The Weekly Connect 1/9/23

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:

LGBTQ students can’t access mental health services

Federal funding for K-12 schools increases by 5.6 percent.

The ratio of students to school counselor is improving, but schools still face challenges hiring counselors.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

PROOF POINTS: The Lesson the Arts Teach
Hechinger Report: A recent study exploring the relationship between arts learning and education outcomes found that arts educational opportunities reduce disciplinary infractions, improve writing achievement, and increase students’ emotional empathy. In addition, students in elementary schools, who were the primary focus of the study, also experience increases in school engagement, college aspirations, and cognitive empathy. As the first large-scale randomized control trial study of arts learning in an authentic school setting, these findings provide strong evidence that the arts can produce meaningful impacts on students’ academic outcomes and social-emotional development.

Quarantines, Not School Closures, Led to Devastating Losses in Math and Reading
The 74 Million: A bipartisan poll conducted by Public Opinion Strategies and Impact Research found that on average, children missed five weeks’ worth of school in the first half of the academic year, due in part to quarantines. Similarly, a New York Times poll found that in January 2022 alone, a majority of students were home for at least three days, and nearly one in 10 were out for half the month or more. It appears that many of these students were not given live lessons with teachers during their isolation. Remote learning was difficult for many students, but learning in quarantine may be worse. Parents should be assured by their local school leaders and state policymakers that their children will be provided with live instruction for the duration of any quarantines

Most LGBTQ Youth Can’t Access Mental Health Care. How Schools Can Help
Education Week: A majority of LGBTQ students in every state except two said they sought mental health care but were unable to access it, according to a Trevor Project report. Schools play a big role in ensuring LGBTQ students have access to supportive spaces and the mental health care they want and need, according to experts. The Trevor Project’s previous research has found that LGBTQ students who have access to LGBTQ-affirming schools report better mental health outcomes and lower rates of attempting suicide. Experts’ recommendations for providing support include talking to students about what they need; expanding mental health counseling services and extracurricular activities, like Gender and Sexuality Alliances; implementing suicide prevention policies and intersectional mental health services; implementing transgender-inclusive policies; educating teachers and parents about LGBTQ identities and mental health; and implementing zero-tolerance policies for anti-LGBTQ bullying and harassment. 

Disparities in Advanced Math and Science Skills Begin by Kindergarten
The 74 Million: Racial and ethnic disparities in advanced math and science skills occur far earlier in the U.S. than was previously known. A new study finds that 13% of white students and 16% of Asian students display advanced math skills by kindergarten. The contrasting percentage for both Black and Hispanic students is 4%. These disparities then continue to occur throughout elementary school. By fifth grade, 13% of white students and 22% of Asian students display advanced math skills. About 2% of Black students and 3% of Hispanic students do so. Similar disparities occur in advanced science skills. Factors that consistently explain these disparities include the family’s socioeconomic status – such as parental education and household income – and the student’s own understanding of math, science, and reading during kindergarten.


K-12 Federal Funding Sees 5.6% Increase for FY 2023
K-12 Dive: Congress approved significant fiscal year 2023 increases for Title I programs in high-poverty schools, special education, and community schools, with the U.S. Department of Education’s pre-K-12 portion of $45 billion equaling a 5.6% increase over last year’s spending allocation. The legislation, signed by President Joe Biden on Dec. 29, provides $79.6 billion for the Education Department — an increase of $3.2 billion over last year’s budget, but $8.7 billion less than the president requested. The 2023 budget also includes a directive for the Education Department to provide guidance for districts and states on using federal funds to recruit, prepare, support, and retain school principals and other leaders. 

States Put Free School Meals on the Menu
Politico: Before Covid-19, free school meals were usually available only to students who met income requirements for free or reduced-price meals or attended schools that qualified for certain alternative programs. Research, however, backs the benefits of universal free school meals, finding that even students who don’t meet the income qualifications for free meals do better academically and behaviorally when they have access to these meals. During the pandemic, a federal waiver allowed all students to eat free school meals. When Congress let the waiver expire, states stepped in. Officials in Minnesota, Vermont, Washington, and other states are banking on above-average budgets, new legislative sessions, and some federal funds to make sure schools can provide free meals to any child who wants one.

Around the Nation

How the Pandemic Ushered in a New Era of Hybrid Homeschooling
Fast Company: Since the start of the pandemic, public school enrollment has declined. From fall 2019 to fall 2020, it dropped by 1.4 million students, or 3%, the largest single-year decline since World War II, according to federal data. While educators are trying to figure out how to bring these families back, researchers are starting to find them persisting in unusual spaces. Many are relying on hybrid homeschooling, a type of homeschooling made popular when school closures became widespread in 2020. Hybrid homeschooling programs meet in person for fewer than five full days per week, with students typically homeschooled the rest of the week. The schools also decide upon most or all of the curriculum, though varying levels of instruction and grading may be done by parents.

New Mexico Program Offers 1:1 Online Tutoring to Title I Schools
K-12 Dive: Students in New Mexico’s Title I schools, including those in tribally controlled areas, will have access to 1:1 online tutoring services through a nearly $3.3 million investment from the federal COVID-19, Governor’s Emergency Education Relief fund. Up to 20 hours of free and virtual tutoring services are available to students in grades pre-K through 8, according to the state’s Public Education Department. Virtual tutoring company Paper Education Inc. is providing statewide tutoring services, which can be scheduled before, during, or after school. Beginning in January, the department will launch its New Mexico Math Tutoring Corps in partnership with Saga Education, providing virtual services to 524 Algebra I students statewide.

The School Counselor-Student Ratio: There’s Good News and Bad News
Education Week: The number of students per school counselor in U.S. schools has narrowed slightly to 408, the best ratio on record in more than three decades, according to a recent analysis by the American School Counselor Association (ASCA). However, the gradual improvement from 415 in the 2020-21 school year means school counselors are still stretched far too thinly. The improved ratio is significantly higher than the 250 students to school counselor ratio recommended by ASCA. Many schools have used federal pandemic relief funding to hire more school counselors and other mental health support staff over the past couple of years. And two newly expanded federal grant programs will make additional money available to address school counselor shortages. But even with the extra money, schools face challenges in hiring counselors because of labor shortages and high demand for counselors’ services. See related article: K-12 Dive “Counselor Caseloads Decrease to Lowest Level in Over 30 Years.”

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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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