The Weekly Connect 11/4/19

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 impact of poverty on teen refugees’ brains.

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo is taking over Providence’s public schools.

A school district in Appalachia takes on social/emotional education.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

Rigorous Grade-Level Work or Personalized Learning? Research Shows Closing Student Achievement Gap Requires Both
The 74 Million: National data indicate that approximately 3 of every 5 students begin the school year below grade level, with those numbers even higher for low-income students and students of color. A recent report by Bellwether Education partners sought to work towards a deeper, shared understanding of how to both address learning gaps and help students attain grade-level knowledge. The report discusses the evidence that high-quality curriculum materials and increased personalization of content are beneficial for improving student learning outcomes and are not mutually exclusive. 

How the Gender Gap in STEM might get its Start in Elementary School
Chalkbeat: On average, girls do as well as boys on elementary- and middle-school math tests. But by the time students enter the workforce, a big gender gap has emerged, with men earning nearly 80 percent of bachelor’s degrees in engineering and computer science. A new study offers evidence that the disparity might be getting its start in elementary school classrooms. The data, collected from Wake County, North Carolina, showed that elementary school-aged girls were less likely to be nominated for, selected for, and continue in the district’s advanced math program. See related articles: eSchool News “This Program is Determined to Support Girls in STEM” and Los Angeles Times “By Age 6, Kids Tend to See White Men as More ‘Brilliant’ than White Women.” 

Counselor ‘Nudges’ Increase FAFSA Applications, Report Finds
Education Dive: Nudges from counselors increase a high school senior’s rate of completing college financial aid applications by 17%, and those students are 8% more likely to enroll in college than peers who do not receive such messages, according to a recently published study. Text-based outreach from counselors makes a difference because students could respond to them and receive direct support, according to the study’s authors. The study surveyed randomly selected students from the Austin and Houston areas during the spring of 2015. Students who received texts were 20% more likely to enroll in four-year colleges and 9% less likely to enroll in two-year colleges than peers who didn’t receive nudges. See related article: The Hechinger Report “More Latinx Students Gain Diplomas on Time Thanks to ‘Early College’.” 

‘No Progress’ Seen in Reading or Math on Nation’s Report Card
Ed Week Inside School Research Blog: The latest results of the tests known as the Nation’s Report Card offer a mostly grim view of academic progress in U.S. schools. Since 2017, reading performance has dropped significantly across grades 4 and 8, with math performance mixed, based on the recently released results of the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress. Some racial achievement gaps closed—in part because of falling scores among white students—and gaps between struggling and high-achieving students continued to widen. “In fact, over the long term in reading, the lowest-performing students—those readers who struggle the most—have made no progress from the first NAEP administration almost 30 years ago,” said Peggy Carr, the associate commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics. See related article: The New York Times “Reading Scores on National Exam Decline in Half the States.”

A Teen Refugee’s Brain may be Disrupted More by Poverty than Past Trauma
NPR: Alexandra Chen, a researcher at Harvard, worked with a team to devise a study that aimed to untangle the threads of poverty, trauma, and other adversities among teen Syrian refugees and Jordanian youth who were also considered at-risk but didn’t have a background of war. The researchers’ results are published in a new paper in Child Development. While the study documents high exposures to violence, symptoms of PTSD and anxiety about the future among the teens, it finds that the constant stress of being poor seems to most interrupt the way their minds work. “It’s the struggle of having to survive, perhaps not having enough to eat; the stress of supporting the family in various ways — begging, selling things, working odd jobs and ridiculous hours to support their families,” says Chen.


As Teacher Evaluation Reforms Come Undone, 2 States React Very Differently to Using Test Scores to Rate Educators
The 74 Million: A decade ago, states across the country were tripping over themselves to reform their teacher evaluation systems. With the U.S. Department of Education dangling millions of dollars in Race to the Top funding as incentives, dozens of states started incorporating student test scores, increasing the frequency of classroom observations and multiplying the number of categories on which they rated teachers. Now, with the Every Student Succeeds Act in place, states are methodically unwinding those changes. The National Council on Teacher Quality released a report earlier this month showing that 22 states and the District of Columbia have pulled back at least one of the changes they made between 2009 and 2015. 

New California Law Bans School Lunch Debt Shaming
The Hill: California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has signed into law a measure that guarantees students will receive state-funded lunches regardless of whether their parents or guardians have unpaid meal fees. The bill, which was spearheaded by state Sen. Robert Hertzberg (D), prohibits so-called lunch shaming, a practice in which institutions deny students with unpaid fees a meal of their choice. It also seeks to ensure that a student “is not shamed or treated differently from other pupils” for having unpaid lunch debts. See related articles: USA Today “‘Sitting in Class Hungry’: Schools Wary of Trump Plan to End Free School Lunches for Some.” 

Why Rhode Island’s Governor is Taking Over Providence’s Public Schools
The Atlantic: Public schools in Rhode Island are struggling. The situation in the state is considered so extreme by activists, elected officials, students, and parents that last year they filed a class-action lawsuit claiming that Rhode Island had deprived the students of the literacy skills necessary to participate in a democracy. Things in Providence are particularly dire, as a report released by the Johns Hopkins School of Education notes. The Governor, Gina Raimondo, and the education commissioner, Angelica Infante-Green, are taking the dramatic step of taking over Providence’s public schools for at least five years, beginning November 2019.

Around the Nation

A School District Wades Through a Deluge of Social-Emotional Curricula to Find One that Works
The Hechinger Report: Washington-Lee Elementary, which serves a high-poverty student body in southern Appalachia, has recently started making a greater effort to address the social and emotional needs of students. This effort to help students gain social skills, not just academic ones, is part of a nationwide movement based on evidence that children’s capacity to cope with emotions influences their ability to learn. And yet, the increased popularity of social-emotional learning has given rise to concern about ineffective, or even harmful, curricula entering schools. While nearly 90 percent of school district leaders say they are investing in social-emotional products, according to one survey, only a small share of the many programs in existence have been rigorously vetted. 

Educating Kids Means Tackling Issues Inside, Outside the Classroom, Forum Finds
The Detroit News: School administrators, teachers, students, and parents in the Detroit metro area recently met to address the effect of chronic absenteeism, childhood trauma, and other issues on K-12 schools and on their communities. Much of the talk, which was distilled in four panels, involved programs or efforts in districts and neighborhoods that have sparked changes or measurable improvement. Some of these efforts include the ‘Resilient Schools Project’, which created spaces in schools such as ‘calming corners’ and ‘brain gyms.’ Meeting participants also discussed successes in reducing chronic absenteeism. One solution that was cited for its success was adding attendance agents who check on students who are absent at least two days per month.

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Author: City Connects

City Connects is an innovative school-based system that revitalizes student support in schools. City Connects collaborates with teachers to identify the strengths and needs of every child. We then create a uniquely tailored set of intervention, prevention, and enrichment services located in the community designed to help each student learn and thrive.

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