The Weekly Connect 1/19/21

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:

A study finds that weekend food programs — that send students home with backpacks of food –address hunger and improve academic performance.

President-elect Joe Biden plans to address education challenges caused by the pandemic.

Given the rise in failing grades during the pandemic, some Michigan schools are considering ways to revamp their approach to assignments and grading.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

Student Outcomes Improve with Weekend Food Programs
The Daily Item: Weekend feeding (backpack) programs send students home on Friday afternoons with nutritious, easy-to-prepare food to sustain them through the weekend so they can arrive at school well-fed and ready to learn on Monday mornings. A recent study indicates that these programs not only provide needed nutrition, but also have a positive effect on academic performance. The study is one of the first to provide evidence of the plausibly causal effects of weekend feeding programs on academic performance in the form of increased reading and math test scores. The study also provides evidence that expansion of these programs could be a cost-effective way to both reduce childhood food insecurity and improve scholastic outcomes for low-performing students.

Why California Needs to Ban Preschool Suspensions and Expulsions, Experts Say
EdSource: Throwing a tantrum, crying inconsolably, hitting or biting, and refusing to follow the rules are challenging behaviors that many preschool teachers experience on the playground and in the classroom. For many children, these incidents are quickly forgiven and forgotten. But for some youngsters, the incidents have repercussions that resonate throughout their childhood and beyond. That’s one of the reasons that California’s new Master Plan for Early Learning and Care, an ambitious 10-year plan to reform the state’s early childhood system, calls for prohibiting suspensions and expulsions in state-subsidized early learning and care programs. Such practices disproportionately impact children of color, particularly Black boys, experts say.

Policy

How Biden’s Education Department Will Tackle Pandemic and Trump-Era Policies
PBS News Hour: Addressing the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on education will be among some of the most urgent issues facing President-elect Joe Biden when he takes office. Biden’s long list of stated education priorities include undoing the Trump administration’s cutbacks on regulations meant to protect vulnerable students from discrimination, exploitation, or civil rights violations. But some of these goals could take a back seat as Biden’s administration prepares to oversee an unprecedented public health crisis that has gone on for nearly a year and impacted the education of millions of children across the country. See related articles: Education Week “Obama Education Staff Involved in Race to the Top, Civil Rights Join Biden’s White House” and The Washington Post “Biden, Aiming to Reopen Schools, Set to Request Infusion of Cash.” 

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Resigns in Wake of Capitol Insurrection
K-12 Dive: U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos tendered her resignation letter to President Donald Trump, citing Trump’s rhetoric around the storming of the U.S. Capitol by a mob of his supporters that delayed the certification of presidential election results. In her letter, she wrote what should have been a time to highlight and celebrate the administration’s accomplishments was marred by “the mess caused by violent protestors overrunning the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to undermine the people’s business.” She continued, “There is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation, and it is the inflection point for me.” DeVos also cited the administration’s education achievements during her tenure, including expansions of school choice and “education freedom” in several states, and returning decision-making power to local levels. See related articles: Education Week “How to Support Your Students Following a Traumatic News Day” and Education Week “How to Teach the U.S. Capitol Attack: Dozens of Resources to Get You Started.” 

Boston Schools Plan to Bring More Students Back in Person in Coming Months
Boston Globe: Boston public school officials recently announced a plan to resume in-person classes for any students who would like to attend, starting in February with the first of four phases that extend into April. The timeline, which has the support of Boston Teachers Union as well as city health officials, means thousands of older students who have been out of the classroom for nearly a year, will have the opportunity to return. Fewer than 2,000 students with special needs have been attending classes in person since November. Rising COVID-19 cases, antiquated school buildings with old or no mechanical ventilation systems, and drawn-out negotiations with the teacher’s union have frustrated the district’s efforts to get kids back into classrooms. The current timeline could be adjusted again pending rapid changes in infection rates. See related articles: Education Week “Will New COVID-19 Strains Mean More Cases in Schools? An Explainer” and The 74 Million “Survey of 477 Districts Shows Surge in COVID-19 Cases Is Reversing Reopening Progress in America’s Schools.”

Around the Nation

Schools Are a Lifeline for Homeless Students. COVID-19 Is Severing the Connection
EdSurge: For students experiencing homelessness, schools are a lifeline for their entire families. Allen Blackwell III, the homeless and foster care liaison for Baltimore City Public Schools, says his department has continued to provide food, clothing, and transportation support despite being largely cut off from in-person contact with students since March. But that system only works if homelessness liaisons know where these students are. The COVID-19 pandemic made that exponentially harder when it forced districts to go virtual in the spring and kept many remote throughout the fall. The shutdowns, in conjunction with families’ frequently changing phone numbers and addresses, has made it hard for students and families to stay connected to school staff and vice versa. 

More F’s, More Worries: Michigan School Leaders Rethink Grading During Pandemic
Chalkbeat: About 20% of elementary and middle school students and up to 35% of high school students in the Detroit Public Schools Community District failed at least one class in the first quarter. Those rates are about twice the rates of the previous school year, according to district estimates. Similar grading trends are emerging nationally, in districts such as St. Paul and Salt Lake City. To combat the problem in Michigan, school leaders are reconsidering their approaches to grades and assignments this school year. At least one district has eliminated failing grades and others might switch to pass/fail grading. In Detroit, the district is creating an online learning task force that will study grades.

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