The Weekly Connect 9/3/19

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:

The City Connects model shows the benefits of taking a systemic approach to integrated student support.

Scans of top teachers’ brains are being used to learn more about how they connect with students.

Colorado launches free, full-day kindergarten.

A California school district says managing challenging student behavior is a job for all teachers, not just for those in special education.

To read more, click on the following links.

City Connects News

What it Will Take for School Wraparound Supports to Fulfill Their Potential
Forbes: Despite the logic of having schools address out-of-school barriers to learning such as homelessness, mental health issues, or food insecurity, many of these efforts have produced disappointing outcomes. City Connects, however, is an exception. It’s a program that has strong research results, including the finding that it eliminates the achievement gap between English Language Learners and their counterparts by third grade. One of the potential reasons that City Connects reports a different level of success than other programs is that the organization integrates the supports it provides in a tight, interdependent manner with each teacher so that it can meet the needs of each individual student in a personalized way. 

Coordinating Services for Students Pays Huge Dividend
CommonWealth Magazine: Mary Walsh, the Executive Director of City Connects, explains that what makes models of integrated student support effective is how and why these programs connect students to comprehensive supports. Programs that review and understand the strengths and needs of each child, develop a tailored plan of supports and opportunities that meet the needs of these children and their families, and track service delivery, follow up, and outcomes, are able to create a systemic approach that can transform educational opportunity and life-long outcomes. Research on this approach has found compelling results; specifically, students demonstrate better effort, better grades, better attendance, and better academic outcomes long after they leave City Connects’ elementary schools.

Research & Practice

Adolescence is Prime Time for Closing Opportunity Gap
T.H.E. Journal: A recent report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has suggested that the dramatic changes that take place in the brains of young people offer “unique opportunities for positive, life-shaping development and for recovering from past adversity.” As individuals move through ages 10 to 25, the connections between brain regions become more efficient while unused connections deteriorate away, making environmental factors such as learning opportunities in school and social interactions very important. For youth in this age range to take advantage of the potential benefits, the report suggests, the country needs to address inequities in areas such as education and healthcare. See related article: EdSurge “Teenage Brains Are Elastic. That’s a Big Opportunity for Social-Emotional Learning.”

Low-Achieving and High-Achieving Students Receive Different Instruction, Report Finds
Ed Week Teaching Now Blog: In reading, math, and science, teachers whose students had low scores on a national test reported being less likely to ask their classes to engage in higher-order thinking or offer them advanced work than teachers whose students scored high, according to a report from the National Center for Education Statistics. The new analysis uses data from the 2015 NAEP assessment. As a component of the test, teachers and students answered survey questions about classroom instruction—what content teachers covered and what activities they did.

New Studies Challenge the Claim that Black Students are Sent to Special Ed Too Much
The Hechinger Report: In 2016, 12 percent of black children across the nation received services at school for disabilities, ranging from emotional disturbances to physical disabilities to intellectual impairment, compared to 8.5 percent of White children. Some academics and advocates have argued that disability status had become a tool to perpetuate racial segregation, especially in the South. Now, however, two groups of researchers are arguing that the earlier research may have inadvertently misidentified the equity problem. The two new studies (see here and here) conducted independently find that students of color are actually less likely than similar white students to be identified as having disabilities and obtain special education services at schools. See related article: Education Week “In Flint, Schools Overwhelmed by Special Ed. Needs in Aftermath of Lead Crisis.”

Brain Images Used to Tease Out How Top Teachers Connect with Students
Ed Week Inside School Research Blog: Great teachers don’t just know their content and pedagogy: They inspire in their students’ passion for learning. Studies have shown the importance of this deep engagement, but it’s been harder to show exactly how teachers make this kind of connection. A new project by researchers from the University of Southern California and Bank Street College seeks to shed some light on those connections with in-depth observations of teachers who are adept at steering students through adolescence. In the ongoing study, researchers monitor teachers’ brain activity, emotional and stress responses, vocal patterns, and body language to try to understand how teachers’ practices and physiological responses affect how well students connect with their lessons.

