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News Update

Nationally, health-care costs are rising roughly 10 percent each year. Costs at the School District of Manatee County (Fla.), however, are rising at a mere 1 percent since the district implemented an employee wellness program, dubbed HealthVantage, three years ago. Since the wellness program took root, the district has saved nearly 14 percent on health-care costs compared to other districts and $1.3 million for medical and prescription services during the first half of 2010 compared to 2009.

Northeast Yucai Oxford International High School, a first-of-its-kind public school, opened its doors in Shenyang, China, this fall. The school, a joint partnership between Oxford (Mich.) Community Schools and Northeast Yucai Education Group in Shenyang, allows American and Chinese high school students to attend and earn dual degrees for each country.

$900,000 Buyout in Philly Arlene Ackerman

Arlene Ackerman is out as Philadelphia’s school chief, but she walked away with a buyout worth more than $900,000. Test scores increased under Ackerman, but there was often conflict between her and the teachers’ union and elected officials.

 

Work With No Pay

The salaries of regional superintendents in Illinois were removed from the state budget, although they have continued to work with no pay—for now. Gov. Pat Quinn has said the state's 44 regional superintendents are elected locally and should be paid by local funds.

An estimated 8,000 people made the trip to Capitol Hill on July 29-31 for the Save Our Schools March. The rally, which was reportedly supposed to draw about 1 million supporters, was held to elevate issues such as putting an end to high stakes testing, provide equitable funding for all public schools, increase family and community leadership in forming public education policies, and increase local control of curriculum.

School lunch programs have been under a fierce attack since the wellness wave hit the nation with First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign, says Dennis Barrett, director of food services at Los Angeles Unified School District. But according to Barrett, the U.S. Department of Agriculture put stricter guidelines on food, such as reduced sodium and increased portion sizes of fruits and vegetables, over five years ago.

The Deerfield Township School in New Jersey has been working on improving literacy across all grade levels of this PreK-8 school. To encourage curiosity in reading among students, Superintendent Edythe Austermuhl personally mingles with students in their classrooms and libraries to hold informal book talks and find new readings. The school librarians have noted that if they label a book as a "Recommendation by Dr. Austermuhl," the book often has a waiting list.

In August, as the back-to-school clothing and supplies were hitting the stores, Miami-Dade County (Fla.) Public Schools launched its own new "product line of services" to its student clientele, including additional magnet schools, a conservatory for the arts, salad bars, and new technology and online digital tools for students. This "ritual of reinvention" is a signature program of Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, as he's unveiled similar plans each year since joining the district in fall 2008.

Since 2006, Lisa Gatti and her staff at Pal-O-mine have reached out to schools across Long Island, N.Y. to help at-risk students through their Equine Assisted Learning (EA L) program. Gatti, a former teacher for at-risk students and lifelong equestrian, saw early on the benefits of EAL for students who can't succeed in a nontraditional setting. Pal-O-Mine, a nonprofit organization, was originally founded in 1995 and is affiliated with EAGALA, the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association.

By the fall of 2012, the Next Generation of Science Standards will be available for states to adopt. Part 1 of the process, the Framework for K12 Science Education, was released July 19 by the National Research Council (NRC), an arm of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Traditionally, states have developed their own individual standards by extracting components from science benchmarks set forth by organizations such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

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