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:
LGBTQ+ teens and young adults say debates and state legislation on restricting transgender youth participation in school sports, among other related issues, have been hard on their mental health.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is boosting funding for school meals because of inflation and supply chain issues.
More than 167,000 children in the U.S. have lost parents or caregivers to Covid, which is roughly 1 in every 450 young people under age 18.
To read more, click on the following links.
Research & Practice
Decade of Data Highlights SEL Best Practices From 20 Districts
K-12 Dive: Participants from the Collaborating School Districts Initiative found ways to expand and sustain social-emotional learning (SEL) amid leadership and budget changes. Not only did these districts discover it was possible to expand their SEL practices, but they’ve also sustained high-quality programming despite changes in local leadership and budgets. The districts also saw positive student outcomes because of their collaborations and independent efforts. CASEL (the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning) details the experiences of the original eight district participants, as well as 12 additional districts that joined the CDI after 2011, in a new report. Key recommendations from the report include the importance of forming communities of practice, setting goals and measuring progress, and understanding that SEL is a journey.
What Many LGBTQ+ Students Worry About Most During the Pandemic
Education Week: National political fights over transgender youth rights have taken a toll on the mental health of many LGBTQ+ teenagers and young adults. According to a recent poll by the Trevor Project, two thirds of LGBTQ+ teens and young adults say that recent high-profile debates and state legislation on restricting transgender youth participation in school sports, among other related issues, have been hard on their mental health. The impact of these political debates is felt even more among transgender and nonbinary youth, 85% of whom say these types of discussions and legislative activity have negatively affected their mental health. Anger, stress, sadness, and nervousness were the most reported emotions. Policies requiring schools to inform parents about their children’s gender and sexual identities made LGBTQ+ students particularly stressed and nervous.
Kids Are Back in School — and Struggling with Mental Health Issues
NPR: Schools across the country are overwhelmed with K-12 students struggling with mental health problems, according to school staff, pediatricians, and mental health care workers. Recent data from the Children’s Hospital Association show that there were more than 47,000 mental health visits to emergency departments at 38 children’s hospitals around the country in the first three quarters of 2021 – nearly 40% higher than the same period in 2020. Schools are seeing many students act younger than their age, resort to violence and aggression, and struggle with self-harm, suicidal thoughts, and suicide attempts. Additionally, students of color have been disproportionately affected by some of the pandemic’s negative impacts, such as losing a loved one or caregiver.
Schools Expand Credit Recovery to Keep Students on Track for Graduation
K-12 Dive: As the pandemic continues to throw barriers in front of high schoolers’ graduation goals, school districts are looking at the option of academic credit recovery. The urgency to support students’ goals for high school graduation has led the Minneapolis Public School district to dedicate federal emergency funding toward several nontraditional approaches, including a program dedicated to fifth-year seniors and credit recovery classes that use the city’s resources as inspiration and lessons for learning. An emerging body of research links online credit recovery programs to the increase in high school graduation rates but does not find comparable increases in student learning as measured by standardized test scores or end-of-course tests. Ensuring credit recovery programs are of high quality, given the realities of limited staff, space, and time, is the difficulty high schools are facing — especially as pandemic disruptions led to higher failure rates in many school systems.
CDC Updates Covid-19 Prevention Guidance for K-12 Schools
CNN: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new K-12 school recommendations say children who have not been fully vaccinated and are exposed to the coronavirus should quarantine for at least five days after their last close contact with a person who has COVID-19. Additionally, the new recommendations state that students, teachers, and staff with COVID-19 should stay home and isolate for at least five full days. People whose symptoms are improving can leave isolation after five full days if they are fever-free for 24 hours. They should wear a mask around others for an additional five days. In areas with high transmission, schools are advised to cancel or hold high-risk sports and extracurricular activities virtually.
Citing Supply Chain Issues, Inflation, USDA Boosts Funding for School Meals
Education Week: The U.S. Department of Agriculture will offer an unusual midyear increase to the reimbursements it provides for school meals, citing challenges related to inflation and supply chain interruptions that have made it difficult for schools to purchase food. Schools will receive an additional 25 cents per lunch, an increase of about $750 million nationally. The move comes as school meal programs face unprecedented challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including recruiting and retaining staff, and workforce interruptions caused by quarantines.
8 K-12 Trends to Watch in 2022
K-12 Dive: Factors related to the COVID-19 pandemic are stretching into 2022 and will likely impact school districts for years to come. The following eight trends will be critical to watch in the coming year: 1) addressing learning and enrollment loss 2) how schools communicate with stakeholders, such as parents and guardians 3) continued unpredictability of education funding 4) meeting social-emotional and mental health needs of students 5) maintaining staff stability 6) internet access and cybersecurity 7) censorship in schools, and 8) education policy ‘ping pong.’
Around the Nation
‘Their Whole Sky Has Fallen’: 1 in 450 Youth Have Lost a Parent or Caregiver to COVID
The 74 Million: More than 167,000 children have lost parents or caregivers to Covid during the pandemic, which is roughly 1 in every 450 young people in the U.S. under age 18. The death toll further underscores the daunting task facing schools as they seek to help students recover not just academically, but also emotionally, from the pandemic. Bereaved children have higher rates of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder than those who have not lost parents, according to a 2018 study. Schools can play a critical role in ramping up mental health and mentoring services for students. Researchers recommend that policymakers devote resources to grief camps, group counseling, and therapy to support children.
State Seeks to Speed Credentials for 10,000 Direly Needed School Mental Health Counselors
LA Times: Confronted with a shortage of school mental health counselors, the California Department of Education is seeking to bring 10,000 more professionals to campuses at a time when federal public health officials are calling for action to address the nation’s growing youth mental health crisis. The counselor effort, which requires legislative approval, would aim to entice clinicians into schools through loan forgiveness and deferrals as well as through scholarships to offset education costs, and potentially reduce the time it takes for mental health clinicians to get licensed.
Amid Omicron Surge, Policies Restrict Districts’ Remote Learning Options
K-12 Dive: Districts in states with tight restrictions around remote learning are finding themselves unable to pivot to online instruction amid another surge of COVID-19 infections and school shutdowns. Instead, some schools facing staffing shortages or high absence rates from the spread of the omicron variant are relying on inclement weather or emergency days to close schools altogether. These days, in some cases, must be made up at the end of the school year or by docking spring break days. Connecticut and Tennessee are among states with widespread staffing and transportation shortages or high positivity rates — and tight restrictions around remote learning options. Others include New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Florida. See related article: K-12 Dive “Omicron, Staff Shortages Interrupt In-Person School.”
Educating Through COVID: From ‘Saturday Accelerators’ Aiding Learning Recovery in Indiana to Soaring Student Absenteeism in Florida, 13 Ways States Are Confronting the Crisis
The 74 Million: States and school systems are finding different ways to confront the challenges posed by COVID-19 and its variants by working to preserve student learning amid the pandemic. Schools in South Bend, Indiana, for example, are spearheading a “Saturday Accelerator” that offers classes, tutoring, and various support to students working to catch up from pandemic disruption. In North Carolina, teachers and families are reporting success from a network of school hubs created during the pandemic to help offer students extended learning time, a place to seek school support, and a place for teachers to support one another. In California, schools are relying on intensive testing protocols for students and staff to keep buildings open.
Like what you see? Sign up to receive this summary in your inbox as soon as it is published.