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Here are some of the things we’ve been reading about this week:
The gap between higher- and lower-performing students that expanded during the early days of the pandemic isn’t narrowing.
Expanded safety net drives sharp drop in child poverty.
Access to free, full-day kindergarten grows.
To read more, click on the following links.
Research & Practice
Food Insecurity has Lasting Impacts on the Brains and Behavior of Mice
Berkeley News: While food insecurity is a problem for a growing segment of the U.S. population, few studies have looked at the effect that feast or famine has on the developing brain in isolation from other factors that contribute to adversity. A new study by neuroscientists at the University of California, Berkeley, simulated the effects of food insecurity in juvenile mice and found lasting changes later in life. “We show that irregular access to food in the late juvenile and early adolescent period affects learning, decision-making and dopamine neurons in adulthood,” said Linda Wilbrecht, UC Berkeley professor of psychology and a member of the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute. One key difference in behavior involved cognitive flexibility: the ability to generate new solutions when the world changes. See related article: “K-12 Dive: These 3 Charts Illustrate Universal School Meals’ Impact.”
What’s Academic Recovery Looked Like So Far? Slow and Uneven, New Data Show
Education Week: An analysis of interim test data from Curriculum Associates, a curriculum and assessment company, examined student progress during the 2021-22 school year. Despite some progress for students on grade level, when it comes to foundational reading and math skills, more students were below grade level at the end of last school year than were at the end of the 2020-21 school year. And like other analyses of COVID-era achievement data, these results show that the gap between higher- and lower-performing students that expanded during the early days of the pandemic isn’t narrowing.
School Innovation is Addressing Equity but Challenges Remain
K-12 Dive: Project-based learning and social-emotional learning were two of the most common school-wide, student-focused innovative practices during the 2021-22 school year, according to research from the Center on Reinventing Public Education and Transcend. School leaders in the study said accountability systems can be a hindrance to innovative practices. These leaders wanted to learn about developing an expanded set of measures for student success, including assessments for nontraditional outcomes such as deeper learning and social-emotional skills. The findings are part of a multi-year effort to gather, analyze and share self-reported educational solutions so those stories spark a broader movement for ingenuity in supporting equitable and durable K-12 improvements.
Bilingual Tweaks to Assessments, Classroom Support Key for English Learner Support
K-12 Dive: Constructing assessments for dual language learners with a student’s linguistic skills in mind can more accurately assess their academic and developmental skills. Bilingual staff in classrooms whom students feel comfortable with can also help dual language learners show what they understand by giving them the option to communicate in their native language. “Allow children to show you what they can do in their own way and across both languages,” said Iliana Alanís, professor of early childhood and elementary education at the University of Texas at San Antonio. “Realize that DLLs will blend language in various patterns to communicate with others. They will code-switch and translanguage to communicate and gain understanding. This is not a sign of confusion but rather a complex understanding of languages.”
Expanded Safety Net Drives Sharp Drop in Child Poverty
The New York Times: A comprehensive new analysis shows that child poverty has fallen 59 percent since 1993, with need receding on nearly every front. Child poverty has fallen in every state, and it has fallen by about the same degree among children who are white, Black, Hispanic, and Asian, living with one parent or two, and in native or immigrant households. Deep poverty, a form of especially severe deprivation, has fallen nearly as much. The analysis found that multiple forces reduced child poverty, including lower unemployment, increased labor force participation among single mothers, growth of state-level minimum wages, and perhaps most importantly, the expansion of government aid, such as safety net programs.
HHS Issues 9-point Checklist for School-Based Medicaid Services
K-12 Dive: A checklist of nine strategies and guidance for state Medicaid agencies assisting school systems with Medicaid reimbursements for students’ school-based health services is now available from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. While schools primarily provide education, school settings offer a “unique opportunity” to enroll children and teens in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program and to provide Medicaid-covered services, including mental health services. Recommendations include ensuring every Medicaid-eligible child is enrolled and has access to services, providing Early and Period Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment (EPSDT) services, and providing Medicaid services in schools via telehealth delivery systems.
House Subcommittee Hearing Highlights Schools’ Role in Juvenile Justice Efforts
K-12 Dive: While crime committed by youth and incarceration of teens has decreased over the past 25 years, there is still a critical need for prevention and intervention initiatives, including those supported by schools, according to panelists and lawmakers speaking at a virtual hearing on juvenile justice hosted by the U.S House Civil Rights and Human Services Subcommittee. The hearing’s speakers agreed that holistic, community-based prevention and intervention practices built on collaboration can help reduce youth exposure to the juvenile justice system. School- or community-based youth extracurricular activities, arts programs, and career and technical education opportunities have also been touted as proactive measures for juvenile justice avoidance.
Around the Nation
Access to Free, Full-Day Kindergarten Grows
New America: Only 19 states and the District of Columbia currently require children to attend kindergarten. Because kindergarten is not required, it can be perceived as less important— leading to more student absences. While most kindergarten-aged children do attend some type of kindergarten, their experience depends on where they live. In some states, public school kindergarten is provided and funded in the same way as first grade, while in others it is funded at a lower level and may only be offered for a few hours each day. This wide variation means children are getting uneven starts to their formal education. This year, Idaho, Utah, and California are moving to make full-day kindergarten more accessible for children and families. Making kindergarten required and providing it for a full day recognizes its important role in children’s education. See related article: The Atlantic: “The Problem With Kindergarten.”
A Cyberattack hits the Los Angeles School District, Raising Alarm Across the Country
NPR: A ransomware attack targeting the huge Los Angeles school district prompted an unprecedented shutdown of its computer systems as schools increasingly find themselves vulnerable to cyber breaches at the start of a new year. The attack sounded alarms across the country, from urgent talks with the White House and the National Security Council. Such attacks have become a growing threat to U.S. schools, with several high-profile incidents reported since last year as pandemic-forced reliance on technology increases the impact. And in the past ransomware gangs have planned major attacks on U.S. holiday weekends, when they know IT staffing will be thin and security experts relaxing.
Inside the Effort to Protect Students From Neighborhood Gun Violence
Chalkbeat: While most shootings happen in communities, they reverberate inside schools. Exposure to violence is closely associated with trauma symptoms, including anxiety, disrupted sleep, and difficulty concentrating, and it can lead to lower grades and more absences. Newark, New Jersey has emerged as a national model of community violence intervention. A tight-knit network of local groups leads the anti-violence work, in partnership with the city. They help protect young people in two main ways: by addressing the underlying causes of violent behavior, and shielding students from violent acts. For example, the Newark Community Street Team’s Safe Passage program hires community members to patrol the routes students take to and from school. Trained in de-escalation, the staffers help defuse tensions between students while watching for external threats.
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