The 2023 NAF Student Survey Field Guide is back again and shares the voice of more than 24,000 students from across the NAF Network that participated in our spring student survey. This tool is our way to offer you, our network of educators and stakeholders, a resource to reflect on what young people are saying about their academy experience. By elevating the voice of academy participants, and understanding their experiences at school, this allows us all to make better, data-driven decisions about how to improve our practice and have deeper impact on our students.
Results in this Field Guide are conveyed in terms of high-level trends, accompanied by recommendations and resources for NAF educators and academy stakeholders to consider that are based on feedback from NAF students. If you are a NAF educator and 10 or more students from your academy have taken the survey, be sure to check out results from your specific academy by checking out the "My Academies" buttons on the data tabs throughout the Field Guide, or clicking on the link provided in the summary section at the end of the Field Guide.
There were a total of 24,713 students who completed the student survey in the spring of 2023.
This includes 500+ students that took the survey in Spanish.
A total of 69% of NAF academies participated in the student survey, that is 415 of the 604 NAF academies throughout the country.
Students from each academy theme were represented in the overall results. See below for a breakdown of the responses by theme.
AOE (11% of responders vs 15% of the network)
AOF (30% of responders vs 29% of the network)
AOHS (17% of responders vs 15% of the network)
AOHT (13% of responders vs 13% of the network)
AOIT (15% of responders vs 18% of the network)
Other Pathways (13% of responders vs 11% of the network)
Students from academies of all different quality levels were represented, however, academies with a Model + Distinguished quality level were overrepresented in the results. See below for a breakdown of the responses by academy quality.
Model + Distinguished (64%)
No Level (less than 1% of responses)
Under Review (1%)
Note: While a number of students who identified as gender non-binary or whose gender was unknown did participate in the student survey, their data constituted less than 1% of total responses and will not be reported throughout this Field Guide to protect their anonymity.
NAF strives to foster environments where the lived experiences and perspectives of students drive learning and are key to meaningful adult relationships. The culturally responsive practices section of the student survey asks about how the lived experiences of students are being reflected in their school environment.
The need for culturally responsive practices in the classroom is a pressing topic in today's educational landscape given that there is sometimes a wide demographic gap between teachers and their students. It is encouraging that NAF students agree or strongly agree 72% of the time that their teachers make an effort to get to know them as students and that they are treated fairly within their academy walls (78%).
The data suggests that the majority of teachers are already engaging in an impactful practice, in which they make efforts to get to know their students and build a positive relationship with them (72%). These numbers are relatively equal across student race/ethnicity, but do vary slightly. Black/African American students agreed that their teachers make an effort to get to know them and build a positive relationship 69% of the time, Asian students 76% of the time, and Hispanic/Latino students 71% of the time.
It is great to see that students indicated that their peers are treated fairly, regardless of background or ideology. These results differ slightly when examined by student race/ethnicity, with Black/African American students agreeing with this sentiment 75% of the time, Asian students 82% of the time, and Hispanic/Latino students 78% of the time.
Just over half of students (58%) indicated that their teachers instruct in a way that relates to their cultures and experiences. This data point did not change significantly from the 2021/2022 student survey. Students of Native American or Native Alaskan descent agreed with this statement the least (49%). Roughly 2 in every 3 students (61%) agree that their academy challenges them to consider their personal biases when interacting with others. While this number is encouraging, we think it could be improved even further. Furthermore, about 1 in every 2 students (54%) agreed that the books, handouts, and other material being used in class reflect multicultural, global awareness.
For more information on how to facilitate culturally responsive practices and education in the classroom, check out the resources below.
NAF believes that when supported by small learning communities, a sense of safety, and healthy adult relationships, students' mindset can grow and support important contributions to their future work and life. The identity, beliefs, and mindset section of the student survey asks students to reflect on their own abilities and what others in their school environment think about student abilities.
Self-efficacy is important in the classroom and is often defined as a student's belief in their own capabilities to achieve a goal or outcome. Students who possess a strong sense of self-efficacy are more likely to be motivated and challenge themselves with difficult tasks. When we asked students about their beliefs in their own abilities, half of the students believe they possess a certain amount of intelligence and that there is not much they can do to change it (49%). However, more than half of students believe that just because a goal is difficult does not mean it is out of reach (60%). In terms of fostering a "growth mindset", or one where students believe their intellectual abilities and skills can grow through adversity and challenge, students have room for improvement.
It remains true that most students believe that a goal is not out of reach even if it is difficult to obtain (60%). This sense of perseverance can really help students take on new challenges and learn from their mistakes. This belief did not differ significantly by race, gender, or ethnicity, but was demonstrated most in White students (69%).
