The Weekly Connect 12/12/16

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These are some of the things we’ve been reading about:

The United States Department of Education has released: ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) regulations on testing as well as guidelines for students who are leaving the juvenile justice system

While homelessness is making it tough for children to attend school, the achievement gap between rich and poor students is closing.

 And as technology becomes a larger part of schoolwork, educators are warning that the “blue light” cast by mobile devices can threaten students’ sleep.

To read more, click on the following links.

Policy

Obama Administration Releases Final Testing Regulations for ESSA
Ed Week Politics K-12 Blog: The U.S. Department of Education released final regulations and new guidance governing how testing is supposed to work under the Every Student Succeeds Act. It also announced $8 million in grants to states to improve science tests. 

Taking Action on Early Learning
Center for American Progress: Governors can become early childhood leaders by setting a vision for early learning and adopting it as a key agenda item. Through the power of their office, governors can direct attention to early learning and generate energy for action across their state. Governors can utilize executive orders and direct state agencies to ensure early learning programs are administered efficiently, funding streams are maximized, and the early learning continuum is inclusive of all children. In this issue brief, the Center for American Progress outlines 17 non-legislative actions that support early learning programs. 

Ed. Dept. Releases Resources for Young People Exiting the Juvenile-Justice System
Ed Week Politics K-12 Blog: In an effort to help young people transition from juvenile-justice back to their original schools or other educational settings, the U.S. Department of Education released various resources to help them, educators, and others navigate the process. 

Research

PISA Provides Peek at How Attendance, School Climate May Affect Achievement
Ed Week Rules for Engagement Blog: Both a growing body of research and intuition suggest that non-academic factors like school climate, attendance, and classroom management can affect a student’s academic achievement. Student survey results that accompany the newest Program for International Student Assessment results, provide international data to show how those factors correlate with student test scores. Unsurprisingly, PISA results show that poor attendance and a distracting learning environment correlate with lower test scores in nearly every country that participates in the exam.

ELLs Who Master English Early More Likely to Graduate on Time, Study Finds
Ed Week Learning the Language Blog: The earlier that English-language-learner students are reclassified as English-proficient, the more likely they are to graduate high school, a study from the Regional Educational Laboratory at WestEd found. The study also found that students who entered high school as English-learners were less likely to graduate in four years.

Around the Nation

Rich-Poor Achievement Gap Is Narrowing in American Education
Bloomberg: The link between socio-economic status and school performance is weakening for U.S. students, a sign of improving equity in American education even as U.S. teens continue to lag behind their international counterparts in math, reading and science, according to a study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. See related article: The Hechinger Report “U.S. now ranks near the bottom among 35 industrialized nations in math.”

Closing Opportunity and Cultural Competency Gaps
ASCD Express: Many school practices and policies merely replicate similar practices and policies of society. Unfortunately, in a society stratified by race, income, and language, this mirroring of societal norms too often results in systemic inequities that create roadblocks to success for students of color—particularly black, Latino, and English language learner students. Although every school has dedicated teachers and administrators who individually strive to create classrooms that embrace every student they encounter, these well-meaning individual efforts will not translate into an equitable school when placed within a larger educational system that is not culturally sensitive. 

Choosing Between Shelter and School
The Atlantic: Dealing with the logistics of getting to school can be a major challenge for the increasing number of children in New York City who are homeless, many of them shuffled from shelter to shelter, according to a report by the city’s Independent Budget Office. The location of shelters is one major obstacle, as families are often placed in shelters far from their children’s original schools. On top of that, parents are often bogged down by bureaucratic procedures that they must follow so they can stay in shelters. These are challenges faced by homeless families across the country. 

Finally, the College Board makes it easier for students with disabilities to get SAT accommodations
The Washington Post: The College Board, which owns the SAT, just announced that starting Jan. 1, “the vast majority” of students who have special-education plans that already include accommodations for testing — such as extra time, sitting in a separate room, and/or having the test read to the student — will receive automatic approval for the same accommodations when taking the SAT, PSAT 10, PSAT/NMSQT, SAT subject tests and AP exams. See related article: Ed Week High School & Beyond Blog: “College Board to Offer More Accommodations for Students With Disabilities, ELLs.”

New Orleans high school turbocharges restorative justice
The Hechinger Report: Around the country, educators have increasingly adopted elements of restorative justice amid growing frustration over the number of class hours lost to out-of-school suspensions: According to the U.S. Department of Education’s most recent Civil Rights Data, 2.8 million of all K-12 students received at least one out-of-school suspension during the 2011-12 school year. For black boys, the percentage is 18%, stark evidence of racial disparities in school discipline. The Center for Restorative Approaches in New Orleans says it has implemented 589 restorative justice circles since 2009. The center claims that since January 2015 the circles have saved the city’s students 1,800 instructional hours that otherwise would have been lost to suspension. 

Introducing young students to engineering
The Boston Globe: In just a few weeks’ time, the students in Kathy Wright’s Richard J. Murphy K-8 School STEM class have developed a keen grasp of Costa Rican culture. Their burgeoning interest in the Central American country stems not from a recent geography lesson plan — it’s the result, instead, of a program called Design Squad Global, which pairs American middle-school classes with students from other countries in a kind of virtual pen-pal relationship. The focus is on real-world problem-solving. Participants are charged with designing and constructing scaled-down versions of a number of projects: a structure that can withstand an earthquake, an emergency shelter, an adaptive device for someone with disabilities. 

Warning Sounded on Tech Disrupting Student Sleep
Education Week: Educators who promote the use of education technology are working harder to caution students and parents about the impact of digital devices and the “blue light” they emit, which can disrupt student sleep patterns. A recent meta-analysis has brought renewed attention to the issue, calling increased use of mobile devices at bedtime a “major public-health concern” for children and teenagers. As many schools and districts shift to 1-to-1 device programs, often allowing students to take those devices home each night, education leaders are looking for ways to incorporate warnings about the detrimental effects of mobile devices on sleep.

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