The Weekly Connect 1/21/20

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:

Middle school coaches can help curb dating violence.

San Francisco parents declare state of emergency over failure to educate black children.

Memphis shifts to universal screening for its gifted program — instead of relying on teacher recommendations — and finds that more students qualify.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

The Game that Can Spot Preschoolers at Risk for Reading Deficits
The Hechinger Report: What if a short digital game for young children could help lower the high school dropout rate? That’s a long-range goal of a new effort being made by a team from Boston Children’s Hospital in collaboration with Florida State University. The team has developed a 15 to 20-minute game that tests children’s early literacy skills and generates a red flag for those who need extra support. Called the Boston Children’s Hospital Early Literacy Screener, the new game is administered on a touchscreen tablet. Kids as young as 4-years-old do tasks geared at assessing their literacy skills with the help of on-screen cartoon animals. See related article: Education Dive “Pre-to-3: Head Start Forges New Partnership to Support Children’s Transition into Kindergarten.” 

Study: Preschool Expansion Leads to Gains for Massachusetts Children
Education Dive: A federally funded preschool partnership between five Massachusetts school districts and community-based early-childhood programs led to positive impacts on young children’s early academic performance, especially literacy and math skills, according to a recently released study. Gains were strongest among children whose home language was not English and who didn’t have any prior early-learning classroom experience, according to the researchers with Abt Associates, who compared a sample of children who entered the Preschool Expansion Grant program in 2016-17 with a group that just missed the age cutoff date for that year. Effects on vocabulary were smaller, but still significant, while effects on executive function were not significant. See related article: Chalkbeat “A Federal Grant will Allow Michigan to Improve Access to Early Childhood Programs for Families.” 

Not Many Afterschool Programs Teach Social-Emotional Learning. Wings for Kids Does, and New Gold Standard Study Finds It’s Working for Low-Income Students
The 74 Million: Wings for Kids is a nonprofit that teaches students social-emotional skills like self-awareness and communication through afterschool games and lessons. A recent randomized controlled trial study — considered the gold standard in research — found that after two years, kindergartners and first-graders who participated in Wings improved in skills like self-awareness, self-regulation, and decision-making. The students also boosted their reading and vocabulary skills more so than their peers who hadn’t been in the Wings program. Researchers did not find any effects in math.

Coaches Can Help Curb Middle School Dating Violence
Reuters: Coaches who teach young male athletes about respectful relationship behaviors may be able to help prevent dating violence and aggressive behavior toward female peers, a recently published study in JAMA Pediatrics suggests. Researchers tested the effectiveness of Coaching Boys Into Men, a program that seeks to prevent dating violence and sexual assault by enlisting coaches to speak frankly with middle-school male athletes about how they should – and should not – treat the opposite sex. After one year of follow-up, athletes at schools that implemented the program were more than twice as likely to report positive bystander behaviors compared to athletes at schools that didn’t implement the program.

A Quarter of Kids with Autism May Go Undiagnosed, Study Finds
Education Week: A new Rutgers study has found that one-fourth of children with autism spectrum disorder may go undiagnosed. The study was conducted by reviewing medical and education records of children in 11 states that are part of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network. Studies are performed within the network to estimate autism prevalence rates. The researchers analyzed records of 266,000 8-year-old children and found 4,550 who met the diagnostic criteria for autism. Of those children, 1,135 had not been diagnosed with the disorder. Black and Hispanic children were more likely to be in the undiagnosed group.

Policy

How States Allocate Funding for Students from Low-Income Backgrounds
Ed Note: Across the country, states differ in how they allocate K-12 funding to districts. To understand these differences, the Education Commission of the States’ recently released a 50-State Comparison on K-12 Funding that looks at the funding systems for specific student and/or school characteristics. In addition to identifying which states include mechanisms for base funding and special populations funding, this analysis also explains how these mechanisms work; looking, for example, at how states identify at-risk students and make allocations to support them. 

San Francisco Bay Area Parents Declare State of Emergency Over District’s Failure to Educate Black Children
EdSource: Fed up with a growing achievement gap between African American students and all others in a San Francisco Bay Area school district, a group of parents is declaring an “educational state of emergency” and demanding improvement. The parents, who are members of the district’s African American Site Advisory Team, presented their demands at a meeting of the district’s school board. The board unanimously approved the resolution presented by the group and agreed to implement all of its recommendations next year. This is expected to cost up to $7 million, an amount that will be funded by shifting money the district is currently spending on student programs to services that will better serve African-American students. However, the district has not yet identified what it would cut to free up the money for the new services. And the district already has to close a deficit of up to $48 million for next year.

Around the Nation

No More ‘Secret Handshake’: Universal Screening Qualifies 600 More Memphis Students for Gifted Education. More to Come.
Chalkbeat: In 2019, just one student between kindergarten and second grade, a White boy, was identified as gifted at Treadwell Elementary School in Memphis, where half of the students are Black, more than a third are Hispanic, and just 4% are White. Now, eight other students have joined him after Shelby County Schools switched to universal screening instead of relying on teacher recommendations to identify advanced students. Across the district’s schools, 600 more Memphis students from kindergarten-through-second-grade classes are joining the district’s gifted education program, and another 600 older students are waiting for additional state testing to see if they qualify for the gifted program.

Houston District Taps Collaborative Technology to Expand Student Learning
Education Dive: To build an immersive learning experience using technology, the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District in Houston tapped into a $1.2 million bond so it could provide for its more than 115,000 students, according to an eSchoolNews article by Becky Cook, the district’s director of instructional technology. The district spent weeks ensuring it had options that supported students and teachers. Among the purchases the district made were interactive displays and software programs that support the displays. Now, multiple students can use the technology to collaborate in real time.

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