The Weekly Connect 9/9/19

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

“Splinter” districts increase racial segregation in schools.

More states are requiring mental health education.

A Washington, D.C., charter school where character counts as much as academics.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

Early Education, Relationship with Teachers Paramount for Children Success, Study Says
ABC News: According to a new study published in Child Development, not only is early exposure to math and vocabulary a potential catalyst for future positive outcomes, but so is the focus on self-regulation, meaning allowing a child to manage their emotions, behavior and body movement in tough situations. To become skilled at self-regulation, children need a strong relationship with well-trained teachers. Dr. Dana McCoy, the study’s author and professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, found that when teachers received high quality training on the best ways to interact with preschoolers, they passed it on to the children, improving structural quality, warmth, and organization in the classroom. See related article: Phi Delta Kappan “School Social Workers as Partners in the School Mission.”

Thousands of Special Education Students Missed Nearly Two Months of School
The City: Tens of thousands of New York City public school students with disabilities are so “severely chronically absent” that they miss nearly two months of instruction per year, a new analysis by NYU’s Research Alliance for New York City Schools found. During the 2015-16 school year, 13% of the roughly 200,000 students with disabilities missed 36 or more school days. An even higher percentage of those students who were classified as having emotional disturbances — 38%, or 4,800 of the 26,000 — missed nearly two months of school that year. See related article: The Hechinger Report “Using Virtual Reality to Help Students with Disabilities.”

Texas is Kicking Far Fewer Young Students Out of the Classroom Thanks to This Law
Education Week: The number of children kicked out of the classroom has dropped by nearly a third since Texas implemented a law that bans such punishment except in the most extreme cases. Prior to the implementation of the law, Texas’ public schools had suspended more than 101,000 students in prekindergarten to 2nd grade during the 2015-16 school year. That fell by 31 percent to 70,197 in the 2017-18 school year, according to a new report by the advocacy group Texans Care for Children. Some students were still more likely to face suspensions—most notably kids in foster care, black children, and those in special education. See related articles: ASCD “A Data-Driven Approach Turns School Discipline Around” and Ed Source “On Reforming Suspensions: A Teacher’s Plea to California’s Lawmakers.” 

‘Splinter’ Districts Increase School Segregation in the South
Education Dive: Communities that break away from countywide districts to form their own school systems typically serve more white students than the “left-behind” districts, according to a new study appearing in AERA Open examining the trend of district secession in Alabama, Louisiana, and Tennessee. Focusing on East Baton Rouge in Louisiana, Shelby County in Tennessee, and five counties in Alabama, the researchers write that secession is “eroding what has historically been one of the cornerstones of school desegregation in the South: the one-county, one-school-system jurisdiction.” The study reports that between 2000 and 2015, the percentage of school segregation for black and white students that can be attributed to district boundaries in those counties has increased from 59.9% to 70.3%. For Hispanic and white students, it has increased from 37.1% to 65.1%.

Policy

Proposed SNAP Rule Would Affect Schools that Provide Free Meals to All
Education Dive: The Trump administration aims to eliminate a provision through which states can automatically make families eligible for SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) if the families receive minimal assistance through the federal welfare program, officially called Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). “The proposed rule would fix a loophole that has expanded SNAP recipients in some states to include people who receive assistance when they clearly don’t need it,” according to a press release from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). This proposal has caused rising concerns that students in low-income families could have a harder time receiving free meals at school. But school nutrition experts say, if approved, the effects of the proposal on schools that offer free meals to all students through the National School Lunch Program’s Community Eligibility Provision would not be immediate.

More States Requiring Mental Health Education
Education Dive: When three students in Virginia’s Albemarle County Public Schools noticed how stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues were affecting many of their peers — and having an impact on their own lives — they took their concerns to state lawmakers, who were among the first in the country to pass legislation requiring state-mandated mental health education in K-12 schools. Several states, such as Colorado and Florida, have either approved or have legislation in the works related to mental health education. Some of the legislation calls for addressing concerns about additional workloads and teacher training.

Districts Face Hurdles Finding Evidence-Based Improvement Strategies under ESSA
Ed Week Politics K-12 Blog: The Every Student Succeeds Act requires struggling schools to choose turnaround strategies that are backed by evidence. But that requirement is more complicated than it seems at face value, because simply accessing and interpreting education research can be difficult for school leaders. Another issue: Research on school improvement may have been conducted in schools and districts with very different challenges than their own. Researchers from the Center on Education Policy at George Washington University, interviewed administrators from five very different school systems and shared how their districts are handling the evidence requirements—and the challenges they’ve faced in doing so—in a new report.

Do Distressed Students Have a Right to Trauma-Sensitive Schooling?
Education Week: Three lawsuits in California, Arizona, and New York, respectively, are currently seeking to test the idea that trauma-sensitive schooling should be a right for students who have been through repeated traumas that complicate their special education needs. Three students and their fellow plaintiffs in each of these states are at the center of these ongoing test lawsuits that argue schools have a responsibility to consider and mitigate the effects of trauma on learning. The outcomes of these lawsuits could have ramifications for schools nationwide as evidence grows on the negative effects that traumatic events can have on children’s learning and well-being. See related article: Education Week “Separated Migrant Children Suffered Trauma and Mental Health Problems, Report Finds.”

Around the Nation

In National Ranking of School Systems, a New State is on Top
Education Week: New Jersey takes the top spot in the newly released “Quality Counts 2019,” the 23rd annual report card of state education systems issued by the Education Week Research Center. The report card’s grade for the nation as a whole is a C. The report synthesizes 39 indicators that capture a range of school finance, academic achievement, and socioeconomic factors that affect the quality of state school systems. In the category of academic achievement alone, no state topped Massachusetts’ 88.4, and 44 states scored a C or lower. Regionally, the top-ranking states are largely clustered in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, while Southern states with high poverty rates dominate the lower rankings. 

A School Where Character Matters as much as Academics
The Hechinger Report: While Capital City Public Charter School in Washington, D.C., takes pride in preparing students academically for the transition from eighth grade to high school, teachers and staff place an emphasis on ensuring that these young people are emotionally ready as well — with the social skills, like strength of character, resilience and integrity, that they need to succeed. Capital City is often cited by advocates of social and emotional learning for its commitment to putting “soft skills” such as communication, collaboration, self-awareness, and problem-solving on a par with homework and exam scores. In addition to traditional academic grades, student report cards include marks from 1 to 4 on qualities such as organization, timeliness, and accountability. See related article: The Vindicator “Social, Emotional Lessons Make a Difference in Local Schools.” 

Building and Scaling Interventions to Support Every Student
Education Dive: As schools serve student populations with increasingly complex academic, behavioral, and social-emotional needs, having a multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS) is proving to be beneficial for identifying, prioritizing, and helping students. Educators and district leaders report that the MTSS student support framework has empowered them to support students before problems occur, ensuring no student falls between the cracks. To have an effective MTSS process, it’s critical to measure and understand the impact of interventions. But only 3 in 10 educators report they are currently tracking interventions effectively. 

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