The COVID-19 Pandemic has changed everything. As schools closed we all changed our pattern of work and play, family and home. Teachers can see the outcome of those changes in the parents and children who returned to our schools, especially in the gaps between higher and lower performing students. Although that gap might have seen a narrowing before the pandemic, it is now widening, and the importance of the relationship between a student’s academic recovery and that same student’s mental health is emerging.
Gaps are Widening
There has been very little movement in the trend lines for the National Assessment of Educational Progress scores by American students, until this year.
This chart show us two trends downward. The first trend is that all students have fallen behind. The second trend is that our lowest performing students have fallen further behind. “There has been more impact over the last two years for those who are already struggling the most,” said Peggy G. Carr, the commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, which administers the NAEP (Sarah Schwartz, Sept. 2, 2022, in EdWeek ).
Supporting Ongoing Mental Health Services in Schools
One of the takeaways from all of this is the need to re-double our focus on the mental health of all students and especially our lowest performers. Re-double our efforts is a reminder that we in schools have been aware of a trend in sadness by our students dating back to 2009:
Our sense of what to do now is to make sure that every student feels like they belong in our school. From the morning welcome by a head of school who knows every one of her students, to morning meeting where all are invited to participate, to classroom groupings, recess, lunch, arts and sports, we must show our students that they all matter to us everyday.