The Weekly Connect 3/2/20

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:

A study finds that staying in school longer can reduce the risk of early death.

Schools and districts try to meet the needs of homeless students.

More school counselors should be trained to help students apply to college.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

Student Likeability Affects Academic Stress and Depression
Digital Journal: A new study finds that students who do well at school are more popular and also more emotionally secure than their peers. Conversely, students who are less liked (or who perceive that they are less liked) struggle academically. This is according to research conducted at the University of Missouri-Columbia, based on a focused survey of teachers and students. The researchers hope that such information can be used to find ways to help students address academic and social challenges, especially before such school-based pressures have a lasting negative impact. 

Hidden Segregation Within Schools is Tracked in New Study
Education Week: Eliminating racial segregation can be a little like playing whack-a-mole: Instead of going away, too often it just finds a new outlet. A massive new study conducted by researchers at Duke University and the University of North Carolina found that as racial segregation between schools in North Carolina went down, the racial isolation within the classrooms inside those schools went up. This class-level isolation can limit Black and Hispanic students’ access to challenging courses and hamstring district efforts to encourage the broader social and academic benefits of diversity. 

Personal Touch Beats Technology for Parent-School Communication, Survey Finds
Education Week: A new report from the Center for American Progress finds that personalization—not technology—is seen as the most important feature of good parent-school communication by key players in the public school community. Nine hundred parents who were broadly representative of the public school population, along with more than 400 teachers and more than 400 school leaders, were surveyed to see what kinds of communication they most used and preferred. All three groups said that they most frequently rely on and value highly interpersonal interactions like parent-teacher conferences.

Want to Live Longer? Stay in School, Study Shows
Education Dive: Continuing education beyond high school not only gives students a better shot at a well-paying job — it can also reduce the risk of early death, according to a new study in the American Journal of Public Health. The results come from a larger Yale Medical School study on heart risks that followed a cohort of 5,114 Black and White men and women for 29 years. The researchers found that each level of education attained was associated with 1.37 fewer “years of potential life lost.” The study also notes that educational disparities grew wider between 1990 and 2000 and persisted or worsened during the 2000s. One recommendation is to implement policies that address inequalities, such as high-quality early childhood education.

Teacher Merit Pay Linked to Higher Test Scores
Education Dive: Merit pay programs for teachers are associated with a significant increase in student test scores, according to a new review of 37 studies, including 26 conducted in the United States. But the effects of merit pay depend on how the program is designed. Programs combined with professional development produced the greatest results. Higher award amounts also produced stronger results, as did programs that provide merit pay to top-ranking teachers rather than to a group of teachers. Results in elementary schools were greater than at the middle school level. See related article: Education Dive “Most Texans Express Trust in Teachers, Doubts About Standardized Testing.”

Policy

Food Fight: How 2 Trump Proposals Could Bite Into School Lunch
NPR: Two pending rule changes meant to reduce what the Trump administration calls abuse of federal benefit programs could also mean that hundreds of thousands of children would lose access to free school meals. The first proposed change: The Trump administration wants to tighten states’ standards for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps. The USDA estimates that this would mean more than 3 million people would lose access to food stamps. The Trump administration’s other proposed change involves stiffening the nation’s public charge rule to require aspiring citizens to prove they won’t rely on public assistance, including SNAP. See related article: Reuters “School Lunch Overhaul Led to Healthier Meals for U.S. Kids.”

Special Needs Students Often Pay Price in Efforts to Strengthen School Safety
Education Dive: The Florida Mental Health Act of 1971, commonly known as the “Baker Act,” allows for minors with a suspected illness to be involuntarily admitted to a mental health facility and examined if a law enforcement officer or other official decides the student poses an immediate threat to themselves or others. Increasingly, schools in Florida are using the statute against special needs students —​ especially those with behavioral or developmental disabilities —​ without parental consent. This happens during incidents that parents, lawyers, and advocates believe could instead have been de-escalated through proper intervention. Involuntary examinations have been steadily increasing, and after a mass school shooting, the steadily increasing numbers have spiked more. See related article: The Philadelphia Inquirer “Philly Schools Overpaying Charter Millions of Dollars for Special-Education Students, District Says.”

New Mexico Sues Google Over Children’s Privacy Violations
The New York Times: New Mexico’s attorney general sued Google, saying the tech giant used its educational products to spy on the state’s children and families. The new lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico, claimed that Google violated the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. The law requires companies to obtain a parent’s consent before collecting the name, contact information and other personal details from a child under 13. The lawsuit also said Google deceived schools, parents, teachers, and students by telling them that there were no privacy concerns with its education products when, in fact, the company had amassed a trove of potentially sensitive details on students’ online activities and locations.

Around the Nation

Schools in Michigan Take Hard Look at Teaching ‘Soft Skills’
The Detroit News: Ferndale School District in Michigan is among the first districts in Michigan to have a pre-K-12 curriculum for social emotional learning, and the district has been recognized by the state and by national organizations for being a pioneer in the field. The district’s social-emotional curriculum is integrated into the school day and teaches children to understand and manage emotions, feel and show empathy toward others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. See related article: The Washington Post “Teachers Use Meditation to Inspire and Calm: ‘Imagine a Voice Coming From Your Heart.’” 

Meeting the Needs of Homeless Students. Lessons From One District.
Ed Week Rules for Engagement Blog: The number of homeless students has hit an all-time high, according to recently released federal data, and meeting the needs of this particularly vulnerable population present significant challenges to schools and districts. One school district in North Carolina—Lee County Schools—has made a special commitment to identifying and supporting its homeless students. Lee County Schools’ homeless liaison, Johnnye Waller, said that among the many initiatives she has spearheaded, a summer enrichment program for homeless students has been the most impactful. Her tips for school and district leaders include being empathetic and making decisions in children’s best interest. See related article: WAMU 88.5 “Getting to School is a Daily Challenge for Homeless Students Living in Motels. D.C. is Ending a Shuttle that Helps Them Get to School.”

Why Aren’t More School Counselors Trained in Helping Students Apply to College?
The Hechinger Report: For first-generation students, a counselor might be the only person who can help them with the complex college admissions process. Yet many counselors receive little or no training in college counseling. Though most counselors are required to hold a master’s degree, many graduate programs’ training focuses on helping students cope with social and emotional problems. That in part reflects how counselors’ jobs have changed during the last few decades. As more students show up to class hungry, tired, anxious, or depressed, schools have shifted their resources toward helping them cope with these basic needs. Counselors also contend with duties such as test administration and other administrative tasks.

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