So, I understand that not everyone would be as excited as I was last week when we received a fresh set of data about our community, from a survey given to local students last spring. The survey asked students about alcohol, drugs, stealing, violence, delinquent behaviors, and the things that are going on in their personal lives, families, community, and schools that influence their decisions about such things. It is very similar to surveys given to middle and high school students all across the nation, and provides a good glimpse into what is going on.
I am happy to report that although I am in the minority, I am not alone in my excitement. A group of dedicated fellow data geeks are joining me to take a hard look at that data, and will be preparing a summary of the findings to share with the community in the next month. This community has had access to the data from this survey for quite some time (our coalition has records from as far back as 2002, taken every two years). We now have enough information to be able to see what the trends in behaviors are, and what we might need to focus on for the next couple of years.
The coalition will be sharing bits of interesting information as we go along. We hope that all of you will join us in discussion about some of the more encouraging and alarming things that we uncover, AND what we can do to keep the encouraging things and to get rid of the bad things. We have clearly made tremendous progress in many areas related to the mission of Five Town CTC—but there is still a lot of work left to do.
Here is a sneak-peek example: rates of drinking by most youth have gone down, but our rates of binge drinking still remain higher than national averages. Drinking five or more drinks in a row (which is how binge drinking is defined in these surveys) is dangerous behavior for adults, and even more so for young bodies not yet finished developing (see our post on teen brain development from 2011).
Even if you don't love data, you probably do love this community or the kids in it. Take a look, and consider coming to a coalition meeting, or stopping by our offices to talk about your take on this. We would love to hear your point of view!