Seal of Dane County County of Dane
County Executive's Office

Dane County Middle and High School Students to Take Part in Youth Assessment

November 25, 2008
Joshua Wescott, Office of the County Executive (608) 267-8823 or cell (608) 669-5606
County Executive

Surveys Look at Health, Behaviors, Identify Challenges Kids Face

Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk announced today that thousands of middle school students across the county will take part in a new survey in December assessing everything from how they spend their time to their involvement with potentially risky behaviors.

The Dane County Youth Assessment will be offered electronically in 14 of the 16 Dane County school districts between December 1st and December 19th.

“This survey gauges how the challenges and peer pressures of growing up are affecting kids and is a useful tool in helping us do our best for the next generation,” Falk said.  This will help parents, teachers, and all of us gain a better understanding of the influences, pressures, and challenges our young people face,” Falk added.

She was joined at a news conference to announce the survey by Madison Schools Superintendent Dan Nerad.       

“For educators this assessment offers a great opportunity to learn more about the young persons we’re helping to educate and develop,” Nerad said.  “What we learn from this very candid snapshot of a day in their lives can only help us better connect with these kids and the issues in their lives.”

The survey includes questions about how young people spend their time, their family structure, health and nutrition, sexual activity, risky behaviors, and an expanded section on alcohol and/or drug use.  It includes identifying how frequently youth drink, when they started, how they access alcohol, and perceptions about the party scene, driving under the influence, and parental approval of drinking behavior.

The last Dane Youth Assessment done in 2005 found that one-in-three middle school students self-reported drinking alcohol in the past month.  One-in-ten said they had five or more drinks on at least one occasion. 

Those findings were the impetus for a pilot project developed by Falk that will start in two Dane County middle schools in 2009.  Those efforts, performed by Project Hugs and supported by funding from the 2009 county budget and the CUNA Mutual Foundation, aim to help prevent 7th and 8th graders from developing more dangerous drinking habits later in life.

23,000 Dane County youth completed the 2005 survey.  For the first time the assessment will be given electronically which means results and useable data will be more immediately available.   

The project is funded through a partnership including Dane County school districts, the Dane County Youth Commission, Public Health of Madison and Dane County, the Dane County Department of Human Services, and the United Way of Dane County.

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