The Weekly Connect 2/18/20

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:

Research finds that schools are not prepared to meet students’ demand for mental health services.

Colorado expands mental health first aid training for teachers.

Play makes a comeback in kindergarten.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

Schools Are the Main Source of Student Mental Health Care. Are They Ready?
Ed Week Rules for Engagement Blog: Regardless of their race, ethnicity, or family income, students are struggling with an increasing number of mental health issues, and research shows they are far more likely to seek treatment at school instead of at a community-based clinic. Schools, however, are not prepared to meet the demand, a new report finds, noting that schools are often under-resourced and underprepared to respond to students’ needs. 

In Many Districts, a Child’s Academic Trajectory is Set by 3rd Grade
Ed Week Inside School Research Blogs: Researchers used 14 years of school district data to track the academic progress and graduation rates of 2.5 million children based on how they performed on 3rd grade reading and math tests compared to other students in their state. The researchers found that after controlling for errors in state test measurements, students’ rankings on their state’s 3rd grade reading and math tests were 80 percent predictive of their 10th grade performance.

A Surge for Sexual Minority Youth
U.S. News & World Report: The percentage of young people who considered themselves to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or unsure of their sexual identity nearly doubled across a sampling of U.S. states within a decade, new research indicates, even as these youths still faced dangerous suicide-related disparities. The share of high school students in six states who did not identify as strictly heterosexual – answering as either gay or lesbian, bisexual, or unsure in youth surveys – rose from 7.3% to 14.3% between 2009 and 2017, according to a study in the journal Pediatrics. A similar but separate study analyzing data from Massachusetts showed that sexual minority youths were substantially more likely to think about, plan or attempt suicide than their heterosexual counterparts. See related article: Ed Week Inside School Research Blog “Children as Young as 9 and 10 Think About Killing Themselves. Adults Around Them Have No Clue,” Science News for Students “Study Links Racism with Signs of Depression in Black Teens,” and CNN Health “Keep Your Teen Moving to Reduce Risk of Depression, Study Says.” 

Many Children with ADHD Aren’t Taking Medication, Study Finds
Ed Week On Special Education Blog: When children with ADHD don’t take their medication, the symptoms—difficulty sustaining attention, impulsiveness, and sometimes physical restlessness and hyperactivity—re-emerge, particularly in younger children. New research, led by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Australia and published in Archives of Disease in Childhood, shows that children with ADHD were going without treatment 40 percent of the time—which could make it difficult for them to focus in class and work with their teachers and classmates. Researchers found medication use was relatively high in the first few months, then progressively decreased, only increasing again after five or six years of treatment. 

High-Poverty Schools’ Crowdfunding Requests Less Likely to be Fulfilled
Education Dive: Inequity persists even as more teachers turn to online fundraising to help meet their classroom’s basic needs. According to a new report from Grantmakers For Education that analyzed data from the classroom crowdfunding platform DonorsChoose, requests from low-poverty schools get funded at higher rates despite the fact that the majority of requests come from high-poverty schools. The report, based on 1.8 million teacher requests over the last decade, shows educators are turning to crowdfunding for academic materials. Teachers are also increasingly making requests in an area called “warmth, care & hunger,” which includes asking for things like clothes, hygiene products, and food that can be sent home. Requests in this category have grown by 187% over three years.

Policy

Colorado Bill to Expand Mental Health First Aid Training for Teachers Moves Forward
Chalkbeat Colorado: Facing alarming teen suicide rates, Colorado could put another $1 million a year into training teachers in what’s known as mental health first aid. Colorado’s Senate Education Committee unanimously supported two related bills, one authorizing spending on training for teachers and another that would allow students to take an excused absence for mental health needs like anxiety or depression. Just as regular first aid courses teach lay people how to staunch bleeding from a wound or perform CPR, mental health first aid training explains how to recognize warning signs and talk someone through a crisis. See related article: The Colorado Sun “Could Mental Health Support be the Key to Keeping More Colorado Preschool Teachers in the Field?

How Will St. Paul’s Families First Housing Pilot Help?
Kare11: Mayor Melvin Carter of St. Paul, Minn., recently announced the roll-out of the Families First Housing Pilot program. Under the pilot, families with students enrolled in seven schools can qualify for subsidized rent. Mayor Carter says that the program should help families before they reach a tipping point and end up in crisis. The district is using the expertise of teachers to identify students and families who might need help. See related article: Education Week “Number of Homeless Students Hits All-Time High.”

Around the Nation

How Some California School Districts Invest in Counseling – and Achieve Results
EdSource: San Francisco Unified is among dozens of districts across California that has invested in counseling in recent years, hiring more staff to guide students through the college and career process and help with their mental health needs. For many districts, the investment has paid off with higher graduation rates, a drop in absenteeism, and more students submitting financial aid forms and completing the courses required for admission to the University of California and to California State University. However, even though California schools have added more than 2,200 new counselors over the past eight years, the state’s average student-to-counselor ratio of 609-to-1 is still well above the 250-to-1 ratio recommended by the American School Counselor Association.

How Play is Making a Comeback in Kindergarten
Education Dive: Originally intended to ease overcrowding in local schools, the Pathfinder Kindergarten Center, located just north of Seattle, Wash., is a haven for its 545 kindergarteners. The $26-million school opened in 2017 with a central goal: to make kindergarten here more playful and joyful. At Pathfinder and other kindergarten classrooms in the district, playtime is officially called “Play to Learn,” a nod to the fact that the two concepts are intertwined. The block of time devoted to play is bookended by a planning time, when children choose an activity or area of the classroom to spend their time in. There is also a reflection time when children share what they did or what they made.

Two Boys With the Same Disability Tried to Get Help. The Rich Student Got it Quickly. The Poor Student Did Not.
USA Today: Two boys with learning disabilities grew up just blocks apart in New York City. Public schools couldn’t teach them. So their parents battled to place them in private schools, on the taxpayers’ dime. Even though it’s technically free, private placement is less accessible to low-income families because securing one often requires lawyers, expensive outside evaluations or other out-of-pocket costs, said Jennifer Valverde, a law professor at Rutgers University who specializes in special education. In addition to the difficulties poorer families have in securing a private placement, they are also presented with few high-quality options once they do, compared to wealthier families.

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