Before The Bell
Dec. 12, 2014

More students at poor US schools get free meals in federal initiative
Over half of the nation's high-poverty schools are taking advantage of a new federal initiative intended to make it easier for U.S. children to eat nutritious cafeteria meals for free, federal officials said. Nationwide, 51.5 percent of eligible schools have commenced offering free, federally funded meals to all their students without requiring the applications long used to prove low-income status, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported.More

Common sense for the Common Core
Scholastic Administrator
Regie Routman, an author for Scholastic Administrator, writes: "As a mentor teacher, leader and coach who has been working in diverse classrooms and schools for more than four decades, I've learned that no matter what reforms, standards, or new programs come along, literacy achievement gains tend to be fleeting. Here's what I've observed over and over: Without administrators who have a solid knowledge of effective literacy instruction, schools wind up focusing on implementation of isolated skills and/or standards with the hope that all the parts will add up to something meaningful."More

More states make computer science count
District Administration Magazine
In 2020, there will be 1.4 million computing jobs available in the United States and only 400,000 computer science students in the education pipeline. But the number of students may slowly be increasing, as 25 states now count computer science courses toward high school graduation requirements, compared to 11 states in 2013.More

Connecting SEL and the Common Core
Maurice Elias, a contributor for Edutopia, writes: "In the November 2014 issue of Phi Delta Kappan, I wrote an article on how social-emotional skills can boost implementation of the Common Core. I want to share two key points from that article in this blog post and also in my next one. In this post, I focus on how the Common Core has an implicit dependence on SEL-related pedagogy. In the next blog post, I will focus on the key area of emotion vocabulary and its role in academic and interpersonal success."More

7 ways schools kill the love of reading in kids — and 4 principles to help restore it
The Washington Post (commentary)
Why don't more kids love (or even like) to read? Author Alfie Kohn writes: “"It's not really possible to motivate anyone, except perhaps yourself. What a teacher can do is work with students to create a classroom culture, a climate, a curriculum that will nourish and sustain the fundamental inclinations that everyone starts out with: to make sense of oneself and the world. Motivation is something to be supported, or, if necessary, revived."More

Instructional issues affecting the development of reading skills
By: Dale King
There is often a long and winding road to reading success for students with learning disabilities. Competent teachers of reading know and understand the five components of reading, why each needs to be explicitly addressed in instruction in a systematic and sequential manner, and how to provide these types of instruction while both encouraging and monitoring a student's progress. In addition, instruction needs to be ongoing and scheduled frequently enough to foster learning. More

Military-style technology finds way into school district safety measures
The New York Times
With a rapid-response team and regular lockdown drills, the school district here, like many across the country, has long been steeling itself for the nightmare scenario of a school shooting. But over the past two years, a new high-tech approach has been tested at one of the schools here — officials will not say which one — to see whether it is possible to react more effectively. Engineers from a company called Shooter Detection Systems have installed infrared sensors and microphones that can pick up the sound of gunfire and immediately notify school and law enforcement officials where and when it has occurred. It was installed free of charge, and school officials were hoping they could find the money to put the system, which costs between $20,000 and $100,000, into more schools.More

Why kids won't quit technology
The Atlantic
Smartphones, iPads, TVs, computers, videogames. Technology is omnipresent, especially for young students. They just can't get enough; one 2013 study found that college students check their digital devices for non-class purposes 11 times per day on average, and 80 percent of them admitted that the technology was distracting them from class. This has some educators and scientists concerned: Are students distracted because their brains are hard-wired for it after a lifetime of screens? Is there a cultural or behavioral element to the fixation that has infiltrated the classroom? More

Personalized learning: Is it?
THE Journal
We all remember one of our teachers who took a special interest in us. That teacher who watched over us during the school day and even found out about what sort of person we were outside of school. And based on what that teacher learned about us, he/she tailored his/her instruction to take advantage of our talents or our interests or accommodate our personal challenges, e.g., he/she suggested that we read a particular book or do these specific exercises or think about this particular idea. That teacher nurtured us. That is personalized learning.More

Legislation would help states rethink testing systems, pare back tests
Education Week
States that want to carefully consider the number and type of tests they offer — and maybe make some changes to their regimens — would get an assist from a federal grant program aimed at improving assessments, under a bill introduced by Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore., a member of the House education committee. Taking a hard look at testing requirements is all the rage these days.More

GOP supports break from healthy school meal standards
The Associated Press via The Huffington Post
House Republicans are making a final push to give schools a temporary break from healthier school meal standards. The school meal rules, phased in since 2012 and championed by first lady Michelle Obama, require more fruits, vegetables and whole grains in the lunch line. The standards also limit sodium, sugar and fat. Some school nutrition directors have lobbied for a break, saying the rules have proven to be costly and restrictive. House Republicans have said they are an overreach, and have pushed a one-year waiver that would allow schools to opt out of the standards if they lost money on meal programs over a six-month period.More

Spending bill would fund preschool grants, but not Race to the Top
Education Week
Congress unveiled its long-awaited spending bill, which would fund most of the government, including the U.S. Department of Education and federally funded education programs, through September 2015. The measure, if adopted by both chambers and signed by President Barack Obama, would avert a government shutdown that could take place Dec. 11, when the current stopgap funding bill is set to expire.More

Feds: IDEA still applies when students incarcerated
Disability Scoop
Kids with disabilities have the right to a free appropriate public education complete with academics, therapies and other supports even if they're locked up, federal officials say. In new guidance, the Obama administration is reminding states and local agencies that students do not relinquish their rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act if they are incarcerated.More

Hartford, Conn., struggles to desegregate schools as numbers of white students decrease
The Associated Press via The Huffington Post
The shrinking population of white students in Hartford's suburbs is complicating efforts to comply with Connecticut's landmark school desegregation settlement — and even making it harder for some of the capital city's students to attend new schools created to help meet the racial integration goals set by the lawsuit 25 years ago. State education officials are currently negotiating the latest changes to the agreement, reached with the plaintiffs after they won a 1996 Connecticut Supreme Court ruling, but say it is becoming harder to attract white students to Hartford's schools because they're living farther away.More

Two years after Sandy Hook: Mental health funding still lags
U.S. News & World Report
School shootings and high-profile stories of mental illness often bring about calls for change from government officials, but this year Congress did not pass mental health care reforms and states slowed in their response to the issue, shows a study by the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The State Mental Health Legislation report for 2014 comes days before the second anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, when Adam Lanza — who had untreated mental illness – killed 20 children, six educators, and his mother, before killing himself. The massacre, another in a string of school shootings in recent years, again raised questions about gun control and early intervention for people with mental health issues. More

New Rhode Island report looks at teachers turned out vs. teachers hired
Providence Journal
Only about one in four recent graduates from Rhode Island's teacher preparation programs are employed as teachers here. In 2012-2013, 649 students received their Rhode Island teaching certification from one of nine teacher training programs here. But only 167 went on to teach in Rhode Island in the following school year. A new report from the Rhode Island Department of Education on teacher preparation programs doesn't answer the question of why this is happening. More

Registration for the 2015 NAESP Conference now open
Register now for the 2015 Best Practices for Better Schools™ conference in Long Beach, California, June 30 - July 2. It's the premier event for principals and their teams working on student success. Learn from the top experts in education and swap best practices with fellow leaders from around the country. Save today with early bird registration. More

Strengthen your team: Strategies from Principal magazine
The November/December issue of Principal examines the principal's role in supporting teachers and providing instructional leadership. Explore articles on instructional coaching, unconferences, and multiplying teacher talent. Don't miss the feature on blended learning at the elementary level. Plus, download the digital edition to read on your iPad. More