By: Dr. Tami Silverman   

Saying this has been a difficult year for educators and students is like a saying the Indianapolis 500 is a race – an immense understatement. Losses and loneliness due to COVID-19, rising levels of childhood poverty and hunger, and constant uncertainty coupled with pressure to quickly adopt and adapt to new technologies and learning modalities. Post-pandemic days grow ever closer, but what does that mean for Indiana students going forward?

Educators, mentors, and family members are concerned about learning loss resulting from the numerous educational disruptions. Early data from national testing organizations showed, on average, a 5 to 10 percentile drop in math scores for children in the critical third through eighth grades. Drops were particularly notable in the scores of Black and Hispanic students and students attending high-poverty schools, another disproportionate impact of the pandemic on our poor and non-white communities.

McKinsey & Co. has released a study that both projected estimated learning losses while also providing suggestions to address the students most impacted. Specifically looking at learning in math, McKinsey estimated that white students lost three months of academic growth while students of color lost three to five months. Suggested activities to address the learning loss, and expanding opportunity gaps, included: scaling high-intensity tutoring; creating small group academies over school breaks; protecting the neediest school districts from spending cuts; adding academics into summer camp activities; and touching base with missing students and their families weekly beyond virtual media, including in-person home visits and/or food or supply deliveries.

House Bill 1008, the student learning recovery grant program, is currently under consideration in the Indiana State Legislature. The legislation would designate funding, define eligible entities, and establish requirements for student learning acceleration plans. If passed, the bill would take effect immediately, allowing Indiana schools to quickly act to help their students.

In addition to learning loss, there is little doubt that the pandemic has elevated levels of anxiety and depression among students that had these illnesses before the outbreak. Research in the journal Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health also reported that new and/or different fears and behavioral health illnesses have emerged for many of our children and youth. As schools and activities resume, we need to acknowledge the lasting impact that stress, uncertainty, loss, and fear can have. Our task is to prioritize our kids’ mental health and their social and emotional wellbeing, finding the additional supports and services they need to feel safe and secure.

Our kids need the connections found not only in school but also in sports, afterschool programs, and the countless other activities that were scaled back or halted due to health concerns. Summer programs can be a fantastic way to transition back into group interactions. Camps, academies, and out-of-school programs offer learning and developmental growth delivered through fun and engaging models. Playworks, a nonprofit that promotes child development through play activities, recently published practical ways to keep kids active – and socially and emotionally health – this summer. A list of suggestions and resources can be found here and Playworks Indiana can be reached at www.playworks.org/indiana/.

Of course, we also must applaud the tremendous efforts made this year by our teachers, counselors, administrators, and everyone working in schools. They have adjusted to new schedules, new technologies, and often complicated new safety requirements. It is not surprising that many educators are feeling stressed and burnt out. Edsurge’s article about supporting educators in 2021, linked here, contains several recommendations and free resources to support teacher efforts, many from the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence.

The need to address youth learning loss, child social and emotional well-being, and educator support is clear. We all benefit when all Indiana students are nourished and prepared to succeed. It will likely be several years before we fully understand the impact the pandemic has had on our kids. Yet there are local and state efforts underway and there are additional actions we can take now to build a pathway to recovery. This year has changed everyone, let’s work together to minimize and offset the negative effects on our students.

 

IYI’s recently published Data Report: Youth in the Justice Systemhighlights data indicating that historical and current school discipline practices and polices continue to disproportionately push some kids of color out of the classroom and into the juvenile justice system, leading to severe long-term outcomes in education, economic well-being, and health. 

To learn more, click here! 

It is an understatement to say that back-to-school this year is unusual and filled with uncertainty. As youth serving professionals, community leaders, and families, our ability to model tolerance of today’s uncertainty will be crucial to helping our children and youth navigate this time. COVID-19 continues to challenge schedules and social interactions. Living with uncertainty while still enjoying learning, friendships, and interactions with supportive adults will be among the important lessons they receive.

School, at its best, is a great place to learn important skills and new ideas, develop friendships, explore new activities, and prepare for future careers. Schools can also expand a student’s world view through learning about world history, languages, cultures, and the arts. The value and skills that professional teachers bring to all of these experiences were spotlighted last spring, as many families faced supporting e-learning tasks at home.

