The Weekly Connect 10/5/20

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

Wildfires trigger lingering trauma in California students.

Michigan invests stopgap funding for child care.

Remote learning is leaving students behind.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

Even When the Smoke Clears, Schools Find Student Trauma Can Linger
EdSource: For some students, the fire is only the beginning. The nightmares, the grief and an all-consuming dread can persist for months or even years. That’s what teachers and school employees have observed among students in California’s fire-ravaged areas, especially Sonoma and Butte counties, where deadly wildfires have struck repeatedly in recent years. Now, those school districts are sharing their observations and advice with schools around the West that are adapting to a new reality: regular catastrophic wildfires. “What we learned is that any kind of disaster relief must have a mental health component,” said Steve Herrington, Sonoma County superintendent of schools.

The Wealth Gap: How the Education World Fails to Fully Measure Students’ Economic Disadvantage
Chalkbeat: The education world often ignores wealth, focusing instead on family income, where racial disparities are smaller. It’s ingrained in the study of efforts to help students at an economic disadvantage and talk about them, too: How are low-income students faring compared to their more affluent peers? But by ignoring wealth we may be underestimating the extra support that low-wealth students and schools need. A recent study found that the median Black household with children took in 50% of the income of white families but held just 1% of the wealth. High-income and highly educated Black Americans still have much less wealth than their white peers, a reflection of policies that have excluded Black families from building housing wealth and passing it down to future generations. See related article: District Administration “How Education Research Aims to Tackle Racism.” 

Pre-COVID Learning Inequities Were Already Large Around the World
Ed Week Inside School Research Blogs: The pandemic has laid bare deep existing education inequities, in the United States and around the world, which will make it more challenging for districts to respond. A new study finds that even before global school closures, countries have made little progress in closing gaps between students in low-income and wealthier schools. And students in low-income schools, who have disproportionately experienced learning loss this spring, may be particularly at risk of falling behind: the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found students in low-income schools were three times as likely to repeat a grade as their peers in wealthier schools, even if both students had the same reading score on the 2018 Program for International Student Assessment. See related article: Reuters “Unequal Education: Pandemic Widens Race, Class Gaps in U.S. Schools.”

Policy

Updated Heroes Act: Stimulus Checks, Student Loan Relief, and Money for Education
Forbes: House Democrats recently released an updated Heroes Act. The new Heroes Act would allocate a total of $225 billion to “support the educational needs of States, schools districts, and institutions in response to coronavirus.” It provides a total of $208 billion to the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund created under the CARES Act, with $175 billion for elementary and secondary schools and another $27 billion for public higher education. The bill appropriates another $5 billion to help ensure that school buildings can provide the necessary protections for students and staff during the pandemic. This would include improving ventilation systems as schools are making improvements to prevent the spread of the coronavirus through the air systems.

Ed Dept: Schools Can Prioritize Reopenings for Students with Disabilities
Education Dive: In recently released documents, the U.S. Department of Education reminded schools of their obligations to comply with special education services and civil rights laws, regardless of whether students are learning in-person or remotely. Guidance from the Office of Civil Rights said that although schools should make every effort to provide in-person learning opportunities, they cannot prioritize reopening plans for groups of students based on their race, national origin, or color. The department, however, said schools may be required to provide in-person instruction for students with disabilities based on their individual needs. 

Child Care Gets a Boost with New Michigan Budget, but Structural Problems Remain
Chalkbeat: Michigan’s new budget extends lifelines to working parents who have struggled during the pandemic to find care for their children. The state has also extended these lifelines to child care providers whose businesses are at risk of closing. Advocates noted that the new funds come amid widespread budget cuts due to the coronavirus pandemic, and said they were encouraged by the move to help stabilize existing child care programs while offering services to more families. “It’s definitely a step in the right direction,” said Erica Willard, executive director of the Michigan Association for the Education of Young Children. However, the additional funding amounts to a stop-gap measure, not the overhaul of the child care system that many advocates say was badly needed even before the pandemic, Willard added. See related article: The Washington Post “Day Cares are Reopening. But They Can Only Serve Small Groups and Fear for Their Survival.”

Around the Nation

Survey: High Schools Principals Report Whole-Child Focus During Spring Closures
Education Dive: A survey of 344 high school principals indicates that during spring building closures, over half of high school principals helped students and their families navigate the healthcare system, connected them with mental wellness support, and assisted with housing insecurity issues. Almost one-third provided financial assistance to students and their families, more than two-thirds said their school or district provided meals to family members of students not enrolled in their school, and another 43% assisted students who experienced a death in the family. The survey also highlights how remote learning exacerbated inequities. High-poverty districts were eight times as likely to not have enough technology for a successful transition to remote learning.

The Students Left Behind By Remote Learning
The New Yorker & ProPublica: Shemar, a twelve-year-old from East Baltimore, is a talented student. But even before the pandemic, he struggled with not getting enough sleep and frequent absences due to instability at home and frequent moves. The stability of being around other kids and teachers at school often revived him. His district, like many, was unprepared when the pandemic forced nationwide school closures in March, 2020. A reporter from Propublica who has tutored Shemar for years, details a crucial part of the story of schooling amidst a pandemic through discussing Shemar’s experience. See related article: USA Today “America’s Missing Kids: Amid COVID-19 and Online School, Thousands of Students Haven’t Shown Up.” 

After-School Programs Struggle to Meet Demand, Find Funding During Pandemic, Surveys Say
Education Dive: After-school programs are struggling to meet the needs of students they traditionally support, according to recently released surveys. Budget cuts and the inability of low-income students to get to the programs contribute to the problem. Seventy-three percent of programs serving higher-income students were open in some capacity during the pandemic compared to 38% of those serving lower-income students. Sixty-nine percent of providers said they are concerned that the children who need services can’t access them. This summer, the programs could only serve about 50% of the number of students they served in 2019 due to social distancing, student-to-staff ratios, and other pandemic-related factors. After-school programs are also reporting struggling with the threat of losing funding.

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