School Mental Health Project

National Initiative:
New Directions for Student Support

To advance the field by increasing the attention of school improvement policy makers
to rethinking student and learning supports

Why New Directions are Imperative

All schools have students who are succeeding. At the same time, in all schools there are some youngsters who are not doing well. And, there are too many schools, particularly those serving lower income families, where large numbers of students and their teachers are in trouble.

Although reliable data do not exist, many policy makers would agree that at least 30 percent of the public school population in the U.S. are not doing well academically. It increasingly is acknowledged that in some school districts the dropout rate may be as high as 40-50% with higher rates for African-American and Latino students. (A related problem is the high dropout rate among new teachers.)

And, despite the intensive efforts directed at improving schools over the last decade, analyses of school improvement policy and practice indicate a lack of effectiveness in dealing with factors leading to and maintaining students' problems, especially in schools where large proportions of students are not doing well. With growing concern about reducing dropouts, closing the achievement gap, and ensuring all students have an equal opportunity for success at school, pressure is increasing for rethinking student/learning supports.

The complexity of factors interfering with learning, development, and teaching underscore the need not only to coalesce current efforts but to transform them by ensuring school improvement plans encompass the development of a comprehensive system of learning supports as primary and essential in addressing the variety of factors that interfere with a school accomplishing its mission.

Across the country, concerns about addressing barriers to learning and engaging and reengaging students in classroom learning are increasing. As a result, discussion of new directions for student and learning supports is becoming an essential topic related to school improvement. Evidence from institutional indicators and pioneering work on moving in new directions to enhance student and learning supports all herald a paradigm shift supporting development of a comprehensive and systemic approach.

Each year, the Center has continued to produce resources and tools for those ready to move in New Directions for Student Support (e.g., see the online toolkit at

In 2015, this initiative was morphed into the

2015 National Initiative to Transform Student and Learning Supports

 Interested in learning more?
Contact: Linda Taylor at:

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School Mental Health Project, UCLA
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