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Chuck Carney
IU School of Education

Ethan Yazzie-Mintz
Center for Evaluation and Education Policy

Last modified: Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Students are bored, many skip school, lack adult support

High school students from 110 schools in 26 states participate in IU study

Feb. 28, 2007

EDITORS: To set up a TV or radio interview with the study's author, Ethan Yazzie-Mintz, please contact Chuck Carney at 812-856-8027 or Sound bites from Yazzie-Mintz are available at the end of this release and on the IU School of Education Web site.

Ethan Mintz

Ethan Yazzie-Mintz, HSSSE project director for the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy.

Print-Quality Photo

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Today's high school students say they are bored in class because they dislike the material and experience inadequate teacher interaction, according to a special report from Indiana University's High School Survey of Student Engagement (HSSSE). The findings, released today (Feb. 28), show that 2 out of 3 students are bored in class every day, while 17 percent say they are bored in every class.

More than 81,000 students responded to the annual survey. HSSSE was administered in 110 high schools, ranging in size from 37 students to nearly 4,000, across 26 states.

According to the director of the project, the reasons high school students claim they are bored are as significant as the boredom itself. Ethan Yazzie-Mintz, HSSSE project director for the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy (CEEP), says the finding that nearly one in three respondents (31 percent) indicate he or she is bored in class due to "no interaction with teacher" is a troubling result.

"So, in a high school class, 1 out of 3 students is sitting there and not interacting with a teacher on a daily basis and maybe never," Yazzie-Mintz said. "They're not having those interactions, which we know are critical for student engagement with learning and with high schools."

Some of the key findings include:

  • Fewer than 2 percent of students say they are never bored in high school.
  • Seventy-five percent of students surveyed say they are bored in class because the "material wasn't interesting."
  • Nearly 40 percent felt bored because the material "wasn't relevant to me."

The lack of adult support may play a role in student disengagement from school. While 78 percent of students responding agree or strongly agree that at least "one adult in my school cares about me and knows me well," 22 percent have considered dropping out of school. Of those students who have considered dropping out, approximately 1 out of 4 indicated that one reason for considering this option was that "no adults in the school cared about me."

"The fact that this many students have considered dropping out of high school makes the numbers of dropouts that we actually see across the country -- and the supposed dropout crisis that we have -- not surprising," Yazzie-Mintz said. "I think schools definitely need to pay a lot more attention to what students are thinking and the reasons why they're dropping out."

The high dropout rate may also be related to the finding that half of the respondents said they have skipped school; 34 percent said they had skipped school either "once or twice," and 16 percent said they had skipped "many times." Yazzie-Mintz said the students who skip school are far more likely to consider dropping out and that this finding may suggest a reason for schools to reconsider how they handle discipline for students who skip.

Among the other findings:

  • Seventy-three percent of students who have considered dropping out said it was because "I didn't like the school." Sixty-one percent said, "I didn't like the teachers," and 60 percent said, "I didn't see the value in the work I was being asked to do."
  • Students said activities in which they learn with and from peers are the most exciting and engaging. More than 80 percent of students responded that "discussion and debate" are "a little," "somewhat" or "very much" exciting and engaging, and more than 70 percent responded in this way about "group projects." By contrast, just 52 percent said teacher lecture is "a little," "somewhat" or "very much" exciting and engaging.
  • The survey found that students aren't spending a lot of time on homework. While 80 percent of the students surveyed indicated that doing written homework is either "somewhat important," "very important" or a "top priority," 43 percent reported spending an hour or less doing homework each week. Similarly, 73 percent of the students said reading and studying for class is either "somewhat important," "very important" or a "top priority." But 55 percent said they spent an hour or less per week reading and studying for class.

Even though students may not be putting in time outside of class, they expect to earn a diploma and go to college. Nearly 3 out of 4 students responded that they go to school for that very reason. Yazzie-Mintz said the lack of time spent studying and reading may work against such a goal.

"Students may not be doing the work to get them to that point," Yazzie-Mintz said. "Or, they're not interested so much in what they're doing in their classes as they are in the goal of getting a diploma and going on to college."

Yazzie-Mintz said the size of the sample certainly means that high schools from across the country can draw some conclusions about their own student bodies. He added that as administrators consider restructuring programs, the HSSSE data can be especially valuable.

"I think this brings critical student voices into reform efforts and into conversations about the structures and practices of individual schools," Yazzie-Mintz said.

Each participating school receives a customized report that compares its results to those of all HSSSE participants nationally. Schools may use the results to make changes that can improve the learning environment for their students.

HSSSE staff do not release information to the public or media about individual schools. However, individual participating schools can choose to release their results.

The entire report is available on the HSSSE Web site at

CEEP promotes and supports rigorous program evaluation and policy research primarily, but not exclusively, for education, human services and non-profit organizations. Its research uses both quantitative and qualitative methodologies. To learn more about CEEP, go to

Ethan Yazzie-Mintz is available at 812-856-1429 or Please note that Yazzie-Mintz will be attending the National Association of Secondary School Principals annual convention in Las Vegas from Feb. 22- 26. During that time, you may reach him by cell phone at 617-548-0908. Media covering the convention can find him at booth #645.

Broadcast outlets: The following mp3 audio soundbites are available for download on the School of Education Web site at

Yazzie-Mintz on how study suggests handling truancy differently: "And this data here is saying, well maybe we need to look at this in a preventive way. So that students who skip school, we need to bring them in and talk to them about why they're skipping school and are they considering dropping out. Because those students who are skipping school most frequently are at the highest risk--it seems--of dropping out because of the amount of times they consider dropping out."

Yazzie-Mintz says the survey indicates students are just trying to get the diploma and leave: "It's as if the focus is so much on getting that degree, ending high school, and going to college, that the focus on learning is actually lost. If they're not interacting with their learning, if they're not feeling that what they're learning is relevant, if they're not engaged in it, there's no seeds planted for that passion for learning or exploration which is what would drive them to college and the next stage. So I think a large part of this is 'what is the purpose of schooling?' Is the purpose of schooling in high school to get kids out with a degree and move them on to some level of postsecondary education, or is the point of high school to involve them in some way in learning and plant a seed for discovery in education that actually carried into whatever they do next?"

Yazzie-Mintz says the interaction with teachers is important: "We know that those interactions are critical for learning and critical for participation in school. If only two out of three students are having some interaction, then we know there's a large chunk of students being left out and being left behind."

Yazzie-Mintz says the reasons students are bored is important: "But it's the reasons why students are bored and the implications of what that means that they're bored that are very important. The big thing is that they're finding the material not interesting. Three out of four students say they're bored because the material is not interesting. That's critical in an environment in which there's so much emphasis on student achievement and accountability. If students are not finding the material interesting, we can say they're not likely to learn it, and they're bored with it and achievement is not likely to go anywhere."