ISHC Independent School Health Check

The Program  |  Expectations  |  FAQs  | Participating Schools  |  Testimonials  |  Costs  |  Staff

The ISHC seeks to identify the factors that influence healthy, as well as unhealthy behavior in students. As such, it is particularly suited to the educational aims of schools and to the construction of programs that highlight  strategies for wellness, along with risk prevention.

The survey can also help a school distinguish between reality and perception. Research has shown that students and adults often misjudge the prevalence of various student attitudes and behaviors. The Health Check helps ground discourse and decision-making in objective reality and offers students realistic social norms.

The Program

What is the ISHC?
The ISHC seeks to identify the factors that influence healthy, as well as unhealthy behavior in students. As such, it is particularly suited to the educational aims of schools and to the construction of programs that highlight strategies for wellness, along with risk prevention.

The survey can also help a school distinguish between reality and perception. Research has shown that students and adults often misjudge the prevalence of various student attitudes and behaviors. The Health Check helps ground discourse and decision-making in objective reality and offers students realistic social norms.

Students respond on school computers to a 30-minute, 100-question survey. Three age-appropriate versions available: 6-8 Middle School, 9-12 Day School, 9-12 Boarding School. Computer administration provides rapid, accurate tabulation of student behaviors and attitudes:

  • Academic motivation
  • Academic pressure
  • Academic honesty
  • Attitudes about school, teachers, and parents
  • Bullying
  • Community service
  • Eating and dieting patterns
  • Emotional health
  • Fitness
  • Help-seeking activity
  • Multitasking
  • Parental oversight and support
  • Predictors of resiliency
  • Sexual activity
  • Sleep
  • Social life
  • Strengths and coping skills
  • Stress management
  • Substance use
  • Use of time
  • Other topics relevant to independent schools

Why use the ISHC?
The Health Check has a careful design history and has been guided by the extensive experience its creators have both in independent schools and with surveys. Unlike other surveys, the ISHC seeks to identify the factors that influence healthy, as well as unhealthy behavior. As such, it is particularly suited to the educational aims of schools and to the construction of programs that highlight strategies for wellness, along with risk prevention.

The survey can also help a school distinguish between reality and perception. Research has shown that students and adults often misjudge the prevalence of various student attitudes and behaviors. The Health Check helps ground discourse and decision-making in objective reality and offers students realistic social norms.

This 30 minute, 90 question survey has been specifically designed to reflect what is really going on with your students’ lives in and out of school —and to provide a global picture of their thoughts, concerns and feelings about themselves and others. Many questions speak to areas particularly pertinent to independent school students—academic motivation, stress levels, and parental oversight. Questions have evolved from work with student focus groups, and the instrument has been field-tested at three independent schools for validity and for ease of administration.

Questions from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey Centers for Disease Control are interwoven into the ISHC to provide some comparison national data. The experience of the CDC and the Health Check designers has been that such surveys provide meaningful pictures of behavior. Because their confidentiality is completely protected, students tell the truth about themselves.

Throughout the ISHC process, the staff is available to help you plan and organize the survey, and each school will receive a manual to highlight necessary tasks along the way, including sample notices to the community. After the completion of the survey, the data will be organized into a report and form the basis for subsequent professional consultations, resources and further guidance.

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What can the ISHC do?
Evaluate student strengths and weaknesses, risk and protective factors.

Develop strategies for health education based on empirical data about what your students really do.

Address the discrepancy between perception and reality. Numerous studies of schools have shown that students invariably overestimate other students’ unhealthy behavior, thus increasing their own susceptibility, as in the notion that "everybody does it." Share ISHC data with students and parents to encourage healthy behavior—a proven strategy.

Track behavioral changes between grade levels and use follow-up surveys to monitor response to intervention.

Analyze results with an ISHC prepared package that includes:

  • Tables of data
  • Correlations between useful data sets
  • A summary of findings

Survey with confidence. Each survey administrator receives:

  • Sample communications with parents, students, and faculty
  • Check lists covering every step of administration
  • Forms to meet legal and ethical requirements
  • Consultations with ISHC staff
  • Validated methodology

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Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why should we do a survey at our school?
A: There are many positive and negative factors that affect student wellness and academic performance. Knowing how those factors specifically affect your students can help shape appropriate and cost-effective educational initiatives to improve wellness.

Q: What if the results of the survey are bad?
A: In all likelihood, one should expect a mix of outcomes. Some of the data may be troubling; some may be rather mixed; some may be very encouraging. The point can be made, however, that those areas that are troubling are rarely unknown to the community. Indeed, many communities find that what has been believed true--the extent of drug use, for example--often dramatically over-estimates the numbers involved. In any event, if the survey identifies problem areas, then they can be addressed in an educational way; dealing with the real issues is the objective of the survey.

