The Weekly Connect 4/29/19

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:

Early educators do not have to choose between strong relationships and academic rigor. They can have both in their classrooms.

Tennessee’s Legislature is hammering out a school voucher plan.

New York University trains all teachers to use special education and dual language learner strategies.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

Your Objections to Whole-Child Education Aren’t Wrong. They’re Just Outdated
Education Week: Two competing narratives have taken root in communities of early-childhood education policy and practice. The first narrative says that an increased emphasis on numeracy and literacy in a child’s early years comes at the expense of developing the whole child, including the social-emotional learning and executive functioning that have a profound impact on later learning. The second narrative says that adopting whole-child curricula in kindergarten that widen the aperture of key learning outcomes to incorporate social interaction, self-regulation, and other psychosocial development milestones puts academic progress at risk. Fortunately, the idea that one narrative must be chosen over the other is outdated and false because the field of early-childhood has evolved to combine rigorous academics with professional supports that enable teachers to consistently address social-emotional development. See related article: Greater Good Magazine “Four Ways Schools Can Support the Whole Child.” 

Relationships Play an Essential Role in Our Lives and the Lives of Children. 5 Ways to Bring Them to Scale.
The 74 Million: Several successful programs utilize the power of relationships to impact change. However, relationships themselves can’t scale, according to New York Times columnist David Brooks. Brooks says that this is due to the time, emotional intimacy, and trust that it takes to develop relationships. Possible solutions to overcome these seemingly fixed reservoirs of bandwidth, trust, and time include scaling support and trust online, scaling public investment, scaling new business models, and scaling relationships as outcomes.

More Education Studies Look at Cost-Effectiveness
Education Week: It can be difficult to understand the expenses that lie beneath an the sticker price of an educational intervention. It can also be hard to understand which resources make a difference between interventions that work on paper and those that work in the classroom. That’s why there are more discussions about how expensive new interventions are relative to other approaches. Foundations, policymakers, and even the U.S. Department of Education’s research agency are all pushing for more tools and research to help educators better understand the costs of education programs.

What Does Your School Schedule Say About Equity? More Than You Think.
EdSurge: School leaders at Hoover High School in San Diego’s Unified School District have discovered that some students who needed extra support—English learners, special-education students, and others in need of academic interventions—were more likely to be scheduled in larger classes with less experienced teachers. These students were also significantly underrepresented in Advanced Placement courses, and they were often separated from other students throughout the day because of how their intervention blocks were scheduled. This problem is not unique to Hoover. Recent research shows that outcomes for students diverge not just within districts, but within individual schools and classrooms. Improvements to pedagogical practices are critical, but they are insufficient when students lack equal access to rigorous courses, academic programs, and experienced teachers.

DLLs and Head Start: Elevating Best Practices
New America: Nationally, the number of children who speak a language other than English at home has more than doubled over the past 30 years, and most Dual Language Learners (DLLs) are concentrated in the early and elementary school grades. Despite the rapid growth in the number of DLLs in early childhood programs, research about this group is still in the early stages. However, one recent study from the Migration Policy Institute, a non-partisan policy research organization, helps to highlight best practices and offers concrete examples for effectively teaching the country’s youngest DLLs. See related article: Ed Week Early Years Blog “Head Start Wants to Back off Its Mandate to Lengthen Operating Hours.”

More Police in Conn. Schools Led to More Student Arrests, But No Effect on Achievement
Education Week: A recent report by Connecticut Voices for Children, a New Haven-based policy group, analyzed state data comparing districts with school resource officers (SROs) to those without. The report found that the presence of police officers in Connecticut schools led to a higher average of student arrests, but the impact on student achievement was negligible. The report explains that, “While all student groups experienced an increased likelihood of referrals and arrests, there were clear disparities by race/ethnicity. Black and Latino students who are in a school with a SRO are over three and four times, respectively, more likely to be arrested or referred to law enforcement than Black or Latino children in schools without SROs.” See related articles: The Hechinger Report “Punitive Discipline Makes School Feel like a Prison, Not a Community” and Chalkbeat “Student and Parent Groups Pushing Denver Schools To Hire ‘Counselors, Not Cops’.”

