The Weekly Connect 1/31/22

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:

Cash aid to poor mothers increases babies’ brain activity. 

Federal education policy could better meet the needs of students who are English Learners.

As the pandemic persists, high school graduation rates dip in 20 states

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

Cash Aid to Poor Mothers Increases Brain Activity in Babies, Study Finds
New York Times: A study that provided poor mothers with cash stipends for the first year of their children’s lives appears to have changed the babies’ brain activity in ways associated with stronger cognitive development, a finding with potential implications for safety net policy. The differences were modest — researchers likened them in statistical magnitude to moving to the 75th position in a line of 100 from the 81st — and it remains to be seen if changes in brain patterns will translate to higher skills, as other research offers reason to expect. Still, evidence that a single year of subsidies could alter something as profound as brain functioning highlights the role that money may play in child development and comes as President Biden is pushing for a much larger program of subsidies for families with children.

How De-escalation Strategies Can Reduce Disruptive Classroom Behaviors
K-12 Dive: How educators respond to students in the cycle of emotional and behavioral crisis — including when students are calm, when concerning behaviors peak and when those behaviors subside — is critical to minimizing and preventing intense situations in classrooms. Recognizing and intervening in each of the phases of a crisis cycle can help meet teacher and student de-escalation needs and ideally prevent disruptive, destructive, and dangerous behaviors. It is recommended that educators use the seven phases of a crisis cycle to individualize prevention and recovery strategies. The seven phases are: calm, triggers, agitation, acceleration, peak, de-escalation, and recovery.

Exclusionary Discipline: Some Kids Have Returned to In-person Learning Only to be Kicked Right Back Out
The Hechinger Report: Despite widespread recognition of the need to focus on students’ mental health during the trauma of the pandemic, families and advocates around the country say they have seen a return to exclusionary discipline. According to data collected by the Hechinger Report, exclusionary discipline is down in some districts, while in others, suspensions and expulsions are approaching or exceeding pre-pandemic levels. For example, in Charlotte, N.C., 4,402 students were suspended from the start of school through Dec. 1, which is higher than fall 2018 numbers and a slight drop from 2019. In Denver, on the other hand, districtwide data shows that suspensions were down by 29%i n fall 2021 compared with fall 2019.

Study: Anti-CRT Campaigns Impact Districts with 35% of Nation’s Students
K-12 Dive: In 2020 and 2021, 894 school districts representing 35% of all K-12 students were impacted by local actions related to campaigns against critical race theory in classrooms, according to a new study. Districts facing the most rapid demographic shifts — where White student enrollment fell by more than 18% since 2000 — were more than three times as likely to experience local action by anti-CRT campaigns than districts that saw little or no enrollment change in White students. The study also surveyed 275 educators and interviewed 21 school equity officers on how anti-CRT campaigns have impacted them. A majority of educators said they personally experienced efforts to restrict or prohibit discussing issues of race, racism, racial inequality, diversity, equity and inclusion in 2020 and 2021.


Leveraging Federal Dollars to Build Early Childhood Systems
New America: A Toolkit for Effective and Supportive Transitions offers a multitude of early childhood-related policy solutions that can be leveraged using federal funding. Suggestions for policy-related solutions include: providing the opportunity for joint professional development on aligning routines and expectations; allowing states and localities to gather information on effective practices and showcase model classrooms as examples; building data sharing systems across early childhood and elementary school settings; encouraging equity in alignment planning and activities, developing professional learning modules that emphasize trauma-informed teaching, equity concerns, implicit bias, and effective and authentic family engagement practices; and organizing and connecting Head Start programs, program administrators, principals, and early elementary teachers to make these efforts strategic.

A Federal Policy Agenda for English Learner Education
New America: English learners (ELs) represent a growing share of the student population in the United States, yet they are often sidelined in federal education policy discussions. At present, an uneven approach has yielded sharp differences in ELs’ educational experiences, with some states prioritizing bilingual education models and others emphasizing English-dominant models. A new presidential administration brings the opportunity to reassess the condition of federal EL education policy and identify areas of prioritization and improvement. There are several key areas in need of improvement in federal policy impacting ELs and dual language learners (DLLs), including data collection practices, accountability through data, assessment considerations, teacher workforce, and funding. See related article: EdSource “How Congress Can Help Students Learning English.”

