April 24, 2017
Student research teams tackle major issues in education today
findings address school start times, student stress, testing and more
"Do you know the difference between boredom and student disengagement?"
asks Niskayuna High School student John Dempsey, attracting attention to his
presentation at the recent Education Symposium put on by AP English 11
Dempsey explains that boredom is a state of mind that is even natural from
time-to-time, but disengagement is an attitude that can be turned around.
Based on the research that went into his academic poster, he suggests a mix
of solutions to re-engage some students who have become disconnected. These
including using real-world challenges in school work and building a school
climate that increases student confidence and connectedness.
At the April 6 symposium, nearly 60 students in AP English 11 classes shared
their academic research on some of the most debated issues in education
today, including school start times, student stress and anxiety,
interdisciplinary education, extracurricular activities and homework and
Small teams of students spent weeks conducting research and then presented
their findings and recommendations in a panel discussion format. Others,
like Dempsey, presented posters that displayed their research and solutions.
They all focused on solutions that could help Niskayuna schools,
"It's a lot of research, but it's really cool because we are promoting
change and we are identifying problems that we can solve to help elementary
and middle schools students who are coming up into high school," said Olivia
Owens. Her poster focused on the impact that opting out of testing has on
students as they advance through school.
The research team of Johanne Friedman, Greg George, and MJ Lee presented
their work on student stress and anxiety to the Board of Education at its
meeting on April 11. Their presentation, "The Prevalence of Academic Stress
in the Niskayuna Central School District and Possible Methods of Addressing
It," identified data about stress levels based on a student survey.
They cited factors that contribute to student stress and outlined approaches
to address the issue. They called for a broader ultural shift that would make
discussion of mental health and steps to address student well-being more
prominent in the district.
Student stress and anxiety is connected to the district's strategic focus on
school environment and culture. Superintendent Cosimo Tanogrra, Jr. and
student representatives to the Board invited Friedman, George and Lee to
bring their expertise to ongoing conversations in this area.
Two groups focused their attention on issues related to schools start times,
finding that a later start time would allow students to get more sleep,
which is essential to adolescent brain development. Another looked at
interdisciplinary education, suggesting that something akin to a January
study term, or J-Term", could benefit Niskayuna High school students.
The symposium also helped students sharpen their presentation skills.
"I want to do it again," said Paul Tan, whose group of six examined the
impact of extracurricular activities on dropout rates. "I know where I can
cut down in a few areas to leave more time for Q&A so that I will be able to
more effectively communicate what I want to."