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Are K-12 Disruptions Forcing Higher Ed to Redefine College Readiness?

Episode 91

February 15, 2022 36 minutes


EAB experts Meredith McNeill and Ben Court examine recent data on K-12 learning disruptions and their impact on college readiness. The two share tips on how to prepare to serve students who may present a broader range of needs and abilities than those from years past.

Meredith and Ben also discuss the data on adolescent mental health and the kinds of support today’s students will need when they arrive on campus.



0:00:12.6 Speaker 1: Welcome to Office Hours with EAB. Today, we’re going to hear from a couple of researchers who study best practices in K-12 learning and school district management. Now, because you work in education, you’re no doubt aware that pandemic disruptions have stunted the emotional and intellectual growth of millions of K-12 students. Well, many of those students are going to arrive on your campus in the months and years ahead, and given that most of your institutions are already struggling to meet enrollment targets, you’re going to have to redefine your notion of college readiness. Our experts share thoughts on some of the changes you’re going to need to make, along with some ideas on how to get started. Give them a listen and enjoy.


0:01:01.7 Meredith McNeill: Hi, everyone. Welcome to Office Hours with EAB. My name is Meredith McNeill, and I am here today to talk about a subject that’s taken on a different dimension over the last couple of years, and that is the notion of college readiness. I think it’s safe to say that the past few years have really been a struggle for school districts across America, and students of all ages have really been negatively impacted. Many of those students are headed to college, and higher education institutions may not be ready to support their needs. Joining me today is my colleague, Ben Court. Ben, would you mind introducing yourself and telling us briefly about what you do at EAB?

0:01:42.3 Ben Court: Sure, thanks, Meredith. Hi, good day to you all. My name’s Ben Court. I work as a director with our K-12 research team, and have the honor of working directly with most of our district partners to think through how to use the insights that our research team generates, think through which new best practices might make the most sense in their schools, and how to think through any potential barriers to implementation as well. So, looking forward to today’s conversation, thinking through implications for career readiness and college readiness after the last two years of the pandemic. And Meredith, I’ll pass back over to you.

0:02:17.5 MM: Thanks, Ben. It’s great to be here with you today on this podcast. So, as I mentioned, my name’s Meredith McNeil, and I am the Senior Director of K-12 Research at EAB. Most of you on this… Who listen to this podcast, know EAB, really, for our higher ed work, but there is, in fact, actually a whole team here working to support our K-12 colleagues; both our public school superintendents who are running super… Districts across the country, and we also support independent schools; specifically, the heads of schools that are leading… That are leading those schools across the country. A little bit about my background is, I’ve spent nearly two decades supporting K-12 students and schools. I am a former middle school teacher teaching science in Philadelphia, and have since gone on to work for school districts and work at the state and federal policy level, really working to ensure that all students have the opportunity and access to achieve an excellent education. And I now lead our K-12 research team here at EAB, like I said, that supports both public school superintendents and independent school… Heads of schools.

0:03:21.5 MM: So, that’s a big topic; where to start? I think that it is no surprise to anyone that K-12 has had a really rough past few years. I know that if you have educators or students at home, that you’ve probably felt this stress, anxiety, frustration acutely at your house. Schools have had to juggle going back and forth between virtual, in-person, and hybrid learning. We’ve had to… They’ve had to adapt to the changing local, state, and federal policies with regards to vaccines and mask mandates for both their students and employees. They’ve had to address students returning to in-person learning with an increased need for mental health support, and sometimes, after a year-plus of isolation and potential pandemic-related trauma at home. So, there is no shortage of issues that students are bringing back to schools right now.

