Surveys: Student engagement remains below pre-pandemic levels

Student engagement hasn’t recovered since COVID-19 hit Idaho’s public schools, according to a new statewide survey.

Just 45.5% of third- through 12th-grade students reported being engaged at school, the State Department of Education reported Tuesday. The average is down slightly from last year’s 45.7%.

It’s also down from 52.6% average from the next most recent available year, 2019 — before the pandemic’s heaviest impacts on schools.

The 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. The surveys are administered in in the spring, yet some school leaders question their value altogether.

Still, the numbers provide a grade-by-grade and school-by-school look at student, staff and parental engagement.

“The 2022 results for students show marked differences between students in grades 3 through 8 and those in grades 9 through 12,” the SDE pointed out in a news release tied to the data.

Overall engagement in 2022 for students in grades 3 through 8 was 53.5%, up slightly from 2021’s 53.2%. Fifty-eight percent of students in grades 3 through 8 reported overall engagement in 2019.

Older students continued a downward trend, however. Overall engagement for students in grades 9 through 12 dropped 12 percentage points in recent years, from 43.1% in 2019 to 31.1% in 2022. The 2021 average was 32.2%.

The 2022 survey drew 190,005 student responses.

Results from parents and school staff showed some improvements from recent years.

Staff satisfaction remains above pre-pandemic levels, despite a downturn in participation and reported satisfaction since 2021, the SDE pointed out:

  • The number of staff members completing the survey dropped 8%, from 21,245 to 19,451 in 2022.
  • 75.9% of staffers reported they were satisfied, down from 79.3% in 2021, but still above 2019’s pre-pandemic level of 75.7%.

Fewer parents also responded to the survey last spring than in past years, but results show a rise in overall satisfaction:

  • This year, 45,735 parents took the survey, a 10% decline from 2021.
  • Parents’ overall satisfaction came in at 75.1%, up from 74% in 2021 and 74.5% in 2019.

“Though it’s clear that there is still work to be done, these results should lend Idahoans some comfort,” Ybarra said. “Our educational communities are healing from the enormous disruptions of the past two years. 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.”

Look for a closer, district-by-district look at the numbers from EdNews Wednesday. 

Devin Bodkin

Devin Bodkin

EdNews assistant editor and reporter Devin Bodkin is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. He lives and works in East Idaho. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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