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Majority of Glendale Unified secondary students surveyed lack sense of belonging

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Glendale Unified board member Nayiri Nahabedian said she thinks the district continues “to have work to do” in making all students feel a sense of belonging after a majority of secondary students said they did not feel positively in a recent socio-emotional survey.
(Tim Berger / Glendale News-Press)

Some Glendale Unified secondary students are struggling to find a sense of belonging and social awareness, while many of their elementary peers are performing better, according to results from a survey conducted last spring.

Stephen Mekhitarian, the district’s assessment and accountability coordinator, presented a report about the survey during the most recent board meeting held last week.

The district’s socio-emotional survey is conducted by an educational advocacy group called Panorama twice a year, interviewing students in fourth through 12th grades.

Although the surveys are separate for elementary and secondary students, the questionnaire covers similar issues, such as a student’s ability to bounce back from a setback, growth mindset and teacher-student relationships.

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Glendale Unified highlighted results in six categories: self-efficacy, social awareness, sense of belonging, growth mindset, school safety and emotional regulation, which monitors how well a student handles their emotions.

Self-efficacy, according to Panorama, measures “how much students believe they can succeed in achieving academic outcomes.”

Another factor, growth mindset, deals with “student perceptions of whether they have the potential to change those factors that are central to their performance in school.”

Mekhitarian said the results were broken into a five-point scale, ranging from strongly agree to agree to neutral, then disagree or strongly disagree.

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Glendale Unified combined “strongly agree” and “agree” results into a “percent favorable,” which never crept above 69% in any category.

“This just reminds me that we continue to have work to do, we really do,” board member Nayiri Nahabedian said.

District students in sixth through 12th grades scored particularly low in one area.

Only 42% of district secondary students felt a “sense of belonging,” which put Glendale Unified in the zero to 19th percentile nationally.

Questions under that category included, “how well do people at your school understand you as a person,” and “how much do you matter to others at this school?”

Students were then asked to select a response, from “do not understand at all,” to “understand a little” all the way to “completely understand.”

In the emotion regulation category, 49% of Glendale Unified secondary students responded favorably, good enough to reach the 60th to 79th percentile.

While Glendale secondary students performed best in social awareness, at 63%, that score still put the district in the 20th to 39th percentile.

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Glendale Unified secondary students posted scores of 52% in self-efficacy, 56% in school safety and 55% in growth mindset.

The district’s fourth- and fifth-grade students reported different experiences, with a high of 69% favorable rating on “social awareness,” which was in Panorama’s 60th to 79th percentile.

The best score, percentile-wise, was a 61% under growth mindset, which put the district in the 80th to 99th percentile for younger students.

Elementary students also posted percentages of 64% in self-efficacy, 65% in belonging, 63% in school safety and 49% in emotion regulation.

“Even something we’ve identified as a strength, which is the fourth- and fifth-grade sense of belonging, we’re talking about 65% of students … so we still have [35%] of students who responded not positively,” Nahabedian said.

Mekhitarian said district staff members are conducting data-analysis meetings on school sites to identify what’s been working and what needs a fresh perspective.

Glendale Unified also plans to work with Panorama to see what the organization can offer in terms of “concrete next steps,” such as strategies moving forward, Mekhitarian said. Those strategies are expected to be reviewed by Glendale Unified officials in November, looking to make improvements before another round of surveys.

“After those initiatives are implemented in the spring, we’ll give the survey again to assess how successful those were,” Mekhitarian said.

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