0:04:18.8 MM: And if dealing with the ramifications of just the pandemic wasn’t enough, K-12 schools are also on the frontlines of numerous, now, what I’m calling moral panics. There has been just contentious school board meetings where mostly White parents have expressed their anger or fear about diversity, equity, or what is being incorrectly defined as critical race theory. And now, these predominantly White parents are calling for the banning of books that they have deemed inappropriately for their children. And Ben and I could talk about any of these issues for hours, probably days, but since this is primarily a higher ed podcast, I wanna spend the majority of our time talking about two critical issues that we believe will really impact institutions of higher ed. The first issue we wanna spend some time talking about is the widening equity gaps, and then missed learning due to the pandemic, and its potential impact for college readiness, and more importantly, just P-20 success.

0:05:22.1 MM: And the second issue we wanna spend some time talking about today is just the new mental health challenges caused by the pandemic that colleges and universities are really gonna need to address. Now, many of you on the line may be thinking, “Okay, well, these really aren’t new things,” and you’re right. The pandemic hasn’t per se created a whole new host of challenges, but it really has exacerbated the existing ones, and the unresolved problems that K-12 was already facing. So now, I’ll let Ben chime in here to talk about some of this early data that we’re now getting… Just getting back now about the impact of the missed learning that started, really, in March of 2020, when the pandemic first hit. So, Ben, I’ll turn it over to you to tell us a little bit more about what the data says.

0:06:14.4 BC: Sure. I think it’s really interesting that we’re finally getting some concrete data that kind of illustrates what many people have feared for a long time at this point, which is that the missed learning that occur… Or didn’t occur, should I say, over the past two years is going to have had a significant impact on student progress, especially from an academic perspective. And I think… When we start talking about missed learning, it’s important to break it down into a few different areas to be able to make it tangible. If we look first at the students who are coming to you perhaps soonest; you know, those who were in high school today, a couple of interesting things that have come out. So we did see, overall… It seems like the overall high school graduation rate in 2020 did dip slightly, which is the first time we’ve seen that happen in a long time, and that’s at the same time that districts across the country were really trying to lower the barrier to graduation as much as humanly possible; really trying to make sure that as many students successfully make it through that hurdle as they can.

0:07:12.6 BC: So the implication there, really, is those students who were in junior and senior year are likely coming to you perhaps without the same experiences that juniors and seniors typically would have had as they come into college, and may have some additional requirements when it comes to foundational college courses that previous students have been fortunate to be more prepared for by the time they reach your institutions. If we back down a little bit from there and look at those in perhaps freshman and sophomore year of high school, we did see an enormous increase in course failures, especially in Math and English during the pandemic. And so now, high schools across the country are thinking, “Well, what are the implications of this? How does this impact students’ academic pathways forwards? What do we need to do differently to best prepare them for higher education, or for moving into careers as they move beyond high school as well?”

0:08:02.3 BC: If you go back even a step further, those course failures definitely were mirrored in middle schools across the country, which is an important thing to consider, especially because many of those course failures occurred in Math and English, those core courses, and were coupled with pretty significant increases in rates of absenteeism. And we know those things combined actually are strongly predictive of increases in high school non-completion. So, the likelihood that we see more kids in the next few years not make it successfully through high school is significant, especially if we look at that data historically from a research perspective. Will it play out that way? Nobody knows for sure yet. Hopefully, we can do some things to be able to prevent that from occurring, but it’s certainly on the radar.

0:08:44.7 BC: And then if you go all the way down into elementary school, where there’s usually much better data to be able to identify how students are progressing, there are a couple of patterns that have emerged pretty strongly in the data. The first is when we look at reading schools, reading proficiency. The greatest declines in reading proficiency happened between kindergarten and third grade. And so, it’s important to recognize, from a research perspective, that being able to read proficiently by the third grade is absolutely crucial. The 75% of students who don’t read proficiently by third grade will never catch up with their peers who have reached proficiency by that stage, which actually, according to some data, makes it… Makes them potentially half as likely to attend college in the long run. When we look at math as opposed to reading, the declines have been more consistent across the board, from kindergarten through to eighth grade. And so, when we look at the intervention schools are investing in, their reading interventions are definitely be focused at those youngest grades, but schools are really looking for answers to help students catch up in math across the board on a more consistent basis.

0:09:51.8 BC: So, if you look at those initial data points, there’s obviously concern from a student success perspective. For up to a decade from now, we could be feeling the effects of the pandemic for a long, long time, because we know that student success is a little bit like a hurdle race, right? You know, if students trip at any one of those hurdles along the way, it can have persistent impacts on their ability to realize the future that they are looking for and be able to successfully make it through K-12 and into college. Meredith, any questions that I’m not answering there successfully yet?

0:10:22.0 MM: No, I think that one of the things, the statistic that always really alarms me, because you talked about the hurdles there, and how falling behind in K-12 really leads to the lifelong consequences. I think that one of the statistics that I heard that really seems out to me is how 80% of high school dropouts were cited that their inability to pass algebra is one of the primary reasons that they leave school. And I think that it’s important to point out to all of our listeners that these were all hurdles that existed before the pandemic, right? [chuckle] And so, now that the pandemic is here and here to stay, at least for the time being… You know, we don’t know what the data looks like in five years or 10 years, and so, we wish that we had a crystal ball to tell you what that means for your enrollment and your student affairs teams, but we don’t quite know yet. I guess that… Another question I had for you, Ben, is, the… You know, data can oftentimes hide the disproportionate impacts of different types of students, particularly White, wealthier students, and their more low-income Black and Brown peers. So I was wondering if there’s any data yet on it that shows the disparities between these two populations, and maybe what that means for some of the people in institutions of higher ed that might be listening?

0:11:49.3 BC: Sure. I think… You know, as you just mentioned, the impact of the past two years has really been to take all of the existing trends and challenges in K-12 education and then magnify them tenfold. So, if you look at the data between schools that are predominantly White, or predominantly students of color, there are clear differences in the rates of decline in student academic progress between those two different types of K-12 institution. Obviously, when you think about what’s happened over the past couple of years, we’ve moved everything to a home learning environment. Those students who had the technology necessary, the conducive home environment necessary, the parental support necessary to thrive in that situation, many of whom have done exactly that. We’ve seen some students actually do better during the pandemic than they did when they were in a traditional learning environment in school.

0:12:41.1 BC: But the same has not been true for those students who didn’t have access to those resources and supports. And so, not just looking at the broad differences when it comes to low-income and communities of color; those are definitely there in the data, but also looking at a more nuanced level at the differences in the level of support students were able to receive. And so, there are some interesting data from within individual districts that show that students, for example, who were typically B students prior to the pandemic, are much more likely to have failed courses than the B+ students, and when you think about who those students are and what the differences are, the hypothesis has been, from the district leaders and school leaders we’ve talked to, that these are the kids who needed just a little bit of extra support in the classroom.

0:13:29.0 BC: They needed that teacher there to be able to answer a question in real time, or feel like they had the right nudge to be able to help them move forwards, and without access to those crucial supports in real time, they’ve really struggled to be able to keep up and sustain that prior level of academic progress. So I think it’s gonna be really interesting for colleges to think about that implication over the next few years, and think about the students who are likely quite capable of thriving in higher ed with the right level of support, but whose transcripts possibly don’t look like that, based on the fact that they haven’t had access to those crucial resources over the past couple of years.

0:14:05.0 MM: Yeah, I think, really, a lot about how institutions respond to the widening equity gaps made wider due to the pandemic. And I also think a little bit about enrollment. How will you… How will institutions prepare to admit the same number of students each year when many will show up, like I said, at your institution less prepared, perhaps, than students of years past? So, lots for colleges and universities to think about. But I know we have a short amount of time, so I wanna turn now to, unfortunately, another pretty grim topic, and that is mental health. We know that higher education institutions are no stranger to mental health support, but we wanted to share with you all some trends we are seeing now in K-12, not to scare you about what’s to come, but with the hopes to really better prepare you and your teams for the types of services and support you’ll really want to provide students when they arrive. Ben is… Has been leading this work on our mental health crisis, so I’m gonna, again, have him tell you more about what the data is showing, particularly in our youngest students.

