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Friday, November 16, 2018

Does Your Child Have Grit?

From Smart Kids with LD

By Caroline Adams Miller, MAPP, with Eve Kessler, Esq.
November 12, 2018

At a Glance
  • In a well-intentioned—but misguided—effort to protect our children from failure, we’ve created a generation lacking the skills to overcome adversity;
  • But it’s never too late to change the dynamic;
  • Here’s how to get started helping your children develop grit, the quality that will allow them to live their best lives.

The self-esteem movement of the 1980s had a tremendous impact on how the millennial generation was raised. Believing that high self-esteem led to positive social, emotional, and mental health, parents and educators bubble-wrapped their children, shielding them from stress, adversity, risk-taking, and anything else that might hamper their burgeoning self-confidence.

While we are all invested in the well-being of our children, the self-esteem movement’s mindset of fear and safety took the desire to protect our kids to the extreme. It started on playgrounds with plastic slides and woodchips. Schools began to prohibit tag at recess, give “participation” trophies to all kids, ban the selection of valedictorians, and sanitize reading lists.

States removed parallel parking from their driving tests. Nike created Velcro-closing sneakers. Kids stopped climbing trees. Colleges created “safe spaces,” where students could watch puppy videos in the dark while eating cookies. Emotional support and comfort animals became a mainstay on airplanes. Everyone was “awesome.”

Grit Over Awesomeness

But the “awesomeness” movement backfired.

Eliminating adversity from children’s lives hindered them in the long run. Rather than raise resilient risk-takers, we created fragile, narcissistic young adults with underdeveloped critical thinking skills and the inability to handle adversity.

What we truly want is for our kids to be motivated to do their best, to persist with more courage than fear, and to be prepared to overcome obstacles in their path.

Research shows that grit could be the key ingredient to a flourishing life. The happiest people face hard goals with passion, perseverance, purpose, and humility. They help and inspire others. They have will power and the capacity to delay gratification. When something matters to them, they have the ability to pick themselves up and develop a mindset that keeps them going, even when they don’t want to keep going—to cultivate grit in the face of failure.

Grit is not talent or luck. As defined by positive psychology expert and author Caroline Adams Miller, “authentic grit” is the passionate pursuit of hard goals that awes and inspires others to become better people, to flourish emotionally, take positive risks, and live their best lives—to “shoot for the moon” by focusing on a cause greater than themselves; “ordinary grit” is the pursuit of extraordinary goals in everyday life by everyday people.

Take Action: Cultivate Grit

Following are some strategies to help your kids become their best selves. These also serve as a reminder that grit isn’t just for kids.

  • Identify and use individual strengths. Know your own and your child’s top five strengths. Have your child use the Values in Action (VIA) character strength survey, which ranks strengths on a scale of 1 to 24. Make sure your child understands the strengths she has. Point out ways she is tenacious and resilient and recognize how she uses grit each day.
  • Shoot for something with passion. Kids are influenced by seeing others (parents, peers, people they know) “go for broke,” as well as by stories of ordinary people overcoming obstacles (e.g., a news story of a homeless woman with five children going to law school against all odds).
  • Have high standards and support your kids to reach their goals. Kids need role models with great abilities and high principles and ideals. For example, kids love to try to beat sports records and to see others try to best them, as well. Have your child’s school post its sports records. When one kid beats a record, it will motivate others to believe that they, too, have “what it takes.”
  • Prime the environment. Model how your child can motivate herself every day. Technology can help, such as a cell phone reminder of what goal she wants to achieve today or over time. When that goal is achieved, create a new goal to be tackled.
  • Embrace random jolts. Use unexpected blows as catalysts for creativity and success. Tell stories of how something you thought would be detrimental became the stimulus for positive action, for example, how Keith Jarrett created the best-selling jazz recording of all time on an out-of-tune piano.
  • Create a resiliency mindset. When faced with challenges, say, “Why not?” Take what may be an unrealistic goal and tweak it to become even harder. For example, if your child believes she is a strong swimmer, maybe her goal is to make the high-school swim team, or maybe it’s to be recruited by a college swim coach. Always keep in mind where your child is on the developmental spectrum: if she is struggling in school academically or socially, perhaps her version of grit and resiliency is to get out of bed in the morning and be on time for school.
  • Develop persistence. Angela Duckworth, PhD, professor of psychology and MacArthur fellow, is the author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, a psychological examination of the power of grit, and creator of the Grit Scale, which identifies traits that might predict achievement. She describes grit as having a long-term goal that organizes and gives meaning to everything you do and “maintaining effort and interest over years despite failure, adversity, and plateaus in progress.”
  • Cultivate patience. Model the importance of waiting for rewards, despite disappointment or boredom, for example, by planting pumpkin seeds in late spring for a Halloween harvest. Teach how to delay gratification through deliberate strategies, such as adding more knowledge before making decisions, or putting a desired purchase on layaway instead of buying it outright on credit.
  • Create an environment where you are interested in uplifting other people’s goals as well as your own. Teach your child that the success of others does not reflect negatively on her. This is referred to as The Shalane Effect, named for Shalane Flanagan, an American long-distance runner who, as well as focusing on her own success, actively mentors and inspires other female runners in what is typically an aggressively competitive environment. Shalane believes that her approach makes her a “better athlete and person” and allows her to have “more passion” toward her training and racing.

