The Weekly Connect 9/3/18

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:

Depressed students are more likely to have skills deficits.

The Gates Foundation is distributing more than $90 million in grants to improve schools.

Superintendents are concerned about how to prepare students to be engaged citizens.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

Suspensions Really Do Hurt Students Academically, New Studies Confirm, But Maybe Less Than Previously Thought
Chalkbeat: There’s been little reliable evidence that suspensions are the true cause of poor test scores or dismal graduation rates. Perhaps students who get suspended would have had academic trouble regardless. Perhaps suspensions themselves set students on a negative trajectory. Maybe it’s a combination of the two. However, three of four recent studies on the topic provide some of the strongest evidence yet that suspensions do in fact harm students’ academic performance. But they also suggest that the consequences of a suspension, at least as measured by test scores, are less severe than previously thought. So what have these four new studies found? This article walks through them one by one. 

Depressed Children 6 Times More Likely to Have Skill Deficits, MU Study Finds
Science Daily: The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that as many as 2 to 3 percent of children ages 6-12 might have major depressive disorder. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri have found that children who show mild to severe symptoms of depression in second and third grades are six times more likely to have skill deficits, such as difficulties with social skills or academics, than children without symptoms. Parents and teachers also had difficulties recognizing depression in children. Results of the study are published in the Journal of School Psychology.

Policy

With $92 Million in Grants, Gates Foundation Launches Newest Strategy to Improve K-12 Schools
Ed Week Curriculum Matters Blog: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced more than $90 million in grants to support networks of schools’ work to help students of color and low-income students get into college. The 19 grants will support improvements in everything from middle school language arts, to the perennially thorny problem of Algebra 1, to solving the problem of “undermatching,”— when high-achieving, low-income students select colleges that are less ambitious or rigorous than their track records qualify them for. Most of the grantees plan to look at some specific indicators of whether their students are on track to graduate high school. 

Educators Hoped ESSA’s ‘5th Indicator’ Would Paint a Clearer Picture of Student Success. But with Some States Now Choosing Up to 11 Different Measures, Experts Worry Results Are a ‘Hodgepodge’
The 74 Million: Academic achievement has typically been the gold standard for tracking student gains and school progress. But policymakers hoped recent changes to federal education law would spur a more innovative approach. Under the 2015 Every Students Succeeds Act, states submitted education plans last year to the U.S. Department of Education outlining at least five indicators. The first four were explicitly academic: achievement, growth, graduation rates, and English language proficiency. The fifth indicator, however, was a true blank slate. An in-depth review of plans from 49 states and Washington, D.C., revealed that many fifth indicators are flooded with numerous, complex measures that, according to some critics, risk diluting educators’ focus and muddying improvement goals. 

At a Glance: Betsy DeVos’ Federal Commission on School Safety
Education Week: President Donald Trump set up the Federal Commission on School Safety in March 2018 in the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., which left 17 people dead. Trump appointed U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to chair the commission, which has spent the past five months participating in numerous activities, including formal meetings, field visits with invited speakers and experts, and listening sessions with the public, some in Washington and some around the country. This article looks at some key points about the commission, its mission, and the controversies that have surrounded it. See related article: U.S. News & World Report “Education Department Considers Allowing Schools to Use Federal Money to Buy Guns.” 

50-State Comparison: State Policies on School Discipline
Education Commission of the States: Recent data show significant disparities in the application of suspension and expulsion based on race, gender, and disability status. The emergence of these data, coupled with research showing the long-term negative impact of removing students from the learning environment, has prompted many state education leaders to re-examine their school discipline requirements. This has led to legislation aimed at striking an appropriate balance between promoting safe and productive schools while reducing the adverse effects of exclusionary discipline. See the 50-State Comparisons showing how all states approach specific school discipline policies.

Around the Nation

Poll: Americans Mostly Unsatisfied With K-12 Education
UPI: As a new school year begins, most Americans say they are not satisfied with the quality of the education their children are receiving. And only 43% of Americans say they’re satisfied, a recently released Gallup Poll shows. This percentage is close to a historical average of 45%, Gallup Poll analyst Megan Brenan said. The lowest point of satisfaction was in 2000 at 36% and the highest point in 2004 at 53%. 

Citizenship as a Classroom Priority: New Gallup Poll Shows 74 Percent of Superintendents Say ‘Preparing Engaged Citizens’ Has Become a Major Challenge for Their Districts
The 74 Million: Three-quarters of district superintendents say preparing students to be engaged citizens is a challenge for schools. This is a huge jump over past years. In fact, the number of superintendents concerned about this rose by 24 points — from 50 to 74 percent — in just one year, according to an annual Gallup poll of nearly 2,000 U.S. district leaders. 

Extra Duties Limited School Counselors’ Face Time with Students. A New Rule Is Changing That
Tennessean.com: Starting this school year, a new Tennessee rule requires all public school counselors to do what they were trained to do: spend most of their time meeting with students experiencing academic, social or emotional problems and getting the kids the help they need. The new rules require counselors — who by law must possess a master’s degree in school counseling — to spend at least 80% of their time working directly with kids. See related article: Chicago Tribune “Teens Are Anxious and Depressed, and Turning to the School Nurse for Help. But Most Illinois Schools Don’t Have One. 

Summer by Summer, Horizons Works to Change the Trajectory of Kids’ Lives
Spotlight on Poverty & Opportunity: Holy Innocents is an elite private school in Atlanta. But in the summer, it’s one of nine sites for Horizons Atlanta, a program that works intensively with over 800 kids who don’t have the privileges of money and enrichment activities. This is important because low-income kids lose two to three months of academic skills in the summer, compared with their more-affluent peers, according to the National Summer Learning Association. Horizons Atlanta, on the other hand, sees the children in its program gain — instead of lose — two to three months of skills. Figures from Horizons National show a high school graduation rate of 97%.

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