The Weekly Connect 2/14/22

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:

Teachers of color are linked to social-emotional and academic gains for all students. 

States are allowing more private school choice programs

Denver is focusing on students’ mental health. 

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

How Children’s Relationships with Teachers Shape their Social-Emotional and Executive Function Skills
New America: Children’s executive function skills will determine how well they study in school, problem solve in the workplace, and take care of their health. Their social-emotional skills will help them navigate friendships, love interests, networks, and conflict. A key window of opportunity to target these skills is between the ages of 3 and 5. A new study evaluated how these social-emotional and self-regulation skills are impacted by children’s relationships with their pre-K and kindergarten teachers. Findings confirmed that a decrease in teacher-child closeness was associated with lower levels of frustration tolerance, lower task-orientation, lower scores of social competence, and higher incidence of teacher-reported behavior problems.

Parent-Educator Tool Aims to Support Behavior Interventions for Young Children
K-12 Dive: An application developed by education researchers aims to improve family-educator partnerships by making it easier to communicate about how behavior interventions are helping young children. The ibestt Family Notebook is designed to exchange information about a child’s positive progress, as well as ongoing behavior concerns. Families whose children have behavior challenges can feel guilt and shame, but these families also have valuable insights that can help them collaborate with educators.

Teachers of Color Are Linked to Social-Emotional, Academic Gains for All Students
Education Week: Teachers of color tend to bring specific practices and mindsets into the classroom that benefit all students. A new study reaffirms that teachers of color are linked to positive academic, social-emotional, and behavioral student outcomes and finds that these effects are driven, at least in part, by mindsets and practices aligned to what’s known as culturally responsive teaching. The analysis found that teachers of color are more likely than their white colleagues to view student intelligence as malleable instead of fixed, build relationships with students and their families, spend more time differentiating their instruction to fit individual students’ needs, and lead well-organized classrooms, which are all components of culturally responsive teaching.

Policy

When Can Schools Get on the Mask ‘Off-Ramp’? 4 Questions to Consider
Education Week: The debate about when schools should begin to scale back or do away with universal masking in schools is in full swing now that the spread of the omicron variant is slowing and vaccination rates are rising. While more than a dozen states have mask mandates in place for schools, some of them, including those in Connecticut and New Jersey, will expire in February if they are not extended. And in most states, mask policies are set at the district level. The CDC, the Infectious Disease Society of America, and the American Academy of Pediatrics all continue to recommend universal indoor masking in schools, and those guidelines have been the basis for many pandemic-era contract negotiations for teachers and other staff. See related article: Reuters “New Jersey, California Among States Moving to Ease Mask Mandates as Omicron Ebbs.”

Cutoff Looms for Congress to Extend USDA Nutrition Waiver Authority
K-12 Dive: As supply chain and staffing woes persist for school meal programs, school nutrition advocates are urging Congress to extend the USDA’s authority to issue child nutrition waivers for the 2022-23 school year as soon as possible. If the USDA’s authority to extend waivers expires on June 30th as currently scheduled, universal free school meals will end. Schools will also lose the ability to provide flexible meal delivery and pickup options for families. Meanwhile, nutrition managers are planning now for summer meal programs and need certainty about how they’re going to serve meals soon.

Rebalancing: Children First
Brookings Institute: Childhood is a consequential and cost-effective time to make investments that last a lifetime. In a recent report, a working group composed of an array of experts from the American Enterprise Institute and the Brookings Institution argues for substantially increasing public investment in children in the context of budget neutrality—in other words, rebalancing existing resources toward children. Priorities put forth by the working group include investing in parenting support programs, increasing resources available to low-income families (such as the Child Tax Credit and SNAP benefits), increasing opportunities for job skills training for parents, ensuring a safety net for children during times of economic instability, increasing access to affordable health care, and ensuring access to high-quality and affordable early childhood education.

Report: State Lawmakers Shifting Support to School Choice, Flexible Learning Options
K-12 Dive: After examining legislative policies across 18 states, a new report found that states are pursuing policies to allow new and expanded private school choice programs and to provide more equitable access to options outside of a student’s assigned school. As some policymakers approach flexible learning policy options for the first time, it is important state lawmakers address equity issues, too. States have passed new programs giving students access to more private school options by adopting broader student eligibility requirements for voucher and tax credit scholarships and increasing funding for existing private school choice programs, the report said.

Around the Nation

How Denver is Trying to Help Students’ Mental Health, 20 Minutes at a Time
CNN: Halfway into a school year that’s as close to normal as anyone has seen in a while – classrooms are open to all their students five days a week–educators in Denver say they are just beginning to get their hands around what was broken in their students. This year, 20 minutes are being set aside every day to give Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) to each of the 90,000 students in Denver Public Schools, Colorado’s largest district. SEL is being woven through the day and across grade levels. Kindergarteners recently played a version of “red light-green light” that was really a lesson in dealing with anxiety. In a third-grade classroom, show and tell is a daily ritual where students share what was good and bad about the day before.

Mental Health Curriculum Mandates Seek to Destigmatize Getting Help
K-12 Dive: California is the latest to add a mental health curriculum requirement in K-12 to help address the ongoing youth mental health crisis. On Jan. 1, a new law took effect, mandating that the California Department of Education include mental health in state standards by Jan. 1, 2023. Districts must begin teaching the new curriculum by Jan. 1, 2024. The law requires that middle and high school students learn the signs and symptoms of mental health conditions. In California, students will also be required to learn how to seek assistance within their school system. See related article: EdSurge “Why More Schools Are Adding Mental Health Breaks to the Calendar.”

Community Schools can Reinvigorate Learning After Covid — If Done Right
EdSource: Community schools may provide a promising strategy for addressing pandemic-related challenges because they emphasize the holistic nature of both student needs and effective school improvement efforts. During the pandemic, many districts were in essence implementing a community schools approach. For example, these districts and their partners worked to facilitate widespread and equitable access to meals, childcare, computing devices, broadband connections, and Covid-19 testing and vaccination, while also creating learning opportunities that transcended school walls.

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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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