Crunch the numbers—The latest and greatest data on edtech

Alongside, a clinician-powered and AI-enabled mental health solution, recently announced its first annual Pulling Back the Curtain on Youth Mental Health Report. The inaugural report aims to uncover timely factors contributing to the current teen mental health crisis as described by the app’s users—middle and high school students.

The study utilizes anonymized data from over 30,000 confidential sessions teens held on the AI-powered app during the 2023-24 school year. Most notably, analysis of the platform data showed that for over a third (36%) of chats, students wanted to process feelings and feel heard, outranking other session purposes like building a skill or receiving advice about a problem.

“There’s no disputing that today’s teens live in an ever-evolving societal and technological world that causes them a lot of stress and anxiety.” Dr. Elsa Friis, Head of Mental Health at Alongside

“There’s no disputing that today’s teens live in an ever-evolving societal and technological world that causes them a lot of stress and anxiety,” says Dr. Elsa Friis, Head of Mental Health at Alongside. “Our findings clearly indicate that teens value a safe space to explore and process the world around them without judgment. Such a finding lays bare the simple importance of offering empathy and understanding as the foundation for providing support.”

Alongside’s report offers granular data about specific topics teens are seeking help on, documented in their own words. The study offers the following insights:

  • Building and navigating interpersonal relationships is the stickiest issue for today’s teens: While using the app, across all grades, teens discussed or sought support for an interpersonal relationship 40% of the time, followed by school-related topics and their self-identity. The most common issues for 5th to 8th graders were friendships; for high schoolers (besides 11th graders), romantic relationships; and for 11th graders, schoolwork and grades. The most common school-related challenge for students on Alongside was not having the motivation to get work done, which appeared to stem from feeling overwhelmed or struggling with a specific task. Interestingly, students did not frequently mention the role of social media or how they were communicating on the app. This suggests teens do not delineate between online and offline interactions when thinking about how others make them feel, whether good or bad.
  • Many students aren’t meeting guidelines for mental wellbeing: The average student using Alongside sleeps for less than eight hours per night (53.5%), which is below CDC recommendations for teens. Most students on the app also describe themselves as eating ‘somewhat’ healthy (68%) or not so healthy (18.7%), and doing 15 minutes (18.6%) or no exercise (40.4%) a day, also under the CDC-recommended 60 mins per day for adolescents. These findings elevate the importance of examining the relationship between physical and mental health.
  • Students are more apt to ask for help when access is convenient and confidential: On the Alongside app, teens consistently report that the ability to get help in a private, confidential space is paramount, especially on topics they may not yet feel comfortable discussing with an adult. Further, when related roadblocks were removed, students on Alongside were in more frequent contact with their school’s mental health network. 37% of students decided to share their chat conversation with their school mental health professional or counselor to inform their care. This finding illuminates how Alongside supports counselors and mental health providers in schools so they, in turn, can provide the best help to students. The American School Counselor Association recommends a 250:1 ratio of students to counselor, although the national average exceeds 400:1. While digital interventions cannot replace the value provided by human resources, they can help to reduce the workload by meeting students’ basic needs so that the current workforce can focus more time on the students who need it most.

For more insights, the Pulling Back the Curtain on Youth Mental Health Report is available online.

“Our hope for this inaugural report is to help teachers, parents, counselors and school leaders better understand what today’s teens are going through,” says Jay Goyal, Founder & CEO of Alongside. “Only through their first-hand perspective can we best develop solutions that meet teen preferences—while also unburdening the limited supply of mental health professionals available to students.”

A nationwide survey of schools reported special education teacher vacancies were nearly twice that of other subject areas, with 65% of public schools in the US reporting being understaffed in special education. More than 78% reported difficulty in hiring special education staff. Yet more than 7.5 million US students — 15% of all students — have disabilities that qualify them for Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). No one knows this dilemma better than The Children’s Guild (TCG) which operates three non-public schools (The Children’s Guild School of Baltimore, The Children’s Guild School of Prince George’s County, and The Children’s Guild – Transformation Academy) and understands the difficulty in finding special education teachers, speech-language pathologists, school social workers and clinicians, and therapeutic behavioral aides and classroom aides.

With more than 60% of students with disabilities spending at least 80% of their day in general classes, the need for special educators and their skills in customized curriculums that are accessible to students with disabilities is more essential than ever.  Public and private schools are desperate for special education professionals of all kinds. TCG serves students with behavioral and academic challenges that are usually caused by diagnosed disabilities such as emotional disability, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), developmental disabilities, and more.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for special education teachers and related service providers requires that every teacher must hold at least a bachelor’s degree and obtain full certification in their state or pass the state special education teacher licensing exam. States are not allowed to waive special education certification or licensure on an emergency, temporary, or provisional basis. Fast-tracking special education teachers by reducing requirements for entry is counterproductive. Underprepared special education teachers are less effective and even more likely to leave the field.