State Launches New COVID Testing Program for Child Care, Early Education Centers
WGBH News: Thousands of Massachusetts child care and early education centers can tap into the state’s supply of rapid COVID-19 tests for use in a new test-and-stay program rolled out by Gov. Charlie Baker, designed to allow classrooms to remain open. Baker and top education officials described the program as essential to the state’s economic recovery and the health and development of youth. “It’s a huge part of how you keep centers somewhat predictable, reliable and dependable for kids, especially, and also for the parents, many of whom are working parents who need to have the predictability and dependability and reliability with knowing that their centers are open, available, and safe,” Baker said.

Around the Nation

Graduation Rates Dip Across U.S. as Pandemic Stalls Progress
Chalkbeat: High school graduation rates dipped in at least 20 states after the first full school year disrupted by the pandemic. The drops came despite at least some states and educators loosening standards to help struggling students. The results, according to data obtained from 26 states and analyzed by Chalkbeat, are the latest concerning trend in American education, which has been rocked by a pandemic that left many students learning remotely last year and continues to complicate teaching and learning. In 2020, when schools shuttered for the final months of the school year, most states waived outstanding graduation requirements and saw graduation rates tick up. But the picture was different for the class of 2021. In 20 of the 26 states that have released their data, graduation rates fell.

Across the Region’s Schools, a Wildly Varied Treatment of Masks
Washington Post: As the omicron variant surges, masking at school is a flash point in the D.C. region. It’s not just that the newly inaugurated governor of Virginia, Glenn Youngkin, has barred school systems from requiring face coverings. It’s also that systems in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia are handing out KN95s for the first time — or planning to — with mixed results. Some parents and teachers are questioning the type of KN95s, while others are asking why supplies are limited. In D.C., the masks are going to teachers and staff, but not students. KN95s can offer much more protection than cloth masks. According to the CDC, loosely woven cloth products provide the least protection. Well-fitting disposable surgical masks and KN95s offer more protection. Research shows better masks make a difference, particularly if everyone wears them.

Pre-K Not so Universal for Special Needs Students, Report Finds
Spectrum News: A third of the 30,000 preschool-aged children with disabilities in New York City did not get all of the services they were legally entitled to receive in 2019-2020. Advocates for Children analyzed new data on the city’s youngest students with IEPs. At the end of the 2019-2022 school year, at least 1,222 students were still waiting on seats in self-contained classrooms. In part due to state funding formulas, teachers at pre-K programs for students with disabilities are paid less than those working for the education department, which fuels staffing shortages. The city is offering a contract enhancement to schools serving students with disabilities — but advocates and educators say unless it provides for full salary parity with DOE teachers, it won’t be enough to expand these programs.

How Transitional Kindergarten Can Help Students Learning English as a Second Language
EdSource: California is expanding transitional kindergarten, or TK, over four years, to eventually offer all 4-year-olds a free year of preschool before kindergarten. Advocates say the expansion of TK is an opportunity to offer high-quality preschool to more children who speak a language other than English at home, also known as dual-language learners. Recommendations for schools to best serve 4-year-olds who are developing language skills in English and their home language include: creating more bilingual transitional kindergarten classrooms; communicating and partnering with families; using and celebrating home languages in the classroom; encouraging play through singing, talking, and movement; providing more training for teachers; and assessing learning in more than one language.

Helping Middle Schoolers Think About a Future Beyond the Pandemic
The Hechinger Report: In a school district in northern Indianapolis, students are having exploratory chats about things like future career interests and self-confidence with counselors as part of a new curriculum. Educators here and elsewhere in the country say it’s not too soon to prompt students to think far ahead, an idea backed by recent research. In fact, imagining the future might help students cope better with the present, especially in the midst of a global pandemic. Individual states and nonprofits are stepping-up their programs to help middle school students think about their futures. In Indiana, even more help will be on the way once a pilot program, Indiana Career Explorer, a free online career and planning tool, ramps up in more middle schools.

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Author: City Connects

City Connects is an innovative school-based system that revitalizes student support in schools. City Connects collaborates with teachers to identify the strengths and needs of every child. We then create a uniquely tailored set of intervention, prevention, and enrichment services located in the community designed to help each student learn and thrive.

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