The Weekly Connect 10/18/21

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:

Poverty and stress can negatively influence students’ behavior, but caring teachers can help. 

More federal funding for computers and hotspots could close the homework gap

Tens of thousands of children have been affected by the pandemic-related deaths of their parents.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

How Poverty and Stress Influence Students’ Behavior
ASCD: The stresses students can feel when they grow up poor — such as insecurity about the basics, living in unsafe conditions, and having untreated health conditions or a parent in jail — can cause a loss of grey matter in their prefrontal cortex, which affects social behavior and decision-making. Caring teachers can play an important role in helping reduce or reverse the harmful neurological effects of poverty. Three ways to strengthen students’ natural capacity for self-control, social behavior, and empathy are: forging a positive social climate where students feel relaxed and safe, teaching social skills, and increasing empathy through acts of kindness, like community service. See related article: EdSurge “Why Our Trauma-Informed Teaching Must Be More Culturally Responsive.”

2021 Children’s Mental Health Report
Child Mind Institute: Even before COVID-19, mental health professionals were struggling to meet the needs of the 1 in 5 children and adolescents who had a mental health or learning disorder. Then the pandemic hit, bringing an upsurge in youth reporting mental health challenges. In a recent report, the Child Mind Institute says that the most negative impacts
of the pandemic have been concentrated in uniquely vulnerable populations, including poor, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ kids, as weel as kids with unstable home lives and mental health disorders. Fortunately, research also indicates that young people are resilient and many, especially those with fewer risk factors, will likely emerge without significant mental health challenges. See related article: Education Week “Students With Depression, Anxiety May Qualify for Accommodations, Feds Tell Schools.”

4-Day School Weeks: New Research Examines the Benefits and Drawbacks
Education Week: The move to a four-day school week with extended days has been one of the fastest-increasing and least-studied phenomena. In a recent analysis of four-day weeks, a RAND Corporation research team examined student achievement, student health outcomes (sleep and physical activity), cost savings, and more. Researchers found that the four-day week is popular among parents and students, it can save districts a small amount of money, and it helps elementary school students get more sleep. Students in four-day districts spent more time on school sports, working, doing errands or chores, and on hobbies. Student achievement, however, did not grow as fast in the four-day districts compared with similar five-day districts.

How Does Student-Teacher Matching Affect Suspensions for Students of Color?
Brookings: Latino and Black students are more likely to face the harshest and most exclusionary forms of school discipline, compared to their white peers. One approach to decrease suspensions for Black and Latino students is to match students to teachers of the same ethno-racial group. A recent study using longitudinal data from Brookings found that when students in grades 4-8 were assigned more same-race teachers, they were less likely to be suspended from school, compared to years in which they were assigned fewer same-race teachers. Black students showed the largest association, but the effects were statistically significant for Latino students and Asian American students. See related article: Education Week “Law Against ‘Disorderly Conduct’ in Schools Led to Unfair Student Arrests, Judge Rules.”

Policy

Three Bills Poised to Steer Federal Education Funding
ASCD: There are three major funding bills pending in Congress that would provide significant resources to education. An infrastructure bill includes funding for broadband access and devices for families, clean-energy school buses, improved energy efficiency in schools, and the removal of lead from school drinking water. A reconciliation bill includes funding for childcare, universal preschool, postsecondary assistance, child nutrition, and teacher training. And the FY22 appropriations bill, which was passed this summer, includes funding for Title I, IDEA, and full-service community schools.

Homework Gap Could Be Back in Full Force If Lawmakers Don’t Act, Education Groups Say
Education Week: The “homework gap”—which refers to the difficulty students experience completing homework when they lack internet access at home compared to those who have access—has been a persistent problem, particularly for poor students, students of color, and those living in rural areas. Since the beginning of the pandemic, as many as 16 million students and 400,000 educators lacked sufficient connectivity for online learning. As a temporary solution, the federal government allowed districts to use federal COVID relief funding to purchase devices and hotspots. However, that money will likely run out after this school year, potentially leaving students in the lurch. Fifty-seven organizations have asked congressional leaders to provide an additional $4 billion for this effort.

Around the Nation

School leaders should consider unique needs when choosing SEL programming
K-12 Dive: Even before COVID-19, 70% of principals thought formal social-emotional learning (SEL) curriculum was needed, up from 43% two years prior. However, with dozens of options, school leaders should carefully consider which evidence-based models best fit their unique needs. Resources like CASEL, RAND Corp., and the What Works Clearinghouse can help district leaders choose which approaches could work best for them. Schools should also gather input from a variety of stakeholders, including intervention coordinators, mental health facilitators, administrators, counselors, psychologists, and teachers. A school district’s unique factors, such as high poverty levels or youth mental health data, can add additional context when it comes to selecting among curricula and models.

‘This is a Crisis’: Tens of Thousands of Children Affected by Pandemic-Related Deaths of Parents
The Washington Post: A recent study in Pediatrics estimated that roughly 140,000 children under 18 lost parents or caregivers from March 2020 to June 2021 due to pandemic-related causes. The consequences are life-changing: Losing a parent or other primary caregiver is one of the most stressful things that can happen in a children’s lives. It increases their risk of suffering from depression and post-traumatic stress, as well as physical manifestations of grief, such as heart problems. The data also reveal vast disparities by race and ethnicity. In the U.S., 1 out of 500 children lost at least one parent/caregiver. But for American Indian children, it’s 1 out of 168; for Black children, 1 out of 310; for Hispanic children, 1 out of 412, for Asian children, 1 out of 612; and for White children, 1 out of 753.

De Blasio to Phase Out N.Y.C. Gifted and Talented Program
The New York Times: Mayor Bill de Blasio recently unveiled a plan to overhaul gifted and talented education in New York City elementary schools, calling for sweeping changes to a highly selective program that has been widely criticized for exacerbating segregation in the nation’s largest school system. Under Mr. de Blasio’s plan, released when he has just three months left in office, elementary school students who are currently enrolled in gifted classes would become the final cohort in the program. The system would be replaced by a program that offers the possibility of accelerated learning to students in the later years of elementary school. And the test given to kindergarten students to screen for the gifted program would be permanently ended. See related article: The New York TimesAdams Commits, With Few Details, to Keeping Gifted Program in Schools

South St. Paul Has a Plan to Help Students Struggling with a Class: Send Others Home 1 Day a Week
Twin Cities Pioneer Press: South St. Paul High School recently implemented a plan in which students who are getting better-than-average grades in any class can stay home on Wednesdays and do online work. Meanwhile, students with a C-minus or lower must go to school for in-person learning tailored to the area or areas where they are struggling. The program aims to further incentivize good grades and help struggling learners right away. School officials say the idea, which had a volunteer trial run late last year during pandemic-induced distance learning, has the backing of district leaders and teachers. But a number of parents have voiced their concerns, with the main worries being that students will lose out on curriculum and that they will become divided into categories of good and bad.

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