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Mental Health Emergency for Kids, Pre-Covid NAEP Results Disappoint, + CT Leads on Childhood Vax

This weekly segment by Democrats for Education Reform CT looks at the top education stories Democrats are watching, providing bite-sized analysis and links to recent articles. On the roster this week: Mental Health Emergency for Kids, Pre-Covid NAEP Results Disappoint, and Connecticut Leads on Childhood Vaccination

A National Emergency for Children’s Mental Health

Yesterday, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children's Hospital Association together issued a joint warning that the pandemic has produced a national emergency for children's mental health. Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found marked increases in mental health-related emergency department visits for children, as well as a 50% increase in suspected suicide attempts among girls aged 12-17. Children's hospitals have similarly reported a "shocking" increase in instances of self-injury and suicide cases in 5-17-year-olds. As The Hill describes, these mental health effects disproportionately impact communities of color, whose children have faced ongoing structural inequities even as they have contended with the pandemic. The groups have called on government policymakers to attend to the crisis by increasing funding targeted at family access to mental health services, telemedicine, and school-based care.

Pre-Covid "National Report Card" Data Disappoints

The 2020 results are in: even before the pandemic hit, 13-year olds across the country were less proficient in both math and reading than they had been eight years prior. The unprecedented finding that was released Thursday is based on the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) Long-Term Trend (LTT) assessment. For 9-year olds, both reading and math scores were largely flat; but 13-year-olds saw statistically significant drops in both subjects. The Washington Post’s coverage emphasizes that, since 2012, scores have fallen nationally for Black and Hispanic students but remained steady for White children. In other words, the gaps in achievement are widening along racial lines. The disappointing numbers are said to have startled the Commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, who has never seen declines like this before. This is the first time these scores have declined since the 1970s.

Also known as “The Nation’s Report Card,” NAEP is the only test that tracks student academic performances nationally. While the so-called “main NAEP” assessment, administered every two years, can be used to compare state performances, the LTT has provided a nation-level overview for over forty years. According to a piece by Martin West in Education Next, the LTT schedule has just been revised so that it will be administered again in 2022. This means that the LTT test is now poised to become the first nationally representative measure of the academic impact of COVID-19.

Connecticut Leads on Childhood Vaccination

On Monday, Governor Lamont pointed to a CDC report indicating that Connecticut ranks first in the nation for vaccination coverage for established vaccines by age 24 months. The results come from a National Immunization Survey, which tracks vaccines to prevent 14 diseases, such as measles and polio. The COVID-19 vaccination, which is not yet approved for young children by the US Food and Drug Administration, is not included.

However, a CT Mirror article this week considers whether Connecticut will eventually follow in California's footsteps by mandating the COVID-vaccine for school-aged children. In that story, DFER CT State Director Amy Dowell observes that, "children being vaccinated makes it possible for civil rights protections for students who are immune compromised.”

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