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  • 10/12/2020 9:50 AM | Cheryl Casagrande (Administrator)

    State Seal of Civic Engagement 

    At its September 10, 2020 meeting, the State Board of Education (SBE) approved the criteria for California students to earn a new State Seal of Civic Engagement (SSCE)an incentive aimed at encouraging active and ongoing citizenship, beginning in the earliest grades. The criteria and accompanying guidance for LEAs are available on the CDE SSCE web page. The Resources to Support Civic Engagement web page includes several resources to support civic engagement during distance learning and the SBE Items Related to the SSCE web page provides links to State Board Items. The CDE has also recently published new web pages to support local implementation of the SSCE:

    • SSCE Implementation Guidance

    • SSCE Criteria Development 

    Additional technical guidance is being developed and will be published online. 

    The Educator Excellence and Equity Division (EEED) is also partnering with the Analysis, Measurement, and Accountability Reporting Division to convene a Civic Engagement Work Group. This work group is discussing possible future criteria for recognizing civic engagement in the College and Career Indicator (CCI) on the California School Dashboard, per recommendations from the SBE in July and September 2019. See the August 2019 SBE Memorandum for additional background information. The CDE held a Zoom meeting with the work group in August, and has scheduled two additional meetings, in October and December 2020.



  • 10/06/2020 8:26 PM | Cheryl Casagrande (Administrator)

    The Effects of Absenteeism on Academic and Social-Emotional Outcomes Lessons for COVID-19 Lucrecia Santibañez Cassandra Guarino

