The Weekly Connect 10/13/20

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

U.S. Department of Education data reveals that Black girls are disciplined more often than their white peers.

Boston delays the next phase of in-person learning because of rising coronavirus infections.

Some students who struggled in school are successful with remote learning.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

Virtual Signs of Serious Mental Health Problems: A Teacher’s Guide to Protecting Students
EdSurge: With much of education being delivered in a virtual environment during the pandemic, monitoring students’ mental health is harder, but more critical than ever. In the virtual classroom, some indicators of distress remain the same, such as difficulty participating, poor attendance, and frequently reporting illness. But other indicators are new to distance learning, such as refusing to work or bickering with parents in the background during class. Likewise, various forms of withdrawal, such as zoning out, not being mentally present when on camera, or turning the camera off can serve as warning signs. Hopelessness is a major sign students are struggling with their mental health, and it can manifest through actions such as not turning in assignments or appearing more disheveled on screen.

‘A Battle for the Souls of Black Girls’
New York Times: The disproportionate discipline rates of Black boys have long dominated discussions about the harmful effects of punitive discipline policies, but recent high-profile cases have begun to reframe the debate around the plight of Black girls. A New York Times analysis of the most recent discipline data from the Education Department found that Black girls are over five times more likely than white girls to be suspended at least once from school, seven times more likely to receive multiple out-of-school suspensions than white girls, and three times more likely to receive referrals to law enforcement. See related articles: VT Digger “Several Vermont School Districts Consider Nixing Contracts with Police” and Forbes “Common App Will No Longer Ask About Discipline Records.” 

Tutoring by Teachers, Staff Leads to Greater Academic Improvement
Education Dive: Tutoring programs overall can significantly improve students’ learning outcomes, according to a recent paper from the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL). Tutoring led by teachers or paraprofessionals rather than led by nonprofessionals or parents generally is more effective, the evidence review found. J-PAL also said in-school tutoring yields greater results than after-school tutoring programs. The impact of tutoring tends to be greater in earlier grades, but some programs improve learning outcomes at the secondary level, as well. Reading programs are more effective for students in preschool through 1st grade and math tutoring was more helpful for students in grades 2-5.

Policy

Boston Delays Next Phase of In-Person School as Coronavirus Positivity Rate Rises to 4.1 Percent
Boston Globe: With Boston’s coronavirus positivity rate rising to 4.1 percent, city officials announced recently that they will delay the start of in-person learning for the next phase of students who were slated to return on Oct. 15, but will continue in-person classes for those who already have come back. Students in the next group — pre-kindergarteners and kindergarteners — will now start no sooner than Oct. 22, Mayor Martin J. Walsh said. City officials will reevaluate the data before that date to determine whether it is safe for students to begin in-person instruction then. Boston officials and the Boston Teachers Union previously agreed that a 4 percent rate would trigger a full school closure.

Coronavirus Has Spoiled Colorado Schools’ Decade of Planning to Improve Nutrition, Get Kids Exercising
Colorado Sun: The pandemic has undone a decade of carefully laid plans to improve school nutrition choices and get sedentary kids back up and moving, according to interviews with districts across Colorado. Many districts are in remote-learning mode and only now considering how to get back to in-person learning. PE classes for elementary-age students are nonexistent or considered “specials” offered sporadically during live or recorded video sessions. Lunches — and often breakfasts for the next morning — are handed out from school parking lots in tens of thousands of “drive-bys” a day across Colorado. Even for the districts or schools that are back in-person, there’s no return to normal for the PE and nutrition programs that make up the core of school-based health.

Around the Nation

Remote Learning Has Been a Disaster for Many Students. But Some Kids Have Thrived
The Hechinger Report: Remote learning has been a struggle for teachers and is expected to set back the learning gains of a generation of students. It has been particularly hard on children of color, kids from families who are financially insecure, and those without access to computers and technology at home. But a small number of students have done unexpectedly well. In some cases, those students struggled with distractions in the classroom during in-person learning. In others, they had social challenges at school: They were anxious in school and easily drawn into conflicts with other students, or embarrassed to engage in front of their peers. Some educators are now wondering how the experiences of kids who have done better during remote learning can be applied to improve in-person learning in the future.

Homeless Families Struggle with Impossible Choices As School Closures Continue
N.P.R.: The closure of school buildings in response to the coronavirus has been disruptive and inconvenient for many families, but for those living in homeless shelters or hotel rooms — including roughly 1.5 million school-aged children — the shuttering of classrooms and cafeterias has been disastrous. For this story, NPR spoke with students, parents, caregivers, shelter managers, and school leaders across the country about what it means, in this moment, to be homeless and schoolless. Remote learning can be difficult for children without an adult at home to supervise everything from logging on to the learning itself. The past six months have put all parents and caregivers in a bind, but many families who are homeless now find themselves in impossible situations such as having to choose between going to work or staying home to supervise their children’s remote learning.

IEPs Altered to Reflect Distance Learning Service Changes, But at Cost to Schools
Education Dive: When schools closed, ending in-person learning, some individualized supports for students with disabilities were easily transitioned to remote or virtual learning. But other services were harder to adapt to new learning formats due to the specific interventions that require physical or behavioral supports and other intensive services. To help all students with disabilities, schools are looking at the most important document in special education and a requirement under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) — a student’s individualized education program (IEP). These documents are being scrutinized and, in many cases, altered or expanded in order to reflect pandemic realities of how best to replicate in-person services to full or hybrid virtual learning approaches. 

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