Pubdate: Thu, 14 Mar 2002
Source: Chattanooga Times Free Press (TN)
Copyright: 2002 Chattanooga Publishing Co.
Author: Mike O'Neal


High school students are accustomed to exams that grade them on what facts 
they know. But local teen-agers recently were asked to voice their opinions 
about their schools, communities and lives.

The Chattanooga Youth Council 2002 Teen Study Report was distributed in 
February to about 4,250 public, private and homeschool students. About 65 
percent of the surveys were completed by the students, who ranged in age 
from 13 to 19.

"They're your kids at your schools, but they're our friends," said Kathryn 
Phillips, a Youth Council member from Soddy-Daisy High School, on Wednesday 
when the survey results were made public at a meeting of Hamilton County 
school principals.

Drug and alcohol abuse, stress, peer pressure and teen pregnancy/premarital 
sex were the biggest problems noted by the survey respondents. At private 
schools, however, eating disorders were ranked as the biggest problem.

Maggie Fotiadis, a Youth Council member from Chattanooga High School Center 
for Creative Arts, said eating disorders were noted on some surveys from 
nearly every school. But the prevalence of that issue and requests for more 
Christian activities were the only respects in which responses from private 
schools differed markedly from others, she said.

Students were asked what they felt was the biggest problem facing teens 
today, what they liked most and least about their schools and 
neighborhoods, what message they would send to local government and what 
youth activities they would like.

Among the things survey respondents liked the least about their schools 
were teacher quality, guidance counselors, invasion of privacy, lack of 
ethnic and racial diversity and not enough college preparation. Students 
wrote they felt teachers were leaving for better pay in Georgia, that 
athletes and the top 10 percent of academic performers are given 
preferential treatment, and that they resent random drug testing.

"Kids know what we need," Miss Fotiadis said. "A lottery or something to 
give us more money for education. We want to be ready for college."

According to the survey, students' favorite things about schools were their 
friends, up-to-date technology, performing arts, freedom and dedicated 
teachers who care and prepare them for the real world.

"This is new to us," East Ridge High School principal Cheri Dedmon said 
after hearing the survey results. "The next step is 'now what?' Do we give 
value to what they say, or just give it lip service?"

She said the survey results should be another component in the mix of 
education, and could mesh with goals of the Carnegie Foundation grants 
intended to help reform education in the Hamilton County Schools.

"If you want productive kids in the community, listen and communicate with 
them," said Dennis Clark, a senior at Chattanooga School for the Arts and 
Sciences and Youth Council chairman. "Now we can work on solutions."

Students who responded to the survey said that, in their neighborhoods, 
they want more cultural diversity, fewer elderly people, more teens and 
less commercial development.

In their communities, teens want more sports and outdoor activities and 
teen centers. They also wanted to see more teen performers at the annual 
Riverbend Festival.
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MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart