Before The Bell
Jan. 27, 2012

School lunches are about to get healthier
The first major nutritional overhaul of school meals in more than 15 years means most offerings, including popular pizza, will come with less sodium and more whole grains, with a wider selection of fruits and vegetables on the side, first lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced during a visit with elementary students. Pizza won't disappear from lunch lines, but will be made with healthier ingredients. Obama, also joined by celebrity chef Rachael Ray, said youngsters will learn better if they don't have growling stomachs at school.More

State special education rates vary widely
Rhode Island is the smallest state in the country, but it has every other state beat by one measure: A higher percentage of its students are in special education than anywhere else. An analysis of U.S. Department of Education data shows that the percentage of students in special education varies widely among states. While Rhode Island tops the country at 18 percent, Texas, at 9 percent, is at the bottom. The average percentage across all states is 13 percent, and two-thirds of states are above that number, according to the data.More

Changing classroom reading instruction
Education Week
A discussion about the challenges of classroom-level reading instruction led by four superintendents of large districts and one education publisher has the potential to be a rhetorical dance at 30,000 feet. But at a gathering held by the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative-leaning think tank in Washington, the panelists thankfully hovered closer to the ground, touching on teachers' practical instructional concerns as well as more general problems associated with school leadership, professional development and curriculum.More

States anticipate technology challenges with common tests
Education Week
Most states that have adopted the common standards anticipate significant challenges in shifting to a computer-based assessment system designed for those standards, a new study tells us. A survey by the Center on Education Policy shows that 20 states anticipate a "major challenge" rounding up enough computers so all students can take the new tests, which are expected to be fully operational in 2014-2015. Another four states said they expected getting enough computers to be a "minor challenge," and nine others said they didn't anticipate a problem, or that it was too soon to tell.More

Educators: Bulking up STEM comes with a price tag
Tampa Bay Times
It's the jumper cables to America's dead battery, they say, the lighter fluid to a cooling economy. STEM education — science, technology, engineering and math — is being touted by lawmakers and business people as the key to future job creation and international competitiveness. More

Schools look for best ideas to protect kids on Internet
The Denver Post
As Colorado schools embrace iPads and other take-home technology, some are taking distinctly different approaches to a key question: Who's responsible for online activity on school-issued devices once they leave the filtered safety of the campus? When Manitou Springs School District 14 discovered kids could gain unfiltered Internet access on some browsers, it initially pulled the tablets from home use. When software solutions proved problematic, responsibility was shifted to parents.More

Why the iPad won't transform education just yet
Apple's announcement that it would be introducing a new iPad textbook experience and iBooks authoring tool presents huge opportunities for technology in classrooms. The company is selling textbooks from McGraw-Hill, Pearson and Houghton Mifflin at a price comparable to print versions, and it's presented an unprecedented opportunity for teachers to compile their own materials. But Apple has a long way to go — and logistical hurdles to clear in tens of thousands of schools — before it dominates K-12 classrooms the way it has done the music industry.More

Survey: 1/5 of K-12 teachers think they have the 'right level of technology' in their classrooms
THE Journal
PBS LearningMedia released the findings of a national survey of grade pre-K-12 teachers about the role of technology and barriers to digital resources at the Florida Education Technology Conference in Orlando. According to information released by the organization, "Ninety-one percent of teachers surveyed reported having access to computers in their classrooms, but only 1-in-5 (22 percent) said they have the right level of technology."More

Firms scramble for share of school-management market
Education Week
A recent report on the organizations that manage public schools depicts an industry in flux, as the number of for-profit companies and the student enrollment in their schools continue to grow, though not as quickly as for their nonprofit counterparts. Since the late 1990s, the number of for-profit "education management organizations," or EMOs, has tripled, to nearly 100, and the number of states those entities work in has nearly doubled, to 33, the new research shows. Over the past few years, though, the growth of some of those companies, particularly large providers, has slowed somewhat, even as the number of students they serve has increased.More

Why America needs good teachers
The Huffington Post (commentary)
A new study authored by Harvard and Columbia University professors Raj Chetty, John Friedman and Jonah Rockoff shows that teachers can change the trajectory of their students' lives. Students of capable elementary and middle school teachers not only have higher standardized test scores, they are more likely to attend college, have a lower incidence of high school pregnancy and earn more as adults.More

