The Weekly Connect 6/29/20

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

COVID-19 is harming many students’ academics and mental health.

More than 2,000 Massachusetts educators have received layoff or nonrenewal notices.

COVID-19 threatens the existence of millions of child care slots, which could make it hard for children to have high-quality early learning experiences and tough for parents to go to work.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

COVID-19’s Impact on Students’ Academic and Mental Well-Being
Edutopia: The pandemic has shone a spotlight on inequality in America: School closures and social isolation have affected all students, but particularly those living in poverty. Adding to the damage to their learning, a mental health crisis is emerging as many students have lost access to services that were offered by schools. A new study suggests that the coronavirus will undo months of academic gains, leaving many students behind. Another recent study found that schools are “the de facto mental health system for many children and adolescents,” providing mental health services to 57% of adolescents who need care, leading school closures to be especially disruptive for children who receive mental health services exclusively from schools. See related article: EdSurge “How School Crisis Counselors Help Students Cope With Death and Grief, Virtually.” 

Do School Police Make Black Students Feel More or Less Safe
Ed Week Inside School Research Blog: In a decade of increasingly common mass school shootings, including active-duty police in schools has gained ground as a way to improve both actual and perceived campus safety. But a new analysis by researchers at UCLA suggests disruptive incidents in the Los Angeles Unified school district are increasingly related to mental health needs, and that Black students in the district are significantly more likely to think school police escalate problems on campus than that officers made them safer at school. The researchers argued that the district should consider shifting money for school safety interventions to lowering the school counselor ratio to 250-1 and to providing more trauma-informed-care training for staff. See related articles: N.P.R. “Why There’s a Push to Get Police Out of Schools” and Education Dive “Amid Concerns of Widening Equity Gaps, Black Educators Suggest a Starting Point.”

California Schools See Drop in Suspensions for Minor Offenses
Education Dive: California schools have seen sharp declines in suspensions for disruption or defiance since the 2011-12 school year, according to a new analysis of California data from The Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the University of California Los Angeles’ Civil Rights Project. The report also shows racial gaps in suspensions have narrowed and that suspensions and “the resulting days of lost instruction” have dropped the most for Black students. The data through the 2018-19 school year, however, still shows Black students lost roughly three times the number of days as White students because of suspension. Black students with disabilities lost the most days, with Native American students with disabilities being the group with the second-highest rate.

Policy

DeVos Walks Back Private School Coronavirus Guidance — With a Catch
Chalkbeat: The U.S. Department of Education has partially walked back its earlier guidance that effectively pushed school districts to direct more coronavirus relief to nearby private schools. Under a newly announced interim rule, school districts can choose to allocate money for private schools based on their share of an area’s low-income students, rather than their share of all students. Since private schools generally serve fewer low-income students, this approach leaves more money for public school students. But there’s a catch: districts that opt for this approach will be more constrained in how they use the federal dollars, and must only use them to support Title I schools, as opposed to all schools.

More Than 2,000 Massachusetts Educators Have Received Layoff or Nonrenewal Notices
The Boston Globe: More than 2,000 educators have received layoff or nonrenewal notices for the fall, the state’s largest teachers union recently said. The “vast majority” are teachers, though the list also includes teaching aides, coaches, and behavioral therapists, the Massachusetts Teachers Association said, dealing a blow to an education system reeling from a global pandemic. The figure is based on reports from the organization’s membership in 47 of the state’s more than 400 school districts. It includes only those school systems where local associations have reported 10 or more educators have received layoff or nonrenewal notices that have not been rescinded. See related article: EdSource “In California Budget Deal, No Cuts for K-12 but Billions in Late Payments to Schools.”

Around the Nation

It Looks Like the Beginning of the End of America’s Obsession with Student Standardized Tests
The Washington Post: America has relied heavily on standardized tests for nearly 20 years. However, many critics and teachers have largely opposed this, pointing to research showing standardized test scores are most strongly correlated to a student’s life circumstances. Now it looks like the country is at the beginning of the end of our high-stakes testing mania. And it is no coincidence that it is happening against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic that forced educational institutions to revamp how they operate. States are learning they can live without the tests, having been given permission by the Department of Education to not give them this past spring. Georgia has already announced its intention to get a waiver for the 2020-21 school year as well. 

Middle School is Often Difficult. Try Experiencing it Under Quarantine
The Hechinger Report: Early adolescence is a time of rapid cognitive changes, when kids assert their independence from parents, form their own identities, and become hyper dependent on interactions with peers. Their “social brains” are developing quickly, and they are hoovering up information from the world around them to figure out who they are and how they fit in. That’s why both educators and researchers who study child development say the school shutdowns resulting from the coronavirus pandemic may be particularly disruptive for middle schoolers. The isolation “flies in the face of what their brains are telling them they need,” said Kenneth Ginsburg, a pediatrician who specializes in adolescent medicine at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. See related article: Ed Week Inside School Research Blog “Part of Global Trend, 1 in 3 U.S. High Schoolers Felt Disconnected From School Before Pandemic.” 

As COVID-19 Threatens Millions of Child Care ‘Slots,’ Families Face Deep Disruptions to Their Children’s Early Learning and Social Development and to Their Own Jobs
The 74 Million: Simon Workman, director of early childhood policy at the Center for American Progress, co-authored a study that predicted that without government help, the COVID-19 pandemic would put 4.5 million child care slots at risk of disappearing. Each of those “slots,” of course, represents a child who is missing out on early learning and a parent who may have difficulty keeping a job. Pre-pandemic, about 2 million parents each year face job disruption because of a problem with child care. “If we are now facing a reduced number of slots or reduced opening hours or providers who suddenly have to close because there’s a case of COVID-19 in their program, we’re going to see more and more disruptions to their jobs and it’s really going to matter if employers are flexible” Workman said. See related article: New York Magazine “Will the Pandemic Reshape Childcare for Good?

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