We also know that positive social interactions are good for kids, with a large portion of peer interactions happening at and after school. Schools support students’ social-emotional development including teaching valuable long-term skills such as collaboration, self-regulation, and growth mindset. Research suggests that schools also often support a student’s sense of community and civic engagement.  School buildings provide gathering spaces for organizations, such as PTA meetings, that exist to support students and educators. Schools also provide a range of basic needs and social services, such as food distribution, nursing services, and behavioral health care, to thousands of students.

While the pandemic certainly challenged academic teaching, many educators and parents have identified student social-emotional needs and well-being as their main concerns. The pandemic, and the associated rapid move to remote school last spring, created a sense of isolation for countless children and youth. Many students are waiting for schools to reopen to receive essential counseling and mental health services. Child abuse and neglect are frequently first reported by educators, who are trained to look for warning signs. And in many homes, parents of school-aged children face sustained stress as they attempt to balance work and economic concerns with childcare and education changes.

Classrooms are not the only sources for student learning and development. Education outside of the classroom takes many forms – sports, camps, community centers, clubs, and more – and the caring adults leading these programs have adapted their services, creating innovations to connect students with mentors, quality programming, and support services.

Local afterschool programs are a crucial part of every communities’ youth services, providing hands-on learning, leadership opportunities, creative expression and enrichment programs, peer interactions, and workforce support, while also offering families safe and reliable student oversight beyond school hours. In a recent survey, 70% of afterschool programs reported that they continued to serve students in some capacity through the pandemic. Afterschool programs also serve many communities of color, immigrant populations, and low-income families, addressing inequities that have increased as a result of COVID-19.

While school has been a source of positive support and growth for some students, significant opportunity gaps existed across our school systems long before this coronavirus. Risks associated with in-person school include bullying, racism, group exclusion, anxiety, stress, and increased risks of suicide.

The pandemic has raised awareness of the economic and racial disparities that prevent equal access to essential school services. The lack of educational resources and underfunding of schools and afterschool opportunities for communities of color and families with low incomes have left many students without access to all of the benefits school intends to offer. This underscores the need for responsive efforts that level the playing field for vulnerable children. Furthermore, major racial disparities in student discipline rates have been documented for years.

While some kids flourished in the pre-crisis school structure, others did not. Some kids were able to sustain peer relationships within all safety standards while others were isolated either physically, emotionally, or both. The pressures on our students, families, afterschool providers and educators are immense. We can and should be looking for ways to support and uplift all that are working to navigate these uncertain times.

According to a recent survey from USA Today, there appears to be agreement that: we are worried about our children, distance learning is difficult, teachers are working harder, and children will eventually be able to make up lost ground. Experts have developed recommendations for safely reopening schools under certain conditions, including reports from the Centers for Disease Control, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. Local schools around the state are exploring complex plans that look to manage the health risks of the virus and the risks of prolonged social isolation. But experts also point out that in-person schooling, if not executed safely, could lead to mental-health, as well as physical health, concerns.

There are many ways we can both protect our students and nourish their academic and social-emotional wellbeing. As we move forward, let’s be flexible in supporting all forms of learning. Let’s support the dauntless teachers and youth workers dedicating their professional lives to helping children. Let’s work to reduce the pressure of grades, tests, social expectations, and constant achievement that we routinely place on kids. At the same time, we can continue to innovate and reimagine education to effectively use and access technology. We must also adjust our efforts to acknowledge the differing impacts on our underserved kids. This is a challenge we will be working on throughout the fall, the school year, and the foreseeable future.

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(Dr. Tami Silverman is the President & CEO of the Indiana Youth Institute. She may be reached at iyi@iyi.org  or on Twitter at @Tami_IYI. IYI’s mission is to improve the lives of all Indiana children by strengthening and connecting the people, organizations, and communities that are focused on kids and youth.)

 

 

We all know STEM is important, but do we know how important it will be moving forward?

Children must be able to grow, learn, adapt and thrive in a quickly evolving world. STEM is not only about economic prosperity, but also establishing good quality of life for our children.

Our STEM Spotlight, produced in collaboration with the Girl Scouts of Central Indiana, is a quick and easy way to digest STEM in relation to Hoosier youth.

Read the Spotlight here! 

 

Research continues to show significant racial differences in school suspensions and expulsions. In general, white students tend to receive disciplinary office referrals for behavior that can be observed more objectively—e.g., smoking, vandalizing, leaving class without permission, making obscene comments—while in comparison Black students were more likely to receive disciplinary office referrals for behaviors that can be interpreted more subjectively (e.g., disrespecting, threating, making excessive noise).  

