Survey: Educators say student behavior and bullying a problem for learning this year

  • Rundlett Middle School, looking down a hallway of sixth-grade classrooms on Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

Monitor staff
Published: 6/9/2022 5:19:38 PM
Modified: 6/9/2022 5:17:31 PM

Although parents are feeling more positive about school climate and learning model this year, educators are increasingly concerned about student behavior and wellness since the pandemic, according to a state survey administered this spring.

The results of the NH Department of Education’s 2022 603 Bright Futures survey released last week show how Granite State teachers and parents are perceiving the school climate since returning to in-person instruction. The annual survey asks public and private school educators, parents and community members to weigh in on questions related to COVID, school safety, climate and academics.

In Concord, teachers’ concern about student behavior is higher than the statewide average. Among Concord teachers, 84% of respondents said student behavior interferes with learning, and 88% said student bullying is worse this year than before the pandemic.

This spring, Concord High School’s principal banned students from congregating in an upstairs hallway between classes, due to student behavior issues like harassment, profanity, pushing and shoving. In recent years Concord has been working toward implementing a restorative justice method of discipline to cut down on exclusionary discipline practices.

Statewide, 76% of public school teachers and staff who responded to the survey said student behavior interferes with learning. The responses indicate it’s a growing problem, as 62% of teachers said their students were less well-behaved this year than in prior years. Bullying remains an issue in schools, according to 37% of teachers statewide who said student bullying is worse this year than it was before the pandemic, and 52% think it remains the same.

“Significant progress has been made within the past year, yet we know that there is always room for improvement,” said education commissioner Frank Edelblut. “I remain incredibly grateful to all of the educators who have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to keep academics and the overall well-being of New Hampshire students a priority.”

In the survey, 72% of public school families described the school climate as “favorable” compared to 55% of public school teachers and staff. The survey results indicate that student behavior issues in public schools have become more of a concern for educators this year, and many cited instances of bullying and disrespect in their schools.

Both public school families and educators expressed more positivity about their schools’ learning model this year, compared to 2021.

The year of remote and hybrid learning was a challenge for many students, and the survey suggests some are still feeling the aftereffects. Statewide, 90% of public school teachers and staff believe their students are behind academically since the pandemic, on a scale that ranges from “slightly behind” to “more than a year behind.”

Parents have a different opinion; the survey results indicate 51% of parents think their child is “not at all behind.”

Many New Hampshire families report feeling concerned about their children’s mental health. In Concord, 40% of parents said their child feels more anxious about school this year compared to prior years.

Relatively few public school teachers and staff responded that their schools had enough resources to deal with student behavior and mental health problems, with 19% saying they had “quite a few” or “many” resources and 17% had had “quite a few” or “many” resources to address student mental health issues.

“It is apparent from the results of the survey that it takes both families and schools working together to support school safety, enhance school climate and improve the overall well-being of staff and students. These partnerships are strong, and we are proud to have such a deep level of community engagement and resiliency after two years of uncertainty,” said Edelblut.

Eileen O

Eileen O'Grady is a Report for America corps member covering education for the Concord Monitor since spring 2020. O’Grady is the former managing editor of Scope magazine at Northeastern University in Boston, where she reported on social justice issues, community activism, local politics and the COVID-19 pandemic. She is a native Vermonter and worked as a reporter covering local politics for the Shelburne News and the Citizen. Her work has also appeared in The Boston Globe, U.S. News & World Report, The Bay State Banner, and VTDigger. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northeastern University and a bachelor’s degree in politics and French from Mount Holyoke College, where she served as news editor for the Mount Holyoke News from 2017-2018.

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