    In March 2020, most schools in the U.S. transitioned to distance learning. During the transition a significant number of students did not fully engage in learning opportunities. This brief uses administrative panel data from the CORE Districts in California to approximate the impact of the pandemic by analyzing how absenteeism has affected student outcomes in the recent past. We show wide variation in absenteeism impacts on academic and social-emotional outcomes by grade and subgroup, as well as the cumulative effect of different degrees of absence. Student outcomes generally suffer more from absenteeism in mathematics than in English language arts. Negative effects are larger in middle school. Absences also negatively affect social-emotional development, which can affect other student outcomes down the line. I 2 The Effects of Absenteeism on Academic and Social-Emotional Outcomes: Lessons for COVID-19 Introduction In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools around the nation to close physical campuses and shift to distance learning. Existing inequalities were made starkly evident in this transition: low-poverty schools and students were able to engage in online participation quickly, while students of color in high-poverty schools and English learners (ELs) lagged behind.1 For example, a report by the Los Angeles Unified School District tracked the online engagement of secondary school students in an instructional app between between March 16 and May 22, 2020, and found that participation increased over time but never reached 100 percent and was lower for students in particular subgroups such as low-income students, ELs, students with disabilities (SWDs), and homeless and foster youth (HL/FST).2 Given the considerable disruption caused by COVID-19 and the deep inequalities present in our school systems, schools around the nation face urgent questions: How much learning and social-emotional development has been lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic? How have different student subgroups been affected? We use data on K–12 students in six large CORE districts in California from 2014–15 to 2017–18 to understand (a) average patterns of absenteeism during regular school years for all students and by subgroup as well as (b) the impact of being away from school on test scores and social-emotional learning (SEL). Results from this analysis suggest what the effects of COVID-19 could be on student outcomes. It is safe to assume that, when schools closed in March 2020, student absenteeism was above what it normally is—at least in the few weeks immediately following the closures.3 Students who were consistently absent from March through June would have missed 10 weeks of school (50 days), putting them at the far end of the normal absenteeism spectrum. The analysis presented here gives some indication of the negative impact these different degrees of absenteeism would have on academic and SEL outcomes. edpolicyinca.org 3 Policy Analysis for California Education Absenteeism Rates During the School Year Are Generally Low On average, students in K–12 are absent from school 7.4 days in a regular school year. Absences vary by grade, however: elementary and middle school students spend about 7 days away from school in a regular school year, whereas middle school and high school students are absent 6 and 9 days on average every school year, respectively. Absences are highest for Grades 10 through 12, with 12th graders absent an average of 10.8 days. In a typical year, approximately 14 percent of students are absent 0 days, 65 percent are absent 1 to 10 days, 13 percent are absent 11 to 18 days, and 8 percent are absent 18 days or more—the level at which absenteeism is considered chronic. Chronic absence is more prevalent in Grades 9–12 than in the earlier grades. About 7 percent of students are absent from school 30 days or more in any given year, indicating that most chronically absent students are absent for periods much longer than 18 days. Absenteeism rates also vary considerably by student subgroup (see Figure 1). SWDs and HL/FST have the highest absenteeism rates across almost all grades. Absenteeism rates for EL and free-and-reduced-price lunch eligible (FRPL) students are fairly low in elementary school and high in the secondary grades. Figure 1. Mean Days Absent by Subgroup and Grade Days Absent  EL  FRPL  SWD  HL/FST Grade K 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 16 14 12 10 8 6 4 2 0 Note. Averages over 2014–15 to 2017–18 school years. Includes data from six CORE districts. 4 The Effects of Absenteeism on Academic and Social-Emotional Outcomes: Lessons for COVID-19 In terms of race and ethnicity, Black students have the most absences of any group (see Figure 2). Latinx students report high average absence rates in high school, but are one of the groups with the lowest average absenteeism rate in elementary and middle school. Asian American and Pacific Islander American students report the lowest number of absences of all racial and ethnic groups, across all grades. Figure 2. Mean Days Absent by Race/Ethnicity and Grade  Latinx  White  Black  Asian American & Pacific Islander American K 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 14 12 10 8 6 4 2 0 Days Absent Grade Note. Averages over 2014–15 to 2017–18 school years. Includes data from six CORE districts. edpolicyinca.org 5 Policy Analysis for California Education Absences Negatively Impact Test Scores Studying the impact of absenteeism on test scores is challenging because unobserved factors could affect both absenteeism and student outcomes. For example, students who are likely to be absent more often may face circumstances causing them to exhibit behaviorrs (e.g., lack of motivation) that also hurt test scores. To account for unobserved factors that are specific to students and are persistent over time, we use a student fixed effect model that essentially isolates the effect of absences on outcomes for each individual student.4 We present our findings in graphical displays of predicted effects on mathematics and English Language Arts (ELA) scores in the Smarter Balanced Assessments (SBAC) by various levels of absenteeism. In our test score analyses, we use Grades 3–8 and exclude Grade 11 because of data limitations.5 Our results suggest absences have a clear negative effect on test scores. Figure 3 shows the predicted effect on SBAC scaled test scores of students being absent at different intervals (10 days, 20 days, etc.). It clearly shows that as absences increase, test scores decrease, and they do so more rapidly for mathematics than for ELA.6 Figure 3. Predicted Effects of Days Absent on Test Scores2480 2470 2460 2450 2440 ELA Math Note. Graph points represent the predicted outcome (SBAC test score, y-axis) for a given value of days absent (0, 10, 20, etc., x-axis). Confidence intervals of 95% around prediction mean. Data cover six CORE districts, 2014/15-2017/18. 6 The Effects of Absenteeism on Academic and Social-Emotional Outcomes: Lessons for COVID-19 Absences affect test scores differently depending on the school level (see Figure 4). The slopes on the grade lines show a steeper downward trend in middle school indicating that academic loss due to extended absences is felt more heavily by middle school students. In both elementary and middle school, the decline in test scores due to prolonged absenteeism is steeper in mathematics than ELA. Figure 4. Predicted Effects of Days Absent on Test Scores, by School Grade Level Predicted Test Score Days Absent ELA Math 0 10 20 30 40 50 2520 2500 2480 2460 2440 2420 2400 Elementary Middle 0 10 20 30 40 50 Note. Graph points represent the predicted outcome (SBAC test score, y-axis) for a given value of days absent (0, 10, 20, etc., x-axis). Confidence intervals of 95% around prediction mean. Data cover six CORE districts, 2014/15-2017/18. Absences Affect Test Scores of Some Student Subgroups More Than Others Absences hurt the academic achievement of vulnerable students more than they do other students. Predicted effects for students classified as FRPL, EL, SWD, and HL/FST can be found in Figure 5. For comparison, we add a category of “nonvulnerable” students (NONVUL)—that is, students who are not in one of those groups. The negative effects of absenteeism are substantial for all students and are the most pronounced for students classified as FRPL, SWD, and HL/ FST. These findings are concerning, given that in our analytic sample, 77 percent of the student population is classified as FRPL, 13 percent as SWD, and 4 percent as HL/FST.7 ELs (18 percent of sample students) are an exception, as they are less affected even than non-vulnerable students (19 percent). It should be noted that this group includes students who are considered long-term ELs, newcomer ELs, and ELs at various stages of English language development. More research is needed on variation within this subgroup to better understand these effects. Figure 5. Predicted Effects of Days Absent on Test Scores, by Subgroup Predicted Test Score Days Absent ELA Math 0 10 20 30 40 50 2480 2470 2460 2450 2440 2430 FRPL EL SWD HL/FST NONVUL 0 10 20 30 40 50 Note. Graph points represent the predicted outcome (SBAC test score, y-axis) for a given value of days absent (0, 10, 20, etc., x-axis). Confidence intervals of 95% around prediction mean. Data cover six CORE districts, 2014/15-2017/18.  Absences Hurt Social-Emotional Outcomes When SEL outcomes improve, so do test scores and behavioral outcomes—this is true across student subgroups and regardless of the baseline level of SEL.8 We study the effects of absenteeism on SEL outcomes using a similar method as above, but instead of ELA and mathematics test scores as outcome measures, we use SEL scale scores, standardized by year, for four different constructs: growth mindset (GM), social awareness (SA), self-efficacy (SE), and self-management (SM). SEL scores are based on self-reported surveys of students in Grades 4 through 12, and all of those grades are included in the analysis.9 Predicted effects on SEL constructs of being absent at various absenteeism levels are shown in Figure 6. Here, we see how as absences grow (x-axis), the expected (predicted) SEL outcomes decrease (y-axis). Absences harm all four SEL constructs, with slight variation across the constructs. After an initial slide, effects for most constructs flatten out after 40 days. However, for SA the decline is more or less linear, indicating a steeper rate of loss on this construct as absenteeism accumulates. Absences hurt SEL development for all student subgroups and harm SA and SE more or less equally across subgroups. They also harm non-vulnerable students more than others in SM, and non-vulnerable students and SWDs slightly more than others in GM. Figure 6. Predicted Effects of Days Absent on Social-Emotional Outcomes Predicted Score Days Absent 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 .05 0 –.05 –.1 –.15 SA SE SM GM Note. Graph points represent the predicted outcome (construct score, y-axis) for a given value of days absent (0, 10, 20, etc., x-axis). Confidence intervals of 95% around prediction mean. Data cover four CORE districts, 2014/15-2017/18. 

