The Weekly Connect 11/29/21

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:

Educators are worried about standardized test scores that are lower than they were before the pandemic. 

More than 20 school districts extend the Thanksgiving break by adding mental health days

English learners in New Jersey are being “ignored.”

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

Low Test Scores Have Educators Worried, Survey Shows
Education Week: A majority of educators say their schools’ or districts’ standardized test results from last spring are lower than they were pre-pandemic—and that these numbers are concerning, according to the findings from a recent, nationally representative, EdWeek Research Center survey of teachers, principals, and district administrators. The survey was administered in late October and early November, and there were 977 respondents. Of survey-takers who had received their schools’ spring state test results, 70% said that scores were down across the board from where they were before COVID, or were down in some areas and had held steady in others.

Why Are More Black Kids Suicidal? A Search for Answers
The New York Times: Over the past generation, a mental health crisis has been brewing among Black youths, one that very few people have spoken about publicly. Data show that self-reported suicide attempts rose nearly 80% among Black adolescents from 1991 to 2019, while the prevalence of attempts did not change significantly among those of other races and ethnicities. Research has shown that Black adolescents’ depression often goes untreated because of negative perceptions of services and providers or feelings of shame about experiencing depressive symptoms. This is further compounded by significant racial disparities in social work, psychiatry, and psychology; in 2015, only 4% of psychologists in the U.S. were Black, despite Black people representing 13% of the population.

Policy

Build Back Better Act Approved by House Has Millions for CTE, Teacher Training
District Administration: The $1.7 trillion Build Back Better Act social spending bill recently passed by the House includes funding for several education-related programs over the next several years. As passed by the House, the bill would invest $112 million each for school leadership development and teacher development grants, funding for child care and universal pre-K for 3- and 4-year-old children, and the expansion of free school meals. House passage moves the bill to the Senate for further consideration, where it is likely to see changes from its current form. If amended and passed by the Senate, it would return to the House for a vote on final passage.

Education Department’s Civil Rights Data Collection Expands With Questions on Virus, Discipline, Sex
U.S. News & World Report: When the Education Department surveys schools this academic year for its long-running Civil Rights Data Collection, it’s planning to introduce several new elements, including asking about how schools delivered education during the pandemic as well as providing nonbinary sex categories for questions previously limited to female and male, according to documents obtained by U.S. News. The long-running survey, conducted by the Office for Civil Rights, is already noteworthy in that it’s the first time since its inception in 1968 that the office has collected such data in back-to-back years. But this year, the effort is also set to restore the collection of certain data eliminated under the Trump administration, including disciplinary actions experienced by children in preschool.

More Than 20 School Districts Nationwide Extend Thanksgiving Break for Teacher and Student Mental Health Days
CNN: More than 20 public school districts across the nation are extending their Thanksgiving breaks by several days to allow for mental health days for students and staff. Districts in at least six different states including Missouri, Kansas, Virginia, Florida, North Carolina, and Maryland have amended their schedules to include “wellness days” this school year. Missouri’s Ladue School District is among at least a dozen districts in the St. Louis area that built in extra days of rest around the holiday. “We were noticing a common theme and that was stress,” Ladue Superintendent Jim Wipke told CNN. “When you talk to (teachers) about ‘how can I help you?’ a lot of them said, ‘I just need some time, time to decompress.'”

Around the Nation

A Bay Area School District’s Plan to Reduce Violence Through Nonviolent Means
EdSource: West Contra Costa Unified is looking at the sources of conflict and misbehavior on campus, then teaching students the social and emotional skills they may need to avoid violence. To accomplish those goals, the district is focusing on teaching students how to respond to stressful situations, using curriculum such as Sanford Harmony, Second Step, and School-Connect. The district’s plan of action to improve school safety includes offering clearly defined behavioral expectations at every school, as well as potential consequences students face if they misbehave. The district is also screening students to proactively identify those who are at risk for social-emotional and behavioral problems to help school staff support students. See related article: WBEZ “CPS Has a Plan to Keep Students Safe, But Students Fear Gun Violence at Dismissal.”

California District Personalizes Special Education to Address Learning Loss
K-12 Dive: The San Bernardino City Unified School District in California has aligned its standards-based curriculum with additional lessons individualized for the specific special education goals of each student with disabilities, district representatives said during a recent webinar. The curriculum alignment with Let’s Go Learn, a company that provides diagnostic testing and personalized learning, began last summer and was implemented through targeted professional development customized for teachers’ technology comfort levels. As special education programs nationally continue to respond to students’ pandemic-related learning loss, many are relying on formative assessment data to better pinpoint skills students still need support in and those they have mastered.

N.J. Students Learning English Are Being ‘Ignored’ Report Finds
Chalkbeat: Many New Jersey public schools have failed to meet state regulations for educating students learning English, a practice that heightened during the pandemic and remote learning, according to a new report. As a result, students with limited English, who make up about 7% of public school students in New Jersey, are often “ignored” or treated as “invisible,” educators said. Among the shortcomings found in the report: Important notices weren’t communicated in families’ home languages, at times causing students to go hungry during the pandemic. Bilingual aides weren’t available to help with virtual assignments, according to teachers, students, and families. Technology access limited participation in class. And English learners dropped out at alarming rates in some districts due to too many absences. See related article: AP News “Immigrant Parents Complain of Language Barriers in Schools.”

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