The Weekly Connect 3/25/19

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:

Emotional well-being improves student outcomes.

California’s whole-child, whole-family, whole-community approach.

Using home visits to engage at-risk parents.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

Report: Emotional Well-Being Investment Improves Student Outcomes
T.H.E. Journal: More educators across the world are investing in the emotional well-being of their students as a harbinger of success, according to a new survey commissioned by Microsoft and produced by The Economist’s Intelligence Unit. The report surveyed 762 educators across 15 countries at the elementary and secondary school levels. The survey found 79 percent of educators see positive emotions as very or extremely important for academic success and half of all educators are working in schools with explicit emotional well-being policies.

Report: Zero Change in Student Achievement Gap over 50-Year Period
T.H.E. Journal: While investments in elementary and secondary education have quadrupled from 1960 to 2015, the persistent student achievement gap between the haves and have-nots has remained, according to a new study conducted by Stanford University and Harvard University researchers. Students have made steady gains in achievement up to the eighth-grade level, but the gains don’t translate into success at the end of high school. See related article: Education Dive “Rising Temperatures Linked to Wider Achievement Gap, Lower Academic Performance.”

Why Lunch, Exercise, Sleep, and Air Quality Matter at School
Education Week: From technology to textbooks to teacher training, school planning often has a lot of competing priorities. Some things—like the morning schedule, lunch and activity time, or the building’s physical environment—by their very banality often fall to the bottom of that priority list. Yet evidence is mounting that attending to these basic aspects of students’ school experiences can significantly improve their academic focus, concentration, and mental well-being. And while the challenges of making changes in school structures can seem insurmountable, many schools are coming up with creative solutions. 

Schools Grapple with Student Depression as Data Show Problem Worsening
Education Week: Rates of mental-health incidents among teens and young adults have arced upward over the last decade, but these rates have remained relatively unchanged for older adults, a new analysis, published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology finds. Researchers found that between 2005-2017, the proportion of teens 12-17 who reported the symptoms of a major depressive episode within the last year rose from 8.7% to 13.2%. The article cited an increase in social media and smartphone use as a possible cause. See related articles: NBC News “Social Media Linked to Rise in Mental Health Disorders in Teens, Survey Finds” and Health Day “Mental Health Woes are Rising in Young Americans – Is Social Media to Blame? 

Study: Using Public Transit for School Commute Linked to Higher Absenteeism
Education Dive: As more metropolitan school districts cut back on student transportation to save money, a recent study focusing on Baltimore City Public Schools — an open enrollment district — shows that relying on public transportation to get to school is associated with increases in absenteeism. In a sample of 2,801 students who kept the same address as they moved from 8th grade to 9th grade —and used public transit to get to school — the Johns Hopkins University researchers find the average student missed 11.3 more days in high school than in the previous year. And each 10 minutes added to a student’s commute was associated with missing an additional third of a school day.

Policy

Democrats Move to Block Use of Federal Funds to Arm Teachers
Ed Week Rules for Engagement Blog: A pair of Democratic lawmakers moved to prohibit the use of federal funds to arm teachers. Rep. Jahana Hayes and Sen. Chris Murphy, both from Connecticut, introduced resolutions in their respective chambers of Congress to clarify that the U.S. Department of Education cannot allow school districts to use federal funds to pay for firearms or firearms training for teachers. “Teachers have way too much to do today as it is,” Murphy said at a news conference. “They need to be educators, they need to be social workers, they need to be grief counselors. They don’t need to be marksmen.”

Gov. Newsom’s Early Childhood Advisor Describes ‘Whole-Child, Whole-Family, Whole-Community’ Strategy
Ed Source: For the first time, a California governor has created a position in his office focused on early education. Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed Giannina Pérez as his Senior Policy Advisor for Early Childhood. In an interview with Ed Source, Peréz discusses the California Governor’s whole-child, whole-family, whole-community approach to early childhood education. This approach, which will eventually provide subsidized education for all 0-5 year olds, includes investments in health, education, and parents to promote young children’s positive development.

Miller: Texas’s Bold Plan Linking Funding to Academic Outcomes Should Yield Big Gains for Students, Especially Those at Risk
The 74 Million: The Texas Commission on Public School Finance recently recommended investing $800 million more annually in third-grade reading proficiency and college readiness. This is one of the biggest and boldest moves into outcomes-based funding in the country, and it’s likely to yield significant improvements for students in Texas, with even larger increases for the state’s at-risk students. To boost both third-grade proficiency and postsecondary success, the Texas proposal includes a funding increase of more than 200 percent for successful at-risk students. This should encourage districts to recruit and retain these students.

Teen Suicide Prevention Bill Clears Senate
New Hampshire Union Leader: The Jason Flatt Act, with bills by that name in both the New Hampshire House and Senate, requires every teacher, supervisor and administrator in the public schools to receive at least two hours of training in suicide awareness and prevention annually. Senate Bill 282, which passed the Senate and now heads to the House, extends that training to additional personnel, including students and school volunteers, and requires school districts to adopt a coordinated suicide prevention plan. See related article: CBS 4 Valley Central “House Bill Aims to Expand Mental Health Resources in Public Schools.”

Around the Nation

How Engaging At-Risk Parents with Early Home Visits Can Teach Them to Work with Their Schools for Their Kids’ Success
The 74 Million: Parents are their children’s first and most influential teachers, so effective engagement between parent and school needs to start early. This is true for all families, but particularly for at-risk families. To support parents who have not gained the tools needed to effectively approach their children’s school to discuss their needs, home visiting programs — such as Parents as Teachers, which serves almost 200,000 families with children under age 6 in all 50 states, 115 tribal organizations, five countries, and one U.S. territory — support a range of family needs. They help parents understand how to work in partnership with their school, advocate for their child, support their child’s development, and create a collaborative plan that can lead to better educational outcomes. 

Mental Health Care Tops Pillars of School Suicide Prevention
District Administration: In Tempe, Ariz., the phone number for a suicide hotline is printed on every student’s ID badge, and teachers are trained to spot and respond to mental health warning signs in students. What’s happening in Tempe is happening across the country, as new school district suicide prevention efforts focus on getting help to students before they reach the crisis stage. As part of that work, districts have hired more school psychologists and counselors, and have formed partnerships in which local mental health care agencies supply additional therapists and resources. And, because young people are more likely to reach out to their peers, a few districts have trained groups of students to notify teachers or other educators when a classmate needs immediate assistance. 

Can a Robot Help Autistic Children Connect?
Edutopia: Ten autistic students at Lester Elementary School are working with Milo, a robot released in 2013 with voice-activated lessons that aim to bolster autistic students’ behavioral, communication, and social and emotional skills. Lester Elementary, a 445-student school in Florence, South Carolina, where one in four students is autistic, is one of the schools test-driving Milo as part of a three-year, pilot program that is taking place in 16 districts across the state. The pilot will determine if there are enough benefits to bring the robot to more schools.

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