    Policy Analysis for California Education There are differences in the impact of absences on SEL by grade level. As shown in Figure 7, all constructs are negatively affected by absenteeism. However, middle school is the level at which extended absence from school has the strongest negative impact on social-emotional development, with SE and SA having the steepest slopes. At the elementary level, the most affected constructs are SE and SM. At the high school level, the most affected construct is SA. Generally speaking, elementary and middle school are the levels during which extended absence from school has the strongest negative impact on social-emotional development. This is important because recent work using Project CORE data suggests that when social-emotional learning outcomes improve, so do test scores and behavioral outcomes—this is true across student subgroups and regardless of the baseline level of social-emotional learning.10 Figure 7. Predicted Effects of Days Absent on SEL Outcomes, by School Grade Level Predicted Score Days Absent Days Absent 0 10 20 30 40 .1 0 –.1 –.2 Elementary Middle High 0 10 20 30 40 SA SE Predicted Score 0 10 20 30 40 .1 0 –.1 –.2 0 10 20 30 40 SM GM Note. Graph points represent the predicted probability on the outcome (construct score) for a given value of days absent (0, 10, 20, etc.). Data are for students in four CORE districts. Elementary grades include Grades 4–5; middle grades include Grades 6–8, and high school grades include Grades 9–12. Confidence intervals of 95 percent around the prediction mean estimate.

