In 2013, the Wayne County Partnership for Strengthening Families collaborated with school districts throughout the county to administer its first Risk and Protective Factors Survey (Evalumetrics Youth Survey). The county-wide survey, created to gather information anonymously from students to identify critical health behaviors such as mental health challenges and substance abuse, has been an invaluable tool to districts throughout the county including the Palmyra-Macedon Central School District.
Jay Roscup, Community Schools Director for Sodus Central School District and Finger Lakes Community Schools, has led the survey efforts since its inception. Roscup has worked closely with Rob Lillis, Research Consultant with Evalumetrics Research. Lillis is responsible for administering and preparing results from the survey. Roscup and Lillis have teamed up with district leaders to craft the survey, and ensure its effectiveness and usefulness for districts.
The anonymous survey has been given every two years to students in grades 6, 8, 10 and 12 with the most recent taking place in the spring of 2019. The survey provides aggregate data for the county and data specific to each school district allowing collaboration among districts along with the implementation of targeted solutions at the district level.
For the 2019 survey, Pal-Mac Intermediate School served as a trial school for the first-ever survey of 4th grade students. The trial, aimed to gather data from an under researched age group, provides a data set for students at an earlier age with the hope of providing necessary services and interventions sooner.
According to Rob Lillis, “Using data like the EYS (Evalumetrics Youth Survey) results leads to programs that meet current needs rather than simply spending resources on programs that are popular but ineffective. Perhaps the most important characteristic of the EYS is that it does not simply measure problems but measures underlying risk and protective factors (root causes) such as lack of attachment to the community or sensation seeking. Developing programs to reduce these factors is far more effective and is more efficient because many factors predict numerous problems such as substance abuse, academic failure, and other problem behaviors.”
Results at Pal-Mac
When looking at survey results from Pal-Mac, the most prevalent issue for both male and female students is mental health, meaning feelings of depression and/or sadness. The female student population tends to experience feelings of depression and/sadness at a higher rate than male students. Issues of mental health occur most frequently in grades 6-8.
A second strong trend, which has been notable since the first survey in 2013, is the perceived lack of prosocial involvement opportunities in the Pal-Mac area which may contribute to increased risky behaviors such as substance abuse. Simply put, students tend to turn to negative outlets and risky behaviors when they feel there is not a sufficient amount of social activities available to them. It was also noted the lack of discipline in the home and family structure are contributing factors.
Positively, a majority of students report a favorable view of the school climate and feel teachers provide the necessary support system to help them succeed. Additionally, Pal-Mac students report to feel safe at school. Substance abuse, specifically opiates, is not a prevalent issue and below the national average.
Two groups have been created to address the issues outlined in the survey at Pal-Mac. The Social- Emotional Advisory Council (SEAC), made up of community members and Pal-Mac staff, and Social-Emotional Learning Team (SELT), made up of Pal-Mac staff. Both groups meet throughout the year to examine ways to improve the overall well-being of students.
“Based on the survey data, we have identified a strong need for our district to have programs and procedures in place to meet the emotional and social needs of our students,” said Pal-Mac Assistant Superintendent of Instruction and Student Learning Ryan Pacatte.
As a district, Pal-Mac is using the work of SEAC and SELT to assist with the expanding state and federal mandates aimed at better supporting the emotional needs of students. The enhanced attention and awareness to the issues facing students may be evident at school sites during the coming year as counseling and mental-health programs will be more visible and potentially integrated into classroom activities.
Pal-Mac counselors are currently rewriting student support plans. The plans are being updated to specifically meet the needs of the information outlined in the surveys including an effort to make school counselors and psychologists more readily available both to deliver school-wide programming and to meet with those in need of additional guidance and support.
Outside of the district, many resources are readily available through county and local community groups. At this time, Pal-Mac is working with its partners to ensure there is limited duplication of service, yet the resources in place to meet the needs of students when and where the need exists.
“As we move ahead, we will continue to focus on strengthening the support systems within our district and work with our community partners to meet the needs of our student population,” added Pacatte.