Do Voucher Students’ Scores Bounce Back After Initial Declines? New Research Says No
Chalkbeat: New research on a closely watched school voucher program has found that program hurts students’ math test scores — and that those scores don’t bounce back, even years later. The study looks at students who used a voucher to attend a private school in Louisiana. These results are part of a mixed body of research on the short- and long-term impact of vouchers on students’ academic progress and chances of enrolling in college. See related articles: WWNO “Student Shows Louisiana School Voucher Program Hurt Math Scores” and Education Dive “Study: After Four Years, Scores Drop Among Students in Voucher Program.”

Recess Can Be Isolating and Chaotic for Children with Autism. UW Researchers Say it Doesn’t Have to Be.
The Seattle Times Education Lab: For typically developing children, recess can be the best part of the school day. A child with autism, however, may find that recess is loud, chaotic, isolating and exhausting — making it even more difficult to read social cues or find ways to connect and make friends. But new research from a team at the University of Washington suggests recess doesn’t have to be something that children with autism can’t enjoy alongside their peers. Based on observations of 55 children with autism, researchers found that these children tended to interact with their neurotypical peers on the periphery, either talking to them or playing with toys, playing on the jungle gym, or playing games like tag. These findings offer ideas about how to make recess more inclusive.

How Much Screen Time is too much? Over Two Hours per Day Linked with ADHD and Behavioral Problems in Kids
Newsweek Health: Kindergartners who use screens for more than two hours a day are more likely to show signs of behavioral problems, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a recent study published in the journal PLOS One. The research included 2,427 children from three cities and one province who were taking part in the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) study. Researchers found that the amount of time spent using devices or watching TV had the strongest influence on preschool behavior, compared to other environmental or home factors considered in the study. See related article: Ed Week Early Years Blog “World Health Organization Recommends No More Than One Hour of Screen Time for Most Children under 5.”

How Permanent Daylight Saving Time and Later School Starts Could Affect Health
CNN Health: About 70 countries around the world nudge their clocks back and forth each year — but some people want to “spring forward” permanently, citing health and other benefits. Some of those same people are also pushing for later school start times, but experts argue the benefits for tired teenagers could be canceled out by permanent daylight saving time, according to correspondence in the journal Current Biology. The authors argue that California lawmakers pushing for both policies are “confused.” Proponents of both policies cite the separate benefits of each, including the increased physical activity associated with more evening daylight and decreased sleep deprivation associated with later school start times.

Policy

DeVos’ Team ‘Rethinking’ Education for Incarcerated Youth
Ed Week Politics K-12 Blog: At a recent U.S. Department of Education event, one issue that was emphasized was giving young people who get a rocky start the chance to turn their lives around through educational and military opportunities. While federal education officials have said opening up educational opportunities to prisoners is generally best done at the local level, they did highlight one key federal initiative—allowing incarcerated individuals to take advantage of Pell Grants, which help low-income students attend college. The Obama administration started a pilot project to test this approach called “Second Chance Pell,” and the Trump administration has continued it.See related article: Ed Week Teacher Blog “Rodney Robinson, Who Teachers Civics to Students in Juvenile Detention, Wins 2019 National Teacher of the Year.”

Days after Historic House Vote, Education Voucher Plan Clears Senate
Chalkbeat: Tennessee’s Senate passed an education voucher bill. Now negotiators have to hammer out the differences between the Senate’s bill and a bill that recently cleared the House. The Senate’s 20-13 vote delivered a significant victory to Gov. Bill Lee. Despite numerous attempts, voucher legislation had never before passed both chambers of Tennessee’s General Assembly. The vote also was a win for President Donald Trump and his education secretary, Betsy DeVos. They have both called for the passage of “school choice” bills in both Congress and state legislatures across the nation.