0:15:09.8 BC: If I think about how to engage in that conversation effectively, I wanna lift up for a second and talk about what most K-12 districts are discussing right now, which is SEL, or Social and Emotional Learning, which has been an enormous focus for most K-12 schools and districts since students have started to come back into the buildings. They’re thinking about how to help students build those crucial competencies for emotional development and social development that are going to set them up for success, not just in education, but in life. Many talk about SEL as… You know, what you might refer to as the vaccine for future mental health troubles, right? They think of this as, “If we can build the right competencies and resiliency right now, these students are going to be better set up for success and better able to thrive in higher education, when times can get tough,” and that is absolutely true, but the thing that is really important to note right now is the unbelievable wait time between the onset of mental health concerns and initial evaluation by a clinician.

0:16:11.0 BC: So there is clear data to say that from initial onset of symptoms, or the need for support with mental health, through to that initial evaluation by a clinician, on average, people wait 11 years for that to occur, which is gonna sound mind-blowing to most. It’s a kind of wait time that doesn’t make any sense at all until you start to unpack the fact that we just do not notice these concerns at an early enough stage. When we wait for symptoms to show up in a classroom for a teacher to be able to refer a student to mental health services, it’s already far too late. And so, the big push right now is for districts across the country to establish more proactive systems of identification to understand which students need greater levels of support for mental health, so that we can do two things: A, reduce the number of students experiencing mental health crises, and B, make the system of support actually manageable for districts who have been completely overwhelmed by the growing number of students who need support for mental health in recent years.

0:17:11.2 BC: So if you think about the fact that we’re now seeing an enormous increase in the number of students visiting emergency rooms across the country for mental health-related reasons, we’re seeing dramatic increases in reports of students showing up at school after 18 months at home, showing either signs of significant weight gain or significant weight loss. We’re seeing increases, especially at the youngest grades, in behavioral concerns among students who are having, perhaps, had the support necessary to thrive in that environment. Behavioral concerns can often be tied to future mental health concerns just as early indications of students needing additional support. When we think of all of this together, you are likely to have students arrive at your campus not showing any significant signs of emotional distress when they arrive, but in desperate need of those supports, because they haven’t yet reached a stage in which those symptoms have become apparent. So, our push across the board is not just to think about early identification in K-12, but also to encourage colleges and universities to think a little bit differently about that problem as well, and create really robust multi-tiered systems of support to be able to support mental health needs and behavioral health needs across the board. But when we come back… Yeah?

0:18:24.5 MM: So you’re talking about… So… So you’re… You’re talking about, essentially, second graders now? Yeah, second graders now? Essentially, 11 years later would be when they are showing up on campus, and that’s when they’re having mental health diagnoses.

0:18:42.6 BC: Yeah, absolutely.

0:18:43.1 MM: They’re officially getting the help, yeah.

0:18:44.9 BC: I mean, if you think about how this plays out, either is… You know, the kids who are not perhaps as outgoing, and fade into the background a little in class, and not as well-known by their teachers; they can oftentimes be the ones that struggle in middle school to be able to make the social connections necessary to feel like they’re able to thrive. Those can obviously then lead to different complications in high school. There are a number of ways this path can play out, right? I’m making broad sweeping generalizations.

0:19:10.7 MM: Right.

0:19:11.0 BC: But it’s just really striking to me to hear the National Center for School Mental Health, for example, start to talk about this massive gap between initial onset of symptoms and evaluation, and the fact that no matter how many audiences I talk with… You know, everyone thinks, “Hey, maybe this is a six-month wait, right? Maybe sometimes about a year?” No one’s thinking about a decade, right? And I think it’s important to have that home as a reason to say we are not fully understanding of this problem, and we are not looking for the things that we need to in order to be able to best support student needs.

0:19:42.5 MM: Wow. That’s really interesting. Are there other mental health-related things that you think that you wanna highlight for college or university folks who are listening?

