The Weekly Connect 4/13/20

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Here are some of the things we’ve been reading about this week:

In the face of coronavirus, teachers feel anxious and overwhelmed.

Coronavirus aid might not prevent school funding cuts.

Some school districts are feeding more people than food banks.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

Academically Speaking, the ‘COVID Slide’ Could be a Lot Worse Than You Think
Inside School Research: New research suggests the so-called “COVID slide” is going to be significantly worse than the typical “summer slide.” In a new study, researchers used student achievement and growth data from more than 5 million students in grades 3-8 to project growth trajectories under two scenarios: a “melt,” in which students basically gained no ground during the school closures; and a “slide,” in which students lost ground academically during the closures at rates similar to those seen over summer break. According to projections, if students return in the fall without continuity of instruction during the closures, they could lose 30 percent of their reading progress and anywhere from half to all of their math progress, compared to a normal year. See related articles: Ed Week Politics K-12 Blog “Survey Finds Many Parents Shrug Off Coronavirus’ Impact on Learning” and Chalkbeat “‘We Have Kiddos Regressing’: What Shuttered Schools Mean for Students with Disabilities in Michigan. 

Who’s Doing Remote Learning? Depends on Who You Ask– and How Wealthy They Are
EdSurge: How remote instruction has been implemented so far—and the extent to which distance learning is in effect—depends on who you ask, or their socioeconomic status. According to an ongoing weekly Gallup poll, 83% of parents of K-12 students say their child is currently partaking in an online distance learning program offered by their schools. But ask the teenagers themselves, and the picture looks a little different. A separate poll of 849 13- to 17-year-olds, conducted by Common Sense Media and SurveyMonkey, found that just 58% say they had attended an online or virtual class since schools closed. Both surveys found that children living in wealthier households were more likely to be accessing online learning. See related articles: N.P.R. “4 in 10 U.S. Teens Say They Haven’t Done Online Learning Since Schools Closed” and The 74 Million “National Database Shows States & Schools Are Stepping Up Online Learning — But Still Have a Long Way to Go. 

Teachers are Anxious and Overwhelmed. They Need SEL Now More Than Ever.
EdSurge: The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and the Collaborative for Social Emotional and Academic Learning launched a survey to unpack the emotional lives of teachers during the COVID-19 crisis. Based on the responses of over 5,000 U.S. teachers, researchers found that the five most frequent feelings they had each day y were: anxiety, fear, worry, being overwhelmed, and sadness. Anxiety, by far, was mentioned the most frequently. Educators described a general fear that they or someone in their family would contract COVID-19. They also said they felt stress around managing their own and their families’ needs while simultaneously working full-time from home and adapting to new technologies for teaching. 

How to Handle IEPs During the Coronavirus Crisis? Some Expert Advice
Ed Week On Special Education Blog: As online education largely becomes the only option for most students, the biggest challenge many teachers have reported facing has been determining how to handle students’ Individualized Education Programs, the plans designed to meet the needs of children with learning and physical disabilities. In an interview with three experts — a special education attorney, an attorney who represents school districts in special education disputes, and a professor who studied special education law — three common themes emerged: schools should provide services to students as soon as possible; schools should worry more about making progress than following the letter of the law; and schools should understand that much of federal law wasn’t written with online education in mind.

Policy

It’s Official: All States Have Been Excused From Statewide Testing This Year
Ed Week Politics K-12: In one three-week period, a pandemic has completely changed the national landscape on assessment. Every single state has won permission to skip the statewide standardized tests that are required by federal law, something that hasn’t happened since 1994, when the federal government first required states to test students’ achievement. The U.S. Department of Education has granted waivers to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Bureau of Indian Education. This means states can ignore the requirement in the federal Every Student Succeeds Act to test all of their students when they are in grades 3-8 and once in high school.

Would IDEA Waivers Benefit Districts During School Closures?
Education Dive: A provision under the recently passed CARES Act requires the U.S. Department of Education to report to Congress by late April about the recommendations for waivers needed under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act so that states can flexibly meet the needs of students with disabilities during coronavirus-related closures. Under current law, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos would need Congress’ approval for potential waivers. However, special needs and disability advocacy organizations are worried waivers could compromise the civil rights students with disabilities have under IDEA, including supports, services, instruction and protections. See related article: The New York Times “DeVos Weighs Waivers for Special Education. Parents Are Worried. 

EdBuild, New York Times COVID-19 Case Database Details Rates by District, with Socioeconomic and Race Data
Education Dive: EdBuild joined with The New York Times to develop a database that overlaps COVID-19 incident rates with school district boundaries to identify school districts heavily impacted by the virus, including the percent of students qualifying for free and reduced lunches and median incomes for districts. The data includes the most recent COVID-19 incident rates per county and is updated twice a week. It also contains information on state and local funding levels, child poverty and race data, and median household income. This data has the potential to help decision makers see which districts may need extra funds to respond to the pandemic. 

