The Weekly Connect 9/21/20

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

Schools with mostly Black and Latino students have been more likely to resume online instead of in-person.

Parents file lawsuits to block schools’ from requiring face masks.

New York City parents who are homeless say their children need more help preparing for the challenges of this school year.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

Schools That Are Mostly Black, Latino Favor Starting Online
A.P. News: Franklin Township, where two-thirds of the students are White, has allowed younger children to return to school buildings full time. But two districts over in Indianapolis, where nearly three-quarters of students are Black and Hispanic, the school year started virtually. That dynamic is playing out across the country: Districts where the majority of students are White are more than three times as likely as school districts that enroll mostly students of color to provide in-person learning, according to a recent analysis. The stark divide could further exacerbate inequities in education. Across the surveyed districts, 79% of Hispanic students, 75% of Black students, and 51% of White students won’t have the option of in-person learning. See related article: The Washington Post “Coronavirus Kills Far More Hispanic and Black Children Than White Youths, CDC Study Finds.” 

School Life, Student Life and Student Wellbeing — Insights from PISA
Teacher Magazine: The OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) asks 15-year-old students about their dispositions towards learning and about their general social and emotional state to establish a holistic appreciation of education outcomes and student wellbeing. Questions connect school life with the broader ecosystem in which students live – their families, their peers, and their communities – and provide information on the students’ development. Findings from PISA provide evidence that students’ sense of belonging at school weakened considerably between 2003 and 2018. This is important, as PISA 2018 found that in all 65 countries with available data, students were more likely to express positive feelings, in general, when they reported a stronger sense of belonging at school.

What Is Truly the Meaning Behind Words Like ‘Disadvantaged’ and ‘Disengaged’?
Ed Week Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground Blog: Adults often use the words “disadvantaged and “disengaged.” Unfortunately, these terms are often predominantly used to describe African-American and Latinx students, a practice that shifts adults’ focus aways from important issues like anti-racist work. Using these words also serves to endorse an unconscious bias (or create a conscious bias) toward students. Worst of all, these words can create a deficit mindset, which aligns with institutional racism. The result: some white educators may see students of color as disadvantaged or disengaged, when the reality is that students are disengaged because of the quality of adults’ interactions with them.

What Should Recess and Play Look Like in a Socially Distanced World?
EdSurge: Over the summer, now that social interaction is curtailed and playground equipment off limits, educators and experts have been grappling with what the pandemic means for recess and its typically uninhibited free time for unstructured play. Research shows that recess and play in general are essential parts of the school day and critical to learning. Recess breaks provide kids with a much-needed change in activity, which some studies have linked to improved classroom behavior. Recess also teaches kids how to collaborate and resolve conflict. To allow children to participate in recess, educators will have to be creative, crafting ways that children can play and maintain social distance. This could mean organizing socially distant games like obstacle courses and Simon Says as well as setting up unstructured and creative time on Zoom. See related article: Education Dive “Educators Find Strategies Fostering SEL, Play for Youngest Students as Coronavirus Continues.”

Policy

Parents File Lawsuits to Halt School Face Mask Mandates as Districts Impose Health Rules to Slow Pandemic
The 74 Million: Lawsuits led by groups of parents against requirements that students wear face coverings on campus have cropped up across the country, from Tennessee to Connecticut, as campuses reopen for in-person learning with a slew of new public health rules. As officials respond to the public health emergency, the lawsuits highlight fierce pushback among some citizens who argue that the mask requirements amount to government overreach. In classrooms and beyond, face masks have become a symbol of political strife, and school policies on them vary across the country. Three-quarters of Americans, including half of Republicans, believe that face masks should be required in public, according to a recent Associated Press survey. See related article: Ed Week School Low Blog “Schools Losing Out So Far in Court Challenges to Pandemic Orders.” 

