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Here are some of the things we’ve been reading about this week:
Play is crucial for middle schoolers.
The U.S. Department of Education outlines the violence prevention options for a $1 billion grant program.
Starting career education in middle school pays off.
To read more, click on the following links.
Research & Practice
The Potential Role of Instructional Time in Pandemic Recovery
Brookings: Recent research suggests that expanding instructional time, particularly for schools with shorter days and years, can play an important role in our ongoing efforts to accelerate student learning. On average, instructional time in U.S. public schools is comparable to most high-income countries, with longer days but shorter years. However, instructional time varies widely across U.S. public schools. Research confirms that additional time can increase student achievement, but how this time is structured matters. Evidence of the positive effect of expanded learning time on student achievement appears strongest for extending the school year.
Does SEL Make Students Ready for Work? We Asked Educators
Education Week: Educators overwhelmingly say that teaching social-emotional skills in the classroom is helpful for students’ career readiness. Eighty-four percent of teachers, principals, and district leaders said they believe the social-emotional learning conducted in their schools has a “positive” impact on students’ “soft skills,” according to an EdWeek Research Center survey of 824 educators conducted from Sept. 28 to Oct. 1. The survey results suggest that even though SEL has run into political pushback in some communities, educators still believe that it’s important to teach students how to control their emotions, empathize with others, set goals, persist through challenges, and think creatively.
Play is Crucial for Middle Schoolers, Too
Hechinger Report: In most communities, opportunities for play and playful learning tend to recede in middle school, replaced by direct instruction, competitive sports and tightly structured academic time. Educators and researchers say students pay the price. Young adolescents go through profound physical, emotional, and physiological changes; play inside and outside the classroom can provide one way for kids to develop healthy bonds with friends and become more self-confident. In addition to developing soft skills, recess is a tool that can get adolescents moving more at a time of life when they become much more sedentary.
Ed Dept Outlines School Violence Prevention Options Under $1B Stronger Connections Grant Program
K-12 Dive: Schools should take a comprehensive approach to violence prevention that includes not only improved safety measures but meets students’ physical, social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs, according to a draft FAQ issued by the U.S. Department of Education for the $1 billion Stronger Connections grant program. Recommended activities under the grant, which is part of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, are wide ranging but include reducing exclusionary discipline, hiring behavior specialists, and implementing anti-bullying practices. The guidance also said that if a school community decides to employ school resource officers, it should have a comprehensive process for hiring, training, and program evaluation.
Experts: Dismal NAEP Scores Offer Districts Chance to ‘Pivot’ on Relief Funds
The 74 Million: Most school districts adopted their budgets last spring, long before state and national test scores laid out the extent of pandemic declines, particularly in math. Some school finance experts are urging districts to redirect some of their plans for federal relief funds toward learning recovery before that money is actually spent. Amending an approved budget is not part of a district’s normal cycle. But superintendents and school board members can request it. State education agencies can also require districts to report what they’re doing to address specific content areas, which might prompt a budget revision.
Around the Nation
How to Talk to LGBTQ Students About the Colorado Nightclub Shooting
Education Week: In helping students process the event, school staff members need to be careful not to dismiss their anxiety simply because middle and high schoolers are unlikely to find themselves in a nightclub in the immediate future. Even in middle school, students who are part of the LGBTQ community know there are supposed to be places in the world where they can feel secure emotionally and physically. News of the shooting shattered that sense of protection, according to Tara Kierstead, a school counselor in Maine who has worked with LGBTQ populations in various roles for nearly two decades. “Hold space for what their emotions are,” she said. “We have to make sure that even though these kids are not the same age as the victims, that we’re still validating that this is a very real thing, and it’s still happening, and they have a right to be afraid.”
Why Starting Career Education in Middle School Pays Off
Hechinger Report: Preparing students for a changing workforce is one of the goals behind a movement to get kids thinking about their career plans at a younger age. A growing number of states and school districts now require students to take career exploration classes in middle school. Others offer introductory courses in specific careers, like engineering or robotics. Advocates argue that exposing students to potential careers in middle school, rather than waiting until high school, gives them time to take the classes and extracurriculars that will get them to their goals — and the opportunity to change course while the stakes are still low.
New Jersey School Counselors say Student Mental Health Needs Have ‘Increased Tremendously’
Chalkbeat: An expectation to “return to normal” this school year has exacerbated student anxiety, depression, and other mental health needs that were already on the rise after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, school counselors said during a virtual panel organized by the Latino Mental Health Association of New Jersey. Though anxiety and depression have spiked among their students, counselors are finding hope in being in-person with their students, less stigma in school around seeking help, and sharing resources and tips with their colleagues. Many students are finding it challenging this school year to follow basic rules and expectations, such as wearing a uniform all day, showing up to class on time, and completing assignments. Behind those behaviors are students grappling with anxiety, chronic stress, and depression.
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