Student Poll: 34% in Grades 5-12 Hopeful, Engaged, Thriving

by Lymari Morales

Others fall short in at least one of these dimensions

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As students nationwide prepare to return to the classroom, a national Gallup Student Poll classifies one-third of U.S. students in grades 5-12 as "hopeful," "engaged," and "thriving" -- three metrics that pave the way for future achievement. While 53% of students are hopeful, 63% are engaged, and 70% are thriving, many students fall short in at least one of these dimensions.


The results are from a nationally representative Gallup Student Poll of 642 U.S. students aged 10-18 years conducted June 11-July 6, 2010. It is designed to serve as a national benchmark for surveys Gallup administers in school districts around the country. Students are asked 20 questions meant to gauge their hope, engagement, and wellbeing and then are classified as "Ready for the Future" if they score high on all three dimensions. Gallup research suggests that students who do well on all three metrics tend to achieve higher grades, complete more credits, and report fewer health problems than their peers. The research is meant to help leaders and educators improve student performance and, in turn, the high school graduation rate nationwide, believed to be roughly 70%. About 13% of U.S. adults are believed to be high school dropouts, earning far less than their more educated peers and creating a ripple effect, not only in their own lives, but for the U.S. economy.

More Than Half of American Students Are Hopeful

More than half of the students surveyed (53%) are classified as "hopeful" based on their responses to a series of questions about their goals and aspirations at school and for the future. The rest are either "stuck" (31%) or "discouraged" (16%).

Nearly all students surveyed say there is an adult in their life who cares about their future and 92% strongly agree that they will graduate from high school. The findings suggest hopes are not always translating into reality. While 62% say they can think of many ways to get good grades, far fewer say they energetically pursue their goals and can find ways around any problem. Just under half are strongly confident about finding a good job after graduation.


Nearly Two-Thirds of Students Engaged in School

Nearly two-thirds of students surveyed (63%) are classified as "engaged" in school, based on their responses to a series of questions about their experiences at school. About a quarter (23%) are not engaged, and thus not maximizing their potential. The other 14% are "actively disengaged" to the extent that they may be undermining the teaching and learning process for others.

Students tend to say they have friends at school and feel safe there, but their answers suggest schools and communities can do more to help students perform at a higher level by helping them leverage their strengths. Less than half say they have received recognition or praise for doing good schoolwork within the last week.


Most Students Thriving and Happy, But Respect and Health Could Be Improved

Encouragingly, 70% of students rate their lives well enough to be considered "thriving," rating their current life a 7 or higher on a ladder scale from 0 to 10, and their future life an 8 or higher. Most others (29%) are classified as "struggling," and 1% rate their lives low enough that they are considered to be "suffering."

Nearly all students report having friends and family they can count on whenever they need them, and most report smiling and laughing and having plenty of energy. However, the findings suggest about one quarter of students are not treated with respect or lack opportunities to learn or do something interesting. A noteworthy 13% say they have health problems that keep them from doing things others their age can do.


Together, the Gallup Student Poll results reveal areas of strength and weakness among America's students. While most students express confidence in their friends and family and the safety of their schools, many lack the push they need to turn their hopes into reality. Teachers and leaders in education should note that students are less positive about the metrics that adults can influence, for example having an opportunity to do what they do best or receiving praise or recognition for good work. Educators can also play an active role in helping students think of practical ways to solve problems, improve their grades, and pursue their goals. Doing so provides the opportunity to maximize the potential of more students and, in turn, the graduation rate, with benefits for communities and the nation as a whole.

About the Gallup Student Poll

The Gallup Student Poll seeks to give students a voice and provide leaders with valuable intelligence about the young people in their communities. By measuring students' hope, engagement, and wellbeing, the Gallup Student Poll reveals both strengths and weaknesses within U.S. schools, helping to pinpoint where improvement is most needed and where new initiatives should be targeted. This innovative tool also gives leaders in education a new framework for understanding issues related teacher quality and school climate. Read the complete report and learn how to involve your district or school.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup Student Poll are based on surveys conducted June 11-July 6, 2010 with a sample of 642 youth, aged 10 to 18, living in the continental U.S., who reside in households that are members of the Gallup Panel. Gallup panel households are initially recruited by telephone through random selection methods.

In order to identify the sample of 10 to 18 year olds, Gallup identified households within the Panel that were known to either have a panelist in this age range, or whose household was known to have a child in the age range (as verified in a January 2010 profile survey). The survey was conducted by mail and Web to accommodate those households that lack internet access or do not prefer to respond to surveys online. The survey was mailed or e-mailed directly to the young panelists in the specified age range and also e-mailed or mailed to the parents of the young panelists, seeking their consent for their child to respond to the survey.

The sample is weighted so that it is demographically representative of the U.S. youth population. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4.95 percentage points.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of polls.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit gallup.com.

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