The Weekly Connect 3/20/23

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:

Despite national efforts, tutoring only reaches a fraction of students

Rural areas lag in funding to help homeless students

Rhode Island uses federal Covid aid to help students who are English learners

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

Tutoring Help Reaches Few Students Despite Nationwide Push
Chalkbeat: As America’s schools confront dramatic learning setbacks caused by the pandemic, experts have held up intensive tutoring as the single best antidote. However, only a small fraction of students have received school tutoring, according to a survey of the nation’s largest districts by Chalkbeat and The Associated Press. In eight of 12 school systems that provided data, less than 10% of students received any type of district tutoring this fall. A new tutoring corps in Chicago has served about 3% of students, officials said. The figure was less than 1% in three districts: Georgia’s Gwinnett County, Florida’s Miami-Dade County, and Philadelphia, where the district reported only about 800 students were tutored. The low tutoring figures may be due to schools focusing only on students with the greatest need, parents not being aware of tutoring services, and districts struggling to hire tutors. 

The Pros and Cons of Year-Round School Calendars
U.S. News & World Report: School districts using a year-round or balanced calendar redistribute the standard 180 days of classroom instruction more evenly over a year. One of the advantages of a balanced calendar is that students get more frequent breaks throughout the year, which proponents of the model say can help reduce burnout among teachers and students. Additionally, year-round education allows for additional enrichment opportunities during the short breaks that occur throughout the school year and reduced summer learning loss. Other experts, however, argue that much of the research cited in favor of the year-round calendar falls flat upon further scrutiny. Furthermore, year-round education can pose a challenge for working parents who need to arrange childcare during breaks and makes it hard for families to find time for traditional summer vacations. 

Kids Understand More From Books Than Screens, But That’s Not Always the Case
Education Week: The vast majority of U.S. teachers use a mix of digital and print texts in their classrooms, according to an Education Week survey. The use of online curriculum and digital reading material long predates the pandemic. But the years of remote and hybrid learning during school shutdowns cemented the place of devices and digital resources in schools. Studies show that kids tend to score worse on comprehension tests after reading digital text than they do after reading something on a printed page. However, researchers say the evidence is too nuanced to say conclusively that reading physical books is superior. And some new research even shows that in certain cases, with young emerging readers, digital books outperform their print counterparts.


Federal Parents’ Bill of Rights: Dueling Proposals in Congress Set to Escalate Partisan Showdown Over Schools, Pandemic Response
The 74 Million: In response to the Republicans’ controversial parental rights bill, House Democrats plan to introduce alternative legislation that will call for “inclusive” schools and oppose efforts to censor curriculum. Led by Oregon Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, the resolution follows a recent marathon education committee session, which stretched 16 hours and further clarified the partisan split over parents’ role in their children’s education. While the GOP’s approach emphasizes accommodating parents’ requests for information, the Democrats’ version focuses on ensuring schools provide high-quality education and don’t discriminate against students. See related article: K-12 Dive “Democrats Introduce Their Own ‘Bill of Rights’ for Public School Students, Parents.” 

Half of Private School Voucher Tax Credits go to Families Making Above $200K
K-12 Dive: Two recently released reports criticize private education voucher programs for taking taxpayer funding away from public schools and fueling the expansion of school privatization through tax benefits used by mostly wealthy families. A report from Public Funds Public Schools examines voucher programs in seven states and concludes that, except for Ohio, investments in public schools declined as voucher spending grew. A separate analysis from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy found that in three states, more than half of all voucher tax credits are going to families with annual incomes over $200,000. At the same time, Republican lawmakers in at least 32 states have proposed legislation this year to create or expand tax-funded programs to help parents with private school expenses, according to FutureEd at Georgetown University.

More Districts Receiving Dedicated Homeless Student Funding, but Rural Areas Still Lag
K-12 Dive: New data shows an increase in the number of school districts that got dedicated funding to address the needs of children experiencing homelessness in the 2020-21 school year — and yet more than 25 million children continued to attend schools in districts without this aid. Preliminary data from 48 states shows 53% of districts got dedicated homeless funding under the American Rescue Plan Act, a jump from just 19.5% before the pandemic, according to an analysis of 2020-21 school year data by SchoolHouse Connection and Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan. Still, in the 2020-21 school year, roughly half of all public school students nationwide continued to attend schools in districts that lacked dedicated homeless funding used to identify and support homeless students.

Around the Nation

‘It’s Hard to Focus’: Schools say American Kids are Hungry
Associated Press: America’s schools say kids are hungry — just as pandemic-era benefit programs have lapsed. There is growing concern about the effects on kids’ ability to learn. Congress temporarily made school meals free to all American schoolkids, but since that ended last fall, the need has only seemed to grow. Soaring food prices are adding strains on families who are seeing reductions in multiple kinds of financial assistance. One federal program that ends this month had given nearly 30 million Americans extra food stamps during the pandemic. School cafeterias typically don’t turn away a hungry kid, but debts for unpaid school meals have been rising — showing the level of need and raising questions about how schools will keep feeding everyone without federal money to do it. 

How Federal COVID Aid Is Uplifting English Learners in This Small Rhode Island City
The 74 Million: Thanks to pandemic stimulus funding, a small Rhode Island district where nearly half of the students are English learners now offers 2 extra hours of language instruction daily. District leaders hope the programs can close long-standing achievement gaps between English learners and native speakers. With the infusion of COVID funds, leaders recognized the unique opportunity to uplift the school system. They crunched academic data to identify what student investments might deliver the highest impact. About 600 multilingual learners, they found, remained below the minimum English proficiency level to succeed in English-only classes, and many had languished there for years. Afterschool language learning academies have become a key component of that new strategy.

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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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