Remember that, even if you have enabled your child in the past, there is never a wrong time to demand a different kind of excellence and perseverance from her—and from yourself as well.

This article is based on How to Cultivate Grit in Your Kids… And Put the AWE Back in AWESOME, a presentation by Caroline Adams Miller, MAPP, speaker, consultant, educator and author of Getting Grit: The Evidence-Based Approach to Cultivating Passion, Perseverance, and Purpose.

Eve Kessler, Esq., a criminal appellate attorney with The Legal Aid Society, NYC, is co-founder of the not-for-profit SPED*NET, Special Education Network of Wilton (CT) and a Contributing Editor for Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities.


Educational Neuroscience ‘A Bit Far-Fetched’

From TES News

By Caroline Henshaw
November 8, 2018

Academics argue neuroscience is 'largely unnecessary for the development of effective learning interventions'.

Arguments that the application of neuroscience could have a direct impact in the classroom are “a bit far-fetched”, according to new research.

Michael R. Dougherty and Alison Robey, from the University of Maryland in the U.S., said that neuroscience was in fact “largely unnecessary for the development of effective learning interventions”.

“The idea that neuroscience can have a direct impact in the classroom is a bit far-fetched,” they said in a paper published this week.

“Neuroscience may be useful for understanding brain mechanisms and establishing connections to cognitive theory, but it is largely irrelevant to considerations of education policy and classroom practices.”

The pair cite the theory of “brain training” as a prime example of how “seemingly groundbreaking neuroscience findings…simply do not scale up to practical education interventions”.

Educational neuroscience is a burgeoning field that brings together psychology, neuroscience and educational theory to explore how an understanding of brain mechanisms could lead to improvements in learning.

The discipline has been hailed as a way to transform educational practice through science, spawning initiatives such as London’s Centre for Educational Neuroscience, the Education and Neuroscience Initiative and the Neuroscience and Education Conference.

A teaching union also voted to train thousands of teachers in neuroscience to help them understand the mental processes behind learning.

But Professor Dougherty and Ms. Robey said interventions based on cognitive theory, such as active learning and retrieval practice, have been far more successful in the classroom.

On this basis, they argued that funding should be geared more toward cognitive and social-psychology research, to create more evidence-based interventions in education.

They also argued that neuroscientists needed to dial down the hyperbole around their work to ensure the “public not be misled about the promise of basic research for addressing applied problems”.

Their arguments echo other academics, such as Bruce Hood, professor of developmental psychology at the University of Bristol, who has warned schools against using "neuroscience nonsense" in the classroom.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Should Childhood Trauma Be Treated as a Public Health Crisis?

From NPR's Health Blog "Shots"

By Erin Blakemore
November 9, 2018

When public health officials get wind of an outbreak of Hepatitis A or influenza, they spring into action with public awareness campaigns, monitoring and outreach. But should they be acting with equal urgency when it comes to childhood trauma?

A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests the answer should be yes. It shows how the effects of childhood trauma persist and are linked to mental illness and addiction in adulthood.

And, researchers say, it suggests that it might be more effective to approach trauma as a public health crisis than to limit treatment to individuals.

The study drew on the experiences of participants from the Great Smoky Mountains Study, which followed 1,420 children from mostly rural parts of western North Carolina, over a period of 22 years. They were interviewed annually during their childhood, then four additional times during adulthood.

