Education Week - January 30, 2013 - (Page 24)

24 EDUCATION WEEK n JANUARY 30, 2013 n COMMENTARY “ Mental Health Is Part of the School Safety Equation Teacher training By Laura C. Murray should include s the country continues to respond to the school shootings in coursework on how to Newtown, Conn., there is an urgent need to broaden the public promote youth mental conversation from a focus on gun control health, identify signs the equally important and arming teachers to issue of untreated mental illness in young people. of possible mental I have no intention of minimizing the loss of children and six educators, but I illness, and utilize 20 innocentthis unspeakable tragedy offers an believe that whole-school opportunity to turn national attention to the need for “mental-health literacy” and expanded in schools. approaches to help mental-health servicesto remember that the I challenge others students and promote gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Adam Lanza, was once an innocent elementary might his life have learning.” school student himself. Howhad received highunfolded differently if he A quality services, treatment, and supports for his behavioral needs throughout childhood and adolescence? Is it possible that the shootings could have been prevented? We will never know the answers, but we can consider an additional, essential question: How can schools help the underserved and often invisible population of youths who struggle with mental-health disorders and promote mental health, wellness, and safety for all students at the same time? It should be noted upfront that the vast majority of people with serious mental illnesses are not violent. But those with an untreated serious mental illness who are suffering from a psychotic episode are more likely, on average, than members of the general population to commit a violent act. Fortunately, in the last 20 years, there has been growing interest in child and adolescent mental health, with recognition among psychologists that young people have many unmet mental-health needs and that schools have the potential to address many of them. Unfortunately, efforts to train educators to support youth mental health, however, are sorely lacking. School districts and teacher-training programs in colleges and universities need to remedy these oversights by equipping teachers with the skills and confidence necessary to provide accurate mental-health information at a time when students most need it—and, in fact, at a time when their lives may literally depend on it. If teachers could be better equipped to identify students who may be suffering from anxiety or depression, or who may have suicidal thoughts—or even disordered and paranoid thinking—the chances of helping such students and keeping school communities safe would greatly improve. Teacher training should include coursework on how to promote youth mental health, identify signs of possible mental illness, and utilize whole-school approaches to help students and promote learning. Advocates can make a strong case for including mental-health literacy, or an ability to recognize optimal behaviors and feelings as well as challenges, in pre- and in-service training for teachers. They should consider the following well-documented points: (1) Schools are primary places for fostering healthy youth development; (2) good student mental health is required for optimal learning; and (3) teachers are distinctly situated to become role models and coaches regarding mental health by virtue of their close relationships with students. This month, following Newtown, President Barack Obama proposed sweeping gun-control reforms. But he also unveiled a proposed executive action to support “mental-health first aid,” or mhfa, training for teachers. Mhfa was developed in Australia as a two-day workshop to teach adults how to provide preliminary help to a person developing a mental-health problem or experiencing a mental-health crisis. It is Why Equal Internet Access Is an Education Essential By Helen Brunner T he days when spiral notebooks, No. 2 pencils, and a backpack full of textbooks served as the mainstays of the American classroom are rapidly giving way to a new school environment. Interactive whiteboards, online classes, streaming lectures, and digital textbooks are revolutionizing the way students learn and communicate with their teachers. Technology is blurring the brick-and-mortar boundaries of learning in 21st-century schools. As a result, access to the Internet has become a need-tohave—not just a nice-to-have—when it comes to student success. After all, according to documents the Federal Communications Commission’s broadband task force released in 2009, about 70 percent of teens said the Internet had been their primary source for a recent school project, and at least 65 percent went online at home to complete their homework. Teachers routinely assign homework that requires Internet use to complete, and more than half of American schools expect to adopt etextbooks in the next two to three years. But with this increased reliance on the Internet as a basic resource in our education system, we can’t forget about the infrastructure that makes it all possible. We must ensure that all students—no matter their location or socioeconomic status—have access to affordable, reliable high-speed Internet both in and outside the classroom. Even if students have reliable Internet access at school, many become digitally disconnected once they leave. This is especially true for those who live in rural or low-income communities, and it makes their homework harder to complete. It’s often difficult for students in rural areas to get to their schools, which makes online connections at home all the more important. This lack of access particularly affects minorities. Only 55 percent of African- “ There are some concrete steps that we can—and must—take to give all students access to the technology they need to thrive.” American and 57 percent of Hispanic households are able to access the Internet at home, and only 50 percent of residents in rural areas have high-speed Internet, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Without access to the Internet, students can’t take advantage of the numerous innovative tools that have democratized learning, such as high-quality teaching, learning, and research materials that are available for free online. For instance, the nonprofit Khan Academy offers an extensive online library of more than 3,800 free video lessons that have been viewed millions of times and cover topics on everything from math, chemistry, and physics to art history, civics, and economics. Founder Salman Khan has said he created the academy as a way to provide a free world-class education for anyone, anywhere. In addition to open educational resources, the availability and popularity of distance learning in K-12 education have also taken off in recent years. Currently, 30 states and the District of Columbia offer multidistrict, full-time online schools, which allow students to take courses from any location, including classes that are not available at their schools. Through virtual and self-paced learning, students can also retake courses to raise a grade or even get ahead to graduate early. The Florida Virtual School is the country’s largest K-12 online school program, now serving more than 148,000 students. In 2011, the Florida legislature passed a mandate that requires high school students to take at least one online course in order to graduate. While open educational resources, virtual schools, and

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - January 30, 2013

Education Week - January 30, 2013
Grad Rate At Highest Since 1970
Teachers Differ Over Meeting Nonfiction Rule
States Soon to Weigh Science Standards
News in Brief
Report Roundup
New Scrutiny as Head Start Centers Recompete for Aid
Flu-Related Absenteeism Prompts School Closures
FOCUS ON: CAREER READINESS: Internships Help Students Prepare for The Workplace
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Competitions Connect Tech. Startups With Educators
School Choice Advocate to Lead Private Schools’ Group
INDUSTRY & INNOVATION: Digital Technologies Fuel Continued K-12 Acquisitions
Blogs of the Week
‘i3’ Raises Ante in Evidence, Research Push
GOP Players in Congress Step Forward On K-12
Policy Brief
Inauguration 2013
State of the States
LAURA C. MURRAY: Mental Health Is Part of the School Safety Equation
HELEN BRUNNER: Why Equal Internet Access Is an Education Essential
VICKY SCHIPPERS: Let’s Overhaul How We Teach History
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
CHARLES J. RUSSO: Armed Teachers And Guards Won’t Make Schools Safer

Education Week - January 30, 2013