Behaviors study returns to New Milford
NEW MILFORD — A survey examining behaviors among the town’s teenagers will return for its second year to determine trends and establish programs that can help them and replicate what’s working well.
The survey looks at 40 developmental aspects within students, as well as external influences and how those students feel in the community. Students answer the questions anonymously.
“You’re measuring the whole being of the student,” said Jason O’Connor, vice-chairman of the New Milford Substance Abuse Council, which is overseeing the survey in town.
The survey is created by the Search Institute and administered throughout the country and region. New Milford first gave it to its eighth, 10th and 12th graders two years ago.
By administering it to the same groups, those who work with teenagers in town can see trends and get a better idea of the types of programs to offer to better meet their needs. It also highlights the positives in the community so that these strengths can be used to create effective programs.
“It’s giving data to the relevant agencies who deal with youth in the town so they aren’t just swinging in the dark,” O’Connor said.
He said he used the last round of data to develop several programs, including one on stress release.
The information was also presented at public forums and discussed in focus groups.
“It was very public,” O’Connor said.
Assistant Superintendent Alisha DiCorpo said they plan to use the data for programs in the school and work with organizations that work with the students after school. She applied for a grant to cover the district’s $1,000 share of the $2,500 study and to implement programs based on the data.
Last time students filled out the survey in health and gym classes in December and January. This produced 713 responses, with only a few eighth graders opting out. Seventeen percent of surveys were discarded based on the consistency of answers, which researchers said at the time is average for this type of survey.
O’Connor said there were problems with that method though because the teachers giving the survey weren’t fully informed about the importance of the survey and they happened on either sides of Christmas break. This time, the surveys will be given during advisory period, which all students have.
They take about 25 minutes to complete and are filled out electronically.
Parents are able to review the survey in advance and have their child opt out.
Board member Joseph Failla said he understands officials want to get a handle on substance abuse, but he was concerned the survey was too extensive and asked very personal questions.
He also worried that students might be identified from their responses or some of the answers, such as saying they’ve committed a crime, might cause someone to have to report the student.“