Now, the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) has published an online data portal where students, families, and community leaders can see the number and breakdown of disciplinary actions in Indiana schools. You can access this information by going to https://inview.doe.in.gov/typing in a school, and clicking on the “Environment” tab. The data is available for the 2017-18 school year broken down by school, school corporation, and state numbers.  

 The statistics at the state level are as follows:  

 In-School Suspensions: 

  • Overall, 4.4% of Indiana students were suspended in-school across the state of Indiana.  
  • Among Indiana students, Black/African-American children were more than twice as likely to receive in-school suspension compared to their white peers (8.2% compared to 3.4%). 
  • In-school suspension rates are highest among Black students (8.2%), multiracial students (5.9%), Native American students (4.9%), and Hispanic students (4.7%)  and lowest among Asian (1.7%), white (3.4%), and Hawaiian or Pacific Islander children (3.5%). 
  • Students with disabilities (6.5%) and students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds (6.2%) received suspensions at higher rates than all other races/ethnicities except for Black. 
  • Black (8.2%), multiracial (5.9%), and Hispanic (4.7%) were the three highest percentages of students. Asian (1.7%), white (3.4%), and Hawaiian or Pacific Islander (3.5%) were the three lowest percentages. 

 Out-of-School Suspensions: 

  • Overall, 5.7% of Indiana students were suspended out-of-school across the state of Indiana. 
  • Among Indiana students, Black/African-American children were nearly four times as likely to receive out-of-school suspension compared to their white peers (15.4% as compared with 3.8%). 
  • The rate of Black/African-American students (15.4%) suspended out-of-school was nearly twice that of the next largest race/ethnicity (multiracial students, 7.9%). 

 Expulsions: 

  • Overall, 0.3% of all Indiana students received an expulsion. 
  • Black/African-American students, along with Hawaiian or Pacific Islander students, received more expulsions than any other race/ethnicity at 0.4%. 
  • Asian students received the fewest expulsions at 0.1%. 
  • Among all expulsions, 0.4% of students were from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. 

Recent research from the American Psychological Association suggests that many widely-used school disciplinary techniques are counterproductive and actually negatively impact student achievement, increase students’ risk of dropping out, and increase the likelihood that students disciplined in schools would become involved with the criminal justice system. When school disciplinary systems can be updated to include equity-focused interventions, as IDOE is working to do, schools can reduce the discipline gap, lessen the negative impacts of discipline, keep students in school, and improve the overall school climate.   

Our State Legislature, recognizing the issue of disproportionality in school discipline, passed House Enrolled Act 1421 (HEA 1421), which requires IDOE to provide schools with training and information on evidence-based models for improving school behavior and discipline. The law’s overarching goal is to ensure that all students across our state have access to a “safe, respectful, culturally- and trauma-responsive learning environment.” Through these efforts, school districts will have quick access to the latest available data and receive the information and resources needed to review and update their disciplinary practices. 

Now that the school year is in full swing, families should examine both the discipline numbers for their schools and the code of conduct. Child Trends has five questions they recommend asking your school about disciplinary practices, including:  

  1. What does my school do to prevent misbehavior?
  2. What behaviors place my child at risk of removal from class or school?
  3. How and when does my school involve police?
  4. Does my school use corporal punishment or seclusion and restraint?
  5. What is restorative justice and is it used in my school?

We all want schools where every student and staff member are safe and focused on learning. It is promising that our elected officials and IDOE are acting to reduce the disproportionate rates by which Black and Hispanic students, students with disabilities, and economically disadvantaged students are disciplined. With the data now easily available, we can all step up to understand the numbers and help ensure the next steps are more constructive ones. To paraphrase Maya Angelou, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”  

Students laugh and talk.

For the thousands of Hoosier children in foster care, educational success is essential to reach their full potential. But research tells us that our foster youth face educational disparities from early education to postsecondary.

We can all help Indiana’s foster students thrive by working together, addressing systemic issues and providing equitable opportunities.

Our latest spotlight, developed in partnership with Foster Success, aims to support you in making a difference in the experiences and outcomes of our foster youth.

Read the spotlight to get the latest insights on this growing population of students.

Read the spotlight!

