Are Students Stressed? Parents, Students, Teachers Will be Surveyed
Board of education holding continuing discussions on "student stressors."
Is your student in the Bernards Township school system stressed out because of homework, pressure to achieve or afterschool activities?
Or none of the above?
The Board of Education on Monday continued its discussion on "student stressors" that may be putting too much pressure on children and teens in what is known as a high-achieving school district. School officials reached some sort of consensus that they will look at ways of potentially reducing some of that stress without also cutting back on academic "rigor" in township schools.
As part of that goal, parents, teachers and students themselves in grades 6 to 12 will be asked what causes student stress, said school administrators, including Schools Superintendent Valerie Goger.
The surveys will be administered electronically some time to each of the different groups during October or November, Goger said.
The school's Friday folder emails to parents will provide notification that the survey is on its way, she said. The superintendent said she didn't know yet what questions will be asked, but it will cover the topics of homework, stress and academic integrity, or cheating, in school. Goger added the survey will be relatively short, no more than about 30 questions.
School board members then will consider the results in further discussions, according to Monday night's board conversation.
Board Member Michael Byrne continued to object to what he said is a move toward reducing the rigor of the Bernards school district's academic standards. He again said he had read an article in a major publication that New Jersey in particular is at risk of adopting the philosophy that "stress" should be reduced on students through such steps as cutting back on homework assignments.
"To weaken the school system in New Jersey would be a terrible mistake, particularly with the body of knowledge expanding," and in the midst of a challenging economy, Byrne told his fellow board members.
"I can't help but think it's the totally wrong thing to do," he insisted.
Byrne said that some of the student stress may be coming from concentration on afterschool activities, including extracurricular sports.
Byrne has at multiple meetings said he believes the school system should be focusing on academics. "Rigor is the key," he added.
Board member Elaine Kusel said she is one of the supporters of the idea of reviewing the school requirements with an eye toward reducing stress without reducing rigor.
Kusel and others referred to another article they said discussed whether the type and quantity of homework being given is effective for teaching, or just busy work.
"What's the best way to give them homework, and the best way to give them homework so they're not stressed about it?" she asked.
Kusel said some students feel overwhelmed by academic demands, and schools also should be helping them learn to be resilient enough to keep trying even if they don't get a good grade initially. "It's not just about grades, it's about the process of being a life-long learner," she said.
Board members also discussed whether students should cut back on the number of Advanced Placement courses they are taking, and whether colleges are really demanding college-level work in so many subjects at the high school level.
No conclusions were reached on Monday. "We will be going over this for the next six to seven months," Goger said.
Board members who have been attending Parent-Teacher Organization meetings said that PTOs at all six township schools again will be sponsoring a local showing of "A Race to Nowhere." The documentary, screened last winter at Ridge High School, addresses the issue of student stress, as spurred by such causes as the demands of college admissions, said board members, including Robin McKeon.