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GOP Targets Social-Emotional Learning, The Latest on High Dosage Tutoring, COVID School Policies

Conservatives Target Social and Emotional Learning

On Thursday, the Hartford Courant explored one West Hartford mom's experience with social and emotional learning (SEL) programs, having lacked that same type of support when she herself was a student. But public comments in a board of education meeting showed broad disagreement about the district's new SEL curriculum. Some parents are concerned about exposing young children to issues of gender and sexuality in school. Nationally, the Republican party has cultivated a platform in opposition to the so-called "grooming" of students—the idea that exposure to information about others might somehow indoctrinate a child into a particular sexual or gender ideology. The line of thinking is fairly consistent with the right's overall worldview that hiding information will protect children (think e.g.: debates on sex ed). As this article in New York Magazine’s “The Cut” explained yesterday, SEL is designed to build empathy by helping children to understand their own feelings, self-regulate, and be sensitive to the experiences of others. The story argues that conservative opposition to SEL is an "extension of their critical-race-theory paranoia." In both cases, students are learning about societal biases and how to be more inclusive. Indeed, in Barth Keck's Monday column for CTNewsJunkie, he argues that in the cases of both SEL and critical race theory, conservatives are misappropriating educational terminology to target parents with misinformation and lies; he finds the phenomenon downright Orwellian. We do, too.

High Dosage Tutoring Takes Center Stage

Many districts in the country have committed large amounts of COVID relief funds to tutoring efforts—relying on research that shows the promise of high dosage tutoring (HDT). A 2020 brief from ERN, for example, argued that HDT could promote greater educational equity during periods of remote learning—especially because affluent families could afford private tutoring and pandemic pods. On Monday, an Education Week story explained that effective HDT happens in small groups, several times per week, embedded in the school day, with the same well-trained tutor and a high-quality curriculum. That type of effort can produce months of additional learning time. But practically speaking, the effectiveness of HDT will come down to implementation. The Education Week story suggests that tutoring programs should become part of each school's infrastructure, rather than being thought of as an additional quick fix.

Yesterday, The 74 had an OpEd on this same issue from Kevin Huffman, former Tennessee Commissioner of Education, and Dr. Janice K. Jackson, former CEO of Chicago Public Schools. They call HDT the "epicenter of pandemic academic recovery," but note that it’s hard to scale. Their newly launched nonprofit, Accelerate, will focus specifically on HDT—with a goal of ensuring all students have access to free and effective tutoring in the years ahead, seeking to encourage innovation, lower costs of personalization, and enact policies that help schools to adopt evidence-based practices.

Updates on CT COVID School Policies

According to a CTNewsJunkie story this week on the recent uptick in COVID cases in Connecticut, most of Governor Lamont’s executive orders in response to the pandemic have now expired; the only one that remains in place through June 30th authorizes the State Department of Education to mandate school masking. Last Thursday, Connecticut's test positivity rate was 6.26%, as compared to 3.95% at the end of March. Nevertheless, on Sunday, the Hartford Courant reported that experts are saying Connecticut may be "vastly undercounting its COVID-19 cases"—citing take-home test results that don't get reported. In fact, former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb thinks this is a problem nationwide. In response to the uptick, the University of Connecticut announced on Friday that it would constitute an indoor masking requirement.

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