NAESP Before the Bell
Dec. 3, 2010

Study finds federal stimulus funds not driving school reforms as intended
San Jose Mercury News via FreeRepublic
Federal stimulus money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has not generated the kind of educational reforms the law sought, according to a new study released. Nearly two years after the act provided more than $100 billion in stimulus funding for public education nationwide, its impact on student achievement has largely been muted, the study by the nonprofit Bellwether Education Partners in Washington, D.C., argues. Although the act has given school districts money to address budget cuts in the short term, study co-author Sara Mead said, it was also intended to spur reforms in four key areas — standards and assessments, data systems to track students' progress, teacher effectiveness and turning around low-performing schools.More

Arizona state electoral results leave pre-K advocates nervous, but hopeful
Education Week
For early-childhood advocates, the midterm elections — with Republicans taking control of the U.S. House of Representatives and adding to their minority in the Senate — steepened the uphill climb they already faced to maintain federal funding in Head Start, Early Head Start, and subsidized child care. But while a tide of fiscal conservatives and continued state-level budget crises may add to pressure for rollbacks in some state early-learning programs, the advocates hope the base of bipartisan and voter support that has largely preserved gains in state prekindergarten programs may still provide some shelter.More

Circle of learning is more than a figure of speech
The Los Angeles Times
At Wilshire Park Elementary School in Koreatown, Calif., about a third of the teachers have started councils. Alex Dia's second-graders sat in a circle with a center display of stuffed animals, a plant, a pillow, wooden tigers, stones, shells and a candle. They reviewed the council guidelines to speak and listen from the heart, opened with a ritual and offered dedications to loved ones. Then they responded to Dia's prompt for the day — to tell a story about kindness. The aim was not only to promote the value of kindness, Dia said, but also to launch the district's six-week literature theme and build verbal expression and the elements of good writing through stories enriched by details.More

Texas changes standardized exams
The Dallas Morning News
Texas students will have to answer more questions — and spend more time in class answering them — when the state's new student testing program is rolled out for the 2011-12 school year. Students will have less opportunity to guess at multiple choice questions as more open-ended items appear on tests — particularly in math and science — requiring students to come up with original answers. STAAR will replace the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills for students in grades three through 11. State education officials predicted that the test will "again raise the bar for Texas education."More

AAP Report: Managing food allergies at school
Medical News Today
Food allergy is estimated to affect roughly 1 in 25 school-aged children and is a common trigger of anaphylaxis, a severe, potentially fatal, systemic allergic reaction. Studies of children with food allergy indicate that 16 percent to 18 percent have had a reaction in school. In a new clinical report, in Pediatrics, the American Academy of Pediatrics gives guidance on managing food allergies at school and on the prevention and treatment of food-induced anaphylaxis. The report includes guidance for pediatricians on diagnosing and documenting a potentially life-threatening food allergy; prescribing self-injectable epinephrine; helping the child learn how to store and use the medication in a responsible manner; and working with families, schools, and students in developing written plans to reduce the risk of anaphylaxis and to implement emergency treatment in the event of a reaction.More

8 US states part of global math, science study
The Associated Press via Greenwich Time
Colorado is among eight states chosen to have students tested in math and science for a study comparing their performance with students in more than 60 countries. State education officials said that the U.S. Department of Education chose Colorado, Alabama, California, Connecticut, Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota and North Carolina to participate in the 2011 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study.More

3 teachers combine 5th-grade classes
The Hattiesburg American
The fifth-grade at Woodley Elementary School in Hattiesburg, Miss., is a great big class. There are 48 students and three teachers. At the beginning of this school year, teachers Jamie LeJeune, TaShara Shoemaker and Shanieka McDonald came up with the idea of combining their three fifth-grade classes into one.More

Race to Top winners press ahead, despite pushback
Education Week
States are pushing ahead with efforts to make sweeping changes to education policy through the Race to the Top program, despite some of them having seen individual schools and districts back out of the process because of concerns over the time and money required to make those plans a reality. While some of the winning states in the $4 billion competition were able to keep all their local participants on board, others, such as Ohio and Massachusetts, have seen schools and districts peel off and give up their right to a slice of federal cash. More

Republicans block child nutrition bill
The Associated Press via Google News
House Republicans have temporarily blocked legislation to feed school meals to thousands more hungry children. Republicans used a procedural maneuver to try to amend the $4.5 billion bill, which would give more needy children the opportunity to eat free lunches at school and make those lunches healthier. First lady Michelle Obama has lobbied for the bill as part of her "Let's Move" campaign to combat childhood obesity. House Democrats said the GOP amendment, which would have required background checks for child care workers, was an effort to kill the bill and delayed a final vote on the legislation rather than vote on the amendment.More

Court: Parents can force schools to provide physical education
The San Francisco Chronicle
Parents can take their children's public schools to court to force educators to provide the minimum amount of physical education required by state law, the California Court of Appeal ruled in Sacramento, which could spell trouble for a lot of state schools. California's education code requires elementary schools to offer 200 minutes of physical education every 10 days, an amount that rises to 400 minutes in middle or high schools, not including lunch or recess. A small-scale survey of state schools a few years ago found more than half failed to provide the required minutes of physical activity.More

Students get wristbands for test scores, stirring debate
Teacher Magazine
When Charlie Pike's daughters came home from Thorner Elementary School in Bakersfield, Calif., with a wristband on, he asked them what they were for. They told him they received the bracelets for scoring "proficient" or "advanced" on state standardized tests, and were therefore invited to a school barbecue. What about those who scored below? They didn't get bracelets, and weren't included. More

South Carolina survey positive on single-gender classes
Two-thirds of about 7,000 students in South Carolina's single-gender programs who responded to the annual survey said the classes have improved their academic performance and classroom attitude, 79 percent reported increases in their classroom effort, and 83 percent said they were more likely to finish high school. The survey also included responses from 1,120 of their parents and 760 teachers in 119 elementary, middle and high schools. Ninety-four percent of parents said their children were more likely to graduate from high school, and 85 percent of teachers saw increases in effort with school work. More

Utah district fighting for extended kindergarten
The Associated Press via KPVI-TV
A Utah school district is campaigning to get the state Legislature to renew funding for extended-day kindergarten. Alpine school administrators say a four-year program to fund full-day instead of a half-day kindergarten has improved math and reading skills for children in their district south of Salt Lake City. They say that unless the program is renewed, it will end after this school year.More

Virco donates over $300,000 worth of furniture to schools
Virco via NAESP
Virco® — America's leading manufacturer and supplier of furniture and equipment for K-12 schools — has donated more than $300,000 worth of furniture for students and educators to three schools in partnership with the new NBC TV series, School Pride. Virco's donation to Enterprise Middle School in Compton, Calif., was featured during the debut episode of School Pride, which aired on Oct. 15. The Oct.29 episode of School Pride focused on Kingston Springs Elementary School in Nashville, Tenn., where Virco furnished the kindergarten classrooms. Modeled on the popular Extreme Makeover: Home Edition series, which also featured Virco furniture donations, School Pride highlights the efforts of communities to renovate aging public schools, while (in the words of an NBC press release) "inspiring students, parents, and teachers to rediscover a sense of pride that will positively impact their lives and futures."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. The deadline for submitting a manuscript is Feb. 15, 2011. To learn more visit the NAESP Foundation's website. More