NAESP Before the Bell
Nov. 9, 2010

US education chief upbeat despite election blow
The Associated Press via Bloomberg Businessweek
The U.S. education secretary is hopeful that Republican election victories won't derail ambitious school reforms, which he says are crucial to keeping up in an ever-smarter global economy. Arne Duncan told The Associated Press that "we used to be at the top of the world" in education rankings. "He said the "staggering" U.S. high school dropout rate of about 25 percent "produces the effect of a permanent recession" because of lost productivity. Duncan spoke in Paris, where he is attending an international conferences on education.More

Insiders ask: Can K-12 dodge congressional gridlock?
Education Week
Now that Republicans have taken control of the U.S. House of Representatives and bolstered their minority in the U.S. Senate, it remains to be seen if education is one area of federal policy that can avoid the partisan stalemate that many observers predict will paralyze Washington for the next two years. Republicans and Democrats famously came together to pass the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001. That law, the latest version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, placed new accountability demands on schools and authorized more federal spending on education. Its renewal has been pending since 2007. More

Kindergarten gender groups play to strengths in Pennsylvania elementary school
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
As adults, some experts theorize, men and women behave so differently they could come from different planets. So it should come as no surprise then, some experts believe boys and girls learn best when they learn differently, too. It was in response to this idea that a team of teachers in Shaler Area School District in Pennsylvania created single-sex learning times in the second half of the 2009-10 school year. It all began when Martin Martynuska, principal of Marzolf Primary School, attended a speech given by Leonard Sax, a psychologist and medical doctor who has written several books on gender differences. More

Clicking with middle school science
THE Journal
The students who entered Doni Beaupre's sixth and seventh grade science classes each year might as well have walked in with great big red question marks dangling over their heads. Most of her students advanced into Beaupre's class from lower levels taught by a variety of other teachers, so she had no ready way of knowing how far along the students were in their science studies. Would the students need remediation? Were they advanced? Were they right on grade level? For Beaupre, as for the other 65 teachers at Campbell County Middle School in northern Kentucky, it was a guessing game as to what would be the best method for getting all students in the class on the same page.More

School district hires truancy specialists with federal funds
The Green Bay Press Gazette
In Wisconsin the Green Bay School District was awarded $3.76 million as part of the federal Education Jobs Fund in late August. At the time the award was announced, Green Bay school Superintendent Greg Maass estimated the money could save at least 40 teaching jobs. He said that administrators still are determining how to allocate the funds, but have agreed to focus on math, literacy and student engagement. The district so far has hired the equivalent of 3.5 full-time engagement specialists who focus on attendance and truancy issues in middle schools and work to keep students connected to school, Maass said. The district also may hire about five literacy coaches for its middle schools, Maass said.More

Grants help schools, nonprofits encourage kids to keep moving
Rochester Democrat & Chronicle
At Schlegel Road Elementary School in Webster, N.Y., students spend about 15 minutes after lunch, every other day, in new fitness centers stocked with Hula-Hoops, stability balls and video games that require students to pedal stationary bicycles, jog in place or pantomime bowling. The centers replace time otherwise spent in the cafeteria, perhaps reading or playing board games. The goal at both schools, with these efforts and more, is to get kids moving more. The schools have been using funding from the Greater Rochester Health Foundation to train teachers, buy equipment and in some cases to hire staff to make these changes. More

Guidance offered on guarding student privacy in school data
Education Week
The U.S. Department of Education has launched a campaign to help school officials channel the flood of student data generated in federal accountability reporting and state longitudinal databases without leaking students' or teachers' private information. "With the emphasis on, the No Child Left Behind Act, we've seen a real expansion of the information on students that's being released to the public," said Marilyn M. Seastrom, the chief statistician and director of the statistical-standards program at the department's National Center for Education Statistics. Both NCLB and the more recent fiscal-stimulus law required states to collect steadily more student data to monitor schools' progress.More

High Court weighs fairness of tax credits for religious school students
USA Today
An ideologically divided Supreme Court wrestled with taxpayers' ability to challenge state programs that support students at religious schools and may violate the constitutional separation of church and state. In the balance is an Arizona program that gives tax credits to people who donate money to "school tuition organizations" that then provide scholarships to students for private schools, including religious institutions. A group of taxpayers claims most of the money is channeled to organizations that restrict their grants to religious education. The case tests when taxpayers nationwide can even get into court to claim a state has violated the First Amendment's dictate that government "shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion."More

Colorado's new accountability system rates schools' academics
The Denver Post
The first look at Colorado's newly developed school accountability system shows two-thirds of the state's schools are getting top grades, but 5 percent are in academic trouble. Using data from test scores and student academic improvement, the state assigned each Colorado school to one of four "plans." Top-performing programs landed in "performance" plans, meaning they hit all of the academic measures and need to figure out how to keep up the good work. A total of 1,292 school programs out of 2,080 statewide ranked in this category. The worst performers fell into the "turnaround" category, meaning they've got five years to make serious improvements or face closure.More

Washington, DC considers longer school day
The Washington Post
The two Southeast Washington, D.C. middle schools are less than a mile apart. The real distance that separates them is the number of hours their students spend in class each week. At Johnson Middle School the day from 8:45 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. Students at AIM Academy, a KIPP charter school, go from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and for a little more than seven hours on Fridays. That doesn't count the mandatory 15 days of summer school and numerous four-hour Saturday sessions. In all, AIM kids spend 40 percent more time in class than their D.C. public school peers. Longer school days are expensive and complicated to execute, requiring buy-in from teachers, parents, after-school programs and child-care providers. And the evidence that extended schedules actually improve academic performance is mixed at best.More

Montana district giving more free meals to students
The Associated Press via KTMF-TV
In Montana the Missoula County Public Schools official says tough economic times have led to most students getting meals for free or at a greatly reduced price. Food and Nutrition Services Supervisor Valerie Addis says that's a complete reversal of a few years ago when most students were paying full price for meals. The district served 2,218 breakfasts, with 75 percent free or at a reduce price. Of the 4,202 lunches, more than half were free or at a reduce price.More

Projects to make walking to 39 Indiana schools safer
The Associated Press via WTHR-TV
Students in 39 Indiana schools might soon have an easier time walking or biking to school. Indiana's Safe Routes to School program has awarded $3.4 million in federal transportation grants to schools that will use the money for sidewalks, crosswalks and other initiatives aimed at making it safer for pedestrians. The Indiana Department of Transportation says 58 schools applied for the program and about 60 percent of those were awarded funding for various projects.More

NAESP 2011: Eric Brown back by popular demand
Eric Brown, education's foremost expert on helping African American boys bridge the achievement gap, is back at center stage at NAESP's 2011 Annual Convention in Tampa, Fla., April 7-10. As an elementary principal, a best-selling author, and an African American male who brings a voice of authenticity to this challenge, Brown knows what it takes to address the unique needs of African American males and their families by using strategies directed at closing the achievement gap. Brown was one of the most popular presenters at NAESP's 2010 Annual Convention. Here's what one happy attendee wrote, "Excellent, informative, interactive, reality-based, thought provoking, creative ideas presented with strategies I can take back to my school. Please continue to make this workshop available to other teachers and administrators." More

National Children's Book of the Year Contest
Educators from the country are participating in the NAESP Foundation's contest for aspiring children's authors. The National Children's Book of the Year Contest is a great opportunity to have your work endorsed by the NAESP Foundation and published by a nationally known publisher with a proven track record and extensive outreach across the nation. To learn more visit the NAESP Foundation's website.More