The Weekly Connect 4/24/23

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:

Replacing older school buses improves attendance. 

President Biden signs an executive order to make child care cheaper.

A City Connects school in Dublin, Ireland, uses compelling activities to address absenteeism

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

By The Numbers: How Replacing Older School Buses Improves Student Attendance
K-12 Dive: A recent study analyzing the impact of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) program to speed up school districts’ transition to cleaner school buses between 2012 and 2017 found upgrading to vehicles that expose students to less diesel exhaust helped improve school attendance. While school buses are the safest school transport from an accident perspective, older buses often expose students to high levels of diesel exhaust. Because these exposures can adversely impact health, which may lead to more missed school, the EPA has spent millions of dollars to hasten the transition of school bus fleets to cleaner vehicles. 

What Skills Should Students Learn in an AI-Powered World?
Education Week: Artificial intelligence is becoming increasingly influential in our everyday lives. Experts predict that in the coming years, AI will be used in even more aspects of people’s lives. Such predictions concern students and teachers. On a recent webinar hosted by language learning platform Memrise, five ed-tech company founders discussed how artificial intelligence will likely change what and how students will learn in school. Panelists believe that students will need to focus on honing their soft skills, or interpersonal attributes, to prepare for future jobs. Additionally, panelists stated that schools will need to rethink and get creative about how they assess students, given the capabilities of AI. For example, one panelist shared that schools could assess students’ language learning and reading skills with some speech recognition technologies by listening to students interact with each other.

California Schools Saw ‘Massive Reduction’ In Violence
K-12 Dive: California schools saw “massive reductions” in all forms of school violence and weapons use over an 18-year period from 2001 through 2019. Alongside those declines came increases in students’ senses of “school belongingness” and safety, according to a longitudinal study published recently in the World Journal of Pediatrics. Researchers, using pre-pandemic data from the voluntary California Healthy Kids Survey, found significant drops in weapons-related behaviors, including a 70% reduction in reports of guns on school property and a 59% reduction in being threatened by a weapon on campuses. These trends are likely due to increased funding and heightened awareness for school safety over the past two decades, the researchers wrote, adding that “billions of dollars of investment” in the state may have changed behaviors and supported evidence-based practices to keep students safe.

Policy

Biden Signs Executive Order That Aims to Make Child Care Cheaper
The New York Times: President Biden recently signed an executive order directing federal agencies to find ways to make child care cheaper and more accessible, seeking to make progress on a promise he made when he first entered office. The order has been described as one of the most sweeping efforts by any president to streamline the delivery of child care. “Almost every federal agency will collectively take over 50 actions to provide more peace of mind for families and dignity for care workers,” the president said to an audience of families, administration officials, members of Congress, and others. White House officials said the executive order was designed to address both sides of that problem by enacting new regulations and tweaking policies without needing vast new amounts of public funding. See related article: “EdSource: Biden Signs Executive Order Trying To Make Child Care More Accessible.”

Lawmakers, Witnesses Debate Merits Of Private School Choice
K-12 Dive: Advocates of taxpayer-supported private school choice programs argue that these programs can empower families to enroll their children in the school best suited to them. Advocates also say that choice programs benefit nearby traditional public school programs by driving competition and innovation. Opponents argue that using public funds to pay private school tuition drains public schools of much-needed resources and excludes students with complex educational, emotional, and physical needs. In a recent hearing before the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education, panelists gave diverse opinions about the merits and faults of private school choice. The conversation ranged from what state constitutional clauses say about public education to protections against discrimination of students in schools. 

Despite ‘Crisis,’ States and Districts Slow to Spend $1B in Mental Health Funds
The 74 Million: Most states have not begun to distribute their share of nearly $1 billion in federal funding for school safety and mental health services approved last year as part of a bipartisan gun safety law. President Joe Biden signed the legislation in the aftermath of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona recently pressed state chiefs on why most of them hadn’t even launched competitions for districts to apply for funds, calling it “unacceptable” during a “mental health crisis.” Parents who saw the pandemic’s impact on their children’s well-being agree. State leaders attribute the delay to their offices and district staff still trying to get billions of pandemic relief funds out the door with fast-approaching spending deadlines.

Around the World

Lego, Martial Arts and Dance Classes: How One School Tackled School Absenteeism
The Irish Times: In St Vincent’s infant boys’ primary school in Dublin’s northeast inner city, mixed martial arts, dance, and Lego are helping to reduce absenteeism and transform teaching and learning. Students were connected with these activities through the use of interest surveys, which evaluated the interests of each student at the school. These interest surveys are part of City Connects, a pilot project that offers comprehensive student support and is being run in 10 schools in the northeast inner city. City Connects aims to address out-of-school factors that impede student learning by designing an individualized set of services to address students’ academic, social/emotional, family, and health needs. The program assists schools by partnering with community agencies and service providers and streamlining student support referral and management. Although City Connects targets the individual, the benefits are collective, according to school principal Caoimhe Sheehan, who says, “We have far more engagement in school, the attendance is better, we find more engagement between parents and teachers than we had before.”

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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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