The Weekly Connect 3/23/20

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:

As many of the articles listed below explain, the coronavirus is having a devastating impact on education, threatening students’ access to school meals, their ability to learn, and their connection to their school communities.

Massachusetts requires Boston Public Schools to make significant improvements.

Preteen years are critical for brain development.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

Maintaining Ties When School Closes is Critical to Preventing Dropouts
Ed Week Inside School Research Blog: Chronic absenteeism is such a red flag for students at risk of dropping out that it has gained traction as a district accountability measure. But now, with tens of thousands of schools closed nationwide to stem the spread of the coronavirus, experts say educators must act to keep students’ ties to school from unraveling. We know little about how previous epidemic-related closures affected students’ long term school trajectories but significant research finds individual absenteeism increases the likelihood students will eventually disengage and drop out of school, and school wide closures for other reasons—such as natural disasters and weather events—have also been found to lower academic progress and graduation rates. See related article: Education Dive “Present and Accounted For? Closures Create Attendance Challenges.

Why the Preteen Years Are a Critical Period for Brain Development
The Hechinger Report: We think of the teen years as a worrisome period when some kids can spiral downward. But Ron Dahl, who directs the Institute for Human Development at the University of California, Berkeley, argues that adolescence is actually a second opportunity to invest in children because of the enormous brain development during this period. “It’s a perfect storm of change,” said Dahl, speaking at a recent seminar of the Education Writers Association on adolescent learning and well-being in Berkeley. Given the right support, he said, teens can develop intrinsic motivation and passions.

‘Probably the Best News for Federal Accountability Policy, Ever’: New Study Shows No Child Left Behind’s Tough Oversight Led to Big Boost in High School Graduation Rates
The 74 Million: Some 85% of American students completed high school with a diploma in 2017, up from just 79% in 2011. But a chorus of doubters has emerged, warning that schools and districts may have lowered their standards in order to award diplomas to students unprepared for college or employment. A new study from the Brookings Institution finds that the soaring graduation rates are indeed the result of federal accountability mandates, but they can’t be explained away by fraud or slackened expectations. Common manipulations to artificially boost high school completion don’t fully explain the positive trend around the country; instead, the watchful eye of bureaucrats seems to have catalyzed real growth in student knowledge and skills.

Policy

Trump Signs Coronavirus Bill With Provisions on Paid Leave, Student Meals
Ed Week Politics K-12 Blog: President Donald Trump has signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, emergency coronavirus legislation that eases rules for meals schools provide to students and also provides certain leave benefits related to schools. The student-meal section of the bill includes the Maintaining Essential Access to Lunch for Students (MEALS) Act, the COVID-19 Child Nutrition Response Act, and the Pandemic EBT, all of which increase students’ access to meals while schools are out of session. The legislation also provides certain job protections related to school closures and government employees, including teachers. See related articles: Education Week “Map: Coronavirus and School Closures” and The New York Times “As Schools Look for Guidance, Educators are Left Asking, ‘What?’

 DeVos Issues Coronavirus Guidance to Schools on Testing, Privacy, Students with Disabilities
Ed Week Politics K-12 Blog: U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos issued guidance for schools on issues related to the new coronavirus, addressing concerns about student data privacy, testing schedules, students with disabilities, and accountability under the Every Student Succeeds Act. The department does not generally grant waivers from state testing requirements, the guidance says, but it may consider them for areas heavily affected by COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus. The guidance also includes information on how schools can honor obligations to student privacy while communicating with the public about COVID-19 and also reminds schools that they must ensure access to distance learning and online programs to students with disabilities if they are being offered to the general student population. See related article: Education Dive “CDC Releases Updated Guidance for K-12 Schools as Coronavirus Spreads” and The 74 Million “‘Absolutely I’m Worried’: For Children With Special Needs, Unprecedented Coronavirus School Closures Bring Confusion, Uncertainty.” 

Boston Schools Escape Takeover but Must Show Improvement to State as District Enters Partnership
The 74 Million: Following the release of a harsh review alleging system-wide failures, education authorities in Massachusetts revealed recently that they would enter into a new governance partnership with Boston Public Schools, the state’s largest school district. While stopping short of an outright takeover, the move will require Boston schools to drastically improve. The announcement will have profound consequences for the district’s 54,000 students. It also comes at a time of fast-moving reform in Massachusetts: last fall, lawmakers enacted a massive and long-awaited school funding overhaul.

Around the Nation

A Day Without School: What Life Looks Like Across America When Children Stay Home
Chalkbeat: In the past weeks, officials nationwide made the agonizing decision to close schools in response to the worsening coronavirus. Some governors made sweeping statewide decrees. Elsewhere, decisions rested with mayors, superintendents, and charter leaders. Several concerns were obvious and immediate — how to educate millions of children, how to feed those who rely on schools for meals, and how to provide child care for those parents who can’t work remotely. But the absence of schools means something more to parents, students, educators, and countless others. It has upended the very rhythms of their daily lives in ways that we are only now starting to understand. Interviews with educators across the country reveal that many are uneasy and frightened, while some have found reasons for hope. See related article: Ed Week Full Frame Blog “Out for Weeks: Schools and Students Amid Coronavirus. 

Teaching Kids at Home During Coronavirus: Pro Tips From Homeschoolers
Ed Week Rules for Engagement Blog: With an unprecedented number of schools being closed for several weeks or longer, tens of millions of the nation’s K-12 students are out of school and parents are being asked to step in to support their learning. Even President Trump is urging families, when possible, to school from home. That’s a huge challenge. But parents who are already home schoolers are helping out by sharing their recommendations. See related article: Ed Week Politics K-12 “Trump Urges ‘Schooling From Home’ to Combat Coronavirus.” 

On First Day of Food Distribution Amid Coronavirus Closures, Chicago Schools Served 28,000
Chalkbeat: Despite a steady drizzle of late-morning rain, the families still appeared at Federico Garcia Lorca Elementary in Chicago’s Avondale neighborhood to pick up bags containing meals. The bags were stuffed with cereal, sandwiches, granola bars — and families got three days’ worth. The day before had brought chicken patties that families could heat up later and sunbutter and jelly sandwiches. That day — the first of Illinois’ mandated schools closure, currently scheduled to extend through March 30 — the demand was so high that, when supply started to dwindle, Lorca’s principal went into the cafeteria, put on gloves, and began assembling sandwiches. See related article: Chalkbeat “How the Detroit District Mobilized to Provide Meals to 26,000 Families During Shutdown.”

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