The Weekly Connect 5/18/20

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Pediatricians worry that pandemic recovery planning is overlooking children’s needs.

Without more federal funds, half of all child care centers could close permanently.

In the shadow of COVID-19, more students could suffer from housing insecurity and homelessness.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

Decades Old Student Counseling Benchmark Has No Research Basis
The Hechinger Report: Schools are commonly advised to hire one counselor for every 250 students. The figure has been recommended and publicized by ASCA and education lobbyists and advocates for decades. “The 250 number is in almost every piece that you read about school counselors,” said Tara Nicola, a student at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education who is specializing in the field of school counseling. “But there’s never been any empirical evidence for it.” According to Nicola’s research, the number comes from just one 1959 book and it’s not based on any quantitative analysis or experiments to show that students are better off when counselor caseloads approach or fall below 250 students. 

Will Months of Remote Learning Worsen Students’ Attentional Problems?
Education Week: As schools have shut down in-person classes to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, researchers wonder how the long absence from traditional school routines will affect the millions of students across the country who struggle with self-control, focus, or mental flexibility. For teachers and students alike, paying attention might be challenging during the coronavirus crisis, especially for students who struggle to focus in school. According to a recent EdWeek Research Center survey, nearly 4 of 5 teachers think their students’ ability to focus has gotten worse with school-related tasks during the shutdown.

Pediatricians: Pandemic Recovery Plans Ignoring Child Health, Education
Ed Week Inside School Research Blog: Top pediatricians argue child wellness and school reopening plans must be included in discussions for the nation’s recovery from coronavirus. Three recent articles (see here, here, and here) discuss the reopening problem, particularly as it pertains to children’s well-being. In one of the articles, Dimitri Christakis, editor of JAMA Pediatrics, states “The risks posed by delaying school openings are real and sizable, particularly for students from low-income families… No credible scientist, learning expert, teacher, or parent believes that children aged 5 to 10 years can meaningfully engage in online learning without considerable parental involvement, which many families with low incomes are unable to provide because parents must work outside the home.” See related article: American Enterprise Institute “A Blueprint for Back to School.”

Two-Thirds of Parents Support Keeping Schools Closed ‘Until They Are Certain There Is No Health Risk’
The 74 Million: With more than 50 million students out of school because of the coronavirus pandemic, a new poll by Echelon Insights finds that 67 percent of parents support continued closures until officials are certain that reopening will not pose a health risk. The findings come as President Trump continues to encourage states to consider reopening and as nearly half of parents, 45 percent, acknowledge that their children are learning less than they normally would when attending school. The poll findings reflect that many parents are willing to keep their children home indefinitely if schools cannot safeguard students.

Policy

Without More Federal Funds, Half of All Child Care Centers Could Close Forever
The Hechinger Report: Nationwide, the coronavirus pandemic has devastated the child care industry. An estimated 50 percent of licensed child care centers in the nation are at risk of closing permanently, a loss of more than 4.4 million child care slots, according to a report from the Center for American Progress. Even before the coronavirus, child care centers were running on thin margins: tuition and government funded tuition reimbursement for low-income children fell short of covering the actual costs to care for children. Experts and child care centers say there’s a desperate need for federal funds to keep struggling centers afloat. See related article: CSCCE at UC Berkeley “California Child Care at the Brink: The Devastating Impact of COVID-19 on California Child Care. 

Betsy DeVos Announces Aid to Help Create ‘Student-Centered’ Funding Systems
Ed Week Politics K-12 Blog: U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos recently announced that she was making $3 million available to help districts create “weighted per-pupil funding” systems. This pilot program, authorized by the Every Student Succeeds Act, allows up to 50 districts to pool their federal, state, and local dollars to direct more aid to low-income and “otherwise disadvantaged” students. This pilot is ultimately intended to have more money follow students who could benefit most from additional resources. Some districts in cities like Denver and Indianapolis have built such weighted-funding systems on their own.

Devastated Budgets and Widening Inequities: How the Coronavirus Collapse Will Impact Schools
Education Week: Almost half of the nation’s school districts may be forced to make the deepest cuts to education spending in a generation to fend off financial collapse brought on by the coronavirus. But while the economic impact on schools will be historic, it will not be random. The districts most at risk share demographic profiles—student populations that are heavily Black, Latinx and low-income—and one crucial trait of their budgets: They get more than half their revenue from state aid. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, these 6,000 districts, identified in an Education Week analysis, were underfunded and had yet to recover from the 2007-2009 recession. These districts enroll 24 million students—nearly half the population of all U.S. public schools.

Around the Nation

Counseling Kids During the Coronavirus: A Tough Job Made Even Tougher
The Hechinger Report: As educators everywhere try to figure out how to do their jobs remotely, the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the instability of relying on one counselor, or just a few, to guide hundreds of students through new academic hurdles, prepare them for an uncertain future, and triage their mental health crises. Besides being away from counselors, kids are also out of sight of their teachers and peers, two groups that often help counselors identify who might need their help. These circumstances have left counselors around the country scrambling to find answers to questions about how to ethically and logistically approach the new virtual reality of their work. See related articles: Ed Week Ask a Psychologist Blog “How to Reinforce the Teacher-Student Relationship, Even When You’re Apart” and LAist “‘How Can I Help You?’ Schools Try To Reach Students Struggling With Mental Health During Coronavirus.” 

Housing Instability is Expected to Rise. Schools Are Already on the Front Lines
Chalkbeat: The number of homeless students rose in the wake of the Great Recession, and continued to rise even after unemployment rates fell. Now, during the coronavirus pandemic, the economic consequences have occurred more quickly, and they are affecting a larger swath of American society, with unemployment claims hitting record highs. Advocates worry the pandemic will lead to a rise in families experiencing homelessness or housing instability, especially when federal and state moratoriums on evictions lift. That means more students entitled to help under the federal law that offers protections to homeless students. The challenge for schools will be making sure they get it, especially if school staff aren’t seeing students in person. See related article: District Administration “How to Provide Food Supports to Homeless Students.”

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