Skip to main content

The path to student engagement begins with teachers

THURSDAY, APRIL 10, 2014 12:50 PM

It's no secret that when students are engaged in their learning, they are more likely to succeed. The real trick is finding the educational formula that helps students care about school in a way that propels them to work hard and excel. A new Gallup poll titled the "State of America's Schools" investigates the topic of engagement, and reveals important educational insights.

Student engagement: Poll results
Teachers are the key to helping students participate in class. Gallup emphasized that when kids have at least one teacher who makes them feel excited about the future, they are 30 times more likely to become engaged. 

"The right leadership and the engagement of teachers and students are all one very important ecosystem," Brandon Busteed, the executive director of Gallup Education, told Education Week. "Any link broken in that chain, and you're undermining the importance of an entire school."

Gallup conducts the poll annually by administering it online to about 600,000 students. Those who took the poll attend school in a district that volunteered to participate. The study analyzed student engagement by looking at factors such as feelings of safety, strength of personal relationships and praise from teachers. Researchers found that, based on their answers, 58 percent of students could be classified as "engaged," while 28 percent were "not engaged" and 17 percent were "actively disengaged."

Teacher involvement and money issues
Because students engage in class more when they feel inspired by their teachers, it's important that educators stay focused as well - a motivated teacher can reach students better than a bored one. The Gallup poll found that only 31 percent of teachers could be classified as "engaged." So how can schools improve that?

Support is always helpful. If a teacher knows that the school and district is there to help, they are less likely to feel defeated. Fortunately, the Common Core State Standards attempts to help teachers stay engaged by giving them the freedom to create unique and fun lesson plans. In fact, a report conducted by Phi Delta Kappa and Gallup found that a majority of Americans believe that the Common Core will improve quality consistency in schools. 

The report also revealed that funding was a huge issue for schools. Most poll responders cited funding as the largest challenge facing districts. When schools are well funded, teachers feel they can make a difference, and that energy passes on to the students.