This study has something other similar studies don't, says William Copeland, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont who led the research. Instead of relying on recalled reports of childhood trauma, the researchers analyzed data collected while the participants were kids and their experiences were fresh. And the researchers applied rigorous statistical analysis to rule out confounding factors.

Even when the team accounted for other adversities aside from trauma, like low income and family hardships, and adult traumas, the associations between childhood trauma and adult hardships remained clear. The associations remained clear.

The study is "probably the most rigorous test we have to date of the hypothesis that early childhood trauma has these strong, independent effects on adult outcomes," he says.

For Copeland, the wide-ranging impacts of trauma call for broad-based policy solutions in addition to individual interventions. "It has to be a discussion we have on a public health policy level," he says.

Nearly 31 percent of the children told researchers they had experienced one traumatic event, like a life-threatening injury, sexual or physical abuse, or witnessing or hearing about a loved one's traumatic experience. And 22.5 percent of participants had experienced two traumas, while 14.8 percent experienced three or more.

Related: To Head Off Trauma's Legacy, Start Young

The childhoods of participants who went through traumatic events and those who didn't were markedly different. Participants with trauma histories were 1.5 times as likely to have psychiatric problems and experience family instability and dysfunction than those without, and 1.4 times as likely to be bullied. They were also 1.3 times more likely to be poor than participants who didn't experience trauma.

When these children grew up, psychiatric problems and other issues persisted. Even after researchers adjusted for factors like recall bias, race and sex, the impact of those childhood psychiatric problems and hardships, the associations remained.

Participants who experienced childhood trauma were 1.3 times more likely to develop psychiatric disorders than adults than those who did not experience trauma, and 1.2 times more likely to develop depression or substance abuse disorder.

Participants with histories of trauma were also more likely to experience health problems, participate in risky behavior, struggle financially, and have violent relationships or problems making friends. And the more childhood trauma a person experienced, the more likely they were to have those problems in adulthood.

Copeland acknowledges the study's limitations—it included mostly white participants in rural settings, and a disproportionately high number of Native American participants compared to the rest of the United States due to the area's high concentration of members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. But the study is nonetheless important, says Kathryn Magruder, an epidemiologist and professor of psychiatry at the Medical University of South Carolina.

"I think it should put to rest any kind of speculation about early childhood trauma and later life difficulties," she says.

Though the link has been shown in earlier research, Magruder says, this new study can help direct future research and policy. "Why are we revisiting it? Because it is time to think about prevention," she says. Trauma is a public health problem, she adds, and should be met with a public health approach.

Psychologist Marc Gelkopf agrees. In an editorial published along with the study, he writes: "If the ills of our societies, including trauma, are to be tackled seriously, then injustice must be held accountable."

Related: Childhood Trauma And Its Lifelong Health Effects More Prevalent Among Minorities

The policy implications are clear, says Jonathan Purtle, a mental health policy researcher and assistant professor at Drexel University's Dornsife School of Public Health. "We need to prevent these things from happening to children and support family and community so that people can be more resilient," he says. Policymakers can create coalitions around issues like mental health and trauma-informed approaches in contexts like education and healthcare, he says.

One step in that direction comes with the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, a bipartisan bill to address the opioid crisis that was signed into law October 24. The law recognizes links between early childhood trauma and substance abuse.

It includes grants to improve trauma support services in schools, created a task force to provide recommendations on how the federal government can help families whose lives have been impacted by trauma and substance abuse, and requires the Department of Health and Human Services to help early childhood and education providers spot and address trauma.

Bills like the SUPPORT Act enjoy bipartisan and are a promising start, says Purtle — but they don't go far enough. To really reduce trauma and mitigate its effects, he says, policymakers must pursue community investment and policies like minimum wage laws that reduce economic pressure on people who are struggling.

"It's more than just 'toughen up and deal with it,' " he says. "A lot of it comes down to people not having to live their lives in a state of chronic and constant stress."

Kindergarten Homework: Too Much Too Early?

From Education Week

By Marva Hinton
November 12, 2018

A kindergarten student works on a coloring project at
Fallsmead Elementary School in Rockville, Maryland.

Kindergarten has taken some getting used to for Walker Sheppard, who didn’t attend preschool or day care. Besides all the new rules to remember, there’s a new nightly routine: homework.

“We spend anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour on it,” said Michael Sheppard, Walker’s dad.

When the 5-year-old comes home every day, Sheppard said, his son is tired and not ready to sit down and figure out his assignments.

