Curriculum Alignment

NYS Mental Health Requirements Align with The Positivity Project

By Joann Chambers

According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, 20% of youth ages 14-17 live with a mental health condition. 50% of all lifetime mental illness begin by age 14.

In an effort to address this growing need, in spring 2018 the New York State Board of Regents moved to amend the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education and make New York State the first to require mental health education in schools. The newly revised health standards went into effect July 1, 2018.

As a Superintendent of Schools, I am well aware of the alarming increase in student mental health needs. Every day my building principals share stories of students who have experienced trauma in their lives, are suffering from debilitating anxiety and depression, and who present challenging behaviors as a result. I fully support the new mental health education requirement and truly hope that we can reduce the stigma associated with mental illness and begin teaching our students healthy coping skills.

That said, when the mental health education guidance document was published by the New York State Education Department, I was very concerned that our elementary and middle school teachers would be overwhelmed by the idea of adding new learning standards to their already full plates. I know our health teachers were already teaching mental health concepts in their middle and high school classes, but how would our K-5 teachers begin to incorporate these important topics into their daily lesson?

Then, I spent a little time looking at the Framework for Mental Health Education, which is broken down into four grade bands (K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12). I immediately recognized how easily these concepts could be addressed through The Positivity Project. I began to place the learning objectives under each standard next to the P2 Character Strengths. Many of the concepts fit well under several different strengths, but every single one of them fit under at least one. Suddenly I knew how we would approach teaching these newly revised health standards in our school district.

I am pleased to share my preliminary work with the P2 Partner Schools, as we are all in this together. I recognize that teachers, counselors, and administrators will make this document their own. In fact, I think the process of looking at the standards and discussing how they align with different Character Strengths would be a worthwhile exercise for anyone implementing The Positivity Project in their classroom or school.

(Click Here for the K-2 alignment matrix)

(Click Here for the 3-5 alignment matrix)

I am grateful to the founders of The Positivity Project as well as all of the administrators, teachers, counselors, and support staff who have made the commitment to helping our leaders of tomorrow recognize and appreciate that Other People Matter.  The NYS Mental Health Framework will only serve to enrich our collective efforts.

Joann Chambers

Superintendent of Schools, Potsdam Central School District

Joann Chambers
Superintendent of Schools, Potsdam Central School District

Joann Chambers taught middle and high school English for 17 years before beginning a career in educational leadership. She served as the principal of Lawrence Avenue Elementary School for four years, Potsdam Senior High School for seven years, and has served as the Superintendent of the Potsdam Central School District (PCS) since 2015. PCS has been proudly implementing The Positivity Project PreK-12 since September 2017.