The Weekly Connect 5/15/23

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:

Severe weather disrupts special education services.

Pandemic experiment of universal free school meals gains traction in states.

Child care shortages for children with disabilities.

To read more, click on the following links.

Research & Practice

Science Proves It: Girl Scouts Really Do Make The World A Better Place
LA Times: A recently published study showed that Junior Girl Scouts successfully increased their energy conservation activities, as well as those of their parents. After completing five hour long courses on energy conservation, Junior-level Girl Scouts boosted their households’ energy-saving activities by as much as 49%, according to the study published in the journal Nature Energy. The Girl Scouts didn’t stop there. In one of the courses, the fourth- and fifth-grade girls also prompted their parents to increase their conservation behaviors by up to 12%. The Girl Scouts’ success in this unique clinical trial demonstrates that children have the potential to serve as agents of change for their entire families, Hilary Boudet, an assistant professor at Oregon State University’s School of Public Policy, and her colleagues concluded.

Most Students Don’t Have Strong Connections to Their Teachers, Survey Finds
Education Week: Student perception of teacher connection has declined over time to a new low in the current school year, after a brief increase in spring 2020, according to a new survey from YouthTruth, a nonprofit that surveys K-12 students and families for school districts. Less than a quarter (22 percent) of middle and high school students said that “many” or “all” of their teachers make an effort to understand what their life is like outside of school, according to the survey of more than 88,000 secondary school students between October and December 2022. The report’s findings highlight an important issue, as research shows that students learn best when they feel cared for and connected to their teachers and classmates. See related article: K-12 Dive “Survey: Students’ Mental Health A Greater Hindrance To Learning Since Pandemic.”

Report: Severe Weather Disrupting Special Education Services
K-12 Dive: Increased severe weather events and natural disasters are having an adverse impact on students and others with disabilities, according to a new report by the National Council on Disability. Specifically, students with disabilities encounter challenges during emergency response and evacuation that can cause long-term harm to their mental and physical health and academic outcomes. Then, after the events, barriers such as the inability to access student records and underfunding of education programs can further hamper their progress. In addition to more research, data, and preparedness planning to help protect students with disabilities, the report also recommends that the U.S. Department of Education develop information technology standards for electronic student records to mitigate delays in special education services when severe weather or natural disasters occur.

Teens: Life Improving Overall, But Need More Mental Health Support At School
K-12 Dive: Teens ages 13-18 said their mental health, motivation, relationships with friends, and overall happiness have improved since the early months of the COVID pandemic, according to a survey conducted by Morning Consult, a business intelligence company, and EdChoice, a nonprofit that advocates for school choice. Black teens, Hispanic teens, teens from urban areas and adolescent boys were somewhat more likely to report feeling better than other groups. LGBTQ students, adolescent girls, and those living in rural areas were least likely to say they were thriving. Around half of teens reported they feel supported by their schools when it comes to academics and their future, but only one-third of survey respondents said they feel supported by their schools in terms of mental health. See related article: Associated Press “To Improve Kids’ Mental Health, Some Schools Start Later.”


Despite Their Promise, School Mental Health Screenings Face Resistance
Education Week: School mental health screenings—which can alert schools if students are showing signs of depression, anxiety, or other mental health concerns—have been slow to catch on in many districts despite being a strategy recommended by the National Association of School Psychologists, the National Center for School Mental Health, and a host of psychologists and researchers. Only 20 percent of schools screen students for their mental health, according to a 2020 study published in the National Library of Medicine. And, so far, New Jersey and Illinois are the only states with laws that provide funding and logistical resources for school mental health screenings. The funding from the laws gives schools the ability to offer screening to more students, connect schools with local public health agencies to make sure screenings are research-based, and provide more robust communication to parents.

A Pandemic Experiment In Universal Free School Meals Gains Traction In The States
Oregon Capital Chronicle: Every public school kid in the U.S. was eligible for free school meals during the COVID-19 pandemic, regardless of family income, thanks to the federal government. While that’s now ended, a growing number of states across the country are enacting universal school meal laws to bolster child food security and academic equity. With little prospect of action soon in Congress, the moves by states show an appetite for free school meals for all developing beyond Washington. Nine states have passed a temporary or permanent universal school meal policy in the past year. Another 23 have seen legislation introduced during the past three years, according to recent data from the Food Research and Action Center.

To Improve Kids’ Mental Health, Some Schools Start Later
The Associated Press: During the pandemic, soaring numbers of high school students expressed persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness, with girls and LGBTQ+ youth reporting the highest levels of poor mental health and suicide attempts. The idea of later school start times, pushed by many over the years as a way to help adolescents get more sleep, is getting a new look as a way to address the mental health crisis affecting teens across the U.S. Nationally, at least nine states are considering legislation related to school start times, up from four the previous year, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures. California in 2019 became the first and only state to dictate school start times. Large school systems, including Denver, Philadelphia, and Anchorage, have been looking into later start times. 

Around the Nation

A Telehealth Startup Is Helping Massachusetts Schools Bridge Youth Mental Health Care
WBUR: In Massachusetts, kids aged 3 to 17 saw a 50% increase in anxiety and depression diagnoses from 2016 to 2020, according to the 2022 Kids Count Data Book. However, access to mental health providers has remained a hurdle. Some Massachusetts school districts are now exploring new ways to help address youth mental health needs. This school year, 15 districts have partnered with Cambridge-based mental health care startup Cartwheel Care to offer short-term virtual therapy. While schools have worked with community mental health providers before, what’s different here is the exclusively school-based referral and emphasis on minimizing wait times for students during a time of high demand for behavioral health care services. See related article: City Connects BlogA creative solution for providing mental health care in Salem

For Children With Disabilities, Child Care Options Are Worse Than Ever
The Hechinger Report: Over the past few years, the pandemic has illuminated the fragility of the child care industry and the challenges parents have finding child care, a reality that has only become worse with major staffing shortages and pandemic-related center closures. But for parents of children with disabilities, child care shortages have always been a reality. In many cases, parents can’t find programs that offer the support their children need — many parents report being turned away from child care programs once program officials learn that their child has a disability. Since fears about the pandemic have dissipated, these child care challenges have only worsened for parents of children with disabilities , experts say, as child care centers reach the end of pandemic-related relief funds and struggle to find staff.

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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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