The AC Blog

The AC Blog
Well-Being Index Survey

The Well-Being Index (WBI) for Schools: A Brief Measure of Adolescents’ Mental Health

Schools are taking an increasingly central role in addressing the rising mental health concerns of their student bodies. However, measures used to assess adolescents’ mental health either take a substantial amount of time to administer or are narrow in scope. Authentic Connections works with schools and communities to foster resilience and improve mental health using scientifically validated methods. As part of this work, the team developed a new measure, called the Well-Being Index (WBI) to support schools in efficiently and accurately measuring student mental health. The WBI is brief and easy to administer, enabling schools to use it to monitor and promote youth wellbeing.
The AC team recently published a paper on the reliability and validity of the WBI measure. Read the full post to learn more about the WBI and how it can be used to provide insight into student well-being without causing survey fatigue.

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Social Comparisons in High-Achieving Schools

Students in High-Achieving Schools: Perils of Pressures to Be “Standouts”

In the USA, large percentages of youth spend significant time on social media sites, such as YouTube (85%), Instagram (72%), and Snapchat (69%). At the same time, students in high-achieving schools (HASs) manifest disturbingly high rates of anxiety, depression, and substance use. In light of this, Authentic Connections conducted a study to discern the relationship between social media, achievement pressures, and adolescent distress.

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Fall 2020 Survey Release

Fall Updates: AC Dashboards and Surveys

Continually informed by cutting-edge science, we’ve made several improvements to our dashboards and to all surveys, incorporating what we learned from over 70 schools assessed for students’ and adults’ resilience during distance learning. With the updated dashboards, users will be able to explore more granular data on at-risk students; compare their school's results to different sets of norms; and illuminate still more specific, actionable intervention directions. Multiple refinements have also been incorporated in our three Fall 2020 Survey offerings: Two student surveys, the long-form High Achieving Schools Survey (HASS) and the short-form Student Resilience Survey (SRS), and one survey for faculty and staff, the Faculty Resilience Survey (FRS). Please read on to see details of these changes.

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SRS Dashboard Screenshot

Preliminary Findings from the Student Resilience Survey

Between April and June of 2020, the Student Resilience Survey (SRS) was administered to a total of 15,331 students in grades 6-12 from 54 independent and public schools throughout the United States. All assessments were done after schools had moved to distance learning.

Analyses of risk and protective factors identified three variables most strongly associated with students’ symptoms: low parent relationship quality, low structure of days, and high levels of distraction. In responses to open-ended questions, students often highlighted appreciation of support and understanding from school adults.

The report concludes with a discussion of what we at Authentic Connections believe educators need in order to improve student well-being and resilience, along with specific, actionable recommendations based on what we have learned thus far in the pandemic. We will continue to carefully track students’ well-being in the fall, with updated measures that can be implemented across distance-learning and in-person formats.

Read the Whitepaper →
A Reflection on Teaching During the Pandemic

Five Lessons from the Spring of 2020

Miriam Rock is an Upper School English Teacher at Friends Select School. This past summer, Miriam worked with Authentic Connections as a research assistant. The reflections she shares here, as a teacher during the pandemic, are insightful and will be valuable for leaders to consider as schools reopen.

Friends Select’s last day of in-person classes was on Friday, March 13th. From then until the end of the academic year, we cycled through three different schedules, three different web-conferencing platforms, and 11 weeks of distance learning. Administrators and faculty worked tirelessly simultaneously to support students through these transitions and to reimagine what a Friends Select education should look like during this crisis. As of now, the school is planning to be able to easily transition among three different modes in the fall: 100% in person, 50% in person, and 100% remote. I am working from the assumption that, for Friends Select, at least some portion of the 2020-2021 school year will be remote. Accordingly, I want to share five lessons from distance learning this spring...

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Thank you, Ashley!

Ashley Ebbert, who has served as Director of Research for Authentic Connections since November 2019, will be stepping back from her duties in August to pursue a clinical internship full-time at the University of Southern California. While her internship responsibilities will undoubtedly be time-intensive, we’re delighted that she will continue to work with the AC team as and when her schedule permits.  

Ashley has been a much-valued, core member of AC since its earliest days.  She has played a central role in developing and refining surveys and working closely with partner schools.  Ashley has been the lead person in all data analyses and in summarizing critical findings, both for individual schools and for research publications.  Even as she was working on her own doctoral studies, she co-authored five peer-reviewed research papers with our team, on topics related to resilience in youth, families, and schools.

