Increased reports of academic stress have school officials concerned about student stress overall.
Officials Concerned About Student Stress

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Lyons Township High School students reported higher levels of academic stress than students at similar schools in a recent survey, reinforcing education officials’ efforts to reduce stress at the competitive school.

Seventy-nine percent of students who took the survey in fall 2013 reported academic stress is a problem, according to a survey summary. Seventy-five percent of teachers and 53 percent of parents reported the same thing, according to the summary.

Students and parents reported the homework load is the primary cause of the stress. Teachers ranked “family problems” and “competitive college requirements” above homework.

Despite the reported stress, a majority of students and parents said they felt the high school prepared students well for college and life after school.

The results highlight the tension between preparing students for competitive colleges and keeping stress levels manageable.

Officials Concerned About Student Stress

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“When they’re juniors and seniors in high school, they’re experiencing what their parents did in college,” said Kate Brogan, whose two daughters recently graduated Lyons Township High School and whose son is a senior there.

Her children, who each took several Advanced Placement courses, often had four to six hours of homework per night junior year, Brogan estimated. But the workload made for a smooth transition to college, she said.

“For my daughters, I know that academically they were ready for college,” she said.

The high school is weighing two concrete proposals to reduce stress, said Scott Eggerding, the school’s curriculum and instruction director. One is to eliminate class rankings at the school — a step Eggerding said several other local high schools have already taken — and the other is to create a mandatory study hall.

At a large, competitive school like Lyons Township High School, class rank can obscure some relatively high-performing students’ achievements, Eggerding said. Factoring in weighted values for AP and honors classes, the school’s average GPA is 3.27. A student with a 4.0 weighted GPA might rank around 200th in the class, Eggerding has said. Eliminating class rank could help remove some of the pressure to take AP classes, he said.

The school is also working to better educate freshmen and sophomores about what classes to take. Some of the younger students automatically choose the most difficult classes in order to prepare for college and risk overextending themselves, Eggerding said.

The study hall proposal is being considered for fall 2015, he said. The school is considering reconfiguring lunch and class schedules to create a 25-minute study hall for all students, where they could work on assignments and seek help from teachers.

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