The Weekly Connect 10/4/21

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Here are some of the things we’ve been reading about this week:

Tennessee summer school programs help students make learning gains. 

The federal government invests $1.5 billion in addressing school cafeteria shortages

Absenteeism is surging in reopened California schools. 

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

What Almost 150 Studies Say About How to Motivate Students
The Hechinger Report: A team of Canadian and Australian researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 144 studies that examined student motivation. Two conclusions jumped out. First, teachers are more influential than parents in motivating students to learn. “If you want your students to be motivated at school, parents are important but they’re not enough,” said Dr. Julien Bureau, lead author of the study. “The teacher has more tools to work with for student motivation.” The second conclusion is that a sense of competence, or a student’s confidence that they’re capable of learning something, is most important in helping kids foster intrinsic motivation.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, Education Chief Tout Student Gains during State-Funded Summer School
Tennessean: Tennessee education officials and lawmakers are celebrating the learning gains made by students who attended state-funded summer learning programs aimed at combating pandemic-related learning loss this summer. About 120,300 Tennessee elementary and middle school students participated in these summer programs. Students were tested at the beginning and end of the program, and the state found overall improvements in proficiency in both reading and math. Overall, students scored 5.97 percentage points higher in English language arts at the end of the program and 10.49 percentage points higher in math.

The Kindergarten Exodus
The New York Times: As the pandemic upended life in the U.S., more than one million children who had been expected to enroll in schools did not show up, either in person or online. The missing students were concentrated in the younger grades, with the steepest drop in kindergarten. A novel analysis by The New York Times and Stanford University examined kindergarten enrollment trends in 70,000 public schools across 33 states. The analysis shows that in those 33 states, 10,000 local public schools lost at least 20% of their kindergartners. The most startling declines were in neighborhoods below and just above the poverty line, where the average household income for a family of four was $35,000 or less. The drop was 28% larger in schools in those communities, compared to the rest of the country.

Concerns about Child Well-Being during the 2020-21 School Year Were Greatest Among Parents of Remote Learners
Brookings: Parents have key insights into the extent to which and in which areas their kids have struggled during COVID-19. Researchers surveyed a nationally representative sample of parents in October 2020, April/May 2020, and June 2021, asking about their level of concern about the amount of learning their children were gaining at school, their social lives and psychological well-being, and their relationships with their peers and teachers. Researchers found that parents of in-person learners were less concerned than other parents, Black and Asian-American parents were more concerned than parents of other races, and concerns dropped precipitously at the beginning of summer 2021.

U.S. Schools with Mask Requirements Are Seeing Fewer Outbreaks, the C.D.C. Finds
The New York Times: School mask mandates have generated controversy in much of the country. Two recently published studies by the C.D.C. provide additional evidence that masks protect children from COVID, even when community rates are high and the Delta variant is circulating. One study, conducted in Arizona, found that schools that did not require staff and students to wear masks were 3.5 times as likely to have a virus outbreak as schools that required universal masking. A second study looked at infections among all children in 520 different counties across the U.S., and found that once the public school year started, pediatric cases increased at a higher rate in counties where schools did not require masks. See related article: K-12 Dive “How Districts Can Support Students With Disabilities Amid School Mask Mandates.”

Policy

Biden Plan Seeks to Expand Education, From Pre-K to College
AP News: As Democrats push ahead with President Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion rebuilding plan, they’re promising historic investments across the arc of an education, in what advocates describe as the most comprehensive package of its kind in decades. The education provisions in the “Build Back Better” proposal would serve as a bedrock for schooling opportunities for countless Americans and test the nation’s willingness to expand federal programs. Equity is a focus, to remove barriers to education that for decades have resulted in wage and learning disparities based on race and income. And expanding early education and child care could help bring back workers, especially women, who left jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic to look after children whose schools were closed. See related article: Politico “House Democrats’ Maneuvers Imperil Free College, Pre-K” and MRDC “Three Ways to Improve the Quality of Preschool Programs.”

