The Weekly Connect 3/8/21

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

A year into the pandemic, fewer young students are on target for learning to read.

Miguel Cardona is confirmed as the new U.S. Secretary of Education.

How one Washington, D.C., school convinced parents to let children return to their classrooms.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

One Year Into Pandemic, Far Fewer Young Students are on Target to Learn How to Read, Tests Show
The 74 Million: According to new data, 20% fewer kindergartners are on track to learn how to read than their peers were at this time last year, and most haven’t made much progress since the fall: 37% of this year’s kindergartners are on-track in early reading skills, compared to 55% during the 2019-20 school year. For first graders, 43% are on target, compared to 58% last year. While all students are performing worse than they would have in a normal year, the gaps are especially pronounced for Black and Hispanic students. Compared to the prior year, 13% more white kindergarteners are at-risk, while for Black and Hispanic kindergarteners, the increases are 27% and 25%, respectively. 

Parent School Reviews Correlate with Test Scores, Not Growth or Effectiveness
K-12 Dive: A new report published in a journal of the American Educational Research Association shows school reviews, often used by parents to inform school choice, reflect student test scores, which are associated with race and family income, rather than school effectiveness, which measures student growth overtime. Researchers studied parents’ reviews of 50,000 public schools over the course of a decade primarily on GreatSchools.org and found urban schools and schools serving affluent families were more likely to be reviewed by parents. The findings suggest parents from lower-income, minority families may not have the same kind of information available online to inform their decisions, while parents accessing and making decisions based on online reviews may be reinforcing achievement gaps.

Policy

Miguel Cardona is Confirmed as Education Secretary. Up First: Pushing for Aid and Reopening More Schools
Chalkbeat: Miguel Cardona easily won confirmation as the secretary of education, propelling the Connecticut schools chief into the center of a national effort to help America’s schools reopen and recover from a pandemic that has disrupted a year of learning. Senators voted 64 to 33 to approve Cardona a month after he faced a relatively friendly confirmation hearing, where he pledged he would “do everything in my power” to ensure a smooth rollout of President Biden’s plan to reopen most elementary and middle schools by the end of April. As Cardona steps into the position, he’ll be assuming a full plate of responsibilities, including championing the president’s stimulus plan and overseeing a new federal effort to gather data on the state of in-person and virtual learning across the country.

Penalizing Black Hair in the Name of Academic Success is Undeniably Racist, Unfounded, and Against the Law
Brookings: Black students are three to six times more likely to be suspended or expelled from school, and today, there remains a regressive movement that continues to criminalize natural Black hairstyles under the auspices of “preparing them for the real world.” Discretionary school suspensions, particularly related to Black hairstyles, are disproportionately applied. So far, seven states have passed legislation that would make school and workplace hair discrimination illegal. At the federal level, the CROWN Act, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, seeks to ban race-based hair discrimination. The bill has yet to be approved by the Senate. However, it serves as a worthy point of entry for President Biden’s criminal justice reform plan, which pledges to end the school to prison pipeline. See related articles: EdSurge “Our Students Often Have Run-Ins With Police. We Started a Two-Way Dialogue to Help” and Chalkbeat “I’m a School Psychologist Trained for Tense Situations. Too Often Schools Call the Police Instead of Letting Me Do My Job.

Around the Nation

‘They Got Back to Us’: How One School Built Trust and Got Reluctant Parents to Return
The Washington Post: In the fall, when Principal Victorie Thomas emailed a survey to families at W.B. Patterson Elementary School, in Washington, D.C., asking if they would want to return to the school building when it opened, just 2% responded. Most said no. Thomas wasn’t surprised by the low response, as family engagement was often low. But she knew that many children needed in-person learning to stay engaged, so she and her staff embarked on a communication and information blitz. They flooded the school’s social media pages and its academic platforms to tell parents about the reopening plan. Teachers called and texted caregivers, or pulled them aside during virtual classes. Families reported feeling increased confidence about going back due to the school’s communication and willingness to answer questions. See related article: The 74 Million “Bucking The Trend: How 2 D.C. Principals Restored Black Parents’ Trust in Returning Kids to the Classroom.” 

Texas Teachers Go Door to Door as Kids Disappear From Remote Class
The 74 Million: Since the beginning of the school year, a squad of teachers from Rawlinson Middle School in San Antonio, Texas, have visited around 100 homes. Once every few weeks, school staff develop a list of kids in urgent need of a visit. Two teachers volunteer, they set a date, and the school hires substitute teachers. With half the school’s 1,350 students learning remotely, and thus at a higher risk of chronic absenteeism, teachers from Rawlinson have come knocking at the first sign of trouble this school year. Many of the visits pay off: Kids log on again, or turn in work for the first time in weeks. Teachers often visit more than once, dropping by until the student is found, logged on, and participating. See related article: The Dallas Morning News “Texas Students Face Urgent Need for Emotional Support Even as Pandemic Makes Help More Challenging.”

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