"Protective factors" affect student success


October 15, 2012


The following news release is shared on behalf of the United Way of Anchorage. The complete report is available at: www.aydc.org.


Date: October 12, 2012
Contact: Sarah Sledge, United Way, 263.3803, ssledge@ak.org
Contact: Gabriel Garcia, UAA, 786.6532, ggarci16@uaa.alaska.edu
Contact: Christine Gire, United Way, 263.3829, cgire@ak.org


Anchorage students perform better in school with key experiences

Anchorage, AK – A recent study shows that in order for Anchorage high school students to succeed in school and in life, they also need to be exposed to multiple "protective factors" in their lives. Simply put, what happens outside of school strongly influences what happens in school.


Protective factors are key to the positive development of our youth, helping them manage emotions, care about others, make good decisions, behave ethically and responsibly, develop healthy relationships, self esteem and avoid bad behaviors. The more protective factors our youth are exposed to, the greater chance they have for success in life.


The first of its kind, the study focuses solely on Anchorage high school students and examines the effect of how protective factors can influence their behavior and provides an important framework to guide our community's children.


The study shows that the top four protective factors which have the greatest impact on our youth come from parents, the community, extra-curricular activities and teachers. Specifically defined as:


  • Having parents that talk to them about school every day
  • Volunteering or helping three or more hours per week in school or the community
  • Being involved in organized after school activities two or more days per week
  • Having caring and encouraging teachers


One important finding of the study proves that as the number of reported protective factors increase in a student's life, the rates of current alcohol use, binge drinking, marijuana use, and school absenteeism decrease. In addition, the rates of getting A's and B's in school also increase.


According to Sarah Sledge, Director of Community Action for UWA, "The report makes clear that if we want our youth to succeed in and out of school, we need to support and encourage parents to keep talking to their children about school every day and all through high school. We need to provide and support plenty of opportunities – as organizations, individuals, neighborhoods, and businesses - where our youth can volunteer and engage meaningfully in their schools and the community. We must ensure that our children have multiple options for out-of-school activities and the ability to access them. And, we must continue to support our teachers to provide nurturing and encouraging environments for their students."


The newly released report was conducted by Dr. Gabriel Garcia of University of Alaska Anchorage's Department of Health Sciences. It was commissioned by the Anchorage United for Youth coalition and United Way of Anchorage to examine whether and how protective factors can influence the behaviors of our youth.


"This report gives us some insight into our children's perceptions and how they are doing socially," said Jim Browder, Anchorage School District Superintendent. "It reinforces that children need to be told that they matter. They also need to be told that risky and dangerous behaviors are not acceptable."


Another Anchorage study, the Anchorage United for Youth 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey trends Report, published in May 2012, also supports the correlation between protective factors and youth success, but unfortunately shows a disappointing decline in adult involvement. Few Anchorage students reported that their parents talk with them on a daily basis about school; and even fewer students reported having access to adults they feel comfortable seeking help from.


Additional notable statistics from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey report that more than half of the high school seniors surveyed in Anchorage missed school without permission within a 30 day period and one-third of students in all high school grades reported missing school without permission.


"One risky behavior is cutting school," said Superintendent Browder. About one-third of students report they've skipped class. This isn't acceptable to me nor should it be to parents or members of this community. It's difficult to educate children who do not attend school. Adults need to share with students the importance of attending school every day. We must help them understand that every class, every day is a priority. If kids are in school, they will receive a great education."


"This valuable data should inform our actions," said UWA Vice President for Community Action June Sobocinski. "Youth are telling adults what we should do to help them: be intentional and conscious about being supportive to them and provide meaningful opportunities for them. When we do, we will see better attendance and school performance, and an increase in our graduation rate."


The complete Protective Factors Cross Tab Analysis Report and the Anchorage Youth Risk Behavior Survey Trends Report are located at: www.aydc.org.

Anchorage School District website accessibility and nondiscrimination notice. The Anchorage School District is an equal opportunity provider.