Research at Nebraska 2021-2022 Report
From left: Amanda Witte, Susan Sheridan and Lorey Wheeler

Online Program Boosts Support for Rural Students

Young people are experiencing mental health challenges at unprecedented rates. Rural students often face more isolation and fewer resources than their urban peers, putting them at risk for troubled lives.

In response, the Nebraska Center for Research on Children, Youth, Families and Schools is providing professional development remotely to school-based specialists working with rural students in need.

Susan Sheridan, center director and George Holmes University Professor of School Psychology, and her team have made their successful in-person intervention program, Teachers and Parents as Partners, available to school specialists online. Instead of Husker teams entering schools to implement TAPP, school personnel access self-paced modules and receive mentoring with online coaches.

As caseloads have skyrocketed, particularly since the pandemic, the online program provides a sustainable, cost-effective professional development strategy that personnel can incorporate seamlessly into their work.

“It’s really about scaling it up so that school specialists can learn and utilize this evidence-based program effectively in their own daily work,” Sheridan said. “They not only want but need support from the parent, and this provides a vehicle to do that.”

The center is evaluating the online program’s effectiveness, measuring outcomes for school personnel, parents and students. In its second year, the program includes 30 school-based specialists and 240 students in rural Nebraska and Colorado.

The feedback is encouraging, Sheridan said. What made TAPP successful in person seems to be holding online.

Sheridan pioneered research that bridges families and schools 30 years ago. Since then, she and her Husker team have been researching and building interventions based on positive, strength-based partnerships. The research, emulated nationwide, has proven the family-school connection is highly effective in supporting children’s development, particularly those in crisis.

“We can only do so much to benefit children by working within the context of the school day,” she said. “If we care about making a positive impact on children, we need to engage all of the adults who are responsible for their learning and development.”

A $3.8 million grant from the Institute of Education Sciences funds this project.

+ Additional content for Online Program Boosts Support for Rural Students

Nebraska news release: TAPP Online brings enhanced support to rural students, families and schools

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