8 things parents and children think about RI schools

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Tell us how you really feel.

That’s what the R.I. Department of Education asked more than 100,000 public school students and their guardians to do earlier this spring in a robust survey that covered everything from family engagement to school climate and safety.

So how did families respond? Here are some of the highlights. (You can view all answers here.)

Parents are really busy.
Between work and home, many parents are finding very little time to get involved at their children’s school. Of the 17,000 parents who answered the survey, 58% said their schedules are at least a medium problem when it comes to participating in school activities. Roughly 16% called their schedule a very large problem. Only 14% of parents said they help out at their kids’ school on a monthly basis. Predictably, parents tend to stay active when their children are younger, but their schedules appear to get busier when their kids are in high school.

One in five parents aren’t familiar with their children’s close friends.
When asked about their kids’ friends, 19% said they knew the playmates either slightly well or not well at all. Unlike the parent participation trends, adults with students in middle school and high school appeared to know their kids’ friends better – most likely because the friends come around their homes more often. Nearly 70% of parents with 12th graders said they knew their kids’ friends quite well or extremely well. When you look at the breakdown by ethnicity, only 37% of parents who identified as Hispanic or Latino said they knew their kids’ friends well, while 62% of white parents said they were quite familiar with their kids’ friends.

Most black and Hispanic parents think schools set high expectations.
No matter their race or ethnicity, 62% of parents think their children’s schools set quite high or extremely high expectations. But a closer look at the findings show more black (75%) and Hispanic (73%) parents think their kids’ schools are setting high expectations than white parents, which ranked as the lowest of all race and ethnic groups at 58%. Similarly, black (70%) and Hispanic (75%) parents think their children’s school evaluation system for students is fair, compared to 61% of white parents.

Only 16% of parents are involved in parent groups at school.
Nearly half of all the parents surveyed – 42% – said they’re not at all involved in parent groups (like the PTA) at their children’s school, while only 7% said they are extremely involved. Parent group involvement appears to peak in elementary school before collapsing in middle school, when only 10% of parents say they stay involved. Participation seems to grow among parents of 12th graders, presumably when students are preparing for graduation.

Rhode Island kids are stressed out.
Of the 57,000 students in grades six through 12 who took the survey, 44% said they find life to be quite stressful or extremely stressful. Only 12% said they don’t consider life stressful at all. When it comes to education, 50% of the students said they consider their schools quite stressful or extremely stressful and 71% said they are frequently or almost always worried about their grades.

Students have lots of reasons for their absenteeism.
School leaders across Rhode Island have ramped up their efforts to decrease chronic absenteeism – the term for students who miss at least 18 days of school per year – but it’s still not easy to understand why students miss school. According to the survey, 17% of students in grades six through 12 said they have missed school because they didn’t get enough sleep and 9% said they were absent because they were bored. But here’s something striking: 8% of students in both grades three through five as well as six through 12 said they missed at least a day of school because they had to take care of someone else.

Younger children are more proud of their school.
In grades three through five, 75% of students said they are quite proud or extremely proud of their school, including 82% of third graders. Pride falls off a cliff as children get older, with just 45% of students in grades six through 12 saying they have pride in their school. Among both elementary school students and older students, girls reported being slightly more proud of their schools than the boys.

One in four students have been bullied.
When you look at students in grades three through 12, 24% said they were bullied on school property within the last year. Girls in all grades were slightly more likely to say they were bullied and students in elementary school were far more likely to say they been picked on. In 2012, Rhode Island lawmakers approved the Safe School Act, which outlines how schools should handle incidents of bullying, including how they should be reported and the range of discipline bullies can face.

Continue the discussion on Facebook

Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan