The Weekly Connect 11/12/18

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:

Teachers are grappling with how the opioid crisis impacts students.

The U.S. Department of Education has published a new report on rural education.

Nearly 30 percent of teachers are chronically absent.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

Teaching 21st Century Skills Requires New Assessments
The Journal: As schools invest more time teaching students critical thinking skills, the need to invest in technology to enable measurement of teaching methods will become increasingly important, according a report from the Brookings Institution. The report examines how 21st century skills, including critical thinking, creativity, problem solving, communication, and socio-economic skills, are becoming a central part of teaching in countries around the world and how to address the resulting assessment needs. 

Teachers are First Responders to the Opioid Crisis
The Hechinger Report: Nationally, teachers and school administrators are seeing a pattern in the opioid crisis emerge in many communities. Around the country, the number of kids in foster care increased by about 10% from 2012 to 2016. At the same time, the number of children being removed from their homes because of parental drug use has also increased. And in many places, teachers are on the front line of this crisis, working to counteract the effects this trauma has on students’ lives. See related article: Science Daily “Impact of Opioid Epidemic on Children Varies by State.” 

Rate of Mental Health ER Visits Surges for Kids, Young People
U.S. News & World Report: The rate of emergency department visits among children and youth for mental health concerns has risen dramatically across dozens of U.S. hospitals since 2012, with the rate of mental health diagnoses notably high among black patients, according to newly released study findings. Researchers analyzed data from the Pediatric Health Information System on emergency department visits at more than 45 children’s hospitals for patients 21 years old and younger from 2012 through 2016 . Overall, the rate of mental health-related visits increased from 50.4 visits per 100,000 in 2012 to 78.5 per 100,000 in 2016, with visits increasing at a higher rate for non-Hispanic black patients than non-Hispanic whites.

Obesity May Harm Kids’ Academics, Coping Skills
Health Day: Obese kids may have extra difficulty with schoolwork and coping under stress, a preliminary study suggests. In a survey of nearly 23,000 parents, researchers found that kids who were obese were less likely to show certain indicators of “flourishing,” versus their normal-weight peers. That meant less engagement in schoolwork and learning, and more difficulty coping with challenging situations. 

Backpacks Can Stress Your Students’ Spines More Than Previously Thought
Ed Week Inside School Research Blog: A new study in the journal Surgery Technology International tested the stresses on a model spine from backpacks laden with weights from one to 100 pounds and worn using both straps. The researchers gauged compression both when the spine was straight and when it was tilted forward 20 degrees—about the typical angle of an adolescent slouch. For every pound of weight added to the backpack, the researchers found 7.2 times that weight in compression on a straight spine, and 11.6 times the stress on a spine hunched over. 

When Adolescents Give Up Pot, Their Cognition Quickly Improves
NPR: A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry finds that when adolescents stop using marijuana — even for just one week — their verbal learning and memory improve. The study contributes to growing evidence that marijuana use in adolescents is associated with reduced neurocognitive functioning. See related article: Science Daily “Adolescent Cannabis Use Alters Development of Planning, Self-Control Brain Areas.”

Policy

What do the 2018 midterm elections mean for education in America?
Brookings Institution: Nationwide, education was not a top issue for many voters on Election Day–far from it. At the same time, the 2018 state and national elections may have important consequences for education policy across the U.S. Here is what some of these results may mean for the future of education policy. See related articles: NPR Ed “9 Things You Need to Know About Education and the Election,” Ed Week Politics K-12 Blog “Buckle Up, Betsy DeVos: Democrats Have Won the House,” Education Dive “Nearly 1,800 Educators Ran for Office in The Midterms. Here’s Who Won.” 

NASBE Urges States to Focus on Lowest-Performing Students in ESSA Plans
Education Dive: While most states are taking advantage of the Every Student Succeeds Act’s flexibility to use academic growth measures as part of their accountability systems, only nine states are applying a separate growth measure to the lowest-performing groups of students, according to a new policy brief from the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE).

ED Publishes Report on Rural Education
Ed.gov Blog: The U.S. Department of Education recently published the Section 5005 Final Report on Rural Education. The Rural Report outlines actions the department will take to meaningfully increase the involvement of rural schools and school districts in helping to develop and execute Department processes, procedures, policies, and regulations.

Around the Nation

Washington State Works to Meet Needs of its Homeless Students
U.S. News & World Report: The lack of affordable housing in Washington state continues to critically impact families and children, and it’s led to a record number of homeless students in the state’s public school system. About 1 in every 25 Washington K-12 public school students, or about one child in every classroom, will experience homelessness this year, according to a recent report by the state’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. In Seattle, that rate jumps to 1 in 13 students. Superintendent Chris Reykdal says his office and others throughout Washington are working to provide homeless students with the resources to graduate. He spoke with U.S. News & World Report about these efforts and what approaches are successful.

Nearly 30 Percent of Teachers Are Chronically Absent. How Rhode Island Is Using ESSA to Move the Needle
The 74 Million: About 28% of America’s public school teachers, or roughly 900,000 educators, are missing more than 10 days of school a year, making them “chronically absent” by federal government standards. At least one state — Rhode Island — is tackling teacher chronic absenteeism by including the problem in its ESSA plan to measure school accountability. This means the state will consider teacher absenteeism rates when gauging schools’ success and identifying low-performing schools.

Thriving Through Challenges: An Education Research-Practice Partnership’s Tale
Ed Week Urban Education Reform Blog: The Research-Practice Partnership (RPP) between Boston Public Schools (BPS) and the American Institutes for Research (AIR) was established in 2015 to study the impact of expanded learning time on student outcomes. It didn’t take long for the new partnership to face one of the most common RPP challenges—turnover. In the time between submitting the proposal and receiving funding from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences, nearly all BPS partnership members had left their roles and the district had a new superintendent. As the project took shape, turnover also ensued at AIR.

Can A School Built on Brain Science Alter the Learning Landscape?
Colorado Public Radio: From the architecture to the classroom activities, the features of Soaring Heights PK-8 school in Erie, Colorado, are grounded in neuroscience. The school uses the latest insights about how the brain works to inspire how the classrooms work. Students learn everything kids at other schools do, but the STEM-focused approach at Soaring Heights also uses principles of neuroscience to help students persevere, concentrate, unleash creativity, regulate their emotions, and even develop empathy.

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