The Weekly Connect 12/4/17

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:

Research finds that early education has long-lasting benefits.

Higher levels of physical fitness can improve students’ brain architecture.

How changes to federal tax laws could impact schools.

Cities and counties focus on kindergarten readiness.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

New Analysis Finds Long-Lasting Benefits from Early-Childhood Education
Ed Week Early Years Blog: High-quality early-childhood programs boost graduation rates, reduce grade retention, and cut down on special education placements, according to a new analysis of 22 studies on early education research. These findings add fresh fuel to long-running policy debates about the effectiveness of pre-K.

Dual-Language Programs Boost Student Achievement in English, Study Finds
Ed Week Learning the Language Blog: English-language learners assigned to dual-language-immersion classrooms in the Portland, Ore., school district were more likely to be classified as English proficient by 6th grade when compared to peers enrolled in traditional classes, a new RAND Corp. study has found. 

How Mass Shootings Are Forcing Schools to Re-Evaluate Safety
NPR Ed: In 2017 there were 318 mass shootings in the U.S., according to data from the Gun Violence Archive. About two-thirds of all school districts in the county conduct active-shooter exercises — and nearly all of them have a plan if a shooter comes into the school, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office. Federal agencies recommend a run, hide, fight protocol for schools, with the fight component meant only for adults. Many schools have used an active shooter program provided by the ALICE Training Institute.

Brains of Children with a Better Physical Fitness Possess a Greater Volume of Gray Matter
Science Daily: Researchers from the University of Granada have proven, for the first time in history, that physical fitness in children may affect their brain structure, which in turn may have an influence on their academic performance. Findings are published in the journal NeuroImage.

Bullied Teens Twice as Likely to Bring Weapons to School
Reuters: One in five teens are victims of bullying, and these adolescents are about twice as likely to bring guns and knives to school than peers who aren’t bullied, a U.S. study suggests. Overall, about 20% of participants reported being victims of bullying at least once in the past year, and about 4% said they had brought a weapon to school in the past month, researchers report in the journal Pediatrics.

What 150 Years of Education Statistics Say About Schools Today
Education Week: The National Center for Education Statistics celebrates its 150th anniversary this year. It has been tracking the nation’s students, teachers, and schools for longer than some states have even had public education, and data pulled from some of its long-term studies show how American education has evolved in that time.

Policy

Education Issues at Stake as Senate Takes Up Tax Reform: State and Local Deductions, Teacher Supplies, Choice
The 74 Million: Public school supporters are most concerned about Republicans’ efforts to remove federal deductions for state and local taxes. Any increase in federal taxes could put pressure on state and local leaders to cut taxes at that level, imperiling the largest sources of school funding.

Study: State Ed Funding Still Lagging Below Pre-Recession Levels
Education Dive: Based on 2015 Census data, 29 states are providing less per-pupil funding than before the recession, and in 19 states, local funding has also dropped over that same time period, according to a report released by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. 

Massachusetts Law Paves the Way for More Bilingual Education
Ed Week Learning the Language Blog: New legislation has paved the way to allow Massachusetts schools to teach English-language learners in their native language while they learn English. Gov. Charlie Baker signed the legislation. It effectively overturns the state’s 15-year-old law that eliminated bilingual education from most public schools. The new law, passed by state lawmakers last week, aims to offer school systems and parents flexibility to choose programs that best suit the needs of their students.

Around the Nation

Cities, Counties Join New Initiative to Focus on Kindergarten Readiness
Ed Week Early Years Blog: Several national organizations are coming together to work on increasing kindergarten readiness for children from birth to age 3. The National Association of Counties, the National League of Cities, the Center for the Study of Social Policy, the National Institute for Children’s Health Quality, and StriveTogether are partnering to focus on what medical professionals say is a critical time period for brain development. The partnership will focus on developing initiatives that support pregnant women as well as families with infants and toddlers. The partnership will also work to ensure greater access to high-quality early-learning programs. And local communities will be encouraged to share best practices with their peers around the nation. 

Concentrated Poverty Increased in Both Rural and Urban Areas Since 2000, Reversing Declines in the 1990s
Carsey School of Public Policy, University of New Hampshire: The number of nonmetropolitan counties with high poverty rates increased between the 2000 Decennial Census and the 2011–2015 American Community Survey. There was also an increase in the share of the rural population residing in these disadvantaged areas. Over this time period, the percentage of rural counties with poverty rates of 20% or more increased from a fifth to nearly one-third. 

Data Snapshot: Who Are the Nation’s Homeschoolers?
Ed Week Marketplace K-12 Blog: A recently released batch of federal data offers a portrait of the Nation’s homeschool population, including the backgrounds of students and their families’ reasons for choosing to homeschool. One of the most interesting findings is that the percentage of U.S. students who are homeschooled appears to have leveled off in recent years. In 1999, 1.7% of the nation’s students were homeschooled, and that number rose fairly steadily over time to reach 3.4% in 2012. Yet in 2016, the portion of homeschoolers basically flatlined, at 3.3%.

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