The Weekly Connect 5/6/19

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

Many low-income and minority students live in communities with limited access to extracurricular activities.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds has signed a bill into law that establishes a Children’s Behavioral Health System State Board to oversee and implement the creation of a statewide system.

The United States could face a child care affordability crisis.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

Extracurriculars Are More Than Nice-to-Have: They’re Essential
EdSurge: Low-income and minority students are at a structural disadvantage when it comes to accessing out-of-school opportunities. Children from low-income families are three times less likely to participate in after-school programs. By sixth grade, middle-income students will have spent nearly 4,000 more hours in after-school and summer learning programs than their lower-income peers. And parents in low-income and minority households are more likely to report a lack of available learning opportunities in their communities. Some organizations are trying to bridge the extracurricular gap by working to connect families with in-school and outside of school opportunities that align with their learning goals and aspirations. See related articles: Ed Note “New Data: Who Plays Instruments Outside of School?” and Education Dive “Social Skills, Hands-On Opportunities Take the ‘Extra’ out of ‘Extracurricular.’ ”

Despite Education Reforms, Foster Students in California Lag Far Behind on Multiple Measures
EdSource: The Invisible Achievement Gap, a 2013 report, found that in California youth who were in foster care were struggling. These students had weaker academic performance and graduation rates as well as higher dropout rates. The report also found that teachers and administrators had no way to track or monitor students’ progress. To address these findings, California passed a law that increased education funding for foster care students and created a requirement that schools track their progress. However, a recent report by the Los Angeles County Civil Grand Jury found that only a handful of districts had developed and funded significant programs. See related article: Chalkbeat “One Child, 13 Schools: How the Foster System Disrupts Schooling.” 

More than Half of Americans Think Teachers Ill-Equipped to Handle Disruptive Students
Education Dive: Americans are split on whether they think educators have the skills to handle discipline issues in the classroom, according to recent Gallup data. While 54% responded that teachers are unprepared or very unprepared to respond to students’ behavior problems, 43% said that teachers are either prepared or very prepared. A large majority of respondents — 89% — also agreed that increasing access to mental health services in schools would be effective or very effective at improving discipline. Respondents were least in favor of schools implementing stricter disciplinary practices — such as more detention, suspensions or expulsions — with 43% saying they would be not very effective or not effective at all.

Who Gets Special Education Services? It Depends on Where You Live, GAO Report Finds
Ed Week Special Education Blog: About 13% of the nation’s public school students—close to 7 million children and youth ages 3 to 21—receive special education services through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. But that overall percentage masks dramatic variability at the state level, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office. In fall 2016, the identification rates for students ages 6-21 ranged from 6.4% in Hawaii to 12.3% in Maine and 15.1% in Puerto Rico. For children ages 3 to 5, the identification rate ranged from 3.9% in Texas to 14.6% in Wyoming. These disparities are due at least in part to the flexibility states have to decide what “counts” as a disability.

US 8th-Graders Show Growth in Tech, Engineering Skills
Education Dive: Compared to 2014, U.S. 8th-graders are getting slightly better at applying their knowledge of technology and engineering to real-world challenges — and girls are outscoring boys even when they don’t take a specific class focusing on those topics, according to the newest results of the Technology and Engineering Literacy Report Card. This was only the second time in the NAEP’s 50 year history that the test attempted to measure U.S. students’ grasp of technology and engineering concepts. See related articles: Ed Surge “When It Comes to Technology and Engineering, National Report Card Confirms: Girls Rule and U.S. News & World Report “Girls Best Boys on National Test of Technology and Engineering Skills.”

Nearly a Decade Later, Did the Common Core Work? New Research Offers Clues
Chalkbeat: A new study, recently released through a federally funded research center, shows that states that changed their standards most dramatically by adopting the Common Core didn’t outpace other states on federal NAEP exams. By 2017 — seven years after most states had adopted them — the standards appear to have led to modest declines in fourth-grade reading and eighth-grade math scores. These findings were troubling, particularly due to the fact that the magnitude of the negative effects tended to increase over time. See related article: ASCD Education Update “Are Grades Reliable? Lessons from a Century of Research.

