The Weekly Connect 3/13/23

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:

Black and Latino children often don’t receive Early Intervention services

Because of different federal definitions of homelessness, many kids are falling through the cracks. 

Even as the pandemic wanes, chronic absenteeism remains a problem. 

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

‘All Work, No Independent Play’ Cause Of Children’s Declining Mental Health
Science Daily: A new study suggests the rise in mental health disorders in children and teens is attributed to a decline over decades in opportunities for them to play, roam, and engage in activities independent of direct oversight and control by adults. Although well intended, adults’ drive to guide and protect children has deprived them of the independence they need for mental health, contributing to record levels of anxiety, depression, and suicide among young people. The study also showed that children’s freedom to engage in activities that involve some degree of risk and personal responsibility away from adults also has declined over the decades. Risky play, such as climbing high into a tree, helps protect children from developing phobias and reduces future anxiety by boosting self-confidence to deal with emergencies.

Black and Latino Children Often Miss Out on Early Intervention Meant to Treat Developmental Delays
Hechinger Report: In 1986, the federal government mandated that states provide therapy for newborns and toddlers with developmental delays and disabilities, but the program has been impacted by racial gaps in access and quality since its inception. By the time they turn two, eligible Black toddlers with developmental delays are five times less likely than similar white children to receive “early intervention” services, according to a study from public health researchers at Boston University. Moreover, recent federal data shows that more than 15 states serve fewer than 200 Black children statewide through early intervention — a fraction of the number that experts say need the support. The picture is mixed depending on the community, however, with Black and Latino children overrepresented in some places and underrepresented in others. But research shows that even where Black and Latino children enroll in high numbers, they have worse experiences than their white peers.

Learner, Educator Support Needed to Encourage Underrepresented Students to take Advanced Courses
K-12 Dive: While students who take college prep courses can reap benefits that include a clearer path to higher learning, encouraging underrepresented students to take these courses is not enough. Success is also dependent upon having supports in place for learners and the educators teaching them. Elaine Allensworth, the Lewis-Sebring Director of the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research, points to an Early College High School model in North Carolina as an example of success “because it fostered supportive relationships between students and teachers, while other early college coursework models without those supports showed no improvements in college outcomes.” However, Allensworth also cautions against requiring students to take college prep courses, saying that doing so can have a detrimental effect on learning particularly if stakeholders don’t steep themselves in the “bias and barriers” students may face.

A Surprising Remedy for Teens in Mental Health Crises
Hechinger Report: Teen Mental Health First Aid is adapted from Youth Mental Health First Aid, a training designed for adults who work with or care for teens. The latter program was developed about two decades ago in Australia, and has been taught in the United States since 2008. The benefits of both programs are supported by peer-reviewed scientific studies. In teens, the training has been shown to increase mental health literacy and reduce reported psychological distress. In one randomized controlled trial, teens reported a significantly higher level of confidence in helping a friend who was anxious or suicidal, lower stigma around mental illness, and were more likely to choose the correct, helpful course of action. The course is designed to help them act as first responders — to assess a situation, do what they can in the moment, and inform a trusted adult. The curriculum covers anxiety and panic disorders, depression, suicidality, eating disorders, addiction, and other common mental health concerns for this age group. Teens learn about the appropriate actions to take if a friend shows warning signs of a developing problem, plunges into acute crisis, or is recovering.


Kids Fall Through Gap Between Different Definitions of ‘Homeless.’ One State is Trying to Help
Hechinger Report: Public schools identified 1.1 million kids as homeless in 2020-21, the most recent school year for which data was available. But roughly 85 percent of these children didn’t qualify for public housing assistance. While the federal Department of Education considers kids homeless if they are living in motels or doubled up with other people, HUD, which controls the purse strings for federal housing aid, requires that recipients live in shelters or on the street. That forces parents to move their families into cars or risk more dangerous living situations before they’re eligible for aid. Homeless youth advocates succeeded in getting a bill to change the law’s language before Congress last year, but the legislation never got a hearing. So advocates must restart the legislative process with this year’s new congressional term.

House Committee Advances Bills on Parents Rights, Women’s Sports
K-12 Dive: Republican-sponsored legislation to limit participation of transgender athletes and expand parental decision-making in education passed along party lines after a marathon markup session of the House Education and the Workforce Committee. The first bill, H.R. 734, is aimed at preventing biological boys and men from participating in athletic programs designated for women or girls. The other proposal, H.R. 5, would give parents more authority over educational decisions and put requirements on school systems to ensure parental engagement. After numerous amendments by both parties and a final 25-17 vote, both bills will advance for a full House vote. Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., indicated on Wednesday that the vote on the parents rights bill would occur in two weeks. Neither bill has companion legislation in the Senate, according to See related article: Education Week: “With No Action From Biden, House GOP Seeks to Ban Trans Girls From School Sports.” 

NYC Youth Mental Health Service Overhaul: City Pledges to Help Kids
Chalkbeat: As New York City continues to grapple with youth mental health challenges, Mayor Eric Adams laid out a sweeping vision on Thursday to help schools better recognize student mental health needs and create a safety net for kids in crisis. The needs are high: About a fifth of children ages 3 to 13 had one or more mental, emotional, developmental or behavioral problems in 2021, according to health department data provided in the mayor’s new plan, called “Care, Community, Action: A Mental Health Plan for New York City.” Addressing the mental health needs of young people and their families was one of the three major focal points of Adams’ blueprint. The plan calls for several things, including opening more school-based mental health clinics, creating suicide prevention trainings for educators, and assessing the impacts of social media as possible “toxic exposure.”

Around the Nation

3 Years Since the Pandemic Wrecked Attendance, Kids Still Aren’t Showing Up to School
NPR News: Federal attendance data only comes out annually, so it’s hard to get a full picture of where things stand at this point in the school year, but Hedy Chang, the executive director of Attendance Works, says she hasn’t seen the kind of recovery she’d hoped for. “I think people have been a little bit under the false impression that when COVID became more endemic, that that would then result in a significant improvement in attendance. And I’m not seeing that.” In a survey of 21 school districts in rural, suburban, and urban areas, NPR found most districts – from New York City to Austin, Texas to Lawrence, Kan. – still had heightened levels of chronic absenteeism. Students who are chronically absent are at higher risk of falling behind, scoring lower on standardized tests and even dropping out. And as often happens in education, students who struggle with attendance are also more likely to live in poverty, be children of color or have disabilities.

How Districts Can Support Teachers and Convince Them to Stay
Education Week: Teachers want their voices heard in policy decisions that affect the classroom, and they want the flexibility to make decisions that they think are best for their students—flexibility they don’t often have now. Still, they see hope in the future of the profession. These themes emerged in two panels about teacher morale, retention, and the future of the profession at SXSW EDU this week in Austin. The discussions come after a difficult few years for teachers, as they have faced the stress of pandemic schooling and a wave of legislation restricting how they can discuss certain topics in the classroom. Recent surveys of teachers show that many are burned out and frustrated. National data show that salaries are a big part of the equation. But there are other factors that make a difference too—family and medical benefits, feeling like their voices are heard, and crucially, a supportive work environment. Panelists also discussed a challenge that predates the pandemic—ongoing efforts to attract and retain educators of color, and specifically Black teachers, in a profession that’s majority-white.

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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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