UC Students Struggle to Access Mental Health Services

Health services directors at the University of California are raising alarms that students throughout the system cannot access mental health services in reasonable time periods. A typical student who calls in complaining of mild anxiety and procrastination in the first weeks of the semester could be waiting until finals to get a regular therapy appointment.

UC Takes 'Zero Tolerance' Approach to Sexual Assault and Violence

University of California President Janet Napolitano says she wants the system to be a national leader on curbing sexual assault and violence on campus. A special UC task force released seven key recommendations at a Board of Regents meeting on Wednesday. Topping the list is the creation of an independent and confidential office at each campus for these cases.

PBS NewsHour

Should our sports heroes also be our role models?

We asked students from around the country: should our sports heroes also be our heroes in real life? Laryssa Wills of Pflugerville High School in Pflugerville, Texas, says professional athletes should be held accountable as role models. See all the student videos here.

In light of the recent domestic abuse issues plaguing members of the National Football League, we asked our student journalists to consider whether professional athletes should be considered role models.

Our Student Reporting Labs network from around the country answered our callout. Watch their video responses.

Videos were created with mentor support from Detroit Public Television, KLRU, South Carolina ETV, Vegas PBS & WHYY.

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First weeks of college life can be deadly for some freshmen

Dalton Debrick died of alcohol before his first day of classes at Texas Tech University.

Dalton Debrick died of alcohol poisoning before his first day of classes at Texas Tech University.

Late last month, police responded to a noise complaint at an off-campus residence near Texas Tech University. Among the party-goers celebrating the start of a new school year was Dalton Debrick, a freshman rushing with the Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity. The police would return just a few hours later to find his body. The freshman died of alcohol poisoning 24 hours before his first day of college.

“Dalton was a good kid with a very bright future helping others,” his family said in a statement. “He was still discovering himself, but he said he wanted to work with kids somehow. He talked about coaching or even youth ministry. What we know is that none of those possible futures will happen because he died because no one cared enough to stop it or take care of him.”

The day before Debrick’s death, an international student at Michigan State University died after a night of drinking during the university’s “move-in weekend.” Two days later, a freshman at Pennsylvania State University committed suicide by jumping from a construction crane on campus. A week after that, a Towson University freshman died after falling into a glass door during a party.

At least eight freshmen at U.S. colleges have died in the first few weeks of this school year. The deaths have cast a shadow over the campuses on which the students spent too little time, but they’re also a cross-section of the kinds of issues and decisions facing freshmen as they begin their college careers — and of the choices some young students may not be prepared to make. Even colleges with the best approaches to educating students about mental health issues may have very little time to reach those who may be vulnerable.

“It’s a huge transition and all the support systems are different,” said Pete Goldsmith, dean of students at Indiana University at Bloomington. “For students who have lived in very structured situations and environments, going to a college campus when very suddenly they have this new kind of freedom and new choices to make, it can be pretty overwhelming.”

IU, too, has recently lost students just beginning their time on campus. In a high-profile tragedy last year, a freshman died after falling down a flight of stairs during a party. Since then, the university has put a stronger emphasis on what’s called bystander intervention through its “Culture of Care” program. In many cases, a student’s life could be saved if his or her peers reacted more quickly in getting help, Goldsmith said. Like those at virtually all colleges, IU freshmen go through orientation programming, including watching a musical sketch about drinking and sexual assault.

But there’s only so much a student can learn — and only so much a university can say — during a few hours of orientation, Goldsmith acknowledged. So the university tries to reach out to incoming students earlier and earlier, he said, so that they have a better understanding of what to expect before they even arrive on campus.

“We urge parents to have conversations with students about drug and alcohol use,” Goldsmith said. “We encourage parents to think through what their own expectations are for this first year. Parents and students are so focused on getting into college, there’s not always a lot of attention given to what’s going to happen once they’re actually there.”

Even the most prepared students can still fall victim to the high-risk behaviors that sometimes accompany the first few weeks and months of college, however. Amy Murphy, dean of students at Texas Tech University, said most students actually arrive at college with healthy attitudes and behaviors, but then fall under the spell of “the college effect.”

Texas Tech began the new school year with campus flags at half-mast. Seven of its students have died in the last month, six of them in off-campus car accidents.

“The ‘college effect’ is the idea that once students are on campus, they’re exposed to these higher-risk behaviors and are then more likely to participate in them,” Murphy said. “It’s this unhealthy minority that is somehow so influential on the healthy majority. Colleges have to work on better messaging to convey to new students that the majority of campus does actually have the same healthy attitudes as they do.”

Murphy said this misconception comes from images in movies and television and even from older siblings’ memories of what college is supposed to be. When the freshmen arrive on campus, they see older students still attempting to live up to that image and they try to follow suit, particularly when it comes to alcohol consumption, said George Koob, the director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism at the National Institutes of Health.