Coronavirus Aid Might Not Prevent Cuts to School Funding, Analysis Shows
Education Week: Even with $13.5 billion in coronavirus relief aid provided to schools by Congress, an across-the-board 8 percent cut to states’ school funding would lead to a decline in per-pupil spending in all 50 states, a new analysis shows. In addition, the analysis by Michael Griffith, a veteran school finance consultant, finds that the K-12 relief package signed by President Donald Trump as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act amounts to less than 2 percent of all spending on public schools. 

NYC Community Leaders Want a Taskforce to Address Disparities Widened by Coronavirus School Closures
Chalkbeat: A wide coalition of elected officials, community organizations, and parent leaders are asking for a seat at the table to guide decision-making while schools are closed due to the spread of the coronavirus — and whenever they finally reopen. More than 50 people and organizations signed onto a letter to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, calling for a new COVID-19 task force to address disparities that have been ripped even wider due to the global pandemic. Among the asks: free Wi-Fi in public housing and homeless shelters, shifting temporarily to a pass-or-fail grading policy, withdrawing pending suspension decisions, and mental health resources.

Schools Ditch Zoom Amid Concerns Over Online Learning Security
N.P.R.: School leaders in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Las Vegas have announced they’re discontinuing their use of the Zoom videoconferencing service for distance learning because of security, privacy, harassment, and other concerns. And individual schools in Los Angeles and elsewhere are also switching to alternatives, like Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts and WebEx. As NPR recently reported, the FBI issued a warning about incidents of school Zoom meetings being disrupted. Some intrusions may have originated with students pranking their classmates, but Gizmodo reported there have also been organized “Zoombombing” campaigns online.

Around the Nation

As Educators Figure Out Distance Learning, Now is the Time to Plan for Students’ Return to School. Some Things to Consider
The 74 Million: School leaders have been working almost non-stop to wrap their arms around the current reality. As a result, most have not had the opportunity to think about what happens when students return to school, whether that is in a month or in the fall. One big lesson we are learning from the coronavirus is that it is vital to be over-prepared for an uncertain future so that when unforeseen crises arise, we are best positioned to respond swiftly, calmly, and from a place of strength. With that in mind, we believe school leaders would be well served by dedicating some small amount of planning time each week to thinking about what happens next within four overarching categories: social emotional wellbeing of students, academics, staff culture and wellbeing, and finance and operations. See related article: The Guardian “When the COVID-19 Crisis Finally Ends, Schools Must Never Return to Normal.” 

Video Chats, Phone Calls, Postcards: Teachers Rebuild Connections With Students During Coronavirus Pandemic
Education Week: Teachers and students miss seeing each other every day. The rituals of school—from mundane daily routines to milestone celebrations like prom and graduation—have suddenly been struck from the calendar. Teachers worry about the challenges and inequities that their students will face when the supports that schools provide are that much harder to access. In this new environment, schools and districts have tried to create some unique shared experiences, teachers driving their cars parade-style through students’ neighborhoods, creating “we miss you” montage videos, and organizing virtual spirit weeks. See related article: Education Week “Yes, You Can Do Trauma-Informed Teaching Remotely (and You Really, Really Should). 

Planning Ahead to Catch Up Students When School Reopens After Coronavirus
The Hechinger Report: In Mississippi and across the nation, schools closed because of coronavirus are struggling to find ways to educate children remotely. But even as Mississippi’s education leaders adapt to new platforms, experts say, they must begin to plan ahead. Once campuses fully reopen, schools will need clear strategies to catch up students who have been unable to keep up with their studies at home, the experts advise. “This virus is exacerbating the inequalities we knew were there before. The kids who have the least are getting the least now,” said Pedro Noguera, an education professor at UCLA. To help students catch up, schools will need to get creative about interventions like tutoring, after school programs, and summer school. See related article: EdSurge “What Will K-12 Schols Look Like Post-Coronavirus?

With Schools Closed, Some Districts are Feeding More People than Food Banks
Civil Eats: Last month the COVID-19 Child Nutrition Response Act took effect, which establishes a nationwide waiver to help school districts provide students with nutritious meals while limiting their exposure to coronavirus. Although classes may be online these days, districts have continued feeding students and, in some cases, they’re feeding the community at large. The Los Angeles Unified School District has served roughly 5 million meals to children and adults alike at 63 grab-and-go food centers set up since it closed schools. New York City Public Schools has 400 grab-and-go sites, and these free meals are available for students and adults.

5 Ways Districts Can Help Struggling Students
ASCD SmartBrief: With 49% of adolescents in the U.S. managing mental health disorders, school districts have realized it is necessary to take a more proactive role in recognizing and helping to treat these very personal conditions. For most, this requires a more structured approach to monitoring student mental health and to providing services to support students in need. For districts that are in the early stages of this process, a good starting point is to consider the wellbeing of the “whole child.” Steps that all districts can take include creating a strong support system in the community, implementing a system that identifies student behaviors, and having a solid intervention strategy in place.

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