The Weekly Connect 5/26/20

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

Parents are worried about their children losing social connections during COVID-19 school closures.

Because of COVID-19’s impact on its budget, California is slashing its preschool funding.

The rigor of remote learning varies by state.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

Children’s Loss of Social Ties, Learning are Parents’ Top Closure Concerns
Education Dive: Parents are more concerned about their children missing social interactions at school and with peers than they are someone in their family getting sick with the coronavirus, according to a new survey. Fifty-nine percent of the more than 3,600 parents and guardians responding to the nonprofit Learning Heroes’ survey said their children’s lack of in-person connections was currently their top pandemic-related concern. Fifty-seven percent said they are worried about COVID-19 affecting a family member. And 54% are concerned about making sure their children will be prepared for the next grade level and about whether closures or changes to school models will negatively impact their children’s education. See related article: Education Dive “Lower Online Class Attendance, Equity Among Educators’ Top Concerns.”

Helping Students Through a Period of Grief
Edutopia: In the coming weeks and months, many students will experience losses of loved ones and of ways of life, and schools are in a unique position to collectively engage and support them with compassion in the grieving process. Educators can encourage students to fully experience the feelings and physical sensations—tightness, tension, or numbness, for example—that come with loss. Healing occurs when a person accepts and moves through the emotions of fear, anger, and sadness to integrate a new reality, understanding what has been lost. Children of all ages can be supported to express emotions—even anger and frustration—in healthy ways, developing a language to describe feelings and identifying physical sensations associated with them.

School Closures Meant 200K Child Mistreatment Allegations Went Unreported in March and April, Researchers Estimate
Chalkbeat: Hundreds of thousands of child maltreatment allegations are going unreported — and thus uninvestigated — while school buildings are closed, a new study that focuses on Florida estimates. It’s the latest evidence of the toll that COVID-19-induced school closures are taking on children. The numbers highlight “a hidden cost of school shutdowns,” write researchers Jason Baron, Ezra Goldstein, and Cullen Wallace. “When schools are not in session, whether for regularly scheduled breaks or in response to catastrophes, cases of child maltreatment are more likely to go unnoticed and unreported.” 

Suspensions Plummet 20% in NYC Schools During the First Half of the School Year
Chalkbeat: New York City schools issued substantially fewer suspensions during the first half of this school year — with the total number plummeting by over 50% since Mayor Bill de Blasio took office, according to newly released statistics. From July through December 2019, district schools issued just over 10,000 suspensions, nearly 20% fewer compared with the same period a year earlier. During the first half of this school year, principal suspensions — which last five days or less and are issued for less serious offenses — decreased nearly 16%. Superintendent suspensions, which cover more serious misbehavior and can stretch up to an entire school year, decreased 32%.

Policy

USDA Extends Waivers to Help Schools Feed Hungry Kids During COVID-19 Closures
Ed Week Politics K-12 Blog: The U.S. Department of Agriculture has extended waivers for school meal rules so that schools can continue feeding students affected by coronavirus closures through the summer months. The federal agency originally eased several rules in the spring as schools closed and local meal programs shifted from serving lunches in cafeterias to distributing take-home meals under social distancing protocols. Those waivers were set to expire June 30th, or when the official federal public health emergency ends, but Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue extended the waivers until the end of August.

Data: When Will School Start This Fall?
Education Week: The start of the 2020-21 academic year is shaping up to be as unprecedented as the end of the current school year because of COVID-19. Exactly when the 2020-21 academic year can begin—typically a decision that’s the purview of individual districts—is in limbo because of ongoing challenges around containing the spread of coronavirus. States are moving forward with setting requirements or guidelines for local schools and districts to use as they decide when instruction—in-person, online, or a combination of both—will begin. Education Week is tracking when public schools in each state will start the new academic year. See related article: Ed Week Politics K-12 Blog “Trump, Fauci, and Reopening Schools: What You Need to Know.” 

Preschool and Child Care Plans Slashed Under California Governor’s Proposed Budget
EdSource: California Governor Gavin Newsom recently announced changes not only to his 2020-21 budget proposals, but also cuts to many of last year’s investments in early education. When Newsom became governor, one of his priorities was expanding early childhood programs. He was lauded last year for his infusion of close to $2 billion for early education and children’s services in the 2019-20 budget, much of it going towards increasing access for low income children and families. Now, much of that is all but erased. The new budget proposes to eliminate the 20,000 state-subsidized preschool slots that had been scheduled to open in the next year and the $300 million to help districts build or renovate more kindergarten classrooms is gone. 

Kids With Autism Being Denied an Education During the Pandemic, PA Lawsuit Says
The Philadelphia Inquirer: Students with autism are illegally being denied an education during the government-ordered coronavirus school shutdown, a recently filed lawsuit alleges. The outcome of the lawsuit, seeking class-action status and filed in federal court in Philadelphia on behalf of two Bucks County children, could potentially affect thousands of disabled students. At its heart is a claim that Governor Tom Wolf failed to provide “life-sustaining” services to nonverbal and partially verbal children with autism — kids for whom online instruction and services are ineffective.

Around the Nation

When Schools Reopen, It Will Be Our Responsibility to Make Sure It Happens Safely. Here Are 10 Key Steps to Follow
The 74 Million: No one wants to send their child back to school without a certain comfort level about safety. Wisely planning, designing and building safety protocols to keep society’s most precious assets — children — healthy is incumbent on every school community. Schools also have a historic opportunity to create the infrastructure needed to ensure uninterrupted instruction in the “new normal.” As they strike this balance, some key steps for schools to follow include: creating school health-safety teams, developing the capacity to conduct school-based COVID-19 testing and tracking, assessing and evaluating students to determine the most appropriate interventions, and increasing teacher training and support on remote learning. See related reports: Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy “How Should Education Leaders Prepare for Reentry and Beyond,” and American Enterprise Institute “A Blueprint for Back to School.” 

States All Over the Map on Remote Learning Rigor, Detail
Education Week: Education Week scanned all 50 states’ publicly available continuous learning directives and guidance documents, tracking trends and identifying points of divergence. Though most states had few requirements for how districts should structure remote learning, some common recommendations emerged around instruction and assessment practices. “Nearly all states that are issuing guidance are focusing on flexibility, given that these times are so odd,” said Joseph Hedger, an associate editor at the National Association of State Boards of Education, who analyzed states’ continuous learning plans in a brief for the organization. Common themes included loosening ‘seat-time’ rules, moving from review to teaching new material, and approaching grading from a ‘do no harm’ perspective. 

Youngest Learners Prepare to Start School– Without the School
Education Dive: Almost 4 million children enter kindergarten every year — and principals are often urged to work with early learning providers to create a bridge between preschool or child care and the K-12 system. But many of those children might experience a very different type of transition this fall — especially if they haven’t been in a formal classroom setting. “When children have never been part of an early learning environment, life in a classroom comes as a shock,” said Lindsay Dunckel, a school readiness program planner in California. “Distance learning can help with some things, but not with those fundamental experiences.” This will likely lead to Kindergarten getting off to a slower start for most students.

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