Obama urges school safety, mental health grants

In addition to various gun control measures, President Obama wants to fund school safety and mental health initiatives in response to the Sandy Hook massacre, reports Ed Week.

A new, $150 million Comprehensive School Safety Program would fund 1,000 additional school resource officers (guards), psychologists, social workers and counselors.  Another $30 million would help school districts develop emergency plans.

Obama wants $50 million to help 8,000 schools “put in place new strategies to improve school climate and discipline, such as consistent rules and rewards for good behavior,” reports Ed Week.

The mental health package would improve young people’s access to mental health services. Also:

 $15 million to help teachers and other adults who work with youth provide “Mental Health First Aid,” enabling them to identify students with mental health problems early and steer them toward treatment;

$40 million to help districts work with law enforcement and other local agencies to coordinate services for students who demonstrate need;

$25 million to finance new, state-based strategies to identify individuals ages 16 to 25 with mental health and substance abuse issues and get them the care they need.

$25 million to help schools offer mental health services aimed at combating trauma, anxiety, and bolstering conflict resolution; and,

$50 million in new money to train social workers, counselors, psychologists and other mental health professionals.

Before Newtown, Obama proposed eliminating grants designated for school counselors and nearly $300 million aimed at school safety, notes Ed Week. Now the administration is back to creating little pots of federal money for specific uses.

My daughter interned with the California Education Department’s office on preventing school violence two years after the Columbine massacre. She created a web site showing grants districts could seek to fund various anti-violence programs. When that was done, she was asked to help districts evaluate the various programs by posting links to research on their effectiveness. There was no such research. Perhaps we’re wiser now on what works for troubled kids.

Obama’s proposals — “well-intentioned and largely symbolic” — could undermine instruction by wasting time, energy and money preparing for a exceptionally unlikely event, writes Rick Hess.

The president’s proposed “mental health first aid” training grant works out to $150 per school.

. . . it’s likely educators will get a few hours of desultory training, which will be just enough to waste their time without making a difference. Or, if they actually get the training and support they need to do this well (with the $150 per school!), it’ll distract from training in their core work of preparing instruction, crafting assessments, monitoring student learning, and so forth.

An array of federal grants create “extra paperwork, meetings, and opportunities for small-dollar consultants,” writes Hess.

Without a plan, few will graduate

“If you don’t know where you’re going, you might end up somewhere else,” advised Yogi Berra.

Community college students get lost –and drop out — unless they figure out quickly where they want to go. But many start without clear goals and few get much help from advisors.

CC counselors see more troubled students

Community college counselors are seeing more students with psychological problems, while also advising on academic problems, job plans and other issues.

Students on academic probation can lose eligibility for Pell Grants quickly under the new rules.

Counselors: Schools fail to prep students

High schools should ensure that all students have access to a quality education that prepares them for college and careers, say counselors in a College Board survey. But most say that’s not the mission of their school system.

Ideally, what should be the mission of the education system? In reality, how well does this fit your view of the mission of the school system in which you work?

Annual survey Chart

Students don’t understand the academic skills they’ll need to achieve their college and career goals, most counselors say.  They’re too busy with administrative tasks to help students navigate the application and financial aid process.

School is haven for foster kids

Designed for foster children and others in troubled families, a Bronx charter school offers “a small student-teacher ratio, an extended school day, many tutor options and special training” for teachers,  reports AP.  The Haven Academy is sponsored by the New York Foundling, a private child-welfare agency, and has access to the agency’s large staff of counselors.

Private donations pays for the extra support.

The school has three full-time employees who focus solely on the social and emotional needs of the students. On any day, five to 10 Foundling counselors may be enlisted for student visits lasting from 30 minutes to a full day. All 200 Foundling counselors are invited to school functions.

The school was formed mindful that the only way students will progress academically “is to address the social stuff,” said Gwendy Fuentes, who coordinates support services between the school staff and child welfare workers.

Fuentes said it is not uncommon for counselors to help children who have been removed from their parents or have moved, sometimes multiple times a year.

Test scores are rising: 84 percent of second graders perform at or above grade level in reading and writing.

Counselors get low marks

High school counselors didn’t provide much help with college or career planning, young adults tell Public Agenda. In a national survey, Can I Get A Little Advice Here?, 60 percent of those who went on to higher education “gave their high school counselors poor grades for their college advice.” Nearly half said they felt like “just a face in the crowd.”

Many high school counselors are overwhelmed with students in crisis and have little time for anything else.

Downtown College Prep, the charter school in my book, Our School, invests a lot in helping students and their parents understand what it means to prepare for college, how to pay for it and how to succeed once you get there. It’s essential for students who are the first in their families to aspire to college.

KQED Radio’s Michael Krasny is hosting a special two-hour broadcast on first-generation college students from Downtown College Prep in San Jose on March 10. To join the live audience, call (415) 553-3300, or email forum@kqed.org.