The Weekly Connect 11/20/17

Here’s the new edition of The Weekly Connect. Check it out and sign up to have it delivered to your inbox!

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

Boys read better when there are more girls in their class.

GOP tax plans could affect school funding.

Salem, Mass., tackles the achievement gap.

Chicago schools lead in academic growth.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

Positive After-School Settings Can Boost Students’ Academic Performance
Education Dive: Well-run after-school programs that offer a positive environment can help students in low-income, urban communities be more academically successful and feel more confident about their schoolwork, a new study finds. Students who had “higher levels of social-behavioral risk” but attended after-school classrooms with more positive environments also became more academically engaged, the researchers found. 

Boys Read Better When There Are More Girls in Class, Study Finds
Ed Week Inside School Research Blog: Having more girl classmates may help boys and girls alike boost their reading skills, according to a new study in the Journal of School Effectiveness and School Improvement. Researchers found girls scored nearly 30 points higher than boys on a 600-point scale, and all students scored better when girls made up at least 60% of students in the school. See related article: Education Dive “New study reveals impact of school environment on gender-based reading scores.”

Spreading First Aid for Teens’ Mental Health by Training Adults to Help
KQED Mind/Shift: When kids struggle, their emotional problems often unfold in the classroom, affecting their ability to concentrate and straining interactions with teachers and peers. Left untreated, mental health concerns can contribute to high school dropout rates. While educators often want to assist these students, many feel unsure of what to say, especially during a mental health crisis. A community-wide intervention called Mental Health First Aid seeks to equip teachers, parents, and caregivers with the information and skills they need to intervene during a mental health emergency.

Policy

States’ ESSA Plans Fall Short on Educator Equity, NCTQ Analysis Finds
Ed Week Teacher Beat Blog: The Every Student Succeed Acts requires states to define “ineffective” and “inexperienced” teachers in their plans. States also have to explain how they’ll ensure that low-income and nonwhite students aren’t being taught by these teachers at higher rates than their peers. Most states are not planning to do enough, according to the National Council on Teacher Quality. See related articles: Ed Week Politics K-12 Blog “Are School Ratings in ESSA Plans Clear for Parents? Check Out One Analysis” and The Hechinger Report “States Will Soon Be Free to Transform Standardized Testing, But Most Won’t.”

Both GOP Tax Plans Could Jeopardize School Funding, Teachers’ Pocketbooks
Education Week: Proposed changes to the federal tax code unveiled by Republican lawmakers in two different House and Senate bills would affect teachers’ tax burden as well as private schools, charter schools, and significant amounts of public school funding. The bills don’t represent a direct increase or decrease in federal spending on schools. However, the proposed changes could affect both K-12 funding systems and educators’ pocketbooks in several ways. See related article: Ed Week Market Brief “State Spending on K-12 Rises Slightly in 2017, Despite Headwinds.”

Network Effectiveness in Neighborhood Collaborations
MDRC: Federal, state, and local policies focused on neighborhood improvement have long emphasized the need for community organizations to collaborate. But there has been almost no formal measurement of how community organizations work together, whether differences in collaboration and leadership exist across neighborhoods, and how these patterns may influence the problems being addressed. This report examines how specific patterns of partnership promote better-implemented collaborations that in turn can successfully inform public policy.

Around the Nation

When a City Tackles the Achievement Gap
Usable Knowledge: Political leaders at all levels, in all parties, continually pledge to expand opportunity and close gaps caused by poverty and inequality. But what would it take to really deliver on those promises? One approach is to put children at the center of these aspirations and align community services and resources to give every child an equal chance to succeed through school and into adulthood. We focus on the initiatives in Salem, Mass., as one example of the systems-level re-envisioning that cities are doing.

Chicago Schools Lead Country in Academic Growth, Study Finds
Ed Week Inside School Research Blog: Exactly 30 years after then-Secretary of Education William J. Bennett labeled Chicago Public Schools the worst in the nation, new research shows that Windy City schools now lead the country in academic growth. The study tracked reading and math test score growth among public school students from 2009 to 2014. Across racial groups, the researchers found that Chicago students learned significantly faster from grades 3 to 8 than did students in nearly all other U.S. districts—gaining about six years’ worth of learning in five years.

New Study Finds That 4.2 Million Kids Experience Homelessness Each Year
NPR Ed: Some 4.2 million young people experience unaccompanied homelessness in the course of a year, according to a new study from Chapin Hall a research center at the University of Chicago. One in 30 teens experience some type of homelessness, and this rate grows as teens age: among people aged 18 to 25, one in 10 experience homelessness.

In A City Where 60 Percent of Young Children Live In Poverty, A Ten-Year Plan Aims to Improve Conditions for Kids
Chalkbeat: A coalition of community groups led by two major foundations has a plan to change the fortunes of Detroit’s youngest citizens. The Hope Starts Here early childhood partnership is a ten-year effort to tackle a list of bleak statistics about young children in Detroit, where more than 60% of children age 0-5 live in poverty. The plan includes promoting the health, development, and wellbeing of Detroit children; supporting their parents and caregivers; increasing the overall quality of early childhood programs; and improving coordination among organizations that work with young kids.

Thousands of Parents Are Enrolling Their Children in Online Preschool
The Hechinger Report: Research has found that quality early learning experiences are critical for children. In particular, students who attend high-quality, center-based preschool are more likely to graduate from high school and less likely to be held back. Now, a small but growing number of nonprofits and for-profit companies are saying they can deliver at least some of these experiences — and benefits — via the internet, and thousands of parents are signing up.

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