The Weekly Connect 4/21/20

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

Teens are worried about coronavirus, especially teens of color.

U.S. Department of Education releases coronavirus aid to K-12 schools.

School counseling and social-emotional learning go online.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

National Survey Tracks Impact of Coronavirus on Schools: 10 Key Findings
Education Week: The disruption in K-12 education due to the coronavirus is way more than anyone could have imagined just a couple of months ago. A system that has relied primarily on face-to-face interactions in school buildings for generations is now operating almost entirely virtually. The EdWeek Research Center, the research arm of Education Week, is also pivoting quickly in this environment, conducting twice-monthly national surveys of teachers and district leaders to help the K-12 system navigate these unprecedented times. The most recent survey includes 10 key findings, among them: student and teacher morale is down; more than a fifth of students are not participating in school; truancy rates are higher in high-poverty communities; and educators are most concerned that students will fall behind in math. See related article: The Hechinger Report “Should Schools Teach Anyone Who Can Get Online- Or No One At All? 

Teens Are Worried About Coronavirus, Especially Teens of Color
Ed Week Rules for Engagement Blog: According to a recent poll by Common Sense Media, most teenagers are worried about the coronavirus and the effect it could have on them and their families. These concerns are heightened among teens of color. Eighty-seven percent of Latinx teens say they are concerned about the financial fallout from the pandemic and how it will affect their families’ ability to earn money, while 74 percent of Black teens and 53 percent of White teens say they feel the same way. When it comes to students or their family members being exposed to the coronavirus, 71 percent of Black teens and 66 percent of Latino teens say hey are worried, compared to 56 percent of White teens. See related article: Education Week “Why the Coronavirus Crisis Hits Teenagers Particularly Hard: Developmental Scientists Explain. 

Coronavirus and School Research: A Major Disruption and Potential Opportunity
Education Week: The Institute of Education Sciences, the federal Education Department’s research arm, had 400 to 500 research grants in the field when the pandemic hit the United States, according to IES Director Mark Schneider. Most of these grants will be affected in one way or another, including data that isn’t collected because of school closures and research assistants who are unable to work in their labs or in the field because of social distancing orders. However, there is in these circumstances an important opportunity for researchers. As districts are forced to offer online learning, school leaders are in dire need of research on a wide variety of issues such as the most effective ways teachers can connect with students emotionally as well as how parents’ involvement as home teachers affects student learning. 

Report Says States Should Extend Upcoming School Year to Address Learning Losses
Chalkbeat: To help educators help the children who need it the most, state policymakers should extend the 2020-21 school year, lengthen the school day, or do both, and assess student progress at the beginning of the school year. Those are some of the recommendations in a new report from Michigan State University researchers who analyzed state responses to the coronavirus pandemic and who shared insights on the challenges schools will face when students return to school. The researchers say that the time away from the classroom will increase inequalities across school districts and students, “with learning loss concentrated in disadvantaged students and areas.” See related articles: Education Week “The Disparities in Remote Learning Under Coronavirus (in Charts)” and EdSurge “Low Tech? No Problem. Here are 3 Alternative Ways to Help Distance Learning Happen.

Policy

States Face Thorny Issues in Deciding When to Reopen Schools Post-Pandemic
Education Week: Across the nation, differing visions of how and when to reopen school buildings that were closed to slow the spread of the coronavirus are creating tension among local, state, and federal officials. While President Donald Trump casts an ambitious goal of “reopening the country” in early May, federal agencies say getting the economy back up to speed is closely linked to having schools safely open their doors, freeing up parents to re-enter the workforce. However, many schools are unlikely to open in May because 25 states and three U.S. territories have ordered or recommended that school buildings remain closed for the rest of the academic year, according to Education Week’s tracker. See related articles: N.P.R. “NYC Mayor Says Schools Are Closed For Academic Year– But Governor Overrules Him” and EdSource “When California Schools Reopen, Gov. Newsom Envisages Major Changes in How They Are Run.

Betsy DeVos Releases First Coronavirus Emergency Aid for K-12 Schools
Ed Week Politics K-12 Blog: Governors can now officially apply for $3 billion in aid to help public schools address the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos recently announced. The funding, part of the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, was included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which Congress passed and President Donald Trump signed into law. In a statement, DeVos stressed that the process has been “streamlined” to make it easier for governors to apply; she also said that governors have a chance to “truly rethink and transform the approach to education during this national emergency.”