Policy

Report: More States Setting Higher ‘Proficiency’ Standards on Assessments
Education Dive: The gap is narrowing between what states consider proficiency in math and reading — and the standards set by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), according to a new “mapping” study recently released by the National Center for Education Statistics. Comparing the 2017 NAEP results for 4th- and 8th-grade reading and math to state assessments for the 2016–17 school year, the report shows that since 2007, the difference between state scores for proficiency and the “NAEP equivalent” has grown smaller and is sometimes almost half of what it was. 

Merging Schools, Improving Equity: Inside a Chicago Community’s Effort to Dismantle a Pattern of Segregation
How Housing Matters: Chicago’s schools are heavily segregated, and school segregation persists even in more residentially integrated areas. This can perpetuate vast disparities in education resources and hinder student’s opportunities and well-being. Chicago’s Near North neighborhood sought to combat this problem by merging two schools. The city merged an under-resourced school with low enrollment that mostly educates low-income students of color with a well-resourced, over-enrolled school that mostly educates affluent, white students. This solution was unique because it was brought about by a push from community members and community leaders who hope the merger can serve as a model for the rest of the city and the country. See related article: Education Dive “2 Chicago Schools Merge to Address Segregation.”

Colorado Schools Start Free, Full-Day Kindergarten
9 News: Tuition-free, full-day kindergarten took effect this school year in schools across Colorado. So, for the first time, kindergarteners could stay at school for a full day at no cost to their families. Democratic Governor Jared Polis campaigned on the idea, and he celebrated the change by visiting several kindergarten classes. Polis said about 99 percent of schools are offering free, full-day kindergarten starting this year. See related article: Tampa Bay Times “New Rule Would Put More Pressure on Pre-K Programs to Get Kids Ready for Kindergarten.”

Around the Nation

Nobody Learns it in a Day: Creating Trauma-Sensitive Schools
Education Week: In the last decade, trauma-sensitive schooling has spread, driven by emerging research, devastating natural and manmade disasters, and school discipline debates. Howard Adelman, a psychology professor and co-director of the Center for Mental Health in Schools, said he’s skeptical that schools can provide enough training and resources to create effective supports for students with a history of trauma. One principal who launched trauma-sensitive schooling at a rural school in northern New Hampshire described it as a process, not a program. The school made a number of small changes like increased communication between students and staff, more classroom time to talk about emotions, and mindfulness/stretching breaks.

These Free New York Summer Schools for English Learners are in Demand
Chalkbeat: Students can lose their grasp of a new language over the summer because they might only be speaking it in a limited capacity, if at all, educators say, making affordable summer programs critical for English language learners. This year, roughly 7,500 New York City children attended free summer programs designed to help multilingual students — children who are learning English as a new language — build skills in core subjects, such as math, while developing their language skills. Depending on the program, there’s also lighter summer fare, such as field trips and cooking classes. See related articles: Education Dive “NYC Program Helps English Learners Prevent Summer Slide” and MPR News “Program Aims to Ease Summer Food Gap for School Kids.” 

Helping Valley Students Manage Behavior is No Longer Just a Job for Special Education, Teachers Say
Desert Sun: School districts across the Coachella Valley in California say improving students’ behavior and mental health will no longer just be a job for special education teachers. During the past several years, the Coachella Valley’s three school districts have implemented “multi-tiered systems of support” to address negative student behaviors before automatically referring students to special education programs that can be costly and restrictive for learning. According to a special education teacher at one of the elementary schools implementing the new approach, during the first year of having the support systems in place, her school saw fewer disciplinary referrals and overall positive changes to the campus culture.

Local School District Sees ‘Dramatic’ Demographics Change in Gifted & Talented Program
9 News: The number of students of color in the Aurora Public School’s (APS) Gifted and Talented (GT) program increased 17 percentage points last school year after a new program launched that changed the way gifted students are identified. Instead of waiting on teachers to recommend students for testing like before, APS tested every student at 10 pilot schools in the district at the end of the 2018-2019 school year using a localized test. Students who scored in the top 5% of that test were identified as GT. After the testing in the pilot schools, the percentage of White and Asian students dropped while the percentage of Hispanic and Black students increased. See related article: Spectrum News 1 “Panel Recommends Ending Gifted and Talented Programs at NYC Public Schools.”

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