Similar to last year, a little over half of students (53%) reported feeling that their NAF teachers attribute a growth mindset to them. Along the same lines, only 35% of students think fellow peers attribute a growth mindset to them. These data suggest that feeling a growth mindset, or that one's intellectual abilities can be improved through learning and hard work, is not as prominent in the classroom as it could be. We recommend educators work to foster a growth mindset in their classroom, as it positively predicts certain educational outcomes in the United States.
Check out the videos and other resources below for more concrete resources on fostering a growth mindset in the classroom.
Students' engagement in school and school activities is related to academic achievement and buffers against negative factors contributing to dropout. This means that students' attitude towards school and self is important to monitor and foster in the classroom. Similar to last year's student survey data, it is encouraging to see that roughly 2 out of every 3 (68%) students believe they are good students; importantly, these attitudes were markedly higher in female responders (73%) compared to male responders (62%), and students identifying as Black/African American reported this to the highest degree of race/ethnicity (72%).
It is great that roughly 2/3rds of students (68%) participate in advanced courses (AP, IB, Dual Enrollment) while in high school. Students identifying as Asian were the most likely to complete advanced coursework (74%), followed by White (69%), Hispanic/Latino (68%), and Black/African American Students (66%). While there are some differences in course completion between racial/ethnic groups, overall this means these students are being exposed to college-level coursework and know what to expect if they decide to pursue a post-secondary education.
Research suggests that, on average, 75% of the emotions students experience at school are negative (boredom, tiredness, stress). That makes it all the more important to help connect classroom material with students' lived experiences. This is worth teachers' attention because only 45% of students who took this survey indicated that they find their academic work interesting (2022 response = 44%). Academic engagement was lower for male students (43%) compared to female students (48%).
Similar to last year's findings, about 1 in every 5 students (20%) indicated that no individual in their immediate family has attended college. This was particularly the case for students identifying as Hispanic/Latino (28%) and Native American/Alaska Native (23%). Consider what students are saying with this metric when discussing future plans in class and offering guidance on the college process during class.
Take a look at the resources below for activities and resources that help educators identify personalized learning strategies that can be used right away in the classroom. Also, check out the resources for first-generation college goers below.
A pillar of the NAF Educational Design is that work-based learning can drive a sense of relevance for skills and motivation toward positive future pathways. The attitudes towards work-based learning section of the survey asks students about what type of work-based learning they engage in, how these opportunities were made available, and how the skills they learned are useful for their future goals.
Overall, about 58% of students participated in some form of work-based learning. Similar to results from the 2022 student survey, students are returning to in-person internship experiences this year (77%), compared to last year (69%), and the year before (51%). Guest speakers (33%), career fairs (26%), and mock interviews (17%) continue to be the most frequent type of work-based learning experiences students complete.
Students who did not participate in any work-based learning experiences, however, continue to indicate that their main reasons for not participating are: 1) not knowing about the opportunities (43%), which decreased from last year (48%), and 2) not having time outside their normal routine to participate (38%), which increased from last year (29%).
One goal of work-based learning is to help students clarify their career aspirations, build career skills, and make professional connections while still in high school. Students report that this was mostly the case, as the majority indicated that their work-based learning experiences helped them explore career aspirations (71%), build career skills (78%), and make new professional connections (50%).
Roughly two out of every three students (65%) who participated in work-based learning agree that their experience has motivated them to continue skill development toward a future career, especially female students (69% vs. 60% for males).
In terms of internships, 40% of students who participated indicated they worked directly with a company/nonprofit organization, and 59% of students felt fully prepared for said internship on the first day.
While students generally indicated that work-based learning connected classroom learning with industry and professional standards (58%), only half of students indicated that work-based learning helped them form new professional connections (50%). It can be challenging for students to intentionally build a professional network while still in high school. We recommend increased class activities and coaching on this topic specifically so that students can practice these skills in an environment that is safe and comfortable (resources below).
Furthermore, the source of internships continues to vary for students. Roughly 16% of students indicated that they turned their job into an internship, 18% completed an internship on their school's campus, and 16% participated in a NAF-sponsored internship through a national, corporate partner. Since many students already have paying jobs, explore increasing the number of students who can turn this ready-made opportunity into a work-based learning experience using the resources below detailing how to turn jobs into internships. We also recommend further exploring on-campus internships through a school business, as these activities are more easily accessible for students and fit into normal routines.
NAF has developed and launched an outcomes-driven approach to work-based learning, with a student-centered focus on identifying career aspirations, developing and receiving feedback on 6 Future Ready Skills, and building meaningful professional connections. These three outcomes will elevate the impact of WBL activities on students and should serve as the foundation of work-based learning planning, implementation, and reflection. NAF has developed a suite of tech tools for tracking WBL, providing academies with robust data to fuel continuous improvement. Check them out as well as our new KnoPro tool below!
