Okemos Public Schools seek to improve students’ mental health

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Okemos schools are setting the bar higher for student achievement in literacy, math and social mental health.

Okemos Public Schools does not have American Indian or Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander students.

The nudge comes from a 20-question computer assessment called mySAEBRS (my Social, Academic, and Emotional Behavior Risk Screener).

The assessment is taken three times an academic year and questions keep consistent every year. 

Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Stacy Bailey presented the 2022-2023 benchmark assessments at the Okemos Public Schools Board of Education meeting on Oct. 17. 

“The mental well-being of a student is going to have a direct impact on if they’re ready to learn or not,” Bailey said. “They need to mentally have the space to take on the new learning. I think it’s something definitely more because of the pandemic.”

Okemos Public Schools’ midyear goal is for 85% of second grade to 12th grade students to demonstrate healthy, social, emotional and academic behaviors and 90% of students to demonstrate similar behaviors by the end of the 2023 school year.

Okemos Board of Education President Mary Gebara said, “Having four kids, … I so appreciate the three-times-a-year meetings for every student. I think that really is something I wasn’t aware of as a parent until I started coming to board meetings.”

Okemos elementary schools have recently hired student support advisers who support student groups needing additional help.

Nicole Beard, Hiawatha Elementary principal, said, “We are so excited and so grateful for the full-time (advisers) and the counselors … because it allows us to really focus and really do a great job implementing Culturally Responsible Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports. Just seeing us in action is really exciting. … It’s been a little bit of a lift off of us.”

Okemos Public Schools also focus on middle school and high school special education students. Many special education students felt least confident in their academic ability, although improving overall on the assessment.

Jody Noble, Chippewa 7-8 principal, said, “I think we have to celebrate even if it’s a tiny slight piece of growth for these individuals because it makes them rise. We are hitting their needs and helping them rise.”

Okemos High School implemented a new district clinical social worker mentoring six students beginning last week, said Joseph Schmidt, Okemos High School assistant principal for 9th and 11th grade students.

Schmidt said, “We’re really excited about that. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s six more kids seeing a person than it was last week.”

Parents can expect their children’s assessment results along with their students’ NWEA scores.

Bailey said, “The goal of this is to identify each child’s needs. Even small incremental growth has a huge impact and has ripples in other areas for students.”

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