The Weekly Connect 3/22/21

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

Suburban public schools are now majority non-white.

Colorado addresses the pandemic’s toll on the mental health of students’ and teachers’.

A year into the pandemic, students still lack reliable Internet access.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

Review of 130 Studies Favors Reopening Schools with Safety Measures
K-12 Dive: State and local leaders should prioritize in-person learning for students and make adjustments based on community risk factors, according to a 92-page report, which examines the collective findings of more than 130 studies. The report was supported by the American Enterprise Institute, the Center for Reinventing Public Education and other organizations. The report emphasizes the importance of in-person learning in addressing the physical, academic, and emotional stress students have faced during the pandemic. Research conducted over the past year shows several factors support the responsible reopening of schools, including low COVID-19 transmission rates in children, the benefits of mitigation efforts and the negative consequences of learning loss and social isolation. See related article: U.S. News & World Report “79% of Parents Support In-Person Schooling, Gallup Finds.” 

Suburban Public Schools Are Now Majority-Nonwhite. The Backlash Has Already Begun.
Education Week: There have been seismic demographic shifts in U.S. suburban public schools in recent decades. As a result, the population of the nation’s suburban schools is now mostly people of color, according to a new analysis by the EdWeek Research Center. As of the 2017-18 school year, white students made up 48% of public school enrollment in the suburbs of America’s 25 largest metropolitan areas, down more than 10% since 2007 and down 20% since 1999. With these shifts has come increased attention on the experiences of suburban students of color, who frequently report experiencing racial slurs, unfair discipline, and persistent opportunity and achievement gaps. Although Hispanic and Asian families are driving much of the demographic change across suburbia, they often remain dramatically underrepresented on local school boards and district leadership cabinets. See related article: K-12 Dive “Culturally Responsive Practices Reduce Subjective Discipline of Marginalized Students.” 

3 Strategies for Helping Students in Crisis Return to School
K-12 Dive: As more students return to school after long periods of virtual learning, schools need to be prepared to respond to all types of intensive behaviors, say school psychology experts. One universal and preventative recommendation for schools is to dedicate time to acclimating all students to being back in the school environment and acknowledging the hardships students faced. Pre-established protocols for crises and highly charged situations, such as staff who are trained in trauma-informed practices and a crisis response team are also critical to have in place. When these crises occur, experts recommend avoiding punitive action and making physical contact, as these can exacerbate the situation. Finally, experts suggest schools utilize relationships with community providers to students’ mental health needs.

Policy

Ed Dept: Use American Relief Plan Funds for Quick, Safe School Reopenings
K-12 Dive: The quick and safe reopening of K-12 schools this spring is the U.S. Department of Education’s greatest priority, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said on the same day state education leaders received notices about their funding allocations under the federal American Rescue Plan. The $122.8 billion in funding for K-12 schools should target the impacts from COVID-19, particularly for programs that help students who need the most support, according to Cardona’s letter to state leaders. The funds can also be spent on safety protocols, hiring of additional staff and teachers, extended learning programs, and more. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said the CDC also recently announced they will provide $10 billion to states to help fund COVID-19 testing for K-12 teachers, staff, and students. See related article: MRDC “Going Big for Little Kids: Why Kindergarten in Critical in the COVID-19 Recovery.” 

Coronavirus is Straining Kids’ Mental Health. The State Hopes Free Counseling Sessions Will Help.
The Colorado Sun: New legislation in Colorado has been introduced to address the increasing numbers of students and teachers who have suffered mental anguish during the COVID-19 pandemic. One proposal that is part of the roughly $700 million state economic stimulus plan hopes to begin providing support to both students and teachers who are facing mental health challenges exacerbated by the pandemic through a collaboration between the governor’s office and the state Office of Behavioral Health. It would connect teachers and students age 12 and older with licensed mental health professionals for three free sessions. Those sessions, likely conducted through telehealth, could serve as a bridge to more long-term mental health services, said Robert Werthwein, director of the Office of Behavioral Health.

Around the Nation

Coronavirus and Schools: Reflections on Education One Year Into the Pandemic
Brookings: Approximately one year ago, the World Health Organization declared the spread of COVID-19 a worldwide pandemic. Teachers, students, and local leaders had to quickly adapt to an entirely new way of life. A year later, a sense of normalcy seems to finally be in view. But it’s safe to say that COVID-19 will end up changing education forever, casting a critical light on everything from equity issues to ed tech to school financing. Brookings experts examined how the pandemic upended the education landscape in the past year and identified a number of themes, including how COVID-19 highlighted the essential role of childcare and early childhood education, the importance of a long-term solution for food insecurity, and the difficulty in predicting the impact of social distancing on children’s social development. See related article: The 74 Million “Education Disrupted: 52 Unforgettable Weeks for Students & Schools Captured in 52 Iconic Photos.” 

12 Months After Pandemic Closed Schools, 12 Million Students Still Lack Reliable Internet
The 74 Million: A year after the coronavirus shut down the nation’s schools there are an estimated 12 million students who, according to a recent analysis, lack internet service or make do with a patchwork of short-term fixes to participate in remote learning. Their issues are regionally specific, from a lack of broadband in the isolated reaches of Appalachia to worn-out and obsolete devices distributed to poor families on Chicago’s South Side. But the heartache and exhaustion are universal. These issues are even more complex for families struggling with housing instability. As part of the recently signed pandemic relief bill, the federal government is working on addressing the divide with $7 billion schools can use for internet hotspots and devices. 

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