“Humans are copycat organisms,” Koob said. “There has to be a standard of appropriate behavior that can be conveyed by juniors and seniors who managed to get that far in college without any problems. I really think there has to be standards that kids can look up to in their peer groups, appropriate behavior that they can model.”

Koob also said that today’s students generally tend to arrive on campus exhibiting healthy behaviors and attitudes about drinking. In fact, according to the institute, binge drinking has decreased among college students in recent years. But, at the same time, alcohol-related hospitalization has increased as much as 70 percent.

While fewer students are binge drinking, Koob said, those who still do are drinking more than ever.

“Anecdotally, we’re hearing about higher numbers of students, particularly freshmen, ending up in ER situations,” he said. “Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen a fairly dramatic increase of alcohol-related hospitalizations in this age group. It does seem that there’s an attitude now to drink as fast as possible and as intensely as possible and that’s very dangerous.”

Jiayi Dai, a Michigan State University student from China, died in August. Police said alcohol was likely involved in
         her death.

Jiayi Dai, a Michigan State University student from China, died in August. Police said alcohol was likely involved in her death.

In the case of Jiayi Dai, the Chinese student who died at Michigan State, the university acknowledged that it provides education about alcohol abuse during international student orientation, but not information on where students could seek help after drinking too much. “That’s probably what we will now do in the future,” Peter Briggs, director of the university’s office for international students and scholars, told the Lansing State Journal.

Drugs and alcohol abuse are not the only issues that have college officials worried.

The mental health of freshmen, and students in general, remains difficult to address. Suicide is the second most common cause of death for college students, according to a 2011 study, and is more prevalent than alcohol poisoning. Gwyn Ashcom, the health promotion chair at the American College Health Association, said it’s important for colleges to stress that it’s normal for students to feel “a whirlwind of emotions.” And colleges have to be careful that the advice they provide doesn’t get mixed into that same vortex and spat back out.

“During those first few weeks students are bombarded with information, which can be overwhelming,” Ashcom said. “I think we do the best we can to educate students. I think not being afraid to have conversations with students as well as staff and faculty is important. Conversations need to be happening not just via the health and counseling centers and other typical routes, but in the classroom as well.”

At Texas Tech, Murphy said, officials try to split the university’s population into “subgroups” like first-generation students or fraternity members so that specific issues common to certain types of students can more easily addressed. Speaking to smaller numbers of students at a time can also help the freshmen know who they can go to for help, she said.

“The current generation of students may be less equipped for dealing with stress than previous ones, or at least equipped in different ways,” Murphy said. “Universities have to understand their students as they are now. There’s a combination of factors that are influencing these early behaviors. They’re freshmen. They’re seeking out ways to feel more comfortable in this new social environment. That’s the challenge we’re presented with. How do you help those students feel supported in a short amount of time?”

Inside Higher Ed is a free, daily online publication covering the fast-changing world of higher education.

PBS NewsHour coverage of higher education is supported by the Lumina Foundation and American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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Malala explains why she risked death to speak up for girls’ education


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JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight, a different take on education. It comes from Malala Yousafzai, the 17-year-old Pakistani activist who was shot in the head by the Taliban for advocating girls’ education.

She has since become an international figure. Her story has inspired children all over the world.

We invited our Student Reporting Labs to submit questions for Malala. And, when she visited New York recently, Hari Sreenivasan put them to her.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Malala Yousafzai, first, we’re going to have you listen and react to some reporter questions. Student Reporting Labs has generated these questions out in the field.

EMILY VARNADORE, York Comprehensive High School, South Carolina: Hi. My name is Emily from York Comprehensive High School. My question for you is, when do you think your battle for education for all will finally be won?

HARI SREENIVASAN: So, she says when will your battle for education for all be won?  You have a simple dream. When will that be accomplished?

MALALA YOUSAFZAI, Author: When dreams do come true — and, in our history, we have seen that 100 years ago, women didn’t have the right to vote, but now they’re able to vote and they have achieved their — this right.

And long ago, people were struggling for the rights of black people, so that they can vote as well, and they are respected in society. And it’s getting better every day. And now we see that there were dreams in the past, and now they are becoming a reality. So I’m hopeful that the dreams which I have now to see every child going to school, to see equal rights for women, I think, soon, in future, if you continue the struggle, if you work hard, then I will see those dreams becoming a reality.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Here’s Jeff Love of the Philip’s Academy.

JEFFREY LOVE, Philip’s Academy Charter School, New Jersey: Malala, why did you continue to speak out for women’s education, even though you knew you could be killed?

MALALA YOUSAFZAI: It’s a very good question.

