The Weekly Connect 12/21/20

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

In-school tutoring programs could slow students’ COVID-19 learning loss.

Massachusetts educators and staff in the cue to receive COVID-19 vaccines.

Teachers learn to provide trauma-informed care for undocumented students.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

Teachers in High-Poverty Schools Penalized Unfairly on Observations, Study Says
Education Week: Teachers are unfairly penalized on their classroom observations for working in high-poverty schools with students who are academically disadvantaged, a new study finds. And those teachers are often Black—leading to a significant race gap in teacher-evaluation scores. The study found that the typical Black teacher in Chicago ranked at the 37th percentile in classroom observation scores, while the typical white teacher ranked at the 55th percentile. But once researchers controlled for certain school and classroom factors, including student poverty, behavioral infractions, and test scores from the previous year, the gap disappeared. 

Researchers: In-School Tutoring Programs Show Promise in Slowing COVID Slide
K-12 Dive: During a recent webinar hosted by the National Press Foundation, education researchers suggested federal funding of tutoring programs to close the equity gap that has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. The researchers emphasized the importance of having small-group, in-school tutoring programs, because they have the strongest impact on improving outcomes. One example is the Minnesota Reading Corps, which uses AmeriCorps volunteers as reading tutors. Another researcher who participated in the webinar emphasized the importance of ensuring that these programs are accessible to students who need the most support, but often don’t take advantage of tutoring programs. See related articles: EdSurge “Learning Loss is Everywhere. But How Do the Reports Compare?” and Education Week “What Would a National Tutoring Program Look Like? Can We Afford It? 

Experts: Sex Education Should Begin in Kindergarten
Montclair State University News Center: A new study conducted by researchers at Montclair State University shows comprehensive sex education can prevent child sex abuse and intimate partner violence and increase appreciation for sexual diversity, among other benefits. Researchers analyzed 30 years of research on school-based programs and their respective outcomes. Results show that sex education, like other subjects, is most effective when it builds on itself, creating a foundation and advancing with developmentally appropriate content. Children as young as preschool age not only comprehend, but can openly discuss subjects as varied as gender diversity, gender nonconformity, and gender-based oppression, making it the ideal time to begin creating a foundation for lifelong sexual health. 

Childhood Without Other Children: A Generation Raised in Quarantine
The New York Times: With months of winter isolation looming, parents are growing increasingly worried about the developmental effects of the ongoing social deprivation on their very young children. It is too early to have published research about the effects of the pandemic lockdowns on very young children, but childhood development specialists say that most children will likely be OK because their most important relationships at this age are with parents. Research shows that neural networks influencing language development and broader cognitive ability get built through verbal and physical give-and-take — from the sharing of a ball to exchanges of sounds and simple phrases.

Policy

CDC: Schools Need Additional $442 Per Student to Reopen Safely
U.S. News & World Report: Public schools in the U.S. need as much as $22 billion to reopen for in-person learning during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The report estimates that schools need as much as $442 per student to cover the additional costs to implement three buckets of safety measures the CDC recommends, including materials and consumables, which cover things like sanitization products and physical barriers for classrooms, additional custodial staff, and additional transportation. The estimate, which is significantly lower than other school reopening estimates, does not account for the additional costs of providing face masks, food service, contract tracing, and social distancing. See related articles: The 74 Million “Under Pressure: As Mayor Insists Schools Go 5 Days a Week, NYC Principals Receive Notice That They Owe Money for Missing Students” and U.S. News & World Report “CDC: Black, Latino Parents More Concerned About School Reopenings Than Whites.” 

How Schools Plan to Keep Meals Cooking Amid Colder Weather, Strained Budgets
K-12 Dive: While schools have been proactive and creative with their student meal distributions during the pandemic, concerns are growing that programs will struggle in the coming months to keep up with the demands or be unable to reach those in need. Only 44% of households in the U.S. are very confident they have the resources to make sure their children have enough to eat over the next four weeks, according to data cited by Lisa Davis, senior vice president of the No Kid Hungry campaign at Share Our Strength. Rising rates of childhood hunger worry educators who warn that students who do not receive enough food will suffer academically, socially, and emotionally. See related article: The Boston Globe “Massachusetts Gets Approval for School Meal Pandemic Assistance Through the End of School Year.”

Massachusetts Educators, Staff in K-12 Schools Can Get COVID Vaccine in Phase 2, but Most Students Must Wait for Child-Tested Doses
Mass Live: Educators and staff in Massachusetts K-12 schools will be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine in the state’s second phase, Dr. Paul Biddinger, the head of the state’s COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Group said recently. Biddinger said teachers and staff would be prioritized for the vaccine in Phase 2, but students would not be included because most students wouldn’t be eligible, unless they are 18 or over and have several risk factors and/or a high-risk part-time job. The vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna were only tested on adults, and the companies are just starting to conduct trials involving people under the age of 18.

Around the Nation

Backpacks Full of Boulders: How One District is Addressing the Trauma Undocumented Children Bring to School
The Hechinger Report: In some school districts in the U.S., educators are increasing their commitment to support undocumented students’ success in school. Prince George’s County, MD, is one of those districts. It has one of the highest enrollments of unaccompanied children in the country. To support these students who are encountering a new language, new culture, and new family life, educators in the district attended a seminar on trauma-informed care for immigrant populations. Teachers focus on understanding how trauma responses can manifest and how to handle these behaviors so that learning can take place. School staff use a strengths-based approach, focusing on three areas to support these children: improving their language skills, being inclusive, and building resilience. See related article: Public News Service “New KY Coalition Aims to Promote Trauma-Informed Education in Schools.” 

Why More Families Need ‘Afterschool’ Programs to Cope with Pressures of Pandemic
Deseret News: Promise South Salt Lake “Afterschool” programs serve a variety of family needs beyond after school care. The programs also provide food assistance, homework help, and drug prevention. Thousands of these programs exist throughout the country, yet they are out of reach for many who can’t find nearby, available slots. Experts say these programs are important for the economy because they support parental employment and are also a source of jobs. A recent Afterschool Alliance report said that amid the pandemic, demand for the programs has grown even as many of them have reduced staff or hours. The programs have become an integral part of the juggling act as parents balance work obligations with the changes placed on education by COVID-19.

Tens of Thousands of Michigan Students are Missing this Fall. The State Doesn’t Have a Plan to Find Them.
Chalkbeat: Michigan does not have the ability to find thousands of students who are likely “not being educated” during the pandemic, much less a unified plan to do so. As COVID-19 deaths rise in Michigan and more schools move to online instruction, it’s districts that have shouldered the responsibility for finding missing students, making phone calls, and in some cases knocking on doors. But many of those students remain unaccounted for three months into the school year, and state leaders have done little more than encourage local superintendents to find them. Michigan’s incomplete data system, which does not include home-schooling families, makes the problem worse. 

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