“He doesn’t like it,” said Sheppard, who lives in Pulaski, Virginia. “The first week he went to school he asked us why he was having to do schoolwork at home.”

That’s a question a lot of parents are asking, especially when it comes to the youngest pupils. Studies by researchers including Harris Cooper, a Duke University psychology and neuroscience professor who wrote The Battle Over Homework, have consistently shown that homework has minimal academic benefits for children in the early-elementary years.

Instead, both the National Education Association and the National PTA endorse Cooper’s so-called 10-minute rule, which calls for roughly 10 minutes of homework a night per grade level beginning in 1st grade. So children in 2nd grade would have 20 minutes, those in 3rd grade would have 30 minutes, and so on. In high school, students may exceed that recommendation depending on the difficulty of the courses they choose.

Split Opinions

Those guidelines don’t even mention kindergarten. But that’s not stopping educators in many places from assigning homework.

Delilah Orti said that every Monday her daughter, Mia, a kindergartner last year in the Miami-Dade Public Schools system in Florida, received a homework packet with about 25 worksheets that were due at the end of that week.

Orti said the packet included work on phonics, spelling, reading comprehension, and social studies. She describes her daughter as a quick learner who was already reading in kindergarten but still needed her help with word problems and science worksheets.

“She could read the words, but she had no idea what they meant,” said Orti.

Orti said Mia spent 30 minutes reading every night and an hour on the packet.

“I felt that it was inappropriate for that age,” said Orti. “What she was getting for homework was more busywork. I don’t think she was getting anything out of it and I think it was way too much.”

But such concerns aren’t shared by administrators or parents at Arlington Traditional School, a countywide elementary school in Arlington, Va., with a waiting list of parents eager for their children to attend.

Kindergartners there are expected to do 30 minutes of homework a night, Monday through Thursday.

Every student at the school is expected to spend 15 minutes reading a night. For kindergartners who can’t read yet, that means their parents are expected to read to them. The other 15 minutes is spent doing things like dictating a story to their parents using words that start with a sound they’ve been learning in class or exercises that involve circling that letter.

“We feel that this is a connection that we want with parents,” said Holly Hawthorne, the school’s principal. “We want them to know what their children are learning at school, we want them to know how they’re doing in school, if the work is too hard, if it’s too easy, we want them to be able to support what the kids are learning at school at home as well.”

Eliminating Packets

Still, some kindergarten teachers remain firm in their opposition to mandatory homework.

Barbara Knapp used to assign her kindergarten pupils at Bradley Elementary School in Corralitos, California weekly homework packets. But that all changed 10 years ago during the Great Recession.

“Teachers were only given two reams of paper a month at my school, so we were forced to cut back,” said Knapp.

She and some of her colleagues at the school located about 90 miles south of San Francisco decided a good way to do that would be to eliminate those homework packets. During that time, she said, she started to research homework and found the case against it for young elementary pupils very compelling.

“The research showed that there was no correlation between school success and the traditional paper-pencil homework in kindergarten,” said Knapp, who has 19 years of classroom-teaching experience.

When she was assigning homework, Knapp said parents sometimes complained that it was frustrating for their children. Other times, it was obvious the parents had done the work rather than the child.

Now, Knapp only assigns nightly reading of her pupils’ choice, a move that she credits with making them better readers. She adds that she hasn’t seen any deterioration in other skills since she eliminated traditional homework, and she’s been able to spend more time on lesson preparation rather than grading homework.
“It’s been great not having to focus on homework,” said Knapp. “Putting together the packet, running them all off, grading them all, it was a huge amount of time that was being taken instead of us planning really wonderful, rich, in-class lessons. Homework took away a lot of planning time for just a bunch of busywork.”
Risk of ‘Busywork’ vs. Parental Bonding

Cathy Vatterott is no fan of busywork at any grade level and doesn’t think homework should be part of kindergarten. She’s a professor of education at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and the author of Rethinking Homework. “There’s enough of an adjustment for young children in kindergarten without throwing in homework,” said Vatterott.

And she worries that adjusting to school routines combined with homework could turn off young students to learning.

“I want to make sure that they don’t hate school,” said Vatterott, who noted that young children learn best through play.