    Conclusion This study, using data from six large CORE school districts in California, shows that average absenteeism is low during the regular school year: about 7 days on average, although this is higher in secondary school and for certain subgroups such as HL/FST and SWDs. There is reason to believe that a significant number of students were absent from virtual schooling opportunities for extended and longer-than-normal periods during the COVID-19 pandemic.11 Our results suggest that if students missed more than a few weeks of cumulative instruction during the pandemic—which is likely, particularly among low-income and other disadvantaged students—their test scores and SEL outcomes are likely to be badly affected. Moreover, school closures and remote-only instruction continue through fall 2020 in most districts, and it is not yet clear whether adaptations to online learning as a result of the experience of this past spring will yield significantly greater engagement with instruction. These negative impacts are likely to hit students particularly hard in middle school and in mathematics. For SEL, the negative impact on elementary and middle schoolers of extended absences is significant. Moreover, students in certain subgroups, such as low-income students and SWDs, are likely to be the most affected. This study adds to the growing evidence on the potentially negative impact of COVID-19 on student development and the pandemic’s possible differential impacts by student subgroups and grade-level. Although COVID-19 presents unique circumstances, the evidence based on past experience suggests that many students will need intense academic and social-emotional support to make up for lost time. 

    Endnotes 1 Burke, M. (2020, May 11). LA Unified plans expanded summer school as “just about every” student is now connected online: Summer session will offer new classes in sports science, animated film and more. EdSource. edsource.org/2020/la-unifiedplans-expanded-summer-school-as-just-about-every-student-is-now-connected-online/631280; Hamilton, L. S., Grant, D., Kaufman, J. H., Diliberti, M., Schwartz, H. L., Hunter, G. P., Messan Setodji, C., & Young, C. J. (2020). COVID-19 and the state of K–12 schools: Results and technical documentation from the spring 2020 American educator panels COVID-19 surveys [Report]. RAND Corporation. doi.org/10.7249/RRA168-1; Umansky, I. (2020, June 9). COVID-19’s impact on English learner students: Possible policy responses [Commentary]. Policy Analysis for California Education. edpolicyinca.org/newsroom/ covid-19s-impact-english-learner-students 2 Besecker, M., Thomas, A., & Daley, G. (2020, July). Student engagement online during school facilities closures: An analysis of L.A. Unified secondary students’ Schoology activity from March 16 to May 22, 2020 [Report]. Independent Analysis Unit, Los Angeles Unified School District. laschoolboard.org/sites/default/files/IAU%20Report%202020%200707%20-%20Student%20 Engagement%20Online%20During%20Closures.pdf 3 Kuhfeld, M., Soland, J., Tarasawa, B., Johnson, A., Ruzek, E., & Liu, J. (2020) Projecting the potential impacts of COVID-19 school closures on academic achievement (EdWorkingPaper: 20-226). doi.org/10.26300/cdrv-yw05 4 All models include time-varying controls (suspensions, expulsions, program designations, change of school), grade- and yeardummies. For estimation details and limitations refer to Santibanez, L., & Guarino, C. (2020). The effects of absenteeism on cognitive and social-emotional outcomes: Lessons for COVID-19 (EdWorking Paper No. 20-261). edworkingpapers.com/sites/ default/files/Annenberg%20WP%20Submission%20-%2020200716_1.pdf 5 Eleventh grade is excluded from the analysis because in a four-year panel with no test score data between 8th and 11th grade, there are far fewer students with prior test score observations than in other grades, thus constraining the percentage of 11th grade students with longitudinal data. Moreover, there is evidence that the population of 11th graders taking the test was a more restrictive group, with higher rates of non-testing. According to Warren and Lafortune (2019), 6.2 percent of enrolled 11th grade students did not take the 2018 test compared to 2.5 percent of students in grades 3–8. Warren, P., & Lafortune, J. (2019, July). Achievement in California’s public schools: What do test scores tell us? [Report]. Public Policy Institute of California. www.ppic.org/publication/achievement-in-californias-public-schools-what-do-test-scores-tell-us. 6 The intercepts for ELA and mathematics differ because the vertically scaled SBAC scores and their means differ across the subjects—thus the distance between the lines is not due to a difference in absenteeism effects. 7 These percentages closely mirror the proportions in the overall CORE student population. 8 Kanopka, K., Claro, S., Loeb, S., West, M. R., & Fricke, H. (2020, July). Changes in social-emotional learning: Examining student development over time [Working paper]. Policy Analysis for California Education. edpolicyinca.org/publications/changessocial-emotional-learning 9 As recommended by construct developers and standard in this literature, we estimate this model on thesubsample of students who answered at least 50 percent of the items used to generate each of the constructs; Education Analytics “CORE Districts’ SEL Survey Scale Scores (SY2016-17 and SY2017-18) Technical Memorandum.” December 2018. (2018); West, M. R., Pier, L., Fricke, H., Hough, H. J., Loeb, S., Meyer, R. H., & Rice, A. B. (2018, May). Trends in student social-emotional learning: Evidence from the CORE districts [Working paper]. Policy Analysis for California Education. edpolicyinca.org/publications/trendsstudent-social-emotional-learning. 10 Kanopka et al., 2020. 11 EdWeek Research Center. (2020, June 25). Survey tracker: Monitoring how K–12 educators are responding to coronavirus. Education Week. edweek.org/ew/articles/2020/04/27/survey-tracker-k-12-coronavirus-response.html. Author Biographies Lucrecia Santibañez is an associate professor at UCLA’s School of Education & Information Studies. Her rese