So, when I was in Swat Valley, at that time, there were more than 400 schools destroyed. And women were flogged, because we’re not allowed to go to school. And, at that time, I had really two options. One was to remain silent and wait to be killed. And then the second was to speak up and then be killed.

And I chose the second one, because I didn’t want to face the terrorism forever. And I wanted to come out of the terrible situation. And I wanted to go to school. It was my love for education that encouraged me to continue the campaign. So, I think, in hard times, we need to raise up our voice. Otherwise, we will have to live in that terrible situation forever.


I also asked on my Facebook page and on my Twitter feed. And so I’m going to get some of — get to some of those questions as well. So, several people asked, how can people in the United States, from this distance, support education in a country like Pakistan effectively?

MALALA YOUSAFZAI: When it comes to the developing countries, I think you can do advocacy for that. You can ask the responsible people.

And now social media can be used for this good purpose. And I know it’s good, like, sometimes if you ask — if you put a selfie on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, but it’s also good that you use it for the good purpose of raising awareness, of doing advocacy, and of highlighting the issues that children are facing, but as well if you donate to the organizations and to the foundations who are working on the ground and who need your support.

And even if, like, you give one dollar, it can really bring a big change in the life of those children who are waiting for someone to help them.

HARI SREENIVASAN: How do you convince, say, a government or an aid agency to say, you know, these 300,000 kids, you need to give them some instruction and education right now, because, otherwise, you are going to have a lost generation that could come back in a much, much more horrible way?

I mean, they are still in many places in the refugee camps are tent cities. They still don’t necessarily have steady food or steady shelter or water. I mean, how do you convince a family that it’s really important to make sure your kids spend some time learning today?

MALALA YOUSAFZAI: The first thing is that when we do advocacy and when I do advocacy, I do not speak for my side, but I speak on the behalf of those children, on the behalf of those parents who are suffering so many problems.

So, when I went to Nigeria for the campaign to make sure and to ask the government that the girls who are kidnapped and who are abducted by Boko Haram, more than 200 girls, that they are released as soon as possible, before asking the president, I met some parents, and I met some girls who escaped from the abduction.

And they were crying, and all they were asking was that they want their daughters to come back home. And the girls, they still do not get any education. No one is supporting them. They do not even get, like, health facilities. So I ask the president that I’m raising the voices of these people and raising the voice of those parents who want their daughters to come back. I’m raising the voice of those girls who now need support and help.

And the president then promised me that he would meet the parents and the girls. And he did right at the next week. And I went on my 17th birthday, so I was really happy that I spent my birthday in a place where there are so many children out of school, 10.5 million children out of school.

It’s only about the primary level, but I was happy that the parents and the girls’ voices were heard. So I had a very nice birthday.

HARI SREENIVASAN: So, I know you don’t have a cell phone…


HARI SREENIVASAN: … because you don’t — that would actually make you more busy and distract you.


HARI SREENIVASAN: So what do you as a teenager?  I mean, you are a 17-year-old woman growing up in the U.K. When you are not — this is your summer break, and you are doing press interviews all over the world. Well, how do you relax?

MALALA YOUSAFZAI: Oh, well, sometimes I play cricket, and I play badminton. I also listen to music sometimes. And then I have an iPad.

I don’t have a phone, but I do have an iPad. And I watch the news. I read some articles to be updated.


MALALA YOUSAFZAI: That is important for me. And I also fight with my brothers, so that’s a good way to be busy.


HARI SREENIVASAN: OK, Malala Yousafzai, thanks so much for your time.

MALALA YOUSAFZAI: Yes, thank you so much. Nice to talk to you.

PBS NewsHour education coverage is part of American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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What’s the best way to teach teachers?

California schools use blended learning to teach students

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JUDY WOODRUFF: Next: What can be done to improve the quality of teaching?

An annual poll out today by Gallup and Phi Delta Kappa finds that majorities of Americans believe teacher preparation should be more rigorous.  There was also support for stronger certification requirements and evaluations, more training and practice time for teaching candidates, and opposition to using student test results to evaluate teachers.

A new book explores what better teaching may look like.

Jeffrey Brown has our conversation.

JEFFREY BROWN: The inspirational teacher, she or he is the stuff of movies and stories and, if we’re very lucky, the individual in a classroom who turns on to a given subject or even a lifetime of learning.

But in an age of reformers pushing teacher accountability and unions demanding teacher autonomy, a new book titled “Building a Better Teacher” argues that one thing we don’t spend enough time on is how teaching actually works and how teachers themselves should be taught.

Author Elizabeth Green is co-founder and editor-in-chief of Chalkbeat, a nonprofit education news organization.

And welcome to you.

ELIZABETH GREEN, Author, “Building a Better Teacher”: Thank you.