She also points to a 2016 University of Virginia study, “Is Kindergarten the New First Grade?,” which found that kindergarten in 2010 was more like the 1st grade of the late 1990s. Vatterott says she’s concerned that children who aren’t developmentally ready for this work might “internalize that they’re not smart or that they’re not good at school.”

But keeping the bond strong between home and school is one of the reasons that Duke researcher Cooper doesn’t mind homework for pupils in kindergarten, with a few caveats.

“The assignments need to be short, simple, and lead to success,” said Cooper. “We don’t want young children to get frustrated with homework. We don’t want them to get bored, and we don’t want them to begin thinking that schoolwork is too difficult for them so that they begin to develop a self-image of not being a good student.”

Finding a Balance

Some kindergarten teachers are embracing short, unique assignments for their pupils that don’t involve worksheets.

Shannon Brescher Shea’s son’s kindergarten teacher provides a list of activities the children can do at home if they choose. The activities ask them, for instance, to draw a picture of what they did over the weekend or collect and count a handful of leaves by ones.

Shea says after visiting her son’s classroom in suburban Rockville, Md., and seeing how much work he does, she’s even more against the idea of mandatory homework for children in kindergarten.
“They are going through so much energy and so much focus at school already and exerting so much self-control that to then have these kids come home and do homework on top of that is a recipe for them not wanting to go to school and not enjoying learning,” said Shea.
Jennifer Craven’s daughter is also in kindergarten this year, and she said so far the young girl has been asked to “practice tying shoes, practice writing her name, and read two books each night.”

Craven, who lives in Meadville, Pa., a city about 90 miles from Pittsburgh, said her family would be doing these activities anyway, and for now, her daughter thinks homework is fun.

“I think this is very age appropriate and I don’t mind the use of the term ‘homework’ at this age, as they will realize what real homework is soon enough,” said Craven.

Michael Sheppard talked to his son’s teacher in Pulaski about the homework she assigns. He said the 30-year classroom veteran acted like it was out of her hands.

Sheppard, 42, who attended school in the same district as his son, Walker, said he didn’t have to deal with homework until well after kindergarten.

“Maybe there should be homework,” said Sheppard. “I just think it would be better starting at 3rd grade.”


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

As State Ratings Loom, Parents Worry About Fate of Schools

From The Lens

By Marta Jewson
November 5, 2018

As state-issued school ratings loom, parents at several New Orleans schools await final word on whether the district will close their children’s schools.

Fifteen schools are up for charter contract renewals or extensions, but the Orleans Parish school district has strongly hinted that four are in danger of closing. And the only elementary school in the city that’s not run by a private charter school group could be merging with one.

At Edgar P. Harney Spirit of Excellence Academy, parents will meet with district administrators Monday night amid administrative turmoil. Last week, the embattled board suspended its principal. Earlier in the week, the principal, Ashonta Wyatt told The Lens that she was worried the board would fire her.

The school, which has a C rating from the state, is in danger of closing because it has racked up warnings from the school district over its financial practices and what the district said is a failure to provide adequate special education services.

Harney parent Lateisha Vallery-Broden said she has faith in the teachers and hopes the school will remain open.

“As a parent, I need to know if my daughter’s school is closing,” she said.

"Cypress Academy proactively welcomed students with a broad range of disabilities and invested in the resources required to meet their needs. Students with disabilities and their families chose Cypress partly due to the “pull” of Cypress as a welcoming and accommodating school and also due to the “push” of other schools that were unwilling or unable to meet their needs. In this way, Cypress is subsidizing costs that should be borne across the schools. --From an open letter from Cypress Academy parents
Cypress Academy, in Mid-City, is the last remaining district-run elementary school in a system now made up almost entirely of privately managed charter schools. Just six months after the school district promised to run Cypress through the end of the 2019-2020 school year, some parents there are worried that officials are already looking to outsource it to a charter group. The district took the school under its wing last spring after its charter board abruptly decided to close.

Cypress parent Madelyn Meyn told The Lens she wants the district to uphold its two-year commitment. The district has introduced Cypress parents to four charter groups, but she doesn’t think any are viable options for a merger next school year. She’s worried that won’t stop them.

“I think they’re just going to pull the trigger no matter what,” she said. “I don’t think that’s right.”

Some parents think the district intends to announce a new charter operator for Cypress before opening the citywide enrollment lottery, called OneApp.

The district has delayed OneApp until after the release of district Superintendent Henderson Lewis’ charter school renewal recommendations, when parents will find out if Lewis wants to close their children’s schools or keep them open. The recommendations are scheduled to be released next week. OneApp will open Nov. 19, about two weeks later than previous years.

