The Weekly Connect 9/24/18

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These are some of the things we’ve been reading about:

Summer camps raise reading levels for Tennessee children.

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos calls for more civics education.

National poverty rate rises among young children, especially children of color.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is investing $2 billion to help homeless families and develop new preschool programs.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

Summer Camps Lift Reading Skills for Third Straight Year in Tennessee
Chalkbeat: Tennessee’s campaign to help its children read better is seeing encouraging results from investments in school-based, summer camps for youngsters at risk of regressing during school breaks. First-, second-, and third-graders who participated in the state’s Read to be Ready summer program showed gains in reading comprehension and accuracy skills for a third straight year, according to a report released by the state Education Department. 

Time Lost to Suspensions Adds Up Fast for California Students
Ed Week Inside School Research Blog: Even short suspensions can add up to big losses of instruction, particularly for students of color and special education students, researchers have found. A new study from the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the University of California, Los Angeles, found deep discipline disparities for California middle schoolers. In the first 100 days of the 2016-17 school year, black students in 7th and 8th grades lost 76 days of school for every 100 students enrolled, and black students in kindergarten through 3rd grade lost 17 days of class to discipline for every 100 students. By contrast, the rate of lost time for every 100 white students was 19 days in grades 7 and 8, and four days in grades K-3 during the same period. See related article: Chalkbeat “A Benefit of Free Lunch for All: Fewer Students Get Repeatedly Suspended, New Study Suggests.” 

‘Homework Gap’ Hits Minority, Impoverished Students Hardest, Survey Finds
Ed Week Digital Education Blog: The lack of access to technology and internet connectivity at home is especially severe among poor, rural, and minority students, according to a new survey from ACT that sheds light on the vast disparities in digital access among K-12 populations. Fourteen percent of students have access to only one device at home, and 85 percent of those students are classified as “underserved.” The report sheds new insight on the “homework gap,” the term used to describe the inequities between students who have devices and internet connectivity at home, and those who don’t and struggle to complete tech-based assignments as a result.

Policy

Senate Passes Spending Bill to Increase Funding for Several Education Programs
Ed Week Politics K-12 Blog: The Senate has approved a spending package that contains funding increases for prominent education programs focusing on disadvantaged students and special education, among several others. Senators voted overwhelmingly in favor of the legislation. The bill for fiscal 2019 includes a $581 million increase in total U.S. Department of Education spending over current levels for fiscal 2018. Title I and career and technical education grants would get relatively small increases, as would aid to charter schools and a block grant districts can use to help create safe schools. See related article: Ed Week Politics K-12 Blog “Winners and Losers from Capitol Hill’s School Spending Agreement.” 

Education Tops List of Civil Rights Issues on Survey
Education Week: A new report from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights indicates education is the top ongoing civil rights priority for many of those on the group’s state advisory commissions. A survey that heard from just over a quarter of the state commission members found that education is “the topic of highest importance” and should be prioritized in the next year, among continuing issues such as housing, criminal justice, and health care. The emerging civil rights topics in education that respondents highlighted include equity, racial disparities in school discipline, and teacher shortages. See related article: Center for American Progress “Fixing Chronic Disinvestment in K-12 Schools.”

Did Obama’s Federal School Turnaround Program Really Fail?
Chalkbeat: A new national study has become a talking point for Betsy DeVos and a powerful example of the challenges of turning around struggling schools: the study, released by the federal government, shows that its multibillion-dollar turnaround program failed. A new report from Georgetown University says, not so fast. It points to studies of places like San Francisco, where the approach seemed to help students. The report also points to the limitations of the government’s study to conclude that the federal report painted too grim a picture. 

DeVos’ Strong Words on Suppression of Speech, State of Civics Education
Ed Week Politics K-12 Blog: U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said in a Constitution Day appearance in Philadelphia that the nation’s schools are giving short shrift to civics and history, in part because of the pressure to focus on reading and science, technology, engineering, and math or STEM subjects. DeVos said that schools need to teach students to engage with others with whom they might disagree. And she said this needs to begin at the K-12 level, where she said civics education hasn’t been a priority. DeVos’ comments echo those of more than half of the principals surveyed earlier this year by the Education Week Research Center. Fifty-two percent said their schools devote “too little” time to civics instruction, while 48 percent say they give about the right amount.

Around the Nation

Poverty Rate Rising Among America’s Youngest Children, Particularly Infants of Color
Child Trends Blog: The latest Census numbers indicate that, while conditions may be improving for some children and adults, the overall economic well-being of our nation’s youngest citizens is worrisome, particularly so for black and Hispanic children. The data show that in 2017, one in five infants and toddlers were poor; this statistic is almost identical to the 2016 rate of 19.6%. The disparities in poverty levels among infants and toddlers by race and ethnicity are particularly concerning: in 2017, nearly 1 in 3 black infants and toddlers (32.7%), and more than 1 in 4 Hispanic infants and toddlers (27.3%) lived in poverty, compared to approximately 1 in 9 white, non-Hispanic infants and toddlers (11.8%).

As 4-Year-Old Preschool Programs Become the Norm, Denver Looks to Reach 3-Year-Olds Next
Chalkbeat: The Denver Preschool Program is expanding its scope. Starting this month, the nonprofit will put a share of its funding from a citywide sales tax toward improving preschool classrooms for 3-year-olds — something it has long done in 4-year-old classrooms. Those improvements could take the form of teacher training or coaching, teacher scholarships for educational programs, or new blocks and playground equipment. The $700,000 initiative pales in comparison to the $15 million that the Denver Preschool Program will spend on tuition assistance for the city’s 4-year-olds this year. Still, it’s another sign of growing recognition that investments in younger children help amplify the benefits of widespread and politically popular 4-year-old prekindergarten programs. 

Jeff Bezos Wants to Fix Preschools by Treating Them Like Amazon
Quartz: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is launching a $2 billion “Day One Fund” to help homeless families in the US and create a series of innovative preschools. Bezos said his new organization would create “a network of new, non-profit, tier-one preschools in low-income communities,” inspired by the Montessori School model, a child-centered educational method. The Montessori method has been shown to be beneficial for children’s cognitive and social skills, and helpful in developing kids’ early literacy and mathematics skills.

A Test to Assess Creativity? It’s in the Works
Ed Week Curriculum Matters Blog: When teenagers all over the world take the PISA exam in 2021, they could face a new kind of test: one that aims to measure their creativity. And the maker of a major U.S. college-admissions exam—ACT—will build it. Periodically, PISA adds a fourth domain to its lineup. In 2015, for instance, it added collaborative problem-solving. If enough OECD countries are interested, the creative-thinking test would take that fourth-domain slot in 2021.

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