Now more than ever, student wellbeing is top of mind for educators, district leaders, and counselors around the country. The lingering effects of a multi-year pandemic that kept millions of students home for months, the stresses of modern life, and a growing shortage of teachers have further emphasized the need for proactive strategies that support student wellbeing in school.
But it’s not as simple as hiring more counselors. A recent NCES survey found that while 96% of public schools provided individualized services to students in the 2021-22 school year, 88% of those schools did not strongly agree that they could support all students in need. The concern arose from a mix of insufficient resources and a lack of transparency into the specific needs of individual students.
So how can school districts help students who have been asked to deal with years of disruption, learning loss, and broad impact on their schooling experience? Let’s take a closer look.
It Starts with Measurement
One of the most consistent gaps schools voice is a lack of objective data measuring student attitudes toward school and self as a learner. Designed to be focused only on factors that can be influenced within the four walls of a school, this kind of survey is crucial in identifying those students who most need support. The PASS student wellbeing survey does this by asking students questions related to their attitude toward school, teachers, attendance, and academic performance and then measuring the change in the results of those responses over time.
Survey results provide color-coded reporting that allows educators and school leaders to evaluate student attitudes against benchmarks collected from thousands of data points. Such an approach also allows educators to implement interventions and then measure the impact of those changes after several months. Students who might seem otherwise happy and attentive in school but whose attitudes toward school and self as a learner may not be wholly positive can be identified through such a survey, ensuring a broader subset of the population is addressed by intervention strategies.
Addressing Student Needs
One of the most important elements of a survey such as PASS’s is that it focuses only on the factors that can be directly influenced in the school. This aligns with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Before a student can reasonably achieve their educational goals, moving beyond the recollection of facts and concepts to draw connections between ideas and produce new and original work, they need to feel safe and supported and have a sense of belonging in a setting that supports their individual needs.
Ensuring a safe, welcoming, and inclusive school environment requires the combined efforts of everyone in the administration, from district leaders to individual teachers. In a recent webinar, PASS’s Scott Shapiro was joined by Theresa Bartholomew, Director of Educational Programs for Warrior Run School District in central Pennsylvania, to discuss the key considerations that educators and district leaders need to make to ensure a positive and welcoming environment. They discussed the importance of a supportive physical school environment, supporting students in the classroom, encouraging same-age and cross-age engagement among students, and relationship-building within schools.
A stronger focus on the physical and social environment of the school can help students move toward self-actualization, boosting self-esteem and making schools a more inviting and supportive place to learn.
Addressing Attitudes Toward Attendance
One of the most impactful factors on a student’s academic success is their attitude toward attendance. We have decades of data to support this, and yet, according to NCES data, 17% of students are chronically absent from school (meaning they miss 10% or more school days each year). Despite this, most attendance policies are reactive. Districts send notices to parents when a student misses school and implement corrective measures only after a certain number of days are missed.
But to truly address attendance issues, it’s important to understand the underlying reasons for absenteeism. Broadly
speaking, they can be grouped into three categories:
- Barriers to attendance, such as illness, limited transportation, trauma, or homelessness, among others
- Aversions to school, such as academic struggle, social isolation, ineffective discipline, or an unsafe school environment
- Disengagement from school that causes students not to see the value of attending
To implement a proactive approach to attendance, schools need to implement intervention strategies that engage students before their absences impact their academic performance or worsen their attitude toward attendance. A universal screener can help to highlight students at risk of absenteeism, collect insights into why a student might feel averse to school, and measure the impact of interventions implemented to address the issue.
Implementing Proactive Intervention
One of the most substantial benefits of a universal screener is that it allows educators to implement proactive interventions designed to address student attitudes before they negatively impact academic performance.
PASS is built to measure attitudes across nine factors. These serve as building blocks to student attitudes and, ultimately, their successes. Interventions subsequently fall into these nine categories, allowing schools to categorize and systemize their efforts between surveys. Divided into three categories, these nine factors include:
- Connectedness: Feelings about school, attitudes to teachers, and attitudes to attendance
- Self-Efficacy: Perceived learning capability, self-regard, preparedness for learning, and confidence in learning
- Motivation: General work ethic and response to curriculum demands
Within these categories, several elements might indicate a student is at risk. For example, flagging motivation may not be immediately apparent for a student who has otherwise performed well academically, but with time, as new material is presented and the curriculum becomes more rigorous, disengagement will start to manifest in several ways, including lower grades, a changed attitude toward school work, and a general distaste for school. Across all nine factors, similar insights can be gathered for individual students, allowing educators to build personalized intervention plans that proactively address these barriers.
Learn How PASS Can Support Your Efforts
PASS is a universal screening tool that helps schools objectively measure and respond to student attitudes that might impact their academic performance and behavior while at school. Screening provides the actionable data needed to address student needs, proactively respond to risks of absenteeism, and implement broader interventions that support students at school.
Learn more about how PASS supports students by reading our guide to the proactive factors for success in supporting student wellbeing, our guide to proactive approaches to attendance, or any of our case studies from educators around the country. You can request a demo to learn more and see PASS in action here.