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Here are some of the things we’ve been reading about this week:
Increasing segregation of Latino students hinders their school performance and could increase Covid-related learning loss.
The expanded child tax credit lowered child poverty and enabled families to spend more on food, clothing, and rent.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says in-person school should be prioritized.
To read more, click on the following links.
Research & Practice
Want to Tackle Chronic Absenteeism? Try Texting Parents
Education Week: Texting parents about their child’s attendance can help combat chronic absenteeism, which has risen significantly during the pandemic. Texting has a lot of advantages because it is a form of communication frequently used by parents, instantaneous, and can be automated and customized to include a student’s name as well as updates on the number of school days missed. Some districts send “same-day” notifications whenever a student is absent, updates on the number of days a kid is absent during a certain period of time, or text messages about the connection between student attendance and academic performance. But not all texts are equally effective. Quick text messages must be part of a broader communications strategy to improve attendance or their impact will be weakened. See related article: Brookings Institute “Top 5 Insights for Improving Family-School Collaboration During COVID and Beyond.”
Increasing Segregation of Latino Students Hinders Academic Performance and Could Amplify COVID Learning Loss, Study Finds
The 74 Million: Elementary students from low-income families are less likely than they were two decades ago to attend schools with middle-class peers — a trend tied to the growth of the Latino population and continuing “white flight” from many school districts, a new study finds. Using a large, nationwide sample, researchers at U.C. Berkeley and the University of Maryland found that in 2000, the average child from a poor family went to an elementary school where almost half of the students were defined as middle class. By 2015, that figure had fallen to 36%. As the nation’s Latino student population grows, this shift in school demographics means these students are less likely to experience the benefits of racially and socioeconomically mixed schools, such as higher test scores, smaller racial achievement gaps, and higher college enrollment rates.
The Critical Role of Data in K–12 COVID Recovery
The Journal: From the cost of absences to accountability gaps, data must play a key role in the short- and long-term strategies education leaders deploy as they lead their districts and schools through COVID-19 recovery and beyond. Early identification of high-risk students is particularly critical this year, since new research has found wider gaps for the most vulnerable students. Districts must determine the common baseline for students, such as prior state test data or benchmark test data in order to begin to analyze where to target interventions. Being able to compare groups and students in different risk categories will help address inequities.
New Research Shows How Bad the Pandemic Has Been for Student Mental Health
Education Week: A new analysis of research across 11 countries including the United States found widespread anxiety and depression among those 19 and younger in the earliest days of the pandemic, exacerbated by greater screen time and less physical activity, and coupled with fewer adult supports to ensure children stayed out of dangerous situations. Child protection referrals dropped anywhere from 27% to nearly 40% across countries and studies. Much of this decline came from a lack of school referrals, suggesting that because students were in less day-to-day contact with educators and other adults, signs of abuse or neglect were more likely to go unnoticed. However, studies didn’t find a connection between school closures and suicide among young people in the first months of the pandemic. See related article: Education Week “Student Mental Health Is Overwhelming Schools. Can Congress Help?”
Child Obesity Grew During the Pandemic. How Schools Can Help Reverse the Trend
Education Week: Recent research has found a significant rise in obesity rates among children and teens over the course of the pandemic. During the pandemic, children spent more time in front of a screen, ate more processed and fast foods, and spent less time exercising when school buildings were closed. Schools, a key source of proper nutrition and physical education, are positioned to help head off this trend. School health experts say educators can help by getting rid of vending machines filled with candy, chips, and soda, never taking recess away as a behavioral punishment, and extending mealtimes so students don’t have to rush to eat. Lunch should also follow recess in school schedules, not the other way around, as kids are more likely to eat their food if they have had a chance to run around and play before mealtime.
The Expanded Child Tax Credit Briefly Slashed Child Poverty. Here’s What Else It Did
NPR: For six months, the U.S. experimented with a monthly cash payment to help families cover the costs of raising children. Tax credit payments cut monthly child poverty by roughly 30%, with the first payment in July keeping 3 million children out of poverty. An expansion of the tax credit that occurred in March allowed a total of 61 million children to benefit in December 2021. The expansion closed a hole that prevented roughly one-third of the nation’s children and half of all Black and Hispanic children from fully benefiting because their families earned too little income. According to an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data, 91% of low-income families used their monthly benefit on basic needs, such as food, clothing, school supplies, utility bills, and rent.
School Funding Lawsuits Gain Prominence as States Eye Tax Cuts
K-12 Dive: Districts are building momentum for a third wave of lawsuits challenging states’ funding of schools. The wave follows previous lawsuits brought against states to keep the jurisdiction and management of public school finance systems in the hands of state and local leaders. Pennsylvania recently took on a high-profile case initially filed against the state in 2014 by six school districts, the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools, the NAACP-PA State Conference, and a group of public school parents. The suit claims the state “forced Pennsylvania’s poorest residents to bear the brunt” of budget cuts. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit tie student outcomes to funding levels and claim funding gaps widened between districts because of a $1 billion cut in 2011.
Around the Nation
Tutoring Partnerships Take Shape to Address Learning Loss
K-12 Dive: As U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona promotes robust tutoring strategies to address pandemic-induced learning loss, districts and states are exploring various options to find ones that will be cost-effective and scalable. Cardona advised that districts should aim to provide tutoring 30 minutes per day, three times a week to students who fell behind due to COVID-19 disruptions. This kind of individualized tutoring has often been out of reach for lower-income students, but districts and states are now looking at models to provide tutoring for all students by tapping into the $122.7 billion in education pandemic relief under the American Rescue Plan.
‘It’s Just Stressful’: Students Feel the Weight of Pandemic Uncertainty
New York Times: The school shutdowns in the spring of 2020 were hard enough for students. But this winter, as the Omicron variant drove a spike in coronavirus case numbers, the disruptions began to feel like they would never end. Many students are still scrambling to catch up academically after months of struggling to learn online, and some switched schools or dropped out altogether. And while most are back in class today, a sense of profound isolation persists. Many students feel that an entire system has failed them, leaving them to take on additional responsibilities far beyond what is typically asked of young people. Many districts are also dealing with staff shortages and frequent student and teacher absences.
In Updated Guidance, AAP Says In-person Learning Should be Prioritized
Healio: The American Academy of Pediatrics has urged that school districts prioritize in-person learning in an update to their interim pandemic guidance. “The AAP observes that children have suffered in numerous ways during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a dramatic rise in mental health emergencies and deepening chasm of educational and health inequities experienced in under-resourced communities,” the AAP said in the new statement. In the updated guidance, the AAP recommended that all children aged 5 years and older receive COVID-19 vaccinations, that schools maintain universal indoor masking, that meal spaces be modified to reduce the risk for spread, and that schools prioritize testing kits for schools to distribute. See related article: Education Week “Is Remote Learning Here to Stay? Yes, But It Needs to Get Better.”
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