By Tami Silverman, President & CEO, Indiana Youth Institute 

Indiana Youth Institute’s legislative summary is a review of child-and youth-centered legislation passed and proposed during the State’s most recent legislative session. Because this was a budget year for the Indiana Legislature, we also highlight significant funding decisions affecting Indiana kids. 

Some of the major budget changes include:

1.) School funding increases of 2.5% for each of the next two years were passed, with an additional $539 million in base funding for K-12 education

2.) An additional $74 million for other education programs, like the Teacher Appreciation Grant program and the Secured School Safety Grant program 

3.) $20 million per year of new funding for the Next Level Jobs Employer Training Program, and 

4.) Department of Child Services receiving a $256 million budget increase in 2020 and $246 million in 2021. 

Some new laws aim to address family and community conditions. Senate Enrolled Act (SEA) 464, Homeless Youth, facilitates homeless youth access to government identification and education services through a designated representative other than a parent or guardian. House Enrolled Act (HEA) 1432, Parental Incarceration, stipulates that Department of Child Services case plans must consider incarcerated parents who have maintained a meaningful role in the child’s life, including but not limited to visitation.  

As noted above, education issues garnered significant attention, as lawmakers funded K-12 public education at the highest levels in over a decade. At the same time, many were disappointed that more was not done to close the State’s comparative gap in teacher compensation. Numerous education bills were passed including HEA 1628 which expands pre-K eligibility, while maintaining prior funding levels, to every Indiana county. Not surprisingly, several education bills, including but not limited to HEA 1004, HEA 1224, HEA 1398, HEA 1629, and SEA 002, addressed school safety issues. New this year, SEA 132, requires every high school to administer the naturalization exam for citizenship to students as part of the U.S. government course requirement. The bill also requires increased study of the Holocaust in a U.S history course.  

The State’s Department of Child Services (DCS) came under heavy scrutiny this session. In addition to the budget bill, SEA 1 and HEA 1006 cover several activities aimed at improving DCS operations including but not limited to setting new standards for timely responses, availability of telephone contacts, caseload limits, response requirements, and maximum age for collaborative care. The new legislation also includes a requirement that DCS report their progress to the general assembly before July 1, 2020.  

In juvenile justice legislation, proposed Senate Bill 279 would have allowed children as young as 12 to be waived into adult court after being charged with attempted murder. The bill met significant opposition, as the proposal runs contrary both to national trends and youth offender rehabilitation research.     

Two notable misses of this legislative session concerned addressing state smoking rates. With nearly 9 out of 10 smokers starting before age 18, and Indiana having one of the highest percentage of residents who smoke in the nation, nicotine use in all forms is a critical youth health issue that must be addressed by our state. This year, the Indiana Legislature failed to pass two bills – one to increase the state smoking age to 21, another to raise the Midwest’s lowest cigarette tax – which research shows would have had a significant impact on youth smoking rates. In addition, parents and schools continue to express frustration with rising vaping rates, and little was done this session to address this emerging public health issue.   

As we look to the summer study committees, we are monitoring the interim study committee on courts and the judiciary, focusing on reforms to laws and policies on the adjudication and rehabilitation of juvenile offenders.Education interim study committees will address the impact and funding of school counseling programs while also looking at teacher pay 

We were encouraged by the many bills that were introduced and passed which aimed to increase child well-being in our state. At the same time, much work remains to move our state beyond our 29th place national ranking. Indiana Youth Institute will continue to provide data and research, collaborative conversations, and community convenings in our efforts to ensure that all Indiana children are safe, healthy and well educated.     

(Tami Silverman is the President & CEO of the Indiana Youth Institute. She may be reached atiyi@iyi.orgor on Twitter at@Tami_IYI. IYI’s mission is to improve the lives of all Indiana children by strengthening and connecting the people, organizations, andcommunities that are focused on kids and youth.) 

We want you to have access to great data.

This data and research source guide lists some of our favorite trusted and reliable sources that you can use in your work with Indiana’s kids.

In addition to links to each source, the guide indicates whether:

  • Data is available at national, state, county and/or more specific local levels.
  • Data is disaggregated by race, gender, place, income, and/or other related indicators.
  • Data is accessible through dashboards, interactive visualizations, downloadable reports and/or raw data.

Read the Issue!

Social-emotional learning is a foundational approach to educating the whole child

This issue brief focuses on social-emotional learning (SEL) and how you can make SEL foundational to your work with Indiana’s youth.

