Where Do We Go Next?
The events of the 2020-21 school year—a global pandemic, calls for racial justice, and an unprecedented shift to remote school—have highlighted the challenges and inequities faced by many of America’s young people. To better understand young people’s experiences, America’s Promise Alliance and Research for Action conducted a wide-ranging, national survey of more than 2,400 high school students, providing one of the most comprehensive looks yet at the high school experience during a year of historic upheaval.
Overall, young people’s responses to this national survey suggest that:
Finding 1: High schoolers are struggling with a decreased sense of wellbeing—reporting declines in mental health and concerning levels of disconnection from peers and adults.
Finding 2: Opportunities to learn about race and racism in the classroom vary but are associated with higher levels of critical consciousness and social action.
Finding 3: COVID-19 has upended postsecondary planning, yet feelings of postsecondary readiness are highest among students who are most connected to teachers and peers, have opportunities to discuss race and racism in school, and feel academically interested and challenged.
These findings illuminate several recommendations for school and district leaders to act on in both the immediate recovery period and afterwards:
Recommendation 1: Address student mental health, now and on an ongoing basis.
Recommendation 2: Teach a comprehensive and accurate history of race and racism in the United States.
Recommendation 3: Prioritize postsecondary success through relevant content and pathways planning.
Recommendation 4: Saturate young people’s environments with caring adult relationships.
The 5 Promises
The 5 Promises represent conditions children need to achieve adult success. The collective work of the Alliance involves keeping these promises to America’s youth. This article relates to the promises highlighted below: