The Weekly Connect 8/27/18

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:

What makes LeBron James’ new school successful? Integrated services.

Full day kindergarten benefits kids, but most states don’t require it.

New state laws in New York and Virginia require teachers to provide mental health education.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

LeBron James Is Schooling Us on What Education Reform Got Wrong
EdSurge: LeBron James is supporting a new school model, called the I Promise School. It’s a joint effort between his family foundation and the Akron Public Schools. Social media lit up praising the litany of services the school will offer to students and families alike. National data showing improved test scores and graduation rates have begun to emerge supporting the wisdom of models like I Promise. By executing targeted poverty relief in tandem with academics, the integrated supports used by these models can drive breakthrough results that siloed systems can’t. For example, one of the most promising providers, a program called City Connects, has posted improved test scores and down the line students graduate at nearly double the rate of comparison peers. See related article: Center for American Progress “Building Community Schools Systems.” 

Schools Should Teach (and Measure) ‘Soft Skills,’ Parents and Educators Agree
Ed Week Rules for Engagement Blog: Schools should assess students on both “academic knowledge” and “nonacademic skills”—like teamwork, critical thinking, and creativity—parents and educators said in a new survey administered by Gallup on behalf of NWEA. About eight in 10 respondents in each group—teachers, parents, superintendents, and principals—said it’s “equally important” for schools to assess students in both areas. 

Florida Told Its Low-Scoring Schools to Make Their Days Longer. It Helped, New Research Finds
Chalkbeat: Last year, Camille Watkins’s day as a fourth-grade teacher got a little longer. The elementary school where she taught had been named one of Florida’s 300 lowest-performing schools. That meant the school was required to add an extra hour of reading instruction to the day, something Watkins found grueling. But new research finds that the program really did boost reading scores for students from low-income families. It’s new evidence that lengthening the school day, an approach being taken at schools across the country, can make a difference for students who stand to benefit the most. 

New Data Show that More Youth Today Have Healthier Behaviors Than 25 Years Ago
Child Trends Blog: Youth have healthier behaviors today than they did 25 years ago, according to new data from the Youth Behavior Surveillance Survey. This data set is one of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s only consistent windows on trends in youth behaviors that contribute to the leading causes of death and disability among youth and adults. While there are a handful of disappointing trends (e.g., increases in obesity and time spent gaming), more youth today than ever before report wearing seatbelts, and fewer report that they smoke cigarettes, consume alcohol, take drugs, have sex, or do these things in combination. 

Playtime May Bolster Kids’ Mental Health
The Atlantic: A new report, published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommends that pediatricians write a “prescription for play” at doctor visits in the first two years of life. Years of research have shown that play is an important part of a child’s development, assisting in cognition, memory, social skills, and, to a lesser extent, maybe even mental health. Yet, according to the paper, children in the United States play less, and have less free time, than in decades past.

Policy

Why School Spending Is So Unequal
Governing Education: Looking at how spending varies across individual districts, Governing calculated per pupil current spending for all school districts in the nation with 100 students or more, using data from the Census Bureau’s 2016 Annual Survey of School System Finances. In most states, the top elementary-secondary school districts reported spending from two to six times more than those near the bottom. Many factors explain such wide variations. One of the biggest is property taxes, which typically provide much of a school district’s budget. Geography also matters. States with a large roster of small districts also tend to show greater cost differences. 

Bills and Bulletproof Backpacks: Safety Measures for A New School Year
NPR Education: As students prepare to go back to school, more and more parents are thinking about school safety. A recent poll found 34% of parents fear for their child’s physical safety at school. That’s almost triple the number of parents from 2013. And yet schools are among the safest places for kids. According to one study, shootings involving students have actually gone down since the 1990s. Across the country, at least 330 school safety bills were introduced to state legislatures in 2018, according to data from the Education Commission of the States. Of those bills, at least 53 were signed into law. See related articles: Education Week “What the DeVos-Led School Safety Commission Did This Summer,” NBC News “239 Vermont Schools to Get $4M in Grants to Improve School Safety” and Deseret News Politics “Utah Lawmaker Proposes Putting a Team in Every School to Catch Red Flags.” 

Full-Day Kindergarten Is Great for Kids, So Why Isn’t It Required?
The Hechinger Report Early Education: Only 14 states and Washington, D.C., require districts to offer full-day kindergarten, according to kindergarten policy data collected by the Education Commission of the States. And even though most states require school districts to offer at least half-day kindergarten, only 17 states and the District of Columbia mandate that children attend it. Of those, two offer a waiver to children who are assessed as ready to start first grade. 

Congress Considering $95 Million for Study of Technology’s Effects on Children
Ed Week Digital Education Blog: A bipartisan bill now in Congress would give the National Institutes of Health $95 million over five years to fund studies on how media and technology effect children. The proposed Children and Media Research Advancement Act, or CAMRA, outlines an ambitious research agenda. It calls for studies on the impact of “social media, applications, websites, television, motion pictures, artificial intelligence, mobile devices, computers, video games, virtual and augmented reality, and other media formats as they become available” on children’s cognitive, physical, and social-emotional development.

Around the Nation

Implementing Equity in Education
District Administration: North Clackamas School District Superintendent Matthew Utterback minds the gap. That is, the gap between white students and everyone else. That’s why the 2017 National School Superintendent of the Year takes special pride in the details of his Oregon district’s 18% graduation rate increase. What happened? Utterback attributes much of the progress to a professional development program Coaching for Education Equity, offered by the nonprofit Oregon Center for Educational Equity. 

Schools Are Required to Teach Mental-Health Lessons This Fall in Two States. And That’s a First.
Ed Week Curriculum Matters Blog: Students returning to Virginia and New York’s classrooms this fall will be required to participate in mental-health education as part of their health and physical education courses. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed a bill into law that requires a mental health curriculum for 9th and 10th graders. A similar bill was signed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. The first-of-its-kind law requires schools to address mental health in health education programs for students in grades K-12, but, unlike Virginia, does not tie that to a specific set of mental health standards.

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