The Weekly Connect 3/5/18

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:

School counselors have oversized caseloads.

Figuring out the right amount of homework.

17 states receive ESSA extensions.

A Denver elementary school offers yoga instead of detention.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

With Hundreds of Students, School Counselors Just Try To ‘Stay Afloat’
NPR: According to the most recent data, school counselors across the country manage caseloads of about 482 students each. In California, where Yuridia Nava works, that average ratio is 760 students per counselor — the second highest in the nation. She says counselors there are just trying to “stay afloat” and get through each day. The American School Counselor Association recommends that counselors work with 250 students each, but just three states follow that advice. 

Abolish Middle School? Not So Fast, New Study Says.
Chalkbeat: Rigorous studies have suggested that scrapping traditional middle schools is good for students. And some districts like Boston have moved to merge schools, trying to eliminate some of the elements of middle school that make it miserable for many tweens. However, new research published in the Journal of Urban Economics says, hold on a second. It suggests that past studies have overstated the benefits of K-8 schools and offers a warning to districts moving to eliminate middle schools — as well as a parable of how complicated it can be to make decisions based on the shifting findings of education research.

Schools Are Ill-Prepared to Educate ‘Superdiverse’ English-Learners
Ed Week Learning the Language Blog: Public policy, research, and teaching methods have not adjusted to accommodate the nation’s increasingly diverse English-language-learner population—and this problem begins well before children enter K-12 classrooms, a new report from the Migration Policy Institute finds. To help address those concerns, the report makes the case for a more diverse early-childhood workforce, improved tools to assess the development of dual-language learners in early-childhood programs, and more research to develop teaching approaches that can work in “superdiverse” classrooms where students speak several languages.

No Downturn in Obesity Among U.S. Kids, Report Finds
NPR Shots Blog: Hopes were dashed that the United States was finally making progress in the fight against childhood obesity. Contrary to previous reports, the epidemic of fat has not abated. In fact, there’s been a big jump in obesity among the nation’s youngest children, according to the latest analysis of federal data published in the journal Pediatrics. The analysis shows that the percentage of children ages 2 to 19 who are obese increased from 14% in 1999 to 18.5% in 2015 and 2016.

What’s the Right Amount of Homework?
Edutopia: Many teachers and parents believe that homework helps students build study skills and review concepts learned in class. Others see homework as disruptive and unnecessary, leading to burnout and turning kids off to school. Decades of research show that the issue is more nuanced and complex than most people think: Homework is beneficial, but only to a degree. Students in high school gain the most, while younger kids benefit much less.

Pediatricians Call for Universal Depression Screening for Teens
NPR Shots Blog: Only about 50% of adolescents with depression get diagnosed before reaching adulthood. And as many as 2 in 3 depressed teens don’t get the care that could help them. To address this divide, the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued updated guidelines that call for universal screening for depression. “What we’re endorsing is that everyone, 12 and up, be screened … at least once a year,” Dr. Rachel Zuckerbrot says, a board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrist and associate professor at Columbia University. The screening, she says, could be done during a well-visit, a sports’ physical, or during another office visit.


43 States Include More Than K12 Test Scores on Report Cards, But Work Remains
District Administration: States must provide more information than what’s required on federally mandated school report cards to give administrators and parents a clearer view of the education culture, according to a recent report from the nonprofit policy organization Data Quality Campaign. Some 43 states have now added measures that go beyond test scores—such as chronic absences, discipline rates, and course offerings—to offer a wider view of how a school is performing and what programs are available to students.

Education Department Officially Proposes Delay of Special Education Bias Rule
Ed Week On Special Education Blog: As expected, the U.S. Department of Education is seeking to delay by two years a rule that would require states to use a standard method in monitoring how school districts identify and serve minority students with disabilities. 

17 States Receive ESSA Extensions, Idaho OKs Revised ESSA Plan After Feds Ask for More Info
The 74 Million: Seventeen states received good news from the U.S. Department of Education this week: an extension on the deadline for their updated ESSA plans. “For those keeping score at home, that’s every state that hasn’t yet gotten a thumbs-up from the department on its plan,” according to Education Week’s Daarel Burnette and Alyson Klein. “The feds have given every single state feedback on its ESSA approach,” they noted. “Some states have been approved even if they didn’t take all of the department’s suggestions to heart.”

Around the Nation

In Most States, Poorest School Districts Get Less Funding
U.S. News & World Report: In more than half of the states in the U.S., the poorest school districts do not receive funding to address their students’ increased needs – this is just the latest data point to shine a spotlight on funding gaps that plague the country’s public education system. School districts with the highest rates of poverty receive about $1,000 less per student in state and local funding than those with the lowest rates of poverty, according to a new report released by The Education Trust. See related article: Mississippi Today “School Funding Bill Reflects National Trend; Results Mixed in Other States.” 

Bill Aims to Give Iowa Teachers Tools to Help Prevent Student Suicide In 2017, suicide was the second leading cause of death for Iowans ages 15-34 and the third leading cause for 10-14-year-olds. Those statistics, from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, are not falling on deaf ears at the state capitol any longer. Legislators are hoping a bill, which passed unanimously in the Senate, can arm teachers with the tools needed to help prevent student suicides. Democratic Senator Matt McCoy of Polk County said, “It’s to help teachers be able to spot the warning signs of kids expressing behavior that might identify that they are in a bad place.” Iowa is currently one of 22 states without mandated suicide prevention training for teachers.

Minnesota School Districts Turn to Building Design for Security
Star Tribune: Enhanced security features have become an urgent priority for Minnesota schools coping with the threat of mass shootings in their buildings. Wold Architects and Engineers in St. Paul works with 50 school districts around Minnesota and is now using CPTED elements (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) to improve security. Paul Aplikowski, an architect and partner at Wold, said his team works with first responders, parents, and school safety officials to develop a management plan supported by the structure of a building.

Why This Denver Elementary School Has Replaced Detention with Yoga
Chalkbeat: The lights were dimmed low in the high-ceilinged auditorium of Denver’s Doull Elementary School, where 13 barefoot students sat cross-legged on yoga mats arranged in a wide circle. Their instructor, Trini Heffron, asked them a question: “What is yoga about?” An older boy raised his hand. “I think yoga is about getting calm and chill,” he said. Heffron told him he was right. It’s a state she’s found students at the high-poverty school are eager to reach. And this year, she’s been helping them get there in after-school yoga sessions for students whose behavior would have in the past earned them a detention.

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