The Weekly Connect 9/14/20

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

An analysis of 375 school districts finds that rural communities are more likely to offer in-person learning opportunities this fall.

Because of COVID-19’s economic impact, public pre-K programs could face steep budget cuts.

Research and anecdotal evidence suggest that as schools struggle to provide free and reduced-price meals, students are going hungry.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

Triaging for Trauma During COVID-19
Education Week: This summer, more than 3 in 4 school social workers in a national survey reported that a majority of students at their schools needed serious mental health supports in the wake of the pandemic and the school closures it caused. As schools begin to reopen this fall, the new and disparate contexts for learning will make it both more challenging and more critical for teachers to identify and support students who are struggling with toxic stress. Some ways that schools can do this include: expecting distress without pathologizing students, coordinating holistic supports to remove sources of toxic stress, considering unintended consequences of school policies, and promoting a sense of belonging.

How to Help Middle School Students Develop Crucial Skills This Year
Edutopia: For tweens and young teens, navigating distance learning this school year will require an array of skills they might not have developed yet, writes middle school director and author Jody Passanisi. Without the rules and routines of a physical classroom—the external “regulatory systems” that allow kids this age to learn from watching peers and teachers—middle school students will need extra help to build up the self-regulatory skills needed to “set themselves up for success physically, materially, and emotionally.” Adults can help by teaching time awareness, helping students avoid distractions, leading students to build connections, helping kids get organized, boosting students’ self-motivation, and building in opportunities for self-advocacy. See related article: Education Week “How to Build Relationships with Students During COVID-19.”

Back to School or Back to Remote Learning? Depends on Where You Live
EdSurge: Many students won’t actually go into a school building this year, instead they will participate in fully online instruction, according to an EdSurge/Social Context Labs analysis of 375 school district reopening plans from around the country. Rural districts are more likely to offer in-person learning. Across the board, researchers found that 356 districts (95%) planned to offer remote instruction and 137 planned in-person instruction. In addition, 104 districts (28%) planned to offer hybrid instruction in which students split time learning remotely and in-person. See related article: The Hechinger Report “Hotspots No Silver Bullet for Rural Remote Learning.

Parents Stressed, Anxious About Sending Children Back to School
Education Dive: Working parents considering back-to-school plans for their children seek flexibility from their employers, but some aren’t receiving it, according to a recent survey by Monster, a global employment website. The survey found that 27% of parents did not agree when asked if their company supported them during back-to-school season. The survey of 2,048 U.S. working parents found that more than half (64%) of respondents said they have stress and anxiety about sending their children to school during the pandemic; and of those respondents, 76% agreed the main cause for worry is fear of their child being exposed to the virus at school. See related article: The Atlantic “What Are Parents Supposed to Do With Their Kids?

Policy

Public Pre-K Programs are Facing Another Lost Decade
The Hechinger Report: Many state-funded pre-K programs across the country are under enormous financial pressure. With states facing massive shortfalls due to the coronavirus pandemic, experts say that current cuts to pre-K programs are likely just the beginning. “That’s what we all are holding our breath about right now,” said Karin Garver, an early childhood education policy specialist, who recently published a report that looked at how the pandemic could impact state-funded pre-K. Public pre-K can be a lifeline for parents by providing affordable, high-quality education that helps children develop critical academic and social-emotional skills. Despite these benefits, however, experts say these programs are often put on the chopping block during times of financial distress. See related article: EdSource “Many Parents Fill in Gaps for Preschoolers Unable to Go to In-Person Programs.” 

DeVos: States Should ‘Rethink’ Assessment, Consider Competency, Mastery-Based Assessments
Education Dive: In a recent letter telling chief state school officers they will be expected to administer summative assessments for the 2020-21 school year, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos encouraged state leaders to consider competency and mastery-based assessments. “Now may be the perfect time for you to rethink assessment in your state,” DeVos said, adding testing this year may look different. She also said the department would be “open to discussions” about flexibilities for using assessment results as part of states’ school accountability metrics. 

46 Years After Divisive Court Order, Boston Schools Still Struggle to Hire Black Teachers
The 74 Million: Research shows that Black students with same-race teachers demonstrate higher achievement and rack up significantly fewer absences and suspensions. But for most school districts, finding and keeping teachers of color has proven difficult. The issue has a unique resonance in Boston. In 1974, a federal judge ordered the Boston Public Schools to address decades of segregation by requiring its teaching force to become 25% Black, an order the city has failed to adequately meet over more than 46 years. However, Boston is actually doing better than most U.S. cities in this regard. More than 21% of its 4,403 teachers are Black, compared with 12% for the typical urban district, according to the U.S. Department of Education. See related article: American Psychological Association “Children Notice Race Several Years Before Adults Want to Talk About It.” 

Gov. Jared Polis Launches $32.7 Million Fund to Incubate Ideas to Improve Student Learning During the Pandemic
Chalkbeat: To continue the battle against fallout from COVID-19, Governor Jared Polis recently launched a $32.7 million grant program that seeks to provide innovative help to the state’s most disadvantaged students. In an interview with Chalkbeat, Polis said he hopes the Response, Innovation, and Student Equity Education Fund, known as RISE, will plant ideas that will leave Colorado in a better place during and after the pandemic. The state describes the competitive grant fund, which uses federal stimulus money from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, as an incubator for ideas that advance student learning, especially among those who have suffered deeply from the economic, social, and health effects of the crisis. See related article: My Northwest “Seattle Mayor Announces $95 Million Investment for K-12 Education.”

Around the Nation

‘Children are Going Hungry’: why Schools Are Struggling to Feed Students
N.P.R.: Six months into schools’ pandemic-driven experiment in distance learning, an urgent question is surfacing: are students eating? More than 30 million kids depend on U.S. schools for free or reduced-price meals. However, based on recent data and interviews with school nutrition leaders and anti-hunger advocates across the country, there is alarming evidence that many children do not have sufficient access to food. Among low-income households with children who qualify for free or reduced-price school meals, only about 15% have been getting those meals, said Lauren Bauer, a researcher at the Brookings Institution. Anecdotally, school nutrition directors across the country tell a similar story. 

An Education Innovation That Beats Learning Pods
Wall Street Journal: Many parents who can afford to are hiring private tutors to lead home-based learning pods, but there are growing concerns about the educational inequities that these learning pods are fueling. One potential example of how to better serve public school students in the COVID-era is Idaho’s “Advanced Opportunities” program. When Idaho students reach seventh grade, the state provides them with $4,125 that they can use to customize their high-school education. Depending on their educational goals, students can use the money to earn college credit by taking courses that are taught online, on campus, or by high-school teachers in partnership with professors. They can also use the funds to pay for AP exams, professional certification tests, and apprenticeship courses. See related articles: Huffington Post “Affluent Parents Are Pulling Their Kids Out of Public Schools” and N.P.R. “Class Without Coronavirus: Students Take Schoolwork to Sleepaway Camp.

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