Students Take Health Survey

Students dispersed throughout campus during the All-School Meeting period on May 18 to complete the Independent Schools Health Check. Administrated by Isham Health Center and Graham House Counseling Center, the survey tracked Phillips Academy students’ health behaviors and attitudes. The survey marked the second effort at a school wide survey since the first school-wide survey was given in 2008. Faculty and administrators decided to dedicate an entire All-School Meeting to the survey because they felt that it would be the most efficient way to have the entire school complete the questions in a short period of time, according to Max Alovisetti, Director of Graham House. Carlos Hoyt emailed students prior to Wednesday to tell students where to go to complete the survey. Day students were told to bring their laptops if they were able and report to Paresky Commons. Day students without laptops took the survey in the Phillips Academy Computer Center. Boarders reported to their dorms and boarders in specified distant dorms reported to the PACC. In Commons and the PACC, deans and other faculty members proctored the survey, and in dorms, at least one house counselor was expected to be present to supervise. All students completed the survey via computer, with the survey remaining open until Wednesday evening. At Exeter, only about 50 percent of the student body completed the survey, according to an article in the Exonian. Exeter received around 581 completed surveys, out of 1,100 total students. Exeter students cited work and the fact that the survey was not mandatory as reasons for not completing it. Andover conducted the survey along with other sister Independent Schools, many of whom have already administered the same version of the questionnaire. Although the results and analysis of the survey will not be completed and available until the Fall, Phillips Academy administrators hope to use the results of this survey to enact any necessary changes. Carlos Hoyt, Associate Dean of Students, said, “The school wants to ensure that it is doing all that it can to provide care and to support Phillips Academy students.” In addition, administrators will be able to discuss differences in survey results with other independent schools. Alovisetti said, “Phillips Academy will now be able to compare how our students are faring health wise with students from schools that are most comparable to ours and determine the areas of greatest concern.” The Board of Mental Health in Independent School Communities, based out of Hartford Hospital in Connecticut, designed the survey, basing it on a yearly national survey put out by the Center for Disease Control. The survey itself covers all aspects of a student’s life at an independent school, from his or her use of time and eating habits to substance use and sexual activity. Many of the questions are differentiated between boarders and day students. According to the Hartford Hospital website, “the survey has been specifically designed to reflect what is really going on in student’s lives—in and out of school—and to provide a global picture of their thoughts, concerns and feelings about themselves and others.” The survey also addresses aspects of student life particularly pertinent to students at preparatory schools, namely academic motivation, stress levels and parental oversight. Because the survey is conducted anonymously, administrators hope that students will answer truthfully about themselves, helping distinguish between the reality and perception of prevalence of student attitudes and behaviors. Having evolved from work with student focus groups and field tests in different independent schools, administrators designed the questions to be objective but also present a realistic portrayal of social norms on campus. The results of the survey will be organized to track the changes in responses between grade levels, boarders and day students, and genders. Phillips Academy expects to conduct the survey every three years into the near future.