Students on the Kentucky Department of Education’s (KDE’s) Commissioner’s Student Advisory Council discussed the results of the 2021 Kentucky Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) at their Nov. 22 meeting.
The YRBS is part of a national effort by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to monitor students’ health-risk behaviors in six priority areas. These six areas include injury and violence, alcohol and drug use, tobacco use, nutrition, physical activity and sexual risk behaviors. The identified risk behaviors contribute to the leading causes of death, disability and social problems among youth and adults in the U.S.
The 2021 Kentucky YRBS was completed by 2,178 students in 52 public high schools and 1,367 students in 39 public middle schools during the fall of 2021. KDE School Health Consultant Stephanie Bunge said the 2021 YBRS results could be impacted by COVID-19.
“We are encouraging people to understand this is a snapshot of the data from fall 2021,” she said.
Students went through the data together and discussed what information stuck out the most.
“A lot of the numbers did surprise me,” said Luke Taylor, a senior at Daviess County High School. “The biggest one that surprised me was that over 45% of high school students said they tried an electronic vapor product. I knew it would probably be the higher 20%, lower 30%, but not nearly half of the population.”
According to the 2021 YBRS, 45.1% of Kentucky high school students surveyed had used an electronic vapor product before.
Sophia Retone, a 12th-grader at Atherton High School (Jefferson County), said she was surprised with the percentage for attempted suicide. The 2021 YBRS data showed 9.8% of Kentucky high school student survey responders had reported attempting suicide.
“It made me think about what my school does for suicide prevention and the importance of doing that,” she said.
Hunter Combs, a 11th-grade student at Knott County High School, felt it was important to share this information with students across the state.
“This can help students not feel alone and see that a lot of their peers are going through the same thing they are,” he said. “Seeing those statistics could be really useful.”
Kentucky has been administering the YRBS since 1997. The survey is voluntary and administered to a randomly selected sample of middle and high school students across the state. The next YRBS will be administered beginning in January 2023.
Kentucky Portrait of a Learner
Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) Chair Lu S. Young joined the council to discuss the recently approved statewide Portrait of a Learner.
Young said one the KBE’s current goals is a desire to “promote the creation of a statewide portrait of a learner/graduate, identifying the knowledge, skills and dispositions all Kentucky learners need to become successful citizens.”
“School has, in the past, almost always been about developing learning around academic content, but that’s not the trajectory anymore,” she said. “Kids are more than test scores. Learning is more than content. Not throwing it out, but rebalancing what we expect all of our Kentucky learners to know, be able to do and be like.”
Several of the students on the council are in districts that have portraits of a learner and provided feedback on the statewide version.
“My school experience has mainly been centered on STEM, but I like that this focuses on more than like math and science. It’s encouraging skills that are needed for the arts. And as someone who loves the arts, that makes my heart really happy,” said Malley Taylor, a junior at Craft Academy (Rowan County.)
The Portrait of a Learner is one of the many efforts undertaken as a part of United We Learn, Kentucky’s vision for the future of public education in the state.
In other business, the council:
- Discussed school counselor services with KDE Program Coordinator for Comprehensive School Counseling Heather Bushelman;
- Heard about upcoming scholarship opportunities and the opening of nominations for the 2024 Kentucky Teacher of the Year; and
- Continued work on their student school safety project, a collective policy recommendation from the council for legislators and other education stakeholders. The council plans to complete its first draft by Dec. 1.