  • 10/06/2020 8:22 PM | Cheryl Casagrande (Administrator)

    Securing and Protecting Education Funding in California — SUMMARY OF PACE POLICY BRIEF AND REPORT — Carrie Hahnel, Heather Hough & Jason Willis California and the rest of the country are enduring a pandemic-induced economic recession, and school and district leaders are bracing for the fallout. Funding for California schools had improved rapidly between 2013 and 2019, with districts spending roughly $13,100 per pupil in 2018–19 as compared with $9,680 only 6 years earlier. However, that level of funding still fell short of what would have been adequate given California’s goals as a state, the student population it serves, and its cost of living. According to Levin et al.’s 2018 Getting Down to Facts II study, California would need to spend about $4,000 more per pupil—an additional $26.5 billion annually—to meet its goals. Although the state had begun to chip away at that funding gap before the pandemic, the wide gulf that remained is poised to grow once again. Schools and districts now face three major challenges: precipitous declines in student achievement and social-emotional well-being due to COVID-19; increased costs associated with distance learning and school reconfiguration to ensure health and safety; and the need to tighten budgets. Securing and protecting the funding necessary to address student needs will require an enormous and sustained effort from many stakeholders. Yet that is what California leaders must do if they wish not only to improve schools and student outcomes but also to strengthen the economic and social outlook for future generations of our children and communities. Where Could New Funding Come From? The new report Securing and Protecting Education Funding in California examines how California might secure and protect revenues for schools in sustainable and responsible ways over both the short and long terms. It discusses why California needs adequate education funding, how California’s schools are currently financed, and how that structure affects schools during good and bad fiscal times. It then draws upon research as well as perspectives from policymakers, advocates, and education and tax policy experts to offer recommendations. The report finds the following: • Education funding has been shaped by a complicated web of decades-old policies and voter initiatives. Although the Local Control Funding Formula modernized the revenue-distribution formula, corresponding changes have not been made on the revenue-generation side of the equation (see timeline on back). • There is near-universal agreement that more funding is needed. Even so, there is little agreement about what the specific funding goal should be. • Both state and local revenue sources will need to be identified in order to close the funding gap. However, the state must balance principles of equity and local control to ensure the greatest resources are available to communities and students with the greatest needs. • A balanced mix of tax and other policy options must be employed to maximize revenues while spreading the tax burden, minimizing volatility, and mitigating negative economic consequences. Tax increases cannot be the only solution; California must also reexamine its priorities as a state. • New revenues must be paired with systems improvements and accountability. Stakeholders want to know how spending is translating into better practice and improved student outcomes. • Public and political will to secure new funds for education could be strengthened by broadening coalitions, improving stakeholder collaboration, improving transparency, and telling more positive stories about the successful changes that are being made in our schools and communities. The governor and other state influencers must play a leadership role in securing more funding. • Early education, K–12, higher education, and other children’s services segments must work collaboratively in order to braid funding and break down the siloing of services. Timeline of Major Policy Events in California School Finance Based on these findings, the report offers the following recommendations: • State leaders should seek additional federal revenues, including coronavirus relief and stimulus funds in the short term, and more Title 1 and IDEA funds in the longer term. • Identify new and sustainable state and local revenue sources; support efforts to raise property taxes to market rates and also reduce tax expenditures. • State leaders and education stakeholders should develop a master plan for education funding that covers more than just K–12, particularly early education. • The state should strengthen fiscal transparency and analysis so that stakeholders understand how money is being used and see the results of that spending. • Researchers and policy analysts should examine how to modernize California’s school funding infrastructure. The report Securing and Protecting Education Funding in California and a related policy brief can be accessed at https://edpolicyinca.org/publications/securing-resources-fund-education-california

