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The High Achieving Schools Survey

The High Achieving Schools Survey (HASS) was designed to obtain evidence-based recommendations to improve students’ well-being, by targeting influential, modifiable aspects of their school, family, and peer life.
Data collected through HASS enables Dr. Suniya Luthar and her team to provide schools with suggestions that are specific to their community needs, in order to facilitate beneficial changes.

Defining Features of High Achieving Schools

High Achieving Schools (HAS) are those with high standardized test scores, rich extracurricular and academic offerings, and graduates heading to some of the most selective colleges. These schools emphasize the importance of community and relationships in fostering growth of the “whole child”, helping students grow intellectually, socially, and emotionally, while strengthening character and civic engagement.

Benefits of HASS

  • Based in 30 years of research
    • Unlike other survey instruments, HASS is based in 30 years of peer-reviewed scientific research. Over the years, the survey has been continually refined to include items found to be specifically important for students in high-achieving communities such as adults’ perceived over-emphasis on achievements, and various elements of school life that foster healthy development
  • Focuses on aspects of student life that can be modified to foster well-being
  • Assesses students’ positive personal attributes including empathy, altruism, and investment in the greater good
  • Collects actionable data to allow Dr. Luthar and her team to
    • Identify and prioritize health and wellness strategies
    • Provide specific recommendations to school leadership and stakeholders
  • Enables comparison with other high achieving schools and national averages to allow schools to quickly assess areas of strength and areas needing attention
Presenting survey results to both faculty and parent groups, Dr. Luthar identifies the top two or three areas that would most benefit from change in a given community, and brings stakeholders together in collaboratively addressing them.
  • Students at High Achieving Schools often deal with several challenges, and are known to be statistically more likely than other youth to show emotional or behavioral difficulties such as depression, anxiety, or substance abuse (see Luthar & Kumar, in press). Subsequent assessments of schools have shown substantial decreases in students’ level of depression, anxiety, and substance use.
  • Dr. Luthar helps to foster resilience by drawing on strong and supportive relationships in HAS communities. In some communities, she brings Authentic Connections Groups to counselors and administrators; counselors and administrators can then pass on the knowledge they’ve learned about how to foster authentic relationships to students and adults in the community, promoting a more positive culture of the school as a whole.

Data Collection and Results

What is measured?
Student levels of well-being
  • Depression, anxiety, rule-breaking  
  • Drug and alcohol use  
  • Disordered eating, self-harm
  • Altruism, and prosocial behavior
  • Empathy, integrity, and humility
  • Life satisfaction
  • Envy of peers
  • Perfectionistic self-presentation 
Modifiable aspects of school climate
  • School bullying
  • Respect for diversity
  • AP and IB courses
  • Academic support
  • Caring teachers and adults
  • Alienation from adults
  • Parent-school engagement
Modifiable aspects of parent-child relationships
  • Perceptions of parents’ tolerance of substance abuse
  • Emphasized parent values (importance of success vs. showing decency and integrity)
  • Felt closeness to each parent 
Data Collection
  • Dr. Luthar and her team collect actionable data using surveys that focus on aspects of health and wellness in student life that can be modified to foster well-being
  • Students provide responses anonymously, with no identifying information
  • Surveys are collected securely and electronically at the school via Qualtrics, an enterprise level research platform
  1. Summary of findings: Comparison of students in the target school relative to other High Achieving Schools and national norms on personal adjustment, and on major risk and protective factors
  2. Analysis of risk and protective factors that are especially salient in the target school and its students

Testimonials From School and Organizational Leaders

"Dr. Luthar provided us with robust data on our local high school and identified key priorities for intervention in our community. Not only did she present us with a rigorous scientific perspective, but she addressed our community with passion, empathy and warmth. The balance of both her credibility as a researcher and her relatability as a parent enabled the audience to be receptive to her message.”
Geneveive Eason, Wilton Youth Council.

"I cannot overstate how important Dr. Luthar's work has been to our work in independent schools. As a practicing educator, I am constantly citing her research to faculty, parents, and students as we walk about creating a school environment that promotes healthy, prosocial behavior. I am proud to have shared what I have learned working with her at several conferences, and am flattered to remain in her orbit as she continues to do incredibly important and much needed research in schools."
Bradley S. Philipson, Ph.D.
Former Assistant Head of School for Academics, Fort Worth Country Day School (TX)
Founding High School Principal, Young Audiences Charter School (LA)