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AccreditationYear of the Middle States Network

Your Questions on Student Mental Health, Answered

By May 15, 2023No Comments

Dear Colleagues—

Just how important is the question of mental health in schools? Our April 26 webinar “Mitigating Anxiety in Students” generated so many great insights and responses that this is now our third follow up on the topic.

Today we want to answer questions that arose during the webinar but which we did not have time to answer.

1 | How do you do this in public schools?

There is no one size fits all approach to initiating a change, consider some strategy starting points:

  1. Reframe the issue. This is not about “losing instructional time.” It’s about achieving better results. Slowing down to address mental helath will pay off. The Navy Seals have a saying: slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.
  2. To try a whole-school experiment, secure an executive sponsor. Present data and evidence to support the intervention and propose an experiment that limits perceived risk.
  3. To try a small-scale experiment, secure some “innovator” and “early adopter” faculty. Who can see the benefit of doing this and are willing to sacrifice to prove that it can help? Work with them to find time in the day—eg, planning periods, lunch, etc.—when they can provide a new experience for students.
  4. “Bundle” change. Seton Hall Prep used its accreditation to select a protocol (“Sustaining Excellence”) that calls for action research and a commitment of resources. If your school is considering a schedule adjustment, recalibrated sections, teacher assignments, or other logistics, bundle the changes.

No matter what path you choose, collect data to determine efficacy. Seton Hall Prep’s approach to data collection is simple, effective, statistically reliable, and easily replicated in a public school setting.

2 | How do you navigate the scheduling issue?

Jim Incardona from SHP says, “Our schedule has kept its basic shape from the beginning: we shorten all six instructional blocks on Friday to 40 minutes and allot an hour for the Enrichment block. We also use this schedule to have an optional first Friday Mass, and we use the hour block to hold grade-level assemblies. Because we multi-purpose the one-hour block for portions of the student body, it has actually enabled us to provide more Masses and speakers. It is perceived less as an obstacle, and more as a necessary flexibility.”

3 | How do you make it authentic and not a gimmick?

Jim Incardona from SHP says:

“There really is no compulsory aspect to the project. Everything is presented as an invitation to depart from the ordinary school day. Engagement is really up to the nature of the workshop and the faculty moderator. Workshops that are less engaging are eventually dropped because students stop signing up for them. It is entirely an organic process of finding what works with our students.

“Since the Enrichment Block has become a permanent feature, we can examine it and evaluate it over time. The limits for experimentation are really a matter of faculty availability and skill sets.”

4 | How have parents responded to SHP’s intervention?

Jim Incardona at SHP says, “Our parents have been nothing but supportive.  No skepticism or pushback at all from them. At most we had some early complaints from parents who wanted us to have the Enrichment block more often!”


Here at MSA we consider mental health—for all of us—to be one of the great “Forces at Play” that is reordering the world, and especially education. To learn more about how you can make sense of this tectonic shift and adapt, join us on June 13 for our “Forces at Play” workshop at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education.

Sending all good wishes—

Christian Talbot

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