The Weekly Connect 9/8/20

Here’s the new edition of The Weekly Connect. Check it out and sign up to have it delivered to your inbox!

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

COVID-19 is taking a toll on the Latinx community.

Parents are suing to reopen schools during the pandemic; teachers are suing over pandemic safety issues.

In the midst of the pandemic, teaching students social-emotional skills can help them focus on learning.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

Addressing Students’ Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Stress– Not Trauma– When They Return to School
ASCD SmartBrief: As the school year begins, school staff should not assume that all students have been ‘traumatized.’ While many students may have experienced trauma, assuming that trauma exists, without objectively and empirically validating its presence, may actually make a separate emotional condition worse. As students return to school, in general and in the context of the pandemic, schools should instead focus on: creating settings for students to reconnect with their peers and teachers; making sure staff understand that students may exhibit different levels of functioning and need time, support, and encouragement; coordinating systemic and systematic plans to meet the needs of students; and having multi-tiered services and supports. See related article: The Hechinger Report: “Why Policymakers and School Leaders Can’t Ignore How the Pandemic Hurts Childhood Brain Development. 

Urban, High Poverty Schools Prefer Remote Instruction Under COVID-19, Report Finds
Ed Week Digital Education Blog: School districts in urban areas and those that serve the most children in poverty are the most likely to be offering full-time remote instruction this fall, according to a recently released report from the Center on Reinventing Public Education. While 65% of rural districts plan to start fully in-person this fall, only 24% of suburban districts and 9% of urban districts plan to do so. In fact, few urban districts will be offering any in-person instruction at the start of the year. Nearly 4 of every 5 urban districts were planning to start fully remote this fall. Districts that serve students living in poverty are more likely to start fully remote too. Of the highest poverty districts, 41% will be entirely remote this fall, compared with 25% of the lowest-poverty districts. 

Coronavirus Learning Loss Index Reveals Big Equity Problems
Education Week: In the shadow of pandemic-driven school shutdowns, students in Southern and Midwestern states appear to be at greater academic risk in key areas than students in other parts of the country, according to an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data conducted by the EdWeek Research Center. The Research Center’s new Coronavirus Learning Loss Risk Index examined time spent learning and interacting with teachers and family members during this spring’s physical closures of K-12 schools. The center also looked at the availability of devices and internet access that enable remote learning. See related articles: Education Dive “Up to 4 Months of ‘COVID Slide’ Learning Loss Expected in K-5” and Education Week “What Do Schools Need to Be Better After Coronavirus? 

New Data Reveal COVID-19’s Harsh Toll on Latino Community; 50% of Latino Parents Say They May Not Send Their Children Back to School
The 74 Million: Newly released data from the polling firm Latino Decisions found that the Latinx community encountered a dramatic wave of cases over the summer; 1 in 10 Latinx homes around the country has been hit by the virus; more than half of Latinx homes have lost income as a result of the pandemic; more than 1 in 3 Latinx parents are currently out of work. “Given the spike in coronavirus this summer, it stands to reason that half of Latinos with children in grades K-12 are considering not sending their students back to school,” the researchers said. Their data show that 85% of survey participants reported anxieties about their children being exposed to the virus at school this fall. Of that group, 59% said that the possibility made them “very concerned.”


After Backlash, USDA Agrees to Extend Free-Meal Program for Children
The Washington Post: After an outcry from educators, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is extending a program that has provided free meals to millions of children since the coronavirus pandemic shuttered schools in the spring. The program allows families to pick up free food from any convenient school campus, regardless of whether their child is enrolled there and even if they do not qualify for free and ­reduced-price meals. It’s a form of meal delivery typically offered only during the summer months. But due to the pandemic, the Agriculture Department launched the program ahead of schedule in March and has kept it running ever since. The extension will expire on December 31, 2020.

Battle Over COVID-19 Reopenings Goes to the Courts
The Hill: Teachers’ unions are waging court fights across the country aimed at unwinding what they say are unsafe and politically motivated timetables for reopening schools that risk exposing personnel to the coronavirus pandemic. State officials eager to ramp up brick-and-mortar operations are facing lawsuits from Florida to Texas to Iowa over reopening plans and over access to the COVID-19 infection data needed to monitor the rate of spread within school communities. At the same time, lawsuits are flying from the opposition direction: Parents in several states, including Massachusetts and Oregon, dissatisfied with web-based teaching alternatives, are suing to force state officials to reopen physical schools sooner as courts are increasingly called upon to referee the fight over education in the age of coronavirus. See related article: Education Dive “NYC, UFT Reopening Agreement Delays School Start, Boosts Safety. 

DOL: No Federal-Approved Leave for Families Choosing Remote Learning
Education Dive: If a school offers both in-person and online learning options and a parent chooses the latter, the parent may not take paid leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) said in a recent guidance. “FFCRA leave is not available to take care of a child whose school is open for in-person attendance,” DOL said. Parents may, however, use FFCRA leave on days when children are not permitted to attend school due to hybrid in-person and online arrangements, the agency said. Parents may also take leave under the FFCRA if a school begins the year remotely with the intent to evaluate the circumstances and possibly reopen for in-person learning later on.

Around the Nation

Teaching Social-Emotional Skills Amid COVID-19
Education Week: While it is tempting to put students’ social, emotional, and mental well-being on the back burner as schools scramble to make up for lost learning, the fact is that children can’t process and retain new information if their brains are overwhelmed with anxiety. While adopting a comprehensive, evidence-based SEL curriculum is best, if a school doesn’t have one, that doesn’t mean it’s too late to introduce social emotional learning by weaving it into the school day. Some examples of this include helping students build strong connections with caring adults, practicing emotional recognition and intelligence, and identifying students’ sources of and responses to toxic stress. See related article: N.P.R. “Remote Learning’s Distractions Put Extra Pressure On Students With ADHD.”

Mental Health: To Screen or Not to Screen?
District Administration: Effects of the pandemic may cause students who have never been on educators’ radar in the past to stand out now because of mental health concerns that arise as the school year begins—regardless of whether they are continuing to learn remotely or they are back inside school buildings. Uncovering the students’ challenges, such as increased anxiety or depression related to the impact of COVID-19, is especially important. Some potential options for uncovering student mental health issues include: universal screening of all students and families in the school; acting on referrals and red flags, looking for trends, and conducting needs assessments.

‘Learning Hubs’ Offer Free Child Care and Learning– But Only for a Lucky Few
N.P.R.: As the 2020-2021 school year begins, many families with the means are hiring private tutors or getting together with other families for socialization, in what have been dubbed “pandemic pods.” This solution has been criticized as inequitable. Now, some communities across the country are striving to create free or low-cost alternatives. These solutions, called “learning hubs” or “learning labs,” are being organized by cities and school districts, often in partnership with local nonprofits, to offer students a free or subsidized safe place to go during the day where students can access help with remote learning. Learning hubs, are set up so that students are able to do their virtual classwork on city-provided computers with a bit of guidance from staff. See related article: The Boston Globe “State to Allow Remote Learning Pods, Kids’ Programs Outside Schools.

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