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Here are some of the things we’ve been reading about this week:
School districts fail to count thousands of homeless students.
Culture wars are pushing some teachers to leave the classroom.
More than 700 children were arrested in U.S. elementary schools during the 2017-2018 school year, according to one analysis.
To read more, click on the following links.
Research & Practice
Studies Show Wider Variation in Student Performance Than Before Pandemic
K-12 Dive: Assessment results from last school year show wider variations in students’ performance than before the pandemic, pointing to the reality that in many classrooms right now, teachers are supporting a greater diversity of student academic needs. That variability is largely due to the test scores for lower-achieving students falling at a higher rate than the declines for high-achieving students, according to an analysis from NWEA, a nonprofit research, and educational services organization. Researchers looking at pre- and post-pandemic assessment results found math and reading test scores from spring 2022 had wider variation between lower and higher testing results compared to those from spring 2019. See related article: The 74 Million: “‘The Bottom Has Dropped Out’: Study Confirms Fears of Growing Learning Gaps.”
Approaching Student Data Holistically
Edutopia: While data shape school improvement, it is not just relegated to statistics, percentages, and Lexile [reading] levels. It is also critical in the school improvement work of today to ensure that data be examined with a trauma-responsive and anti-bias, anti-racist lens and with a commitment to understanding the whole child in terms of their origins, how they experience their school life, and extensive mitigating factors (e.g., home life) and how these factors impact their academic and social and emotional existence. Experts recommend using a holistic approach to gather data about students by shadowing students for portions of their day to understand their perspective; collecting student work that is truly representative of their engagement in school; establishing time and space with families to hear their stories; conducting an audit of a child’s strengths and areas of growth; and collecting data from a least four to five sources, including students, parents and caregivers, classroom teachers, previous teachers, and members of the administrative staff.
Hidden Toll: Thousands of Schools Fail to Count Homeless Students
Chalkbeat: A Center for Public Integrity analysis of district-level federal education data suggests roughly 300,000 students entitled to essential rights reserved for homeless students have slipped through the cracks, unidentified by their school districts. Some 2,400 districts — from under-resourced regions to big cities and prosperous suburbs — did not report having even one homeless student despite levels of financial need that make those figures improbable. And many more districts are likely undercounting the number of homeless students they do identify. In nearly half of states, tallies of student homelessness bear no relationship with poverty, a sign of just how inconsistent the identification of kids with unstable housing can be. The reasons include a federal law that isn’t well-known, nearly non-existent enforcement of the law by federal and state governments; and meager funding.
Midterm Elections: Education Policy Collides with Split Congress
K-12 Dive: Congress is once again a divided house as midterm elections results edge to final tallies, indicating that White House education initiatives may be harder to transform into reality. House Republicans will have a majority in the House when the 118th Congress convenes in January. Democrats retained control of the Senate with a slim majority. It has yet to be determined which lawmakers will lead the two main education committees in Congress: the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee and the House Education and Labor Committee. Current HELP Committee Chair Patty Murray, D-Washington, won her reelection campaign but is anticipated to take over the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, according to Politico.
The Culture Wars are Pushing Some Teachers to Leave the Classroom
NPR: The growing polarization in the nation’s classrooms comes as many schools are struggling to hold on to teachers and staff. One recent study estimates there are more than 36,500 teacher vacancies across the country and more than 163,500 teachers are either not fully certified or not certified in the subject they are teaching. Those figures are conservative, because data from more than a dozen states could not be collected, according to the study. Further, a survey published by the Rand Corp. earlier this year found that more than a third of teachers and 60% of principals reported being harassed during the 2021-2022 school year “because of their school’s policies on COVID-19 safety measures or for teaching about race, racism, or bias” The situation has a negative impact on students too, says Lindsay Marshall, a former teacher who is now a history professor at the University of Oklahoma. When politics gets infused into the classroom, it breaks down that relationship between teachers, students and parents, she says.
How Much Can Public Schools Control What Students Wear?
The Conversation: School dress codes can be harmful to LGBTQ students and students of color, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress. These codes can lead school officials to punish these two groups for simply being who they are or for expressing themselves. Ultimately, how people dress is a form of self-expression, but students’ choices may not always be protected. It is important to realize that students in a public school are not entitled to the same freedoms of speech and expression as adults in a public space. Schools can enforce a dress code if they have sound reasoning to do so, especially when the rules are legitimately tied to preventing disruption and protecting health and safety. However, with expanded definitions of gender and identity, more court cases are on the horizon.
Around the Nation
Handcuffs in Hallways: Hundreds of Elementary Students Arrested at U.S. Schools
CBS News: More than 700 children were arrested in U.S. elementary schools during the 2017-2018 school year alone, according to a CBS News analysis. Children with documented disabilities were four times more likely to be arrested at school. Black students were even more disproportionately affected, making up half of all arrests at elementary schools during the 2017-2018 school year, even though they accounted for just 15% of the student population in those schools. These disparities could be explained, at least in part, by the mentalities of the officers who work in schools, according to Professor Aaron Kupchik, who teaches sociology and criminal justice at the University of Delaware. In a crisis, children need someone to “be there to help the kid start to de-escalate and help soothe,” said Mathies-Dinizulu, who works with children who are exposed to trauma.
Remembering How to Be Friends: Amid COVID Isolation, One School Is Using Talking Circles to Help Kids Reconnect
The 74 Million: Community circles, which are familiar fixtures in social and emotional learning and restorative discipline, are helping students to repair relationships and see themselves in the context of a community again after the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic. Community circles gather students to address any harm done and feelings hurt. Instead of doling out punishments according to a policy handbook, each circle member can say what they need. Even the offending party gets the chance to express the unmet needs or pain that led to their hurtful actions. Addressing the pain keeps them in the community, and accountable to it. Circles provide a structured way for students to listen and see that others are going through their own struggles without immediately hopping on board to say their piece.
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