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Challenge Success Team announces survey results

The Medfield Challenge Success Team has announced that the results of a student survey were presented to parents by a representative from the non-profit Challenge Success.

The survey, conducted by Challenge Success, was given to Medfield High School students in January and was completed by 734 students.

"We are happy to be able to present the results of the student survey to parents and are looking forward to hearing their feedback," Superintendent Jeffrey Marsden said. "The purpose of the survey was to provide the district with valuable insight into the minds of our students and their experiences at Medfield High School. We are always looking for ways to improve the exceptional education we provide and the well-being of our students, and this survey is one of the many tools at our disposal."

Last year, Medfield Public Schools partnered with Challenge Success to find ways that the district could use research-based tools to support student well-being and engagement with learning. Challenge Success is a national, non-profit organization affiliated with the Stanford University Graduate School of Education. Other school districts in the region that have used the Challenge Success program include, Dover-Sherborn, Wellesley, Weston, Westford, Bedford and Concord.

Jon Kleiman, Northeast School Program Director for Challenge Success, presented the results of the survey to district administrators and staff earlier this week and to parents at the presentation earlier tonight. Over 180,000 students nationwide have taken the survey that was given to Medfield High School students and the results were measured off of the average results of the past surveys.

"It is important for parents to understand that every school is different," Kleiman said. "The challenges that schools are wrestling with and the solutions that need to be adopted to be effective are based on the individual needs and circumstances at each school. I am pleased to report that Medfield High School is very aligned with similar schools that took the survey, across a range of metrics."

One of the most encouraging results that the data showed was that 84 percent of students reported that they have an adult at the school they feel comfortable approaching with a problem.

"Medfield students reported very highly as feeling supported at school," said Medfield High School Guidance Counselor Stephanie Worthley. "Nearly 44 percent of the students said that the adult they trusted to speak to was one of the counselors at the high school. This was thrilling to see and I attribute it to our counselors who are supportive and care a great deal about our students."

The survey also showed that Medfield High School students spend less time than the average student working on homework each night.

On average, Medfield High School students spend about two-and-a-half hours on homework each night, compared to an average of three hours nationwide.

"We are cognizant of trying not to overload and overburden our students with too much homework on a nightly basis," Medfield High School Principal Robert Parga said. "Our students receive a comprehensive and thorough education while they are in school and over 90 percent of our students participate in extra-curricular activities and sports. We understand that there are only so many hours in the day and hope that students who are feeling overburdened will come talk to their teachers and counselors about finding a solution."

The survey identified some areas where improvements could be made both at school and at home.

Medfield students were in line with the national average, reporting that they get about 6.7 hours of sleep each night - below the recommended nine hours per night for high school students - and many go to bed around 11 p.m. on weeknights. A lack of sleep can lead to issues like depression, anxiety, short-term and long-term memory issues and could also be a contributing factor in issues like bullying and driving safety.

"Only 3 percent of students reported that they were getting nine hours of sleep," said Assistant Principal Heather Mandosa. "In addition, 78 percent of students report that they keep their phones in their bedrooms at night. Research shows that if the phone is in the bedroom, students will wake up to check social media or messages throughout the night, which also has an impact on sleep quality and overall well-being."

Students were also asked if they had cheated in some fashion over the last month. About 83 percent of Medfield students who took the survey reported that they had cheated in that time. This places Medfield students in the middle of the pack, where 81-87 percent of students nationwide admitted to cheating.

Parameters that were considered cheating in the survey included working with other students on an assignment that was meant to be done individually, plagiarizing and getting quiz questions or answers from other students ahead of time.

"What is really important to note for us is that cheating is a symptom of a number of challenges for students. Cheating is a reaction to students who have too much homework load or stress, where getting good grades becomes more important than actually learning the material. The purpose of the Challenge Success program is to change that mindset and show students that grades are not the only measure of success," Kleiman said. "All schools have students that cheat or bend the rules in some fashion and Medfield High School is not immune to that. However, nothing that we saw in the survey results was outside of the normal range for similar schools that took the survey. We have never seen a school with lower than 80 percent of students reporting cheating in 10 years of administering the survey."

Superintendent Marsden said, "Overall, I was really pleased with the results of the survey, especially knowing that we are already working on improving in a number of these areas, including homework load and stress reduction."

Kleiman emphasized to parents that the first year of becoming a Challenge Success school is largely about laying a strong foundation that will be built upon for years to come and that the survey is a part of that process.

"The district has already done a fantastic job of getting students, teachers, staff and parents involved in the program and we have seen a lot of enthusiasm from the schools and community thus far," Kleiman said. "We are very excited about the work that Medfield is undertaking and I am hopeful that this is going to translate into policies and practices that benefit the students and their overall education and well-being for years to come."

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