News Roundup: Girls in STEM, Student-Teacher Relationships, and More

With so many stories in the news every day, it’s easy to miss developments that are relevant to you and your district, school, or classroom. We’ve gathered a variety of highlights in education news so you can stay up-to-date on issues that matter to you.

New Research Centers Aim to Boost Outcomes at Rural Schools

The Institute for Education Sciences (IES) will fund two university centers to help rural education leaders use research to improve K–12 student outcomes, Education Dive reports. The IES, a research division of the U.S. Department of Education, has given the University of Missouri a $10 million grant for the new National Center for Rural School Mental Health, which will focus on supporting schools with mental health screenings and resources. Harvard University also received $9.9 million to run the National Center for Rural Education Research Networks, which will help 50 rural districts use data to boost student achievement.

Rural districts face unique challenges because of their small size, according to Education Dive. Many have found that by connecting through networks, they can work together to share resources and expertise. Thomas J. Kane, the director of Harvard's Center for Education Policy Research, said in a recent press release: “Rural school districts have too often been ignored by researchers and policy analysts. Yet more than 20 percent of students in the United States—nearly 10 million children—attend rural schools.” Kane hopes the new research will provide these districts with valuable insights, the article states.

Advice for New Teachers: Prioritize Student Relationships

Veteran teacher Cindy Bourdo wrote for Edutopia this month about her biggest takeaway from her first year of teaching. During the whirlwind of her early days, Bourdo observed other teachers and realized that educators who had lunch with their students, held morning meetings, or attended their students’ sporting events had much more positive and pleasant classroom environments. She decided to consciously prioritize student relationships as well and soon saw the benefits in her class’s behavior and learning. Students asked more questions and felt comfortable taking risks. Even parents began to reach out more, according to her article.

After 15 years of teaching, Bourdu now works with new educators and offers the same advice: emphasize student relationships for the first day of class and continue each day to allocate time to this important task. Building a classroom community pays off.    

New Research Sheds Light on Girls’ and Boys’ Tech Usage

The New York Times reported this month on a new survey from the Girl Scout Research Institute, which highlights a difference in girls’ and boys’ use of technology. The survey polled children between the ages of 5 and 17 (assisted by parents) on their smartphone, tablets, laptop, and gaming device usage.

Key findings included that boys were more likely to report using games for fun, while girls said they used them to learn. Forty percent of girls also reported using devices to read books and articles, whereas only 28 percent of boys said the same. Despite this insight, boys were more confident in their role as a “tech expert” than girls, with 53 percent of boys taking on this title in their families, compared with only 38 percent of girls. The survey also found that parents were stricter on their daughters’ access to apps and privacy settings.

The study emphasized the importance of sparking and maintaining girls’ interest in STEM careers, as this interest on average drops sharply between middle and high school.

Student Homelessness at an All-Time High, Study Shows

According to Education Dive, new federal data released this month reports the highest number of homeless students ever recorded at 1,355,821 public school students. The number, from the 2016–2017 school year, reveals an increase of 70 percent in the past decade. The Education Leads Home campaign has also reported that the number of homeless students has nearly doubled since the 2007–2008 school year.

The graduation rate of homeless students in 2016–2017 varied between states, with a range between 45 percent and 88 percent, compared with the national average of 64 percent. Without a high school diploma, children are 4.5 times more likely to experience homelessness later in life.

Researchers also commented that these numbers are likely underrepresenting reality. The authors of a 2016 report published by nonprofit America’s Promise Alliance wrote:

Despite increasing numbers, these students—as well as the school liaisons and state coordinators who support them—report that student homelessness remains an invisible and extremely disruptive problem.

Some teacher prep programs are addressing this issue with in-depth training, while some schools are using innovative methods to support this growing population of students.

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HMH publishes a news roundup on the last Friday of each month. Check out the next one on March 29.

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