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Staying Connected During the Pandemic

A Guide on Staying Connected During the Pandemic

As the COVID-19 pandemic drags on, the effects of social distancing on mental health have become more evident. In fact, many have called mental health the “second wave” of the pandemic. Dr. Suniya Luthar took a moment to share a how-to guide for staying connected with friends and family while physically distant. See a preview of her post below.

“With the ongoing uncertainties of COVID, now more than ever, we need to be 'ahead of the curve' in fostering and maintaining close connections with supportive others. Stress levels are higher than they have been in most of our lifetimes. Also, loneliness was a big issue even before the pandemic arrived. 

Here is the good news: You can set up your own support network group, and help others to do the same. And there is already good evidence that such groups can be done effectively over video-chats, not necessarily in person.”

We sincerely hope that you are able to stay safe, healthy, and connected through this time.

Read the Guide →
Dr. Lisa Pao

Dr. Lisa Pao Joins AC as Director of Research

We are excited to announce that Dr. Lisa Pao has joined our team as Director of Research, based in New York, NY!

“From my first conversation with Lisa, I could tell that she was going to be a huge asset to our team. The insight and wisdom that she brings as both a researcher and former teacher will really help expand our impact on schools and communities across the globe,” said Nina Kumar, CEO.

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Student Resilience Survey Dashboard

Announcing the Student Resilience Survey

We recently launched the Student Resilience Survey to help schools address the mental health impact of COVID-19. We are offering the first administration at no cost to all schools.

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Suniya S. Luthar

Resilience Reminders From Dr. Suniya Luthar

We hope that you and your families stay healthy during this time of stress. To help, Dr. Suniya Luthar, our Chief Research Officer, has put together a list of resilience reminders and tips for those working remotely; Suniya is among the world’s leading researchers in the science of resilience, or doing well in the face of adversity.

We want to provide all of the help we can to those who need through these difficult times. Please do not hesitate to reach out! We can be reached at nlkumar@authconn.com and sluthar@authconn.com.

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Suniya S. Luthar

Interview with Dr. Suniya S. Luthar: Part 1

Dr. Suniya S. Luthar, one of the foremost experts on child well-being and resilience, recently joined AC full-time as Chief Research Officer. We sat down with Dr. Luthar to ask her about what first interested her in working with children, her most important findings, and what she enjoys most about her work.

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Suniya at the Bishop's School

Dr. Suniya Luthar Joins Authentic Connections as Full-Time Chief Research Officer

We are absolutely thrilled to announce that Dr. Suniya S. Luthar has joined our staff, full-time, as Chief Research Officer, based in Tempe, AZ.

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HASS 2020 Release

Winter 2020 HASS Release

We recently released the Winter 2020 update to our High Achieving Schools Survey (HASS). We've updated our High Achieving Schools (HAS) norms, added new scales, and modified our questions on parents and guardians to foster inclusivity.

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Faculty Well-Being Survey

Launching our Faculty Well-Being Survey

A review of decades of resilience research has found that fostering care for a child’s primary caregiver is a critical factor for maximizing resilience in at-risk children. Caregivers will not be able to provide for and help children if they feel depleted themselves. Because of this, we’ve decided to launch our new Faculty Well-Being Survey to enable schools to closely track levels of faculty burnout and well-being.

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Harrison Tool

Harrison Tool Joins AC as VP of Engagement

We are excited to announce that the AC team is growing! Harrison Tool will be joining us as VP of Engagement, based in Cambridge, MA, starting today. Prior to joining AC, Harrison was a Product Manager at IBM Watson Health where he worked on several healthcare technology products for healthcare providers. Harrison has a background in Finance, Computer Science, and Entrepreneurship.

At AC, Harrison will be responsible for growing the number of schools we work with to expand our impact on improving well-being in schools across the globe.

"I am beyond excited for the opportunity to join the Authentic Connections team. I have firsthand knowledge of the pressure to perform that students experience in today’s society; it is incredibly important that we prioritize students’ mental health and wellbeing just as much as we prioritize academic success,” Harrison said. "AC is in the best position to share that message. I can’t wait to expand AC’s ability to help more schools across the country.”

“Harrison is going to be a great addition to our team. I had the opportunity to work alongside him at IBM, and am confident that he’s going to help us reach and help many more schools,” said Nina Kumar, CEO.

See the Team →
Southern Association of Independent Schools

AC and SAIS Partner to Improve Mental Health at Member Schools

AC is proud to be partnering with SAIS for the next two years to advance health and wellness across the SAIS schools!

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Coming soon!