The Weekly Connect 4/6/20

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Teaching social-emotional skills when students are not in school.

Vermont says it will cover tuition for preschools to help them stay economically viable.

In the face of COVID-19, school counselors try to keep students connected to mental health services.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

How to Teach Social-Emotional Learning When Students Aren’t in School
Education Week: Should social-emotional learning really be a focus for educators right now as they scramble to figure out how to teach their classes remotely? Marc Brackett, a professor at Yale University, says yes. Brackett says that simple things educators can do to teach social-emotional learning remotely include engaging students in psychological distancing, such as encouraging students to think about what they would do to support a friend who was concerned about coronavirus and turn that compassion towards themselves. Catherine Bradshaw, a developmental psychologist at the University of Virginia, emphasizes the importance of helping children understand how their actions (such as washing hands) can impact others in positive ways. See related article: District Administration “How to Propel Social-Emotional Learning in Online Education.”

Survey: Teachers Support School Closures, Worry About Students Falling Behind
Education Dive: In one of the first attempts to capture data on how teachers are adjusting to instruction in a virtual environment due to COVID-19, the Association of American Educators Foundation surveyed 700 teachers. Their findings indicate that 84% of teachers agree with states’ and districts’ decisions to close schools due to COVID-19, but more than half are concerned students will struggle to learn in a virtual environment and fall behind academically. Only a fifth felt their districts had sufficient plans in place for providing services to students with special needs, while 46% responded that their district’s plans for supporting special education students were insufficient.

Policy and Practice Diverge in Disparate Ways When it Comes to School Expulsion
Ed Week Inside School Research Blog: While expulsions among public schools have gradually declined in recent years, disciplinary disparities between students of color and white students persist, according to new data from the Institute of Education Sciences. During the 2017-18 school year, a much higher percentage of schools with high-minority enrollments expelled students compared to schools with low-minority enrollments. This is, of course, not the first data suggesting that minority students tend to be disproportionately disciplined in schools as opposed to their white counterparts. Federal civil rights data have found similar gaps in discipline and access to rigorous coursework among students of color and students with disabilities.

Policy

Fierce Debate as DeVos Weighs Schools’ Obligations to Students with Disabilities
Ed Week Politics K-12 Blog: A provision in the coronavirus stimulus bill gives U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos 30 days to tell Congress if she needs additional authority to waive parts of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which outlines an array of specific requirements for equitably educating children with disabilities. As schools around the country have closed to slow the spread of coronavirus, they’ve reported challenges in meeting those mandates while navigating the unprecedented and rocky transition to online learning. But advocates for students with disabilities say waiving some of those requirements may let schools off the hook for meeting the needs of students with disabilities, putting students at risk of falling behind their educational goals. See related articles: NPR “With Schools Closed, Kids with Disabilities are More Vulnerable than Ever” and American Psychological Association “Advice for Caregivers of Children with Disabilities in the Era of COVID-19.” 

To Save Child Care Sector During Crisis, Vermont Promises to Cover Tuition
VT Digger: Vermont has promised a massive bailout to the state’s child care providers to stabilize the sector amid the coronavirus pandemic. In a recent guidance, the Department of Children and Families assured child care facilities that the state will cover the lost tuition they would have received from families if they hadn’t shut their doors to slow the spread of COVID-19. Aly Richards, the CEO of child care advocacy group Let’s Grow Kids, said that the move “…will put us first in the country in supporting the early childhood education field to be able to literally reopen at the end of this. Otherwise it would have been a real question, for probably every single program in Vermont.” See related article: The Boston Globe “The Coronavirus Puts Child Care Sector in Need of a Bailout.”

Around the Nation

9 Out of 10 Children Are Out of School Worldwide. What Now?
NPR: Right now students are out of school in 185 countries. According to UNESCO, that’s roughly 9 out of 10 schoolchildren worldwide. The world has never seen a school shutdown on this scale. And not since Great Britain during World War II has such a long-term, widespread emptying of classrooms come to a rich country. To get perspective on what this might mean, experts in the field known as “education in emergencies” share what they know about longterm school interruptions. One observation: it takes several years for students to recover lost learning; continuity efforts won’t reach everyone, but they are still necessary; and children are at risk for toxic stress, but efforts to continue education can help. See related articles: Education Week “Lessons from a Homeschooling Researcher: What You Should Know” and Education Week “The Scramble to Move America’s Schools Online.” 

School Counselors Try to Keep Students Connected to Mental Health Services
WBUR: School counselors are typically able to see their students regularly throughout the school day so they have the consistent ability to check-in about difficulties as they arise. But with schools closed, that can’t happen. Sarah Briley, a school counselor in Massachusetts who leads a program called BRYT (pronounced “bright”), that helps kids transition back to school after a mental health related absence, is trying to reach out daily to her students through email or text and to reach each student through video chat at least once a week. To help counselors in the area navigate new virtual settings, the Brookline Center for Community Mental Health, which created BRYT, is coordinating video conference meetings and training sessions. See related articles: Education Week “As Schools Close to Coronavirus, Special Educators Turn to Tele-Therapy” and Chalkbeat “Teachers of Newcomer Students Try to Keep Them Connected as Schools Close, Routines Shift.” 

Access Issues for Students Go Beyond Online Context, Extended to Housing and Food
The Hechinger Report: Emergencies that disrupt the regular functioning of schools and colleges don’t occur in a power vacuum. They play out in education systems with deeply embedded patterns of inequality, determined by where students live, by family income, by race and by ethnicity, among other factors. As school districts across the country move classes to online formats, the general principle behind the decision is to offer continuity of instruction without exposing students to potential risks associated with the pandemic. However, historically disadvantaged students will have unequal access to the internet and to the hardware needed to participate in online learning. These students will also have unequal access to safe housing and food. See related articles: Education Week “Will Learning Gaps Deepen as Schools Stay Closed?” and Education Week “COVID-19 is Exposing the Gaps in Our Education System. Let’s Start Fixing Them. 

How a Preschool for At-Risk Children is Prioritizing Mental Health During COVID-19
EdSurge: While academics are certainly important, for many kids school is much more than a place for learning. School can be a reliable source of two meals a day, a refuge from an unstable home environment, or a way to access counseling and other mental health services. This is the case being made for the therapeutic interagency preschool (TIP) in Ohio, which is a specialized preschool program that provides wraparound services for children who have experienced severe trauma. Ashley Dobrozsi-Ferguson, the director of the TIP program, and Jenny Minnick, one of the mental health counselors on staff, spoke about how their staff continues to provide support for students and families amidst the COVID-19 crisis. See related article: Chalkbeat “Storytime Goes Virtual: What Remote Learning Looks Like in NYC’s Pre-K Classrooms.”

Public TV Stations Pitch in to Deliver Ed Content During Coronavirus Shutdown
Education Dive: Los Angeles Unified School District is partnering with PBS SoCal and KCET to provide educational content to students both on-air and online in an effort to give all students access to educational materials regardless of broadband access. Three local public media channels will broadcast educational programming for students in grades pre-K through 12. “We want to continue to provide the best possible education for our students, even in the event of a significant number of school closures for an extended period of time,” said Los Angeles Unified Superintendent Austin Beutner in a statement. “So we asked PBS to work with us with a simple goal: We know what good looks like, let’s find a way to share it with our students.”

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