Surveys again illustrate highs and lows of student engagement

Student engagement hit a new average low in 2022, State Department of Education numbers released last month show, continuing their downward trend since the pandemic impacted Idaho’s schools starting in 2019.

But averages tell only part of the story.

The latest survey data illustrates the highs and lows of engagement at schools across Idaho, along with some other trends from prior years.

Student surveys, which measure students’ levels of curiosity, interest and optimism at school, are one accountability metric state superintendent Sherri Ybarra chose for Idaho’s plan to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

Students in high school, for example, still express lower rates of engagement than elementary and middle school students. And while some schools appear stuck in a post-pandemic downturn, others continue to nearly double the state average.

Here’s a closer look at the numbers, including a breakdown of engagement at all Idaho schools.

Engagement varies greatly

On average, just 45.5% of Idaho’s K-12 students reported being engaged at school in 2022. That’s down slightly from 45.7% in 2021, and down notably from 52.6% the next available year, 2019.

Most numbers from the state’s largest school districts reflected the state average:

  • West Ada44.1%
  • Boise Independent District: 45%
  • Nampa School District: 39.8%
  • Pocatello District: 46.9%
  • Idaho Falls District: 44.4%
  • Coeur D’Alene District: 45.8%
  • Vallivue School District: 45.6%
  • Twin Falls District: 46.3%
  • Jefferson County Joint District: 47.9%
  • Oneida County District: 56.9%

Yet like last year, some schools far exceeded the state average this year. Grand View Elementary School led the pack in 2022 with over 80% engagement.

Here are the Top 10 schools, along with their associated districts:

  • Grand View Elementary School 80.2% (Bruneau-Grand View Joint district)
  • Howard E Thirkill Primary School 80.1% (Soda Springs district) 
  • Thomas Jefferson Charter School 78.8% 
  • Barbara R Morgan Elementary 76.8%(McCall-Donnelly district) 
  • Edahow Elementary School 76.3% (Pocatello-Chubbuck district) 
  • Hayden Meadows Elementary School 76.3% (Coeur d’Alene district)
  • Gem Prep: Meridian North 75.9% 
  • Pioneer School of the Arts 75.7% (West Ada School district) 
  • Rockford Elementary School 75.1% (Snake River district)
  • Hibbard Elementary School 75.1% (Madison district)

Click here for engagement numbers at all Idaho schools for 2022.

Age plays a factor, again

One notable reality from the 2022 numbers: age is again a determining factor.

Last year, all of the state’s top five schools for engagement were elementary schools, four of the bottom five were high schools and one is a junior-senior high school.

A similar trend played out in the state’s 2019 surveys, and 2022 was no different:

  • Seven of the Top 10 are elementary schools, the latest numbers show.
  • All of the Bottom 10 were either junior high schools or high schools.

The 10 schools with the worst engagement in 2022:

  • Lakeside Junior High: (Plummer-Worley) 24.6%
  • Columbia High: (Nampa)24.5%
  • Kellogg High: 24.5%
  • Rocky Mountain High: (West Ada) 24.3%
  • Tammany High: (Lewiston) 23.4%
  • Venture High: (CDA) 23.3%
  • Lakeside High: (Plummer-Worley) 23.2%
  • Hansen Junior-Senior High: 23.1%
  • Black Canyon High: (Emmett) 22 22%
  • Salmon River Junior-Senior High: 21.6%

It’s hard to pinpoint why engagement decreases as students age, but one principal last year suggested that older students have the capacity to feel more “detached” than their younger peers — especially during school closures and shifts to online learning that rocked schools during the pandemic.

A pandemic-induced slump?

State Superintendent Sherri Ybarra on Tuesday emphasized some positives from the latest engagement numbers — despite how minute.

A .3% increase among third- through 12th-grade students was the “encouraging” part of a “rebound,” Ybarra said in a news release.

But overall engagement among this age group still hovers around half, at 53.5%.

But the SDE’s announcement tied to the numbers also flagged a continued, notable drop in engagement among high schoolers — a 12 percentage point plunge over three years year, from 43.1% in 2019 to 31.1% in 2022.

The turnaround Ybarra eluded to remains to be seen, but she’s hopeful.

“Our educational communities are healing from the enormous disruptions of the past two years,” Ybarra said. “As we continue to move toward normalcy both in and out of school, I believe we’ll continue to see improvement in all areas — from test scores to engagement and beyond.”


Devin Bodkin

Devin Bodkin

Devin was formerly a senior reporter and editor for Idaho Education News and now works for INL in communications.

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