As we continue to deal with the impact of COVID-19 we often forget what has happened to our teenagers. A national study of over 3300 high school students conducted by America’s Promise Alliance has produced results that are important for parents, schools and communities to be aware of. These findings make sense if we think about all that has happened to our students this year leaving them impacted significantly. So much of their lives revolve around peers and school. All of that has stopped and now things are changed radically because of this public health crisis that we all have experienced.
Here are a few comments about the results of this survey. Overall, the results are deeply sobering:
• While nearly all of the high school youth surveyed (92%) say they are participating in online learning opportunities, more than three quarters (78%) are spending four or fewer hours each day in class or working on assignments.
• Since their school buildings closed, young people’s levels of concern about the present and future have increased, and indicators of overall health and wellbeing have suffered. For example, 30% of young people say they have more often been feeling unhappy or depressed, and nearly as many say they are much more concerned than usual about having their basic needs met.
• More than one-quarter of students (29%) say they do not feel connected at all to school adults. A similar percentage do not feel connected to classmates or to their school community.
Taken together, these findings suggest that students are experiencing a collective trauma, and that they and their families would benefit from immediate and ongoing support for basic needs, physical and mental health, and learning opportunities. Without that support, this moment in time is likely to have lasting negative effects for this cohort of high school students.
There have been learning changes, anxiety about the future and overall lack of connectedness to their teachers and their classmates. There is much more in this survey that is revealing about the state of our high schoolers. I believe some of these issues will impact their lives for a very long time.
We as a society need to be aware and prepared to help our students work through these issues and help to reconstruct a sense of normalcy in their schools, families and friendships. I appreciate the effort to make this research possible. We as a professional community have significant information with which we can create new opportunities for our students for learning, for relationships and for emotional health. We continue to have a great deal of work to do.