Administered at MSJ last December by Stressed-Out Students (SOS), the results of the “Stanford Survey of Adolescent School Experiences: Mission San Jose Experience” were released at Stanford University on May 15. From the 1,122 complete surveys compiled, program director Denise Pope drew conclusions in five different categories: sleep, stress level, academic worries, academic integrity and mental health.
MSJ’s results are consistent with those of most other schools that have participated in this survey. However, the results have shown that MSJ students get less sleep than any other participating school. Students receive on average around six-and-a-half hours of sleep, with the senior class reporting a record low of 5.95 hours.
The survey disclosed that female seniors experience the highest level of stress, while male seniors experience the lowest. No statistically significant difference was found between ethnicities regarding stress level. Moreover, no correlation exists between stress level and the difficulty of the academic courseload. Even students taking lighter courseloads than their classmates experience the same amount of stress.
Asian students reported more academic worries than their white counterparts, but courseload intensity, again, has no significant effect. Overall, Caucasian students spend more time on extracurricular activities, while Asian students spend more time on homework and instant messaging.
Cheating at MSJ is prevalent, but consistent with other schools that participated in the survey. High numbers of students, however, do not consider what they do unethical: for example, the 78 percent who feel no culpability when trading answers. “This is how students rationalize their cheating,” said Pope.
Related to the prolific cheating is the low level of academic engagement. While most students always finish their homework, very few enjoy their work or find it worthwhile. Homework is not seen as a study tool but just another buffer for their grades.
These factors have had a negative effect on the mental health of many students. Some students have been driven to use stimulants while studying. Most use over-the-counter products, like caffeinated drinks, while a few resort to prescriptions or illegal drugs. More than a third of the sample has suffered physical symptoms of worry such as exhaustion, difficulty sleeping and headaches.
Awareness of teacher support could be an influential factor in reducing the stress levels among students. Only 58 percent of students feel like they have at least one adult at school that they can go to with their problems. Ideally, 90 percent should perceive such an environment.
“None of these results really surprise me,” said Pope. “They are all consistent with the other schools we have surveyed.” Nevertheless, the results still indicate that a change is necessary. “Students are supposed to focus on social and emotional learning and existential questioning; what kind of person do I want to be? […] Kids don’t have the time to do these things.”
From this point on, SOS plans on using the findings to reduce the stressful atmosphere at MSJ. SOS is also involved in revamping Stress Free Week and stress-related seminars for the community. The next seminar will discuss the results of the Stanford Survey in greater detail as well as the topic of sleep with guest speaker Paulina Caban, a naturopathic doctor. The seminar will be in C-120 from 7-9 pm on May 29.