Independent charter schools are publicly funded but privately run. Though the elected Orleans Parish School Board has ultimate authority over the schools, day-to-day operations are overseen by nonprofit boards at each school. In exchange for the freedom to hire their own staff and select their own curriculum, charters must meet annual academic and financial benchmarks.

That makes state letter grades — annual evaluations of each school based mostly on state standardized test results — particularly important for schools in the last year of their multiyear contracts.

The state Department of Education will release school grades on Thursday. The superintendent’s charter renewal recommendations, largely based on those ratings, will likely be released Monday, Novembr 12. The Orleans Parish School Board will hear them during its meeting next week.

Earlier this year, the district halted enrollment at four schools, including Harney, suggesting that Lewis is likely to recommend closing them. Asked about the move last month, district spokeswoman Dominique Ellis said the district “will not allow additional seats to be filled at schools that are in danger of losing their charter.”

“Even when it’s hard, the Orleans Parish School Board must and will act on behalf of the city’s children,” Lewis wrote in a newsletter released Monday morning. “That means that non-renewals, transformations and school closures could occur as we fulfill our commitment.”

Different Schools, Different Concerns

Vallery-Broden, whose daughter attends Harney, said at a meeting last week that problems seem to lie with the Central City charter school’s governing board.

“Why not get rid of our board so these kids can have a neighborhood school?” she asked. “They have great teachers.”

She knows the school has gotten in trouble for financial mismanagement. That’s been a concern at Harney since it was part of the state-run Recovery School District. It transferred to the Orleans Parish school district in 2017. All remaining RSD schools transferred back to local control this summer, and the Orleans district is running the majority of schools for the first time since Hurricane Katrina.

“Why not get rid of our board so these kids can have a neighborhood school? They have great teachers.”
—Lateisha Vallery-Broden, Harney charter school parent

Members of Harney’s nonprofit governing board “are not holding up their end of the bargain,” Vallery-Broden said.

Harney is one of four schools where the district halted enrollment. But parents at Harney don’t understand why charter-board mismanagement would cause a C-rated school to close.

The three other schools all have F ratings, meaning the state considers them to be failing. Medard Nelson Elementary School, run by the New Beginnings Schools Foundation, and William Fischer Accelerated Academy and McDonogh 32 Charter School, run by the Algiers Charter network, all must receive C’s to remain open.

Fischer and McDonogh 32 have combined campuses for the remainder of the school year as they face low enrollment. All three schools have had F’s for at least two years running.

The district has given Cypress parents two options to remain open after the 2019-2020 school year. Find a charter operator to merge with or start a charter themselves. The district has introduced four different charter schools to Cypress parents over the last two months.

Some parents feel they need more time to explore the four potential charter operators.

“I am confused as to why this decision is being rushed since OPSB agreed to operate Cypress for at least two years, and can only come to the sad conclusion that OPSB wants to quickly merge Cypress so that they will not have to operate us next year and therefore will not have have the fiscal responsibility of Cypress,” parent Stacey Seefeldt wrote in an email to district leaders.

“I ask that you give us more time to reach a majority vote as a school community,” she wrote in closing, attaching a photo of her son.

In his press release Monday, Lewis acknowledged the importance of his upcoming decisions.

“November is a pivotal month for our still very new, unified school district,” he wrote.

Two Reports Highlight Growing Mental Health Concern on Campus

From Education Dive

By Halona Black
October 30, 2018

Dive Brief

  • Two new studies demonstrate increased concern over mental health issues on college campuses across the country. The research is showing that students are not more sensitive, but rather they are experiencing real trauma that needs to be addressed by the college community.
  • One study of more than 700 introductory psychology students at Arizona State University early last year found that one-quarter had "clinically significant event-related distress" as a result of the 2016 election, The Washington Post reported. Rates were higher among women, racial and sexual minorities, lower-to-middle-classes, Democrats and non-Christians.
  • Inside Higher Ed, meanwhile, reported on a study of academic and news articles that connected most student mental health challenges to race, violence and sexual assault. Many students are not taking advantage of the mental health resources available on campus, the researchers found, while some colleges have scaled back their traditional offerings.