0:19:53.5 BC: Gosh, it’s such an enormous topic, but if we think about SEL and pull that subject out for a second. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the concept, there’s been an enormous push in K-12 in recent years to adopt social and emotional curricula as part of the formal learning environment. Kids are having SEL lessons on a daily basis; some schools are pairing this with expanded time for free play for them to be able to build those social-emotional competencies effectively. But what some misunderstand is that when you get to middle and high school, SEL really becomes about two things. It becomes about identity and empathy. And giving students the opportunity in middle and high school to be able to form that clear sense of self and understand who they are, what they value, what they potentially even see as their identity beyond middle and high school, looking at that post-secondary path, is incredibly important to their well-being and their ability to feel confident in social situations.

0:20:50.5 BC: What we have seen over the past couple of years is many students do not have access to the experiences that middle and high school students do typically have access to to be able to form that sense of identity, whether it’s social experiences, or school trips, or project-based learning, or more crucially, internships and work-based learning. As you think about which courses they’re gonna select beyond high school, we start to engage in what could potentially be a bit of an identity crisis, but broadly across the country. So when you think about the implications for schools, they’re obviously saying, “Well, hey, how do we make sure that those kids coming back in junior and senior year get those experiences today?” But the reality is, it’s incredibly hard to scale work-based learning in a short time period. And so, you’re going to have students coming to college who probably are less sure which major is the right one for them. I know that’s something that’s been historically a problem in the past, but if you think about the questions I would be asking of higher ed leaders, it would be, “How are you gonna take these kids who are coming to you, who are ready and are able to benefit from a college education, but are perhaps at greater risk of needing to switch major because they didn’t quite get it right the first time?” and thinking about the implications to that, for them and for the institution as well.

0:22:04.1 MM: That’s… That’s really interesting. And one thing I wanna point out to our listeners is, you know, we’ve talked a lot about missed learning and mental health crises. Like I said, it’s been a rough career as a K-12. One of the things I just wanna name is, you know, this isn’t because of a deficit, per se, that our district leaders, or our school staff, or our teachers are… You know, that they’re bringing to their schools. I’m sure that you all have read and seen, maybe firsthand, just about the herculean attempts that district leaders and teachers are going to meeting the needs of their students. I think one of my favorite stories from the beginning of the pandemic was, there was a superintendent who was driving buses into neighborhoods with Wi-Fi on it, so that then, the students could either get on the bus or connect from their homes to the Wi-Fi to either download their coursework for the day, ’cause they didn’t have Wi-Fi at home. And stories like that, I think, have really propelled the last two years, and so, it’s not due to a lack of trying, and I just wanna make sure that that comes across crystal clear to our higher ed folks who are listening, and most of you know that, but as a former teacher myself, I always have to call that out.

0:23:18.6 MM: So, we know that there are students that have come through the pandemic relatively unscathed and have even potentially excelled during the pandemic, and then, there are students that have really struggled for numerous reasons that we’ve talked about thus far. As we think into the future, and we think about them matriculating to colleges and universities, what should institutions of higher education be doing to prepare for their arrival? So, what should our folks who are listening who lead enrollment, or student affairs, or numerous other departments in colleges and universities be preparing for?

0:23:58.2 BC Sure. I think this broad range of student abilities is something’s gonna be really important to talk about for the next few months, you know? When we talk with superintendents today around what they need, and you think about the students who did really well during the pandemic and had access to all the resources they needed, and perhaps, just actually function better at home, and not without the distractions of a typical school learning environment, superintendents are saying, “Hey, we need more access to dual credit options than we have in the past to help these kids continue to push forwards and realize opportunity,” and many district leaders will tell us that dual credit, while it’s available today, can be difficult and expensive to scale within their districts, and they want to spend more time talking with higher ed leaders about how to change that conversation and increase the number of college-level courses that are available to their students.

