The Weekly Connect 4/22/19

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:

A new policy brief shares how City Connects provides integrated student support — and how this work can guide policymaking.

Pre-K spending grows but quality lags, according to the State of Preschool Yearbook released by NIEER, the National Institute for Early Education Research.

Two New York City school districts have launched middle school integration plans that may be making a positive difference.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

Building Systems of Integrated Student Support
America’s Promise Alliance: Learning is not just academic; it’s social and emotional. The systems that come together to support young people’s learning and development include schools, community organizations, businesses, out-of-school service providers, and municipal and state agencies. But these systems are at times siloed in how they serve youth. Integrated student support offers a compelling solution. A recent policy brief by the Boston College Center for Optimized Student Support and the Center for Promise distills insights from the sciences and lessons learned from practitioners. The brief also provides policy recommendations and guidance. See related article: Commonwealth “Customized Student Support Can Level the Playing Field.”

LeBron James Opened a School That Was Considered an Experiment. It’s Showing Promise.
The New York Times: Every day, students at LeBron James’s I Promise School are celebrated for walking through the door. This time last year, the students at the school were identified as the worst performers in Akron, Ohio, public schools and branded with behavioral problems. Some as young as 8 were considered at risk of not graduating. Now, they are helping close the achievement gap in Akron. The academic results are early, and at 240, the sample size of students is small, but the inaugural classes of third and fourth graders at I Promise posted extraordinary results in their first set of district assessments. Ninety percent met or exceeded individual growth goals in reading and math, outpacing their peers across the district. See related article: Education Dive “Students at LeBron James’ I Promise School Earning Higher Reading, Math Scores.”

How Should Schools Approach Teaching, Measuring Whole-Child Competencies?
Education Dive: Recent research highlights the benefits of social and emotional development in preparing students for the workforce. Experts at the 2019 Reagan Institute Summit on Education (RISE) discussed the implementation and measurement of whole-child educational competencies in schools. While great strides have been made in terms of infusing social-emotional competencies such as self-regulation and executive function skills into instruction, the ability to measure these skills “hasn’t caught up to the enthusiasm.” Teachers need to know how they will be held accountable for teaching these skills. See related article: The 74 Million “Social-Emotional Learning is Vital – but Needs to be Measured Correctly and Can’t Usurp Academics, Panelists Say.”

Can Pre-K Help Students, even if They Don’t Attend?
Chalkbeat: A few years after South Carolina expanded access to preschool programs, students’ test scores in elementary school jumped. But the increase contained something of a mystery. Only students from low-income families were eligible for the new pre-kindergarten program. Scores, though, climbed across the board, including for students from more affluent families. New research documenting that phenomenon comes to a conclusion that could help those pushing for more public support for early childhood education: The students who attended preschool were disciplined less often and had higher test scores when they reached elementary school, improving the school environment for all and pushing everyone’s scores up.

Fewer Fights and Increased Security: What New Data Say About School Safety
Education Week: A new report of federal data compiled by agencies within the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice show reports of student fights, bullying, and other forms of victimization have continued a decades-long trend of decline. At the same time, schools have ramped up security measures, like the use of cameras and restricted entrances. The data come as a new, separate poll shows Americans think schools have gotten less safe since a mass shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., 20 years ago. See related article: Education Dive “Report: As Schools Heighten Security, Student Victimization Declines.”

Does Moving to a Brand New School Building Improve Student Learning?
Ed Week State EdWatch Blog: When it comes to student learning, school facilities matter, according to the authors of a working paper from the California Policy Lab at UCLA and UC Berkeley, recently presented at the Association for Education Finance and Policy conference. Researchers tracked the individual test scores, classroom grades, and attendance rates of more than 5 million individual Los Angeles Unified School District students between 2002 and 2012, before and after those same students moved from overcrowded, dilapidated schools to new facilities. They concluded that a more-than $10 billion, multiyear school construction effort had a positive academic impact on students.

Gifted Classes May Not Help Talented Students Move Ahead Faster
The Hechinger Report: One of the big justifications for gifted-and-talented education is that high achieving kids need more advanced material so that they’re not bored and actually learn something during the school day. Their academic needs cannot be met in a general education class, advocates say. But a survey conducted by researchers at the University of Connecticut of 2,000 elementary schools in three states found that not much advanced content is actually being taught to gifted students. In other words, smart third graders, those who tend to be a couple grade levels ahead, are largely studying the same third-grade topics that their supposedly “non-gifted” classmates are learning. See related article: Education Week “4 Ways Schools Help or Hinder Gifted Students.”

Art Can Make Science Easier to Remember
Science News for Students: While art and science may seem like polar opposites, the two have a lot in common, according to a recent paper by an education specialist at Johns Hopkins. The paper, published in Trends in Neuroscience and Education, found that students in an art-focused science unit retained information better over time, compared to students in a traditional science classroom. Further, the paper reports that the benefits from the art-focused class were more pronounced for students who had lower reading scores.