Court Strikes Down Trump Rollback of School Nutrition Rules
The New York Times: A federal court has struck down a 2018 U.S Department of Agriculture rule that reversed nutrition standards for sodium and whole grains in school meal programs once championed by the former first lady Michelle Obama. The U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland vacated the rule, concluding that it violated the Administrative Procedure Act because it differed significantly from the administration’s 2017 interim rule setting up the final standards. The school breakfast and lunch rule is only the latest in a series of Trump administration regulations that have been struck down for violating legal procedures laid out by Congress.

Around the Nation

There’s an App for That — School Counseling and SEL Go Online
Edutopia: A mix of new technologies and more traditional counseling known as “telehealth” or “teletherapy”—is now being adopted in a hurry by school districts around the country. Seeking new ways to reach kids without direct access to school-based services, counselors and social workers are now connecting via video conference, apps, and phone calls, or working directly with teachers to embed social and emotional practices into their remote teaching. For example, some districts are offering virtual counseling to any student who feels the need to talk. Other educators are helping students by using digital tools and apps that provide everything from breathing exercises to journaling prompts. See related article: The Hechinger Report “Teletherapy Has Been Powering Virtual Special Education for Years. 

Present or Absent? With Schools Closed, Some Districts Stop Tracking Attendance, While Others Redefine It
Chalkbeat: Taking “attendance” in America’s schools has never been more complicated. What once was a straightforward endeavor has become something of an anything-goes attempt to track whether students are engaged. The stakes are high. Most students are poised to go without months of traditional instruction, and the learning losses could be significant. But many districts aren’t formally tracking student attendance, according to a new analysis. The analysis, which looked at 82 large districts’ public policies, found that just 14 are tracking attendance, though more districts may be tracking it without a posted policy. But for districts where there is no daily data, there is less information about which students need immediate support and which students are most likely to need extra academic support later. See related article: Education Week “Where Are They? Students Go Missing in Shift to Remote Classes. 

Chicago Needs a Mental Health Hotline — And Fast — For Youth Displaced by Coronavirus Closures
Chalkbeat: Youth leaders called on Chicago and its school district to launch a mental health hotline to support young people grappling with the emotional fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. In a virtual town hall, Chicago teens said the outbreak has heightened mental health challenges and cut them off from school and community help. Teens said they need an easy way to connect with school social workers and other professionals — both while schools remain closed and in the aftermath of the crisis. “The COVID-19 crisis is making everything so much harder,” said Arnoldo Tello, a senior at Mather High School in Chicago’s West Ridge neighborhood. “The support I received from my friends and my school had always helped me deal with my anxiety and depression.”

Assigning and Assessing Students’ Challenges Amid Broader Pandemic Pressures
Education Dive: Amid prolonged school shutdowns, as student learning shifts from classrooms to homes, educators are figuring out what kind of work they can assign, as well as how much. Students have more time, with their commute now nonexistent and activities canceled, but there are other issues that impact the work they’re capable of completing, such as their families’ abilities to provide additional support as adults juggle their own demands. Educators may have to put assessments, and even lessons, in the back seat and prioritize other needs, such as ensuring that students have basic essentials like daily meals. See related article: EdSurge “As We Rebuild, Here’s the Part We Can’t Afford to Take Out.”

As Cities Axe Summer Youth Work Programs, Here Are Alternatives to Consider
EdSurge: New York City was one of the first large systems to cut summer youth employment programs, calling out both safety and efficiency concerns for its 75,000 young people who are ready to be put to work. Other cities around the country are scrambling to figure out what to do, which leaves many motivated students, particularly those from low-income families, hanging during this critical moment. Summer opportunities offer students work experience and income as well as a unique window beyond the classroom to expand their professional networks and build social capital. Fortunately, a number of online tools, programs, and companies, such as Nepris, Career Village, and Da Vinci Extension, can mitigate safety concerns while still providing the assets young people can gain through summer work. See related article: Education Dive “As Summer Nears, School Districts Begin ‘Scenario Planning.’

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