The Weekly Connect 10/28/19

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:

Culturally supportive programs for African-American boys boost their graduation rates.

Afterschool nutrition program grows but needs more funding to reach more students.

Best practices for district-wide implementation of social/emotional learning.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

Kids in Poor Districts Learn Just as Much
Record-Courier: Even though disadvantaged students in poorer school districts might earn lower test scores than those in wealthier districts, students in both settings are learning just as much, according to a new study from researchers at Ohio State University. The research challenges the traditional notions that performance gaps between such districts are a product of the schools themselves, researchers said. Discrepancies in test scores between wealthy or poor districts speak more to what happens outside the classroom. The study used data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, pulling from a subsample of about 3,000 students from around the country. The results showed that children in schools that serve disadvantaged students on average saw their reading scores rise about as much during the school year as the scores in more advantaged schools.

Culturally Supportive Program for Black Boys Boosts On-Time Graduation Rates
Ed Week District Dossier: In 2010, the school district in Oakland, Calif., rolled out a program designed to wrap Black male students in a culturally rich and supportive environment—all with the goal of boosting their academic success and life outcomes. A new study of the impact of Oakland’s African American Male Achievement Program shows that by one measure, the efforts are paying off. The four-year graduation rate for Black males who had access to the program in their freshman and sophomore years increased by about 3 percentage points. Because various features of the initiative were rolled out over time, researchers at Stanford University were able to compare the impact on students who were in the program with similar black male students who were in schools that weren’t yet participating. See related article: The Hechinger Report “Progress in the Deep South: Black Students Combat Segregation, Poverty, and Limited Funding.”

The Cascading Effects of Principal Turnover on Students and Schools
Brookings: While a growing number of studies point to the detrimental effects of teacher mobility on student achievement, few studies have attempted to measure the effects of principal turnover. Nationally, about one in five schools lose their principals each year. But in North Carolina, for example, that figure climbs to more than one in three in the lowest-performing schools. In a recent working paper, researchers from Vanderbilt University found that principal turnover is associated with lower test scores, school proficiency rates, and teacher retention.

The Detroit Students with the Best Attendance Travel the Farthest to School
Chalkbeat: African-American students in Detroit with the highest attendance rates also travel farther to get to school. That surprising finding comes from a new study that looked at an often-ignored group: The 20% of Detroit students who show up to class 99% of the time. The research could help shape the response to the absenteeism problem that has hit Detroit harder than any other major American city. More than half of the roughly 100,000 students in Detroit miss 10% of the school year, according to the researchers at Wayne State University who authored the report.

MN Schools Struggle to Address Students’ Mental Health, Survey Finds
Twin Cities Pioneer Press: Nearly a quarter of Minnesota students are struggling with mental health, behavior, or emotional problems, according to a survey state leaders recently released. In the 2019 Minnesota Student Survey, 23 percent of those surveyed reported struggling with those problems, up from 18 percent in 2016, the last time students were asked. Overall, students questioned said they feel less engaged, supported, and safe in the classroom, the survey found. State leaders said one of the most troubling findings of the survey is that the percentage of 11th-grade girls experiencing long-term mental, behavioral, and emotional struggles has more than doubled since 2013.

Policy

Student Mental Health Policy Snapshot
Education Commission of the States: Each year nearly one in six children in the U.S. experience a mental health disorder. Education leaders and policymakers are taking note of students’ mental health needs and see a role for schools to play in the delivery of children’s mental health services. This Policy Snapshot highlights activity in the 2019 legislative sessions focused on K-12 student mental health and wellness, including legislative measures focused on school-based mental health services and supports, training for teacher and school staff, and school curricula. The report also includes examples of enacted legislation in each category.

Afterschool Nutrition Program Shows Significant Expansion, but Needs More Funding
Education Dive: Since its rollout in 2010 through the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, the Afterschool Nutrition Program steadily increased its funding to provide about 1.3 million dinners and 1.5 million afterschool snacks per day in October 2018. The nourishment was provided through 48,000 afterschool sites nationwide, according to a new report. These numbers are a significant increase from the previous year, when 10.4% fewer students were served. Even with these increases, however, only one in 16 children who receive free or reduced lunch have access to afterschool nutrition programs. If Congress approves the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Program, more meals could be served, the report says.

NYC is Requiring New Standardized Tests at 76 Struggling Schools
Chalkbeat: New York City is requiring a new set of standardized tests for third and sixth graders this year at 76 public schools that the state considers low-performing, education department officials told Chalkbeat. These schools are the first group under Chancellor Richard Carranza’s plan to more regularly assess student progress throughout the year. His hope is that these exams will give teachers a picture of student performance in real time and enable them to tweak their instruction.

Around the Nation

4 Key Practices for Successful District-Wide SEL Integration
Education Dive: With leaders’ interest in the practice growing, SEL integration is still in its infancy in many districts, while other districts are a few years into full implementation. Strategies discussed by leaders who have implemented SEL initiatives nationally include: making SEL practices culturally considerate, getting stakeholder buy-in, starting by educating educators, and shifting language to establish a formative narrative. See related article: Education Dive “Human Interaction, SEL in Curriculum Key to Curbing Cyberbullying.”

Hidden Dropouts: How Indiana Schools can Write off Struggling Students as Home-Schoolers
Chalkbeat: A Chalkbeat analysis of Indiana Department of Education data found that of the roughly 3,700 Indiana high school students in the class of 2018 officially recorded as leaving to be home-schooled, more than half were concentrated in 61 of the state’s 507 high schools — campuses where the ratio of students leaving to be home-schooled to students earning diplomas was far above the state average. Those striking numbers suggest that Indiana’s lax regulation of home schooling and its method for calculating graduation rates are masking the extent of many schools’ dropout problems.

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