The Weekly Connect 11/2/20

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

Since March, an estimated 3 million children have gone without education.

More children have the option of attending in-person schools.

Children who miss an in-person year of kindergarten because of the pandemic may lose ground.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

School Districts’ Most Pressing Social-Emotional Learning Needs
EdWeek Market Brief: A recent EdWeek Market Brief report sheds light on the social-emotional learning (SEL) needs districts face during the ongoing upheaval of the pandemic and the help they want from the private sector. The report includes a nationally representative survey of 700 district administrators and school principals. The biggest reported needs squarely reflect the COVID era: 60% of those surveyed said that creating a positive learning environment amid social distancing is a priority, and 57% said easing the concerns of parents and families is a top need. Other areas where district and school leaders said they needed SEL support during reopening include: supporting students with mental health challenges (55%) and creating safe opportunities for students to interact with each other (53%).

As Many As 3 Million Children Have Gone Without Education Since March: a Research Estimate
U.S. News & World Report: As many as 3 million children in the U.S. haven’t received any education since their schools shuttered in March. “The consequences for these students’ education and well-being are not marginal concerns: They are an emergency,” researchers at Bellwether Education Partners warned in a new report. Given how difficult reliable information on student learning has been to collect during the pandemic, researchers estimated the total number of students experiencing the worst consequences of school closures and the shift to distance learning by identifying groups of students most at risk and then calculating a likely percentage of those groups not in school, based on media reports and available data. See related article: District Administration “Are Millions of Students Really Missing School?

Peer-Based Anti-Bullying Initiatives May Harm Victims More, Researcher Says
UPI: Encouraging classmates to defend bullied pupils may do more harm than good, according to a recently published review of existing research. Unlike programs that include parental training, firm discipline, or enhanced playground supervision, interventions that involve working with the peers of bullied students tend to lead to increases in the behavior, the author wrote. So-called “bystander interventions,” in which peers are trained to come to the defense of the bullying victims, may actually increase feelings of victimization and distress by “disempowering” them, reinforcing or provoking bullying, or eroding broader support for victims, the review suggests.

Policy

A Rising Number of U.S. Children Have the Option of In-Person School
N.P.R.: In the coming weeks, more than 60% of U.S. K-12 public school students will be attending schools that offer in-person learning at least a few days a week, an updated tracker finds. More and more, districts are opening up school buildings this fall, even as coronavirus infection rates remain high in most states. That’s according to the latest release from Burbio, a company that aggregates school and community calendars from the web. As of Election Day 2020, the report says: 37.8% of students will be attending schools that only offer virtual learning, 35.7% of students will be attending schools offering traditional, in-person learning every day, and the remainder, 26.5%, will be attending schools that offer a hybrid schedule of two or three in-person days per week. 

As Coronavirus Cases Rise, Mass. Education Officials Caution Against Abandoning In-Person Schooling
The Boston Globe: As cases of COVID-19 continue to spike across Massachusetts, state education leaders said that even schools in communities deemed to be at the highest-risk for virus transmission should not abandon in-person classroom learning unless there is evidence that the virus is spreading within the schools. Education Secretary Jim Peyser and Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeff Riley also defended plans for the state to administer the MCAS exam in the spring. The Baker administration has asked districts to review at least three weeks of community COVID-19 data before altering their learning models, but Peyser said even consistently “red” communities should not switch to remote learning unless the virus is spreading in schools.

EPA Proposal Would Mandate Lead Testing in 20% of K-12 Schools, Child Care Centers
Education Dive: It has been decades since lead was first identified as a toxin harmful to the neurological development of young children. However, there are no federal laws that require schools or child care facilities to test their drinking water for lead or copper. A proposed update to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Lead and Copper Rule, now in the final stages of review, would change that by requiring community water systems to test for lead in drinking water at 20% of K-12 schools and licensed child cares in their service area every year. If approved, it would be the first substantive change to the EPA’s Lead and Copper Rule since 1991, and it has the potential to reduce the number of children exposed to contaminated drinking water.

Around the Nation

What Kids Stand to Lose if 2020 Steals Kindergarten
The Hechinger Report: Approximately 3.7 million 5-year-olds were expected to enroll in kindergarten this fall. In pandemic times, most of them, 62% by one estimate, were slated to start the school year remotely. Kindergarten is designed for young children, who learn best by doing. And while pre-literacy and math skills are covered, building block towers, playing make-believe and mastering the playground equipment are also key elements of this critical grade. “I don’t want to pit one grade against another,” said Laura Bornfreund, director of early and elementary education policy at New America. “But the foundational knowledge, the skills to be able to learn and do well in school later are so important. Kindergarten matters a lot.” Asked what 5-year-olds stand to lose if their entire kindergarten experience is moved online, Bornfreund was concise: “All of it.”

K-12 Class Sizes Have Ballooned With Online Learning. It’s Not a Good Thing.
EdSurge: In New York City, schools can now double the in-person limit of 34 students per class when it’s all online. From Rhode Island to Arizona, families and teachers complain of online class sizes that routinely creep past 50 students. And elsewhere, parents are taking note of swelling online classes in districts where socially-distant, in-person classes hold as few as 13 students. Yet much like the debate over the appropriate length of a remote school day, teachers are asking a single, pressing question of administrators, fellow educators, and even social media communities: Where are these numbers coming from? While there is limited research on the topic, it is suggested that a good rule of thumb for schools may be to keep online class sizes level with traditional class sizes teachers are used to.

Most Educators Require Kids to Turn Cameras On in Virtual Class, Despite Equity Concerns
Ed Week Teaching Now Blog: The issue of whether students should turn their video cameras on during remote classes has been heavily debated. Cameras can foster student engagement and make teachers feel less like they’re speaking into an abyss, but requiring cameras can make some students feel vulnerable or exposed. A new Education Week survey found that 77% of teachers, principals, and district leaders say that if students have working cameras on their devices, they must keep them on during class. Of those educators, 42% make exceptions based on the age of the student, the preference of the student, and other considerations. An additional 17% report stricter rules in which cameras must be kept on unless parents request an exception. And 18% say cameras must be kept on, no exceptions allowed. 

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