Q: Can I see the questions?
A: Decision makers may be given access to the survey link to review the questions to help them make an informed decision about the usefulness of the data for their school.

Q: What if parents do not want their children to take the survey?
A: The ISHC should be administered according to the legal and ethical standards prescribed for surveys. Parents should be notified of the survey and be asked to contact the survey administrator if they do not wish their child to participate; this format is called ‘passive consent‘. Withholding permission to take the survey is a parental right that can not be questioned, challenged, or denied; a careful log of such parental requests should be kept.

Q: What if students do not want to take the survey?
A: A student’s rights are identical to the parent’s rights. A student who does not wish to take the survey should notify the administrator. The student’s decision may not be questioned, challenged, or denied. Likewise, instructions on the survey itself advise students not to answer any questions they do not wish to answer.

Q: Can any student be identified?
A: For students and parents, anonymity is very important. It will be impossible for anyone, including ISHC staff, to link a student with a survey response.

Q: Can’t we do our own survey?
A: The ISHC draws on its creators’ experience in schools and actual experience with surveys. Items have been vetted in student focus groups and field tested. The ISHC also employs some very technical statistical processes to enable correlation of different items. Standard correlations that come with each administration include:

  • the extent to which the degree of parental oversight affects a student’s drinking or binge drinking
  • the relationship between parental control and the likelihood of a student’s attending unchaperoned parties
  • the relationship between unchaperoned parties and sexual activity
  • the relationship between drinking and sexual activity
  • the relationship between unchaperoned parties and sexual activity
  • drinking and sexual activity by gender
  • drinking, sexual activity, and drug use by grade
  • relationship between students reflecting high anxiety levels and those reporting psychological problems, academic pressure, eating disorders
  • the relationship between those who cheat and those who report high anxiety
  • differences between those who report intrinsic motivation versus those who report extrinsic motivation

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Participating Schools

The following schools have participated in an Independent School Health Check

  • Brunswick School
  • Choate Rosemary Hall
  • Forman School
  • Greenwich Academy
  • Hopkins School
  • Indian Mountain School
  • King-Low Heywood Thomas School
  • The Taft School
  • Westminster School
  • Watkinson School
  • Williams School
  • Wooster School
  • Chadwick School
  • Flintridge Preparatory School
  • The Harker School
  • The Webb Schools
  • Lake Highland Preparatory School
  • Trinity Preparatory School
  • Chicago Latin School
  • St. Paul’s School
  • Cambridge School Of Weston
  • Concord Academy
  • Deerfield Academy
  • The Governors Academy
  • Northfield Mount Hermon
  • Phillips Academy Andover
  • Rivers School
  • Sewickley Academy
  • St. Mark's School
  • Wilbraham and Monson Academy
  • The Blake School
  • Shattuck St. Mary’s School
New Hampshire
  • Phillips Exeter Academy
  • St. Paul’s School
New Jersey
  • Lawrenceville School
  • Pennington School
  • Pingry School
  • Princeton Day School
New Mexico
  • Sandia Preparatory School
  • Miami Valley School
  • Germantown Academy
  • The Keystone School
  • The Patomac School
  • Western Academy Of Beijing


Here's what our clients have said about the ISHC program:

"The survey gave us a great opportunity to inform research on girls in independent schools and to learn about our own community."

- Margaret Shoemaker
Director, Upper School
Westridge School

"I would recommend this survey! It was a great opportunity for our school to have concrete information on important health topics."

- Josie Woods
Upper School Counselor
The Potomac School

"The ISHC staff could not have been more helpful. They let us change the survey so that it would better reflect our international student body as well as adding questions of our own."

- Peter Hauet
Western Academy of Beijing
Beijing, China

"The ISHC survey has given us the best grip we have ever had on what’s happening in our school in terms of student culture. You have given us a measure of the magnitude of what we have suspected but have never really known for sure. Your analysis also gave us insight into parental behavior that has implications for student behavior – for example, the correlation of parents not calling ahead of a party and the likelihood of the student attending an un-chaperoned party with all of the risky behaviors associated with an unsupervised setting. Your analysis has given us “wake-up” data points to share with parents that will, hopefully, motivate them to address areas where they have been trusting that everything was just fine in the past."

- Warren Hudson
Head of School
Lake Highland Prep School

"I think the process went smoothly for us, and the information gathered is helpful for us. The information was sent back to us very quickly and both you and Peter were very supportive throughout the process."

- Lauren Frankenbach
Indian Mountain School

"The Independent School Health Check was a comprehensive evaluative tool which allowed our students to freely respond to the social challenges they face both in and out of school. Surveys were conducted in a manner that allowed for constructive responses by which our School could compare and contrast data with peer students and institutions. Responses to the Health Check helped establish our future programming goals and gave opportunities for appropriate discussion among parents, students, and administrators."

