The following resources focus on the educational climate and betterment of those serving the K–12 educational community.

Chronic Absenteeism a Major Problem in U.S. Schools  Missing school sets students back academically. Average reading and math scores in the National Assessment of Educational Progress show a drop-off for students missing significant amounts of school in virtually all demographic groups. Research suggests negative consequences are more severe for poorer students. (Governing)

Can Restorative Practices Improve School Climate and Curb Suspensions?  Across the country, school districts, their stakeholders, and policymakers have become increasingly concerned about suspensions, particularly about suspending students from elementary school and disproportionately suspending ethnic/racial minority students. Suspended students are less likely to graduate, possibly because they miss the instructional time they need to advance academically. Restorative practices have gained buy-in in the education community as a strategy to reduce suspension rates. These practices in schools include many specific program types, but are broadly seen as a non-punitive approach to handling conflict. This report evaluates the implementation of restorative practices in the Pittsburgh Public Schools district in school years 2015–16 and 2016–17. The authors examined a specific restorative practices program implemented in a selected group of district schools under a program called Pursuing Equitable and Restorative Communities, or PERC. They found that implementation of restorative practices through PERC improved overall school climates, as rated by teachers. Implementation of restorative practices also reduced the average suspension rate. During the study period, average suspension rates decreased in both PERC and non-PERC schools, but rates decreased more in PERC schools. Suspension rates of African American students and of those from low-income families also went down in PERC schools, shrinking the disparities in suspension rates between African American and white students and between low- and higher-income students. Academic outcomes did not improve in PERC schools, and actually worsened for grades 6–8. Arrest rates among PERC schools did not decrease.  (RAND Corporation)

How California’s Rural Education Network Is Creating an Online Hub to Better Connect Remote Schools and Empower Teachers to Share Experiences, Strategies & Classroom Materials  Educators in rural communities face unique challenges, but they also have special strengths that aren’t always found in urban and suburban schools. In California, where 60 percent of districts are in towns or rural areas, a new project is leveraging those strengths to help educators connect with one another and get the support they need.

CA – State Schools Super Announces New Learning Guide  “This new guide offers a toolkit of resources that will assist California educators in serving the social and emotional needs of the whole child,” said Torlakson. “Science confirms that learning is not only cognitive, but also social and emotional. These resources help students develop the skills they need to function well in the classroom, the community, in college and their careers.” (Record-Bee)

Fostering Pre-K to Elementary Alignment and Continuity in Mathematics in Urban School Districts: Challenges and Possibilities   Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE) and the DREME Network have just released an in-depth look at two school districts’ efforts to increase alignment and continuity between PreK and elementary schools, paying particular attention to mathematics.  The comparative case study approach lays bare the complexity of this work – and also highlights how it can look quite different from one district to another.  The report is also unique in its focus on math, when much of this work tends to center around literacy.

Perkins V: Expanding Opportunities for Work-Based Learning  The new Perkins V places much greater emphasis on work-based learning than Perkins IV did, giving states incentives to expand these types of opportunities for students.

Investing in Evidence-­Based Social and Emotional Learning  Social and emotional learning (SEL) has topped the education agenda in recent years, and with flexibility in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), there’s more opportunity to use federal funds for SEL interventions. For schools and communities looking to implement SEL interventions, a new report offers guidance on how to assess local SEL needs, how to choose evidence-based interventions that meet those needs and how to implement and monitor those interventions.

What’s the Fate of that Controversial School Tax-Credit Program Now?  Last year, legislative leaders tucked the tax-credit plan into a school-funding bill to win Gov. Bruce Rauner’s signature. What’s the fate of the program under a new administration? (Crain’s Chicago Business)