Bullying, lack of counselors are barriers to child wellness
(Va.) One in five high school students in the U.S. was bullied last year, according to results from a new survey on student health and safety.
But girls, the report found, experienced cyberbullying at twice the rate of boys.
The findings are just two of more than a dozen data points collected by the Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development to provide snapshots that detail the extent to which the nation’s children are healthy, safe, engaged, supported and challenged both in and outside of school.
The Whole Child Snapshots found, for instance, that the nation’s high school graduation rate is the highest it’s been since the 1970s, and that in the past year 68 percent of U.S. children received both medical and dental care for conditions that were preventable.
Also, among those students between the ages of 18 and 24 – only 41 percent participated in the November, 2012 election, far below the overall voter turnout of 62 percent nationally.
“Adequately preparing students for the future requires a more comprehensive approach to education that recognizes the crucial in-school factors and out-of-school influences that affect teaching and learning,” said Gene R. Carter, executive director of the organization which changed its name to ASCD in 2009.
Each state snapshot, including national data, is presented as a two-page infographic aimed at allowing educators and policy makers to see how their states compare with others as well as to national averages.
A key focus of the snapshots is student safety, and editors use as an evaluation tool the presence of public infrastructure like sidewalks, a library, recreational center or a public pool.
According to the review almost half of the nation’s students – 46 percent – live in neighborhoods with the amenities. But the survey found seven mostly southern and rural states where a majority of the students live in less accommodating settings:
- Mississippi (71 percent)
- West Virginia (66 percent)
- South Carolina, Tennessee, Louisiana (65 percent)
- Alabama (64 percent)
- Oklahoma (61 percent)
To examine the level of individual support students receive, ASCD included the ratio of students to counselors in the nation’s schools. Only New Hampshire, Vermont and Wyoming meet or exceed the 250-to-one recommendation. California is at the bottom of the rankings, with 1,016 students per counselor, just after Arizona with 861 and Minnesota with 782.
New Mexico, according to its state snapshot, has a child poverty rate of 29 percent, compared with a rate of 23 percent in the nation as a whole. And while poverty rates for Hispanic and White children in the state match national figures, 34 percent and 14 percent, respectively, the rate for American Indian children exceeds the national rate for that population by 7 percent — 44 percent of New Mexico’s American Indian children live in poverty compared to 37 percent nationally.
“The Whole Child Snapshots are meant to not only connect the whole child approach to existing data already measured across the states, but also provide specific recommendations to support the whole child,” said David Griffith, ASCD’s director of public policy in a statement. “The action steps will help state leaders, educators, and citizens identify opportunities and priorities for improving the well-being and educational achievement of their students.”
For states like New Mexico that struggle with child poverty, the ASCD recommends that communities establish school health advisory councils and connect poor families with free and low-cost health services.
Because the snapshots show that only 52 percent of students report that they care about doing well in school, ASCD also recommends that schools increase student engagement by offering them an array of extended-day learning activities, and academic credit for internships, service learning and apprenticeships.
The overall low student to counselor ratio, along with the fact that only 38 percent of U.S. children have parents with a college degree, prompted the organization to recommend a greater focus on parent education and literacy programs. It also encourages the development of individualized learning plans connecting academic and career goals for all students.
Other ASCD recommendations in the Whole Child Snapshots include:
- Regularly assess and report on school-climate — including staff, family and student perceptions — and use the data to establish positive learning environments.
- Support social-emotional learning and character development.
- Measure and report student and family engagement activities and outcomes (e.g., volunteer rates, community-based learning participation, and parent involvement data).
- Provide relevant and challenging coursework through multiple pathways (e.g., Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, dual-enrollment programs) to all interested students.
- Use accountability systems with multiple metrics that take into account student performance and growth across all core academic subjects, efforts to increase student engagement, and access to varied learning opportunities; publicly report this information.