Citing studies that show a connection between happiness and student performance, Montgomery County Public Schools are surveying students and staff on how hopeful and engaged they are. But it may not be a good measure of a school’s quality. 

MCPS hired national polling firm Gallup to administer the surveys, which cost $900,000 for three years of work and can be found online. Superintendent Joshua Starr feels the school system shouldn't only measure success by test scores, but by the social and emotional health of its students and employees. 

The surveys ask students and teachers to respond to statements like “I have a best friend at school,” “I can energetically pursue my goals” and “Did you smile or laugh a lot yesterday?” Respondents rank their feelings on a scale of 1 to 5, which are then compiled for the entire school and compared to averages for MCPS and for the United States as a whole.

Gallup's found some pretty interesting insights, like that students become less engaged in school as they get older. But it’s unclear how meaningful hopefulness is as a measure of student performance. 

One study cited in the Washington Post says that emotions have an effect on student performance, but a review of recent studies conducted by NIH researchers suggests a more tenuous connection. We know that students who are bullied and harassed at school often do worse, so presumably students in positive, supportive school environments are doing better. 

So are students at the county's highest-ranked schools outperforming their counterparts elsewhere because they're happier at school? Not really. If you look at this year's surveys for the county's 26 high schools, the correlation between student happiness and academic performance looks pretty weak

[Continue reading Dan Reed’s post here at Just Up the Pike.]

Dan Reed blogs at Just Up the Pike. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.