The Weekly Connect 6/24/19

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:

New research suggests that some teachers improve students’ attendance.

Boston’s School Committee votes to eliminate middle schools.

The suicide rate among adolescents is at its highest point since 2000.

Michigan’s teachers are not as diverse as the state’s students.

To read more, click on the following links.

City Connects News

Houston ISD Has a Big Bold Vision for Helping Students Outside the Classroom. Will it Work?
Houston Chronicle: Every school day, many of Houston Independent School District’s (HISD) 209,000 students come to school carrying immense burdens: hunger, homelessness, deported parents, and drug-addicted caregivers. To combat those traumas, HISD leaders are implementing one of the nation’s biggest, boldest plans to address students’ non-academic needs, hoping happier, healthier children will perform better in the classroom. In the next three years, the district plans to employ about 300 staff members to identify children needing support, coordinate with local community providers, pair families with resources, and use a locally-developed software platform to monitor impact. This model diverges from longer standing wraparound initiatives like City Connects, which is primarily implemented in elementary and middle schools, and requires all specialists to have a master’s degree in school counseling or social work. See related article: New America “First 10 Schools and Communities: Helping All Young Children Grow and Thrive.”

Research & Practice

New Research Shows How Teachers are Key to Boosting Student Attendance
Chalkbeat: Schools across the country are trying to improve attendance because the more school students miss, the more likely they are to fall off track. New research finds that some of a school’s best allies in combatting absences might be some of its teachers. The study found that certain teachers are much better than others at getting middle and high schoolers to come to class. Having one of those teachers meant most students attend class one or two more times each semester than they otherwise would have, and students who were frequently absent came seven to nine more days. The benefits of having one of those teachers last for years afterward, boosting high school graduation rates — especially for students who start out with the worst attendance records and test scores.

Socioeconomic-Based Integration Changes ‘Schooling Contexts’ for Black Students
Education Dive: A new study of an effort to integrate schools based on students’ socioeconomic status shows such a plan doesn’t reduce overall segregation in a district, but it can significantly change school experiences for black students who would have attended a majority-minority school. The study, which was published in the American Educational Research Journal, focuses on the Wake County Public School System (WCPSS) in North Carolina. Under a traditional residential-based assignment plan, the average Black student in the WCPSS would have attended a school with a White student population of 14%. But under the socioeconomic-based assignment plan, the average Black student attended a school in which 38% of students were White.

There’s an App for That: How Two Rural Counties Reached More Kids with Developmental Delays
Chalkbeat: A decade ago, young children who missed key developmental milestones — like walking or talking — too often fell through the cracks in northern Colorado’s Grand and Jackson counties. Today, that has changed because of a regional effort to get doctors, child care providers, therapy providers, and school officials on the same page as they work to meet a federal mandate requiring early intervention for children with developmental delays. Members of the coalition that spearheaded the Meeting Milestones Initiative say the project has boosted screening rates dramatically in the region, from 30% to over 80% of children 5 and under.

Students Most at Risk of Getting Spanked at School Are Black or Disabled, Data Show
Ed Week Rules For Engagement Blog: Nineteen states permit school personnel to strike students with belts, rulers, homemade wooden paddles, or bare hands as a form of discipline. A new analysis by the Southern Poverty Law Center showed that rates of physical punishment greatly varied based on race, geography, and disability status. Nearly all corporal punishment incidents occurred in Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, or Texas. The analysis also found that Black female students were more than three times as likely to be struck as White female students and Black male students were nearly twice as likely as to be struck as White male students. Further, in more than half of the schools that practiced corporal punishment, students with disabilities were struck at higher rates than those without disabilities.

