The Weekly Connect 11/9/20

Here’s the new edition of The Weekly Connect. Check it out and sign up to have it delivered to your inbox!

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

Students lost ground during last spring’s school closures.

San Francisco keeps schools closed, even thought its infection rates are down.

Social-emotional learning helps students in Dallas succeed.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

Schools and the State of K-12 Mental Health Conditions
ASCD SmartBrief: Schools play a critical role in identifying and addressing student mental health needs — and then intervening and providing the appropriate support. Approximately 49% of K-12 students may face a mental health condition during their time in school. Left untreated, these issues can impact their academic progress, behavior, and safety, and contribute to problems such as chronic absenteeism, dropping out, and issues with grade-level advancement. Five of the most common mental health conditions among adolescents are: separation anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. 

How Far Behind Did Students Fall During Spring Closures?
District Administration: Learning losses during remote instruction this spring were more severe in math than in reading, a new analysis has found. Using a model that treated spring school closures like an extended summer break, NWEA researchers found that students likely started school this fall with 37% to 50% of the typical annual learning gains in math. In reading, students began the year with 63% to 68% of the typical learning gains. However, losses were not universal—the top third of students appear to have made gains in reading while schools were shut down. The summer learning loss may not be as comparable to typical school closures because of the dramatic impacts of the economic crisis and the civil unrest sparked by police shootings. See related articles: T.H.E. Journal “After Campus Closures, More Students Began School Year Below Grade Level” and Chalkbeat “On Pandemic Learning Loss, School Districts Look Forward, Not Back.”

Policy

Districts Anxious About Plunge in Meal-Program Applicants
Education Week: Despite the nation’s growing poverty rate, district administrators say significantly fewer students this year are applying for free and reduced-price meals. The sharp drop–likely the result of the way districts are administering the program during the coronavirus pandemic–could place at risk millions of dollars in aid used to provide in-school and out-of-school academic and social services. That’s because participation in the program is used as a proxy for poverty levels in many state education funding formulas, as well as by philanthropic organizations, researchers, and others. See related article: Public News Service “Maryland Food Insecurity Skyrockets During Pandemic.” 

In San Francisco, Virus is Contained but Schools Are Still Closed
The New York Times: As a third wave of coronavirus infections has begun to take off across much of the country, San Francisco has been a bright spot. After experiencing a surge of cases over the summer, the city has tamped down infections to near their lowest levels since the pandemic began. One crucial part of the city, however, remains firmly closed: The public schools. Even as private and parochial schools have begun to reopen their doors, the school district has not set a timeline for resuming in-person instruction, except to say that it is not likely in this calendar year. The district’s decision to stay closed this fall, even as other urban districts have opened or set dates for partially reopening, has angered many parents, local health experts and the mayor, London Breed, who does not control the school system.

Around the Nation

Dallas Sees Strides in Social and Emotional Learning Study
District Administration: Fewer disciplinary referrals, fewer absences, and a more positive campus environment. Those are just three of the early optimistic findings from the Dallas contingent taking part in a six-year study on social-emotional learning. Dallas is one of six communities nationwide participating in the Partnerships for Social and Emotional Learning Initiative (PSELI) being run by Rand Education and Labor and the Wallace Foundation, which are helping gather data to see how schools and out-of-school-time (OST) partners can collaborate on SEL skill building. So far, the results have been positive, with students exhibiting improved teamwork, goal-setting and self-control. See related article: Education Dive “High School SEL Requires Approach Geared to Teens’ Changes.” 

Supporting Students on 504 Plans During Remote Learning
ASCD SmartBrief: Educators putting together 504 plans for students might have to approach it from a different angle these days. Though accommodating students by offering them extended time to work on assignments might seem like an appropriate route, with or without a pandemic, it just isn’t enough. These students need one-on-one support, whether it’s virtual or in person. Communication is critical for students with a 504 plan. Contacting students early and often is the only way to keep them engaged and moving forward. Once students with learning difficulties miss the first assignment, they quickly spiral to giving up entirely.

Rubric for Recovery: ELs Face More Hurdles Amid Lost In-Person Learning
Education Dive: English learner (EL) students were, and, in many cases, still are, disproportionately affected by extended school closures, say educators and advocates. While there are innovative and inspiring approaches by schools to continue language development programs, roadblocks remain, including the difficulty of adapting language development instruction to online learning platforms or in socially distanced in-person classes where students’ and teachers’ masks hide their lips and muffle their voices. Spontaneous, informal opportunities to be exposed to English and to use it are also disappearing. It is critical for schools to be creative and study what methods are working and not working, in terms of EL strategies.

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