Dive Insight

The number of students seeking services from campus mental health counseling centers increased by 30% to 40% between the 2009-10 and 2014-15 academic years while enrollment grew less than 6% during the period, according to a report from the Center for Collegiate Mental Health.

Anxiety and depression were among the most common reasons for student visits to counseling centers, while visits spurred by suicide attempts or consideration as well as nonsuicidal self-injury have been increasing in recent years, the report found.

In 2014, the University of Michigan implemented an embedded model of care, fashioned after programs at Northwestern University and the University of Iowa. At Michigan, the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) model places counselors in 12 schools and colleges so they become a part of the campus culture. The university reported a 17% increase in demand for counseling services the year CAPS launched.

The University of Minnesota's Boynton Health Service, which offers a holistic outreach program to make its services known to students, has recently expanded its group therapy options amid an increase in demand, according to the Minnesota Daily, a student newspaper. It increased its group therapy options from three to six this semester.

Even as more students seek mental health services, there often is still a gap between those receiving the services and those that need them. In particular, research has found that African-Americans are 20% more likely than other groups to experience severe mental health issues, yet only one-quarter seek mental health support. That's compared to 40% of whites who do.

A history of prejudice and discrimination in the health care system as well as socioeconomic factors that make treatment unaffordable are among the reasons for the discrepancy.

Colleges can play a critical role by stepping up and addressing the issue in a way that is tailored to the needs and experiences of their campus community.

Recommended Reading

Anti-Vaccine Stupidity Returns, As Measles Cases Rise and California Parents Evade the Law

From The Los Angeles Times

By Michael Hiltzik
October 30, 2018

Orange County Pediatrician Bob Sears was placed on 35 months'
probation for excusing a 2-year-old from all future vaccinations
without adequately examining the child.

California struck a blow for intelligent public health policy in 2015, when the state abolished all “personal belief exemptions” from child vaccine mandates.

The new rules were designed to put a stop to the stupid and irresponsible behavior of parents whose casual approach to getting their children vaccinated against a host of communicable diseases — chiefly measles, mumps and rubella — places their neighbors’ children and their entire communities at risk.

The new policy bore almost immediate fruit, as its sponsor, state Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), recently wrote in the journal Pediatrics. (Pan is a physician.) But Pan also reported that some parents who took advantage of personal exemptions in the old days have found a way to circumvent the rules — and some California doctors are helping them.

Personal exemptions have all but disappeared, but medical exemptions are on the rise. As my colleague Karen Kaplan reports, many of those medical exemptions are bogus.

The point isn’t to punish your child or your family — it’s to protect other children.
-- State Sen. Richard Pan

The statistics on medical exemptions come from a study, also published in Pediatrics, which found that personal belief exemptions have been eradicated but medical exemptions are on the rise. Not all of these are fake, but the total is higher than can reasonably be expected. (My colleagues Soumya Karlamangla and Sandra Poindexter spotted this trend in its infancy last year.)

Pan reports that a rise in medical exemptions had been expected after the crackdown on personal belief exemptions, because many families eligible for medical exemptions had opted for personal belief exemptions, which didn’t require the same level of paperwork. But the surge has taken public health officials by surprise.

“MEs more than tripled,” he writes, with some schools reporting medical exemption rates higher than 20%, “revealing that many students received inappropriate MEs.”

What’s especially alarming about this finding is that cases of measles are again on the rise in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 142 cases as of Oct. 6, the highest figure since the 188 cases in 2015; if current trends continue, the caseload could exceed that figure to become the highest since the outbreak of 667 cases in 2014. The CDC reported 11 individual outbreaks in 25 states and the District of Columbia. The majority of sufferers were unvaccinated. Among the most severe outbreaks is in Rockland County, N.Y., which has recorded 33 cases and asked unvaccinated pupils to stay home from school.

The trend line even prompted Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, to warn via Twitter that measles “puts young children at significant risk.”

He connected the spate of outbreaks and the risk of a worsening spread of the disease to “debunked skepticism of MMR vaccine and our negligent accommodation of those theories.”

Gottlieb’s reference is to the handiwork of Andrew Wakefield, a British physician who lost his license for fraudulently promoting a nonexistent link between the MMR vaccine and autism. His claim has been utterly discredited, but still is capable of gaining the attention of credulous individuals like Jenny McCarthy and Donald Trump.

