The Weekly Connect 4/12/21

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:

Pre-k may boost students’ math scores as much as eight years later.

Eighty percent of K-12 educators have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

As schools move through the pandemic, they should factor in the impact of adult stress on students

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

‘I Miss the Interaction’: The Pandemic Has Thrown Curveballs at School Counselors
Education Week: School counselors were already stretched thin before the pandemic and have been thrown a lot of curveballs since its start. Counselors in remote or hybrid schools can’t casually touch base with a student in the hallway. Kids who are learning online need help coping with isolation and anxiety. Students can keep their cameras off. Even with cameras on, building rapport can be tough. In fact, 68% of counselors listed having access to students in a virtual environment as challenging or extremely challenging this school year, according to a recent American School Counselor Association survey. But school counselors do notice some silver linings, such as virtual counseling appointments being more accessible and easier to schedule with some students and families. See related article: EdSurge “Students Are Struggling. They’re Asking Us to Slow Down and Focus on Relationships.”

When School Goes Remote, Many LGBTQ Students Lose a Safe Space
Education Week: “Schools are the most affirming environment that most LGBTQ youth have in their lives…because of the people who are there: the teachers, the school nurses, the counselors, their friends. Folks who allow them the ability to be themselves” said Amy Green, vice president of research for the Trevor Project. Survey data show that while the pandemic has taken a toll on most teenagers, it has especially affected LGBTQ youth. Specifically, more LGBTQ students report having more problems in school than before the pandemic, feeling too sad or down to focus on instruction, and having more negative relationships with family members now than in January 2020, compared to heterosexual students.

Pre-K May Boost Math Scores Even Eight Years Later
The Hechinger Report: One of the only recent studies following graduates of public pre-K programs into middle school delivered some positive news for those seeking to expand such opportunities: Students in Georgia who attended the state’s prekindergarten program at age four were up to twice as likely to meet academic standards on the state’s standardized math test in grades 4-7. The study looked at children who attended pre-K in Georgia during the 1999-00 school year and analyzed their performance on state tests compared to peers who did not attend pre-K. “We weren’t surprised,” said Stacey Neuharth-Pritchett, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Georgia, and one of the authors of the study, which encompassed 458 children. “It’s not about intellect or capacity, it’s just about access. These little scholars [got] access to a really enriched vocabulary environment and early exposure to math skills.”

Policy

With New Aid, Schools Seek Solutions to Problems New and Old
A.P. News: With a massive infusion of federal aid coming their way, schools across the U.S. are weighing how to use the windfall to ease the harm of the pandemic and to tackle problems that existed long before COVID-19. The assistance totals $123 billion, several times the federal funding some districts typically receive. The aid will help schools reopen and expand summer programs. It also offers a chance to pursue programs that have long been seen as too expensive, such as intensive tutoring, mental health services, and curriculum upgrades. But the spending decisions have high stakes. If key needs are ignored or if the money does not bring tangible improvements, schools may face blowback. At the same time, schools must be wary of taking on long-term costs they cannot sustain. See related article: The 74 Million “First Phase of Biden Infrastructure Plan to Include Billions for Schools, Child Care Centers and Broadband.”

Ed Dept. to Review Title IX Rules on Sexual Assault, Gender Equity, LGBTQ Rights
Education Week: The U.S. Department of Education will review its regulations and policies related to Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in K-12 schools, colleges, and universities. The review, which follows an executive order by President Joe Biden, could help determine how the agency defines unfair treatment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in K-12 education. “Experiencing sex discrimination in any form can derail a student’s opportunity to learn, participate, and thrive in and outside of the classroom, including in extracurricular activities and other educational settings,” acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Suzanne Goldberg said in a recent letter to educators and officials, announcing the review. See related article: Education Week “Justice Department Memo Could Stoke State-Federal Fights Over Transgender Students’ Rights.”

About 80% of K-12 Educators and Staff Have Been Given at Least One Vaccine Dose
New York Times: Nearly 80%, or about eight million teachers, school staff and child care workers in the United States received their first vaccine dose by the end of March, according to the C.D.C., with about two million receiving their shot through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program. President Biden announced the program in March, urging nationwide access to vaccines for school employees and child care workers. But a hodgepodge of eligibility guidelines followed, as some states chose not to deviate from their rollout plans. By the end of March, however, K-12 educators in all states had become eligible to receive a vaccine. See related article: Education Week “Teens Are Starting to Get Vaccinated. That’s a Big Deal for Schools.”

Around the Nation

School Counselors Have Implicit Bias. Some Are Ready to Address It.
EdSurge: Questions have been circulating about what school counselors can do differently to support all students and how they can be more intentional allies for students of color. This is especially important, given that school counselors serve as gatekeepers in many districts, recommending high-performing students for more rigorous coursework and signaling to older students going through the college application process which colleges are attainable. The American School Counselor Association reports that it is trying to improve counselors’ interactions with students by forming a diversity, equity and inclusion task force and keeping a web page of anti-racist resources. However, one barrier for the profession is its whiteness: a recent survey found that 77% of school counselors identify as White, 10% as Black or African American, 5% as Latinx, 3% as multiracial, and 1% as Asian. See related article: Boston Globe “The Exhaustion of Being a Black Teacher in a School When You’re One of Too Few Educators of Color.”

Parents Fighting, Teachers Crying: Grownup Stress is Hitting Kids Hard
The Hechinger Report: The parents of the more than 50 million children who attend public schools in the U.S. are facing an unprecedented amount of stress. They worry about financial struggles, keeping their families healthy, managing isolation, and juggling work and childcare. Teachers are in a similar boat. Jennifer Greif Green, an associate professor at Boston University, said most of a child’s interactions with adults are through parents and teachers, “so any disruption to that is really going to have an impact on that whole ecosystem and all those relationships.” She said that as everyone heals from the disruption of the past year, the education system needs to recognize that adult stress has affected children and must put in place a plan to support adult mental health and rebuild trust in relationships.

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