  • 10/05/2020 11:44 AM | Cheryl Casagrande (Administrator)

    Even when the smoke clears, schools find student trauma can linger

    Schools can serve as a hub for an entire community after a disaster, experts say

    STUDENT WELLBEING

    SEPTEMBER 29, 2020
    CAROLYN JONES

    CREDIT: BARBARA MUNKER/PICTURE-ALLIANCE/DPA/AP IMAGES


    Burnt out cars and a bus are removed from the roadside after the Camp Fire in 2018 destroyed the town of Paradise and surrounding communities.

    For some students, the fire is only the beginning. The nightmares, the grief and an all-consuming dread can persist for months or even years.

    That’s what teachers and school employees have observed among students in California’s fire-ravaged areas, especially Sonoma and Butte counties, where deadly wildfires have struck repeatedly in recent years.

    Now, those school districts are sharing their observations and advice with schools around the West that are adapting to a new reality: regular catastrophic wildfires.

    “What we learned is that any kind of disaster relief must have a mental health component,” said Steve Herrington, Sonoma County superintendent of schools.

    The county has seen major wildfires and a flood each of the last four years, and this week is enduring another major wildfire.

    “Recovery doesn’t happen in a year’s time. It takes 18 months to two years to rebuild a home,” he said. “Meanwhile, the emotional stress and trauma is great, not just for students but staff, as well.”

    Sonoma County Office of Education administrators, along with colleagues in Mendocino, Butte, Shasta and other California counties recently impacted by wildfires, created an 84-page guide to help districts navigate natural disasters. The guide covers everything from assessing damage at school sites to taking attendance to filling out disaster relief forms.

    Addressing mental health needs is a priority, said Matt Reddam, school and community wellness advisor for the Butte County Office of Education. A wildfire’s prolonged impact on students, families and school staffs cannot be underestimated, he said.

    “Unless you’ve been through a large-scale disaster, you don’t realize you’re not going to struggle a little. You’re going to fall apart. You’re not going to be OK,” he said. “And there is no panacea. You can coach the adults how to provide support in the moment, how to keep stress levels low, but it’s very hard. Many people here are still struggling.”

    In Butte County, students had barely recovered from the 2018 Camp Fire — which completely destroyed the town of Paradise — when the North Complex Fire erupted in August and continues to burn in the mountains east of Chico. The sight and smell of smoke — even when it’s far away — has triggered anxiety and trauma symptoms among students who lived through the Camp Fire, Reddam said.

    Counseling services implemented after the Camp Fire are still available, he said. But in the first chaotic weeks after that fire, students’ and teachers’ needs were a little different.

    The top concern, he said, was students’ safety. School staff spent weeks trying to track down students and families who lost their homes. Working with local nonprofits, school employees collected and dispersed donations, fielded phone calls and helped families find food and shelter.

    Schools also brought in dozens of crisis counselors. Particularly helpful, Reddam said, was bringing back retired school counselors. Local residents were reluctant to confide in strangers, and were much more comfortable with counselors they already knew and who had also experienced the fire.

