The Weekly Connect 3/6/23

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:

Because of the pandemic and other factors, more collaboration on student mental health is needed.

Policymakers should monitor the quality of student support services as schools rush to implement these programs. 

The job turnover rate for teachers and principals exceeds pre-pandemic levels. 

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

Report: More Collaboration on Student Mental Health Needed
K-12 Dive: While there’s evidence and recognition that students’ mental health has worsened over the past few years, the pandemic is not entirely to blame. Other risk factors, such as systemic racism, anti-gay bias, harmful behaviors related to social media, and other stressors, may also be at fault, according to a new report from the Center on Reinventing Public Education. These complicated and varied influences on youth can make solutions seem unattainable, and there’s a lack of “dynamic and collaborative efforts” to find those solutions, the report said. The report did find “greater willingness” among educators to partner with caregivers and parents to support children’s mental health. Promising practices noted in the report include giving students agency and greater voice and choice in their learning and development, as well as communitywide coordination in social-emotional learning and behavioral supports. See related article: The 74 Million “3 Steps School Districts Can Take to Address the Student Mental Health Crisis – The 74.” 

Exclusive: Despite K-2 Reading Gains, Results Flat for 3rd Grade ‘COVID Kids’
The 74 Million: The percentage of third graders on track in reading hasn’t budged since this time last year, new data shows — a reminder of the literacy setbacks experienced by kindergartners when schools shut down in 2020. Even so, the test’s administrators are interpreting the flatline at 54% as good news. Paul Gazzerro, director of data analysis at curriculum provider Amplify, said it’s likely that third graders would have fallen even further behind without efforts like tutoring and additional group instruction. The results come amid brighter news for younger students. The mid-year data, which reflects the performance of about 300,000 students across 43 states, show that more K-2 students are reading on grade level compared with 2022 — a sign that literacy skills overall continue to inch slowly back to pre-COVID levels. See related article: Education Week: “Students’ Early Literacy Skills Are Rebounding. See What the Data Show.” 


Amid Rush of School Support Vendors, Policymakers Must Monitor Quality
Brookings Institute: Integrated student support programs specialize in how to identify student strengths and needs and then coordinate the services and opportunities available in the school, and the surrounding community, to get the right resources to the right student at the right time. When implemented well, integrated student support drives improvements in student learning outcomes, school climate, and teacher job satisfaction. This model also benefits taxpayers by more efficiently using school and community resources to produce positive short- and long-term outcomes. With the field’s increasing understanding of what effective student support strategies look like, policymakers should establish quality benchmarks to help districts ensure a minimum, evidence-based standard of care for students. 

GAO: Grant-funded Charter Schools Show Greater Enrollment Growth
K-12 Dive: Public charter schools that received federal grants to open or expand showed higher student enrollment growth compared to charters that did not receive this funding, according to a U.S. Government Accountability Office report. Grant-funded charter schools had 1.3 to 1.6 times higher enrollment growth on average within 12 years of receiving grants. Overall, enrollment rose from 213,576 to 1.4 million students in grant-funded charter schools between the 2006-07 and 2020-21 school years. GAO also reiterated findings from earlier research that found charter schools — whether recipients of federal grants or not — enrolled smaller percentages of students with disabilities compared to traditional public schools.

6 Creative Ways to Spend K–12 ESSER Funds Before They Expire
EdTech Magazine: Three stimulus bills passed by Congress in 2020 and 2021 provided nearly $190.5 billion to the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund. Many district leaders invested extra dollars into devices and connectivity initially, which may leave them searching for a way to allocate remaining funds. The requirements accompanying the funds may feel daunting, especially with the likelihood of future funding audits. As the deadline approaches, K–12 leaders can consider these six creative, technological uses for ESSER funds: 1) building out K-12 STEM and robotics programs, 2) creating modern, flexible learning spaces with new furniture, 3) getting in the game with competitive e-sports equipment, 4) keeping staff connected with radios and communication products, 5) detecting vaping with environmental sensors, and 6) upgrading to next-generation security cameras.

Around the Nation

Kids’ Screen Time Rose During the Pandemic and Stayed High. That’s a Problem
Education Week: The pandemic led to a rapid rise in screen time among kids while the vast majority of them engaged in full-time remote or hybrid learning. But as COVID-19 restrictions lifted and students returned to in-person instruction, the time they spent in front of screens didn’t come back down as expected, according to newly released research supported by the National Institutes of Health and published in the journal Pediatrics. Those elevated levels of screen time persisted for more than one year after the pandemic forced mass school building closures nationwide. That’s troubling to health experts for a number of reasons: Too much screen time is bad for children both physically and mentally. It can lead to weight-gaining habits and eventually obesity and hurt students’ focus and executive skills—all of which can get in the way of learning.

Principal, Teacher Turnover Exceeds Pre-pandemic Levels
K-12 DIve: Principal turnover reached 16% nationally by the end of the 2021-22 school year — jumping 13 percentage points above pre-pandemic levels, according to a new RAND Corp. report. Teacher turnover hit 10% nationally the same year, increasing 4 percentage points from pre-pandemic rates. Surveyed district leaders said staffing shortages appear to be less acute overall in 2022-23 compared to the previous year. By category, staffing shortages in fall 2022 persisted the most among substitute teachers, special education teachers and bus drivers. High-poverty districts also still struggled to fill several teaching categories. Efforts are underway to take on these challenges: 90% of districts reported one or more policy changes at the district or state level to tackle staffing shortages, such as increasing pay or expanding grow-your-own programs.

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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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