0:24:48.3 BC: If you think then about those students who perhaps are not in as fortunate a position, the next conversation has been around, well, what really constitutes readiness for college, or an ability to benefit from a college education? Because some of these kids are gonna have transcripts that look a little bit differently, and they want to know that college admissions teams are gonna look at these students and recognize where they’re coming from, and find ways to creatively understand which are going to really be able to thrive at their institutions, even if their transcripts look different than those who’ve come their way in the past. And then, to think about, well, what gaps are those students gonna have, and what additional supports might they need in order to be able to not just enroll successfully in a college university, but successfully make it through to graduation?

0:25:37.1 BC: And for those of you familiar with EAB out there, you’ll know this is a huge area of focus for us across the board, but we’re trying to think through, holistically, not just which additional foundational courses are students going to need in order to be able to be set up for success at college, but how are these students going to walk into an institution of higher education and see the future as something that’s possible for them; see their path through a college degree successfully? And we’ve had some talk in the past about experiential major maps and the opportunity to show students what a really engaged and fortunate, frankly, student has done throughout the course of a college degree to be able to set themselves up for success. On the other side, I think kids are gonna need more of those types of supports. The students are going to need more guidance on how to not just enroll in college, but successfully make it through to graduation.

0:26:31.5 BC: And then, at the same time, we are very much pushing districts, and have done for a long time, to look for the schools that best support students of different backgrounds and experiences through to graduation. How do different institutions do this, and how can we effectively guide students to those schools that are gonna best set them up for success?

0:26:53.8 BC: And so, there’s a bit of a challenge to higher education on the table here as well, to be able to say we’re doing as much as we can on the K-12 side of the coin, and we definitely need to strengthen the bridge between K-12 and higher education to solve some of these challenges. But we also need to see very clear evidence, from universities and colleges across the country, of ways that they’re stepping up to support student success for those students who have been disadvantaged by the past two years, so we can confidently tell districts, and districts can confidently tell their students, “These are the schools you can send your students to, and they’re going to be able to realize the promise of a college degree.” We always know that the most expensive college degree is the one you don’t complete, and that’s, I think, very much the problem that we’re trying to avoid for our students most impacted by the past two years. I’m curious, Meredith; when you’re thinking about this, what springs to mind for you as you think about conversations you’ve had in the past couple of months and potential recommendations moving forwards?

0:27:54.1 MM: As a K-12 practitioner, I am always thinking about the ways that we can build better bonds with institutions of higher ed. I think that sometimes, we both work in silos, and so, as we think about… As I talk to folks who work in colleges and universities, it’s the whole… One of the things I hear often is, “Oh, well, their guidance counselor should have done X, Y, and Z, or the guidance counselor could have told them this, and… ” You know, the myth of the guidance counselors I talk about a lot, where a lot of them haven’t set foot into a large public high school in years, decades even, and realize that the college counselor can be sometimes… I forget exactly the statistic in California, but it’s something like one counselor to every 600 students, or 600+ students, and so, I think about that role… I think about the stress already on the system, particularly in K-12, and how it will become even more stressed now due to the pandemic, and just, really, the need for us to think about ways to build, you know, better ties between K-12 and higher ed, and not to put the… Not to put the ball on higher ed’s court, but really, to think about K-12 partners beyond just funnels of students, right?

0:29:17.2 MM: What are ways that they can support districts in their neighborhood, right? Not just when they’re… Not just looking at district partners at the high school level, or looking to help students in their junior and senior years, but what are ways that they can really cultivate students when they’re in the younger grades. And I think that… You know, Ben, you talked about some good suggestions, or you talked a little bit about why that is even needed more now, particularly with some of your mental health data that you shared, now, more than ever. So, I think that’s something that resonates with me a lot is just, if we wanna make this whole system we call P-20 work, we’re gonna need to build bigger and stronger bonds between K-12 and higher ed, so that’s something that I would say that the pandemic has really elevated, to me, throughout all this.

