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Schools' mental health services and young children's emotions, behavior, and learning

  • Randall Reback

    (An Assistant Professor of Economics and Urban Studies, Barnard College, Columbia University)

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    Recent empirical research has found that children's noncognitive skills play a critical role in their own success, young children's behavioral and psychological disorders can severely harm their future outcomes, and disruptive students harm the behavior and learning of their classmates. Yet relatively little is known about wide-scale interventions designed to improve children's behavior and mental health. This is the first nationally representative study of the provision, financing, and impact of school-site mental health services for young children. Elementary school counselors are school employees who provide mental health services to all types of students, typically meeting with students one-on-one or in small groups. Given counselors' nonrandom assignment to schools, it is particularly challenging to estimate the impact of these counselors on student outcomes. First, cross-state differences in policies provide descriptive evidence that students in states with more aggressive elementary counseling policies make greater test score gains and are less likely to report internalizing or externalizing problem behaviors compared to students with similar observed characteristics in similar schools in other states. Next, difference-in-differences estimates exploiting both the timing and the targeted grade levels of states' counseling policy changes provide evidence that elementary counselors substantially influence teachers' perceptions of school climate. The adoption of state-funded counselor subsidies or minimum counselor-student ratios reduces the fraction of teachers reporting that their instruction suffers due to student misbehavior and reduces the fractions reporting problems with students physically fighting each other, cutting class, stealing, or using drugs. These findings imply that there may be substantial public and private benefits derived from providing additional elementary school counselors. © 2010 by the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management.

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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1002/pam.20528
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    Article provided by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. in its journal Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.

    Volume (Year): 29 (2010)
    Issue (Month): 4 ()
    Pages: 698-725

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    Handle: RePEc:wly:jpamgt:v:29:y:2010:i:4:p:698-725
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/34787/home

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    1. Currie, Janet & Stabile, Mark, 2006. "Child mental health and human capital accumulation: The case of ADHD," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(6), pages 1094-1118, November.
    2. David N. Figlio, 2005. "Boys Named Sue: Disruptive Children and their Peers," NBER Working Papers 11277, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. James J. Heckman, 2000. "Policies to Foster Human Capital," JCPR Working Papers 154, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
    4. Raegen T. MILLER & Richard J. MURNANE & John B. WILLETT, 2008. "Do worker absences affect productivity? The case of teachers," International Labour Review, International Labour Organization, vol. 147(1), pages 71-89, 03.
    5. Carrell Scott E & Carrell Susan A, 2006. "Do Lower Student to Counselor Ratios Reduce School Disciplinary Problems?," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 5(1), pages 1-26, April.
    6. Charles T. Clotfelter & Helen F. Ladd & Jacob L. Vigdor, 2007. "Are Teacher Absences Worth Worrying About in the U.S.?," NBER Working Papers 13648, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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