The Weekly Connect 4/23/18

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:

Child poverty imposes heavy costs on the country.

Recess makes a comeback.

An annual assessment of the nation’s preschool programs.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

Child Poverty Imposes Heavy Cost on U.S.
Spotlight on Poverty & Opportunity: A new study published in Social Work Research finds that childhood poverty cost the U.S. more than $1 trillion in 2015, representing 5.4% of GDP. Researchers pointed to a lack of applicable job skills among workers who grow up poor, increased health risks, and higher crime rates as drivers of the high economic cost. They also find that each dollar invested to reduce child poverty would save the country at least seven dollars. 

Focusing on The Language Skills of English Learners Key to Boosting Math Scores
EdSource: Boosting the language development of students whose first language is not English is critical if California is to narrow the wide and persistent gaps in math test scores between its nearly 1.4 million English learners and their English-proficient peers. That is the recommendation in a recent report by Education Trust–West, which highlights the successful strategies that five California districts implemented to improve the academic performance of English learners. The report also identifies practices that schools and districts can use to provide more support to English learners. 

Personalized Texting to Parents Can Bump Reading Skills in Their Kindergartners
The Journal: A research project out of Stanford University studied the effects of a text-based program specifically for parents of kindergartners, in which general texts were tested against more differentiated and personalized messages. The project, described in a working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research, started with a baseline program modeled after READY4K, a free text reminder program for pre-K parents. The study found that children in the second group — where parents received personalized texts — read at higher levels compared to the control group. Also, parents were more engaged in reading activities with their kids. 

Don’t Leave Middle Schools Out of The School Start Time Debate
Child Trends Blog: Getting enough good sleep is critical for adolescents’ health, education, and overall well-being, but data from the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey suggest that only one in four high school students receives more than eight hours of sleep per night. As changes to start times can be costly for school districts, shifts have led to tradeoffs: high schools start later, but middle schools are left to start at their usual times or pushed to start even earlier. New research, published in the Journal of School Health, suggests that failing to let middle schools start later may be detrimental for middle school students’ sleep. See related article: Reuters “Later Middle School Start Times Tied to Longer Sleep for Kids.”

What Principals Really Think About Tech
Education Week: On one hand, principals say they’re worried about technology’s potentially harmful effects: A full 95% believe their students are using screens too much at home, and 83% say they’re at least “moderately concerned” about how students use social media outside of school, according to a new national survey of school-based leaders conducted by the Education Week Research Center. At the same time, however, principals are welcoming technology and technology-driven trends into their own buildings. More than half described personalized learning as either a “transformational way to improve public education” or a “promising idea.”

Students’ Healthy Habits Can Boost Their Chances for College
Ed Week Inside School Research Blog: A student’s academic progress doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and a new study suggests students’ healthy behaviors are linked not just to grades but also to their own motivation for going to college. Researchers at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities found that after controlling for students’ socioeconomic and racial differences, students’ health behaviors explained 10% of the difference in their grades and college aspirations. 

Teaching Empathy with Video Games
Edutopia: Playing video games socially with others can boost a child’s soft skills—those 21st-century competencies that students should possess to be able to compete and innovate in today’s interconnected, global economy. Two researchers recently coauthored a working paper for UNESCO’s Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development. In it, they explored how players can become immersed in game worlds by taking control (agency) of avatars (digital on-screen representations of human players), and how that affects people’s ability to be empathetic.


Could Schools Be Doing More with Title I Money?
Ed Week Inside School Research Blog: Over the last two decades, federal grants for educating low-income students have shifted from overwhelmingly being targeted to only the individual low-income students in a building to mostly being used to support schoolwide programs on high-poverty campuses. A new nationwide study of the $15.8 billion Title I program suggests that, while the more holistic approach has allowed school and district leaders to support a broader array of staff and interventions for students in poverty, school leaders often do not receive the training and information needed to make the most of the grant’s flexibility. 

Recess Making Comeback in Public Schools: ‘Children Do Better When They Have A Break’
The Washington Times: After years of teetering on the brink, recess is making a comeback in public schools as state lawmakers move to reinstate playground time lost in the push for higher test scores. Arizona and Virginia approved bipartisan recess bills, following on the heels of Florida in June and Rhode Island in 2016, as pressure builds from parents who argue that all work and no play is hobbling student achievement. Nine states now require daily recess in elementary schools, said Carly Wright, director of public policy and advocacy for SHAPE America, the Society of Health and Physical Educators, which champions recess and physical education. 

