While some 94 percent of public High School seniors are satisfied with their education in Canton, nearly 73 percent feel bullying in some form is a problem among the student population.
The two statistics are just a small part of a recently released report on a 27-question survey of the Class of 2013 at Canton High School.
The survey was administered by student Board of Education representatives Justin Fortier and David Benedetti, who presented a report to the board Wednesday. It’s the third year of the survey.
The survey, taken by 111 or 125 seniors, contains a wealth of information and suggestions, including adding student clubs, hosting a clubs fair, revising the 12-point grading system, restoring school traditions with a longer spirit week, establishing a system for students to get notes when they’ve missed a class and standardizing the degree of difficulty for the same course, regardless of teacher.
The latter was one of the most important, Fortier said.
The survey also included some follow-up questions and focus groups to further refine both positive and negative feedback.
With the bullying, for example, the students said it has come up in past surveys and their goal this year was to dig deeper. So some additional data was gathered, such as whether students felt it occurred via social media (74 percent felt that was an area where it occurred), in the classroom (47 percent), the cafeteria (53.8 percent), athletics (39.4 percent), activities (33.7 percent), the bus (47.1 percent) or the hallways (68.3 percent).
Focus groups further identified and clarified issues, the students said. While some board of Education members were concerned with the high number who felt it occurred in the classroom, Fortier said in some cases, other factors such as previous conversations and a person’s reputation can sometimes make it hard for a teacher to discern when things are said in a joking nature and when it’s a serious comment. But he agreed the numbers were too high.
"It's a red flag," Fortier said.
Several teachers also expressed concern with the statistic and have said they will pay more attention in the classroom, he added.
“Some of the teachers definitely want to improve,” Fortier said.
In focus groups, students who felt bullying is a problem said it is mostly verbal, Fortier added.
And while administrators made changes after last year’s survey, many students felt that while more action has been taken, punishment is not consistent, he said.
See the entire survey presentation, slide by slide, attached to this story.
Janet Provost, an organizational development consultant who has helped the school system with other projects, helped facilitate the focus groups.
She said Fortier and Benedetti really listened to the students and were able to dig deeper into the reasons and perceptions behind the data
“I was most impressed,” she said.
As were administrators and board members.
“I think the project gets better and better each year,” said vice chair Beth Kandrysawtz. “I think we get more useful information. I think the challenge is to keep the administration’s feet to the fire.”
Board chair Leslee Hill asked the student representatives to tell their fellow students it is taken seriously.
“This is just a fabulous report and it was so well presented,” she said. “We hear this and the board takes it very seriously. This is critical information.”
Superintendent Kevin Case agreed, saying the information will be put to use with future action and policies.