- Mark Fader
Head of School
Williams School

"The ISHC survey provided our school with valuable information and insight into the behavior patterns of our students. The statistical data enhanced our ability to plan meaningful programs for our students. In addition, the ISHC National database allowed us to compare our student culture with that of other schools."

- Charlene Halloran
The Forman School

"The professionals who administer this survey are extremely knowledgeable, very responsive and supportive during the planning, execution and analysis of the survey. Thank you!"

- Ben Gardner, MD
Medical Director
Choate Rosemary Hall

"The ISHC is a wonderful tool that provides a snapshot of school culture and student behavior. The data is a wonderful way to start conversations with students in a non-threatening manner as it's about the collective and not the individual. It is also a powerful normalizer."

- David Rost
Dean of Students
Concord Academy

"For the last eight years on an every other year basis, The Lawrenceville School conducted its own "home grown" health survey that is very similar to the ISHC survey. The School has always found the data provided by these health surveys very useful in tracking high risk behaviors so that we can target our health education and residential initiatives towards various current topics each year and identify any new emerging trends. It also provides data that is very helpful in educating parents, trustees, faculty, counselors, and residential staff. In the past, we have used national public school data comparisons but wanted to have a closer comparison with schools that were more similar to ours. The ISHC survey has given us this added benefit as well as the benefit of basic data analysis. In order to conduct this type of survey well, it requires a significant school-wide commitment. The ISCH survey staff understand this need and have made the process as easy as possible through their availability and support materials."

- Robin R. Karpf, MD
Medical Director
The Lawrenceville School

"The survey provides an excellent way to evaluate your health curriculum, special programs and counseling services. The comparison with other Independent schools gives you a context with which to determine the most pressing issues in your community."

- Craig Maughan
Head of School
Trinity Preparatory School

"We've been searching for a survey that contains questions that are broad reaching, but also give us data that we can use, and a comparison group that fits our community. ISHC is the perfect fit! Easy administration, lightning fast result, and a process that made the day as easy as you can imagine when surveying 400 students."

- Melanie Bauman
Director of Counseling
The Webb Schools

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Payment & Referrals

Option 1
Cost: $750.00
Includes the following:

  • Results (numerical and percentage) for all questions
  • Five additional questions customized by you for your school

Option 2
Cost: $1,000.00
Includes Option 1 plus the following:

  • Summary report which includes fifteen key questions cross-tabulated by grade and gender
  • Six composite scores: School Connectedness, Academic Pressure, Motivation, Parental Control, Feeling State, Alcohol Use
  • Data Report Worksheet
  • ISHC Database for Self Comparison
  • Faculty Development Resource Lists on Motivation and Social Norms

Option 3
Cost: $1,200.00 + $10.00 per student
Includes Options 1 and 2 plus the following:

  • Comprehensive report and statistical analysis of all results by gender and grade with recommendations

Supplemental Report
Cost: $500.00
ISHC National Database Comparative Report

  • This report will provide you with an efficient, direct way of comparing your school’s survey results to the ISHC National Database. It will display your school’s responses side by side with the aggregate data for about 35 of the key items in the national database. The report will serve as a useful companion to your school’s survey report when you share the survey results with your faculty, students, parents and board members.

Please note: Invoices will be sent on a quarterly basis for services provided.

There are 3 optimal time frames during the academic year to administer the ISHC Survey which allow for results that are not influenced by vacations and break times. They are: October - Thanksgiving, February - March Break, end of April - May.

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Our Staff

RCBaggish.jpgRosemary C. Baggish, M.Ed., MPH, developed and directed therapeutic school programs for over two decades at Yale Psychiatric Institute and The Institute of Living. She has a Masters Degree in Special Education (Boston College) and a Masters in Public Health (Yale University). Rosemary is the Founder and Director of Mental Health in Independent School Communities (MHISC), a consultation service for independent schools. She has consulted nationally to schools, colleges, hospitals and not for profit agencies regarding model programming for children and adolescents with mental health needs. Under the auspices of BMW, LLC, she developed a computerized, comprehensive health survey for independent school students, the Independent School Health Check (ISHC) which has produced an independent school database. Rosemary is author of When the Bough Breaks: How to Really Be There for your Children, a communication guide for parents.
Peter H. Wells, Ph.D has worked in independent schools for over forty years, as a teacher, department head, head of upper school, college counselor, admissions director, dean of students, and for the last two decades as a nationally certified school psychologist. His work as a psychologist has been concerned not only with counseling individuals but with the mental and physical health of a whole school community. That community health interest has led to five student health surveys and application of the results to community dialogue and action.

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