The Weekly Connect 12/17/18

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:

How stress affects students’ performance on state tests.

Under ESSA, more than a quarter of schools could be flagged as being In Need of Improvement.

The complex jobs of school principals in rural areas.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

How the Stress of State Testing Might Make It Harder for Some Students to Show What They Know
Chalkbeat: The annual ritual of state testing in elementary and middle schools often comes within an unwelcome side effect: jittery, stressed-out kids. Now, a first-of-its-kind study documents some of what’s actually happening to students. It found that students in one New Orleans charter network saw modest spikes in cortisol, a hormone caused by stress, leading up to state exams. And the students whose cortisol spiked most or crashed furthest did worse than predicted — suggesting that the test scores reflect not just what students know, but how they perform under pressure.

What’s in a Report Card? Depends on Who You Ask. New Report Shows That Parents and Teachers Have Very Different Understandings of Grades & Tests
The 74 Million: If a child earns a B– in math on his report card, is that a good grade, or does it mean he’s the worst in the class? Ask a parent and a teacher, and you’ll likely hear very different answers. But that disconnect is just the beginning when it comes to how these two groups understand the education system and all the grades, jargon, and communication within it, according to a new report from the nonprofit organization Learning Heroes. 

Rethinking School Suspensions: School Climate Offers a Clue
Science Daily: Researchers at the University of Missouri and the University of Virginia have found that when educators and administrators focus on creating a positive school climate, the likelihood of a student being suspended decreases by approximately 10%. The study that reports on these results appears in the journal Children and Youth Services Review. To put the findings in context, more than 2.75 million K-12 students were suspended during the 2013 to 2014 school year. A 10% reduction would have meant 275,000 more students staying in class and learning. 

Heavy Screen Time May Cause Premature Changes in Brain Structure Among Kids
Tech Times: Children who spend more than seven hours a day engaged in screen-time activities may experience premature thinning of the part of the brain that processes sensory information. The data comes from a $300 million research funded by the National Institutes of Health that will follow more than 11,000 kids aged 9 to 10 years old. Early results suggest that heavy screen time can have negative implications on children’s emotional, psychological, and cognitive development. 

Starting School Later Really Does Help Teens Get Sleep
The New York Times: In 2016 the Seattle School District changed high schools’ opening time to 8:45 a.m., 55 minutes later than it had been. Using wrist monitors, researchers tracked sleep onset and duration for two weeks in 10th-graders before and after the change in two schools, one economically disadvantaged. Before the change, students got an average of six hours and 50 minutes of sleep a night. Afterward, they got seven hours and 24 minutes. The study, in Science Advances, also found that the change was associated with a 4.5% increase in grades, although the researchers could not prove it was causal. They also found an increase in punctuality and attendance, but only in the economically disadvantaged school.

Policy

More Than a Quarter of Schools Could Be Flagged as in Need of Improvement Under ESSA, Experts Say
Ed Week Politics K-12 Blog: Now that the Every Student Succeeds Act has been officially in place for a whole school year, states are beginning to release their lists of schools that need extra help. One particular group of schools that experts are monitoring closely: Additional Targeted Schools. That’s a wonky term for a particular set of schools that need improvement, but it’s one to watch. This category could end up describing anywhere from 30 to 70 percent of schools, according to preliminary observations by the Center for Assessment, a nonprofit that works with states on testing and accountability. See related article: Education Week “Rollout of ESSA Report Cards Frustrates School Leaders.” 

Federal School Safety Commission Will Call for Scrapping Obama Discipline Guidance, Report Says
Ed Week Politics K-12 Blog: The Federal School Safety Commission’s report is expected to recommend scrapping an Obama-era rule aimed at making sure that students of color aren’t disciplined more harshly, or more often than their peers. The U.S. Department of Education neither confirmed nor denied the story. “The Federal Commission on School Safety has studied this topic extensively and will make a recommendation on it in its final report,” said Elizabeth Hill, a spokeswoman for U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. 

School Spending Is Up, and Other Key Takeaways from Latest Federal Data
Ed Week State EdWatch Blog: Despite a growing chorus of teachers and public school advocates complaining about America’s spending on its public schools, spending actually increased 2.9% between fiscal year 2015 and 2016, according to a report released by the National Center for Education Statistics. America collected $678.4 billion for its public schools in the 2016 fiscal year and spent $596.1 billion. But how that money is divvied up between districts and schools across the country varies dramatically.

Around the Nation

The Big Jobs of Small-Town Principals
The Hechinger Report: Rural school leaders have some of the most complex, multifaceted jobs in education. They also have some of the highest turnover. Half of all new principals quit their jobs within three years, according to a 2014 study. A national survey recently found that principals in rural school districts are even less likely than their urban and suburban counterparts to stay at their school the following year and more likely to leave the profession altogether. The schools they preside over, meanwhile, often struggle with persistent poverty, low college-going rates, and extreme racial disparities in student outcomes. In Colorado, which has long scrambled to plug teacher shortages, education officials are now increasingly turning their attention to attrition among school leaders in the front office.

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