The Weekly Connect 2/6/23

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:

Experiential learning can help shrink disparities in science and math. 

Outdoor preschools gain traction. 

College Board cuts its A.P. Curriculum for African American Studies.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

Data Highlights Students’ Social Media Usage as Schools’ Concerns Grow
K-12 Dive: YouTube was the most common app used on a weekly basis by 4th-12th graders, and for 9th-12th graders, email was the second most common app, according to a survey issued by The Social Institute, a company that provides curriculum addressing social-emotional learning, social media, and technology. The survey, which included responses from nearly 23,000 students in U.S. public and private schools, found that school-issued devices, TVs, and smartphones are the most popular devices used by students on a weekly basis. The survey took place between August and December 2022. As students increasingly rely on social media to connect with peers, learn about world news, and engage with academic resources, school systems continue to weigh the social benefits and mental health harms these platforms can have on youth mental health. See related article: Medscape “Outdoor Play May Mitigate Screen Time’s Risk to Brain Development.” 

Experiential Learning can Help Shrink Early Disparities in Science and Math
K-12 Dive: Differences in math and science skills between children can start as early as kindergarten, but educators can take steps with young students to try and counter these inequities through the curriculum. With young students, teachers can start building experiences into the school day through small field trips that can help motivate and spark interest in students by connecting them to the world around them. That may mean something as small as having students explore squirrels jumping in the neighborhood and then measuring their own jumps, integrating math into the activity. These experiences and experimental play are often cut from lower-income schools, with emphasis instead on adding more time for reading and math. Experts suggest adding these experiences to science and math because the integration brings more meaning.

Global Academic Loss Persists Nearly Three Years Into the Pandemic
Education Week: As of last school year, the pandemic’s academic damage persists for students around the world—a loss equal to some 35 percent of a typical school year’s progress, according to the first meta-analysis of global learning loss, published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour. Researchers analyzed results from 42 studies of primary and secondary students in 15 high- and middle-income countries, including the United States, conducted from the start of the pandemic in 2020 through March 2022. Students in all of those countries experienced both delays in their expected academic progress compared to prior years and loss of their existing skills and knowledge, particularly in math. Gaps between low-income children and their wealthier classmates also have widened worldwide since the pandemic began.


PROOF POINTS: Federal Funds to Combat Pandemic Learning Loss Don’t Reflect Need
The Hechinger Report: Why is it that some states, like Alabama, have more than $1,000 to spend on each student for each week of pandemic learning loss, and other states, such as Massachusetts, have only $165? The answer, according to a January 2023 report by the consulting firm McKinsey & Company, is that $122 billion in federal pandemic recovery money has been allocated to schools based on the percentages of children from low-income families, even though there’s not a tight correlation between the level of academic disruption and poverty. In some states, students are only six weeks behind where they were before the pandemic. In other states, children are almost a year behind. But the amount of catch-up money each state gets doesn’t reflect this disparity.

As Outdoor Preschools Gain Traction, States Work to Unlock Funding
The 74 Million: In 2017, 275 nature preschools operated in the United States, according to a report from the Natural Start Alliance, a nature preschool advocacy organization within the nonprofit North American Association for Environmental Education. By 2020, that number more than doubled to 585 programs. The trend — along with studies showing the benefits of outdoor playtime — has inspired state officials to examine how to license such schools, a move that could unlock state funding to help children and programs in underserved communities. Illinois boasted more than 20 nature preschools as of 2020, but Washington state ranked among the top states with more than 50, according to the Natural Start Alliance report. Washington also has led the way with legislation: In 2021, it became the first state in the nation to license outdoor preschools permanently.

Around the Nation

The College Board Strips Down Its A.P. Curriculum for African American Studies
The New York Times: After heavy criticism from Gov. Ron DeSantis, the College Board released an official curriculum for its new Advanced Placement course in African American Studies — stripped of much of the subject matter that had angered the governor and other conservatives. The College Board purged the names of many Black writers and scholars associated with critical race theory, the queer experience, and Black feminism. It ushered out some politically fraught topics, like Black Lives Matter, from the formal curriculum. The dispute over the A.P. course is about more than just the content of a high school class. Education is the center of much vitriolic partisan debate, and the College Board’s decision to try to build a curriculum covering one of the most charged subjects in the country — the history of race in America — may have all but guaranteed controversy. If anything, the arguments over the curriculum underscore the fact that the United States is a country that cannot agree on its own story, especially the complex history of Black Americans.

Teacher Shortage Shows Signs of Worsening in Several States 
K-12 Dive: Some 84% of Minnesota public school districts and charter schools said they are affected by teacher shortages in a very significant or significant way, according to a survey of 285 school systems by the Minnesota Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board. That’s a significant increase from 2021, when 70% of surveyed districts reported the same concern. The surveyed districts said the top three factors contributing to teacher shortages are the lack of applicants in the candidate pool (91%), the inability to compete with the wages and benefits of local employers (67%), and the negative perception of teaching and education overall (57%), according to the latest report. See related: The 74 Million “Schools’ New Normal: Teacher Shortages, Repeat Meals, Late Buses, Canceled Classes.”

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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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