By Noah Prozan
// Students from all four high schools in the Acalanes Union High School District (AUHSD) participated in the Stanford Survey of Adolescent Development on April 9, 10, 14, and 15.
More commonly known as the Challenge Success Survey, the questionnaire is run by a non-profit organization of the same name that works in conjunction with Stanford University. It provides schools and parents with information about student learning.
According to Challenge Success, the survey specifically focuses on “health and well-being, school engagement, students’ perception of teacher support, extracurricular activities, homework, academic worry, academic integrity and beliefs about their parents’ goals and expectations.”
Challenge Success has surveyed over 100 schools in their 12 years of existence. Each year the program surveys ten of the nation’s top tier high schools, both private and public.
The survey asks a variety of questions, varying from the number of hours students sleep a night to how often students cheat on homework assignments and tests.
All grades spent a period of their school day to take the survey. For freshman and sophomores, the survey was administered during their PE class. Juniors and seniors took it in their respective history classes.
“If we need to bring about a systematic change, we need data to do that and this was a way to collect data,” Acalanes Principal Allison Silvestri said. “I think that giving up one class period of curriculum is worth gathering this data so we can understand how our students are feeling about school so we can make really informed decisions about what we need to do to change.”
Students were given a link to the Challenge Success website and then were asked to enter their student ID number to be granted access to the questions. The survey is anonymous and access to the survey is not made available to the general public so students cannot see the questions in advance.
“We don’t want students to pre-think their answer,” Dr. Denise Pope said, one of the three co-founders of Challenge Success. “What we found is that kids tend to be very honest because kids feel secure with their answers since the survey is anonymous.”
Challenge success is an optional survey. Although the school district encouraged students to take the survey, the AUHSD did not receive 100% student participation.
“If all students took the survey, it would give us a good sense of the high school experience from 9th grade through 12th grade,” superintendent Dr. John Nickerson said. “What we’ve been gathering is that the experience is much more different for a 12th grader, 11th grader, 10th grader, and 9th grader. [The survey] really examines the issues over time.”
Senior Faith Riller and a few others chose to work on other school work rather than take the survey.
“I didn’t take the survey simply because I had the choice not to,” Riller said. “My group was working on our Economy project, and I decided that I could use my time more wisely. The survey wasn’t really explained to me so I didn’t have any interest in taking it.”
However, the majority of Acalanes students participated in the survey.
“We were hoping for large participation and we got that,” Nickerson said. “It should be valuable information to make a positive impact.”
This is not the first time a school that the AUHSD has taken the Challenge Success Survey. Challenge Success and the district have had an intermittent relationship for over 8 years.
When Nickerson was principal of Acalanes, he heard about the Challenge success program and introduced it to the school. Acalanes took the survey for the first time in 2007.
Challenge Success will provide the district with preliminary data in middle of June. Each school should receive a full report with an extensive analysis and statistics by late August. After the full data report is finished, officials from the district will visit Stanford to discuss the results and possible solutions with the Challenge Success team.
“It’s really important for students to take it because we need to understand how we can better serve students and their needs,” Silvestri said. “The information and data that we gather will help us make informed decisions about changes we will need to make on our school campus for upcoming situations.”