The Weekly Connect 12/12/22

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:

Teens’ brains aged prematurely during the pandemic. 

Students in poverty need both intensive academic and social supports, according to a policy brief. 

As respiratory illnesses surge, schools can help keep students healthy.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

Poverty Linked to Externalizing Problems in Early Adolescence
Healio News: Childhood poverty was associated with increases in externalizing problems, but not internalizing, over time in early adolescence, researchers reported in JAMA Network Open. This is distinct from previous findings, which found childhood poverty was linked to increased internalizing problems, such as depression and anxiety, and externalizing problems, such as aggression and hyperactivity, during adolescence, a period of peak onset for social-emotional problems. Findings from this study highlight the potential neurobiological mechanisms underlying the link between poverty and the onset of externalizing problems during early adolescence.

Research: Achievement Shows Signs of Improvement, but Youngest Kids Need Help
The 74 Million: Researchers from NWEA’s Center for School and Student Progress saw signs of a slow recovery in student achievement this fall, more than a year after a spring when performance faced steep declines. As U.S. students in August and September began their fourth school year during the pandemic, researchers from NWEA took an early look at their achievement. The data suggest that gaps between pre- and post-pandemic performance have been slowly shrinking. However, NWEA found that the youngest students in the study — third-graders who were kindergarteners when the pandemic closed their schools — showed the largest reading achievement gaps and the least rebounding from previous tests. See related article: Education Week: “Students’ Academic Skills Are Rebounding, But Not Enough.” 

Teen Brains Aged Prematurely During the Pandemic. Schools Should Take Note
Education Week: Teenagers’ brains aged years in a matter of months during pandemic lockdowns. A new study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry Global Open Science suggests that the pandemic caused similar effects on the emotion and decision-making centers in the brain as chronic, toxic stress. Researchers began tracking the development of more than 200 9-to 13-year-olds in Santa Clara County, California, in 2016. Compared to teenagers coming of age before the pandemic, those who experienced 10 months of lockdowns in 2020 showed three to four years of premature aging in areas of the brain associated with emotional regulation, higher reasoning, language and memory, and concentration, learning, and memory. Researchers plan to scan the teenagers again as they turn 20 to determine whether their brains return to their pre-pandemic developmental trajectory.


What It Takes to Truly Leave No Child Behind
ASCD: Rudy Crew, the former Chancellor of New York City Schools, and scholar Pedro Noguera argue that students in poverty need both intensive academic and social supports. Authors of this brief maintain that U.S. education policy, with its focus on academic accountability, has generally failed to grasp this dual approach, which has led to disadvantages for low-income students over the years. For a more promising model, the authors point to the Chancellor’s District program that Crew created during his tenure as New York City Schools Chancellor during the late 1990s. This program heightened and coordinated both academic and social interventions for a network of high-poverty schools and led to early academic gains before it was abandoned. 

Where Is Kindergarten Mandatory?
U.S. News and World Report: Kindergarten is valuable because it allows children to learn academic skills, as well as physical, and social and emotional skills, such as problem-solving, sharing and making friends. The majority of states require school districts to offer either full- or half-day kindergarten, however less than half actually mandate student attendance. California was the most recent state to propose legislation that would require kindergarten enrollment, but the bill was vetoed in September 2022 by Governor Gavin Newsom, who cited cost as a factor. Nineteen states, plus Washington, D.C., require kids to attend kindergarten, according to the most recent data from the Education Commission of the States, an agency that tracks educational policies. 

With Little Federal Support for Families, States are Stepping Up
Hechinger Report: After many family support policies were eliminated from federal legislation earlier this year, some states have been stabilizing child care and boosting the economic well-being of their families on their own. For example, in New Mexico, voters passed an amendment to increase funding for early childhood education, making funding early childhood education part of the state’s constitution. In Colorado, voters passed a proposition that raises taxes on higher-income households to pay for universal free school lunches for children. And in Nebraska, voters approved a $15 minimum wage, which will support family economic stability. See related article: The Hill: “The Voters Have Spoken: They Support Early Childhood Education.”

Around the Nation

When the Punishment is the Same as the Crime: Suspended for Missing Class
The Hechinger Report: Suspending students for missing class is a controversial approach. At least 11 states fully ban the practice, and six more prohibit out-of-school suspensions to some extent for attendance violations. The scope of this practice is largely hidden because the federal government and most states do not collect detailed data on why schools suspend students. An analysis by The Hechinger Report and the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting has found that attendance-related suspensions in Arizona are pervasive, in some districts accounting for more than half of all in-school suspensions. 

Flu, Colds, RSV: How Schools Can Help Keep Kids Healthy as Illness Increases This Winter 
Education Week: This school year, traditional illnesses have intersected with surging cases of RSV, a respiratory virus that can be serious for young children, and continued COVID-19 infections—challenging even the most steadfast efforts to keep kids in the classroom. Though uncommon, some schools in recent weeks have closed or temporarily shifted to remote learning to slow the spread of illness in their buildings, including in Tennessee, Alabama, Ohio, Virginia, and more than three dozen in Kentucky, according to Burbio, a company tracking health-related school closures throughout the country. District leaders have said the closures and students’ illnesses can complicate efforts to regain academic ground after prolonged virtual classes in 2020 and 2021, and to get more students reengaged with their learning.

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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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