The Weekly Connect 2/25/19

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

Living in high-crime neighborhoods can make it harder for students to show up at school.

A Colorado bill would create a pilot program that puts social workers, counselors, or psychologists in every elementary grade at 10 high-needs schools starting.

A study finds that student homelessness has hit an all time high.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

A High-Crime Neighborhood Makes It Harder to Show Up for School
National Public Radio: Getting students to show up is one of the biggest challenges schools face: How can someone learn at school if they’re not there in the first place? A new study suggests living in a high-crime area, or simply passing through one on the way to school, can impact how often students show up to class. Researchers found that students whose estimated routes to school required walking along streets with higher violent-crime rates have higher rates of absenteeism. See related articles: Ed Week Inside School Research Blog Want Students to Attend School Every Day? Make Sure They Feel Safe on the Way” and Education Dive “Students Traveling through High-Crime Areas more Likely to Miss School.” 

How a Federal Free Meal Program Affected School Poverty Stats
The Hechinger Report: A policy change by the Department of Agriculture allowed school districts to give all students free food if at least 40% of the student population was on other forms of public assistance or fell into a needy category (i.e., experiencing homelessness). This change was intended to reduce paperwork and make it easier for schools to feed hungry kids. But counting kids who qualify for free or reduced price lunches had also been the way student poverty was tracked. With this policy change, there was some concern that school districts could mistakenly be reclassified as 100 percent low income overnight. One Missouri study finds that these fears might be overblown and that statistics on student poverty rates haven’t changed much.

Reading Aloud and ‘Exergaming’: A Roundup of Early-Years Research
Ed Week Early Years Blog: Two recent studies of young learners explore the frequency of parents reading aloud to their children and the impact of exercise-related video games on toddlers, respectively. In their nationally representative sample, the first study had promising findings regarding increases in how frequently parents read aloud to their children in early childhood (from birth to age five). The second study, a smaller scale pilot study of low-income communities in the Midwest, found that elementary school students who engaged in ‘exergaming’ (exercise video games) spent significantly more time engaged in physical activity than a control group who participated in recess for the same amount of time.

Administrators Say Schools Are Equipped to Address Bad Behavior in Early Grades. Teachers Beg to Differ
Ed Week District Dossier Blog: Teachers, principals, and district leaders all agree that behavioral disruptions have increased in grades K through 5 in recent years. But there are some striking differences between how teachers view the problem of classroom disruptions and how school and district-level administrators see it. In a new report called “Breaking Bad Behavior: The Rise of Classroom Disruptions in Early Grades and How Districts Are Responding”, a survey of nearly 2,000 teachers, principals, school staff, and district-level administrators reveals telling differences in reports of how PBIS [ Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports] and SEL [Social Emotional Learning] curriculum are used.

New Studies Point to a Big Downside for Schools Bringing in more Police
Chalkbeat: Since 17 people were killed at a Parkland, Florida, high school last year, there has been a heated national conversation about gun control and a race to ratchet up school security. While some argue that these efforts to increase the number of armed school personnel are increasingly necessary, others point out that school shootings are rare and fear that more security will backfire — making schools less conducive to learning and making it more likely for students of color to be funneled into the criminal justice system. Two new academic studies (found here and here) provide strong evidence that some of those concerns are valid. 

Friendly Adults Help Teens Stand up Against Bullies
Science News for Students: What makes a teen more likely to intervene when they witness bullying? A supportive school with trusted teachers and clear guidance from a kid’s family both help. That’s the finding of a new study conducted by developmental psychologists at North Carolina State University. In their study, approximately 900 6th and 9th grade students responded to questions about bullying, their families, and their schools. Specifically, researchers found that higher family management and positive school climate were predictors of students’ decisions to intervene in bullying situations. See related article: Ed Week Teacher Blogs “Response: Ways Schools Can Respond to Bullying.” 

Screen Time for Kids Under 2 More than Doubles, Study Finds
CNN Health: Screen time has more than doubled for children under 2 years old since 1997, a recently published study in the journal JAMA Pediatrics found. Time spent in front of a TV was the main driver despite a changing screen landscape. For children under the age of 2, daily screen time went from 1.32 hours in 1997 to 3.05 hours in 2014, with television accounting for over 2.5 hours of screen time in 2014, compared to half an hour in 1997.

