Over the past 20 years, the Search Institute has surveyed nearly 3 million youth about how they experience the 40 Developmental Assets, the basic building blocks of human development.
The researchers at the Search Institute have found clear relationships between youth outcomes and asset levels in both cross sectional and longitudinal studies.
The results are compelling: The more assets kids have, the more likely that they will thrive.
Youth with high asset levels are less likely to engage in high-risk behaviors (such as bullying, violence, sexual activity, drug use, and suicide), and more likely to engage in thriving behaviors (such as helping others, doing well in school, and taking on leadership roles). Assets are crucial for the healthy development of all youth, regardless of community size, geographic region, gender, economic status, race, or ethnicity.
Are we an asset building community? Here are some statistics about our young people in Bexley.
According to survey results reported in 2010, 5 percent of eighth-graders, 39 percent of 10th-graders, and 46 percent of 12th-graders drank regularly at least once a month. One percent of eighth-graders, 22 percent of 10th-graders, and 23 percent of 12th-graders smoked marijuana once a month or more.
Twenty-two percent of eighth-grade students, 15 percent of 10th-grade students and 10 percent of 12th-grade students had pushed others around to make them afraid (5 percent of all students more than three times). Forty-two percent of eighth-grade students, 31 percent of 10th-grade students and 23 percent of 12th-grade students reported they had left someone out of a group or activity to hurt them (4 percent of all students more than three times). Fifty-two percent of the eighth-graders, 45 percent of the 10th-graders and 34 percent of the 12th-graders had been verbally attacked (13 percent of all students four times or more).
There have been a large number of studies, including those by Larry Lezotte in 2010; H. Jerome Freiberg, 1999; Janis L. Whitlock, 2005; and others, that a positive and safe school climate is directly related to increases in academic achievement.
Paying attention to social, emotional, cultural and safety issues, i.e. “Developmental Assets,” in high performing schools will contribute to improvements in student achievement in such schools.
According to the research, in high performing schools there is a reliance on partnerships between and among parents, educators, policy makers, community members, and representatives from the community’s public and private organizations.
There is a collective effort to identify and mitigate, to the greatest extent possible, non-academic barriers to success and develop assets for the community’s young people. These barriers include use of drugs and alcohol, poor nutrition or overindulgence in junk food, isolation, not feeling safe, poverty, depression and other mental health issues, and too few supportive relationships with adults.
These barriers to success can be overcome by building assets that contribute to success. Such assets include making sure that all of the adults are highly engaged in providing a caring and positive environment at home, in the school, and in the community; and that every child, in addition to his/her parents, is receiving support from three or more nonparent adults.
Assets can be developed when the community sees young people as resources, when young people are given useful roles, and when they see that adults in the community value them.
Other assets include adults making sure that students are spending three or more hours per week in lessons or practice in music, theater, or other arts.
In addition, students should be spending three or more hours per week in sports, clubs, or at organizations at school and/or in the community. Students should also have non-structured time to spend with friends a couple of afternoons or evenings a week.
The good news is that everyone including parents, grandparents, educators, neighbors, children, teenagers, youth workers, employers, health care providers, business people, religious leaders, coaches, mentors, and many others, can build Developmental Assets in youth.
Ideally, an entire community needs to become involved in ensuring that its young people receive the solid developmental foundation they need to become tomorrow’s competent, caring adults.
Building and maintaining relational assets for our youth will take a sustained, focused, and systematic effort by everyone. Such a complex effort needs to be led by a professional possessing the knowledge, experience, and expertise to organize our collective material and human resources.
Over the next few months, the Board of Education will be considering the addition of such a professional to lead this effort. Please take the time to visit the Bexley City School District website to view the 40 Developmental Assets and the PPAAUS drug and alcohol survey results, as well as learn more about this proposed position.
Michael Johnson is the superintendent for the Bexley City Schools.