The Weekly Connect 4/27/20

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Closed schools are creating trauma for students.

Coronavirus threatens states’ kindergarten progress.

Chicago is working hard to help homeless students during the coronavirus crisis.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

Closed Schools Are Creating More Trauma For Students
NPR: The job of the school counselor has evolved over the years from academic guide to something deeper: being the school-based adult who fosters students’ social and emotional growth as well as being a mental health first responder and a confidant for kids, especially teens, who often need a closed door and a sympathetic ear. But the closure of nearly all U.S. schools has forced counselors to reimagine how they do their jobs. And the stakes have never been higher. Between closed schools, social isolation, food scarcity, and parental unemployment, the coronavirus pandemic has so destabilized kids’ support systems that the result, counselors say, is genuinely traumatic. See related article: The Hechinger Report “‘A Drastic Experiment in Progress’: How Will Coronavirus Change Our Kids.” 

As Schools Stay Closed and Student Morale Slumps, Educators Worry About Mental Health
Ed Week Rules for Engagement Blog: Less than a quarter of school leaders say they’ve been able to meet students’ mental health needs at the same level they were prior to the coronavirus pandemic, according to an Education Week Research Center Survey. The situation is especially stark for urban schools, where only 5% of leaders say they have been able to keep up with providing the same level of mental health supports. Even before the pandemic, rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide were on the rise among adolescents, and schools—many of which have become their communities’ de facto provider of children’s mental health services—have struggled to keep up with the growing need. See related article: The New York Times “50 Million Kids Can’t Attend School. What Happens to Them? 

Screen Time Has Little Impact on Kids’ Social Skills
Psych Central: A new study suggests that, despite the large amount of time spent on smartphones and social media, young people today are just as socially skilled as those from the previous generation. Researchers compared teacher and parent evaluations of children who started kindergarten in 1998, six years before Facebook launched, with those who began school in 2010, when the first iPad debuted. The findings, published online in the American Journal of Sociology, show that both groups of kids received similar ratings on their interpersonal skills, including the ability to form and maintain friendships and get along with those who are different. The two groups were also rated similarly on self-control, such as the ability to regulate their temper.

Don’t Turn Your Home Into School…the Lego Professor of Play on Lockdown Learning
The Guardian: Learning at home does not have to look like school and probably shouldn’t, says Britain’s first play professor. With coronavirus school closures creating opportunities for home learning, and many parents more on hand during the lockdown, play can come into its own, says Paul Ramchandani, Lego professor of play at the University of Cambridge. For example, a parent’s ability to notice, interpret, and respond well to a young child’s attempt to communicate can positively affect development, he says. Parents can watch what their children are doing and try to follow this lead, doing what interests children. Ramchandani says this responsive parenting is key to supporting young children’s learning and social-emotional development.

Policy

Closed Schools Would Stay Shut in First Phase of Trump Reopening Guidelines
Ed Week Politics K-12 Blog: The White House is leaving the decision about when to open schools and businesses largely to states, based on recently released White House guidelines that call for a tiered approach to “reopening the country” in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. However, schools that are currently closed would not reopen in the first of three phases of thes guidelines’ medically driven criteria. The guidelines, first published by the Washington Post, call for several phases that depend on tracking the severity of continued transmission of coronavirus in a state or region. This reopening process will depend heavily on testing for the disease, isolating individuals who have it, and ensuring proper capacity in hospitals should it re-emerge. See related article: Ed Week Politics K-12 Blog “One State Polls the Public on Whether to Reopen Schools.”

Coronavirus Fallout Threatens States’ Prekindergarten Progress, Report Warns
Ed Week Politics K-12 Blog: States have made modest progress in expanding access to high-quality prekindergarten programs, but budget cuts resulting from the coronavirus crisis could erase those gains, which are already far from what’s needed to keep pace with other countries, according to a recent report released by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER). Early-education advocates fear state budget cuts will wipe out growth in participation and quality, said NIEER’s senior co-director and founder Steven Barnett. That’s because state funding for early education is discretionary, leaving programs unprotected. To bolster progress in early education, Barnett said the next federal relief bill should include funding for state prekindergarten programs. See related article: Education Week “What Happens to the Youngest Learners During this Crisis? Inside an Empty Preschool.” 

Around the Nation

Home Visiting Continues — At a Distance
Education Dive: Home visitors in Mono County, Calif., are parking near the homes of their clients and using hotspots to connect to the Internet and visit families virtually. Home visitors are also recommending activities for moms and young children that only require items typically found in the home. In Fort Wayne, Ind., Julie Reese, a Nurse-Family Partnership nurse with Healthier Moms and Babies, conducts all her visits virtually and makes sure mothers have high-demand items such as wipes, diapers, and other supplies. She’s also helping families who might have health care needs at a time when physicians and hospitals are overwhelmed. This work is especially important now when first-time and at-risk mothers are more isolated than ever.

Coronavirus Becomes Unprecedented Test for Teacher-Student Relationships
The Hechinger Report: The coronavirus has in many ways become an unprecedented test for teacher-student relationships, forcing a readjustment of expectations without the usual daily check-ins, in-person interaction, tissues for tears, high-fives for a job well done, or praise in front of classmates. Of course, teachers want their students to master content and move on to the next grade, but they also know that success requires time and trusting relationships. “We are the one constant for some of these kids,” said Eileen Wood, a first-grader teacher in Stoneham, Mass. “They come to school and they know what to expect. It’s the stability, the repetition. They have art, they have gym, they have lunch, and they have teachers they know. And now it’s all taken away.” See related article: NPR, “To Stay in Touch With Students, Teachers Bypass Computers, Pick Up Phones.” 

What Coronavirus Means for Grandparent Caretakers
Education Week: With schools closed across the country, there are nearly 3 million students at home with a primary caretaker who is a grandparent—and in an age group most vulnerable to COVID-19. The number of children living in a grandparent’s household increased during the Great Recession and again during the opioid crisis. Even under normal circumstances, grandparent caretakers are at higher risk for illness due to age, stress, and income. School leaders, communities, and education agencies can play an important role in supporting grandparent caretakers by offering technological support, donating to food pantries, and ensuring that people follow shelter-in-place orders to keep at-risk populations safe.

For Chicago Homeless Students, School Provided More Than An Education. Here’s How They Are Coping.
Chalkbeat: There are an estimated 12,000 homeless students attending Chicago Public Schools. Homeless children had already endured instability and uncertainty before the coronavirus pandemic swiftly closed the schools that fed, sheltered, and educated them by day. Now with shaky connections to school and to those services, some families find that spotty communication is adding to their anxiety. The district and schools have put a priority on helping homeless students by giving out more than 6 million meals to families at hundreds of schools and providing 12,000 Internet hotspots to students who are homeless. Despite these services, advocates remain concerned because schools can no longer provide other essential services like laundry and shower facilities for families. See related article: The 74 Million “As Educators Grapple With COVID-19 Challenges, Supporting Undocumented Students and Families Must Be a Priority.”

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