Annual survey shows drop in student engagement

POCATELLO — The number of Idaho students who say they’re engaged at school dropped from 2018 to 2019, according to survey results from the State Department of Education.

In 2018, the SDE’s annual student engagement survey showed 65.5 percent of Idaho’s third- through eighth-graders reported being “committed” in three areas of focus: behavior, cognition and emotion. In 2019, the overall number fell by nearly 13 percentage points, to 52.6 percent. High school students were added to the survey in 2019.

The decline surfaced in the SDE’s annual assessment and accountability report to the State Board of Education at Idaho State University on Wednesday.

State Board members were briefed on new student survey data Wednesday at ISU.

The drop is clear, one SDE official acknowledged, but factors that fueled it aren’t.

“Several folks said what in the world could have happened,” SDE director of assessment and accountability Karlynn Laraway told the board.

Laraway guessed timing. Students filled out their 2018 surveys after spring break. In 2019, they responded before taking a week off.

“Kids could have needed a break,” Laraway said in reference to the 2019 number.

The prospect of timing prompted the SDE to establish a consistent timeframe for disseminating the surveys, Laraway told the board. Students will now fill them out mid-February.

“I won’t suggest that spring break is a deciding factor, but may have played a role,” Laraway said.

Wednesday’s report revealed the continuation of another clear trend in the surveys: a steady drop in reported engagement by grade. In 2019, the decline amounted to at least five percentage points for each year of grade-level progression. In other words, older students are less engaged. The 2018 numbers bore a similar trend.

Neither the SDE nor the State Board discussed Wednesday why engagement tapers with progression.

The 2019 engagement survey also included the first round of results from Idaho high schoolers, who reported the lowest level of engagement: 43 percent.

The State Board last year unanimously approved the continued use of student surveys as part of its statewide accountability system. The surveys, now in their second year, are one measure of school quality and learning climate in Idaho schools.

More from the SDE’s report

The SDE also revealed the state’s first round of results from surveys aimed at gauging engagement among parents and K-12 staff.

Out of 37,441 parent respondents, 74.5 percent reported “being engaged,” Laraway reported. Staff engagement was just under 76 percent, with 19,000 respondents.

The SDE also outlined 2019 Idaho Reading Indicator and ISAT scores.

Click here for the SDE’s full report.

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