The Weekly Connect 2/16/21

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

In-school Covid testing reduces infections by up to 50%.

A Michigan bill would require all the state’s schools to have a school counselor.

The pandemic has forced school counselors to take on more challenging student needs.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

Tests Cut In-School COVID-19 Infections Up to 50%, Challenges Remain
K-12 Dive: Weekly testing of students and teachers using Abbott’s BinaxNOW rapid antigen tests cuts in-school COVID-19 infections by up to 50%, according to a new pilot study. The study, commissioned by The Rockefeller Foundation, piloted weekly antigen testing at K-12 schools in six U.S. cities including Los Angeles, New Orleans. and Washington, D.C. Testing had the biggest effect on infections when used to test both teachers and students at least every week in high schools. However, the pilot identified barriers to the effective use, including limitations of Abbott’s associated app, significant costs beyond the $5 paid for each test, and a lack of evidence that the tests are effective for use with children.

New Data Shines Light on Student Achievement Progress — and Gaps — in California and U.S.
EdSource: New education data recently released by researchers at Stanford University shows a complex, nuanced — and in some places, troubling — picture of student achievement and racial gaps based on standardized test scores. Over the past decade in California, average math and reading test scores rose for all student groups except Black students, while gaps in test scores among most student groups remained steady or narrowed. The exception was the gap between Black and White students, which widened. The researchers also looked at the 41 largest school districts in the U.S. and found that the Black-White achievement gap was narrowing in only 14 of these districts. See related article: Medium “We Need to Talk About Literacy Among Black Children.”

Policy

House Bill Would Require Schools to Employ at Least One School Counselor
M Live: If a new House bill passes, Michigan schools would have to have at least one guidance counselor on staff. State Rep. Felicia Brabec, D-Pittsfield Twp., introduced House Bill 4156 this week; it would require at least one counselor for every 450 enrolled students in K-12 public school districts and public school academies. Brabec, a clinical psychologist with a social work background, introduced the legislation at a time when local districts are reporting that the COVID-19 pandemic is “taking a toll on students’ mental health.” Brabec’s proposal follows the release of a 2019 study by the American School Counselor Association that stated Michigan had the second-worst ratio of students to counselors. 

Education Through the Pandemic: From Hawaii’s Push For a Statewide Plan to Reverse Learning Loss to Kentucky’s Bid to Close State’s ‘Nutrition Gap,’ 8 Ways States & Educators Are Coping With COVID-19
The 74 Million: As states wait for more instruction from the Biden administration on opening the nation’s schools during the president’s first 100 days in office, many states and districts are confronting challenges posed by the coronavirus emergency, and they are working to preserve student learning. Examples from eight states across the country include: Hawaii lawmakers considering strategies to reverse COVID learning loss; Texas teachers focusing on the fundamentals during their limited time with students; Kentucky’s education department seeking to expand summer meal programs to address the ‘nutrition gap;’ Michigan’s governor bolstering federal school funding with state COVID funds; and South Carolina’s educators and district officials finding lessons for improvement in early testing data.

How Are Schools Remaining IDEA Compliant During COVID-19?
K-12 Dive: School systems and teachers have taken many steps to fulfill specific instructional approaches in students’ IEPs. Some schools that were fully virtual, for example, opened in-person learning opportunities for students with disabilities who required intensive supports and for other students who could not access learning online. Many schools provided extra tutoring times before or after school. Schools also used teletherapy services and delivered assistive technology to students’ homes so they could better participate in online learning. Schools that are more successful in matching, or at least adapting, a student’s IEP from pre-COVID-19 to the current pandemic reality are taking proactive measures such as remaining in constant communication with parents and helping them with problem-solving. See related article: Chalkbeat “1 in 4 NYC Students With Disabilities Aren’t Getting Mandated Services This School Year, New Data Shows.”

Around the Nation

Telehealth, Motorhomes Helping School Nurses Respond to Drops in Preventative Child Health Services
K-12 Dive: The pandemic created another daunting scenario for school health staff: the need to respond to alarming drops in students’ regularly scheduled immunizations, well-child health and dental check-ups, vision and hearing screenings, and more. There were 44% fewer childhood health screenings between March and May 2020, compared to the same period in 2019 for beneficiaries of Medicaid and a sharp 69% decline in children’s dental services. When school nurses notice lapses in immunizations and preventive care, they work to connect families with community health care providers. To address these challenges, school nurses are getting creative, relying on partnerships with community organizations to bring video conferencing and motorhome healthcare visits to students.

Counseling Through the Pandemic
Montana Free Press: Over the past 11 months, the pandemic has shuffled the deck for school counselors, adding duties like visiting homes, recording attendance, addressing the increasing number of students who need intensive services, and increasingly coming to the aid of their colleagues. Nearly three-quarters of counselors surveyed by the American School Counselors Association said their duties had shifted last year to include following up with students who did not participate in virtual classes. Just over half said they’d had to follow up with students who did not return when their school reopened. Those changes represent a small fraction of the COVID-induced concerns and chaos that have fallen squarely on a profession dedicated to the academic and social well-being of Montana’s kids.

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