The Weekly Connect 9/27/21

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:

Author Annie Murphy Paul shares how to help students think outside their brains

Since the start of the pandemic, at least nine states have enacted suicide prevention laws

Schools can use federal Covid relief funds to address the surge in student homelessness

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

What Do School Districts Credit for Successful Pandemic Pivots?
K-12 Dive: New research from Next Generation Learning Challenges examines what school districts did to successfully pivot due to the COVID-19 pandemic, finding those that did so most effectively had existing helpful practices in place prior to closures, and that many attributed positive school cultures and strong relationships to their success. Of the 70 schools and districts that participated in the research, 84% reported an emphasis on healthiness of culture, strong relationships between adults and students, and the ability to adapt. Leadership was cited as an important factor by 79% of the respondents, and 74% emphasized a focus on student-centered learning.

42 Ways to Boost Learning by Applying Our Bodies, Surroundings, and Relationships
New America: Our education system is dominated by a ‘neurocentric’ model of thinking: we assume that students’ mental activity is contained inside their heads. But we open up a world of new possibilities when we encourage students to think outside the brain by using external resources to enhance their mental processes. Such outside-the-head resources include the sensations and movements of students’ bodies; the physical spaces in which students learn and play; and the social interactions students engage in with others. Author Annie Murphy Paul offers several strategies for engaging mental “extensions”, such as utilizing movement breaks, implementing sensory reduction, and encouraging close observation. See related article: N.P.R. “We Know Students Are Struggling With Their Mental Health. Here’s How You Can Help.”

Policy

At Least 9 States Have Adopted Legislation Around Suicide Prevention as Districts Invest in SEL
K-12 Dive: At least nine states, Arizona, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin, have enacted legislation around youth suicide prevention since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the Education Commission of the States. The pieces of legislation require schools to include suicide prevention hotline information on student identification cards, among other options in some states such as student planners and agendas. States have also created grants to fund suicide prevention or mental health support programs in schools, and more states are requiring prevention training for school staff. See related article: AP News “New Mexico School Districts Gain Funds for Mental Health.”

Murphy Announces Expansion of Pre-K Programs, Commits to Achieving Universal System
New Jersey Globe: Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey recently announced the expansion of the state’s existing network of pre-kindergarten programs, as well as his commitment to eventually reaching universal Pre-K for every child in New Jersey. “Today we are announcing that New Jersey will start on a path to universal Pre-K for every three- and four-year-old in our state,” Murphy said. “And to ensure our success, we have directed … the New Jersey Department of Education to create a strategic plan to get us there.” Murphy further announced that the state would award 19 school districts with $17 million in new funding for pre-K programs, amounting to 1,138 new slots. See related article: Chalkbeat “Michigan’s Free Preschool Program is Expanding. Will Community Providers Benefit?

Around the Nation

Our Student Homeless Numbers Are Staggering. Schools Can Be a Bridge to a Solution
Education Week: Even before COVID-19, student homelessness was on the rise, hitting an estimated 1.5 million students in 2018. Now with the expiration of the federal eviction moratorium, increasing rents, and rising COVID numbers, experts are concerned about another surge of student homelessness. With $800 million for homeless youth included in the American Rescue Plan coming to schools, educators feel pressure to figure out how to use that money well. Schools can use the funds for emergency housing, and that sort of short-term assistance could serve as a bridge to connect students and their families with services. Homeless families that get that temporary help and see schools working on their behalf could develop more trusting relationships with school staff, which would ultimately benefit students.

Pandemic Testing Gaps Complicate Ability to Pinpoint Struggling Schools at a Time When Students Need Extra Help, School Leaders Say
The 74 Million: The last time states graded schools and pinpointed the lowest performers was after the 2018-19 school year, a lifetime ago for many educators. That was before the pandemic, before tests were cancelled in 2020, and before many parents opted their children out of tests in 2021. Because states now lack the year-to-year results they typically rely on to make decisions, determining which schools need the most help will be complicated. Education advocates and civil rights groups say it’s important for states to resume the process of naming their lowest-performing schools so districts can best target resources, including federal relief funds. See related articles: District Administration “Florida Scraps Major Year-End Test to Sharpen Focus on Student Growth” and The Christensen Institute “Beyond Test Scores: K-12 Data Must Identify Gaps in Students’ Opportunity to Learn.”

Parents of Students with Disabilities Try to Make Up for Lost Year
The New York Times: Education experts have said that it may take months or years to fully grasp the learning loss that children have suffered from remote schooling during the pandemic. But many of the parents and guardians of the roughly 200,000 students with disabilities in New York City say they have already seen drastic damages from their children’s loss of their usual therapies, services or learning accommodations. Each school year presents myriad challenges for the thousands of parents who file for special education services. But the shift to remote learning has “exacerbated pre-existing achievement gaps” for children with disabilities, according to a recent report by the New York comptroller’s office. See related article: Time Herald Record “‘Bridging the Gap’– How Schools Are Helping Students Navigate Back to School.”

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