Suicide Rate Among Adolescents at Highest Point Since 2000
Ed Week Rules For Engagement Blog: Adolescents and young adults have seen the highest rate of deaths due to suicide in nearly two decades, according to a new report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2000, the suicide rate for adolescents ages 15 to 19 was 8 deaths per 100,000. In 2017, the rate increased to 11.8 per 100,000. The CDC found that most of that increase occurred between 2007 and 2017. The report attributes the rise to increases in social media use, anxiety, depression, and self-harm, however, the CDC states that a more detailed analysis of the trends in the age group is needed, along with a sustained examination of data in order to determine whether the rise in suicides is continuing.

Policy

House Approves Record-High Spending Figure for the Education Department
Ed Week Politics K-12 Blog: The House of Representatives recently voted to approve what would be a record-high funding level for the U.S. Department of Education in nominal terms, although there’s a long slog ahead before Congress sends a final spending bill to President Donald Trump for his signature. Title I, special education, and social-emotional learning would be big winners under the bill crafted by Democrats, who control the House. And in keeping with much of the mood in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, charter school funding would get slashed by nearly 10 percent.

The Precarious Position of the Charter School Sector
U.S. News & World Report: Charter schools across the country are facing obstacles to expansion. In Chicago, Lori Lightfoot, the city’s new mayor, has pledged to enact a moratorium on new charters. In California, report released by the state’s Department of Education — in the wake of the historic teachers strikes in Los Angeles, Oakland, and Sacramento — recommends restrictions on charter schools. And nationally, charter operators looking to expand in Pender County, North Carolina, Midland, Texas, and other places have withdrawn their applications after community protests. These cumulative setbacks highlight the precarious position of the charter school sector. While these schools are supported by U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos as part of her school choice agenda, these schools also face an aggressive push from national teachers unions to restrict them.

Boston School Committee Votes to Eliminate Middle Schools
The Boston Globe: The Boston School Committee unanimously approved a policy that would eliminate middle schools, as part of an effort to reduce the number of times students change schools. The goal is to have students attend just two schools during their time in the Boston school system. The policy sets out two basic grade structures for most schools: elementary schools that end at grade six or eight and secondary schools that begin at grade seven or nine. School officials intend to convert the system’s six middle schools into one of those structures.

Around the Nation

Kids Count: No Growth in Pre-K Enrollment, 8th Grade Math Proficiency
Education Dive: The U.S. child population continues to increase and grow more diverse — especially in California, Florida, and Texas. But the overall rate of 3- and 4-year-olds not attending preschool — 52% — hasn’t changed since 2010, according to the 2019 Kids Count Data Book, an ongoing project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which has been tracking child well-being at the state level since 1990. The report also provides data on how contextual factors, such as economic well-being, health, and family and community issues, impact academic achievement. The report says that among children in low-income homes, 78% of 4th-graders score below the proficient level in reading, compared to 48% of children in moderate- and high-income families. See related articles: Education Dive “Pre-to-3: Providing Child Care is a ‘Twofer’ For Schools.”

How an Alternative School Improved Behavioral Outcomes with a Neuroscience Approach
Education Dive: Amidst efforts to keep at-risk students from dropping out of school or, worse, being pushed into the school-to-prison pipeline, a growing body of neuroscientific research is focused on developing and implementing alternative approaches to behavioral interventions and school discipline​. In this interview, Jessica Milton and John Hall — respectively the Principal and Executive Director of an alternative school for students who have social-emotional or behavioral special education needs — discuss their experience implementing neuroscience-informed approaches such as the Bloom Sanctuary Model and the Sanchez Resiliency Model. In their school, these approaches have decreased the use of restraints and the number of emergency police calls. 

Michigan Schools Face Huge Racial Disparity – and It’s Hard to Fix
Education Week: When it comes to diversity, it’s teachers rather than students who are falling behind in school. Teaching staff in Michigan, like those across the country, have been much slower to diversify than the student bodies they teach. Michigan’s student population is 18 percent African American, but its public school teaching ranks are only 6 percent Black. More than half of Michigan school districts have no African-American teachers. And the disparity is even greater for Hispanics who make up 8 percent of the student population, but barely 1 percent of Michigan’s teachers.

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