Is There a Trade-Off Between Racial Diversity and Academic Excellence in Gifted Classrooms?
The Hechinger Report: Gifted classrooms tend to be disproportionately filled with white and Asian students while bright Black and Hispanic students often get overlooked. In New York City, for example, white and Asian parents who have the resources and/or inclination to prepare their four-year-olds to excel on standardized tests snag almost three quarters of these classrooms’ coveted seats. Some policymakers are floating a remedy: Pick the top students in each school instead of those students who score among the top in the nation. Research scholars studying this approach believe that it would lead to a much more diverse population but that some students might enter gifted programs with less academic preparation and could need more instructional support to be successful. See related articles: The Hechinger Report “Teachers Go to School on Racial Bias” and Edutopia “Identifying and Supporting Gifted ELLs.”

Policy

English-Learners and Graduation: How ESSA Could Penalize ELLs and Their Schools
Ed Week Learning the Language Blog: The nation’s federal K-12 law may be penalizing older English-language learners and the schools that educate them, a new report from the Migration Policy Institute argues. By making four-year graduation rates such a prominent part of school accountability plans, the Every Student Succeeds Act could lead administrators in traditional high schools to turn away older English-learner students who may need additional time to earn their high school diplomas, according to Julie Sugarman, the report’s author. The report also examines why high-school age English-learners drop out of school, how graduation rates are calculated, and how a heavy emphasis on graduation rates can affect how schools design instructional programs for English-learners. See related articles: Ed Week Politics K-12 Blog “‘Overwhelmed’: Leaders Talk School Improvement Under ESSA and New America “New Research Examines the Economic Benefits of Bilingualism.” 

Reynolds Signs Bill Creating Children’s Mental Health System in Iowa
KMA: Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds has signed a bill into law that establishes the framework for a children’s mental health system in the state. House File 690 creates a Children’s Behavioral Health System State Board to oversee and implement the creation of a statewide system. Reynolds says the legislation is long overdue. “The time has come to finally create a coordinated and comprehensive children’s behavioral health system in Iowa,” said Reynolds. “House File 690 establishes a first-of-its-kind children behavioral health system devoted to children struggling with mental health and parents who are forced to stand by helplessly.”

Beyond Test Scores: Colorado Experiments Create Alternatives for Rating Schools
Chalkbeat: A coalition of rural Colorado districts has spent four years building a parallel, unofficial school improvement system that looks beyond test scores and seeks to measure things like the quality of instruction and student attitudes toward learning. A bill making its way through the Colorado legislature with bipartisan backing would lend financial and logistical support to these efforts and encourage other districts and charter schools to undertake their own experiments. 

Fla. Lawmakers Pass Bill Allowing More Armed Teachers
Education Week: More Florida classroom teachers could carry guns in school under a bill passed by state lawmakers. This is the latest response to last year’s mass shooting at a Parkland high school. The Republican-led House voted 65-47 to send the bill to GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is expected to sign it. The measure expands an existing school “guardian” program that allows any teacher to volunteer to carry a weapon if their local school district approves. Teachers who want to carry guns in districts that choose to join the program would have to undergo police-style training, psychiatric evaluation, and drug screening.

Around the Nation

Is the United States on the Brink of a Child-Care Affordability Crisis?
New America: In February, at the National Association for the Education of Young Children’s Public Policy Forum, a child-care provider approached the microphone and asked the panelists a question: How was she going to keep her small business open and pay her staff, given the minimum wage increase in her midwestern state? While this may seem like the concern of a single provider, it shines a light on an impending crisis in child-care affordability in the United States. As the California Department of Education put it, “If nothing is done, many lower-income families will lose their child care, and child-care programs will close their doors, triggering further job losses and major disruptions to families.”
 See related articles: EdSource “More Funding For Full-Day Kindergarten Questioned as Many Low-Income California Schools Already Offer It and WAMU 88.5 “For Families Who Need Them Most, Child Care Subsidies Haven’t Always Helped.”

In Ohio, a Partnership Helps Bridge a Budget Gap
U.S. News and World Report: Alexander Elementary School in Albany, Ohio, has a resource that other rural schools don’t: a partnership with Ohio University that allows it to offer services it would otherwise struggle to provide. School officials say the partnership has made it easier for the school to provide support, including a reading intervention program and the Kids on Campus program, which allows for after school assistance with homework, tutoring, and other services. Kids on Campus runs on federal grants but is administered by the university. See related article: Education Dive “School-University Partnerships Help Fill Funding Gaps, Prepare Future Teachers.

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