SEL helps ensure students have the social, emotional, behavioral, and academic competence necessary for success in school and lifelong well-being.  This essential work focuses on educating the whole child and requires a cultural and mindset shift as well as a collective approach.

In this brief, you’ll find an overview of the Indiana Department of Education’s new Indiana Social-Emotional Competencies and the latest SEL research. Plus, you’ll learn how you can effectively implement SEL in your classroom, school and community.

Read the Brief! 

“Nobody has ever asked me what I value before, and if they have then they certainly have never asked me what I value when talking about deciding my future career.”

It was one of those statements that instantly made me stop in my tracks and appreciate the moments when I am given the opportunity to venture into the thoughts of my students and gain a better understanding of how I can I better serve them as a school counselor. I was delivering a lesson on career development to 11th and 12th graders and the activity was for them to identify what they value so we could start some career conversations around the significance of finding a career that aligns with their values and beliefs. I have done the lesson before and it is always a great conversation starter, but this was the first time a student was brave enough to admit she did not know what she valued because nobody had ever asked her that question before.

It was at that moment I brought myself back 20+ years ago and realized if I would have been asked the same question I was asking her, I would have felt the same exact way. As educators, we often assume our students come to us with this preconceived knowledge and perceptions that will help them decide their future destinies, but in all actuality, these are thought processes that have to be developed and will continue to be developed throughout their lifetime.

After some personal reflection, I had to admit that my own values and beliefs are still constantly evolving and what I value now may not have been the same thing I valued when I was a 16-year-old girl searching for direction in life.

This example serves as a perfect reminder of why it is imperative that schools offer a K-12 career development framework that is developed around student needs. This was the first time this question was ever posed to this student. Imagine the power of that question if this was an area of consideration that was introduced at an early age and the potential of how that thought process would have been able to develop so by the time this young lady was about to graduate high school she would have a very clear picture of her values and how they relate to her career goal.

Starting at an early age with career development opens the door for uninhibited aspirations that are driven by young minds that are getting to know themselves in regard to values, interests, strengths and ambitions. Acknowledging those aspirations has the potential to open up a world of wonder and excitement when young students start to think about not what they want to do but what type of person they want to become when they grow up. The connection to a career can come later.

The middle and early high school years can continue to drive this self-reflection home for students as they begin to research potential careers that align to the values and strengths they have already identified within themselves. This can become a time when they start to develop more defined goals and career planning conversations with the hopes that by the time they graduate high school they will be able to gain experiences in their areas of interest and connect with employers on a deeper level so they can develop a more well-rounded understanding of how these careers look and feel.

As counselors, we are in a unique position to guide our students through this K-12 career development system and I cannot think of many more careers as important and fulfilling as this one. We are given the opportunity to help our students discover the people they are striving to become!

So, I ask you, what are your values and beliefs? How do these values and beliefs relate to your current career? Without even knowing each of you individually, I would venture to say that all of us value the success of our students and have a belief that our responsibility as counselors is to help them become fulfilled, striving, successful members of society. . . and that pathway to success starts in Kindergarten.

To learn more about K-12 Career Advisement Strategies, join me at the Indiana Youth Institute’s College and Career Conference on June 5 and 6 in Indianapolis. Register here: http://bit.ly/IYICollegeAndCareer

About Terri Tchorzynski

Terri Tchorzynski is a Professional School Counselor at the Calhoun Area Career Center (CACC) in Battle Creek, Michigan, and has been named the 2017 National School Counselor of the Year by the American School Counselor Association (ASCA). Through a data-driven, comprehensive, and student-centered approach to school counseling, Terri and her team have received both state and national recognitions. Behind Terri’s leadership, the CACC’s counseling department has been recognized by the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) for exemplary practices in college/career readiness, and was the second school in the state of Michigan to receive the nationally recognized achievement of being a Recognized ASCA Model Program (RAMP). Terri has also been recognized as a Top Presenter for MDE’s Career and Technical Education Conference, an Honorary Counselor by the Michigan School Counselor Association, as well as being named the 2016 Michigan School Counselor of the Year. Connect with her on Twitter at @ttchorzynski.

 

Additional Resources

“Five Things Parents Need to Know About Career and Technical Education.” NBC Universal Parent Toolkit, February 2018.

“Launch Into the Field of Aviation.” ACTE Techniques, January 2018.

“Creating a Culture of College and Career Readiness.” ACTE Techniques, September 2017.