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Former Education Secretary details the biggest challenge for kids after 2020

·2-min read

Living through the coronavirus pandemic has caused academic disruptions in schools across America, and former Education Secretary John B. King is particularly worried about the social and emotional disruptions.

"We know that there are kids who miss vital skills, a lot of unfinished learning to address," King Jr. told Yahoo Finance Live (video above), "But I actually worry even more about the socio-emotional impact of this period. It's really hard for kids to be without school."

According to a recent survey, 4 in 10 U.S. high school educators expect students with existing mental health conditions to return with exacerbated conditions. That represents the third most critical challenge to impact the quality of student learning this school year, behind deficits in student learning (47%) and economic hardship (42%).

Students wear masks during class to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at Santa Fe South High School where masks are required, in Oklahoma City, September 1, 2021. REUTERS/Nick Oxford
Students wear masks during class to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at Santa Fe South High School where masks are required, in Oklahoma City, September 1, 2021. REUTERS/Nick Oxford

"I was a kid whose life was saved by school," said King, who is running for the gubernatorial office in Maryland. "Both my parents passed away when I was little, my mom, when I was eight, my dad, when I was 12, [and] if not for the relationships at school, I wouldn't be alive today. And so I worry a lot about kids who've been isolated from peers, from teachers."

King suggested two ways for educators to address students' mental health issue, saying that the first move is "to invest in counselors, mental health services supports for kids and their families."

A study by the Child Mind Institute found that 37% of teenagers indicated that the pandemic made their mental health worse. It also showed that 40% experienced general anxiety, 39% had feelings of depression, and 31% experienced social anxiety since March 2020, the general onset of the pandemic.

"We've got a lot of work to do over the next few years to recover," King said, noting that some kids lost parents or family members to COVID while other faced new economic hardships as the country experience collective trauma.

40% of teenagers have experienced general anxiety since the beginning of the pandemic. (Chart: Child Mind Institute)
40% of teenagers have experienced general anxiety since the beginning of the pandemic. (Chart: Child Mind Institute)

The second way that educators can help their students academically and with their social-emotional needs, according to King, would be through mobilizing a tutoring core.

This would mean getting "recent college graduates [and] retired teachers to work individually or in small groups, two or three students, to help students catch up academically," he explained, adding that this could "build those mentoring relationships that can be such a positive force in kids' lives."

Aarthi is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. She can be reached at aarthi@yahoofinance.com. Follow her on Twitter @aarthiswami.

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