This year’s Wonkathon is over, and the results are in!
2021’s Wisest Wonk:
- Angela Jerabek, for “ .”
- Jeff McGuire, for “ .”
- Justina Schlund, for “ .”
Thank you to all of our participants! Read about the competition, as well as all twenty-five entries, below.
Over the past year, extended school closures caused by Covid-19 have wreaked havoc on our nation’s students. Thousands have lost parents, grandparents, and family friends to the virus. Children and teenagers have suffered from a lack of routines and extracurricular activities and the inability to see their friends and classmates. Their moms and dads have dealt with fallout from unemployment and small business closures. And far too many have suffered from neglect and abuse, which have gone unreported.
Those hit hardest are the most disadvantaged children, especially kids in big-city school systems where reopening decisions have been mired in controversy, pushback, and distrust. And even before the pandemic, teenage suicide rates and other signs of psychological distress were on the rise. For all of these reasons, many students will need increased mental health support as they transition back into a full-time academic environment, and as they struggle to manage grief, anxiety, or other emotional responses to recent events that will require long-term monitoring and an ongoing response.
School leaders recognize this, citing students’ mental health as one of their top concerns. But many educators don’t feel confident in their ability to identify who in their classrooms might require additional mental health supports. And many schools lack a clear, coherent system for addressing these needs, with roughly 40 percent reporting that they currently address concerns on a “case by case basis.”
This needs to change. Now and in the near future, as children reacclimate to traditional in-person classrooms environments, schools must develop, implement, and maintain distinct plans to support students’ mental health. Ample federal resources are heading into school systems to help offset the costs. To be sure, schools must remain focused on their core academic missions, rather than try to become full-service mental health providers. But just as children can’t learn if they are hungry or can’t see the whiteboard, neither can they learn if they are suffering psychological distress.
This year’s Wonkathon tackled these issues head-on. We are asking contributors to address this fundamental and genuinely challenging question: How can schools best address students’ mental health needs coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic without shortchanging academic instruction?
Below are their answers:
- Four ways schools can prioritize mental health as part of a safe reopening plan, by Glenn Albright
- To the fountains for healing: Classical education in the post-pandemic classroom, by Jennifer Babisak
- Four ways schools can expand mental-health supports for students and staff post-pandemic, by CAO Central
- Addressing students’ mental health: Early is good, earlier is better, by Laura Weeldreye, Margo Candelaria, Ph.D., and Douglas Lent
- Cultivating SEL in a digital learning environment, by Cody Bendix
- The power of words, by Sally Bergquist
- How schools can fund and implement strong mental health supports after the pandemic, by Sarah Broome
- Choosing “all of the above” serves all, by Dr. Alex Casillas and Dr. Bonnie A. Hain
- To support the whole child, support the whole school, by Laura Encalade and Dr. Hank Staggs
- How schools can establish a culture and instructional strategies that benefit all students, by Laurie Gardner
- Commitment over compliance must be the rule if we are to build sustainable supports for children, families, and educators, by Shelton Jefferies
- Reimagining teacher teams to address students’ mental health, by Angela Jerabek
- Cultivating an equitable culture of K–12 health advocacy in the wake of Covid-19, by Ebony Lambert, Ph.D.
- The primacy of trust: How to create an environment that promotes social emotional learning and academic success, by Brooke Mabry, Elliot Ransom, Nina Ryan, and Lauren Wells
- We need to admit that school is alienating, by Jeff McGuire
- SEL for all begins with SEL for educators, by Sulina Mohanty and Genesis Keller
- The non-negotiables for addressing students’ mental health needs coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic, by Charles Ogundimu, Ph.D.
- Partnering with culturally-specific community organizations to provide consistent, expansive, and adaptive mental health services, by Christine Pitts and Elizabeth Gilkey
- Social-emotional learning: The fifth core, by Jordan Posamentier
- Taking a racial equity approach to support student mental health, by Abby Quirk
- To address mental health, think systemically about social, emotional, and academic learning, by Justina Schlund
- Relationships are where learning happens, by Jennifer L. Steele
- Fast break: Instilling emotional safety and engaged learning in high schools, by Barry E. Stern, Ph.D.
- Promoting student well-being is an investment in academic growth, by Turnaround for Children
- Breaking through the Covid fog and getting students ready for college—academically, socially, and emotionally, by Yonkers Partners in Education