The Weekly Connect 4/26/21

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:

Gifted education programs provide little or no academic boost to students.

Schools must design effective plans for using federal Covid-relief funding.

The pandemic is making the transition to kindergarten harder

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

‘High Surveillance’ Schools Lead to More Suspensions, Lower Achievement
Education Week: School shootings have prompted leaders to tighten security and surveillance measures. But new research suggests schools that tighten security and surveillance in response to shootings or other acts of violence may worsen long-term discipline disparities and academic progress, particularly for Black students. Schools that maintain the closest watch on students have significantly higher suspension rates and lower math performance than schools that use a lighter touch, according to new research released at the annual American Educational Research Association conference. The findings also suggest a high-surveillance culture at school can make it harder for educators to implement strategies like restorative justice intended to reduce discipline disparities for students of color. See related article: New America “Discipline Needs an Overhaul.”

Gifted Programs Provide Little to No Academic Boost, New Study Says
The Hechinger Report: A new study raises questions about whether gifted education programs benefit the kids lucky enough to be in them. Researchers analyzed records of a nationally representative sample of 1,300 students who participated in a gifted program for at least one year during elementary school. Researchers compared students’ performance before and after their participation in gifted programs. Students’ reading scores were only slightly higher after getting gifted instruction, moving from the 78th to 80th percentile. The boost to math scores was smaller, about a third of that size. No improvements were detected in how engaged or motivated students were in school after joining a gifted program. On average, Black students and low income students didn’t experience even these small academic gains after attending a gifted program.

Policy

Citing Pandemic, USDA Waives School Meal Regulations Through June 2022
Education Week: The U.S. Department of Agriculture will extend waivers from some school nutrition regulations through June 2022, the agency recently announced. That flexibility will allow schools to more easily serve students as they adjust schedules, seating arrangements, social distancing, and classroom cohorts to mitigate the risks created by the COVID-19 pandemic, officials said. For some schools, that means serving meals outside of cafeteria settings, even as students learn in-person. The waivers will also allow schools to continue distributing meals to students who are learning remotely without the red tape that can make it logistically difficult to do so. The USDA first issued meal waivers during the sweeping school closures that occurred in spring 2020. Officials have extended them several times since.

Biden’s School Pandemic Relief Funding Is an Opportunity, but One With Risks. Spending Without Planning First Could Be Costly
The 74 Million: The $123 billion in federal education aid for K-12 schools in President Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act poses unprecedented possibilities and challenges. While the reflexive solution is that states should spend the money immediately to mitigate the fiscal problems caused by the pandemic, the reality is more complex. Schools are actually in a manageable fiscal situation due to previous federal stimulus packages. Now, states are sitting on a huge amount of money and have significant flexibility regarding how funds are spent. This provides ample opportunities, but also creates a significant need to plan and think carefully about prioritizing quality programs and solutions that drive student outcomes rather than spreading the funding so thinly that in the end, it has little impact on student outcomes. See related articles: Education Week “As Schools Weigh How to Use New Aid for Homeless Students, Finding Them Is Step One.”

Around the Nation

After-School Programs Have Either Been Abandoned or Overworked
The Hechinger Report: When the pandemic hit, after-school programs across the country were hit with the twin catastrophes of plummeting enrollment and the loss of their physical space. Many went out of business, some went online, and others were left with the task of providing emergency child care that they were not set up to offer. A year into the pandemic, federal financial support has only begun to arrive. The lack of systemic support has come at a great cost. According to a recent survey, the number of students with access to after-school programs had been cut in half since the start of the pandemic. Of those who do take part, children from more affluent families are more likely to be enrolled in programs that are operating in-person than their lower-income peers, whose participation tends to be limited to online models.

Kindergarten Transitions Are Never Easy. But the Pandemic Has Made Them Harder.
EdSurge: In an ordinary year, a child’s entrance into kindergarten is a major milestone for students and families. The transition can be filled with trepidation, anticipation, eagerness and uncertainty. This year, in the throes of a pandemic, those challenges are compounded for students, parents, teachers, and school leaders. Children who might otherwise be enrolled in preschool are sitting out of early childhood programming. This fall will likely prove to be a uniquely challenging situation, as many of the children enrolling in kindergarten may lack key school readiness skills due to the pandemic’s impact on social interactions and structured learning experiences. Keys to success will include aligning with families and childcare providers about where each child is developmentally and having realistic expectations.

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