An Independent School • Grades 5-12
Challenge Success update
Challenge Success update

by Sandy Aslanian P '11, '21, '24 and Latasia Lanier '90 'P 19, LEEP director/assistant family support liaison

As parents serving on Lakeside's Challenge Success team, we are excited to provide an update and results from the Challenge Success survey Lakeside students took last fall. As a reminder, Lakeside formed a team of administrators, teachers, counselors, parents/guardians, and students, to work with Challenge Success on creating a more balanced and academically fulfilling life for Lakeside students. (Read Meredith Bledsoe's article from this past fall for a recap of the work). 
 
In November 2017, all Lakeside students took a survey that asked about homework, extracurricular activities, free time, teacher care/support, sleep, and school stress. When we received the findings, our team was excited that Lakeside is looking very healthy! Many of the school's approaches to learning and student support are meeting their goals in helping students thrive. Of course, there are always areas for improvement. 

Here are some highlights from the survey data, and areas the school and families will want to pay attention to in order to help our students live healthy, balanced adolescent lives.

Upper School results

  • Homework: Over 50 percent of Lakeside Upper School students said they have the right amount of homework; 76 percent said three quarters to all homework is meaningful. 
  • Extracurricular activities: Twenty-one percent of students report they are stressed often or always by extracurriculars. Twenty-nine percent said it is quite or extremely important to parents/guardians that they be successful in extracurriculars. Thirty-seven percent are spending more than 10 hours a week in extracurriculars.
  • Free time: Forty-one percent of Upper School students report having 40 minutes or less of free time every day. Lakeside students spend more time than their peers at other schools with family, playing sports, and reading for pleasure.
  • Teacher care and support: Seventy-seven percent of students report having at least one adult in school they can go to if they have problems (this number rises over time, from 74 percent of 9th graders to 82 percent of seniors). This is very high compared to peer schools and yet something the team wants to see improve! Our goal is for every student to have an adult at school they feel they can go to for help.
  • School stress and academic worries: Seventy-seven percent of Upper School students report being often or always stressed by schoolwork. Twenty-eight percent report that a stress-related health or emotional problem caused them to miss more than one day of school in the past month (exhaustion, difficulty sleeping, and headaches topped the list). Girls reported more stress than boys.
  • Sleep: While the recommended amount of sleep is eight to 10 hours a night for adolescents (ages 14-17), Lakeside students reported a median of seven hours of sleep with a standard deviation of one hour. Thirty-seven percent are going to bed at 11 p.m. or later.

Middle School results

  • Homework: Over 50 percent of Lakeside middle schoolers said they have the right amount of homework; 87 percent said three quarters to all homework is meaningful.
  • Extracurricular activities: Seventeen percent of the Middle School students report they're stressed often or always by extracurricular activities. Thirty-three percent said it is quite or extremely important to parents/guardians to be successful in their extracurriculars.
  • Free time: Almost 50 percent of our students report having 40 minutes or less of free time every day. Lakeside Middle School students read for pleasure at a much higher rate than their peers at other schools:  64 percent (5th), 55 percent (6th), 29 percent (7th), and 32 percent (8th). There is a drop in reported time spent with family between 6th and 7th grades, and a drop in friend time between 7th and 8th grades.
  • Teacher care and support: Eight-six percent of students report having at least one adult in school they can go to if they have problems (similar to the Upper School, this number rises over time, from 79 percent of 5th graders to 91 percent of 8th graders).  Counselor and advisors top the list. This is very high compared to peer schools, but our goal is for every student to have an adult at school they feel they can go to for help.
  • School stress and academic worries: Forty-eight percent of the students report being often or always stressed by schoolwork. Fifty-four percent reported that a stress-related health or emotional problem caused them to miss more than one day of school in the past month (exhaustion, difficulty sleeping, sweating, or headaches). Eighth graders reported more stress than 5th graders.
  • Sleep: Lakeside Middle School students reported a decline in the amount of sleep as they get older. Average hours of sleep per night reported: 8.66 (5th), 8.28 (6th), 7.94 (7th), and 7.49 (8th). It is recommended that students aged 10-13 get nine-11 hours of sleep, and students aged 14-17 get eight-10 hours of sleep. Twenty-four percent report going to bed at 11 p.m. or later.

Working with Challenge Success has been validating because it's highlighted how much Lakeside is already doing to promote balance and student wellness. We have programs that care for and support students, including an advisory program that focuses on relationship-building; mental health counseling and resources; and an academic support program, which includes having teachers available to meet with students outside of class and, at the Middle School, school-day study halls.

Over the past few years, we have also made great strides in students' engagement in school and ability to manage stress.  Students recognize the purpose and value of their homework. No homework is assigned over school breaks, and there have been reductions in the homework load at the Upper School. There are no finals at the Middle School, and no midterm exam weeks at either division. Lakeside long ago eliminated student rankings, weighted GPAs, and academic award ceremonies. In the classroom, teachers focus on project-based learning, use multiple types of assessments, assign plagiarism-proof assignments, and allow students to do test corrections. These are all things that Challenge Success feels will lead to student wellness and balance.

Over the next twelve months, Lakeside will work on several projects to address areas we hope will improve student well-being. They include: 

  • Shadow days. The school will grow a program in which faculty and staff shadow a student for a full day, coming to a better understanding of the student experience. 
  • Test calendars. A test calendar would help faculty decide when to schedule assessments so that there is less overlap (what students call "slam days"). The Middle School is currently piloting a test calendar, and the Upper School will start exploring one.  
  • Schedule review. Both Middle School and Upper School are looking at the daily schedule (including the time devoted to advisory) and considering changes. 

For a list of some ways parents and guardians can support our students' balance and wellness, review this tip sheet from Challenge Success (remember PDF?). In particular: 

  • Prioritize sleep. Make sure your student is getting enough sleep at night. Students aged 10-13 should get nine-11 hours of sleep; students aged 14-17 should get eight-10 hours of sleep.
  • Have conversations with your students about extracurricular activities. Your students may need your help prioritizing.

If you'd like to learn more about the survey results and Challenge Success next steps, feel free to reach out to Meredith Bledsoe, Lakeside's Upper School counseling center coordinator and the leader of Lakeside's Challenge Success team, at 206-440-2749.