New Child Tax Credit Does More than Just Cut Poverty
Brookings: Roughly 1.2 million more children were living in poverty in 2020, compared to 2019, largely due to disruptions in employment, childcare, and education caused by COVID-19. In response to this, Biden signed a bill in March 2021 that restructured the child tax credit (CTC) for one year, making it larger, broader, and more periodic. Researchers from Columbia University estimate that the new CTC could cut child poverty by 45% and would have the largest impacts for Latino and Black children. Researchers at Brookings conducted a survey of how caregivers planned to utilize the CTC and their findings indicated that the CTC will not only act as a tool for decreasing child poverty in the short term, but also as a tool for increasing family social mobility in the long term. See related articles: Brookings “Supporting Families Supports the Economy: Social Nets Are Economic Foundations” and CNBC “Some Parents Still Haven’t Received the September Child Tax Credit Payment.”

Feds Pump $1.5 Billion Extra Toward Schools to Address Cafeteria Shortage
Education Week: The federal government will invest up to $1.5 billion this year to help school cafeterias struggling to feed students under the weight of supply chain disruptions, funding challenges, and staffing shortages caused by the pandemic. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced that the emergency funds will help schools more easily acquire U.S.-grown food supplies they need to serve healthy meals on a daily basis. The funds will also “enhance the toolbox for school nutrition professionals working hard to make sure students have reliable access to healthy meals,” according to the department’s news release. See related article: The New York Times “No Veggies, No Buns, Few Forks: Schools Scramble to Feed Students Amid Shortages.”

Around the Nation

A Free In-School Grocery Store Is Tackling Child Hunger, One Family at a Time
N.P.R.: In America, around 17 million children are battling hunger. Jasmine Crowe, an entrepreneur, has teamed with rap star Gunna to open a free grocery store inside Gunna’s old middle school in Georgia to try to begin to change that. As CEO of Goodr, a startup dedicated to eliminating food waste, Crowe knows all about helping those who need it most. “The principal describes it as like a mini Walmart,” Crowe said. The biggest difference, of course, is that everything is absolutely free. Stock is replenished weekly, and there are vegan options as well as fresh produce. Also present are plenty of easy and quick options that kids are able to make themselves at home.

Absenteeism Surging Since Schools Reopened
EdSource: A month into in-person learning for most California schools, some districts are reporting soaring rates of absenteeism due to stay-at-home quarantines, fear of Covid and general disengagement from school. Even districts that had relatively high attendance before Covid have seen big increases in chronic absenteeism — students who have missed more than 10% of school days. “It’s very concerning. We need to pay close attention to these students,” said Hedy Chang, executive director of Attendance Works. “Not only are they missing out on opportunities to connect with their peers, but they’re missing valuable classroom time to help them recover from learning loss from the previous year.”

‘We Left Those Students Behind’: 1.9 Million Low-Income Youth Boxed Out of Afterschool Programs, Despite Surging Parent Interest in STEM Offerings
The 74 Million: Every year, millions of students nationwide participate in afterschool and summer programs that help them gain skills in science, technology, engineering, and math — also known as STEM. But even as student interest surges and the programs continue to expand, financial and transportation barriers have boxed many young people out of these pivotal learning opportunities, particularly students from low-income families, a new report released by Afterschool Alliance reveals. From 2014 to 2020 there was a 1.3 million student drop in afterschool STEM participation. The drops were starkest among poorer students, largely due to the cost and transportation barriers, rather than a lack of interest. See related article: Eduptopia “After-School Clubs Encourage Problem-Solving by Letting Students Lead.”

How a Texas School Managed Classroom Chaos
K-12 Dive: When Texas schools first reopened after the first wave of the pandemic, teachers and administrators faced more challenges than ever before. Not only were they still contending with the challenges of remote learning and communication for parents who opted to keep their children home, but they also had to figure out ways to tackle things like teaching students who had been learning in-person but had to quarantine at home after being exposed to COVID-19. One school was able to manage these challenges through strategies such as marrying consistency with new challenges and keeping communication, particularly with parents, at the forefront.

Could a New Program at Rogers High School Close Learning Gaps by Addressing Implicit Bias
The Newport Daily News: Rogers High School in Newport, Rhode Island, is about to test pilot a unique program this year that could lower the achievement gap between White students and students of color by improving the relationships between teachers and students. The program was developed by Niko Merritt to improve student achievement by focusing on how implicit bias from their teachers impacts their performance in school. She partnered with Dr. Kimberly O’Brien, a professor at Harvard Medical School, to develop the program. The seven-week pilot will take 22 voluntary participants, 11 students and 11 teachers, and have them engage in stress-reducing and relationship-building activities together which could reduce implicit bias from teachers and perceived bias from the students. See related article: MRDC “Scaling Student Support Programs That Are Making a Big Difference.”

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