The Weekly Connect 5/3/21

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:

Schools can use federal Covid relief funds to invest in integrated student support programs like City Connects.

To better target resources, educators should look at students’ academic and health metrics.

President Joe Biden plans to expand universal preschool.

New York City will conduct mental health screenings of all its students and have social workers in every school.

To read more, click on the following links.

City Connects News

Small Investments for Big Gains: Transforming Wraparound Services into an Engine of Opportunity
Brookings: Children and families are facing a number of stresses that are known to disrupt healthy child development and impede a child’s readiness to learn. School and community leaders, armed with $190 billion for K-12 education from Congress’ stimulus bills, are eager to mitigate these sources of harm with resources, relationships, and opportunities intended to support children and families. Evidence-based comprehensive support models, which aim to address the out-of-school factors that can impact students’ in-school engagement and readiness to learn, are an allowable use of federal education funds. One evidence-based model of integrated student support, City Connects, is a cost-effective way to meet student needs. A recent paper found that for every dollar invested in City Connects and the services and resources to which students and families are connected, there is a return to society of $3. Because the costs are inclusive of external community services and the benefits do not include social-emotional, family, or teacher outcomes, this estimate is conservative.

Research & Practice

‘Learning Loss, in General, Is a Misnomer’: Study Shows Kids Made Progress During COVID-19
Education Week: Even though the pandemic has interrupted learning, students are still making progress in reading and math this year, according to a new analysis from the assessment provider Renaissance. The company looked at a large sample of students—about 3.8 million in grades 1-8—who had taken Star Assessments, which are interim tests in either math or reading, during the winter of the 2020-21 school year. Overall, the analysis found, students’ scores rose during the first half of the 2020-21 school year. In other words, children did make academic progress during COVID-19. Even more encouraging, the amount of progress made was similar to what Renaissance would expect in a non-pandemic year.

Can School Nurses Be the Link Between Student Health and Academic Gains?
K-12 Dive: As schools address lost instructional time during a global health crisis, educators should consider analyzing school medical data along with academic metrics to better target resources and intervene earlier when a student struggles with learning, Addie Angelov, founder and executive director of the Paramount Health Data Project, told K-12 Dive. By correlating information about student visits to the school nurse with academic data, schools can also use that information to advocate for more funds for school health programs; form partnerships with nonprofits; increase efforts toward equitable practices; and better identify students in need of Section 504 services, Angelov said.

Policy

Biden Pitches Plan to Expand Universal Pre-K, Free School Meal Programs, Teacher Training
Education Week: President Joe Biden proposed an ambitious $1.8 trillion American Families Plan that would expand universal prekindergarten access, make it easier for high-poverty schools to serve free meals, and fund programs to train and support teachers. The package served as the centerpiece of Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress. It faces strong political headwinds as Congress considers other costly proposals from the administration. Biden pitched the plan as adding four additional years of free education, two in early childhood and two years of community college, to the existing public education system. The plan would also provide $9 billion to “train, equip and diversify American teachers” and $45 billion to expand nutrition programs.

USDA Moves To Feed Millions of Children Over The Summer
N.P.R.: The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced a new effort to feed millions of children this summer, when free school meals traditionally reach just a small minority of the kids who rely on them the rest of the year. The move expands what’s known as the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer, or P-EBT, program into the summer months, and the USDA estimates it will reach more than 30 million children. P-EBT takes the value of the meals kids aren’t getting at school, about $6.82 per child per weekday, according to the USDA, and puts it onto a debit card that families can use at the grocery store. Households already enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (once known as food stamps) can have the value placed directly onto their SNAP debit card. See related article: The Hechinger Report “A Solution to the Cycle of Poverty?

How the Pandemic Is Affecting Schools’ Mandated Collection of Key Civil Rights Data
Education Week: The Biden administration is instructing school districts how to collect the latest civil rights-related data about students and educators, despite concerns about how the pandemic will affect that process. Instructions from the Department of Education, for example, indicate that for discipline and safety incidents, the term “at school” refers to virtual as well as in-person activities. The Education Department’s instructions underscore concerns that virtual schooling and the disruptions to K-12 education more broadly caused by the pandemic could undermine the validity of the data collection. COVID-19 could also complicate discerning long-term trends when comparing this year’s information to previous years’ about key education issues and inequities students face. See related article: Chalkbeat “Principals Show Bias in Responses to Black Parents, New Study Finds.”

Around the Nation

Addressing Mental Health: NYC to Screen Students at All Schools, Add 500 Social Workers
Chalkbeat: New York City teachers will screen their students for mental health needs this coming school year. The city also plans to hire about 500 new social workers to help schools address possible trauma and isolation during a year of disrupted learning, officials recently announced. That means all schools will soon have at least one full-time social worker or a school-based mental health clinic, according to the plan. These new hires will be placed at schools that don’t currently have a full-time social worker. Additionally, 90 school psychologists and 30 family support staff, who work with school psychologists, will be hired for 270 high-needs schools, officials said. See related articles: EdSurge “Why Mental Health is the Key to Dealing with Learning Loss” and National Geographic “When Upsetting Current Events Shake Kids Worlds.”

Parents Say Their Children Have Been ‘Substantially Hurt’ By School Closures, Survey Finds
Los Angeles Times: Los Angeles residents rate education among the worst of several factors affecting their quality of life, according to a UCLA survey. More than three-quarters of parents in the county with children ages 5 to 18 believe their children have been “substantially hurt” academically or socially by being away from school and taking part in distance learning for months. The Quality of Life index is a composite score on a scale of 10 to 100 that reflects how satisfied people are in nine categories and the weight they assign to each category. The overall score this year remained relatively steady, at 58 but there were notable shifts within the categories, such as education, which shifted from 58 down to 52 for parents with children in public schools.

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