The Weekly Connect 9/30/19

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:

A new study finds that poverty drives achievement gaps.

California could require all schools to offer full-day kindergarten.

Students who lack Internet access at home are at an educational disadvantage.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

Achievement Gaps in Schools Driven by Poverty, Study Finds
The Washington Post: High concentrations of poverty, not racial segregation, entirely account for the racial achievement gap in U.S. schools, a new study finds. The research looked at the achievement gap between White students, who tend to have higher scores, and Black and Hispanic students, who tend to have lower scores. Researchers with Stanford University wanted to know whether those gaps are driven by widespread segregation in schools or something else. They found that the gaps were “completely accounted for” by poverty, with students in high-poverty schools performing worse than those from schools with children from wealthier families. See related article: Ed Week Inside School Research Blog “Neighborhood Poverty Deepens in 10 States, and Children of Color Bear the Brunt.”

5 Ways Culturally Responsive Teaching Benefits Learners
New America: A growing body of research shows that culturally responsive teaching practices can provide students with a range of social and cognitive benefits. These culturally responsive teaching practices promote students’ development by facilitating brain processing, motivating and engaging students, cultivating critical thinking and problem-solving skills, strengthening students’ racial and ethnic identities, and promoting a sense of safety and belonging. However, more research is needed on the impact of culturally responsive practices, as the evidence consists primarily of small-scale studies.

Recession Cuts Came at Expense of Achievement
Education Dive: In counties hardest hit by the recession, school spending cuts were associated with “sizeable losses” in student achievement, according to a new study appearing in AERA Open, a journal of the American Educational Research Association. In these areas, students in grades 3 to 8 achieved about 25% less than expected between the 2008-09 and 2014-15 school years, and the sharpest declines were seen in districts serving a high proportion of students who were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch as well as African American students. The authors of the report noted that this likely widened between-district achievement gaps.

Perfect Attendance Would Have ‘Very Modest’ Effect on Madison Middle School Achievement Gap
Wisconsin State Journal: A recently released study looking at attendance and absenteeism in Madison, WI, middle schools suggests perfect attendance would have a “very modest” benefit when it comes to closing academic achievement gaps. The study, conducted by the Madison Education Partnership, looked at rates of attendance and any associated effects for Madison students in grades 6 through 8, finding that unexcused absences are likely to be signs of personal challenges a student is facing rather than a cause of poor academic performance. See related article: Deseret News “What is Chronic Absenteeism? Utah School Board Says it Needs Consistent Definition to Improve Data Collection and Target Resources.”

No Measurable Gap Between Charters, Traditional Public Schools on National Tests
Ed Week Politics K-12 Blog: There are “no measurable differences” between the performance of charter schools and traditional public schools on national reading and math assessments from 2017, a finding that persists when parents’ educational attainment were factored into the results. That’s one key takeaway from a report recently released by the National Center for Education Statistics about charters, private schools, and home schooling. The report also found that Hispanic students constituted a plurality—33 percent—of charter school enrollment in 2016-17, followed by white students at 32 percent and black students at 26 percent. See related article: Education Dive “Larger Charter ‘Market Share’ Linked to Overall Achievement Growth.”

Policy

Full-Day Kindergarten Could Soon Be Required in Every California School
EdSource: Kindergartners across California could soon be spending more time in their classrooms if Gov. Gavin Newsom signs a bill recently approved by the state Legislature. The legislation, Assembly Bill 197, introduced by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, would require every public elementary school, including charter schools, to offer at least one kindergarten class that is the same length as 1st grade, beginning in the 2022-23 school year. Schools will be exempt if they don’t have enough kindergarten classrooms to offer a full-day class for all students and have to offer one part-day kindergarten class in the morning and one in the afternoon in the same classroom.

NC Law Requires Students to Undergo Mental Health Screening
Channel 3000: As mental health problems among children increase, a new North Carolina law will attempt to tackle the issue head on. House Bill 75 requires all public students across the state to undergo mental health screening, in the name of school safety. The newly-signed law requires each district to create a mental health crisis response plan made up of the State Bureau of Investigation, local law enforcement, and school administrators to identify students who may pose a threat to themselves or others.

Around the Nation

Deep Breaths and ‘Brain Breaks’: How Extra Funds for Mental Health are Transforming One Aurora School
Chalkbeat: Districtwide, Aurora, Colo., has used new local tax money approved by voters in 2018 to hire more than 70 mental health staff members, including social workers, psychologists, and counselors. The new mental health staff members have already been making a big difference at Elkhart Elementary, a school that previously just had one full-time psychologist to serve its 550 students. The new tax money allowed the school to hire a social worker, which school leaders report has already helped to reduce discipline referrals, improve school culture, and increase school attendance.

More Minnesota Students are Getting Extra Time to Take Tests– Especially in Wealthy School Districts
Minn Post: The rate at which Minnesota students receive accommodations for conditions like ADHD, anxiety, depression, and others has increased by about ten-fold in two decades, according to data from the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE). In 2000, about 2 out of every 1,000 students enrolled in Minnesota public schools had “504 plans,” which provide for things things like extra time on tests or extended deadlines on assignments. In 2019, that number was 16 out of every 1,000 students, a MinnPost analysis of MDE data shows. But the data also show that the number of 504 plans hasn’t gone up everywhere: they’re most prevalent in some of Minnesota’s wealthier school districts.

Lack of Home Internet Access is Educational Hardship, Report Suggests
Ed Week Digital Education Blog: Teachers may worry students spend too much time on digital devices. But there’s a flip side to that problem: Many kids don’t have any access to internet services at home. That makes completing class assignments difficult, especially in the later grades. The problem is especially acute in high-poverty schools, according to a recent report released by Common Sense Media, a nonprofit based in San Francisco that focuses on children, technology, and media. Twelve percent of teachers say that more than 60 percent of their students don’t have the kind of internet connectivity at home needed to get homework done, leading them to be less likely to assign homework that requires digital access outside of school. See related articles: School Transportation News “School Bus Wi-Fi, A Turning Point in Transportation Technology” and CNN Health “Not All Screen Time Causes Kids to Underperform in School, Study Says.”

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