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Thought Exchange on School-Related Teen Stress Sparks Dialogue
Posted 6/5/19

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On May 28 Deputy Superintendent Russell Lee-Sung provided an update to the Newport-Mesa Unified School District (NMUSD) Board of Education on a Thought Exchange, which solicited input from secondary students, staff and parents about school-related teen stress. Although key themes that emerged from the Thought Exchange were made public in March 2019, this overview provides a more detailed look into specific input received, evaluation process and next steps for developing action items.

Thought Exchange allowed participants to share their thoughts on key contributors to school-related teen stress. Participants then had the opportunity to consider and rate thoughts shared by others on a scale of 1 (do not agree) to 5 (highly agree).

Below are the links to the interactive reports for each conversation that includes thoughts from highest to lowest followed by a section that allows exploration by themes. In order to deepen our awareness and understanding of the contributors of stress on our students, we encourage meaningful open discussion around these thoughts and consider actions that support our students to become healthy adults with resiliency, grit and positive response to challenges.

Student Conversation about Addressing School-Related Teen Stress

Parent Conversation about Addressing School-Related Teen Stress

Staff Conversation about Addressing School-Related Teen Stress

Next Steps

The Thought Exchange tool is designed to take thoughts, develop themes and stimulate deeper conversations to better understand the context and meaning behind the input received. Elementary and secondary principals, district leadership, select parent groups and student leaders have reviewed the data and began conversations about how these thoughts can build awareness, compassion and action from us as leaders as well as staff, parents and students themselves. Conversations will continue in the fall with the goal of developing purposeful action items to consider.

This Thought Exchange is only one data point and will be considered along with the research of best practices, other observations and the ongoing work in social-emotional learning throughout our district.


In November 2018, Newport-Mesa Unified School District (NMUSD) asked secondary students, staff, and parents to share their input about school-related teen stress via Thought Exchange. Thought Exchange allowed participants to share their thoughts on key contributors to school-related teen stress, and ideas on how we can reduce school-related teen stress. Participants then had the opportunity to consider and rate thoughts shared by others.

Nearly 400 middle and high school students provided more than 300 thoughts about school-related teen stress. Below is a summary of top themes that students shared as being the highest contributors to school-related teen stress:

  • Homework and assignments
  • Tests and assessments

  • Teachers and staff

  • College and career readiness

  • Communication and engagement

  • Calendar and schedule

When student feedback was combined with feedback from parents of secondary students, and staff at secondary schools the top themes as being high contributors to school-related teen stress were as follows:

  • College and career readiness

  • Homework and assignments

  • Tests and assessments

  • Communication and engagement

  • Teachers and staff

  • Social and emotional health

  • Tutoring and learning support

  • Calendar and schedule

  • Learning environment

“We appreciate everyone taking the time to provide thoughts on this important topic,” said Mr. Russell Lee-Sung, NMUSD deputy superintendent. “Listening to the students' voice is a critical step to build compassion for our students and heightened awareness of the impact of our actions,” he said.

District and school staff continue to review the data from this Thought Exchange with staff, and student and parent leaders to identify specific actions that can help address school-related teen stress and support the overall well-being of students. A more in-depth recap of the Thought Exchange will be presented at a future NMUSD Board of Education meeting.
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