we actually see across the country—and the supposed dropout crisis that we have—not surprising,” said Ethan Yazzie-Mintz, HSSSE project director for the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy (CEEP). “I think schools definitely need to pay a lot more attention to what students are thinking and the reasons why they’re dropping out.”
When given the opportunity to list reasons for why they wanted to drop out, 60 percent of respondents said that they did not see value in the work that they were being asked to do. Other reasons they gave for considering dropping out included family issues (42 percent), the need to get a job (35 percent), the feeling that no adults in the school cared about them (24 percent), and that the work was too easy (19 percent).
The study also reveals that students who stay in high school often do so just so they can finish and move on to college, not because they actually want to learn the material being taught in their classes. In fact, 73 percent agreed that they went to high school so that they could go to college, versus only 39 percent who went because of what they learn in their classes. Interestingly, 58 percent of respondents agreed with the statement that they went to school “because it’s the law.”
Given that such a high percentage were in high school solely so they could go to college, it was interesting to see that only 35 percent of respondents said that they were in “Honors/College Prep/Advanced” classes. Meanwhile, 41 percent described their academic track as “General/Regular,” 7 percent said that they were in career or vocational classes, and 3 percent said they were in special education. About 15 percent did not know if they were in a specific academic track.
The survey also reveals that students spend little time on homework or preparing for class outside of school during a typical seven-day week. In fact, 43 percent of respondents said that they spent less than one hour a week on written homework, and over 50 percent said that they spent less than one hour a week reading or studying for class. On the other hand, nearly one in three respondents reported spending more than six hours a week watching television or playing video games.
At the end of the survey, students were given the opportunity to expand on their answers. For this section, some students explained why they did not spend much time studying. “In question 15 and 16, the answers given may project me as a bad, non-studying student,” one student wrote. “I study not because I need not. High school is boring.”
“Our school needs to be more challenging,” said another. “Students fall asleep because the classes aren’t really that interesting.”
Nearly 81,500 students in 110 schools from twenty-six states responded to the survey. The average student enrollment at a school that participated in the survey was 1,010, although schools’ enrollment ranged from thirty-seven students to over 3,800.
The complete survey is available at http://ceep.indiana.edu/hssse/.