NAESP Before the Bell
Jan. 18, 2011

Schools adjust to a new economic reality
The Associated Press via Victoria Advocate
Officially, the economic free-fall of the Great Recession ended about 18 months ago, but the picture in U.S. schools tells a very different story. States and school districts have seen their tax bases wither over the past two years, and the financial picture looks bleak for years to come. At least 46 states, plus the District of Columbia, struggled to close budget shortfalls heading into fiscal 2011, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a research organization in Washington.More

A critical shortage of school counselors
The Washington Post (commentary)
Look at these statistics on the number of students that counselors in American public schools are expected to help: Though the recommended number per counselor is 250 students, the American School Counselor Associations shows that the national average is actually one counselor for every 457 students. And those figures were from 2008-2009, the latest available, but before many states slashed school budgets last year. More

Cursive disappearing from students' writing skills
The Associated Press via USA Today
Georgia educators say that timeworn tradition of learning to write in cursive may soon disappear from most children's school lesson plans. Cursive isn't listed anywhere in the new curriculum standards Georgia teachers may start using next school year, although those standards could be changed. But cursive, once a sometimes painful part of the school day for most third- and fourth-grade students, is disappearing in some classrooms. Teachers don't spend as much time on the craft as they once did. Many students prefer computers or text messages to handwriting.More

Martin Luther King Jr. Day presents opportunity for celebration, teaching
The Baltimore Sun
At Leith Walk Elementary School in Northeast Baltimore, teaching children about Martin Luther King Jr. doesn't just happen in a one-day celebration. Teachers and administrators said that they try to link King to modern day history makers such as President Barack Obama, introduce students to lesser-known figures from the civil rights movement, and show how concepts like nonviolence are relevant to their own lives. And for the littlest learners, the 4- and 5-year-olds, it requires breaking down King's teachings to child-friendly concepts, like being fair and embracing differences. Elementary schoolchildren need to see that King was just like them, said Michelle R. Scott, an associate history professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.More

Robo-showdown challenges student Lego fans in Hillsboro, Ore.
The Oregonian
The robo-showdown, children making robots in 2 minutes and 30 seconds, was the first of four challenges that 380 kids participated in at the Intel-sponsored First Lego League Championship Hillsboro, Ore. Competitors were the winners of last year's preliminary rounds, which drew 3,400 students from Oregon and Southwest Washington. The event's Body Forward theme pushed students to investigate topics in biomedical engineering — albeit through Legos. The event aims to change how the participating 9- to 14-year-olds view the world.More

Fidgeters find focus using ball chairs
Green Bay Press-Gazette
Alejandro Guzman says he studies better when balancing on what looks like a large exercise ball in his third-grade classroom at Valley View Elementary School in Wisconsin. "I'm more focused when I use it," Guzman said. "It took some time to get used to, but it really helps with my fidgeting." Educators say students concentrate more on studies when their bodies are allowed to move around on the spheres. More

Study: Friends a big influence on grades in middle school
HealthDay News via U.S.News & World Report
Among middle school students, friendships can make the difference between good and poor grades, researchers have found. Students whose friends are socially active in positive ways get better grades, while those with friends who behave badly get lower grades, according to the results of a new study. In addition, having "pro-social" friends and also staying away from deviant peers was associated with even higher grades than simply being friends with high-achieving students, the study authors noted. More

US plan aims to make school meals more healthful
The San Francisco Chronicle
For the first time in 15 years, the federal government is calling for significant changes in school meals, including limiting the amount of trans fat, salt and calories in the cafeteria and increasing the produce and whole grains served. The hope is that the 32 million children who participate daily in school meal programs will have more healthful foods to chew on. The proposed rule, which would raise reimbursements to schools by 6 cents a meal, was released, and it is being applauded by nutrition and children's outreach groups across the country. More

Middle schoolers face random drug testing
ABC News
A small New Jersey school district is taking a new approach to battling drug use by middle schoolers. Soon students as young as 11 at Belvidere, N.J.'s, Oxford Street School will be marching down the halls to the nurse's office to pee in cups for random drug testing. "I'm hoping that it will be a deterrent," the school's Principal Sandra Szabocsik said of the new policy. The program, which was approved at a poorly attended school board meeting, will be voluntary and require both student and parental consent. More

California faces a moving target in implementing 'parent trigger' law
The Los Angeles Times
It was billed as a radical transfer of power from the educational establishment to parents. It survived a furious opposition campaign. And after squeaking through the state Legislature by one vote last year, the "parent trigger" law made California history as the first successful effort to empower parents to force sweeping changes at low-performing schools. But now the fight has shifted to implementing the law, making its passage look almost easy.More

More autism schools proposed in New Jersey
The New York Times
Gov. Chris Christie has proposed creating additional specialized public schools for educating children with autism in New Jersey, a departure from the current practice in many communities of integrating those children into neighborhood schools. The governor proposed creating "centers for excellence" in every county, suggesting that such schools could save money for districts and ensure a higher quality of instruction. More

New California Gov. Jerry Brown shakes up education policy
Education Week
Against the backdrop of another smothering budget crisis, California Gov. Jerry Brown has quickly moved to put his stamp on the state's public schools by shaking up the state board of education and entrusting its members with more power. In some of his first moves, the newly elected Democrat eliminated the position of education secretary — an advisory post separate from the state's elected schools chief — and canned seven members of the state board, replacing them with former school superintendents, a teachers' union activist, and a well-known Stanford University education professor.More

Your one-stop ticket to learning — NAESP 2011
Learn from the top experts in education today gathered all at one event, at one low registration fee, during the only national convention — the NAESP 2011 Annual Convention & Exposition — designed specifically for elementary and middle-level principals. Join us April 7-10 in Tampa, Fla. More

Learn more about your state affiliate
Check out what your state association is doing and make the choice now to increase your professional edge with memberships at the state and national levels. More