The Weekly Connect 6/8/20

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

Public debate about the achievement gap could increase racial bias against Black students.

In the fall, public schools will likely face higher costs and less funding.

COVID-19 has triggered a health crisis and an economic crisis, and research on past disasters suggests it could trigger a mental health crisis.

Hundreds of thousands of students can’t access online learning because they lack the necessary technology.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

How We Talk About the Achievement Gap Could Worsen Public Racial Biases Against Black Students
Ed Week Inside School Research Blog: In a forthcoming study in the Educational Researcher, David Quinn, an assistant professor at the University of Southern California, examines how the public’s view of Black students is impacted by how education media and policymakers frame education debates. Quinn found that participants who watched a video clip using what the author describes as a “deficit-based approach” (i.e., focusing heavily on the achievement gap and test-score gaps among students of different races) underestimated Black students’ graduation rates by some 23 percentage points and showed a 30% increase in their average level of implicit bias against Black people than before watching the video.

Clear Masks for Caregivers Mean Young Children Can Keep Learning from Adults’ Faces
The Conversation: As daycare centers and pre-kindergartens begin to reopen around the United States, the CDC recommends that teachers and care workers wear masks. Important as they are for helping minimize the spread of the coronavirus, masks come with a potential downside when worn around little kids. Decades of research has shown faces are an important tool for learning speech and language and picking up emotional cues. With faces covered, infants and young children will miss out on some of the visual cues they’d normally get from faces. If possible, care workers and educators spending long hours with infants and young children should consider clear masks or transparent face shields to reduce potential negative impacts on early learning.

With Schools Shuttered, Learning Lags and Students Left Behind, Reuters Survey Shows
Reuters: School shutdowns are taking a profound toll on the nation’s system of education, according to a Reuters survey of nearly 60 school districts serving some 2.8 million students. Public education in the United States has shrunk to a shell of its former self, the review found. Findings include: a large majority of districts reported they are providing elementary and middle school students with half or less the usual face time with teachers, about three quarters of districts reported that they served a cumulative 4.5 million fewer meals a week, and about a third of districts aren’t providing federally required services to their special needs students, such as physical and occupational therapy. See related article: Education Dive “Lower-Income Students Struggling with Remote Learning.”

Study Finds Connections Between School Climate and Attendance–But Not Much
Education Dive: An analysis of New York City Department of Education attendance data and more than 800,000 6th-12th graders’ responses on a school climate survey shows only minimal decreases in absenteeism when students feel more positive about their schools, according to a new study published in the American Educational Research Journal. The study looked at the relationship between absenteeism (total and chronic) and four measures of school climate — school safety, relational environment, personal connectedness, and academic engagement. The author noted that a combination of “home, school and neighborhood supports” might be necessary to achieve more significant improvements in attendance rates.

Policy

Educators Call for Schools to be ‘Safe Havens’ Against Racism
Education Dive: Education leaders and organizations joined others in condemning a Minneapolis police officer’s killing of George Floyd while urging students and community members to refrain from contributing to the wave of violence that continued to spread over the weekend. Michael Casserly, the executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, called the cellphone video of officer Derek Chauvin’s knee on George Floyd’s neck “a vignette in the ongoing story of injustice and racism that is our nation’s history and our current reality.” He added that at a time when educators are teaching remotely and districts are facing budget cuts, schools must also “amplify” efforts to address inequity. See related article: Ed Week Teaching Now Blog “Teachers Cannot Be Silent: How Educators Are Showing Up for Black Students Following Protests.” 

Public Schools Face a Fall With a Lot More Costs and a Lot Less Funding
The Washington Post: As school districts consider how and when to get students back to classrooms, they are facing a financial riddle with enormous implications: Every back-to-school plan involves new spending at a time when states and districts are bracing for significant cuts. The needs are enormous. Students who fell behind this spring will require extra help. Counselors will be needed to help children who have lost family or suffered trauma. Nurses will be called on to ensure students and staff are healthy. Authorities, meanwhile, are recommending a raft of new procedures, some of them costly, such as requiring masks for staff members, no-touch trash cans, and daily temperature checks, all designed to stem the spread of germs. See related articles: Chalkbeat “Nearly 500,000 Public Education Jobs Disappeared Across U.S. in April” and Education Week “7 Issues Facing K-12 Budgets as COVID-Shocked Legislatures Reconvene.”

All States Now Approved for Emergency Education Funding
Education Dive: It was close, but all 50 states and the District of Columbia have applied and been approved for the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund. It’s a relatively small block grant within the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, but it gives state leaders wide discretion in how to spend the funds. The awards — which range from more than $355 million for California to about $4.4 million for Vermont — are unusual in that governors can use the money for “needs related to COVID-19” at either the K-12 or higher education levels. Details about how governors plan to divvy up the funds, however, have been slow to emerge. See related article: EdSource “Most California Districts Would Get More in Federal Aid Than They’d Lose in Budget Cuts.”

Around the Nation

The Next Pandemic: Mental Health
EdSurge: The first wave of the crisis affected physical health, the second wave is economic. Now comes the third wave—mental health—and our system is ill-prepared. Prior disasters have triggered rising mental health challenges and greater inequities, especially among young children. Evidence suggests that isolation can drive trauma and that disasters can lead to long-term emotional and behavioral difficulties. The current crisis has exacerbated the urgent need for massive investments in mental health. The National Association of School Psychology recommends a tiered approach, involving universal intervention for prevention and evaluation of needs (Tier 1), response for immediate crisis intervention (Tier 2), and targeted psychotherapy for those with greater needs (Tier 3). 

Hundreds of Thousands of Students Still Can’t Access Online Learning
The Hechinger Report: After schools switched from physical instruction to remote learning in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, districts and state leaders assured families they would get devices for students and the technology resources needed to do schoolwork at home. But more than two months after the switch to distance learning, many students still don’t have what they need, and these students could face significant learning loss when school reopens. According to a nationally representative survey of 600 public school teachers, only 24% reported that all of their students had access to a computer or tablet for school work as of early May. See related article: EdSource “California Needs $500 Million to Buy Enough Computers, Internet Connections for All Students.

Districts’ Summer Plans Show Missed Opportunities
Education Dive: Districts’ summer school plans are showing missed opportunities for addressing learning loss for students and fostering social connections, according to a new analysis by researchers who have closely monitored schools’ transition to distance learning during school closures. In their recently released review, researchers from the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington wrote that less than half of the 100 school districts, and four of the 18 charter management organizations in their database were offering summer learning programs for elementary and middle school students. Fifty-eight of the districts and five of the 18 CMOs plan to hold summer school for high school students. About a third, they wrote, haven’t yet announced plans for summer school.

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