The Weekly Connect 2/27/23

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:

Students benefit from having trained mentors

How educators should handle ChatGPT cheating.

States back away from Covid vaccine requirements

Los Angeles offers its students telethreapy.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

Every Student Needs a Mentor. How Schools Can Make That Happen
Education Week: It is important for schools to be intentional in facilitating opportunities for school staff to develop mentorship relationships with students. A body of research demonstrates a multitude of benefits that come from students having an adult in their school building whom they can trust: increased attendance, better grades, higher test scores, and a sense of belonging and connectedness at school. Yet not every student who needs a mentor has one, and not every educator knows how to be a mentor. And students from marginalized groups—who often benefit the most from having a trusted, supportive relationship with an adult at school—are less likely to report having a mentor, research has found. To foster these relationships, educators often need special training in how to build strong, non-academic relationships with young people, experts say.

How Grown-ups Can Help Kids Transition to ‘Post-Pandemic’ School Life
NPR: Children are still reeling from what they experienced during the pandemic. Many students have struggled with mental health, academics, and a general lack of connection to their classroom. School counselor Meredith Draughn, who was recently named 2023’s School Counselor of the Year by the American School Counselor Association (ASCA), recommends establishing regular routines to restore a sense of control, paying attention to student behavior as a form of communication, and providing students with information and tools to help cope with anxiety, such as breathing exercises and helping young people understand what anxiety is and how the body responds to it. 

ChatGPT Cheating: What to Do When It Happens
Education Week: More than a quarter of K-12 teachers have caught their students cheating using ChatGPT, according to a recent survey by, an online learning platform. To address this, educators and experts recommend: making expectations clear by telling students what exactly constitutes cheating whether AI tools are involved or not, talking to students about the promises and pitfalls of AI and ChatGPT, letting students know how and why they should credit ChatGPT or other AI tools when they use them, and asking students directly if they used ChatGPT instead of avoiding the topic. They also suggest not relying on ChatGPT detectors alone to determine if there was cheating, and making it clear to students why learning to write on your own is important by connecting it to critical thinking skills or future job success. 

Universal School Meals Improve Attendance for Youngest Students
K-12 Dive: Kindergarten students in schools with universal free school meals chalk up better attendance records than their peers without this access, according to a recent Syracuse University study analyzing the link between free school meals and students’ health and academic performance. Kindergarten attendance increased by 1.8 days per school year, and chronic absenteeism dropped by 5.4 percentage points among those getting free school meals compared to those who did not, according to the study of 132,353 New York City kindergarteners. Those attendance benefits can continue years down the road, the study also found. The chronic absenteeism disparity dropped over time, however — from a 5.4 percentage point difference in kindergarten to a 2.2 percentage point gap in 2nd grade.


States Back Away From School COVID Vaccine Requirement
K-12 Dive: After initial confusion over whether the COVID-19 vaccine would be required for student attendance, states are moving away from a vaccine mandate. Districts, which often look to their states for guidance on the issue, seem likely to follow suit. Earlier this month, for example, California, walked back on its plan to require the shot for students after initially postponing the mandate until July 2023. The decision came after President Joe Biden announced plans to end the national emergency brought on by COVID. Last year, Louisiana also decided against mandating the vaccine after initially proposing the idea in 2021. Only the District of Columbia — but no state — has so far mandated a student vaccine, according to a school vaccine mandate tracker compiled by the National Academy for State Health Policy. 

Some Utah Lawmakers Want to Stop Assigning Letter Grades to Schools
The Salt Lake Tribune: State lawmakers gave initial approval to a bill that would do away with assigning a single letter grade to each of Utah’s public schools — with several calling the practice outdated and unable to “show the whole picture” of performance. The same bill has been filed in years past but failed to gain enough traction before the session ended. This year, though, it looks better positioned, with 24 legislators from both parties and both the House and Senate signing on as co-sponsors. Still, the bill will probably face challenges in the Senate.

NYC Parents Rally Against Mandated Reporting Policies for Educators
The 74 Million: Parents and advocates held a virtual rally calling for New York state to eliminate mandatory reporting practices in child welfare — a policy under which New York City school staff make thousands of unsubstantiated child abuse or neglect allegations each year, mostly against poor families of color. Joyce McMillan, the founder of the nonprofit JMacForFamilies, has lobbied for years to reduce the share of professionals who are mandated reporters. In her remarks, she called the practice a “harmful weapon” that “prevents people who are in need from asking for help.” The online rally came on the heels of an announcement from New York’s Office of Children and Family Services that the state would be strengthening its anti-bias training for all mandated reporters, requiring more than 50 professional groups to complete a self-directed online course by April 1, 2025.

Around the Nation

Educators Say They Lack Resources to Address Worsening Mental Health Crisis
K-12 Dive: Both teachers and superintendents say student mental health and behavioral concerns are more urgent now than before the pandemic, but schools are lacking resources to properly address the issues, according to two surveys released by EAB, an education research and consulting firm. While a large majority of superintendents (81%) agree student behavioral concerns have deepened since the pandemic and an even greater portion (92%) indicate the student mental health crisis is worse than in 2019, most (79%) also say they don’t have the staff to focus on the problem, a survey of almost 200 superintendents in 37 states found. In a separate survey of 1,109 teachers, administrators and student support staff, 84% said students are developmentally behind in self-regulation and relationship building compared to pre-pandemic levels and that incidents of physical violence have more than doubled since COVID-19. 

1.3 Million Los Angeles Students Could Soon Access Free Teletherapy
The 74 Million: With mental health issues mounting, a new partnership throughout Los Angeles County schools is poised to offer licensed counseling to its more than one million K-12 students. All 80 districts within the Los Angeles County Office of Education’s jurisdiction will have the authority to opt-in to services with Hazel Health, a telehealth provider that has partnered with districts nationwide to connect families with licensed care quickly and at no cost. Their virtual therapy model removes some key barriers to accessing care from the equation, including insurance coverage, provider shortages or waitlists, and transportation. Los Angeles Unified, the nation’s second-largest district, and Compton Unified have already opted in.

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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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