The Weekly Connect 5/10/21

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:

In Salem, City Connects staff are planning for summer

A new report from the national nonprofit Zero to Three says that inequality starts early, when children are infants and toddlers. 

In Massachusetts, 1.6 million adults are struggling to get enough to eat

The pandemic has taken a disproportionate toll on immigrant students and English learners

To read more, click on the following links.

City Connects News

How Educators Are Approaching Summer Learning This Year
Education Week: The challenge of striking a balance between academics and other educational activities during the summer is more relevant than ever after the exhausting and disruptive year students have been through. Emily Ullman, the director of community engagement and partnerships in Salem, MA, said she and her colleagues are relying extensively on the knowledge and relationships at City Connects, a student-support network involving the district and the city that relies on input from different staff to create individualized student success plans. These plans can involve after-school recreation programs, housing assistance, and tutoring. “Any quality learning in school or out of school has a balance with the whole kid in mind,” Ullman said.

Research & Practice

Teenagers Are Struggling, and It’s Not Just Lockdown
The New York Times: The pandemic has taken a toll on the mental health of millions. But adolescents have been hit especially hard. According to a national poll conducted by the University of Michigan, 46% of parents say their teenagers’ mental health has worsened during the pandemic. And this is on top of an already existing mental health crisis among young people. While many experts believe that the reason adolescents are struggling today is that they’re away from friends and school, a closer look at the research reveals a more complicated picture. According to psychologists who study adolescent resilience, one of the biggest threats to the well-being of today’s teenagers is not social isolation but something else — the pressure to achieve, which has intensified over the past year.

Researchers Agree the Pandemic Will Worsen Testing Gaps. But How Much?
Education Week: The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic created major disruptions in schooling in the U.S. and hindered learning for a great many children. But did COVID-19 disruptions increase achievement gaps between children from economically advantaged and disadvantaged families? Ed Week surveyed education researchers to find out how they expected the pandemic to change gaps linked to socioeconomic status in the short run (from before the pandemic to spring 2021) and in the longer run (between the springs of 2021 and 2022). One of the most notable findings is the degree of consensus among researchers that income-based achievement gaps were going to grow between pre-pandemic months and spring 2021. The median forecast was a 30% increase in the math achievement gap and a 25% increase in the reading achievement gap. See related articles: K-12 Dive “Colorado’s CBE Approach May Offer Solutions to Address Learning Gaps” and Education Week “Remote Learning Isn’t Going Away. Will It Create Separate and Unequal School Systems?

Stark Inequality Starts Early– With Babies, Toddler, Report Says
The Hechinger Report: America’s very youngest citizens are hardly immune from the inequities exposed and, in some cases, worsened by the pandemic. And for infants and toddlers, the consequences could be long-lasting given how crucial this period of development is, according to a new report released by ZERO TO THREE, an early childhood nonprofit. Members of this age group have always faced very different opportunities to grow and flourish based on where they live and their demographics, but these disparities became more pronounced during the pandemic, according to The State of Babies Yearbook 2021, which looked at dozens of data sets spanning health, education and family welfare. Among the areas where gaps have widened: regular pediatrician visits, maternal mental health, and food insecurity.

Policy

Biden Hits 100-Day School Reopening Goal, But Reopening Difficulties Persist
Politico: President Joe Biden hit his 100-day goal of reopening the majority of K-8 schools for in-person learning in March, statistics from a White House-ordered school learning census indicated recently. Yet the data also underscores the administration’s myriad of challenges: repairing racial disparities, reopening schools and reassuring parents that classroom learning is safe — all as the country starts looking ahead to summer learning and the fall semester. Close to 90 percent of public K-8 schools offered hybrid or full-time in-person instruction by the end of March, the government said. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said 54 percent of K-8 schools were open in-person on a full-time basis. See related article: Chalkbeat “‘I Expect It.’ Cardona Says Every School Needs In-Person Instruction This Fall.”

As States Fall Short on Tracking Discipline, Concerns for Equity Grow
Education Week: For teachers in virtual and hybrid classrooms, rowdy students can be silenced with a mute button. But there’s little consensus—and less oversight—on where to draw the line between managing behavior and excluding students from learning. The U.S. Department of Education announced last month that when reporting discipline data for civil rights purposes, schools and districts must report incidents both on campus and in virtual classrooms, and punishments that exclude students from their virtual learning should count as suspensions or expulsions. But that still leaves a lot of class discipline open to interpretation, and with both behavior rules and accountability monitoring in flux this year, experts worry racial and other disparities in education could worsen. See related article: NBC News “Schools Are Sending Kids to Virtual Classes As Punishment. Advocates Say that Could Violate Their Rights.

Federal Judge Vacates CDC’s Nationwide Eviction Moratorium
The Washington Post: A federal judge in Washington, D.C. recently ruled that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention overstepped its legal authority by issuing a nationwide eviction moratorium, a ruling that could affect millions of struggling Americans. In a 20-page order, U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich vacated the CDC order, first put in place during the coronavirus pandemic under the Trump administration and now set to expire June 30. The Biden administration has indicated it will appeal the decision. The ruling does not affect state or local eviction moratoriums. In Washington, D.C., for example, the city government’s ban on all evictions remains in place.

In Massachusetts, 1.6 Million Adults are Struggling to Get Enough to Eat
The Boston Globe: More than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, 1.6 million adults in Massachusetts are still struggling to get enough to eat. A new survey conducted by the Greater Boston Food Bank has found that many of the households experiencing hunger at the outset of the pandemic are still food-insecure, and many more are not accessing available programs that could help. People of color and families with children are still disproportionately experiencing food insecurity, according to the survey. The findings serve as a stark reminder that even as COVID-19 vaccinations become more widespread and things return to some semblance of “normal,” those who have been hardest hit by the pandemic will have a long path to economic recovery. See related article: Detroit Free Press “Michigan Schools Serve Millions Fewer Meals in Pandemic, With Financial Consequences.”

Around the Nation

Seeking Asylum in a Time of COVID
The Hechinger Report: The coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately affected immigrant students and, more generally, English learners, who have struggled with hurdles such as language barriers, subpar broadband, and limited at-home learning support, according to the Migration Policy Institute. In more normal times, “attendance is not typically an issue” among the roughly 5 million English learners in U.S. public schools, experts from MPI wrote in a September policy brief. But last spring, as physical campuses shut down because of Covid-19, many of those usually attentive students dropped off the grid at alarmingly high rates. And, for many students who are asylum seekers in the U.S., the pandemic caps off a seemingly unending cycle of trauma and helplessness, first in their home countries, then in Mexico, and now here.

California Groups Urge Schools to Make a ‘Restorative Restart’ This Fall
K-12 Dive: California-based education, advocacy and civil rights groups are calling for schools to make a “restorative restart” that emphasizes relationship-building, staffing supports, and promoting equity as students return to schools in the fall. Specifically, schools and districts should dedicate six weeks this summer or at the start of the new school year to not only focus on student and staff wellbeing and equitable practices, but to also plan for long-term systematic transformation, according to the recently released framework “Reimagine and Rebuild: Restarting School with Equity at the Center.” The framework provides specific steps on evidence-based practices for: centering relationships, addressing whole-student needs, strengthening partnerships, and making teaching relevant and rigorous.

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