Policy

Report: Overall Pre-K Spending Grows, but Few States Make Gains in Quality, Enrollment
Education Dive: For the first time, overall spending on public pre-K programs across 44 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam tops $8 billion, and 16 states increased per-child funding last year. But a sizable number of states — 18 — have used a soon-to-expire federal grant program to expand or improve those programs, and not all have plans for how they’ll sustain those efforts, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research’s (NIEER) recently released annual State of Preschool “yearbook.” The report found that preschool enrollment varies widely across the country. Overall, the report showed little growth in enrollment over the last year. See related articles: Ed Week Early Years Blog “State-Funded Pre-K Sees Slow Enrollment Growth, Says New National Report” and Chalkbeat “Illinois is Doing Better by its Youngest Learners – But It’s Reaching Too Few of Them.”

RISE 2019: DeVos Calls $5B School Choice Proposal ‘Critical’ for Nation’s Students
Education Dive: Nearly two months after U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos unveiled her latest school choice-centered proposal, she addressed an audience of hundreds on why its companion legislation needs to pass in Congress. Speaking at the 2019 Reagan Institute Summit on Education DeVos said Education Freedom Scholarships “will ultimately mean a better education for more kids.” Under the proposal, taxpayers can choose to contribute to the program in exchange for dollar-for-dollar federal tax credits, meant to foster choice, that are capped at $5 billion annually. The credits would be for private donations to scholarship-granting organizations, and states could use the funds for dual enrollment, private schools, homeschooling and more. See related article: Education Dive “RISE 2019: What do Education Experts Envision for the Modern Schoolhouse?

The Splintering of Wealthy Areas from School Districts Is Speeding Up
Ed Week Inside School Research Blog: Superintendents are regularly faced with dwindling resources and tense arguments over how to allocate them. And in a rapidly increasing number of districts, leaders face fights to keep wealthier clusters of schools from splintering off entirely. A recent report by the non-profit EdBuild, found 27 communities in 13 states attempting to secede from their districts in the past two years. Eleven successfully became new districts, and the rest are locked in ongoing fights, most spilling into the courts and state legislatures. In the group’s 2017 study of school district secessions, EdBuild found 101 communities tried to break away from their school districts in total from 2000 to 2016, 63 of them successfully. See related article: Education Dive “More Wealthy Communities Seceding from School Districts” and District Administration “DA Op-Ed Fulfilling the Promise of Brown.”

Around the Nation

Is Online Early-Childhood Education the Next Big Thing?
Ed Week Early Years Blog: In 2014, the Obama administration’s Investing in Innovation program awarded Utah an $11.5 million grant so that the state could offer Waterford UPSTART, an early education software program, to young children. The software’s creators say the software can help prepare children for kindergarten through 75 minutes a week of use. Now the software company has received more than $20 million — one of its largest financial infusions — from The Audacious Project, the same group that puts on “TED Talks.” UPSTART plans to use this money to roll out its program in all 50 states. Its chief focus will be serving children, who would not be able to access a traditional preschool programs, during the year before they start kindergarten. See related article: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel “Only One in Five Milwaukee Families has Access to Licensed Child Care for Their Pre-K Kids.

Bounce for Joy Project Brings ‘Joy’ to Chicago
ABC 7 Chicago: Ronda Howard was struck by how angry she noticed students were as she volunteered in Chicago schools. Driven by a desire to come up with a program to help children have fun and release that anger, she worked with Dr. Dakeda Horton, a former social worker at the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center, to create the Bounce For Joy Project. The project is focused on teaching kids how to handle negative emotions like anger. The program lasts for six weeks and is taught on-site in schools, summer camps, churches, and community centers. Each week, students learn different ways to cope with their emotions through a variety of exercises.

Two NYC Districts Embarked on Middle School Integration Plans. Early Results Show They May be Making a Difference.
Chalkbeat: Some of New York City’s most sought-after middle schools could begin to dramatically reshape their student bodies as high-profile integration efforts in two districts appear to be making an impact, according to recent data released by the education department. Most of the schools in Brooklyn’s District 15 and Manhattan’s District 3 offered admission to a more diverse range of students for the upcoming school year, the first test of whether hotly debated admissions changes piloted this year are working. The results are only preliminary though: Families could ultimately choose to enroll in different schools. Nonetheless, this year’s admissions offers show potential for dramatic changes both at popular schools and those that have flown under the radar of more affluent, white families.

As L.A. Schools Count 1,000 More Homeless Students in Just Five Months, a Search for Stronger Local and State Supports
The 74 Million: In just the past five months, the number of homeless students reported in the nation’s second-largest school district has climbed by more than a thousand. L.A. Unified in Los Angeles identified 17,494 homeless students as of April 9 — up from about 16,200 students reported in November and about 17,280 reported one month ago, according to data provided by school board member Kelly Gonez. The hike in identifications is likely due to heightened community awareness about student homelessness, as well as L.A. Unified staff’s more “thoughtful” approach to broaching the topic with families.

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