The Weekly Connect 3/29/21

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

Learning loss is more prevalent among low income students who have less access to technology.

The U.S. Department of Education will use Covid relief funding to help schools districts plan summer learning and enrichment programs.

The pandemic is overwhelming school counselors who work in poorer districts and have high caseloads.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

Remote Learning Erodes Student Well-Being, CDC Parent Survey Suggests
Education Week: Parents whose children were learning in a remote or partly remote setting were more likely to report that their children spent diminishing time outside, in physical activity, or interacting with friends, than parents whose children attended school in person. They were also more likely to say their children’s mental or emotional health was worse, a new nationally representative study from the CDC shows. And the parents themselves are under similar pressures. Forty-three percent of parents whose children are learning remotely reported losing time from their own jobs, compared to 31 percent of those who children are in full-time, in-person learning. These parents were also twice as likely to report child-care challenges as those receiving in-person instruction. See related article: K-12 Dive “As Schools Reopen, Prioritizing Student Mental Health can Prevent ‘Twin-demic.”

NCES Data Highlights Pandemic Instruction Differences by Race, Region
K-12 Dive: Initial findings from the NAEP School Survey show almost half of White students (49%) were more likely to be learning fully in-person in January. Students of color were more likely to be learning in fully remote conditions (68% of Asian students, 58% of Black students, and 56% of Hispanic students). The initial data also shows economically disadvantaged students, English learners, and students with disabilities did not receive full-time in-person instruction at notably higher rates, though over 40% of schools self-reported prioritizing students with disabilities for full-time in-person instruction at grades 4 and 8. There were also notable differences by region, with students living in cities, suburban areas, the West, and the Northeast being less likely to be learning fully in-person than students in rural areas, the South, and the Midwest. See related article: N.P.R. “New Data Highlight Disparities in Students Learning In Person.”

Sheer Access to Tech a Big Part of Learning Loss
T.H.E. Journal: A big part of the “learning loss” being identified for K-12 students is due to family income. They can’t afford the technology required for continuous access to classes, teachers, and study resources. A recent analysis from Georgetown University found that while 92% of students in families with incomes of $200,000 or more always had a computer available for schooling, it was true for only 61% of students in families with incomes of less than $25,000. Researchers looked at daily internet access and found that while 90% of students with household incomes of $200,000 or higher could always access the internet for school work, just 55% of students in low-income households could. See related articles: Brookings “Almost Everyone is Concerned about K-12 Students’ Academic Progress” and The 74 Million “States Target Learning Loss with Summer School and Extended Days, but Some Parents Want Option to Hold Kids Back.”

Policy

CDC Says Three Feet Between Students is Usually Enough, a Change that Paves the Way for More In-Person Instruction
The Washington Post: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently revised its guidelines for schools, saying three feet of distance between students is sufficient for all elementary and most middle and high schools, a change that lays the groundwork for many districts to reopen full-time for in-person classes. The announcement came as the CDC published new research that found limited coronavirus transmission in schools that require masks but not always six feet of distance, which had been the standard. Teachers unions opposed the change, and local unions may resist efforts to bring large numbers of students back into school buildings at one time. Many big districts have just recently begun to reopen for part-time, in-person school, and often after tense negotiations with teachers. See related article: The 74 Million “Inside the Massachusetts Study that Helped Change the CDC’s Stance on Social Distancing.”

Miguel Cardona Unveils Summer Learning Partnership, Releases Some COVID-19 Aid
Education Week: The U.S. Department of Education will join governors and state education chiefs to help create plans for summer learning and enrichment programs serving students hurt most by the coronavirus pandemic. The Summer Learning & Enrichment Collaborative will assist states, school districts, and others in planning how to use new relief funds, including the $1.2 billion earmarked for summer enrichment in the American Rescue Plan, the COVID-19 relief package recently signed by President Joe Biden. (That earmark represents 1 percent of the package’s K-12 education aid.) The partnership, which includes the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, is set to launch in April.

Chicago Public Schools to Invest $24 Million in Student Trauma and Mental Health Programs
Chalkbeat: In a couple of years, every Chicago school could have a behavioral health team of school counselors, case managers, and a social worker charged with supporting students with low attendance, discipline issues, or trouble at home. That’s the goal of a new district initiative to train school staff in trauma-informed student support practices. A recent announcement of a $24 million mental health plan offers a first look at how Chicago plans to spend some of the $1.8 billion in federal stimulus funds coming its way. Officials plan to spend the money across three years to expand the number of behavioral support teams from 200 schools to closer to 500 and enlist more help from community groups through grants to increase access to culturally relevant and trauma-informed approaches.

Around the Nation

In Poor Districts, Pandemic Overwhelms School Counselors
AP News: School counselors everywhere have played important roles in guiding students through the stress and uncertainty of the pandemic, but the burden has been especially heavy in urban, high-needs districts like Bridgeport, Conn., where counselors have been consumed with issues related to attendance and engagement and where the counselor-to-student ratio is very high. In Bridgeport, a lower-income district where three quarters of students are Black or Latinx, there is a 1:350 counselor-student ratio. In nearby Greenwich, Darien, and Weston, the ratios are respectively 1:220, 1:206, and 1:162. This discrepancy highlights one way the pandemic is likely to worsen inequities in the education system, as those with the most on their plates have the least time to help students.

Families Face Steep Truancy Fines, Contentious Court Battles As Pandemic Creates School Attendance Barriers
The 74 Million: Feuds between frustrated parents and overwhelmed school administrators are playing out across the country as the pandemic’s academic upheaval reaches the one-year mark. States continue to enforce laws that require families to send their children to school or face steep punishments for unexcused absences, including fines, community service and, in some states, arrests. These “truancy” rules have exacerbated the pandemic-induced challenges confronting many households, from economic instability and mental health crises to a lack of adequate internet access. It’s often these very hardships, school attendance experts say, that force students to miss school in the first place. The result is a growing concern that these absences are funneling children into the juvenile justice system and pushing parents into contentious interactions with child protective services. See related articles: K-12 Dive “Promising Practices: Georgia District Enlists Community to Tackle Complex Attendance Problem” and The Washington Post “The Missing Students of the Pandemic.”

At These Indianapolis Schools, Nurses Help Catch Academic Problems
Chalkbeat: Last year, St. Monica Catholic School started working with the Paramount Health Data Project, which is trying to provide healthcare in schools to improve children’s ability to learn. The Indianapolis nonprofit is currently partnering with eight schools to increase the role of nurses in academics by helping them collect and analyze data on student health. When students visit, the nurse collects information on the health concern that brought them to the office. The data project then combines that information with student test scores to come up with reports that help each school anticipate possible lower academic achievement based on health data, said Addie Angelov, executive director of the project. Angelov says that these data should help in making up learning losses. See related article: SmartBrief “ Using Telehealth to Support Student Wellness, Academic Achievement.”

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