The Weekly Connect 9/28/20

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

School counselors are struggling to support students.

West Coast schools help students with the trauma of facing wildfires and COVID-19.

The federal government will send schools millions of COVID-19 tests to help them stay open.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

How Ready Are We to Support Kids Through This Trauma?
Education Week: A recent survey of nearly 1,000 school counselors found that they faced significant challenges last spring supporting students’ healthy development in remote learning environments. For example, school counselors reported not being able to spend as much time as usual counseling students about social-emotional issues, career development, or postsecondary plans. Instead, most counselors reported spending their time tracking down students with low attendance in remote learning and delivering information to families. Results also suggested that a lack of direction and leadership from school and district leaders complicated this shift in responsibilities.

Experts Predict a Big Increase in High School Dropouts is on the Horizon
Huffpost: Since 2011, the four-year high school graduation rate has been inching steadily upward. But experts fear that 2020 could sharply reverse this trend. Education leaders are predicting a sizable increase in the number of high school dropouts during the 2020-2021 school year. With more than half of school districts using hybrid or remote models, experts fear struggling students will disengage from their school systems without a fully in-person option. Amid an economic crisis with high unemployment rates, more teachers report that their students are working hourly jobs or providing childcare for siblings to help support their families. Compounding these issues is the fact that many students still lack access to the appropriate technology to complete online schooling.

Do Masks Impede Children’s Development?
The New York Times: There are three potential problems that masks might pose for children as they interact with classmates or teachers. First, kids under the age of 12 may have difficulty recognizing people because they often focus on individual features. Second, masks obscure a great deal of emotional information that is displayed through facial musculature. Third, children may have problems with speech recognition because some aspects of speech are communicated visually. Scientists, however, predict that even though a good deal of emotional and social information will be hidden by masks, students will be able to make up for this through opportunities to communicate with unmasked people at home. Further, scientists assert that with support from parents and teachers, children will find ways to continue to communicate effectively.

Internet Trauma: Watching Police Brutality Online May Be Triggering for Some Philadelphia Students
Chalkbeat: The disturbing videos of the police killings of George Floyd, Philando Castille, Eric Garner, and others are easily accessible online by young people. The images, according to medical experts, can cause a form of post-traumatic stress disorder called internet trauma. Young Black students are even more at risk due to the potential impact of repeatedly seeing violent interactions between police and people who look like them. Even after watching the videos online, there can still be a lot of anxiety, fear, and stress related to the memory of the images. Signs that a child may have been traumatized include regressive behavior, clinging to parents, being afraid of the dark, and loss of appetite.

Policy

Fewer Kids, Less Money: How the Pandemic Puts Districts in a Bind
Education Week: How states compile and factor fall enrollment and attendance data into their funding formulas is complicated and differs from state to state. But what states’ efforts boil down to is that the fewer kids who show up, the less money districts get. Frantic superintendents across the nation are warning their communities that if their enrollment numbers don’t rebound in the coming weeks, they’ll have to either drain their savings accounts or lay off teachers. Some states have circuit breakers built into their formulas to mitigate the fiscal loss and spread it out over several years but some districts, such as Santa Rosa County in Florida, are already laying off teachers. See related article: Education Week “Shielding Students From the Economic Storm.” 

Updated School Psychology Standards Aim to Curb Shortages, Create Cohesive Systems
Education Dive: In a revision to professional standards, the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) integrated new expectations for the training, credentialing, practice and ethical approaches for school psychologists. The updated standards could create more pathways into the school psychology profession, including alternate credentialing opportunities that may help schools fill vacancies. This is important because there is an estimated shortage of nearly 15,000 school psychologists, and because caseloads are heavy. Most school psychologists serve far more than the recommended 500-700 students. The new professional standards include allowing school psychology preparation programs to include non-PhD faculty and providing more flexibility in how school service providers can earn school psychology credentials. 

Feds to Ship ‘Millions of Tests Per Week’ to Help Schools Stay Open, Official Says
Education Dive: During a recent Senate Committee hearing, Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said the federal government will ship “millions of tests per week” to help schools reopen and stay open in the coming weeks. Robert Redfield, director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, also said during the hearing that young adults, even though they are unlikely to get seriously sick from the virus, are “major contributors” to the spread of COVID-19. Nevertheless, health experts have cautioned that testing for COVID-19 should be paired with public action to limit the spread of the disease, actions such as wearing masks and staying home if needed. See related articles: Washington Post “Feared Coronavirus Outbreaks in Schools Yet to Arrive, Early Data Shows” and New York Times “What We Know About Coronavirus Cases in K-12 Schools So Far.”

Around the Nation

School Attendance in the COVID-19 Era: What Counts As ‘Present’?
N.P.R.: Taking attendance and rewarding kids for simply showing up is a time-honored school ritual for good reason: Just being there, day in, day out, is one of the most important factors for a child’s success in school. Attendance rates also form the basis of school funding decisions. Yet now, like so many other aspects of education, that simple measure is not so simple anymore. States are having to update their attendance policies to cover the realities of virtual learning. And for in-person learning, strict coronavirus health protocols mean students must now stay home at the slightest sign of illness, or to quarantine in case of a potential exposure. Experts say that now, more than ever, schools need to shift away from punitive means of increasing attendance in favor of a positive, problem-solving approach. See related article: Chalkbeat “Another Pandemic Shift: In Many School Districts, 1 in 10 Kindergartners Didn’t Show Up.” 

Wildfires and COVID-19: How Schools Are Trying to Heal Trauma from a Distance
Education Dive: La Honda-Pescadero School District in California was three days into the school year when fires burned sites where students without Wi-Fi could gather to complete schoolwork. As a result of that and the spike in COVID-19 cases following an emergency evacuation, the district is back to full remote learning with families facing limited Wi-Fi access, homelessness, and no learning hubs. Schools hope to respond to this crisis in part by individualizing students’ learning plans to better meet their needs and passions as well as teaching skills like resiliency, self-advocacy, and critical thinking. Schools are focusing on ensuring the social and emotional wellbeing of staff so that they can better serve their students while working with local organizations to strengthen or rebuild community support systems.

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