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Here are some of the things we’ve been reading about this week:
School counselors and psychologists have oversized caseloads.
The White House is making an economic argument to persuade Congress to address the country’s child care and early learning crisis.
Relaxed mask guidelines in schools raise anxieties for parents of students with disabilities.
To read more, click on the following links.
Research & Practice
School Counselors and Psychologists Remain Scarce Even as Needs Rise
Education Week: Oversized caseloads can make it impossible for school psychologists and counselors to adequately meet students’ mental health needs, especially at a time when those needs are rising. Mental health is directly related to learning. Students struggling with anxiety, depression, or the effects of trauma simply don’t have the mental bandwidth to process new information. Many K-12 schools across the country lack enough school psychologists and counselors to respond to the mounting mental health needs of their students. Just 8% of districts met the recommended ratio of one school psychologist to 500 students. While most districts did have a school counselor in the 2020-21 school year, only 14% met the recommended ratio of 1:250.
Teachers Second-guess Letter Grades as They Search for a Fairer Way
Washington Post: Districts are experimenting with ways to level competition and focus on what experts think matters most: What should a grade represent? How can grades be used to motivate students to learn and retain information? How can grading be equitable? Instructors typically penalize children for late, incomplete, or sloppy work, finding many opportunities (via homework and incremental tests) throughout the semester to do so. Studies have shown that these strictures unfairly privilege students with economic means, good nutrition, mental well-being, and stable home life over others who may work after school, have a defective laptop, or lack a desk and a quiet space to do schoolwork every night. See related article: Associated Press “No More Extra Credit? Schools Rethink Approaches to Grades.”
3 Ways Districts are Embracing SEL
K-12 Dive: Many districts have sought out creative strategies to engage students in areas outside the traditional classroom to support their mental well-being and soft skills development. One district, for example, is having students meet at a horse farm for a program designed to teach appropriate social engagement skills, self-discipline, and resilience. Another started an annual Mental Health Wellness and Awareness Week, with each day structured around a theme, such as Mental Monday, Toolbox Tuesday, and Wellness Wednesday. Some districts have incorporated debate teams into their SEL (social-emotional learning) curriculum because it helps students develop public speaking skills while also teaching them to think quickly on their feet.
Cardona: Schools Entering ‘New Phase’ of Recovery as CDC Guidance Shifts
K-12 Dive: The CDC announced that schools can drop mask requirements in communities with low to medium coronavirus spread, aligning schools’ health and safety precautions with those of the general public. People in communities with high levels of COVID-19 should continue to wear a mask indoors, and those who are at higher risk for severe illness should speak with their doctors to tailor their precautions even in areas of medium spread. Communities could also take into consideration other factors, such as workforce capacity, when requiring masks in schools and other locations.
White House Looks to Push Congress on Universal Child Care
US News & World Report: The White House is making an economic argument to persuade lawmakers to address the country’s childcare and early learning crisis. The Biden administration is serious about addressing the country’s childcare and early learning crisis, which existed long before centers began closing due to the coronavirus. Now several years into the pandemic, early childhood programs have been all but gutted. Biden is highlighting the issue and has discussed at length how states are using $39 billion from the American Rescue Plan to bolster the childcare sector. During a visit to the University of Minnesota, Biden spoke about the university’s Child Development Laboratory, which trains early education teachers and serves as a child care center.
State of the Union: Biden Addresses Student Mental Health, Saying Their ‘Lives and Education Have Been Turned Upside-Down’
The 74 Million: Declaring that children’s “lives and education have been turned upside-down,” President Joe Biden used his first State of the Union address to highlight the pandemic’s blow to student mental health, and he fixed some of the blame on social media. President Biden plans to use federal relief funds to double the ranks of school social workers and counselors. The president also plans to propose $70 million in early-childhood mental health funding as part of his 2023 budget, and he has already included $1 billion in his 2022 budget request for school-based mental health services. The White House linked students’ social and emotional struggles to academic outcomes, pointing to early data revealing that students were 4-5 months behind in math and reading.
5 Most Popular Areas for COVID Relief Spending in Schools
District Administration: Tackling unfinished learning and closing equity gaps for the long-term continue to lead K-12 leaders’ priorities as they invest American Rescue Plan funds in bouncing back from COVID. Leaders surveyed by AASA, The School Superintendents Association, listed five top priorities for ARP funds: 82% plan to expand whole-child supports, including social, emotional, mental, and physical health and development, 76% will continue to invest funds in summer learning and enrichment, 66% will add staff and specialists to support student needs, and 55% will renovate and update school facilities.
Around the Nation
After-school Programs Offer Academic Boost for Detroit Students
Chalkbeat: After-school programs became a lifeline during the height of the pandemic for students and have only grown in significance in Michigan as school and community leaders seek ways to help students rebound from the aftershocks of COVID. A program at the Downtown Detroit Boxing Gym teaches students how to box. But they can also receive homework and tutoring support in math and English, as well as science, technology, and engineering. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced that she wants to increase state funding for before-school and after-school programs, saying such programs “help students get back on track academically by ensuring a safe place outside of school hours.”
Detecting Students’ Mental Health Needs: How School Nurses Can Help
Education Week: While school counselors, psychologists, and social workers are important sources of mental health support, so, too, are school nurses. School nurses are often the sentinels for mental health challenges among students, because students who are having difficulties frequently see the school nurse first. Quite often students’ mental health concerns manifest in psychosomatic complaints (headaches, stomachaches, symptoms of panic attacks that students don’t recognize as panic attacks, muscle pain, and sleepiness).
Relaxed Mask Guidelines Raise Anxiety for Parents of Children with Disabilities
Education Week: When federal officials changed their recommendations on masks, it created uncertainty for many parents of students with disabilities. The rapid change has left parents of medically vulnerable children with questions about how to ensure their children are safe at school. Parents of students with disabilities have faced difficult choices during the pandemic. On the one hand, their children often benefit from therapies and academic interventions that are difficult to deliver in a remote learning environment. On the other, the CDC has said people with conditions like moderate to severe asthma, diabetes, and intellectual and developmental disabilities may be at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
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