Shoreline School District 2014 Healthy Youth Survey Results

Sunday, May 24, 2015

By Marianne Deal Stephens

Director of Assessment and Student Learning Michael Power, Ph.D. presented district results of the state’s biennial Healthy Youth Survey at the Shoreline School Board meeting on May 11, 2015.

About the Survey
The Healthy Youth Survey (HYS) is administered statewide to grades 6, 8, 10, and 12 in even calendar years. The anonymous survey asks students about: nutrition and fitness; mental health; school climate; safety and violence; community, family, and school issues; alcohol, tobacco and other drug use; related risk and protective factors. Students are randomly given different versions of the survey. (See the 2014 forms here.)

Parents may preview the survey before it is administered and can opt out. In 2014, 76% of 6th graders, 89% of 8th graders, 84% of 10th graders, and 68% of 12th graders took the survey in Shoreline. Dr. Powers made it clear that the survey is not an intervention tool; individual students do not experience any consequences for their replies on the survey.

The final question on every HYS form asks: “How honest were you in filling out this survey?” and offers five answer options, from “I was very honest” to “I was not honest at all.” High school students themselves question the reliability of the HYS data because they hear classmates talk about exaggerating their responses.

However, when asked about survey reliability, Dr. Power answered that he has “been working with this survey since it was first administered and [is] very confident in the accuracy of the results … The consistency of the results over time is an indicator that the data are accurate.” Dr. Power explained the state’s data cleaning procedures (surveys that are detected through these measures are not counted) and described the reliability range of for most items at the district level as +/- 2-3%. District results are more reliable than school results, and state results are more reliable than district results.

How the Data is Used
Building, district and state data is shared with school counselors, principals, and community support providers to identify how local trends compare with state patterns and to inform their educational programs. Statewide, agencies use the data to guide policy and programs that serve youth. The Department of Health releases aggregated grade results and an analytic report for each year of the survey. (See the 2012 Survey Reports)

Students are not asked for names or any identifying information, and the surveys are not tallied locally. Results from districts and individual schools are not readily available to the public to prevent any possibility of connecting responses to individuals. Dr. Power explained that in a district like ours, 3% would be about 18 students and 1% would be about 6 students, so the data is sensitive.

Dr. Power presented 47 graphs and charts of Shoreline results, a representative sample of the entire report which runs 54 pages with 6 tables/ graphs per page. In nearly all of the categories presented, Shoreline School District results closely parallel state results. Overall patterns: substance use increases with grade level while measures like “how much do you enjoy school” decrease with grade level.

A few matters were identified as particularly concerning: e-cigarette/ vaping use, marijuana use; screen time; sleep habits, and mental health issues. The increased presence of e-cigarettes and vaping in the larger community has spread to students.

Marijuana use is in a year's long upward trend (from 2004 when the survey began to 2014). While it is low in middle grades, marijuana use goes up significantly with grade level (in the 30 days prior to taking the survey, percentage of students reporting use: 0% in grade 6, 5% in grade 8, 17% in grade 10 and 31% in grade 12).

The survey also asks about perceived harm, and the number of students who think that there is not great harm in using marijuana has increased. Dr. Power speculates that the legalization of marijuana has affected both use and perception.

Alcohol and prescription drug use also go up with grade level. Use is almost not present in grade 6, and use of several substances increases noticeably from grade 8 to grade 12.

From 2004 to 2014, grade 12 use of marijuana has gone up while the use of alcohol has gone down slightly.

Like most teens, ours are spending too much time on screens and not enough sleeping.

There are also troubling numbers of students who report feeling depressed and having thoughts of suicide. Dr. Power explained that the state can conclude from the surveys that troubling behaviors often go together; there is overlap among students who engage in substance abuse, report sexual activity or sexual abuse, and report depression. 

Across the grades, about 90% of Shoreline students surveyed feel safe at school. About 95% say they have lots of chances to for involvement in school activities. A vast majority (from 69-88%) know how to report bullying at school. And, a high percentage have someone they could talk to about something important.

The Takeaway
Though the presentation involved sharing data and not proposing an action plan, Director David Wilson asked about the takeaway. Dr. Power explained that while we are where the state is on nearly all of the behaviors measured, “we want to do better” and hoped aloud that “perhaps we can leverage the community support to help with the troubling trends.” Student Representative to the Board Nicola Gerbino, noting the numbers of students reporting depression and/ or suicidal thoughts, articulated a hope that attention will be focused on teen mental health. 

More Information on the Healthy Youth Survey
Supplemental Data Briefs with 2014 HYS results, assessments, suggestions for parents and educators, and referrals to available resources. 


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