Ed-tech group outlines goals to help schools implement technology
eSchool News
One of the nation's major educational technology advocacy groups has identified five key goals in a new three-year advocacy plan that will help advance new K-12 ed-tech learning opportunities. The Consortium for School Networking, while celebrating its 20th anniversary, released its Strategic Plan: 2012-2015, which updates CoSN's advocacy efforts.More

Obama challenges lawmakers to strengthen education
eSchool News
In a State of the Union address that was as much a campaign speech as a call to action, President Barack Obama touted his administration's success in spurring school reform and challenged lawmakers to build on this success by investing more in education and research to "prepare for the jobs of tomorrow." Facing a deeply divided Congress, Obama appealed for lawmakers to send him legislation on a host of issues, including education, clean energy, housing and immigration reform — knowing full well the election-year prospects are bleak but aware that polls show the independent voters who lifted him to the presidency crave bipartisanship.More

Coalition: John Kline's No Child Left Behind bills strike at values of Brown v. Board
The Huffington Post
A broad coalition of 38 civil rights, education reform and business groups sent House education chairman John Kline a scathing letter, describing his No Child Left Behind legislation as potentially racist. "It undermines the core American value of equal opportunity in education embodied in Brown v. Board of Education," the groups wrote. Their letter calls Kline's bills a rollback of federal accountability, a return to an era that ignored achievement gaps. More

Connecticut nears agreement on teacher evaluations
The Wall Street Journal
As New York is mired in a battle over how to evaluate teachers, a Connecticut proposal for measuring teacher performance found favor with state and union leaders. Connecticut's plan uses student performance as the basis for 45 percent of a teacher's review, half of which is based on state test scores. The remaining portion will be based on teacher observations (40 percent), peer and parent feedback (10 percent) and overall school performance (5 percent). Currently, there is no state-mandated evaluation system.More

Mandatory elementary recess in plan for Chicago Public Schools
Chicago Sun-Times
The Chicago Public School system for the first time has spelled out exactly what it wants the next school year's longer day to look like. It ensures recess for all elementary students, according to guidelines being presented to principals. It will have 82 minutes of extra face time with teachers for elementary students, a 40-minute longer day for elementary teachers and specific minimum times spent on subjects like literacy, math, science and social studies.More

Brown sharply differs from Obama on education policy
Los Angeles Times
Deviating sharply from education reform policies championed by President Barack Obama, California Gov. Jerry Brown is calling for limits on standardized testing and reduced roles for federal and state government in local schools. Brown's positions, outlined in Wednesday's State of the State address, align closely with the state's two major teachers unions, but also embody Brown's independent streak.More

Zero-tolerance policies bleed education in Ohio
The Columbus Dispatch (commentary)
In addition to the problems listed on the national report card it just received, Ohio's education system must face the consequences of zero-tolerance policies: discrimination and higher incarceration rates. Zero tolerance came about in 1998, when all boards of education were required to adopt "a policy of zero tolerance for violent, disruptive or inappropriate behavior."More

Teacher tenure is under increased attack in Missouri
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch
If teachers feel as though their job security is under attack, they're right: Efforts to abolish or chip away at teacher tenure and erode collective bargaining rights have been popping up across the country, most recently with the filing of a petition that would eliminate tenure for new teachers in Missouri. The petition comes on the heels of a year that saw an unprecedented number of legislative efforts to rewrite teacher tenure laws, according to one national education policy expert.More

Recognize your student council stars
Honor the outstanding work of your school's student council with the Student Council Excellence Award. The deadline to apply is March 21. NAESP also offers a wealth of resources to strengthen your group, including a student leadership kit, a resource kit, an advisor handbook and lapel pins for student council members.More

Sign up for Community Service Day at the 2012 Convention
NAESP's National Conference & Expo of the Year kicks off Wednesday, March 21, with the fourth annual Community Service Day. School leaders from around the country will work together to build an inclusive playground at Hawthorne Elementary School in downtown Seattle. Sponsored by Landscape Structures, the event will take place from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., and over 100 volunteers are expected to take part. More