California’s experience with tightened vaccination regulations demonstrates their effectiveness and the remaining challenges. Pan’s Senate Bill 277 eliminated nonmedical exemptions for vaccination as a prerequisite for school attendance. In 2014-2015, only 90.4% of California kindergartners were fully immunized, below the 94% judged to be the minimum to confer “herd immunity,” or to protect even those who couldn’t be immunized for legitimate reasons.

Another tragic outbreak of Measles puts young children at significant risk. These rising outbreaks, and the growing threat of worsening spread, are a direct consequence of debunked skepticism of MMR vaccine and our negligent accommodation of those theories.

After the measure was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2015, according to researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, Johns Hopkins, and Emory, the proportion of California kindergarten students reported to have received all required vaccines increased from 92.8% in 2015–2016 to 95.1% in 2017–2018.

But the proportion of pupils receiving medical exemptions rose to 0.7% from 0.2% — with the sharpest increases tending to occur in districts that previously had been hotbeds of personal belief exemptions. That led the researchers to conjecture that the increase was due in part to “the willingness of some physicians to write medical exemptions for parents who are vaccine hesitant [but] whose children may lack scientifically justified medical contraindications.”

Pan acknowledged that SB 277 made no changes in the law related to medical exemptions, which gives the authority to licensed physicians who turn over the paperwork to parents for submission directly to school boards.

That’s an imperfect arrangement, Pan says. “Granting MEs to legally required vaccines is not the practice of medicine but a delegation of state authority to licensed physicians to protect public health and individuals. Essentially, physicians are fulfilling an administrative role.”

It’s also a problem for state and county public health officials, who have no way to gauge whether the authority is being abused by individual doctors, and for state medical regulators, who have little ability to ferret out abusers. The Medical Board of California, as Pan told me, “generally acts on the basis of complaints from patients.”

In these cases, however, “the patient’s family is in cahoots with the medical provider” — vaccine resisters aren’t likely to file complaints against the doctors who gave them what they wanted. If the board wished to discipline a doctor for issuing bogus exemptions, it would have to go to court to obtain patient records, a lengthy, costly and uncertain process.

More kindergartners got their shots after California tightened
the law, but medical exemptions soared. (CDPH)

Indeed, the Pediatrics researchers found that among health officers they interviewed, “many participants wanted the California Medical Board to take a more active role in disciplining physicians who were writing medical exemptions that they perceived to be problematic.”

The Medical Board told the researchers, however, that a majority of the 60 complaints it had received about bogus medical exemptions since the advent of SB 277 had been closed “because of no violations being found, insufficient evidence to pursue disciplinary action, or the inability to proceed because of a lack of supporting evidence.”

The most notable exception was the discipline imposed on Orange County pediatrician Bob Sears, a well-known facilitator of vaccine resistors who was slapped this year with 35 months’ probation for issuing a medical exemption for a 2-year-old boy without first conducting an exam. “Hopefully that’s a reminder to physicians that what some of them are doing is unprofessional and would have consequences,” Pan says.

US measles cases have been on the rise since 2016, thanks to
unvaccinated persons; if cases continue to rise this year's
toll may soon be the highest since 2014. (CDC)

One legislative solution would be eliminating the authority for doctors to issue exemptions on their own, placing it instead in the hands of local or state health officials — they’d examine the doctor’s finding, then decide whether to issue the exemption. That also would give the officials the data they’d need to identify the sources of excessive exemptions, which they could then pass on to the medical board for disciplinary action.

That change would require legislation. Pan says that may be in the offing, but he’s reluctant to act just yet, partly because SB 277 generally has worked well. If the rate of medical exemptions continues to rise, however, placing communities again at risk, legislation may be needed — perhaps giving health officials the authority to invalidate medical exemptions and to publish lists of doctors whose right to issue them has been revoked.

“People need to remember that the purpose of our vaccination laws is to keep all children safe at school,” Pan says. “The point isn’t to punish your child or your family — it’s to protect other children. The purpose is to protect children who are vulnerable to these preventable diseases. Part of our duty as members of society is to help protect each other. That’s why we have these requirements. It’s about keeping kids safe.”

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Michael Hiltzik writes a daily blog appearing on His business column appears in print every Sunday, and occasionally on other days. As a member of the Los Angeles Times staff, he has been a financial and technology writer and a foreign correspondent. He is the author of six books, including “Dealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age” and “The New Deal: A Modern History.” Hiltzik and colleague Chuck Philips shared the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for articles exposing corruption in the entertainment industry.