The Weekly Connect 12/13/21

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:

Early childhood math instruction has long-term benefits. 

Federal funding for homeless students is being bogged down by red tape and a lack of urgency among some state officials. 

The country needs a plan to address the learning loss of students with disabilities.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

Experts Hailed Holding Kids Back as Emergency Response to Pandemic Learning Loss
The 74 Million: The injustices stirred by the pandemic prompted some policy experts to suggest early on that holding kids back — “retention” in education parlance — would be a good option for students who fell behind. Texas was among five states that passed legislation this year to make it easier for parents to request their children repeat the grade they were in 2020-21. But a review of data obtained by The 74, supported by interviews with parents, researchers, and district officials, suggests that families largely rejected this emergency option. Knowledge of the laws sometimes didn’t trickle down to parents and others counted on students getting extra support through tutoring, summer school, or small group instruction.

Long-Term Effects of Enhanced Early Childhood Math Instruction
MDRC: Studies have shown that math skills in early childhood are uniquely and strongly predictive of later outcomes, including the likelihood of graduating from high school and college completion. The Making Pre-K Count and High 5s studies were designed to test the effects of improving children’s math experiences in pre-K and kindergarten. Making Pre-K Count trained teachers in a high-quality, evidenced-based math curriculum. The study found that this intervention had a small, positive longer-term impact on children’s third grade test scores. High 5s offered small group supplemental math enrichment to kindergarteners who received Making Pre-K Count. The combination of Making Pre-K Count and High 5s together had a moderate, statistically significant impact on children’s math scores.

Why Education Researchers Want to Focus on Academic Growth, Instead of Just Achievement
St. Louis Public Radio: In a new report, education researchers are highlighting schools that have seen an impressive rate of academic improvement and growth in math and English skills, despite having a high concentration of students from low-income backgrounds. This is part of a broader push to focus on student progress, which the researchers say is an important measure of how effective a school is. The schools on the list are often overlooked when considering more traditional achievement marks, said Evan Rhinesmith, executive director of the PRiME center. Growth can eventually lead to higher achievement scores, Rhinesmith said, but focusing on achievement levels can be problematic because studies have shown they are highly correlated to a student’s socioeconomic background.

Schools Are Back in Person, But Quarantines, Health Concerns Have Students Missing More Class
Chalkbeat: In-person schooling is back across the country this school year, but fewer students than normal are regularly attending class, according to data emerging from states and school districts. Statewide daily attendance in Illinois, for instance, is 92.5% so far this year, compared to 93.9% in 2018-19, the last year unaffected by the pandemic. In Connecticut, 93.5% of students have been present on a typical day, compared to 94.8% pre-pandemic. Many districts have also reported a spike in the share of students on track to be “chronically absent.” In Portland, Maine, that figure is currently 20.4%, compared to 13.4% in 2019-20. In Detroit, the numbers jumped from 45% to 59%. And in Oakland, nearly a third of students are on track to be chronically absent, up from 17% two years ago. See related article: The Hechinger Report “‘It’s So Hard and So Challenging’: An Oral History of Year Three of Pandemic Schooling.”

Policy

Ed Dept Announces Communities of Practice to Accelerate Learning, Support Kindergartners
K-12 Dive: A new community of practice recently announced by the U.S. Department of Education aims to assist states and districts plan and pay for evidence-based programs to help accelerate learning for students, particularly those most impacted by the pandemic. A second community of practice will investigate strategies to specifically help kindergartners with early school success and learning recovery. This effort will address social-emotional development, family engagement, disparities in in-person learning and dips in school enrollments. To counter academic setbacks, educators say there is pressure to implement effective and equitable interventions with urgency and fidelity. These communities of practice will help to formally make connections among practitioners leading these efforts. See related article: The Education Trust “Strategies to Solve Unfinished Learning.”

Congress Set Aside $800 Million to Help Homeless Students. Months Later, Many Schools Are Still Waiting for Aid.
Chalkbeat: Congress set aside $800 million in COVID relief money back in March to help homeless students and their families find housing and access mobile clinics that provide services like depression screenings and free glasses. The first $200 million reached states within six weeks, and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona urged state officials to deploy that aid quickly to meet the needs of homeless students. Many states passed money along to schools over the summer. But in several states, such as New York, Florida, and Missouri, most schools are still waiting to see the first dollar of these funds due to red tape and a lack of urgency from state lawmakers or officials, according to a Chalkbeat investigation.

As Omicron Emerges, Health Experts Urge Keeping Schools Open
K-12 Dive: Schools and the rest of the world are awaiting more details on the threat posed by the Omicron variant of COVID-19, which has been labeled a variant of concern by both the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control and the World Health Organization. A day after the first case of Omicron was detected in the U.S., the Biden administration doubled down on calls for vaccines and booster shots to keep schools open, announcing it will launch hundreds of family vaccination clinics. Meanwhile, 9,313 schools across 916 districts have already closed amid staffing shortages, teacher burnout, or COVID-19 outbreaks at some point this academic year, according to Burbio, which is tracking data across 80,000 K-12 school calendars.

Around the Nation

High School Counselors Navigate SEL, College Applications Amid Youth Mental Health Crisis
K-12 Dive: College-bound high school seniors are facing stiffer obstacles during the admissions process this year as they balance a return to in-person learning alongside pandemic-induced mental health challenges. This means that school counselors are also taking on more, as they support students and navigate college admissions and the return to in-person learning all at once. Schools can help address these significant stressors by giving students more choice in the classes they take in high school so they’re more invested and prepared for college; monitoring student wellness and mental health; and providing more resources to support school counselors. See related article: The Washington Post “In a San Francisco High School, The Scars of Remote Schooling Linger” and Education Next “Schools Can Help with Youth Mental Health Crisis.”

After Last Year’s Learning Loss, We Need a Plan for Students With Disabilities
The Hill: The COVID-19 pandemic created a crisis in education for all students, especially the 7.3 million students with disabilities. Many students with disabilities who typically receive additional academic supports and services in-person were unable to receive them due to the changes in how schools operated. Key recommendations from the National Center for Learning Disabilities to address the learning loss students with disabilities may face include: utilizing high-quality, accessible, and inclusive instruction, implementing inclusive and culturally responsive social-emotional learning, developing effective progressive monitoring and accurate evaluations for specialized instruction, and fostering meaningful family support and engagement.

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