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Student survey shows positive trends in District 196 schools

Director of secondary education Mark Parr reported District 196's results were "In general, up where they should be and down where they should be" in the 2007 Minnesota Student Survey.

The survey, given every three years to sixth graders, ninth graders and 12th graders statewide, asks 42 questions about students' feelings toward school, use of time, family relationships, health and safety concerns, mental health, substance use and sexual behavior.

In District 196, the survey showed a decline in student alcohol, tobacco and other drug use since 2004. The district is at or below the state averages in those three categories.

There was a sharp incline in the number of students who said they got their drug and alcohol information in school, up from 63 percent in 2004 to 79 percent in the survey taken last year. Parr said the district has placed added emphasis on drug and alcohol education since the previous survey was taken, and that the curriculum changes are part of the reason the number of students reporting drug and alcohol use is down in the most recent survey.

"It's really an important area for us because we expend a lot of time and energy and funding on our developmental psychology class in sixth grade and we're pleased to see that," he said. "The question on the survey asks about where kids are getting their information and it's nice to see that it's so high compared to 2004."

Still, 61 percent of seniors, 36 percent of freshmen and 6 percent of sixth graders said they have used alcohol in the past year. Thirty-three percent of seniors said they had smoked marijuana in the past year, while 29.5 percent said they had used tobacco products in the last 30 days.

Sexual activity statistics stayed in line with the results from 2004, but continued a slight decline from when the 1995 results reported that 52 percent of males and 50 percent of females were sexually active. Those numbers are down to 46 percent and 40 percent in the most recent survey.

Student safety continued to be a strong suit for District 196. Nearly 97 percent of seniors surveyed said they felt safe at school, up 3 percent from the state average. Only 7.5 percent of seniors thought there was a problem with gangs at their school, down from 28 percent in 1995.

Parr said the district will distribute the survey results to all middle schools and high schools, then use them to make further adjustments to the curriculum.

"We'll work backwards to our curriculum and use the information as we work with the prevention advisory council ... to begin the discussion about what kinds of changes we need to make," Parr said. "We've made significant changes in our developmental psychology curriculum, incorporating the use of life skills, which is a nationally-recognized prevention program that we put in the eighth grade. I really believe we saw on the table where the kids are getting their information and I think that makes a big difference."

A total of 1,870 sixth graders, 1,841 ninth graders and 1,350 12th graders participated in the anonymous and confidential survey.