April 25, 2023

Students Speak: A Snapshot of Youth Well-Being in the District of Columbia

By Kristen Carroll | Priyanka Patel | Ebony Lambert | Melissa Steel King

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In fall 2022 and winter 2023, Education Forward DC and Venture Philanthropy Partners+Raise DC supported a cohort of Washington, D.C. grades 3-12 public charter schools to administer selected portions of the Panorama Social Emotional Learning survey in order to hear directly from students about their well-being.

Bellwether partnered with the organizations to analyze the schools’ survey data and develop Students Speak: A Snapshot of Youth Well-Being in the District of Columbia as the first part of a multiyear effort. The report is intended to aid educators, policymakers, and communities in interpreting the survey results, tracking progress over time, and identifying strengths and areas for growth. 

Our analysis surfaced several bright spots and areas for improvement across the participating schools:

  • Most students reported valuing school, but less than 40% reported feeling engaged in school — with less than 20% feeling engaged by the end of high school.
  • More than 80% of students reported having supportive relationships in their lives. But those support networks don’t necessarily include teachers: only 38% reported having close relationships with their teachers.
  • More than 70% of students felt their teachers held them to high expectations, yet only about 50% believe they can succeed academically, and slightly more than half indicated that they persevere through setbacks. 
  • Most students felt a sense of belonging at school, but only 24% confidently reported feeling safe at school, and only 45% described their school environment as diverse and inclusive across race, ethnicity, and culture.

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