JEFFREY BROWN: “Building a Better Teacher.”

One thing you’re trying to do is get rid of the myth of the kind of natural-born teacher.


I think we assume that there’s either — there’s good teachers and then there’s bad teachers, and then so what we need to do is get more of the good ones and fewer of the bad ones.  ®MDNM¯But the reality is that teaching well is a skill, and it requires a lot of craft, knowledge and specialized ability that goes beyond just knowing a subject really well.

JEFFREY BROWN: Why is that not kind of obvious? I mean, why is our system set up in a way that doesn’t sort of value or think that way?

ELIZABETH GREEN: I think there’s a lot of reasons.

One of them is that we haven’t devoted any energy to studying teaching.  The education schools study almost anything but pedagogy, anything but the craft of teaching,because it’s just undervalued in our society.  So, as a result, we know actually — we haven’t known historically very much about what we should be preparing teachers to do.

JEFFREY BROWN: So you focus on — a lot on the teaching of math.  So, give us an example of how it’s done poorly.

ELIZABETH GREEN: Yes, I think that too often what teachers are doing is they don’t anticipate what students are going to have — the mistakes that students are going to have.  And they just try to have answer-getting strategies.

And that treats math and other subjects as if they don’t really make sense.  But what really skilled teachers learn to do is anticipate how are students going to misunderstand, not just what’s the right answer, but how would a student get a wrong answer, and how can I reverse-engineer that and help them find a path to the right answer, so that they really understand that math should make sense, and every subject should make sense.

JEFFREY BROWN: Well, so and you cite models in Japan, which actually pick up on some work that was done here in the U.S., right? But this is a different system here in the U.S.


JEFFREY BROWN: What would need to be done to change the teaching and creation of teachers?

ELIZABETH GREEN: Yes, so what Japan did successfully that we didn’t is, they took up ideas that work and great individual classroom models and they were able to take them to scale, a whole country.

They succeeded because they treat teaching as a craft and a public act that should be studied.  So thousands of teachers will come to see one teacher teach in Japan, and they will then discuss the lesson afterwards, like you would dissect a great act of surgery or a film.

In the U.S., we treat teaching as a private act.

JEFFREY BROWN: That even goes to how we sort of devalue teaching, period, right, when it comes to wages or just value as a profession.


I think the fact that we think about teaching as something that’s physical work, not cognitive work, is part of that undervaluing, but it is really very cognitively demanding.

JEFFREY BROWN: And what did you find from teachers themselves as you went around and talked to them in terms of their sense of how well-prepared they are, their fears because they don’t feel prepared, et cetera?

ELIZABETH GREEN: Yes, teachers — teachers definitely do not enter the classroom feeling that they’re prepared.  Most teachers will tell you that their teacher training institution didn’t leave them feeling prepared.

And then they do know that they don’t have the time and support they need to learn to teach.  So, just an example, a group of teachers that I have met with in New York City had a study group, and it wasn’t unlike what teachers have in Japan.  They have study groups where they have subject-specific, so a bunch of history teachers or a bunch of math teachers will meet and they will share their lesson plans.

But there is one big difference.  In Japan, the teachers had sanctioned time in their schedule to go watch each other teach, a crucial piece.  In the U.S., when I asked them, do you have any — have you ever seen each other teach, they said — they laughed, like they would never have time to do that.  They’re doing this in their off-hours.

So just the structure of the U.S. education system holds back what teachers know that they need.

JEFFREY BROWN: But is there any possibility of changing that structure, because that would require, what, more — hiring more teachers, I would assume, to give them more time for that?

ELIZABETH GREEN: Actually, I don’t think it would require more resources.  I think it requires a changing of culture and a changing of allocation.

So we spend — the estimate that I have — the best estimate that I have seen is $9 billion a year on professional development for teachers, like training during the school year.  It’s just that it’s not effective training.  It doesn’t focus on practices that teachers really need in the classroom.

There are innovative programs that are doing this differently, and that, truly, 25-year veterans enter these programs and they say everything changed.

JEFFREY BROWN: Do we need to make it harder to be a teacher?

ELIZABETH GREEN: I think there’s been a lot of focus on raising the bar before — beforehand, like, let’s get the best and brightest, and certainly it’s important to focus on recruiting talented, passionate people to education.

But we have 3.7 million teachers in this country, so that alone cannot be enough.  And, in fact, the programs that only focused on recruiting Ivy League students into the classroom, like Teach for America, have really learned that they need to focus on training, too.  It’s not enough just to be really bright.  You have to learn how students think.  You have to learn how to teach them.  And that’s different than being good in school yourself.

JEFFREY BROWN: All right.  The new book is “Building a Better Teacher.”

Elizabeth Green, thank you.


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