The Weekly Connect 6/14/21

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:

Detailed information on chronic absenteeism can inform interventions. 

U.S. Department of Education report looks at the pandemic’s toll on underserved students

Black parents keep children in online school programs where they see less bullying and racism

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

Amid Surge in Stress During Pandemic, Sleep the ‘Magic Pill’ to Restoring Teens’ Mental Health, Experts Say
The 74 Million: As concerns for youth depression, anxiety and suicide have skyrocketed amid a deadly pandemic, researchers agree that consistent, sweet slumber can go a long way toward making students feel better. In recent years, school leaders have highlighted the idea that quality sleep is an important precondition for academic success, helping young people pay attention and retain material. But the mental benefits extend far beyond learning, experts say, emphasizing sleep as a key to healthy emotional regulation for young people. Many teens’ sleep schedules were disrupted during the pandemic, with high schoolers getting an average of 6.7 hours per night, according to a recent survey, and only 7% getting the recommended 9 hours a night.

Pre-COVID-19 Summer Slide Worse for Special Education Students
K-12 Dive: Special education (SPED) students had larger summer learning losses in K-4 compared to students who never had SPED services, according to a novel study by NWEA that analyzed seasonal learning patterns for students with disabilities. During some of the school years studied, however, students in SPED grew more in math and reading achievement than their peers. These findings help dispel concerns that SPED students cannot make significant progress over one school year, said Elizabeth Barker, co-author of the report. Schools can support children’s academic progress by increasing summer learning experiences for students with disabilities and adopting a multi-tiered system of supports for all students, according to recommendations from NWEA and the National Center for Learning Disabilities. See related articles: eSchool News “How Teletherapy Enables Access to Special Education Services” and EdSurge “Technology Made Special Education Parents Better Advocates During Pandemic.”

Detailed, Frequent Chronic Absenteeism Data Can Inform Interventions
K-12 Dive: Student attendance was worse this school year for students of color, those learning remotely and those living in low-income communities, according to an analysis of Connecticut school attendance data. The state’s attendance data was uniquely situated for examination because at the onset of the pandemic in 2020, its education department took steps to collect consistent and reliable data, practices that allowed for the planning of education recovery efforts and school attendance initiatives for this summer and next school year. Tracking and analyzing attendance data by student subgroups and learning formats can serve as an early warning sign that certain students and families need more support, or that schools and districts should add initiatives for positive learning conditions, the analysis recommends.

Policy

Ed Dept Report Documents Pandemic’s Toll on Underserved Students
K-12 Dive: While nearly all students have experienced mental health challengesEnglish learners, students with disabilities, students of color, and students who identify as LGBTQ had a hard time accessing educational and support services during the pandemic, according to a report recently released by the U.S. Department of Education. These disparities, many of which existed before the pandemic, are “cause for great concern,” the 53-page report said. Although the report is not a legal analysis, it does point out disparities can sometimes be evidence of legal injuries under federal civil rights laws, such as Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The report was based on interviews and publicly available sources, such as assessment results and surveys from education administrative organizations.

Education Department Issues Directive on Shielding Students in Poverty From Funding Cuts
Education Week: New guidance from the Biden administration details how states and certain school districts must protect high-poverty districts and schools from funding cuts as a condition of receiving their share of some $122 billion in COVID-19 relief money approved by Congress. The recently announced guidance comes as the administration launches a public relations blitz on equity issues, including release of a report confirming educators’ concerns about the pandemic’s impact on vulnerable students and on student mental health. “For the first time ever, these requirements will ensure that school districts and schools serving a large share of students from low-income backgrounds will not experience disproportionate budget cuts—and that the school districts with the highest poverty do not receive any decrease in state per-pupil funding below their pre-pandemic level,” the department said.

Pandemic Prompts Some States to Pass Struggling Third Graders
Pew Charitable Trusts: At least 29 states allow or require schools to hold back struggling third graders who don’t pass state standardized reading tests, the result of ongoing attempts to close the nation’s achievement gap. But as families wrestle with online learning, a pandemic economy, and mental health difficulties, some states are revisiting that approach. Two states, Florida and Mississippi, decided this year that pupils who fail reading assessments won’t be held back. Lawmakers in a third state, Michigan, are debating the same policy. Proponents of letting students pass despite failed assessments say states should focus resources on strengthening classroom instruction and literacy intervention efforts. Critics counter that students who aren’t retained will continue to struggle academically.

Around the Nation

3 Strategies for Easing Wary Students, Families Back Into In-Person Learning
K-12 Dive: President Joe Biden and the National Education Association have called for a full reopening of in-person learning in the fall, but not all school leaders have experienced the same level of enthusiasm from students and families. One high school in Monmouth County, NJ attributes their high participation levels in in-person learning to their communications approach, which consists of a team of assistant principals, counselors, staff, and teachers who worked with families to answer questions and design custom schedules for families who had concerns about returning full-time. Other districts reported success with focusing on community buy-in, forming task forces, paying attention to teacher and staff needs, and allowing students and parents time to process information. See related article: Edutopia “Helping Students Cope With a Difficult Year.”

Some Black Parents Are Seeing Less Bullying, Racism With Online Learning and Are Keeping Kids Home
Los Angeles Times: Some parents of Black students in Los Angeles schools opted to keep their children in distance learning after schools reopened because they wanted to shield them from inequitable and sometimes harsh treatment occurring in in-person learning, according to a report from Speak Up, a local advocacy group. Among Black parents surveyed, 82% cited COVID-19 as one factor for keeping their children home and 43% said they were concerned about bullying, racism, and low academic standards. According to the survey, 27% of Black parents said their child’s behavior improved during the pandemic, while 8% said it got worse. In addition, 34% said their children received better support from their teachers during distance learning, compared with 12% who said their children got worse instruction while learning at home. See related article: Brookings “Why Some Parents Are Sticking With Remote Learning– Even As Schools Reopen.”

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