Educators focus on student engagement as a key to address problems of low achievement, boredom and alienation, dropout and graduation, and post-secondary readiness. Not surprisingly, measures of student engagement have been found to correlate with student outcomes (e.g. GPA, behavior, and student achievement). A blog post from Kathy Dyer over at NWEA lists some of the studies that found relationships between engagement and positive student outcomes (and these are just a few of the numerous studies).
To determine the success of our efforts to increase student engagement we need to perform regular measurement of actual student engagement (not changes in achievement as a proxy for engagement). A report released by Southeast Regional Education Laboratory in 2011 reviews the characteristics of 21 instruments that measure student engagement in upper elementary through high school. It summarizes what each instrument measures, describes its purposes and uses, and provides technical information on its psychometric properties. This report is a great place for any school interested in measuring student engagement to start.
In addition to these tools, a report from the Colorado Foundation on Families and Children includes a survey that could be used or adapted to determine how engaged students were along three dimensions: emotional engagement, cognitive engagement, and behavioral engagement. A short survey could be deployed several times per year to measure student engagement and change over time. For example, during the first month of the year the survey could be deployed to measure overall student engagement. Areas of concern identified and potential interventions identified and tested (deployed at a small scale such as a single school or grade-level). The survey could be deployed again in December or January to see if the intervention had a positive impact. If not, then the a new intervention would be identified and tested. If the initial intervention did show positives results, then it would be scaled and tested again.
By focusing on student engagement schools increase their chance of improving positive student outcomes. By deliberately measuring student engagement and following a disciplined process of identifying and testing changes schools increase the likelihood of improving student engagement.