The Weekly Connect 10/19/20

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

Suspensions cause some students to lose more than a year of learning.

USDA extends free meals for all students for the entire school year.

One cause of the digital divide among students learning at home is a shortage of laptops.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

Zoom School’s Mental Health Toll on Kids
American Psychological Association: Although U.S. school districts that chose a remote learning model had more time to prepare for online school this fall than in the spring, psychologists are concerned about how kids will cope psychologically with the ongoing loss of access to the friends, teachers, and routines associated with going to a physical campus. Research shows that the school environment is critical for fostering academic motivation and social development, and many students rely on schools for mental health care. One of the reasons parents may see children skipping assignments or playing online games during study hall is linked to the fact that relationships at school inspire motivation for many kids. Parents can support their children by helping them engage with classes and stay organized. See related article: EdNote “Data You Can Use: Students’ Mental Health Needs in 2020.” 

New Research Ignites Debate on the ‘30 Million Word Gap’
Edutopia: In the past few decades, a range of public awareness campaigns have encouraged parents and caregivers to speak more with their children. The public service campaigns are the legacy of a well-known study, commonly known as the “30 Million Word Gap” study, which concluded that the first three years of a child’s life are critical to advancing their language development and can have long-term impacts on their success in school and in life. But now, the study’s conclusions are contested by recent research, which found less straightforward connections between the quantity of words children hear and their family’s socioeconomic background. Their findings have inspired a growing debate around whether biases about race and class influenced the original study’s methodology and takeaways. 

In 28 Districts, Middle and High School Students Lose More Than a Year of Learning Due to Suspensions
The 74 Million: In 28 districts across the U.S., students in middle and high school lost more than a year of learning due to suspensions, according to a new study. The study, released by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, analyzed discipline data from 2015-16 for almost every district in the nation. The most extreme losses ranged from 183 days in Edgecombe County Public Schools in North Carolina to 416 days in Grand Rapids Public Schools in Michigan. The study also shows that while the racial gap for suspensions has narrowed, Black students still miss almost two-thirds of a school year of instruction for discipline reasons — 103 days per 100 students, compared to 21 days for white students.

Policy

CDC Offers Cautions, Guidance for Schools’ COVID-19 Testing Strategies
Ed Week Politics K-12 Blog: New guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gives a framework for school-based testing for COVID-19, detailing who should be tested first and how such screening should be incorporated into schools’ overall strategies for controlling the spread of the virus. It suggests schools prioritize symptomatic individuals as well as individuals who have had close contact with those who may be ill with the virus. In a departure from previous CDC guidance, the document also discusses how schools in areas with higher risk of transmission may test broader pools of students and staff as a surveillance tool to monitor the effectiveness of mitigation efforts. 

USDA Extends Free Meals for all Students for Entire School Year
Press Herald: The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced that it will continue to allow free meals for all students through the rest of the 2020-21 school year. The announcement comes after the USDA had extended waivers put in place at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic through Dec. 31, but said it was uncertain whether there would be funding to cover the entire school year. “As our nation recovers and reopens, we want to ensure that children continue to receive the nutritious breakfasts and lunches they count on during the school year wherever they are and however they are learning,” said USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue in a news release. See related article: Salem News “From Farm to School: Program Links Growers with Local Lunchrooms.” 

27 Districts Join Century Foundation School Integration Effort
Education Dive: The Century Foundation recently announced The Bridges Collaborative, a grassroots effort to improve racial and socioeconomic integration and equity that involves 56 organizations, including 27 school districts of various sizes and geographies, and with various student demographics. Several charter schools and housing organizations will work with the school districts to build support for integration efforts and serve as a resource center for successful approaches. Strategies already used by schools to promote diverse student populations include establishing magnet schools and open enrollment programs, adopting new feeder school patterns, and building new schools designed to be diverse.

Around the Nation

When School is Home and Home is School, Which Rules Prevail?
AP News: How do standards translate when everyone is logging on from home? Schools are struggling to figure it out this fall. In the learn-from-home world, teachers and experts can easily imagine the friction of extending regular classroom discipline into young people’s previously private spaces. Can students have posters visible in the background backing social or political movements that others disagree with or find racist? Can they wear clothes at home that are banned from classrooms? How can a teacher respond when a student says or does something that the instructor deems rude, offensive or threatening? Weeks into the fall semester, a growing number of school officials are navigating those grey areas. See related article: The 74 Million “As Schools Impose Mask Rules to Slow Pandemic’s Spread, Disability-Rights Advocates Caution Against Strict Enforcement.” 

The Digital Divide Starts with a Laptop Shortage
The New York Times: Millions of children are encountering all sorts of inconveniences that come with digital instruction during the coronavirus pandemic. But many students are facing a more basic challenge: They don’t have computers and can’t attend classes held online. A surge in worldwide demand by educators for low-cost laptops and Chromebooks — up to 41 percent higher than last year — has created months-long shipment delays. Districts with deep pockets often win out, leaving poorer ones to give out printed assignments and wait until winter for new computers to arrive. That has frustrated students around the country, especially in rural areas and communities of color, which also often lack high-speed internet access and are most likely to be on the losing end of the digital divide.

Getting Rid of Gifted Programs: Trying to Teach Students at All Levels Together in One Class
The Hechinger Report: Around the country, gifted and talented programs have come under fire for exacerbating school systems’ already stark racial and economic segregation. In 2019 in New York City, a group commissioned by Mayor Bill de Blasio, The School Diversity Advisory Group, recommended doing away with all gifted and talented programs, while that same year Seattle attempted unsuccessfully to eliminate its programs as a way to alleviate school segregation. Screenings used to select students for high performing schools and advanced classes based on grades and test scores also face mounting criticism for exacerbating segregation. But some educators, parents and students worry about what might replace screened classes and accelerated programs.

It’s Impossibly Hard to be a Baby or Toddler in Some Parts of the Country
The Hechinger Report: In a new report from The University of Texas Austin, researchers looked at the myriad ways in which life differs for mothers, infants, and toddlers in America and the disparities families face when it comes to challenges like food insecurity, poverty, and housing. They found children have drastically different experiences in the early years based on the state in which they live, in part due to wide variations in policies and strategies that are in place in each state to support families. These disparities, which often disproportionately affect children of color, impact children during a critical period of brain development. The authors’ policy recommendations for combating these disparities include making it easier for families to apply for SNAP and increasing the minimum wage. See related article: Brookings “Ending Corporal Punishment of Preschool-Age Children.”

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