    What teachers and counselors noticed was that it took about six months for some students to show symptoms of trauma, he said. Initially, many students were focused only on survival. But after that period subsided, there was a collective emotional crash.

    Some students started having nightmares or suicidal thoughts, acting out in class, or withdrawing and becoming numb, he said. Many were facing multiple traumas: loss of a loved one, loss of home, loss of community and the terror of fleeing through a fire believing they were going to die, he said.

    To help, schools adopted a comprehensive focus on social-emotional learning: helping students relax, strengthen their relationships with teachers and peers and express their feelings. Hiring counselors specifically for teachers has also been helpful, he said.

    Teachers also learned to look out for students who seemed depressed or withdrawn, using screening tools provided by the National Child Trauma Stress Network, he said.

    All of these steps have been made more difficult by campus closures, he said. It’s harder for teachers to identify a student who’s suffering, because teachers can’t observe students in person. And likewise, delivering services such as crisis counseling is hard to do virtually.

    But even for schools that are open for in-person instruction, addressing trauma can be challenging because not all students react the same way — or at the same time — to a disaster like a wildfire, said Catherine Mogil, clinical director of the UCLA Family Stress, Trauma and Resilience Clinic. Some students experience “normal” levels of stress, which can be difficult but temporary, and others are traumatized for months, or even years, after the disaster.

    Much depends on the extent to which a student suffered during the event — if they lost loved ones, if they endured a harrowing escape, if they lost their home or pets, she said. Other factors are the strength of their existing family and social ties, and how well they’re able to maintain structure and routines afterward.

    Talking about the experience is crucial, Mogil said. Working with small groups, teachers can encourage students to tell their fire stories, and frame the experiences in a way that emphasizes resilience.

    “Post-traumatic stress syndrome is hard, and the treatment is not easy,” she said. “It’s like when you skin your knee. It hurts even worse when you clean it with rubbing alcohol, but if you don’t do it, the wound may be worse later on.”

    Cameron Cervone, a high school senior at Santa Rosa High School in Sonoma County, has been evacuated twice from recent wildfires and has seen flames roar perilously close to his family’s home. After he and his classmates returned to school, they were grateful for teachers’ patience and flexibility.

    Teachers allowed students to talk about the fires in class if they wanted to, and offered assistance for students who needed it. They also assigned less homework and slowed down the pace of instruction.

    For students who had lost their homes, the relaxed atmosphere on campus was key to easing back into school and helping them cope with the upheaval and uncertainty in their personal lives, Cervone said.

    He would recommend other schools facing natural disasters take the same approach.

    “Teachers should be helpful and accommodating. They should work with students to get through it,” he said. “In situations like that, school should not be another stressor.”

    Few places in California have seen more damaging fires than Sonoma County. Beginning in 2017, wildfires have killed more than a dozen people, scorched at least 250,000 acres and destroyed more than 5,600 homes. Some families lost their homes in a fire, only to lose their new homes in a flood the next year. Schools were closed for weeks at a time, and thousands of young people saw their lives upended.

    Recognizing that students aren’t the only ones traumatized, schools have transformed into hubs of community support, offering help not just to students but to families, teachers and staff. Some schools opened after-hours wellness centers that provided mental health counseling, tutoring and other services for any student that needed it. Other schools became shelters for people who lost their homes. Several schools collected and dispersed donations to people in the community. During the fires, school bus drivers delivered supplies to emergency shelters throughout the county.

    “One of the most important things we learned is staff wellness is just as important as student wellness. Because everyone in the community is experiencing the disaster,” said Mandy Corbin, assistant superintendent at the Sonoma County Office of Education who oversees mental health services.

    After the Tubbs Fire in 2017, Sonoma County school districts brought in mental health counselors for students as well as staff; trained teachers to recognize signs of trauma and offer help when needed; and encouraged students and teachers to talk about their experiences and listen to each other. Schools also hosted social events, such as pizza parties, for people to gather informally and relax.

    Corbin noted that the fire alone wasn’t the cause of some students’ trauma. Homelessness also increased after each disaster, as well as the school dropout rate.

