The Weekly Connect 9/13/21

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:

A Harvard Education Redesign Lab report on personalized student success planning points to City Connects as a successful, evidence-based model.

As the Delta variant surges, hospitalization rates of children are going up. 

U.S. Department of Education opens civil rights investigations in five states that ban mask mandates in schools. 

Schools across the country are preparing to welcome students who are refugees from Afghanistan

To read more, click on the following links.

City Connects News

Seizing the Moment for Transformative Change: A Framework for Personalized Student Success Planning
The Education Redesign Lab: A recent report from Harvard’s Education Redesign Lab focuses on personalization as a potential solution for challenges in education that both pre-date and are exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Personalization involves meeting children where they are and responding to them as individuals. The report highlights several integrated student support (ISS) models that provide this personalized approach. City Connects is discussed as one such model with a strong evidence base and an association with improvement across multiple student outcomes, including better academic achievement, improved attendance, and lower high school dropout rates.

Research & Practice

How Do You Open Schools in a Pandemic? Start by Asking Teachers and Students
EdSurge: Responses from more than 4,000 interviews with teachers and students about schooling during COVID indicate that students’ views differ from much of what is being discussed nationally. For example, while some students described remediating lost learning as a priority for next year, teachers mostly did not. Responses also indicated that benefits of the pandemic year include the opportunity to build stronger relationships between teachers, students, and families and the chance students got to be more independent. When asked about problems with schooling, respondents talked less about COVID and more about problems with infrastructure, curriculum that limits opportunities for interest-based exploration, and the policing of bodies and behavior. See related articles: The Atlantic “Classroom Time Isn’t the Only Thing Students Have Lost” and The Washington Post “Standardized Testing Scores Drop in Virginia, Reflecting Impact of Pandemic.”

6 Tips For Coping With COVID Anxiety This Fall And Winter
N.P.R.: We’re likely to see pockets of outbreaks and increased restrictions with every surge in local cases and hospitalizations, says Dr. Preeti Malani, an infectious disease professor at the University of Michigan — and that makes people feel anxious. What are some ways we can manage our anxiety as the days get a little darker and we pull masks back on? Experts recommend a number of tools, including: reframing how one thinks of anxiety, learning to breathe to become calm, physical movement, connecting with others, finding and sharing a meaningful ritual, and accepting that the new normal may be abnormal.

Hospitalization for Children Sharply Increase as Delta Surges, C.D.C. Studies Find
The New York Times: From late June to mid-August, hospitalization rates in the United States for children and teenagers increased nearly fivefold, to levels slightly below January’s peak, one new study found. During this summer’s wave, the hospitalization rate was 10 times as high in unvaccinated teens as in those who were vaccinated, researchers found. And pediatric hospital admissions were nearly four times higher in states with the lowest vaccination rates, compared to those with the highest rates, according to a second new study. The studies do not provide clear answers about whether Delta causes more severe disease in children. The rise in pediatric hospitalizations could also be because of the variant’s high infectiousness. See related article: The New York Times “When Vaccines Aren’t on Option: Life for Families With Children Under 12.”

Policy

Education Department Opens Civil Rights Probes in 5 States That Ban School Mask Mandates
Education Week: The U.S. Department of Education recently launched investigations into five states that prohibit schools from setting universal mask mandates, setting the stage for potential enforcement actions as the Biden administration spars with Republican governors over COVID-19 precautions. The investigations by the agency’s office for civil rights will determine whether those policies—in Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah—threaten education access for students with disabilities and health vulnerabilities who do not feel safe attending school in person without virus mitigation strategies recommended by the C.D.C. See related article: AL.com “Open Letter to Alabama School Boards From 102 Mental Health Providers on Masks in Schools.”

Opinion: I Was a Homeless High School Student. America’s Laws Don’t Do Enough to Help Kids Like Me
The Washington Post: As students return to in-person classrooms, many of them will walk into homeroom bearing more than a bookbag and a face mask. Leaving a hotel, shelter, or friend’s couch, they will carry the trauma of eviction and displacement. Lost wages, unemployment, and the end of the federal moratorium on evictions threaten to spawn a wave of homelessness and a crisis for children. Policy can be improved by increasing funding for the McKinney-Veto Homeless Assistance Program, ensuring that schools provide trauma-informed services and a welcoming environment to homeless youth, requiring that homeless liaisons be appropriately trained and connected with area resources, and making strategic investments in public housing, education access, and transportation. See related article: The Atlantic “The Coming Wave of Evictions Is More Than a Housing Crisis.”

Kids in Illinois Will Soon Be Able to Take 5 Mental Health Days From School
N.P.R.: Students across Illinois will be able to take up to five excused mental health days starting in January 2022. Under a bill recently signed into law by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, students who decide to take a mental health day will not be required to provide their school with a doctor’s note and will be able to make up any work that was missed on their day off. “Having this now for all students across the state will be really beneficial, especially with what’s going on with COVID,” State Rep. Barbara Hernandez, who co-sponsored the bill, told the Journal-Courier.

Around the Nation

Educators See Struggling Students. After a Pandemic Year, Do They Need Extra Help or Services for a Disability?
Chalkbeat: After a year and a half of disrupted learning, educators across the country say they are trying to walk a thin line: make sure all students get the help they need, while avoiding mistaking the emotional and academic effects of the pandemic for a disability. For students and families, the stakes are high. “The earlier you can get your child serviced, the better they will be in regards to having their needs met throughout the rest of their learning path,” said Leona Fowler, an instructional support teacher in Queens. But she’s concerned that students who simply need in-person support might be referred for special education services instead. “Not all students need to necessarily have that.”

4 Ways Schools Are Enhancing Parent Relationships in the Return to Classrooms
K-12 Dive: While there are best practices that have emerged from the pandemic about engaging families and students, education stakeholders say that moving forward, these practices need to be enhanced and expanded upon. In other words, schools need to be more proactive about cultivating relationships with families, including families with members who are English learners, families that include students with disabilities, and families that lack internet access. Approaches include: sharing COVID-19 safety information, setting academic expectations, providing social-emotional supports, and promoting accomplishments and connections.

How Are School Districts Easing Transitions for Afghan Students?
K-12 Dive: As President Joe Biden announced the end of the longest war in U.S. history, schools across the nation prepared for an influx of refugees who are among the more than 120,000 people evacuated from Afghanistan. “So many of our students bring their cultural perspective, and they really add diversity to the classroom,” said Salimah Shamsuddin, a refugee family support coordinator in Austin, TX. Districts are partnering with community organizations to offer arriving students and families a host of services, including language support, academic assessments and culturally responsive instruction, donations from families, and housing and healthcare.

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