The Weekly Connect 2/28/22

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:

Expanding pre-K to a full day improves attendance.

A study finds that the expiration of the Child Tax Credit has led to a spike in child poverty.

Nebraska could be the first state to make autism screenings a requirement for starting school.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

More Than 1 in 3 Children Who Started School in the Pandemic Need ‘Intensive’ Reading Help 
Education Week: According to a new study by Amplify, while students have begun to recover lost academic ground in the last year, more than a third of K-3 students will not be reading at grade level by the end of this year without major interventions. Researchers compared students’ reading achievement from 2019 through 2022 on DIBELS, one of the most used diagnostic assessments for reading. Across each elementary grade, fewer students are on track for grade-level reading instruction now than before the pandemic, and the earliest grades have the fewest students prepared. These data indicate a need for systemic intervention and creative solutions to close these gaps for kids. See related article: K-12 Dive “DIBELS Data Illustrates Pandemic Reading Setbacks.”

New Study Finds Expanding Full-Day Pre-K Boosts Enrollment, Attendance
The 74 Million: Enrollment and attendance in pre-K — especially among Black and Latino preschoolers — improves when programs operate for a full school day instead of a few hours in the morning or afternoon, a new study shows. Enrollment more than quadrupled among Black children and tripled among Latino students when the Chicago Public Schools expanded full-day pre-K. For all racial groups, attendance was higher among children in full-day pre-K, compared with part-day. For Black children, the difference was the largest. Attendance rates also improved among English learners and students from low-income homes. 

Data Shows Public Schools Faced Greater Disadvantages than Private in 2020
K-12 Dive: Public schools were at a disadvantage in many areas when compared to private schools during the first phase of coronavirus shutdowns, according to new, nationally representative data. While 58% of private school principals said their students could get internet service in spring 2020, only 4% of public school principals reported the same. Private school teachers were almost twice as likely as public school teachers to say they had real-time interactions with a majority of their students. Sixty-three percent of private school teachers reported real-time instruction that allowed students to ask questions through a video or audio call, compared to 47% of public school teachers. 

Recess Needed now More Than Ever for Students Amid COVID-19, Experts Say
K-12 Dive: Experts in education see recess as something that benefits not just academics, but also students’ mental health and social-emotional learning. Children need recess more than ever now, considering they’ve grown up during the COVID-19 pandemic. From 2002 to 2015, the No Child Left Behind law caused schools and districts to shift away from recess and focus more on preparing students to perform well on standardized tests. Since NCLB, experts said they’ve noticed a gradual movement where schools are focusing more on free playtime, as education leaders prioritize students’ well-being and social-emotional development along with their academic success. 

Policy

Child Tax Credit Expiration Led to a Big Spike in Poverty, New Study Finds
Washington Post: The number of American children in poverty spiked dramatically in January after the expiration of President Biden’s expanded child benefit at the end of last year, according to new research. The monthly child poverty rate rose from 12 percent in December 2021 to 17 percent last month, approximately a 41 percent increase. The study found that an additional 3.7 million children are now in poverty relative to the end of December, with Black and Latino children seeing the biggest percentage point increases. The number of children in poverty went from roughly 8.9 million in December 2021 to 12.6 million last month.

COVID is Forcing K-12 Schools to Rethink Testing
The Hill: According to a report released by Instructure, educators remain concerned that summative assessments are making students anxious. Experts have long established a link between stress caused by high-stakes testing and students’ performance on those tests, with economically disadvantaged students more negatively impacted. At the same time, many insist the tests are crucial to evaluating school efficacy and measuring long-term potential in students. The report shows that while districts are still using high-stakes testing for accountability, many are now using interim and formative assessment to examine and improve learning throughout COVID-related disruptions. These shorter, more frequent tests give teachers data they can act on to address unfinished learning and equity.

Building More Equitable Pre-K Assessment Systems: Lessons from States
New America: Many states are making investments to strengthen the quality of their existing early learning programs. A key part of this work involves efforts to implement pre-K assessment systems that measure children’s skills and classroom quality easily, equitably, and on a large scale. Current assessment tools can be burdensome to educators, biased against children from marginalized groups, and unable to facilitate comparisons within and across schools. Having ready access to better assessment information not only helps policymakers understand whether pre-K investments are paying off, but also gives teachers and parents the information they need to effectively support young children as they transition to kindergarten.

Around the Nation

Peer Counseling Gains Popularity as California Schools Beef Up Student Mental Health Services
EdSource: As schools look for new ways to address student mental health amid the Covid pandemic, more are turning to a practice that costs almost nothing and, if done well, can lead to life-changing results for all involved: peer counseling. For students who are leery of adults, peer counseling can provide a safe place to work through conflicts with friends, struggles with academics, stress, loneliness, family problems and even more serious issues, such as depression. Peer counselors are trained to be good listeners, rather than advice-givers, and bring serious problems to teachers or counselors. Overall, peer counseling can be an effective way for students to work through problems and learn empathy and communication skills.

Hearing, Vision … Autism? Proposal Would Add Screening to School-Entry Requirements
Education Week: When it comes to autism, intervening well before the start of school can make a big difference in a child’s academic progress and quality of life. Legislators in Nebraska are considering making autism screening as much a requirement for the start of school as a physical exam or a vision test. If the bill is approved, Nebraska would become the first state to require autism assessment as part of pre-school health screening, though special education advocates have long fought for better and earlier screening. While federal law requires districts to identify and evaluate all children with disabilities, it does not specify how early or often states must screen for disabilities.

Which States Ban Mask Mandates in Schools, and Which Require Masks?
Education Week: The CDC recommends all students and adults age 2+ wear masks in schools. But others are calling for an easing of mask requirements. As of now, Florida, Oklahoma, Texas, and Utah have bans in effect that prevent school districts from setting universal mask mandates. Six additional states – Arizona, Arkansas, Iowa, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia – have such bans, but they have been blocked, suspended, or are not being enforced. California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington require masks to be worn in schools. By March 31, requirements in Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington are scheduled to end. 

Homeless Youth and Children are Wildly Undercounted, Advocates Say.
NPR: The McKinney-Vento Act requires every school district to designate a liaison that identifies homeless students to help them receive needed services. However, identifying children and youth who are homeless can be a challenge due to hidden homelessness. Those experiencing hidden homelessness are temporarily staying in someone’s home and not receiving support. It can be difficult to help this population because there is not one uniform federal definition or eligibility requirement when it comes to homelessness. Legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives would change the homelessness definition to align with those of other federal agencies so more children, youth, and families can have access to housing assistance. It would also lead to more accurate data.

Maximizing Parental Involvement in Developing the IEP
Edutopia: The creation of an individualized education program (IEP) should be a collaborative process, serving the student as a living document, its implementation requiring a constant and collaborative conversation between all stakeholders. The input and involvement of the student’s family prior to the annual IEP meeting is critical to this process. It is important to create an open and ongoing line of communication with families. Daily journals, reciprocated notes in students’ agendas, phone calls (about both the positives and the concerns), establishing a reliable email chain, invitations to participate in classroom activities, and the use of teacher-created classroom websites are all examples of effective communication.

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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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