States Require Cameras in Special Ed Classrooms
District Administration: Parents and advocates in several states have supported legislation requiring the use of cameras in special education classrooms. If children are unable to report abuse because of a disability, the recordings can be used in investigations of suspected maltreatment. Texas and Georgia have enacted legislation that either requires or allows the use of cameras. And West Virginia’s governor signed a bill requiring cameras, if parents or staff request them, in primarily self-contained classrooms. The law will go into effect in the near future if the necessary state funds are appropriated.

Around the Nation

Dropout Prevention Gives Students Reason to Stay
District Administration: Family problems, absences and poor grades can drive students to become dropouts. But experts say that what actually drives many teenagers to quit school is a sense that nobody in the building cares about them—a belief that is often reinforced after they leave. District leaders who have raised graduation rates have done so by designating staff whose job it is to reach out to dropouts. Districts also closely monitor data, such as repeat absences and falling grades, that signal students may leave school. Most important, they take preventative measures well before senior year, using early interventions such as City Connects and Freshman OnTrack. See related articles: Education Dive “Early Intervention Helps Students Stay on track for Graduation” and Chalkbeat “Inside Detroit’s Efforts to Address One of the Biggest Obstacles to Better Schools: Sky High Absenteeism.”

Implementing Mental Health First Aid in K-12
District Administration: In Fauquier County, Virginia, purple lanyards offer lifelines to students suffering from anxiety, depression, or other mental health conditions. About 400 educators in this school district and 1,000 community members wear the lanyards to show they’ve completed a mental health first-aid course that teaches adults how to spot and respond quickly to signs of mental distress in young people. These educators and community members learn how to discern normal adolescent behavior from troubling behavior, ask hard questions about things like suicide, and get additional help from school counselors. See related article: eSchool News “3 No Cost Ways to Support Mental Health in Schools” and WJAC “Mental Health Screenings in Middle School Cause Controversy” and School News Network “Student Services Team Created to Focus on Mental Health.”

3 Ways NYU Is Training New Teachers to Use Special Ed and ELL Strategies to Better Serve All Kids
The 74 Million: New York University is expanding its novel teacher training program. The program places diverse teachers into high-needs schools for an intensive, yearlong master’s program organized around the belief that all teachers benefit from learning to work with students who have disabilities and those who are learning English. The program also expects the inclusion of “emergent bilinguals” and students with disabilities to be the rule, not the exception. New teachers are expected to demonstrate these competencies before they are assigned classrooms of their own. See related article: Ed Week Teacher Blog “Meeting the Needs of Native American Students” and New York Times “For Refugee Children, Reading Helps Heal Trauma.” 

These 3 Tactics are Helping Schools Tackle Food Insecurity
Education Dive: For many of the 20 million children who qualify for free-and-reduced lunches, school is the only place they get to eat. Research shows 60% of low-income students report going to school on an empty stomach, and the situation gets worse during the summer when many students no longer have the school food safety net. The good news is that agencies, organizations, and even lawmakers are taking big bites out of this problem through small, innovative steps. This is often just a cost-effective matter of preserving leftover food or re-purposing unused resources. In schools, methods that are becoming increasingly common include food truck deliveries, in-school food pantries, and assistance from corporations such as Kellogg and Darden Restaurants. See related article: Spectrum News 1 “Aquaponics Takes Root at Middle School in Food Desert.

When School Districts Can’t Raise Funds for Facilities
The Hechinger Report: The nation’s school districts spend about $46 billion less per year on facility upkeep than is needed to maintain “healthy and safe” learning environments. Although most states help pay for some construction costs, almost half pay less than 10 percent. That means that, for the most part, districts in those states are at the mercy of voters who choose whether to finance important capital projects such as building new schools and making major renovations to existing ones. Affluent communities with a strong tax base are able to borrow money and pass bond measures, while low-wealth districts — particularly in rural areas — struggle to do so, leading to stark inequality in the condition of school facilities.

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