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New York City educators raise concerns about students' mental health, academic struggles

NYC educators worried about challenges heading into new school year
NYC educators worried about challenges heading into new school year 02:09

NEW YORK -- As students head back to the classroom, there is no shortage of challenges for them or teachers to tackle.

To make matters worse, many districts must deal with a teacher shortage.

CBS2's Vanessa Murdock went to the steps of City Hall, where educators gathered to shed light on what they call an education crisis.

With signs declaring "Mental health support needed" and "Diverse students need diverse teachers" and questioning "Where's our curriculum?," Educators for Excellence revealed the results of a new survey conducted by the nonprofit.

"What we're alarmed by is the mental health crisis and the academic crisis in our schools," Educators for Excellence cofounder Evan Stone said.

He says results from "Voices from the Classroom: A Survey of New York City Educators" are a stark reminder of challenges New York City schools face.

According to the survey, 78% of New York City teachers say students' mental health is worse today compared with before the pandemic, and 82% of New York City teachers say students are behind academically compared with where they were before the pandemic.

"After the pandemic, we already know a lot of our kids have suffered a lot of learning loss. I've had students in sixth grade that have reading levels between kindergarten and first grade," said Delis Tolentino, a sixth grade ELA teacher in the Bronx.

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"Before and since the pandemic, I've seen such a great need for social and emotional instruction to be happening in schools. Unfortunately, the reality is the money is not there," said Liz Haela, a special education teacher in the Bronx.

Haela says the proof is social-emotional instruction enhances academic success.

Educators say there is a staffing crisis, as well.

The problem in the city is twofold, according to Stone -- a shortage of specialized teachers and confusion.

"A lot of confusion at the school level around what their actual budget is, what investments will they able to make," he said.

The teacher shortage is a challenge in New Jersey, too.

RELATED STORY: New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy heads to White House to address teacher shortage ahead of back-to-school

Gov. Phil Murphy visited the White House on Tuesday and sat down with First Lady Jill Biden and others to brainstorm ways to address the issue. The First Lady says the shortage was a problem prior to the pandemic. To solve it, she says, "We have to give them the pay and support that they need."

Educators for Excellence called on local leaders for exactly that -- support in the form of curricular and professional tools necessary to serve students.

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