COVID-19 School Closures Could Cost U.S. Economy $14 Trillion
U.S. News & World Report: The loss of academic learning due to schools closing to stem the spread of the coronavirus could cost the U.S. economy between $14 trillion and $28 trillion if they remain closed for in-person learning much longer, according to a new report from economists that evaluates the long-term economic ramifications of remote learning. The authors of the report evaluated the economic impact across a host of developed countries using existing research that suggests students in K-12 will earn incomes that are 3% lower over their lifetimes because of the pandemic, which translates to an average of 1.5% lower annual GDP for the remainder of the century.

How Much Online Learning Is Too Much? Schools’ Shift to Live Virtual Classes Sparks Pushback
Chalkbeat: With the coronavirus still untamed, an estimated 85% of school districts nationwide are continuing to offer some remote learning this fall. But, this go-round, many districts are ratcheting up their demands. Now, some students are expected to attend online classes that approximate a traditional school day, with consecutive periods of live video lessons interspersed with brief “brain breaks.” Districts made the shift partly out of necessity, having watched many students fall behind during the looser remote learning, and partly due to capacity, with more families now equipped with the devices and Wi-Fi needed for online classes. But resistance is beginning to bubble up against more intensive remote learning, with some saying districts lurched from too little online instruction to too much. See related article: EdSurge “Is Learning on Zoom the Same as In Person? Not to Your Brain.”

Around the Nation

A New Layer of Trauma for the Nation’s Children: Dangerous Wildfires
Education Week: The coronavirus has shattered the familiar routines of life and school for students and teachers across the country, and subjected millions to the stresses of illness, lost jobs, and isolation. But in 10 Western states, thousands of children and the adults who educate them are now reeling from wildfires as well. Added to the pandemic’s already derailed sense of normalcy, these new fire-driven disruptions have experts worried about how much stress children can handle. “When it comes to trauma, the old saying, ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,’ isn’t true,” said Robin Gurwitch, a professor of psychology at Duke University. “It’s a cumulative impact.” The more trauma people experience, “the more at-risk they are for health and mental impacts.” Related: The New York Times “As Fires Disrupt Schools, ‘the Pandemic Has Actually Helped’ 

Districts Embrace In-Person Learning Pods for Marginalized Students
Education Dive: An increasing number of school districts are adopting in-person learning pods for lower-income families and vulnerable populations. Indianapolis School District, for example, repurposed funds it would have used for in-person learning to get the learning pod sites off the ground before the start of the school year. The district oriented its efforts around special needs students and homeless populations. Students who qualify for the services are provided with meals and with transportation to the pods, which are hosted in school buildings. . Every site is staffed with a nurse, social worker, and instructional support staff. See related article: The Atlantic “Grandparents Could Ease the Burden of Homeschooling.” 

These Families Feel Forgotten as N.Y.C. Pushes to Open Schools
The New York Times: New York City’s unplanned experiment in remote learning has been disastrous for many of the city’s 1.1 million schoolchildren. But it has been particularly catastrophic for its roughly 114,000 homeless students, who rely on school buildings for meals, physical and mental health services, and stability. Homeless families and activists say the city has not done enough to prepare the children who have suffered most for the challenging school year ahead. Now that Mayor Bill de Blasio has delayed the start of the school year, the city should use the time to address glaring issues for homeless students, said Christine Quinn, who runs Win, a local network of family homeless shelters. See related article: The 74 Million “4 D.C. Families Faced Homelessness, Language Barriers & Limited Special Education Services During Spring’s Virtual Learning. They’re Waiting — and Hoping — for a Smoother Fall.”

 Growing Demand For Wilderness Education May Widen Learning Inequality
N.P.R.: Demand has surged for outdoor and wilderness programs, driven by parents desperate to get their kids off-screen and out of the house. Numerous New England wilderness schools report they could double or triple their already increased programming and still have waiting lists. But who gets to participate in wilderness education? Like the much-hyped learning pod phenomenon, the rush to secure spots in wilderness home-school groups can easily become another example of the opportunity hoarding that leads to learning inequality. Partnerships between wilderness schools and lower income school districts can begin to address some of these growing inequalities. See related article: Education Dive “Outdoor Learning is Safer, But How Are Schools Doing It? 

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