While the future of "college" is changing, data continues to tell us that postsecondary achievement supports the most direct pathway to successful careers, especially for first generation Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) students. Our post-graduation plans section of the student survey asks NAF seniors about their plans after high school.
As Gen Z moves through the high school and post-Covid-19 landscape, attitudes on the value of 4-year postsecondary education are shifting and students today feel that there are other paths available to them after high school that can help them achieve their life goals. National data suggests that the pressure on students to attend a 4-year college is still very high, and 90% of NAF seniors who took the survey indicated that they will be attending some form of post-secondary education (67% = 4-year college, 18% = 2-year college, 4 = advanced training/technical degree). Similar to 2022, this year we saw a divide in college plans between students of different races and ethnicities, with students who identified as Asian or White still being more likely to attend 4-year colleges (88% and 78% respectively) compared to Hispanic/Latino and Black/African American students (60% and 67% respectively). Once again, the opposite trend was found for plans to attend 2-year colleges, where Hispanic/Latino and Black/African American students had the highest likelihood (23% and 15% respectively) and Asian and White students had the lowest likelihood (9% and 12% respectively).
When we asked NAF seniors planning to attend college about what they plan to study, the three most common areas were 1) STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) at 25%, 2) Business Management & Administration at 23%, and 3) Health Sciences at 23%. Roughly 60% of seniors indicated that they would continue pursuing their academy theme after high school, with 17% being unsure, and 25% deciding their academy career path was not for them.
According to national data, 48% of high school students desire more information and guidance on education and career options after high school. This makes the data point that 60% of NAF seniors said that they receive good college and career advice from their academy very encouraging in terms of closing the gap and providing students with the necessary information they need to make informed decisions about their future.
When we asked seniors who in their academy made the biggest difference to them personally, the data overwhelmingly showed that their NAF teachers had the biggest influence (53%), with the next most impactful individuals being guidance counselors (19%), and their NAF Academy Director (10%). It's great that NAF students have such a strong connection with their educators given that outside of family connections, educators are the most likely group that students turn to for information on what to do after high school.
When we asked NAF seniors why they would not be attending college after high school the most common reason was a lack of interest (30%), which was a more common response for male students (32%) than female students (26%), and much more likely for Black/African American students (38%) than other BIPOC students. While a college path is not for everyone, national data suggests that students today believe that education after high school is necessary to help them achieve their goals (65%). This provides an opportunity for educators to explore other educational routes after high school with their students, such as on-the-job training, apprenticeships/internships, and career and technical education.
Below are several resources for students to not only explore their career interests but also to help educators deliver classroom activities on planning for life after high school. Check out the career readiness resources below!
Professional connections and positive adult relationships are a key component that enable students to establish themselves with other professionals in their ideal career cluster. NAF strives to empower students to make these professional connections during high school so that entry into a career field is facilitated by other established industry professionals. The social capital section of the student survey asks students about their growing professional network.
Social capital is defined as the resources that arise from the web of relationships that people can access and mobilize to help them improve their lives and achieve their goals. NAF educators and staff continue to strive to help students build their professional networks while in high school so that they enter college and/or the workforce with ready-made, professional connections.
Similar to last year, just over half (58%) of NAF seniors indicated that by the time they graduated high school, they had the contact information of at least two adults they could turn to for college or career advice. Interestingly, this metric seemed to vary by student gender as well as race/ethnicity, with female seniors indicating more professional connections (60%) than males (55%), and White (62%) and Black/African American (61%) seniors having more connections than Asian (54%) or Hispanic/Latino (55%) seniors.
By the time of high school graduation, two out of every three (66%) seniors indicated that they felt supported by their NAF educators and others they met within the academy; this metric increased by 6% compared to the 2022 data. These results did differ by gender, with Female students feeling more supported (70%) compared to Males (63%), and students identifying as Native American/Alaska Native feeling the most supported (80%) of any BIPOC students: Pacific Islander (75%); Asian (68%); Black/African American (67%); Other/Multiracial (66%); Hispanic/Latino (65%).
Similar to last year, half (51%) of NAF seniors indicated that they met at least one adult or older peer who does the type of work they are interested in as a career. This metric was slightly higher for female seniors (52%) than male seniors (49%), and was highest for seniors identifying as Black/African American (53%) compared to White (51%), Asian (50%), and Hispanic/Latino (49%) seniors. While it is NAF's goal to provide all students with a network of professional connections by the time they graduate high school, it is encouraging to see that Female and Black/African American seniors reported these types of connections at the highest levels when compared to seniors of other gender and racial/ethnic groups.
It is encouraging to see that 60% of NAF seniors indicated that if they experienced a problem there was an adult they met through their academy experience that they could turn to for help. This metric did not differ significantly between seniors of different genders and/or racial and ethnic groups.
