The Weekly Connect 5/17/21

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:

New Jersey’s early childhood program shows positive impacts into 10th grade.

Schools can help families access federal help to pay for Internet service.

Art teachers can help restore students’ mental health. 

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

5 Tips for Taming Back-to-School Anxiety
The New York Times: Across the country many students are finally starting to learn in person again and summer camp slots are already filling up. After spending so many months sequestered at home, having these outlets can feel like a relief — but they can also seem daunting to young children who are reluctant to leave their parents and unsure of what to expect. “What underlies anxiety is uncertainty,” said Mary Alvord, a psychologist in Maryland. “And it has been uncertainty for over a year now, almost at every level.” If you are concerned your child might have trouble adjusting to school or camp, experts recommend using strategies such as: recognize and validate what your child is feeling, introduce your kids to mindfulness, communicate with your child’s teacher, and don’t talk about school too often or too early.

Remote Kindergarten During COVID-19 ‘Could Impact This Generation of Kids for Their Lifetime’
Wall Street Journal: Of all the students who suffered learning loss during the Covid-19 pandemic and remote schooling, one grade level has educators very concerned: the kindergartners. Kindergarten is where 5- and 6-year-olds learn the building blocks of how to be students, skills such as taking turns and working together that they will need for the next 12 years of formal schooling. It coincides with a critical window for brain development, the time between 5 and 7 years old when neural connections are firing most rapidly for higher-cognitive functions like problem-solving and reasoning. Kindergarten “can’t be replicated even by the very best teachers in the virtual environment,” said Whitney Oakley, chief academic officer for North Carolina’s Guilford County Schools.

Study: New Jersey Early Childhood Program’s Benefits Stretch to 10th Grade
K-12 Dive: Students in grades 3-10 who participated in New Jersey’s Abbott Preschool Program showed higher achievement levels in language/literacy, math and science, as well as lower grade retention by grade 10, according to a study published in Early Childhood Research Quarterly. The large-scale public pre-K program was implemented as part of a court-mandated reform of the state’s education system and funding in 1998. According to the study, the program was also designed to prevent fadeout, with its positive impacts lasting beyond 3rd grade. Participants in the study were mostly Black and Hispanic students in 31 communities with high poverty levels, and achievement impacts were typically more pronounced for those with two years of participation.

Policy

Can Schools Require Students to Get COVID-19 Vaccines, and Will They?
Education Week: State-issued school vaccine mandates have been a key strategy that has helped build herd immunity in the past. But even as children as young as 12 qualify for COVID-19 vaccines, public health officials are unsure of how many families will opt to have their children inoculated if the shots aren’t required for school attendance. While some colleges have made COVID-19 vaccines mandatory, experts say it’s unlikely states will issue similar requirements for K-12 students any time soon. There’s a host of questions involved in setting a new requirement, especially as COVID-19 vaccines are administered under emergency-use authorization, which has allowed providers to administer shots more quickly as the FDA considers more permanent approval, but does not allow states to mandate them. See related articles: The 74 Million “As FDA Approves Shots for Youth 12 and Up, School Districts Get Creative Promoting Vaccine to Teensand The New York Times “C.D.C Advisers Endorse Pfizer Vaccine for Children Ages 12 to 15.”

Schools Can Help Families Apply for Federal Help in Paying for Home Internet Access
Education Week: Families who qualify for the free and reduced-price lunch program can get $50 off their monthly broadband bills, thanks to a new, emergency federal program, the U.S. Department of Education and the Federal Communications Commission emphasized in a recent meeting. Applications for this $3.2 billion program just opened, even though the money for it was approved by Congress late last year. The Biden administration wants to make sure that families know about the benefits and it is urging school districts to help spread the word.

Around the Nation

Art Teachers are a ‘Secret Weapon’ For Restoring Students’ Mental Health, Expert Says
Chalkbeat: The virus, school closures, financial hardships, and social isolation unleashed a cascade of fear, anxiety, stress, and depression for students, leaving schools and policymakers eager to spend their newly received aid in ways that promote student wellness. One smart investment, advocates say, is the arts. When students learn to appreciate and create art, whether it’s painting, dancing, rapping, or acting, they develop skills such as empathy, self-awareness, and self-management, which in turn fosters mental wellness. Last year, a task force co-chaired by Dr. Maurice Elias and Bob Morrison, director of Arts Ed NJ, created a new framework that shows how to weave those social-emotional skills into art class. “Arts educators are a secret weapon in fostering positive mental health for kids,” said Elias. See related articles: The Hechinger Report “Schools Use Art to Help Kids Through Trauma” and Psychology Today “The Role of Play in Pandemic Healing.”

US Schools Fight to Keep Students Amid Fear of Dropout Surge
AP News: There isn’t data available yet on how the pandemic has affected the nation’s overall dropout rate; 2019 is the last year for which data is available. It is likely that the pandemic could erase gains in reducing the dropout rate, which fell from 9.3% in 2007 to 5.1% in 2019. School officials say it’s too early to know how many students who stopped logging on for distance learning won’t return. But soaring numbers of chronically absent or failing students have experts fearing the worst, and schools have been busy tracking down seniors through social media, knocking on their doors, assigning staff to help them make up for lost time and, in some cases, even relaxing requirements or changing policies so that missed assignments aren’t as damaging. Such leniency, however, carries the risk of watering down academic standards. See related articles: The New York Times ‘I Used to Like School’: An 11-Year Old’s Struggle With Pandemic Learning’ and The New York Times ‘’I Feel Like I’m Drowning’: Sophomore Year in a Pandemic.”

Catholic Schools Are Losing Students at Record Rates, and Hundreds Are Closing
The Wall Street Journal: At least 209 of the country’s nearly 6,000 Catholic schools have closed over the past year, according to the National Catholic Educational Association. While enrollment has been falling for decades, the pandemic has added to the challenges schools are already facing, Catholic education leaders said. For many of the lower-income families whom Catholic schools serve, especially in urban areas, the cost became too much once the pandemic hit and the economy cratered. In Boston, 11 of the 111 schools in the archdiocese closed this year. “They were serving populations that were hardest hit by the economic shutdown,” said Tom Carroll, superintendent for the Archdiocese of Boston. When schools hit financial difficulties in past years, he added, the archdiocese could help keep them afloat. That wasn’t possible during the pandemic, as in-person services shut down and donations plummeted.

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