School Blast from the Past
Modern day students are unique, right? New technologies are giving privileged kids an edge while disadvantaging lower income students, and the influx of English Language Learners is forcing educators to rethink standard teaching practices. Tell that to the researchers at the Foundation for Child Development, a New York-based private philanthropy group that seeks to understand children, particularly the disadvantaged, and to promote their well-being.
The latest version of the group’s annual study, the Child Well-Being Index, says a few defining features of today’s teens are the same as in the 1970s. The most striking similarities are that today’s students read as well (or as poorly) as their parents did a generation ago and are just as likely to have earned a high school diploma.
The academic results come from a series of National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAE P) tests that show a 28-year statistical flat line for 13- and 17-year-olds in reading and modest jumps in math.
Kenneth Land, a Duke University sociology and demography professor who coordinates the study, says it’s amazing the results aren’t worse.
“We haven’t lost ground in these test scores,” he told USA Today, “despite the fact that teachers and school systems have to deal with quite a different student population than a generation ago, as well as changes in lifestyles.”
Serving Healthier Foods to Your Students
School administrators may be pooling together a wide array of resources to get junk food out of schools, but student acceptance and revenue implications can put a crimp in even the most well-designed nutrition programs
“How to Make Sensible Snacking a Part of Your School Nutrition Program,” a recent District Administration Web seminar sponsored by Generation Max, tackled the challenges of nutrition initiatives head on, and participants learned from a panel of experts what resources and support are available to schools in their efforts to help children lead healthier lives.
“Schools are significantly poised to address childhood obesity,” said speaker Kate Lampel Link, competitive foods manager for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a nonprofit group that works with schools to inspire kids to develop lifelong, healthy habits.
Among the issues discussed during the seminar was how today’s high rates of student absenteeism could be linked to the obesity epidemic due to increased cases of type 2 diabetes and asthma.
A media rich recording of the Webcast is available at www.DistrictAdministration.com/webseminars.
Connecticut Faces Tax Revolt
A significant change is afoot in the very blue state of Connecticut: growing disenchantment with the price of government, especially of public education.
According to The Wall Street Journal, over the past 25 years the student population in the state has increased 10 percent, yet the cost of schooling has more than doubled—to $8.8 billion in 2006, up from $3.4 billion in 1981. The average teacher salary is also the highest in the nation—$57,750 excluding benefits, according to the latest survey of the American Federation of Teachers.
The board of education and the town council of Enfield recently convened to hear the results of a citizen cost-cutting committee, and among its recommendations were replacing some public school teachers with low-cost college interns, restricting the use of school vehicles, and increasing employee contributions to benefit plans.
Connecticut is one of the 10 states with the heaviest property-tax burdens.
Connecticut’s school boards and superintendent associations have sent a letter to every school board and superintendent in the state criticizing Armand Fusco, the retired superintendent of Branford’s public schools who advises the Enfield cost-cutting committee and a member of the Hartford, Conn.-based Yankee Institute for Public Policy. Fusco is not backing down, and says the time is coming for all Connecticut schools to “distinguish between needs and wants.”
Sex Ed, Abstinence Debate Heats Up
Teen pregnancy and sex education are beginning to weigh on voters’ minds this presidential campaign, following the disclosure by Sen. John McCain’s vice presidential running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin (R-Alaska), that her unmarried 17-year-old daughter is pregnant.
McCain’s record on issues concerning teen pregnancy and contraceptives during his more than two decades in the Senate indicates that he and Palin have had similar views on the subject.
Palin opposes funding sex ed programs in Alaska. “The explicit sex ed programs will not find my support,” she wrote in a 2006 questionnaire distributed among gubernatorial candidates.
But McCain’s position on contraceptives and teenage pregnancy has been difficult to judge at times on the campaign trail this election season. When asked in November 2007 whether sex ed programs should include directions for using contraceptives, or whether he supports President Bush’s policy of strictly promoting abstinence, he hesitated before responding, “I think I support the president’s policy.”
Teen pregnancies in the United States have risen for the first time since 1991, according to the National Institutes of Health. In 2005, the number of births for 15- to 17-year-old girls was 133,000, which rose to 139,000 in 2006, says the report America’s Children in Brief.
Fighting Special Ed Shortages
No one can argue that special needs children require sensitive care and services, yet less than 20 percent of the 17.5 million youth in need of mental health services actually receive them, according to the National Coalition on Personnel Shortages in Special Education and Related Services (NCPSSERS ).
To fill that gap, NCPSSERS and the American Speech-Language Hearing Association have launched a new Web site, www.specialedpros.com, which addresses the personnel shortages of educators of special needs children and how they can be stemmed
The site, geared toward administrators and policymakers, provides information on advocacy, resources, and services personnel including speech-language pathologists, audiologists, school psychologists and counselors. It also includes certification and licensure requirements and model job descriptions.
Rudy Crew, 2008 National Superintendent of the Year, has been fired as superintendent of Miami-Dade Public Schools amid declining enrollment and rising budget tensions.
Peter C. Davis has been named president of McGraw-Hill Education. Since 2006 he has served as executive vice president of global strategy for the company.
Thea Jones, office of instructional technology supervisor for Baltimore County (Md.) Public Schools, was recently given the International Society for Technology in Education’s 2008 Outstanding Leader Award. The award honors and recognizes outstanding leadership in implementing technology to improve education.
James Meeks, Democratic senator of Illinois, and reformers are lobbying legislators to support a $120 million pilot program to improve the state’s ailing schools and solve funding disparities.
Paul Vallas, in his second and possibly final year to rebuild New Orleans’ schools as superintendent, has eye-popping funding and nearly unchecked administrative power. Observers worry if he doesn’t succeed, Americans’ faith in urban public schools could burn out for good.