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Here are some of the things we’ve been reading about this week:
The City Connects model is an example of how schools can provide crucial services as the pandemic recedes.
A Brown University economics professor is preserving data about how schools fared during the pandemic.
Policies can address the systemic racism that school children face.
As schools return to in-person learning, thousands of “missing” students are not returning.
To read more, click on the following links.
City Connects in the News
‘Wraparound’ Services Crucial to School Reopenings
CommonWealth: As we emerge from the pandemic, understanding and responding to the unique experiences, strengths, and needs of each student and family is a prerequisite to recovery and integral to a 21st century approach to education. To do this, schools can offer comprehensive services in effective and cost-efficient ways so that taxpayer investments lead to improved learning outcomes and lifelong opportunities for students. One example is City Connects, an evidence-based model of “integrated student support.” This model places a trained student support staff member in schools, usually a school counselor or social worker, who serves as a “coordinator,” working closely with teachers, staff, families, students, and community agencies to develop and ensure delivery of comprehensive, individualized support plans for each student. In addition to being cost-effective, researchers find that City Connects significantly improves academic and social-emotional outcomes, especially for low-income, Black, Latinx, and immigrant students.
Research & Practice
Schools Creep Closer to 100% Providing K-8 In-Person Instruction
U.S. News & World Report: In April 2021, the country’s public school system has reached a point of nearly 100% of K-8 schools offering some type of in-person instruction, according to new federal data. Ninety-six percent of public elementary and middle schools, or schools with a grade four or eight, were open for hybrid or full-time in-person learning in April, up 7% over March. Nearly 60% were open for in-person instruction full time to all students, and those offering only remote instruction dropped to 4%. Meanwhile, 74% of public school fourth-graders were enrolled in person, full time, or through hybrid instruction in April, up 10% since March, with 51% enrolled in person, full time.
Knowing What Schools Did in the Pandemic Is Crucial. So Is Preserving That Data.
Education Week: Key information about how COVID-19 created an unprecedented year for students is at risk of being lost if it’s not compiled in a way that can help track the effects of the pandemic for years to come, one prominent researcher says. So even as schools look forward to recovery, Brown University economics Professor Emily Oster is looking back, leading a project to capture all of the data states collected about school operations in 2020-21 and to present it in a consistent format that can inform researchers and policy makers well into the future. “I think we are at risk of losing this information,” Oster said. “If we just decide, ‘OK, forget it,’ and then we don’t think about the next six months, I think we may actually find ourselves in a worse situation than we would be otherwise.”
To Get Billions in COVID-19 Aid, States Pledge Focus on Mental Health, Learning Recovery
Education Week: The U.S. Department of Education announced that it is reviewing plans from 28 states detailing how they will use $122 billion in American Rescue Plan money to address the pandemic’s impacts, and the department will do so before releasing that COVID-19 relief to states. The states’ documents provide insights into how they want to, and in some cases already have, taken steps to ensure safe, in-person learning environments and address academic concerns, among other priorities. States seeking access to the billions in federally enacted coronavirus relief say they plan to prioritize the mental and emotional needs of students, support academic-recovery strategies such as intensive tutoring, and focus on services ranging from nutrition to payments to staff who participate in summer-learning programs.
How Policy Can Maximize Children’s Potential by Addressing Systemic Racism
EdNote: The evidence is clear and growing: structural, cultural, and interpersonal racism impose unique and substantial stressors on the daily lives of families raising young children of color. These stressors affect lifelong learning and health. Science is now helping to explain how this happens, which can help to identify solutions, but three points are becoming clear: excessive stress is a likely pathway to negative health impacts; chronic inflammation, a response to stress, can disrupt the function of organ systems; and unhealthy environments are another likely pathway to negative health impacts. Some policy recommendations include strengthening policies that provide economic support to families, investing in place-based interventions, and taking steps to reduce cultural racism in school environments. See related article: The New Yorker “The Rise of Black Homeschooling.”
The Opioid Crisis Hit Schools Hard. Now They Want Drug Companies to Pay Up.
Education Week: School districts across the country that say they’ve collectively spent at least $127 billion helping students affected by the opioid crisis are pushing in court to wrest compensation from the companies that manufacture those drugs. Lawyers representing schools in several massive ongoing lawsuits arrived at that cost estimate with the help of education finance and health experts. Experts believe that figure, equal to nearly a fifth of the nation’s annual overall spending on K-12 public schools, almost certainly underestimates the true cost of special education services and social-emotional supports for students affected by opioid addiction. The estimate is also likely to be adjusted upward once researchers fully process the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on drug addiction and its ripple effects.
Around the Nation
With Return to In-Person Learning, Thousands of Students Still ‘Missing’ From Schools
ABC News: When COVID-19 shut down the nation last spring, millions of children across the country were forced to turn to remote learning. However, the shift resulted in the “disappearance” of thousands of students, who never logged on or re-appeared when classrooms reopened in the fall. Now that the vast majority of U.S. school districts are back to offering at least some in-person instruction, ABC News reached out to education departments in all 50 states to get an update on student attendance. Many state officials said they still do not have updated data on chronic absenteeism, while others said they will not know fall enrollment numbers until they are reported by the districts later in the year. Other officials say there are still hundreds, and in some districts thousands, of students unaccounted for.
5 Keys to Empowering Peer-to-Peer Student Support Programs
District Administration: With students’ need for support increasing, young people are turning to each other to augment services provided by schools. Educators can do more to promote the effectiveness of these networks, says a new report from the Christensen Institute. The report details the benefits of a number of peer-to-peer support programs, such as providing social support to help foster belonging, identity formation, and social and emotional skills; academic support to drive learning outcomes and enable students to keep each other on track; and mental health support to promote wellbeing and reduce loneliness. As educators promote these peer-to-peer interactions, they should consider harnessing online connections when in-person encounters aren’t possible and basing models on relationships, not just connections.
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