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School Archive Letter Writing Process
What is the effect? May 2007 Study

This survey of 15 questions was given to 8th grade students just before and just after they engaged in the writing process for a letter they knew would go into a vault for 10 years before they could read it again at their 10-year class reunion. (See www.studentmotivation.org for details on the Middle School Archive Project.) The pre survey was given 8th grade students on May 7, 2007 at Quintanilla Middle School, Dallas, Texas. The post survey, using the same questions, was given May 18th, 11 days later. Between these dates students were given directions for writing letters to themselves to be placed by them into the School Archive until their 10-year class reunion. The goal was to explore the effect on students, if any, of planning for their own futures, documenting those plans in this letter, and then putting the resulting document into a place of respect to be held until their return in 10 years. These are the questions asked and the responses given at each taking of the survey.

The survey shows the students to be overwhelmingly positive about the letter writing process and their planned 10-year reunion.  It also indicates that the very process of writing the letter for the Archive increases the potential that they will think positively about completing high school and continuing their education after high school.

Here is a listing of the questions and the counts of the responses given by these students both before writing the letters and then after writing the letter:

  1. I will continue my education after high school.

Total # of responses:

5- Definitely yes, true.

4- Probably yes

3- Uncertain

2- Probably not

1- Definitely not true.

Pre-Letter 380

202

119

33

17

9

Post Letter 406

250

106

38

8

4

  1. I will graduate from high school.

Total # of responses:

5- Definitely yes, true.

4- Probably yes

3- Uncertain

2- Probably not

1- Definitely not true.

Pre-Letter 377

285

62

13

9

8

Post Letter 403

323

66

9

3

2

  1. I like the idea of writing myself a letter for the School Archive that I will be able to read again in 10 years.

Total # of responses:

5- Definitely yes, true.

4- Probably yes

3- Uncertain

2- Probably not

1- Definitely not true.

Pre-Letter 380

122

117

79

38

24

Post Letter 403

208

121

45

18

11

 

  1. I know that I can attend Dallas Community College for vocational training or as a step toward a 4-year college if I want to.

Total # of responses:

5- Definitely yes, true.

4- Probably yes

3- Uncertain

2- Probably not

1- Definitely not true.

Pre-Letter 375

115

148

63

35

14

Post Letter 407

129

164

70

31

13

 

  1. I never want to graduate from high school.

Total # of responses:

5- Definitely yes, true.

4- Probably yes

3- Uncertain

2- Probably not

1- Definitely not true.

Pre-Letter 375

26

8

18

23

300

Post Letter 400

14

12

20

21

333

 

  1. Attending a Dallas County Community College, or a 4-year college, would create more job opportunities for me and help me earn more money.

Total # of responses:

5- Definitely yes, true.

4- Probably yes

3- Uncertain

2- Probably not

1- Definitely not true.

Pre-Letter 375

219

108

31

9

8

Post Letter 395

203

126

52

8

6

 

  1. I will continue my education after high school, possibly by attending Dallas Community College for vocational training or as a step toward a 4-year college.

Total # of responses:

5- Definitely yes, true.

4- Probably yes

3- Uncertain

2- Probably not

1- Definitely not true.

Pre-Letter 378

97

152

81

38

10

Post Letter 402

133

150

89

21

9

  1. I want to graduate from high school.

Total # of responses:

5- Definitely yes, true.

4- Probably yes

3- Uncertain

2- Probably not

1- Definitely not true.

Pre-Letter 376

321

38

6

1

10

Post Letter 404

350

39

8

3

4

 

  1. Dallas County Community College has a degree program, or a vocational training program, in which I am interested.

Total # of responses:

5- Definitely yes, true.

4- Probably yes

3- Uncertain

2- Probably not

1- Definitely not true.

Pre-Letter 375

60

142

117

39

17

Post Letter 409

85

148

137

19

20

 

  1. I will never finish high school.

Total # of responses:

5- Definitely yes, true.

4- Probably yes

3- Uncertain

2- Probably not

1- Definitely not true.

Pre-Letter 380

22

18

19

24

297

Post Letter 399

22

14

18

19

326

 

  1. My family has the money and will support my attending Dallas Community College, or a 4-year college after high school.

Total # of responses:

5- Definitely yes, true.

4- Probably yes

3- Uncertain

2- Probably not

1- Definitely not true.

Pre-Letter 380

59

124

124

43

30

Post Letter 403

75

139

123

43

26

  1. I like the idea of a reunion of my 8th grade class in 10 years.

Total # of

responses:

5- Definitely yes, true.

4- Probably yes

3- Uncertain

2- Probably not

1- Definitely

not true.

Pre-Letter 376

185

111

40

21

19

Post Letter 403

258

93

38

8

6

 

  1. My family and friends would want me to continue my education after high school such as by attending Dallas County Community College or a four year college.

Total # of

responses:

5- Definitely yes, true.

4- Probably yes

3- Uncertain

2- Probably not

1- Definitely

not true.

Pre-Letter 378

228

90

24

18

18

Post Letter 404

246

97

46

4

11

 

  1. After I finish high school I will never go to school again.

Total # of

responses:

5- Definitely yes, true.

4- Probably yes

3- Uncertain

2- Probably not

1- Definitely

not true.

Pre-Letter 376

27

27

49

59

214

Post Letter 403

16

34

82

54

217

 

  1. My family and friends want me to graduate from high school.

Total # of

responses:

5- Definitely yes, true.

4- Probably yes

3- Uncertain

2- Probably not

1- Definitely

not true.

Pre-Letter 372

311

30

14

2

15

Post Letter 392

326

41

18

3

4

Limitations & Indications from Survey:

The first weakness of this study is the lack of a control group, a group of students to have taken the surveys but would not have been involved in the letter writing process. Due to the popularity of the letter writing process it would have been impossible to have such a group within our own middle school. Word would have spread quickly among students as to what was happening.

The second weakness of this study is that it does not measure the value of the entire Archive Project, only the Archive Project letter writing process. These students had already been exposed to the Archive Project before taking the pre-survey. The Archive Project was three years old at Quintanilla. Students passed the School Archive several times a day where the Archive sits in the lobby, bolted to the floor, inside a closet with a locked, clear, Plexiglas door. Many students already knew of the idea of planning for a 10 year reunion, and of writing letters to themselves that they will open at that reunion. They knew of being invited to speak with the then current 8th grade students at that reunion giving their recommendations for success. If none of the students had been exposed to the Archive Project it is possible that the initial answers to the 13 questions not relating to the Archive Project would have reflected fewer plans for graduation and post graduation work. This presumes the Archive Project has a positive effect on such plans. Hopefully that is true. Use of these questions with students having no exposure to the Archive Project is needed to receive a more accurate indication of the effect of the Archive Project.

Current reports indicate that DISD has a dropout rate of over 60% among Hispanic students, who make up over 96% of the student body of  Quintanilla. This survey indicates that only 20% of Quintanilla students have even a hint of a doubt about graduating. Similar questions need to be given to students in schools with no Archive Project to see what percentage of students in other schools are less than certain about graduating. In addition to helping isolate the possible value of the Archive Project, such questioning of middle school students may in itself help improve the graduation rate. Students need to be reminded that graduation is not certain. They must work.

This survey verifies that the Archive Project letter writing process itself, in a school with an established Archive Project, has a positive effect on the plans of students for high school graduation, and an even stronger effect on their plans for engaging in additional studies after high school.

5-28-07 Bill Betzen, bbetzen@studentmotivation.org

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