NAIS Report on the 2022 Middle Grades Survey of Student Engagement (MGSSE)

By Grant Stringer
NAIS Research Analyst


The National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) has partnered with the Center for Evaluation, Policy, & Research (CEPR) at Indiana University to offer the High School Survey of Student Engagement (HSSSE) and the Middle Grades Survey of Student Engagement (MGSSE) to independent schools interested in measuring student engagement. HSSSE (targeting grades 9 through 12) and MGSSE (targeting grades 5 through 9) are student-focused surveys that investigate the attitudes, perceptions, and beliefs of students about their schoolwork, the school learning environment, and their interactions with the school community.

Student engagement is increasingly viewed as one of the keys to building a safe, positive, and creative school climate and culture that increase student achievement and decrease student boredom, alienation, and dropout rates. HSSSE and MGSSE data can be invaluable to schools in this effort. Unlike knowledge-based assessment instruments, the HSSSE and MGSSE provide student engagement data that showcase how schools instill 21st century skills in their students while providing a caring and safe environment that nurtures the whole child.

This report includes the results of the 2022 MGSSE.


In spring 2022, 3,208 students from 19 NAIS member schools across 10 U.S. states/territories and one country outside of the U.S. completed the Middle Grades Survey of Student Engagement (MGSSE). Participating schools ranged in size from 83 to 1,754 students.

This report includes the aggregated results for all students participating in the MGSSE. The information is broken down by the three dimensions of engagement:
  • Cognitive/intellectual/academic engagement: Describes students’ efforts, investment, and strategies for learning—the work students do and the ways students go about their work. This dimension can be described as “engagement of the mind.”
  • Social/behavioral/participatory engagement: Captures students’ actions in social, extracurricular, and nonacademic school activities, including interactions with other students—the ways in which students interact within the school community. This dimension can be thought of as “engagement in the life of the school.”
  • Emotional engagement: Emphasizes students’ feelings of connection (or disconnection) to their school—how students feel about where they are in school, the ways and workings of the school, and the people within their school. This dimension can be described as “engagement of the heart.”
Responses are compared with the MGSSE results from 2021. Totals do not always equal 100% due to rounding.

This report was written by Grant Stringer, research analyst at NAIS.

Executive Summary

The Middle Grades Survey of Student Engagement (MGSSE), administered by Indiana University, is a survey designed to investigate the attitudes, perceptions, and beliefs of middle school students about their work. This report includes the results from students at 19 NAIS member schools that participated in the 2022 MGSSE. The discussion that follows is organized by the three dimensions of engagement measured by the MGSSE.

Dimension 1: Cognitive/Intellectual/Academic Engagement Items

Students taking the MGSSE were asked about the classroom activities and assignments that most interest or engage them. Group projects, discussions and debates, and projects and lessons that involve technology were the most engaging activities for students. 

Students are confident that they have the skills and abilities to complete their schoolwork. They enjoy being creative in school and recognize that they put a lot of effort into the work they do at school. Students indicated that their schoolwork stimulates their curiosity to learn other things and that they enjoy discussions where answers are not clear and assignments that demand a lot of mental effort. Furthermore, 68% of the students agreed with the statement “I go to school because of what I learn in classes.”

The MGSSE also included information on the level of effort and participation that students dedicate to their academic work. For example, 74% of the students often attended classes with completed assignments; 60% often asked or answered questions in class; and 57% often received feedback from teachers. Seventy-two percent of the students reported giving their maximum effort in most or all of their classes, and 59% indicated that most or all their classes challenged them to their full potential. However, 76% of the students said that they were sometimes or often bored in class, giving as the main reason that the material was not interesting.

Students cited the role played by their school in the development of certain academic skills. Fifty-two percent of the students said that their school contributed very much to their ability to use technology to gather and communicate information; 49% and 47% cited their school’s contribution to the development of writing skills and critical thinking skills, respectively

Students were asked what role their school played in their plans for the future. While 88% of the students go to school because they want to prepare for high school and college, 89% also attend school to learn skills to obtain a good job.

Dimension 2: Social/Behavioral/Participatory Engagement Items

Fifty-nine percent of the students reported that their school contributed very much to teaching them to treat people with respect. Thirty-six percent said that their school helped them learn about the lives of other people in their community.

While most of the students said that they go to school because of their friends or their parents (89% and 82%, respectively), 53% also said that they go to school because of their teachers. Thirty-four percent of students reported that they participated in four hours or more of school-sponsored activities per week.

Dimension 3: Emotional Engagement Items

Ninety percent of the students are motivated by their desire to succeed in the world outside of school. The same percentage of students are motivated by the desire to get good grades, and 73% are motivated by their desire to learn. Seventy-one percent also said that they are motivated by teachers who encourage them. 

One of the reasons parents send their children to independent schools is the focus on character development and values. Seventy-eight percent of the students indicated that their schools contributed to the development of their personal beliefs and values. 

Students also described their relationships with adults in their school. Ninety-two percent of the students felt supported by teachers, and 85% felt supported by other adults in the school as well. A large number of students (82%) indicated that there is at least one adult in their school who knows them well.

Since one of the main reasons students go to school is their friends, it was encouraging that students reported feeling safe at school (93%), supported by other students (88%), and comfortable about being themselves (82%). Students also reported on bullying at their schools. While 51% of the students indicated that they had never been bullied, only 38% said that they had never witnessed acts of bullying.

The MGSSE also asked questions about students’ emotional engagement with their school. Ninety-two percent of the students felt good about being in their school; another 73% reported that they are an important part of their school community. Sixty-five percent said that they go to school because they enjoy being in school, while 79% indicated that, given the choice, they would choose their current school.