Indiana University

News Release

Monday, August 23, 2004

Last modified: Monday, August 23, 2004

National survey gauges high school students' engagement

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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- New survey results from Indiana University Bloomington complement standardized test scores by providing data on the experiences that influence high school students' academic performance. The High School Survey of Student Engagement identifies student behaviors and school characteristics that can be changed to enhance student learning.

HSSSE, a first-of-its-kind national survey, was piloted in 2003 and then completed in April by 90,530 students from 103 high schools in 26 states. Participating schools receive reports with extensive data on their students compared to the aggregate of all other HSSSE respondents. HSSSE respondents closely resemble the national profile of high school students based on U.S. Department of Education statistics.

On the survey, for example, 55 percent of the respondents reported spending three hours or less per week on homework, readings, rehearsing or other school assignments. "Students devoted more time to personal reading online than to assigned readings for their classes," said Martha McCarthy, HSSSE director and Chancellor's Professor in the School of Education at IU Bloomington. McCarthy noted that "schools can change expectations in this regard by providing assistance, such as a homework hotline, or offering incentives, such as bonus questions on homework assignments."

Teachers also might alter instructional activities based on the data pertaining to students' writing patterns. Three out of 10 students had written no papers longer than five pages during the current school year. They were more likely to have written shorter papers. Almost two-fifths had written at least seven papers less than three pages in length during the year.

McCarthy said current federal and state policies emphasize the use of standardized test results to evaluate students and schools. These tests, however, focus on what students know rather than on the conditions that lead to learning. HSSSE results can be used almost immediately to help schools identify where to focus attention and resources to improve student learning and school effectiveness. HSSSE builds on the success of IU's National Survey of Student Engagement, which has been asking college students questions about their college experience for five years.

Here are more HSSSE findings:


Selected activities

Student voice and the school environment



More HSSSE 2004 results and information about how schools can participate in the survey in 2005 can be found at This Web site also includes a list of participating schools, but it does not report any data that identify individual schools or students.

To speak with McCarthy, contact Tracy James at 812-855-0084 or

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