Overall, catholic school students are engaged, have a sense of belonging, feel safe at school and are performing well in basic subjects according to a new survey unveiled at the Board of Education meeting Monday.
Students in Grades 4 through 12 participated in the “Tell Them From Me” (TTFM) survey that Christ the Teacher School Division piloted in May and will be rolled out to all Saskatchewan schools over the next couple of years.
In most categories, local students fared as well or better than the Canadian average, but trustee Kevin Lubinieki questioned whether the results could be trusted citing the fact the data is self-reported and that students traditionally don’t take such things very seriously.
Superintendent Chad Holinaty said the data would certainly require a good deal of analysis. As an example he cited the result of the question regarding grade repetition. Grade 10 students reported that 25 per cent of them had repeated a grade at school since Kindergarten.
“I simply don’t believe that’s true,” Holinaty said, adding some of the numbers could be verified by other means and that in other cases the perception of students was just as important as the reality. Nevertheless, he said, the data is a good starting point toward improving student outcomes.
Superintendent Barbara McKesey answered the point about the engagement of students with the survey itself. She explained that web-based survey was very easy to complete, that the students, for the most part, enjoyed doing it and that the questions were very specific—i.e., defined what was meant by sexual harassment etc.—so as to avoid ambiguity.
The most dramatic data to come out of the survey were the statistics on bullying. While the 25 per cent of boys and 22 per cent of girls who reported they had been bullied within the past four weeks is no greater than the Canadian average, it is still alarming to educators.
Darrell Zaba, director of education, was excited by the opportunity the data presents to address one of the most prevalent issues of the day. He said it gives them information they never had before such as where bullying is happening, when it is happening and how kids are dealing with it.
Father Ray Lukie, St. Mary’s parish priest, cautioned that putting too much emphasis on bullying, could fuel the fire more than put it out.
“If you want people to read a book, ban it,” he said.
Lukie also suggested that sensitivity to the issue has redefined what bullying means to people and that the numbers may be inflated because of behaviour that is merely kids being kids.
That point of view may be partially borne out by another question on the survey. Despite the roughly 24 per cent of students who reported having been bullied, 90 per cent reported feeling safe at school and 94 per cent reported feeling safe going to and coming home from school.
In addition to the standard questions, school divisions are able to customize the survey with two additional questions. Christ the Teacher officials decided to ask students if they found daily prayer at school meaningful and engaging and whether they felt their catholic school experience had made them a better person.
McKesey said the results were encouraging. On the high school side, 68 per cent of students agreed or strongly agreed that prayer was meaningful and engaging while 70 per cent agreed or strongly agreed catholic school made them a better person. Elementary students were even more enthusiastic agreeing or strongly agreeing at 79 per cent and 81 per cent respectively for the two questions.
The division will repeat the survey sometime around November, Zaba said.