The Weekly Connect 11/11/19

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

Student engagement and hope linked to better academic outcomes.

California sheds the “at-risk” student label and speaks instead about “at-promise” students.

A public library program helps informal caregivers engage young children.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

Focus on Student Engagement for Better Academic Outcomes
Gallup: One recent Gallup study of 128 schools and more than 110,000 students found that student engagement and hope were significantly positively related to student academic achievement progress (growth) in math, reading, and all subjects combined. Student engagement and hope were also positively related to students’ postsecondary readiness in math and writing. Focusing specifically on student engagement, the study found that schools in the top quartile of student engagement had significantly more students exceeding and meeting proficiency requirements than schools in the bottom quartile of engagement. When compounded with findings from another Gallup study that found links connecting student engagement and hope to student discipline and behaviors, Gallup’s research suggest that the nation’s education system could benefit from continuing to measure and promote hope and engagement.

Kids of Color Often Shut Out of High-Quality State Preschool, Research Says
Ed Week Politics K-12: A study of 26 states and their preschool programs finds that as of roughly two years ago, a mere 1% of Latino children and 4% of Black children in those states were enrolled in “high-quality,” state-backed, early-learning opportunities. That’s one important conclusion in a new report from the Education Trust, an education civil rights advocacy group. The recently released reported, also says that “no state with a substantial percentage of Black or Latino children provides high access to a high-quality program for both 3- and 4-year-olds.” In 11 of the 26 states, Latinos accounted for a smaller share of enrollment in state-funded programs than their share of the state population as a whole. The same was true in three of those 26 states for Black children. See related article: Chalkbeat “Hit Hardest by Texas’ Illegal Special Education Cap: Low-Income Students of Color, Study Shows” and Brookings “What Happens After Preschool Matters for Sustaining the Preschool Boost.” 

Did Indianapolis Students do Better After Struggling Schools were Restarted? A New Study Takes a Look.
Chalkbeat: When Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) “restarted” chronically struggling schools, students who stayed under the new management sometimes initially made smaller gains on tests compared to their classmates who left, a new study finds. Over time, however, students at the restarted schools closed some of the gaps. The study honed in on four elementary schools where IPS contracts with outside or charter operators as a turnaround strategy. Results were so mixed and the data set so limited that the study couldn’t draw clear conclusions about whether the IPS innovation schools “deliver on their promise.” See related article: The Hechinger Report “How Cleveland Revamped its Preschool Programs in Just Five Years.”

Integrating SEL in PE Nets Gains for Schools
Education Dive: Educators who adopted a standards-based physical education and health program that integrates social-emotional learning into lesson plans are seeing positive results after a pilot implementation in 20 schools, according to a press release from the Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE). According to the release, the free “health.moves.minds.” program was created to address the growing number of students around the country with anxiety, depression and other mental health concerns. The program will now be available nationwide and includes standards-based lessons for grades K-2, 3-5 and 6-8, with accompanying activity materials and assessment resources, as well as opportunities for school-wide engagement, parent involvement, and community service.

Policy

Is this the End of End-of-Year Testing?
Education Dive: Many students — and parents — have gotten used to the flurry of activity and incentives that take place around spring standardized testing. But even if all students take the test, educators have long complained that end-of-year, “summative” assessments are not useful because the results are not available until fall when their students have moved on to the next grade. Several districts across multiple states will begin using an assessment program intended to phase out reliance on that end-of-year test. The “through-year” assessment is a new test from nonprofit NWEA. The test is a computer-based assessment that adapts to students’ responses. The new system will collect achievement data throughout the year reflecting students’ growth as well as their proficiency levels. 

No More ‘At-Risk’ Students in California
Inside Higher Ed: A decades-long effort to change how educators talk about students facing economic or social challenges has been backed by California lawmakers. A bill to remove references to “at-risk youth” and replace the term with “at-promise youth” in California’s Education Code and Penal Code was recently approved by California governor Gavin Newsom. The California Education Code is a collection of laws that primarily apply to public K-12 schools. The bill does not change the definition of “at risk,” it merely replaces it with “at promise.” Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer Sr., the bill’s lead author, says, “This is a perception issue. By using this term [at risk], we are creating expectations of failure for our most vulnerable students.”

Around the Nation

Arts, SEL Collaboration Boosts School Climate, Assessment Options
Education Dive: School leaders are increasing efforts to integrate social-emotional learning into the instructional day to improve learning and positive outcomes for students. Meanwhile, arts educators and advocates are pushing to give students more opportunities for participation in the arts, both during and after school hours. The two interests came together last week for a conversation about how the arts can help schools accomplish SEL goals and serve as a way to measure improvements in school climate at an event sponsored by Turnaround Arts, a project of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Speakers such as Linda Darling-Hammond discussed the benefits of arts education. She also explained the creative opportunities beyond test scores — such as performance and portfolio assessments — that can be used to assess students.

Inside the L.A. Nonprofit Whose ‘Cradle to Career’ Programs Helped the City’s Neediest Students Before its Abrupt Closure
The 74 Million: Youth Policy Institute (YPI), a long-standing anti-poverty program in Los Angeles, was recently shut down following a “devastating audit.” The swift demise of the high-profile nonprofit stunned many and left officials and advocates scrambling to find other entities that could pick up YPI’s work, including running afterschool programs at some 90 L.A. schools. YPI provided what it called “cradle to career” services in an attempt to reduce long-standing poverty in some of L.A.’s most challenged neighborhoods. Much of YPI’s efforts revolved around in-class tutoring and afterschool workshops for students and parents that went beyond homework help and student well-being to cover life skills such as balancing a budget.

Stay and Play— and Learn— at the Library
New America: Each day in the United States, millions of grandparents, nannies, and neighbors take care of young children while their parents go to work. And each day, with little or no formal training (not to mention little or no extra money), these caregivers have to figure out how to make the most of their time with these young charges. Stay and Play, a pilot program in California, aims to help by tapping into the potential of public libraries—not only as places for engaging kids, but as essential resources for caregivers seeking new ways to foster early learning. At first blush, the program’s weekly classes might look like a regular “storytime”—a decades-long staple of local libraries. But Stay and Play provides guidance to informal caregivers beyond simply reading books aloud.

Mississippi Made the Biggest Leap in National Test Scores this Year. Is this Controversial Law the Reason Why?
The Hechinger Report: Mississippi’s fourth graders scored at the nation’s average on the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress reading exam — a first in the state’s history, according to the latest results. State officials say the gains are evidence that the state’s controversial Literacy Based Promotion Act is helping. Because of this law, Mississippi is one of 16 states requiring students to show a certain level of reading ability in order to pass third grade, even though some research suggests that holding students back can hurt rather than help them. More than 3,300 Mississippi students, or about 10 percent of last year’s third graders, had to repeat third grade this year, which is more than double the number of third graders retained the year before, according to the state Department of Education.

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