0:30:11.2 BC: The thing I love about this though, Meredith, is… I think we’ve found that the appetite is there on both sides of the aisle. You know, we’ve talk to higher ed leaders, and many have expressed an interest in building stronger ties with districts and schools in their region. And we talked with superintendents and district leaders, and they’re constantly saying, “Yes, we want to be able to build that bridge to be able to create stronger ties for both our students and for us as professionals as well.” When we think about support for superintendents right now, many of them are saying they need a stronger support network to be able to understand how to navigate politically divisive situations, and things that are perhaps a little different for district leaders than they have in the past. And we think there’s a tremendous opportunity for us to be able to bring those two worlds together to support everyone’s needs more effectively. The thing that obviously stands in the way of that seems to be time. And so, I know that’s something, at EAB, we’re trying to think about how to create those protected spaces and protected time for those conversations to occur, but I’m really excited to see where those potential conversations go in the coming weeks.

0:31:14.4 MM: Yeah, absolutely, and it wouldn’t be a podcast if we didn’t make a plug here. So if you are a person working for a college or a university, and you are interested in getting in touch with school districts to build more stronger and tighter bonds, please reach out to folks at EAB, and we can… They can definitely put you in touch with the K-12 team. We would be happy to be part of that conversation to make a stronger tie between K-12 and institutions of higher education. So alright, we’re at the time where we need to wrap up. Ben, I’d love if you would wrap up for us. What are the top points that people should be taking away from today? If people have fast-forwarded through this whole podcast and they are here now, what should they take away from today’s conversation?

0:32:00.8 BC: Sure. Well, I think point number one is just recognizing that there are a broader range of student needs and abilities coming your way over the next 10 years than you will have ever seen before. And it’s gonna be incredibly important to have targeted discussions around how to best support and meet the needs of students at all stages of academic development and social-emotional needs. That can stem from thinking creatively about how to expand your credit options in high school, and build relationships with students at an earlier stage, perhaps, than institutions of higher education have done in the past, to be able to make sure those students see where they want to pursue their post-secondary opportunity. And also then, to think about, well, how are we evaluating student transcripts over the next couple of years, and how do we understand which students are truly gonna be able to thrive in our institution, and what does that look like?

0:32:57.6 BC: The second point is going to have to be to step up the way that we support student mental health. There are just very clear numbers across the country of increasing student needs. Obviously, the past two years have been difficult for everyone, but really thinking about how are we making sure that we fully understand where our students are, and connecting them with supports before crises occur, I think, is gonna be important not just for student wellbeing, but also from a university standpoint. Students aren’t going to be able to learn effectively unless they are mentally able and ready to learn, and they need to be an active partner in helping to make sure that students are in a place where they’re able to thrive.

0:33:40.1 BC: And then, if you think about the third point here that we probably want to drive home across the aisle is that districts alone are doing everything they can to address the enormous array of challenges on the table today. But no matter how many stimulus packages or rounds of funding come their way, they’re never going to be equipped to solve all of these problems alone; this is going to require an ecosystem approach. And so, whether it’s through EAB or in your own conversations, or even just as you’re driving to work in the morning and you’re thinking about, “Well, hey, what do we need to do differently over the next year?”, our hope is that the answer to that is gonna be greater connection, more collaboration across the P-20… Thank you, Meredith, I love that phrase; ecosystem. I’m really thinking about ways to support student success across the board in new and innovative ways that are rooted in research-based foundations. And I think if we can do those three things; you know, meet a much more diverse array of students where they are, think proactively about supporting mental health in ways that are perhaps different than the past, and really drive home a focus on collaboration across the education ecosystem, we’ll be in a much stronger place as institutions and in a much better position to support students in the decade ahead.

0:34:57.2 MM: Well, that’s it for Ben and myself. We wanna thank you all so much for joining us today at EAB Office Hours, and we look forward to joining you again soon. Bye!


0:35:13.0 Speaker 1: Thank you for listening. Please join us next week, when we talk about ways to help new students build meaningful connections with your institution. Why? Well, without that solid foundation, you’re gonna face an uphill battle keeping your students enrolled, engaged, and on path to earning their degree. Until next week, thank you for your time.


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