The Weekly Connect 1/11/21

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

Educators can help students process the violence that occurred at the U.S. Capitol.

The CDC says teachers should be next in line for COVID-19 vaccines.

Educators and local television stations team up to reach students who don’t have Internet access.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

Caring for Students in the Wake of a Traumatic News Event
Education Week: The news footage of the protests that turned violent and led to the storming of the U.S. Capitol likely troubled some children as much as it troubled the adults around them. And even students who don’t fully understand the events may feel a sense of instability as the adults in their lives react. Experts on social-emotional learning say it’s crucial for educators to help students identify their feelings, understand the effects adults have on students’ emotional stability, and recognize teachable moments. Educators should not assume they know how their students are feeling and responding to events. Instead, they should investigate feelings, since students may look angry when they are actually scared, or a student may seem defiant and disengaged when he or she is actually overwhelmed. 

Researchers Pinpoint Three Elements of Effective Schools
The Hechinger Report: A recent study sought to examine qualities of effective schools. This study diverged from previous studies by focusing on elements outside of test scores. Researchers studied more than 150,000 ninth graders in Chicago public schools over the course of six years, examining students’ social and emotional skills, disciplinary incidents, test scores, and longer-term outcomes (college enrollment and graduation rates). Researchers found that in schools where students’ behavioral and social and emotional scores improved over time, there were lower numbers of arrests, higher high school graduation rates, and higher college enrollment rates. This provides evidence that non-test score aspects of school quality may drive positive outcomes.

More Evidence Suggests In-Person School is Safe, as Long as Virus is Controlled
U.S. News & World Report: Reopening schools for in-person learning did not result in an increase in coronavirus hospitalizations as long as hospitalization rates in the community were low at the time of reopening, according to a recent study. The study, conducted by researchers from Tulane University at the National Center for Research on Education Access and Choice, seems to bolster the emerging narrative that the benefits of getting children back into the classroom outweigh the risks as long as infection rates are relatively low and schools are vigilant about mask-wearing, social distancing, and sanitization. The study is the first to examine how reopening schools in person has affected COVID-19 health outcomes, such as community hospitalization rates, instead of positivity rates.

Policy

States Move to Suspend Report Cards, Create Accountability Flexibilities
K-12 Dive: Some states are taking advantage of COVID-19-related flexibilities granted by the U.S. Department of Education. For the 2020-21 school year Ohio, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Tennessee, and other states have moved to suspend school accountability report cards or waive or reduce the weight of certain accountability measures, like assessments. While the National Assessment of Educational Progress has been postponed until 2022, state assessments are continuing in many places with added flexibilities. States that are suspending report cards or being more flexible in their accountability measures still cited the need to support struggling schools and students with the aid of assessment results, while detangling those results from penalties. 

Can a Shot Reopen Schools? Teachers Should be Next in COVID-19 Vaccine Schedule, CDC Says
USA Today: Teachers should be among the essential workers next in line for a COVID-19 vaccine, an advisory panel for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently recommended. And some states, such as Ohio and Arizona, plan to push for those teacher vaccinations to occur as soon as possible, as a way to fast-track school reopenings. The problem: The vaccine’s rollout has faced delays across the nation, raising the question of whether teachers will be able to get the shot in time to make a difference in the current school year. 

Schools Get a $54 Billion Lifeline in Stimulus Package– But the Money Won’t Last for Long
The Washington Post: The nation’s public schools, which serve more than 50 million children, are set to get about $54 billion in coronavirus aid to help cover steeply escalating costs of personal protective equipment, building renovations, and technology needed for remote learning. But education advocates warn that the funding will not be enough to compensate for the deep cuts schools are likely to endure as a weakened economy wreaks havoc on state and local budgets. The funding is about a quarter of what advocates hoped for, and includes no additional money for a program that expands Internet access. State and local dollars provide the vast majority of funding for public schools. When state and local governments face budget shortfalls, schools are often the first to be impacted. See related article: Star Tribune “Minnesota Schools Eager for Federal COVID-19 Relief Aid.

Around the Nation

Delivering on Equity Post-Pandemic: Will We or Won’t We?
EdSurge: The pandemic has changed the ways that schools operate and serve their students. One district, Highline Public Schools, in Washington state, has adapted to these new challenges by envisioning a long-term strategy while dealing with their day-to-day reality of ensuring their students have devices, food, and internet access. School Superintendent Susan Enfield says that  in the long-term, public schools across the country need to reimagine education with a focus on providing every student, regardless of circumstance or background, with access to healthy food; reliable home broadband access; an adult advocate in their school who knows students’ strengths and needs; an individualized learning plan; a team of family and school staff in regular communication; and more opportunities for year-round learning to prevent summer slide. See related articles: Edutopia “Has the Pandemic Ushered in New Norms in Education?” and EdSurge “Schools Turned to Outdoor Learning for Safe, Equitable Instruction in 2020. They Don’t Have to Go Back. 

COVID-19 Pandemic Highlights Cracks in K-12 Truancy Laws
K-12 Dive: A spike in unexplained school absences during the pandemic could lead to truancy troubles for thousands of students impacted by factors ranging from homelessness to lack of home internet access. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, a disproportionate number of low-income students and students of color were sent to juvenile court for truancy infractions. Now, schools struggling to account for chronically absent students who have gone “missing” from their enrollment counts during distance learning are trying to avoid using the legal system. Some advocates say the time has come for a shift from harsh punishments for truancy problems to more positive reinforcements. See related article: The Washington Post “What It’s Like to Learn Online From Inside a Homeless Shelter.” 

Teachers on TV? Schools Try Creative Strategy to Narrow Digital Divide
The New York Times: Around the country, educators and local television stations have teamed up to help teachers make their broadcast debuts and engage children who are stuck in the doldrums of distance learning. The idea, in some ways a throwback to the early days of public television, has supplemented online lessons for some families, and serves a more critical role: reaching students who, without reliable internet access or a laptop at home, have been left behind. In some places, the programs air on weekends or after school. Elsewhere, districts have scheduled viewing time during the school day. In New York, the program airs every weekday on a public television channel, part of a network of PBS stations working with school districts.

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