Education ∙ Public Health
Mental Health & COVID-19 Educational Rebound
A Yang administration will place NYC’s schools at the center of our economic comeback and embrace the goal of ensuring all students, regardless of their circumstances, are able to thrive. Andrew is acutely aware that stark inequities in our city in which 111,000 New York City students- approximately one in ten children enrolled in district or charter schools- were identified as homeless during the 2019-20 school year with 32,700 living in city shelters. Given the myriad of extra challenges housing unstable students face, it is unacceptable that so many students in shelters and transitional housing did not have the technological tools they needed and as a result lost the ability to connect to their education during the shutdown. We must do more to bridge the digital divide so that all students are able to learn at the highest levels. That is why Andrew has proposed an ambitious broadband access program that will commit $100 million to providing WiFi access to families, starting with city shelters and NYCHA facilities.
Embed mental health services in every NYC school.
After over a year of not being in school and all the trauma that was associated with the global pandemic, mental health support for our students is paramount. Even before COVID-19, students suffering from a range of emotional crises often do not have the resources to address the underlying issues. Instead, school staff revert to their most familiar option — calling in law enforcement. Over 1,500 students were restrained by school safety agents of the NYPD from the first quarter of 2019 through the first quarter of 2020, with 89% of those being children of color. And in 2019-2020, 58% of students in emotional crises handcuffed by police were Black. This can often lead to further emotional distress and trauma for children, with students as young as 5-years-old being taken away in handcuffs. This results in missed school and further emotional damage. While it is encouraging that the current administration plans to add 500 new school social workers, including new school psychologists next fall, there is still more to be done.
Andrew Yang’s plan includes:
- Prohibiting the NYPD from handcuffing students in emotional distress.
- Instead, schools must have alternative interventions, using trained mental health professionals who take a trauma-informed approach to hold students accountable for their actions without creating further trauma, teach positive behaviors and build trusting relationships between students and authority figures.
- All staff must be trained and coached in providing direct services to students to resolve conflicts and serve as peacemakers. Teachers will be trained in trauma informed educational approaches.
- Commit to securing a mental health professional in every school. First, each school will have a team trained to deal with students in crises, whether it be guidance counselors, CBOs or other mental health professionals. Second, every child will have a trusting relationship with at least one adult in the school, measured through student surveys; achieved through training of all school staff.
The increased attention toward the trauma that so many young people faced over the pandemic will be crucial to their wellbeing and will likely lead to higher graduation rates and decreased likelihood of entering the criminal justice system.
Ensure that all schools have high-level curricula.
Curriculum choices are very important as they influence whether students get high-quality assignments or not, but schools and teachers generally determine what curriculum is used. There are many independently-rated high-quality curricula available. A Yang administration will ensure that all schools use these curricula and that teachers are given intense training for all students, including those who need greater enrichment. This is how we will bring students up to speed. Andrew Yang believes that we should expand gifted and talented program availability, but he also believes that all schools must be teaching to the highest standards, with or without such programs. It is unacceptable that district schools in one zip code have higher level courses and those in low-income zip codes have less rigorous courses. For example, all schools should have 8th grade algebra and multiple AP classes in high school, regardless of whether students attend a screened or open-admissions school. Doing so will enable our city to move away from a system of haves and have-nots. To ensure that these courses are taught, we must ensure our teachers are trained in high-level coursework. Andrew Yang’s DOE will work with teachers and school administrators to develop high-quality professional development, training and curriculum.
Establish community schools in the areas hardest-hit by COVID-19.
A community school is a collaborative strategy that organizes community resources to best support the success of students by delivering social services within the school environment. Mayor de Blasio launched the Community Schools Initiative in 2014 to integrate academics, health and social services inside schools. There are 267 Community Schools serving 135,000 students and families citywide. In January 2020, the nonprofit RAND Corporation released its evaluation of 113 Community Schools between 2015-2018, finding that amongst the 113 schools studies, there were increases in graduation rates and math achievement, and reductions in chronic absenteeism and school-based incidents in elementary and middle schools. All of our schools will benefit from mental health supports, expanded teacher training and after-school opportunities. But, in the zip codes hardest-hit by the pandemic, a Yang administration will work with principals, local CBOs and school communities to bring the Community School model to the schools that need it the most. We will do this by leveraging the nearly $4.5 billion in federal stimulus money directed to NYC schools. Doing so will have a ripple effect on the local CBO’s in the community who are brought into the schools to provide services.
Make summer programming accessible to all students who want it, including academic and other enrichment programming.
In the wake of the pandemic we must use the summer more creatively. Traditionally, summer school has served as a booster for students who need extra support beyond the academic year. But with the COVID-19 slide, more students could benefit from opportunities for additional enrichment than ever before. That is why Andrew Yang supports the current DOE Chancellor, Meisha Porter’s proposal to open up summer schools to as many students as possible, not just those who have fallen behind academically. Officials expect the city’s new Summer Rising program to enroll 200,000 students this summer. With recent infusion of funds, including as much as $2,500 per student and billions to address learning loss and create after-school and summer programs, Andrew Yang is committed to expanding summer programming to all students who want it for all four summers of his first term.
Big Apple Corps: Mobilize 10,000 tutors for New York City students.
High-dosage tutoring will be key in helping students recover their learning losses from schooling disruption during the pandemic. President Biden’s stimulus package included $1 billion in new funding for AmeriCorps. As Mayor, Andrew Yang will capitalize on this funding by mobilizing 10,000 new tutors as part of a new initiative coordinated by the city and supported by business & philanthropy: The Big Apple Corps. Each tutor serving as part of the Big Apple Corps will work with 10 students, thereby reaching 100,000 of the most vulnerable children in the 5 boroughs starting with Title I schools through coordination with local non-profits who already serve our hardest-hit communities. A Yang administration will tap proven providers of tutoring such as the Great Oaks Foundation, City Year and SAGA Education to provide high-quality tutoring to children in Math and English Language Arts. Each tutor will be trained in high-quality, culturally responsive curricula while serving as a new, diverse pipeline of talent into the teaching profession. Read more about this proposal.