Lastly, while data from the 2022's survey saw an 11% decrease from data in the 2021 survey in how much students felt supported by their NAF educators (70 % to 59%), this year saw an 7% rebound in students feeling supported (66%). This is encouraging to see given NAF strives to create a small learning community where students are free to be their true authentic selves and feel supported by educators and peers.
When we asked seniors if they had met an older adult or peer that does the kind of work they are interested in as a career, only half (50%) indicated yes. This data point suggests room for improvement in connecting students with professionals working in their career areas of interest. Research has indicated that college and career advice is especially well-received by high school students if presented by a "near peer", or someone close to them in age. Consider this and how alumni from your academy might be more involved in academy activities such as work-based learning and classroom projects. If you have the contact information of NAF alumni from your school, consider reaching out and asking them to be active in NAF's Alumni Network so they can be connected to your academy or academy near them if no longer in your geographic area.
Want to learn more about social capital and how to get students thinking about it before graduation? Check out the resources below, many of which are from the Christensen Institute and the Search Institute, and are all about the importance of social capital. There is even a social capital assessment specifically designed to help assess and build social capital for young people while in high school. An accompanying NAF Research & Tech Talk with the measurement tool's author, Dr. Ashley Boat, is also linked below.
NAF strives for equitable pathways in which all students will be ready for life after high school, regardless of whether that path is to college or immediately into a career. The impact section of the student survey asks students whether they feel prepared to enter college and/or the workforce and what their general perceptions are for areas improvement in their own academy.
NAF believes that all students should have access to pathways leading to high-skilled, high-wage careers after high school. This is why it is encouraging, but also shows room for improvement, that 56% of NAF seniors feel fully prepared for college and 57% feel prepared for the workplace. In general, female students felt more prepared for college and the workplace (58% and 61% respectively) than male students (53% for both metrics).
When asked how satisfied NAF seniors were with their academy experience based on how well their academy prepared them for college and careers, about 2 out of every 3 (67%) felt satisfied or very satisfied with their experience.
When students across the country were asked in a national survey about the most important factor in deciding what to do after high school, "understanding different careers available" was the most important factor. That data point is encouraging because NAF's goal is to support educators in helping prepare their students for college and careers after high school, and the data suggest we are moving in the right direction given that 55% of NAF seniors feel ready for college and 57% feel ready for the workforce.
Data reported from NAF seniors continues to stand out in terms of immediate plans for college enrollment, as 85% of seniors indicated they would attend college the fall after graduation. This statistic continues to be much higher than the national average immediate college-going rate of 62% from 2021 (when these statistics were last calculated nationally). Continue to encourage these efforts!
Students continue to express that there is room for improvement in their college and career readiness before leaving high school, a trend that is present nationally among Gen Z students. The Participatory Action Research (PAR) reflection template in the resources below provides guidance on how to discuss these survey results with your students in the classroom to hear their perspectives on the data. You may find after engaging in a dialogue with your students around these data, that deeper insights into what could be improved could become useful in terms of the next steps, both within the classroom and perhaps the school at large.
Also be sure to check out the resources specifically geared for educators below, including an academy action plan template, NAF curriculum you can implement right now, and the NAF educator framework.
This Student Survey Field Guide brings student voice front and center and provides an easy way to reflect on what students are saying about their 2022-2023 experiences. There is much to celebrate as we reflect on what students are saying and take into context national data on students throughout the country. Some highlights include NAF seniors' immediate plans for post-secondary education (90%) compared to the national average college-going rate of 62%. Additionally, work-based learning experiences continue to be an engaging way to connect classroom learning to real-world outcomes, as the majority of NAF students that participated said work-based learning helped them explore career aspirations (71%) and build career skills (78%).
As with any continuous effort working with young people, the data indicate there is still work that needs to be done. Some areas for attention that were highlighted by student voice include thinking about how to be intentional about plugging students into networks of professionals that they can turn to for career and college advice, raising awareness for work-based learning opportunities, and keeping academic work interesting and fresh for students to stay engaged. These provide themes and questions to think about as we continue to work with students to achieve their goals.
Some things to consider:
1) If 10 or more students from your academy/academies completed the 2023 student survey, check out their data here and see if the resources in this Field Guide would be beneficial.
2) Broadly speaking, students continue to struggle to stay engaged in the classroom. However, work-based learning and other activities that provide real-world payoff in terms of skills learned and connections made continue to defy this trend. How can we better leverage these two competing insights for increased learning?
3) With roughly one in every five NAF students having no extended family with a college degree, how can we leverage college readiness activities inside and outside the classroom to potentially include parents and other guardians in the process?
4) What can we do to be intentional about connecting our students to individuals doing the type of work they are interested in as a career? How can we make these connections not just with adults, but also near-peers (peers similar in age)?