The Weekly Connect 12/14/20

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:

Mental health support for teachers is a top priority in Colorado and other states.

California parents sue, claiming remote learning programs are inequitable.

An elementary school in Zillah, Wash., wins recognition for closing achievement gaps.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

Connecting SEL to Academic Outcomes
Edutopia: Social and emotional learning (SEL) is sometimes perceived as being just one more thing heaped on educators’ plates, but it’s truly valuable—in small, frequent doses, it helps bring about many valued outcomes. Writers from Edutopia explore four academic subjects, visual/performing arts, social studies, health, and English language arts to see how SEL skills are connected to desired outcomes in these subjects. In visual and performing arts, for example, it is key for students to be able to understand the perspectives of audience members and have an understanding of their own feelings in order to participate in the creative process. Similarly, English language arts involves utilizing critical thinking and problem solving skills, which are also a big part of social-emotional learning. See related article: Forbes “Musical Achievement Could Be Linked To Students’ Performance in Math or Reading.” 

COVID-19 Means More Preschool-Age Kids Won’t Be Ready for Kindergarten
USA Today: Parents and experts across the country are concerned about toddlers regressing during key formative years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced many preschool campuses to close. It’s hard to quantify how much the pandemic is undermining children’s readiness for kindergarten. Head Start-affiliated schools are in the process of rolling out virtual assessments designed to measure students’ achievement levels, but experts warn that the findings from those evaluations will need to be taken with a grain of salt since they will be performed by parents. Anecdotal evidence, paired with existing research on early-childhood education, suggests the damage could be severe. And it’s likely worse for vulnerable children. Their families have faced soaring preschool costs, widespread job insecurity, and fears of contracting COVID-19, which has disproportionately infected people of color.

Report: Mental Health Support a Top Teacher Retention Priority
K-12 Dive: A need to teach both in-person and remotely, as well as pressure to play the role of social worker and counselor, is causing teachers to feel exhausted and burnt out. This finding comes from a recent report released by the Colorado Department of Education and Colorado Education Initiative, which shows the coronavirus pandemic is putting a strain on the state’s teacher workforce, with an average of 6% leaving the profession and 2% taking leaves of absence. Teacher mental health is a top priority for 90% of district respondents in preventing burnout and turnover. Emotional support for students was also cited as the top educational need in the spring, though that shifted to addressing K-3 reading loss for the fall. Additionally, only 26 of the 140 districts surveyed are offering child care services.

Policy

CDC: Schools, Daycares Can Prevent COVID-19 Spread with Hygiene, Distancing
UPI: Schools and daycare facilities can effectively operate with hand hygiene, mandatory mask-wearing and social distancing protocols in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a recently published analysis. Education and childcare facilities operating under the Head Start and Early Head Start programs have implemented initiatives that are designed to limit the spread of COVID-19 within their facilities based on CDC guidelines. Using funds allocated under the federal CARES Act, the facilities also took steps such as creating hand-washing lessons and activities and reducing class sizes for social distancing, the agency said. The facilities also purchased masks, provided daily health checks for students and staff, and performed daily intensive cleaning and disinfecting of furniture and toys. See related articles: The Colorado Sun “If We Close, You Can’t Go to Work”: Colorado Child Care Centers Poised for a Big Infusion of State Money” and U.S. News & World Report “Education Groups Urge CDC to Prioritize Teachers, School Staff for Coronavirus Vaccine.”

California Lawsuit Alleges Educational Inequities During Remote Learning
EdSurge: Remote learning during the pandemic has failed to deliver a free and equal education to students in California, violating the state constitution. This is the charge of a new lawsuit filed by seven families in Alameda County Superior Court in California, arguing that the state has “left many already-underserved students functionally unable to attend school,” particularly Black and Latinx students from low-income families. The suit also argues that the state has failed to ensure that students have the technological devices and Internet access to participate fully in remote learning. The lawsuit goes on, saying that California has failed to set or enforce adequate instructional time requirements, provide training and resources to teachers and caregivers, or otherwise support educational quality during remote learning. See related article: AP News “‘Our Kids are the Sacrifices’: Parents Push Schools to Open.” 

Federal Judge Reinstates DACA, Orders Homeland Security to Quickly Accept New Applicants
NBC News: U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis recently restored the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in a court ruling that would swiftly grant thousands of immigrants whose parents brought them to the U.S. as young children the ability to continue to work and study in the country. In his ruling, Garaufis said that he was fully reinstating the DACA program based on the terms established under former President Obama’s administration. President Trump tried to end the program in 2017, and this past July Chad Wolf, the acting Chief of Homeland Security, suspended DACA pending a “comprehensive” review. Garaufis reaffirmed a previous ruling that Wolf has not been acting lawfully as the Chief of Homeland Security and, as such, his suspension of protections for a class of migrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children is invalid.

Around the Nation

Is the Pandemic Our Chance to Reimagine Education for Students with Disabilities?
The Hechinger Report: Simultaneous crises of a pandemic and recession are further straining a special education system that has long struggled to effectively serve students with disabilities. Chronic shortfalls in federal funding have burdened local education agencies and families, and in the most extreme cases, denied these children access to quality education. The consequences are evident: Graduation rates for students with disabilities fall far below those of other students, and children in special education are also more likely to repeat grades or be suspended. Some families and their advocates are hopeful that the pandemic could prompt a reckoning and systemic change. During remote learning, educators have had to get creative to reach all their students, leading to new ways of collaborating with parents and approaches to instruction. 

Zillah’s Hilton Elementary Recognized for Bridging Achievement Gaps
Yakima Herald: In Zillah, Washington, families of Hilton Elementary School students spent eight days getting to know their kids’ teachers before distance learning began this Fall. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic forced that unique approach, but the focus on creating relationships maintained the status quo at Hilton Elementary. Those efforts and others to reach all students keep producing exceptional results, such as an award for closing the achievement gap for two or more consecutive years and recognition as a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence. The school’s strategies also include utilizing a team approach involving all school staff, incorporating Guided Language Acquisition Design Strategies for Spanish-speaking students, and maintaining strong lines of communication with parents. See related article: K-12 Dive “How to Build Relationships with Students in Remote Learning Environments.”

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