The Weekly Connect 1/24/22

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:

Students’ learning loss is changing the traditional school calendar

The White House is sending more Covid tests to schools

A partnership brings free vision services to Washington, D.C., schools. 

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

Why Learning Loss Is Prompting Educators to Rethink the Traditional School Calendar: Start Earlier, End Later, Extend Breaks for Remediation
The 74 Million: Pandemic-related school closures, which caused an alarming rate of learning loss among the country’s most vulnerable students, have prompted some administrators to reconsider the school calendar. An earlier start date, a later end date and numerous, elongated breaks throughout the year could allow more timely remediation for children in need — and enrichment for those who are not. New York City’s new schools chancellor David Banks, has proposed that children report to class on Saturday and during the summer. In neighboring Connecticut, Hartford Public Schools have already started opening several buildings on Saturdays to accelerate students’ learning.

Combining Remote and In-person Learning Led to Chaos, Study Finds
The Hechinger Report: Although educators are trying to keep schools open during the pandemic, they still have to figure out how to educate children quarantining at home. Some school leaders have been turning to an innovative solution: allowing children at home to learn remotely along with their in-person classmates. A small study of teachers across nine states found that this hybrid solution was exhausting for teachers, due to having to toggle back and forth between the two modes. Further, students appeared to learn less this way. Student failures during the 2020-21 school year prompted three districts in the study to abandon the dual approach and split into separate in-person only and remote-only classes.

Grief Has Engulfed the Learning Environment. Here’s What Can Help
Education Week: Teachers and students are facing unprecedented levels of grief in the learning environment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. No matter its form, grief changes the brain, body, and behavior, which inevitably impacts learning. In response, grief-responsive teaching—a pedagogical and interpersonal approach to teaching that integrates science and stories of grief into actionable practices for implementation into classrooms—offers strategies for helping students in this time of communal grief. To infuse grief-responsive practices into learning spaces, educators should consider evaluating the learning environment, enhancing systems of interpersonal support, and using a grief-sensitive approach to teaching curricula.

Policy

The White House will Distribute 10 million more COVID Tests Per Month to Schools
NPR: With schools all over the country struggling to deal with a surge of coronavirus cases from the omicron variant, the White House announced it is increasing the supply of COVID-19 tests for schools to help keep facilities open for in-person learning. The administration will increase the number of COVID tests available to schools by 10 million per month — 5 million rapid tests and 5 million lab-based PCR tests. This announcement is in addition to other testing resources and programs, and it comes as the supply of COVID tests struggles to keep up with intense demand.

Report: K-12 Connectivity on the Rise, but Work Still Needed
K-12 Dive: Since 2020, there’s been a 25% uptick in school districts nationwide meeting or surpassing the Federal Communications Commission’s bandwidth goal of 1 Mbps per student, according to a report released this week by nonprofit Connected Nation. While 59% of districts met the FCC benchmark in 2021 compared to 47% in 2020, 27.6 million students still lack enough bandwidth to support their digital learning needs in the classroom, the report said. Even though this new data is encouraging, more action is needed to increase internet access and connectivity for students. One solution is to continue improving upon the FCC’s E-rate program that helps subsidize school connections and internet infrastructure. See related article: K-12 Dive “A Digital Divide Haunts Schools Adapting to Virus Hurdles

States Look to Ease Funding Declines Spurred by Low Student Attendance
K-12 Dive: Lawmakers and education officials in a few states are seeking changes to school funding formulas to avoid financial harm to districts from pandemic-related drops in student attendance rates. States currently calculate funding allocations in a variety of complicated ways using attendance and enrollment counts or both and changing student funding formulas often requires legislative approval. Favoring current-school-year averages of student enrollments rather than one-day attendance counts could increase state flow-through funds to local districts and help with more accurate budget planning, school funding experts say. Declining student attendance rates during the pandemic are raising concerns that district coffers will shrink significantly once federal emergency funding is spent and if attendance rates don’t rebound.

Around the Nation

D.C. Schools’ Partnership Provides Free Vision Care
Washington Post: Scores of D.C. Public School students go to school every day without the glasses they need. A new effort plans to remedy that by providing low-income students with free vision screenings, eye exams, and, if needed, eyeglasses. The school system partnered with Vision to Learn, a national nonprofit based in Los Angeles, to help students across the city. The effort began at Stanton Elementary School in December, when almost 40 students received a new pair of glasses at no cost. The nonprofit works in more than 500 cities across the country and has provided more than 1 million vision screenings and hundreds of thousands of vision exams to underserved students. Research has shown that the program is effective in benefiting students’ vision and academic performance.

Districts Get Creative to Maintain Special Ed Services as COVID Drags On
K-12 Dive: Educators across the country are struggling to keep students with disabilities on track academically as the omicron variant moves through communities, forcing some schools to switch to remote learning. The rise of COVID-19 variants is causing special educators to balance personal safety with their desire to teach in person and switch temporarily to remote learning. Staff shortages predominant in special education before the public health crisis, in addition to pressures to stay compliant with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, are leading special education departments to be creative in providing individualized support for students in both remote and in-person settings — and to prioritize parent communications.

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