Betsy DeVos Says We Can’t ‘Spend Our Way’ Out of Stagnant Test Scores
Ed Week Politics K-12 Blog: “If you look at per-pupil spending, it’s gone up since ‘A Nation at Risk’ was reported,” DeVos said in an on-stage interview with William Bennett, one of President Reagan’s secretaries of education. “Scores continue to muddle along. This is not something we’re going to spend our way out of, and this is not something we’re going to mandate or regulate our way out of.” Instead, DeVos thinks states need to consider more “student centered” policies, inspired by Florida’s example. The Sunshine State was the only state to show significant improvement in math in 4th and 8th grade and in 8th grade reading on the NAEP. No state improved in reading at the fourth grade level. 

50-State Comparison: Instructional Time Policies
Education Commission of the States: This resource provides an overview of state instructional time requirements for kindergarten through 12th grade — including days or hours per year, hours per day, and start and end date parameters where they exist in state law. Twenty-nine states plus the District of Columbia require at least 180 days of instruction. Twelve states place parameters around school start and/or finish dates. Thirty-five states differentiate the hours in a day or year, or the days in a year based on grade levels.

Around the Nation

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: The State of Preschool in the U.S.
U.S. News & World Report: More students are enrolling in state preschool programs than ever before as states continue to invest in them. But those increases are eclipsed by a slump in the rate of growth and in per-student spending, the latter of which is an important indicator of quality. Those are just some of the top-line findings from an annual assessment of every state’s preschool offerings, released by the National Institute for Early Education Research. See related article: Education Dive “Report: State Preschool Enrollment Continues to Grow, But Quality Varies.”

After Shootings and Hurricanes, Where Are the School Counselors?
Governing Magazine: According to Jill Cook, assistant director of the American School Counselor Association, “it’s mostly a state and local funding issue.” During the Great Recession, the nationwide number of school support staff, which includes counselors, fell by almost 39,000. The decrease in money and resources comes at a time when advocates say the need for mental health care in schools is greater than ever. A changing climate is causing unprecedented natural disasters, leaving students suddenly homeless. An increase in school shootings has led to a nationwide push for gun control led by students who say they are scared to go to school. 

Schools Crackdown on Vaping and E-Cigarettes
District Administration: Administrators have closed or increased monitoring of school bathrooms. They have sent students for drug tests. They have even banned USB thumb drives. These actions reflect the wide range of responses district leaders have taken to curb the alarming increase in students’ use of vaping devices and e-cigarettes. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids hopes the federal government will take stronger action to restrict sales of the devices, such as raising the legal purchasing age to 21 (as is the law in five states and several hundred communities). See related article: The 74 Million “‘We’re Losing a Battle’: More Teens Are Vaping, Despite Surgeon General’s Warning That E-Cigarettes Are a ‘Major Public Health Concern’.” 

To Close Achievement Gap, Parents Learning Key Research on Kids’ Brains
Wicked Local Somerville: Cambridge Public Schools partnered with Harvard University researchers to create a program that helps parents understand their child’s brain development through a series of 10 weekly sessions for parents with children between 3 to 8 years old. School leaders say that knowledge can help low-income parents put their children on a more equal footing with children from better-off families. “The goal is to help parents understand how the brain develops, to enable their child to be more prepared for school, critical thinking, as well as social and emotional situations,” said Marguerite Hicks-Gyewu, a facilitator for the sessions. 

New York State Inches Closer to A New Arts Assessment That Can Be Used on Students’ Path to Graduation
Chalkbeat: If a student artist wrote an essay, completed a lengthy project, and finished an end-of-course task to show mastery in her discipline, should she be excused from her last Regents exam? That is one option New York state’s top policymakers considered during a discussion about how to test students’ knowledge in areas such as visual arts, music, and theater. The conversation is part of New York’s broader effort to expand graduation options and could provide a roadmap for state officials as they try to create testing options that stretch beyond multiple choice bubble tests. 

U of Chicago-CPS Partnership Pays Off in Big Ways for District
Education Dive: A large part of the success of Chicago Public Schools’ nationally-recognized turnaround efforts have been due to a unique partnership with the University of Chicago’s Urban Education Institute in which the district shares an unprecedented amount of data on student and teacher performance with the university. The university then analyzes the data and returns it back to the individual principals every six weeks to allow intervention on behalf of students in real-time.

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Author: City Connects

City Connects is an innovative school-based system that revitalizes student support in schools. City Connects collaborates with teachers to identify the strengths and needs of every child. We then create a uniquely tailored set of intervention, prevention, and enrichment services located in the community designed to help each student learn and thrive.

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