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School district creates lists of action steps after students complete YouthTruth survey

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - School district creates lists of action steps after students complete YouthTruth survey.

What do local students really think about school, their classmates and their teachers?

Thanks to a YouthTruth Student Survey, school district administrators now know exactly what their students think.

"Crook County School District places a great deal of value on what our students say about their school experience," said CCSD Superintendent Sara Johnson. "The students have some of the best and most relevant information about the classroom."

When Johnson came to the district last summer, one of her biggest priorities was listening to student voice.

The district teamed up with YouthTruth, a national nonprofit organization that administers surveys and provides advisory services.

YouthTruth surveys measure what the research says matters most to creating high-performing schools. They say themes like engagement, culture and relationships are essential to understanding a school's climate and culture.

"It gives students the opportunity to tell us how things are going on a wide variety of topics, like bullying and a sense of belonging," explained CCSD Director of School Improvement Joel Hoff. "It was a great opportunity for us to hear what the students thought of school."

Johnson said the goal is to use YouthTruth to understand student's experiences from third to 12th grades.

"We want to better understand how we can make our schools best serve students and community," she said.

They started by surveying Crook County Middle School, Crook County High School and Pioneer Alternative High School students for student voice and consumer feedback work.

In January, 1,164 CCSD students in sixth through 12th grades took the survey.

They answered questions about academic rigor, academic expectations, college and career readiness, school safety, school culture, engagement, and relationships.

"I was surprised that our students were so open and honest about their experience," Johnson said, noting that they received 2,749 unedited, authentic comments from students.

"I like how you can talk to your teaches (sic) when your (sic) having a hard time and they help you get better," one CCMS student wrote.

"A lot of stuff happens, and if its (sic) serious events that are hard to get over, school is the last thing on your mind," one high schooler wrote.

A CCHS student wrote, "A lot of the time I feel like teachers forget we are people going through things in our own personal lives. School is hard."

Johnson said it's concerning that many students experience difficulty and discomfort in interacting with others during their school day.

"We want our schools to be a place where students respect each other and feel connected to supportive adults," she said.

Administrators are thankful that students provided feedback and helped them learn about their experiences.

"Their voice revealed areas for our most important work to begin," Johnson said. "YouthTruth is a powerful tool for school and district improvement."

From the survey, administrators have created a list of action steps.

At CCMS, the survey results were communicated to the staff and students. They have identified areas for focus and goal setting and are in the process of planning and implementing improvement strategies.

Action steps at CCHS include establishing a School Culture Committee comprised of student and staff. Members will study ways to make improvements to the school climate.

The district will continue to train staff and implement CharacterStrong, focusing on eight essential character traits: kindness, honesty, patience, respect, humility, selflessness, forgiveness and commitment.

CCHS Principal Michelle Jonas has communicated YouthTruth outcomes to students and will meet one-on-one with those who request meetings. Several students requested meeting with a counselor. CCHS students have established a Student Advisory Team and are advertising the anonymous text line.

"We are committed to making our schools the best in Oregon, and student's experiences are key to our improvement work," Johnson said.

Hoff said the district will conduct the YouthTruth Survey again next year and the following year.

"That way, we can see change over time and see how as we implement things that students are saying they need," Hoff said. "Hopefully, we will see some improvement."

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