Improved working conditions, however, can help with special education teacher retention. Studies show that special educators who provided stronger instruction had a trusted partner co-leading their program, consistent paraprofessionals to help, and adequate time and support for training. In addition, pay increases for special education teachers are certainly helping. The Children’s Guild’s Baltimore Principal, Dr. Katina Webster, testified in early 2023 before the Maryland Senate on Maryland Senate Bill 311 to advocate for a pay increase for special education teachers, which took full effect by July 1, 2023.

Looking for other solutions? Preparation and qualifications matter. Strong induction programs and mentorship help. District and university partnerships help, as well. There are many financial incentives besides higher pay – loan forgiveness and tuition remission programs offer more prepared and effective teachers.

Here are ways to improve retention. Offer a positive school climate with a supportive administration where all teachers share responsibility for student achievement, enjoy administrative support, and work with collaborative colleagues. The Children’s Guild recently embarked on a listening tour among their schools and programs to help build up employee retention and engagement. Senior leaders were concerned about stats that stood out as problematic at their non-public special education schools and public charter schools alike, such as low trust in leadership and values and daily work misalignment, among others.

Implementing employee feedback and recognition tools – and ensuring that employees feel heard and leadership remains accountable for implementing changes – can help all educators build increased trust between front-line staff and management. Hopefully, a refocus on employee engagement will help the country’s special education professionals feel supported and help organizations thrive. Learn more about TCG’s approach, here

In 2024, The Children’s Guild non-public schools partnered with the organization’s HR team to create hiring events at their schools. These events held in-person and onsite interviews, and applicants had the opportunity to be hired immediately and begin the onboarding process on the same day.  Many of the jobs that were opened included a sign-on bonus for special education teachers and staff and pay above the national average for most positions. Through this process, TCG hired several amazing special education staff and is hopeful to continue to reach those who are looking to build a meaningful career in special education. To learn more about upcoming hiring events click this link.

Once hired, TCG’s special education teachers are welcomed into a culture of support and listening. To learn more about how to create a culture of trust and collaboration, download resources here.

The Children’s Guild (TCG), founded in 1953, is a leading Mid-Atlantic nonprofit organization focused on helping students and families find success socially, emotionally, educationally, and developmentally through special education, school-based mental health services, treatment foster care, autism services, family mental and behavioral health services, and workforce development programs.  

CYPHER Learning, provider of the leading modern learning platform for business and academic training needs, today announced results from its recent survey on the challenges faced by Gen Z workers in transitioning from education to the workforce. According to the data, which surveyed more than 2,000 U.S. workers between the ages of 18 and 55+, nearly two-thirds of Gen Z workers aged under 24 expressed dissatisfaction with how their school or college prepared them for employment.

Key Findings from the Survey of Respondents Aged 18-24 Include:

  • 63% of respondents believe they lack the necessary skills to compete in today’s job market.
  • Nearly 80% of individuals seriously considered leaving their jobs due to a perceived lack of professional development opportunities, compared to 54% of workers aged 45 and older.
  • 46% of Gen Z identified as neurodiverse, and of these, more than 60% expressed dissatisfaction with the available training.
  • 53% feel they are told they need improvement yet are not provided with adequate training. Additionally, 52% believe that the training they do receive does not contribute to their career development.
  • 52% believe they have been sent to receive training that they consider to be useless.
  • A majority (53%) feel that their company’s inadequate training is hindering their career progress.
  • 88% of respondents said they would be moderately encouraged to enthusiastic and motivated if they were offered training programs specifically tailored to their individual needs and career aspirations. 
  • There is a prevailing distrust of Human Resources (HR) departments, with 51% of workers expressing a lack of trust. Among younger workers (18-24), this distrust is even more pronounced, with over 60% indicating a lack of faith in HR.

In fact, the results of other third-party surveys further validate the above statistics. In a survey conducted by The American Staffing Association, 70% of Gen Z workers view an employer’s professional development and training offerings as important considerations when accepting a new job. However, according to Gartner Research, 70% of employees report that they don’t have mastery of the skills needed to do their jobs, further emphasizing the need for effective training.

“The survey results point to the clear need for organizations to provide just-in-time, just for me, learning to empower employees, and in particular, Gen Z workers, with the skills they need to better develop their careers,” said John Kannapell, president and COO at CYPHER Learning. “Our AI 360 with CYPHER Copilot solution can make scalable, personalized learning a reality – giving managers the ability to quickly and easily create and deploy snackable learning courses that are tailored to employee’s needs, while also helping organizations build a strong bench of younger employees for future senior roles.”



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