News Briefs | FYI

May 25, 2020
FYI
Smarter Balanced Digital Library will be gone May 28
On May 28, 2020, the Smarter Balanced assessment system’s Digital Library will be decommissioned to make way for something new — Tools for Teachers, a website offering an advanced suite of instructional and professional development formative assessment resources aligned with the Common Core State Standards. On June 16, 2020, a preview of Tools for Teachers will become available to all educators in California LEAs. The preview website will feature many of the resources that will be available at the grand opening, expected in late September 2020. California LEA staff who have an existing Digital library account will be automatically registered for the Tools for Teachers website. Digital Library users may want to use the download feature to save their current frequently used or ”Favorite” resources if they anticipate wanting to use them at a later time. Visit www.smarterbalanced.org/tools-for-teachers/ for more information.  California Science Test charts now online  The California Science Test performance charts have been added to the CAST results on the CAASPP Public Reporting website. To access them, select the CAST tile on the home page, and then select the “Performance Charts” tab, which leads to the State Performance Charts web page. Presented are results for three student groups, available at the state level by grade: Ethnicity, Students with disabilities, English learners. Please note that the average scale scores presented on the CAST performance charts may differ slightly from the scores presented in the detailed test results table, due to rounding.
Survey: Student mental health needs rising due to COVID-19 California students are facing increased anxiety and stress due to COVID-19, according to a recent survey by the ACLU of Southern California that they are calling the most significant “check-in” of student mental health since the start of the pandemic.  Working with the California Association of School Counselors, the ACLU’s Youth Liberty Squad distributed the survey in late April to 653 students, representing 68 schools and 49 districts in the state.  While 22 percent of the students self-reported that they receive mental health services, 32 percent of student respondents who were not receiving services now report that they may need them, meaning more than half of surveyed students may now have mental health needs.  A report of the survey findings, which was sent to state education and health leaders May 8, also contains students’ responses to open-ended questions.  One student wrote, “I am an extrovert who depends on school and friends as my only support system, since my home is not an ideal environment. Basically all of my coping skills have been taken from me due to this quarantine and I have become extremely mentally ill due to this situation.”  Some of the most frequent words used by students to describe their mental state were “boring,” “lonely,” “overwhelming,” and “anxious” — words that are associated with suicide, according to the report.  Some respondents shared that with their parents laid off, they were the only members of their household working. Others expressed facing hurdles such as poverty and parents who lack English or computer skills.  “I am a junior and I feel that now I’m teaching myself since I just get to watch YouTube lessons and then just turn in my homework online,” one respondent wrote. “I also have younger siblings and they have homework due online as well and because my parents barely understand technology I have to be like my siblings' teacher and balancing both my education and my siblings is very difficult. I feel very stressed out because it’s too much to handle all at once.”  All is not hopeless, however, as students reported they are finding support through music, friends, therapists and teachers to get them through these times.  When asked what schools could do to support students right now, students said less work/homework and more opportunities to get mental health supports online.  Read the full report online. 
Moreno Valley USD recognized for S.A.R.B. program  Moreno Valley Unified School District was recently recognized by the California State School Attendance Review Board for implementing a Model S.A.R.B. program for the purpose of minimizing student dropouts and promoting student success.  This program identifies and recognizes school attendance improvement programs at the district or county level. Outstanding and innovative programs chosen for the award serve as models for other SARBs in the state that are using a multi-tiered system of support to reduce chronic absenteeism rates and dropout rates.  The award review team was impressed by Moreno Valley Unified’s plan to address chronic absenteeism, which includes an efficient and effective School Attendance Review Team to provide supports for families; use of a Saturday STEAM Academy for academic enrichment through STEAM activities and attendance improvement; a District Social Worker and Social Worker Interns assigned to sites; and the use of the Community Wellness Center for support to homeless, foster youth, and families in need.  “If students are not in school, they are not learning or developing the skills and knowledge they need to be college and career ready,” said Moreno Valley Unified School District Superintendent Martinrex Kedziora. “I am proud of our district’s work to address chronic absenteeism and positively affect the culture in our community as a whole with regard to attendance.”  Model SARB Recognition Program award recipients were to be recognized at the Annual California Association of Supervisors of Child Welfare and Attendance State Conference, which was canceled due to the COVID-19 health crisis.  “Although we won’t be recognized in person, this award is validation of the wonderful work our teams have been doing to improve attendance,” said MVUSD Board of Education President Marsha Locke. “I hope other districts will be able to implement some of our strategies and see similar great results.” 
Waiver enables schools to keep feeding students over summer The California Department of Education has received a special waiver called CA COVID19 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that will enable a school district that had previously been approved to operate the Summer Food Service Program or Seamless Summer Option to provide meals to students during a coronavirus-related closure.  SFSP and SSO are both federally funded and state-administered programs that serve free meals to children 18 and younger when school is not in session and in communities where 50 percent or more of the students qualify for free and reduced-priced meals. Under the waiver, meals can be served at school and non-school sites. Students will not be required to remain on-site to consume the meal and can take the meal and go, which is not the usual federal guideline. This exception was made to enable students to continue to be fed without increasing the risk of spreading germs. The CDE will administer the waiver and approve waiver requests from local districts so that meals can be claimed for reimbursement. The waiver is valid until June 30, 2020.
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