    In Butte County, school officials realized that the impacts of the fire were not isolated to the event. Not only did the symptoms of trauma linger for many students, but they resurfaced every time the sky filled with smoke.

    “I think we all realize that whatever ‘normal’ life we had before is gone,” Reddam said. “That fire was not an aberration. We’re facing a completely new reality, and we have to start thinking about it that way.”


  • 09/22/2020 1:00 PM | Cheryl Casagrande (Administrator)

    California schools chief's 'end hate initiative' prompts contrast with President Trump

    New effort to teach tolerance involves Simon Wiesenthal Center and Equity California 

    STATE EDUCATION POLICY

    SEPTEMBER 22, 2020
    JOHN FENSTERWALD

    PHOTO: ANDREW REED/EDSOURCE

    State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond speaks at a Learning Policy Institute event in Sacramento on Feb. 21, 2019.

    State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced an “Education to End Hate” initiative Monday that he and others presented as an alternative to President Donald Trump’s call for “patriotic education” and as an antidote to acts of hate and hate speech that have risen during his presidency.

    A $1 million foundation donation kick started the effort. It will include resources and training grants for teachers to teach tolerance for differences in race and religion, virtual classroom sessions that will be broadcast next month on how to end discrimination, and a roundtable with political and social justice leaders on how to create safe learning environments.

    Related

    California’s Schools Chief States His Position As His Department Revises Ethnic Studies Curriculum

    Thurmond, in a press conference, said “unspeakable acts of racism have played out on our television screens.” While the spike in incidents of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, bulling of LGBTQ students and prejudices against Latino students since 2016 have been “heartbreaking,” he said, “in those moments I am reminded that education continues to be one of the most powerful tools in countering hate and for promoting understanding and tolerance.”

    He was joined at the press conference by Rabbi Mayer May, executive director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, which will provide materials on confronting anti-Semitism, and Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California, an LGBTQ and civil rights organization that will lead trainings for educators.

    The S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, based in San Francisco, is underwriting the initiative. It’s been in the works since February, when Thurmond announced he supported a model curriculum on ethnic studies that would emphasize African Americans, Asian Americans, Chicanos and Latinos, and Native Americans — traditionally the focus of the course. Responding to criticism that the course would omit the experiences of Jews and other groups, Thurmond promised that the Department of Education would lead separate conversations on addressing hate and acts of violence and “how we promote the beauty of the diversity of what our students represent in this state.”

    His press conference Monday, days after Trump called for a 1776 Commission “to clear away the twisted web of lies in our schools and our classrooms, and teach our children the magnificent truth about our country,” invited scathing comparisons to Trump’s proposal.

    State Sen. Scott Weiner, D-San Francisco, who chairs the Legislative LGBTQ Caucus and is a member of Legislative Jewish Caucus, said Trump is “trying to indoctrinate kids that everything was great in 1776.” Trump is suggesting, he said, that “we should somehow go back in time even though we know that in 1776 black people were generally slaves, women had no legal identity beyond their husbands and being LGBTQ was a capital offense.”

    Zbur said that California’s use of education as a tool to end hate, bigotry and racism stands in opposition to Trump’s and U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ effort to implement “some sort of revisionist history propaganda program in our schools.”

    In revising its History and Social Science Frameworks in 2016, California made a major shift away from seeing history mainly through the eyes of white Europeans who settled and immigrated to America. Students are taught to think critically about equality and explore the ideas of liberty and the opposition movements to create equality, as writer Carol Kocivar explains in a new article for the website Ed 100.

    As for ethnic studies, an extension of the framework, Thurmond said, “When kids see people who look like them in their history books, it builds self-esteem and all benefit from learning about the accomplishments of people of color in our state.”

    The federal government does not determine states’ history curriculums or fund them. But in a tweet last weekend, Trump called for defunding schools that use the 1619 Project Curriculum, a set of classroom materials developed by a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times project that investigates how slavery has shaped America.

    Thurmond called the tweet “ridiculous, reckless and irresponsible” for suggesting that funding would be threatened for “teaching the history and the facts that racism has existed in this country.”


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