The Weekly Connect 5/4/20

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

COVID-19-related school closures could lead to lower student achievement.

Massachusetts is the first state to pilot new ways to assess student achievement.

With schools closed, some districts struggle to provide students with free or low-cost meals.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

How to Help Students Navigate This Social-Emotional Rollercoaster
EdSurge: Students across the country have been struggling to adapt throughout the changes and uncertainty associated with coronavirus. To better understand how they are faring, EdSurge looked at students’ self-reported feelings over the past couple of months, as marked by thousands of check-ins on EdSurge’s social-emotional learning platform. Findings indicate a drop in the emotional well-being of students during the week schools closed, followed by a swing up with improved moods during the first week of school closures. Since then, there has been a consistent decline in students’ self-reported emotional well-being. Students across the country also report feeling disconnected, worried, and lonely. See related article: ASCD SmartBrief “4 Lessons About Supporting Students in Need. 

The COVID-19 Slide and What it Could Mean for Student Achievement
EdNote: When students, educators, and administrators return to school after the COVID-19 school closures, classrooms will be a changed landscape. While it is difficult to speculate on what missing months of school may mean for student achievement, research on seasonal learning and summer learning loss can offer some insights that can help state leaders understand, plan for, and address some potential impacts of this extended pause in classroom instruction. Preliminary estimates suggest that current school closures could result in substantially lower achievement levels for students. It is important that states address students’ immediate needs and invest in contingency plans to mitigate these projections. See related article: The Hechinger Report “Every Student Needs Summer School This Year to Combat Coronavirus Learning Loss.” 

Lowest Student-to-School Counselor Ratio Since 1986
The Hechinger Report: According to the most recent federal data from the 2018-19 school year, there are now almost 118,000 school counselors in U.S. public schools and, more importantly, just 430 students, from kindergarten through 12th grade, for each school counselor. That marks the fifth straight year of growth in the number of school counselors, bringing the student-to-counselor ratio down to the lowest level since the federal government began counting counselors more than 30 years ago. Today’s ratio represents a 27 percent improvement in national caseloads since 1986, when there was only one counselor for every 588 students.

Policy

Core Aspects of Special Ed Law Should Remain During Pandemic, DeVos Recommends
Chalkbeat: U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos won’t recommend giving school districts the option to bypass major parts of federal special education law, the department recently announced. The move will be celebrated by disability rights advocates, who had feared that giving districts any wiggle room could pave the way for a more permanent undoing of civil rights for the country’s nearly 7 million students with disabilities. But it also leaves big questions about compliance and whether school districts will become vulnerable to legal action if they fail to fully serve students with disabilities, now that nearly every state has ordered or recommended that school buildings remain closed for the rest of the academic year. See related article: Education Dive “Ed Department IDEA Waiver Requests Create Need for ‘Clarity and Certainty’.” 

Massachusetts Becomes First State to Test New Ways to Assess Student Achievement
WWLP 22 News: Massachusetts is the first state to gain approval to test new and innovative ways of assessing student achievement. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the assessment pilot program will occur during the 2020-2021 school year. The program is designed to encourage local involvement in the development of the next generation of student assessments. Massachusetts aims to build a new form of assessment incorporating technology-enhanced performance tasks that are more engaging for students.

Court Rules Detroit Students Have Constitutional Right to An Education
NPR: In a landmark decision, a federal appeals court has ruled that children have a constitutional right to literacy, a remarkable victory for students. The ruling comes in response to a lawsuit brought by students from five Detroit schools. The students claimed that because of deteriorating buildings, teacher shortages, and inadequate textbooks, the state of Michigan failed to provide them with the most fundamental of skills: the ability to read. For decades, civil rights lawyers have tried to help students and families in underfunded schools by arguing that the U.S. Constitution guarantees children at least a basic education. Federal courts have consistently disagreed. Until now.

Around the Nation

9 Ways Schools Will Look Different When (And If) They Reopen
NPR: Three-quarters of U.S. states have now officially closed their schools for the rest of the academic year. While remote learning continues, summer is a question mark, and attention is already starting to turn to next fall. Nine key ideas, drawn from public health experts and education officials, about what reopening might look like, include: stepped-up health and hygiene measures, class sizes of 12 or fewer, staggered schedules, younger kids going back first, new calendars, different attendance policies, no assemblies, no sports games, and no parent-teacher conferences, as well as the continuation of remote learning and social, emotional, and practical help for kids. See related articles: Chalkbeat “Amid Extended School Closure, Colorado to Allow Small-Group Instruction in Some Districts” and Education Week “Why Some States Keep Schools Closed, Even as Businesses Move to Reopen. 

Pandemic-Induced Trauma, Stress Leading to ‘Uptick’ in SEL Need
Education Dive: While districts brace for a loss of academic learning and wider equity gaps in the fall, the global pandemic is emerging as an opportunity to build social-emotional skills. “We’re seeing a significant uptick in interest in social-emotional learning from districts,” Melissa Schlinger, vice president of practice and programs at the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, said. She noted isolation and rapid changes are highlighting the importance of emotional management, relationship, and problem-solving skills that can help students cope. See related article: Education Dive “Triaging Trauma: Community Schools Tap Partners to Address Needs Made Worse by COVID-19.

With Schools Shuttered, Districts Struggle to Feed Students and Communities
PBS: About 30 million children in the U.S. from low-income families receive free or reduced-cost meals in school; for many it may be their only certain meal of the day. As schools closed during the pandemic, districts raced to figure out how to continue providing these critical meals. They launched meal delivery services and grab-and-go locations that not only feed students, but in many cases adult community members, too, as unemployment increases and the need for food rises. But the risk of exposing school workers to the virus and mounting financial costs are prompting some districts to rethink their programs. Some are trying to adapt through partnerships with outside organizations. Others have been forced to suspend or scale back their services.

Why Are Some Kids Thriving During Remote Learning?
Edutopia: Educators across the country are noticing that some students, shy kids, hyperactive kids, highly creative kids, are suddenly doing better with remote learning than they were doing in the physical classroom. Educators point to recurring themes, noting that some social situations and the inflexible bell schedule simply don’t work well for all kids. For example, when they were in school, many students faced back-to-back classes with little reprieve. But during the pandemic, school schedules have suddenly become more fluid, allowing students more choice over when and how they do their school work. These observations have inspired some teachers to consider making permanent changes when they return to the classroom.

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