NAESP Before the Bell
Aug. 26, 2011

How does Obama want to reshape preschools?
The Christian Science Monitor
The Department of Education announced the guidelines governing the $500 million in Race to the Top grants that it sees as a tool to reshape preschool education in America. Last year, the Race to the Top competition awarded some $4 billion for use in K-12 education, and cash-strapped states nationwide undertook new education reforms to try to qualify for the program. The Obama administration has for months signaled its desire to have a similar effect on pre-K education. Now, with the new guidelines for the competition, called the Early Learning Challenge, it is clear that the administration wants states to develop a public rating and improvement system for early-childhood programs. More

To ban or not to ban: Schools weigh cell phone policies
Despite the ubiquity of cell phone use, students are banned from using their phones in schools. For many schools, these are formal rules, written in school policy or in student handbooks. But as phones become like more extended appendages in everyone's lives, schools are rethinking their policies.More

Writing problems common in kids with ADHD
Reuters Health
Kids with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder are more likely to have writing problems such as poor spelling and grammar than their peers, suggests a new study. And the difference may be especially conspicuous in girls with ADHD. Reading and math problems often raise red flags for teachers and parents, but "written-language disorder is kind of overlooked," said study author Dr. Slavica Katusic, from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.More

New principal development effort launched
The Washington Post (commentary)
Behind excellent teaching and excellent schools are excellent principals. A decade of research has shown that school leadership is second in importance only to classroom teaching among school-related factors that contribute to student learning. Indeed, the same research found virtually no documented instances of low-performing schools turning around without effective principals.More

Training educators for virtual special education
Education Week
Special education teachers who work with students in a virtual environment often need professional development that goes beyond traditional offerings to find tools and strategies that work without face to face communication. For many online schools, that challenge means providing special education teachers with intense professional development, often weekly, to make sure they're meeting the needs of students with disabilities.More

How do we prepare our children for what's next?
When most of us were deciding what to major in at college, the word Google was not a verb. It wasn't anywhere close to being conceived at all. Neither was Wikipedia or the iPhone or YouTube. We made decisions about our future employment based on what we knew existed at the time. We would become educators, journalists, lawyers, marketing reps, engineers. Fast forward a couple of decades (or more) and we see that the career landscape has changed so drastically that jobs need new definitions. Social media strategist, app developer, mobile web engineer?More

How to grow a great early childhood workforce: Charter colleges of early childhood education
Education Week (commentary)
Early childhood education has gotten a lot of attention in recent years, and is frequently promoted as a strategy for narrowing achievement gaps and improving children's educational and life outcomes. But achieving these outcomes is going to require improvements in the education and skills of the adults who currently work with our youngest children. Despite the lip service we give to the importance of early learning, the adults who work with infants, toddlers, and preschoolers are among the lowest paid workers — and many have very low levels of education and skills themselves.More

Back-to-school special: Duncan goes off script
As a new school year begins, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan plans to use waivers to rewrite parts of the nation's signature federal education law, whose reauthorization has been stalled in Congress. Meanwhile, states are struggling to meet their ambitious Race to the Top goals as they look for ways to cut spending.More

NCLB waivers should not be unconditional: New accountability strategy needed
The Huffington Post (commentary)
As Secretary of Education Arne Duncan says, the No Child Left Behind Act "is creating a slow-motion train wreck for children, parents and teachers." This is due particularly to NCLB's unrealistic, ineffective, punitive and harmful accountability requirements. States must bring virtually 100 percent of students to academic "proficiency" by 2014. More

USDA: Cafeterias shouldn't be cash cows for schools
Education Week
In the small Seymour Community School District in Indiana last school year, lunch and breakfast prices went up about 25 cents each because, for the first time, the district charged its own cafeteria $100,000 for cleaning, trash service, and electricity and water. The 4,000-student school district's budget had been cut by the state, so the district exercised its right to charge its own department of food and nutrition services for some operating costs — effectively shifting those costs to the federal government. School districts can do that because their operating budgets are separate from their food and nutrition budgets. School cafeterias generally operate using federal dollars that come in based on the type and quantity of meals sold and money generated from the sale of meals.More

For New York teachers' union, a victory on evaluations
The New York Times
A judge ruled that the New York State Board of Regents overreached in its interpretation of a new law on teacher evaluations, offering a victory to the state teachers' union. The decision, by Justice Michael C. Lynch of State Supreme Court in Albany, invalidated aspects of a recent Regents vote on teacher evaluations, and may further delay the introduction of the law, which is scheduled to go into effect for all fourth through eighth grade teachers, pending union approval, in the coming school year. More

New rules make kindergarten count for more in Florida
The Palm Beach Post
Kindergarten is getting tougher this year. Counting to 20 and dabbling in addition and subtraction aren't going to cut it anymore. This year, the young students will be expected to count to 100, both by tens and by ones, and will need to be fluent in addition and subtraction through 5. Starting this year, Palm Beach County and other Florida school districts are moving to adopt new, tougher standards beginning with its class of kindergartners.More

Chocolate milk? Not in the schools
Los Angeles Times
The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District is scheduled to vote on whether students need sugar to make healthy choices. Of course, the vote won't be structured that way, but sugar is what's at stake. The school board will vote on whether the district should eliminate sugared milk from its lunchtime offerings. Sugar will not go quietly. Last year, 76 percent of the milk served in the district was chocolate-flavored.More

Study shows Rhode Island program helped school attendance
The Associated Press via Houston Chronicle
A new study shows middle-school students enrolled in a Providence, R.I., after-school program had better school attendance records than their peers who did not participate. The AfterZone program study released found schools absences among seventh-graders enrolled in the after-school activity for two years were 25 percent lower than their peers who were not involved.More

New evaluations have Tennessee teachers worried
The Associated Press via The Tennessean
Tennessee education officials say they're taking steps to address teachers' concerns about a new evaluation system that for the first time will use students' standardized test scores as part of the process. Recent changes in state law — including teacher evaluations and toughening the curriculum — allowed Tennessee to win $500 million in the national Race to the Top education grant competition.More

Rick Perry's education policies bring mixed results in Texas
The Huffington Post
Texas Gov. Rick Perry's k-12 education record has become the Obama administration's newest piñata — but the administration's attacks mostly paint Perry's education policies in half-true generalizations and miss some real contradictions. The criticism began, when U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan unloaded on the newest GOP presidential contender, telling Bloomberg Television that he felt "very, very badly" for Texas school children.More

Merit pay law raises questions for Florida's specialty teachers
Sun Sentinel
The state's new teacher merit pay law kicks in this school year and the idea behind it sounds simple: the better students perform, the more teachers can earn. But in areas such as art, music and physical education, it's raising more questions than answers. The law mandates up to half of a teacher's raise be based on how well students do on standardized tests, but there are no state criteria to evaluate specialty teachers. Districts will have to come up with that this year.More

Know an exceptional assistant principal? Nominate them for NAESP's new award program
The NAESP Foundation, along with the Pearson Foundation, has launched the Outstanding Assistant Principals Award. Winners will be chosen through NAESP state affiliates. Recognize a colleague today. Click here for details.More

Celebrate Family Day 2011
Family Day, a movement to reinforce the importance of family meals, is only a month away. Start spreading the word in your school community with brochures, kits and conversation starters from the Family Day website. Plus check out NAESP's latest Report to Parents, "The Power of Family Dinners."More