School Board Notes • December 18, 2012 • Vol. XXXVI No. 20

Survey Results: Schools Keep Field Trips Intact

School field trips have long enriched the education of students, helping them make connections between the real world and the concepts they study in school. But there is evidence that in some districts, off-campus field trips are falling victim to budget cuts. According to a national survey by the American Association of School Administrators released in March 2012, 30 percent of respondents eliminated field trips in 2010-2011, while 43 percent indicated they are considering doing so for 2012-2013.  Last week's 30-Second Survey asked readers about the status of field trips in their districts.

The respondents to the NJSBA survey found schools have largely tried to keep field trips intact, but are relying more upon parents and foundations for help with funding.

In the survey, 93.5 percent of the 78 respondents noted that the students in their district are taking field trips in the current school year. 

Chart 1

More Common for Younger Students Among those respondents whose districts do conduct field trips, the educational outings are more frequently used in the elementary grades. Nearly 92 percent of respondents said there are field trips for students in grades K-6; 78 percent said grades 7 and 8 have field trips; while approximately 48 percent noted that high school students went on field trips. (Note that respondents could choose multiple answers so the percentages do not add up to 100.)

Chart 2

Parent Pay Widespread When asked how school field trips are financed, the largest percentage of respondents selected the option that indicated that parents are asked to pay part or all of the cost of trips (districts are required to waive the fee for needy families).  About 28 percent of respondents noted that the district pays the entire cost of trips from the budget, while another 28 percent said that the district gets funding for field trips from outside sources, such as an education foundation.

Chart 3

When asked if the number of field trips has declined in the past three years, a narrow majority – 53.5 percent – said they have about the same number of field trips, while 41 percent said they had fewer and about 3 percent noted they had more.

Chart 4

Comments on school field trips:

By statute, all field trips must be approved by the board of education before they take place. Not getting it on the agenda in time is just poor administration on the part of the principal.

Field trips are an important extension of student learning. When Hedda Gabler was being performed in NYC, teachers in our Language Arts Department sponsored a trip to see a performance and it greatly enhanced my Advanced Placement class's understanding of Doll House, which it had been reading. (At the time I was a teacher in the district.) The discussions were more thoughtful and more insightful, and I believe, helped students to undertake the kind of higher level thinking required on the AP Lit and Comp Exam.

Field trips are funded roughly half and half with foundation funding.

It's a necessary item; taking a virtual field trip does not take the place of the real thing.

The increased focus on quantitative accountability for student achievement will have the effect of reducing the number and type of field trips. This narrow-minded focus on tests is constricting the breadth of the learning experience.

Our small urban-like rural district is classified as a DFG "A"; therefore, school trips are a luxury that our children desperately need because of their limited experiential background, but we cannot afford them. We try hard to fundraise so that each of the grade levels Pre-K -8 can go on one local field trip. Even that is difficult because our district does not have busses; therefore, transportation to local destinations can be cost prohibitive. We believe that you do see the effects in many subject areas because our students often have no point of reference to spark motivation thereby raising their engagement. Technology does help, but it is not a real substitute for "hands on" experiences.

Strangely, the field trips that are most at risk during budget crisis are those that are more educational in nature. There is more 'local' support for classically considered 'fun' field trips vs. those that have a greater tie-in to core curriculum

The students and teachers loved them. So did parents. Everyone is still complaining that we still do not have trips, computer training, music, and art classes.

The trips are becoming more expensive and the number of free/reduced students that are not obligated to pay is also growing. The district picks up that tab.

Field trips are held depending on the makeup of the current board.

Field trips should not be part of the school year. They take away from classroom time. It costs the school district money no matter what. Some teachers get a stipend for the field trip. They should be done away with. Some children cannot go because of behavior or the cost if parents are asked to pay. It is not equal.

Our district allows entirely too many field trips. There are approximately 100 field trips that our Board is asked to approve each year. It's way out of hand.

Field trips are among the most memorable aspects of the curriculum and the school year.

PTAs will pick up some of the costs too. Each school in the district has different field trip policy, so no trip is available for all students of any particular grade throughout the district. This is probably in part to the fact that the BOE has not paid any part of the cost for at least 10 years.

Some are district-funded, some are student-funded, some are booster-funded, some are grant-funded. We find creative ways to continue to fund enrichment trips integrated with curriculum.