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 HSSSE.
In the spring of 2022, 4,649 students from 22 schools across 10 U.S. states/territories and one country outside of the U.S. completed the High School Survey of Student Engagement (HSSSE). Participating schools ranged in size from 49 to 1,754 students.
This report includes the aggregated results for all NAIS students participating in the HSSSE. The information is broken down by the three dimensions of engagement:
NAIS responses are compared with the HSSSE norms for public schools (including charter, alternative, and magnet schools). Totals do not always equal 100% due to rounding or students not responding to a question.
- 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.”
This report was written by Grant Stringer, research analyst at NAIS.
The High School Survey of Student Engagement (HSSSE), administered by Indiana University, is a survey designed to investigate the attitudes, perceptions, and beliefs of high school students about their work. This report includes the results of the 2022 HSSSE. The results from 22 NAIS member schools that participated in the study are organized by the three dimensions of engagement measured by the HSSSE.
Dimension 1: Cognitive/Intellectual/Academic Engagement Items
Students taking the HSSSE were asked about the classroom activities and assignments that most interest or engage them. Discussions and debates, projects and lessons that involve technology, and group projects were the most engaging activities for NAIS 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. NAIS 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, 65% of NAIS students agreed with the statement, “I go to school because of what I learn in classes.”
The HSSSE also included information on the level of effort and participation that students dedicate to their academic work. For example, 71% of NAIS students often attended classes with all assignments completed; 63% often received feedback from teachers; and 60% often asked or answered questions in class. Sixty-two percent of NAIS students reported giving their maximum effort in most or all of their classes, and 61% indicated that most or all their classes challenged them to their full potential. Students were also asked about feeling bored in classes. Eighty-three percent of NAIS students said that they were sometimes or often bored, 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. NAIS students indicated that their school contributed very much to the development of their writing and critical thinking skills (56% and 55%, respectively).
Students were asked what role their school played in their future plans. While 93% of NAIS high school students go to school because they want to graduate and go to college, 87% also attend school to learn skills to obtain a good job.
Dimension 2: Social/Behavioral/Participatory Engagement Items
Forty-six percent of NAIS high school students reported that their school contributed very much to teaching them to treat people with respect. Twenty-six percent said that their school experience helped them learn about fellow community members’ lives outside of school.
While most of the NAIS students said that they go to school because of their friends or their parents (86% and 83%, respectively), 55% also said that they go to school because of their teachers. In addition, 52% of students participated in four hours or more of school-sponsored activities per week.
Dimension 3: Emotional Engagement Items
Ninety percent of NAIS students are motivated by their desire to succeed in the world outside of school. Eighty-nine percent are motivated by the desire to get good grades, and 72% are motivated by their desire to learn. Seventy-one percent 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-six percent of NAIS students indicated that their school contributed to the development of their personal beliefs and values.
Students also described their relationships with adults in their school. Ninety-three percent of NAIS students felt supported by teachers, and 68% felt supported by the school leadership as well. A large number of students (85%) 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 NAIS students reported feeling safe at school (92%), supported by other students (87%), and comfortable about being themselves (82%). Students also reported on bullying at their schools. While 59% of students from NAIS schools indicated that they had never been bullied, 40% said that they had never witnessed acts of bullying.
The HSSSE also asked students about their emotional engagement with their schools. Eighty-nine percent of NAIS students felt good about being in their high school; another 71% reported that they were an important part of their school community. Sixty percent of NAIS students said that they go to school because they enjoy being in school, while 72% indicated that, given the choice, they would choose their current school.
Students were also asked about their experiences with remote and online learning during the school year. Fifty percent of NAIS school students indicated that they had done some form of remote and/or online learning during the 2021-2022 school year. Data on students’ experiences with remote/online learning in the 2021-2022 school year may reflect longer-term changes in modality in schools or might not be directly comparable to the fully online learning at many schools during the 2020-2021 school year. Though 79% of NAIS students felt supported in their online learning by their teachers, only 56% said they could focus on their schoolwork, and just 55% felt motivated to do well on it.