The Weekly Connect 3/9/20

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:

Sleep helps teens deal with stress — and discrimination.

The country needs more high-quality, early childhood data.

The number of homeless youth in Massachusetts soars.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

Boosting Soft Skills is Better than Raising Test Scores
The Hechinger Report: In a large study of more than 150,000 students in all 133 of Chicago’s public high schools, an economist from Northwestern University calculated that schools that build social-emotional qualities, such as the ability to resolve conflicts and the motivation to work hard, are getting better short-term and long-term results for students than schools that only boost test scores. The schools that develop soft skills produced students with higher grades, fewer absences, and fewer disciplinary problems and arrests in high school. Later, the students who attended these high schools graduated and went to college at higher rates.

Sleep Helps Teens Cope with Stress; Instances of Discrimination, Study Finds
Ed Week Rules for Engagement Blog: Teens who have a decent night’s sleep are better equipped to deal with stress the next day, including seeking out support from friends and engaging in active problem solving rather than brooding. The findings, based on tracking the activity and sleep patterns of around 250 high school freshmen in New York City, is yet more evidence of the importance of adequate sleep to overall well-being. And this study also offers insight into the impact of racial and ethnic discrimination on teens: all the students involved were Asian, black, or Latino, and they were asked to track instances when they felt they were subject to discrimination and their well-being in the aftermath of those events.

Report: Safety Tip Lines Flag Bullying, Drug Use, Suicide Risk
Education Dive: More schools are using safety tips lines, but not just for gun violence prevention — the technology is addressing bullying, drug use, and suicide risk among students as well as prevention of violent incidents, and incidents of self-harm, according to a nationally representative survey of 1,226 principals. Those are among the findings of a nationwide study looking at how schools are using tip lines as a safety measure. The study, which was conducted by RTI International, a nonprofit research institution, found that just over half (51%) of public middle and high schools were operating a tip line at the end of the last school year.

Black Students in N.C. Are More Likely to Be Punished, Civil Rights Group Finds
Education Week: Racial bias in North Carolina’s public schools is leading to Black students being punished too much and falling behind academically, according to data released recently by a civil rights group, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. The coalition released “racial equity report cards” for the state and for individual school districts showing that Black students are as much as 7.4 times more likely to be suspended than their White classmates. Across the state, the report found that Black students are also more likely to be referred to the court system than their White classmates. See related article: Chalkbeat “Racially Integrated High Schools Often Conceal Segregated Classes, New Study Shows” and Education Week “Data Reveal Deep Inequities in Schools.” 

Household Food Insecurity and Early Childhood Development: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
Wiley Maternal and Child Nutrition: A recent systematic review and meta-analysis investigated the association between household food insecurity and early childhood development domains and subdomains in children under 5 years old. Researchers found that household food insecurity was associated with developmental risk and poor cognitive outcomes, including vocabulary and math skills, among children under 5 years old. These findings support the need to consider food insecurity as a key component of integrated early childhood development strategies.

Policy

The Value of Systemwide, High-Quality Data in Early Childhood Education
Brookings: Over the past two decades, public investment in early childhood education (ECE) has grown substantially. The scope of these efforts lends urgency to the question of whether the quality of ECE opportunities has actually improved over time. The data needed to answer this question at the federal, state, or local level, for the most part, do not exist. This absence of systemwide data makes it difficult to target resources wisely and nearly impossible to assess whether large public investments in quality improvements are paying off. Quality rating and improvement systems (QRIS)—accountability systems that measure ECE quality and provide supports for improvement—have recently emerged as a potential solution. Forty-four states now operate QRIS, and these systems could provide a way to track quality over time and across sectors. Unfortunately, most QRIS have not yet served this role. One reason is that participation in QRIS is often voluntary for programs, and therefore low. 

DeVos’ Proposed Civil Rights Data Collection Changes a ‘Double Whammy’ for Students of Color, Lawmakers Say
Education Dive: In a House Committee on Appropriations hearing on Thursday, representatives grilled U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos on her proposed changes to the Education Department’s Civil Rights Data Collection. One proposed change is eliminating racial and ethnic differentiation in data on preschool suspensions. Lawmakers expressed concerns that dropping racial and ethnic distinctions in discipline data among preschoolers could lead to more disciplinary actions that disproportionately affect black and brown students. “A report [that includes racial data] does not solve a child’s problem,” DeVos rebutted, adding “the bigger issue” instead of addressing racial bias is allowing children to “pursue an education that would unlock their greatest potential.” 

Task Force Recommends Ways to Reduce Hate Crimes in Massachusetts Schools
CBS Boston: A task force charged with reducing hate crimes in Massachusetts has released a set of recommendations aimed at helping schools address the problem. The recently released recommendations call for educational programs that promote awareness, understanding, and acceptance of all people — including inviting people from a variety of backgrounds to visit classrooms to share their cultures and religions. The recommendations also suggest talking with parents about the importance of recognizing and reporting hate crimes or other incidents based on bias. Another recommendation is to strengthen the relationships between schools and local police departments. See related article: Education Dive “DC Area School Districts Revamp Policies to Address Bias, Hatred.”

Around the Nation

Number of Homeless, Unaccompanied Youth in Mass. Soars, Even as Many Go Uncounted
WGBH News: About 1,400 Massachusetts students were identified as both homeless and unaccompanied by a parent or guardian last academic year, nearly double the number counted by school officials a decade ago. Released by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the numbers are growing partly because of improved awareness and identification by schools, homeless advocates say, however the data still undercounts the number of homeless children. Some young people don’t want to be identified as homeless because they are embarrassed, scared, don’t want to get their parents in trouble or don’t want to be put into the social services system, according to interviews with homeless youth and the people who help them.

Helping Preschoolers Work Through Trauma, One Breath at a Time
LAist: The Los Angeles Unified School District knows many of its students will experience trauma before they graduate. So this year, for the first time LAUSD is preparing teachers to work with students who may have experienced trauma at home. It’s offering a six-week training called SEEDS, from UCLA’s Nathanson Family Resilience Center, at five early education centers. The district has 15 psychiatric social workers stationed at early education centers who are available to consult with teachers. The district is working with the UCLA Prevention Center of Excellence to evaluate whether these efforts make a difference in achieving goals like increasing school attendance and kindergarten readiness.

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