The Weekly Connect 6/28/21

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:

Failing grades and absenteeism plague Chicago schools that serve low-income students.

U.S. Department of Education says federal law protects LGBTQ students against discrimination at school.

School mental health services can help support equity.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

Starting School After the Pandemic: Youngest Students Will Need Foundational Skills
Education Week: Young children have been among those hardest hit by disruptions during COVID, and experts worry that already overwhelmed early childhood teachers will grapple with a rocky transition this fall. That’s the consensus of a new research analysis by 11 university and independent research groups tracking education for children ages 0-8 during the pandemic. The report collected data from dozens of national, state, and local studies. Report findings include a significant drop in enrollment for the youngest grades, potentially more than 14% on average, according to an Education Week survey. Researchers recommended school leaders offer additional supports to help new students, such as partnering with families and continuing virtual systems to help them communicate more easily with educators.

In Pandemic’s Wake, Numbers Tell The Story of a Devastating Year For Many Chicago Students
WBEZ: A recent analysis by WBEZ found that the pandemic had a disproportionate impact on Chicago schools that serve predominantly low income students in terms of failing grades and absenteeism. For the first three academic quarters of the 2020-21 school year, the analysis found that on any given day, a quarter of students at high poverty high schools did not show up for class online or in-person, compared to a 91% daily attendance rate during the same period for the city as a whole. One in every five grades handed out in math or English was an F in these schools. Strikingly, the analysis showed that while high-poverty schools were significantly impacted, low-poverty schools saw little change from pre-pandemic years in failing grades and absenteeism rates.

Policy

Biden Ed Department: Federal Law Protects LGBTQ Students Against Discrimination at School
Chalkbeat: Students are protected from discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender identity at school and during extracurricular activities, a top federal education official said in a recently issued memo. This means that the education department will take up complaints and investigate when there are allegations that students have been discriminated against on those grounds. That can include when a student is harassed at school, disciplined, or excluded from an activity because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The memo is the latest step the Biden administration has taken to uphold the rights of LGBTQ+ students, and comes as several states are moving to restrict transgender girls and young women from competing in school sports and athletic competitions.

Around the Nation

School Mental Health Supports Are a Path to Equity
K-12 Dive: A 2019 study by the Jed Foundation (JED) found administrators and parents expect schools to address student mental health and emotional well-being, yet most administrators and parents agree schools are ill-equipped to treat student mental and emotional health issues. The JED High School Comprehensive Approach is an innovative program created in response to this need. Many schools are already implementing some mental health work, but it is seldom coordinated under one plan that focuses on systemic change. Anchoring the work in both population and student level data, they work with schools to build and implement a strategic plan that promotes student emotional health and prevents suicide aligned with seven core domains.

‘It Was a Roller Coaster’: A Job Running a Brooklyn After-School Program Transformed into Triage During the Pandemic
Chalkbeat: Yasirys Pichardo started overseeing the after-school program at Brooklyn’s P.S. 89 in February 2020. Within a month, as coronavirus raged in New York City, Pichardo’s new job completely changed. She and colleagues with Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation, the organization that runs the after-school program, found themselves doing triage for a neighborhood hard hit by the virus. Working hand-in-hand with school and parent leaders, the organization provided extra support and connection at a time of uncertainty and loss. They trained families unfamiliar with technology to assist children with remote learning, connected parents who lost jobs to food stamps, sent care packages to families who contracted COVID, and performed wellness checks, with Pichardo making 60 phone calls on a single day early on.

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