Policy

A Promising New Measure of Kindergarten Readiness
Chalkbeat: For years, states have sought a reliable way to measure the extent to which young children are on track to enter kindergarten, and to identify subgroups of children who might benefit from additional support or intervention in the pre-K years. A new pilot measure — based on the Health Resources and Services Administration’s National Survey of Children’s Health — may meet that need and fill a critical gap in policy-relevant early childhood data. The pilot measure seeks to capture the school readiness of 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds at the state and national levels by adopting a whole child perspective, to include measures of physical health and motor development, self-regulation, social-emotional development, and early learning skills. 

A Social Worker in Every Grade? Perhaps for 10 Colorado Elementary Schools
Chalkbeat: A bill recently approved by a Colorado House committee would pay for a three-year trial to provide social and emotional help for elementary students in the hopes of addressing some of the mental health challenges they face. If approved by the full legislature and signed into law, the measure would create a three-year pilot program placing social workers, counselors, or psychologists in every elementary grade at 10 high-needs schools starting next year.

Would it be Helpful to Hold Underachieving Kentucky Kids Back a Grade?
Louisville Courier Journal: Kentucky could join more than a dozen other states that hold underachieving third-graders back, under legislation filed this month. Supporters of the bill, which includes three main components (early intervention, third grade retention, and teacher preparation), say schools must be held accountable for teaching kids how to read and do math. Opponents, however, argue that the bill isn’t backed by research.

Arizona to Offer New Flexibility to English Learners
New America: Recently, the Arizona state legislature unanimously approved Senate Bill 1014, which pulls backs away from a restrictive policy that forced English learners (ELs) to spend four hours a day learning English absent content-area instruction. The new bill tasks the Arizona State Board of Education with adopting and approving “research based” models of structured English immersion or alternative models of English instruction. See related article: Education Dive “English Language Learners need Equal Access to STEM Opportunities, Report Finds.”

Around the Nation

Study: Student Homelessness Hits All-Time High
Education Dive: During the 2016-17 academic year, 1,355,821 public school students – the highest number ever recorded and an increase of 70% over the past 10 years – experienced homelessness, according to a report of federal data recently released by the National Center for Homeless Education. Additionally, between the 2014-15 and 2016-17 school years, 20 states saw a homeless student population growth of 10% or more. The number of homeless students in schools not only affects graduation rates, but it also affects chronic absenteeism rates. See related articles: The 74 Million “1.3 Million Homeless Students: New Federal Data Show a 70 Percent Jump in K-12 Homelessness Over Past Decade, With Big Implications for Academic Performance” and Ed Week Politics K-12 Blog Report: Homeless Students Less Likely to Graduate Than Other Low-Income Children.

Inclusion Increasingly the Norm for Students with Disabilities
The Disability Scoop: More students with disabilities are being educated alongside their typically-developing peers, according to a new U.S. Department of Education report to Congress about the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Act. Nearly 95 percent of kids with disabilities spent at least part of their day in a regular education classroom in 2016. Over half — 63 percent — were in such classes at least 80 percent of the time. That’s up roughly 6 percent from a decade prior. 

New Ways to Identify Struggling Students
The Hechinger Report: Adults in a school generally know the names of the most at-risk students. Those having the hardest time academically or emotionally stand out. In Columbia, South Carolina, one district is working on developing a new system for making sure all students get the attention they need. The district uses a software program that tracks dozens of factors related to student performance, attendance, and behavior. The program also updates risk levels for every student monthly. In addition, all adults at the school can add their own notes and insights about students and the interventions they have tried with them.

Medicaid Treats Small Districts and Rural Schools Unfairly, Report Says
Ed Week Politics K-12 Blog: The Medicaid program—a big source of federal funding for school-based health services for—needs an overhaul to make it easier for more schools to access and use, according to a new report from the School Superintendents Association. Drawing on survey data from hundreds of superintendents, the report says that 84 percent of districts that reported not seeking reimbursements from Medicaid are rural. More than half of those have enrollments of less than 1,000 students. And 37 percent of rural districts in the survey say that the costs of complying with Medicaid’s administrative requirements led them to avoid seeking funds from the program.

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