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With vouchers, states shift aid for schools to families
The New York Times
A growing number of lawmakers across the country are taking steps to redefine public education, shifting the debate from the classroom to the pocketbook. Instead of simply financing a traditional system of neighborhood schools, legislators and some governors are headed toward funneling public money directly to families, who would be free to choose the kind of schooling they believe is best for their children, be it public, charter, private, religious, online or at home.
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The impact of gun violence: A conversation with students
ED.gov Blog (commentary)
Arne Duncan, the secretary of the Department of Education, writes: "All my life, I have been aware of the impact that violence — and especially gun violence — has on children, families and communities. Young men who I got to know in pickup basketball games in Chicago — just kids, as I was myself back then — were buried far, far before their time, killed in moments of senseless stupidity. Early on a recent morning, I visited Hart Middle School in the Anacostia neighborhood of DC, literally on the way from home to my office. I simply asked the students to tell me their experiences, and they bravely and honestly did — even with a video camera in the room."
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Core withdrawal? Some states seem to be reconsidering their Common Core commitments
Scholastic Administrator
Alabama's move in February to withdraw from both of the groups designing assessments for the Common Core, PARCC and Smarter Balanced, raised red flags across the country. Alabama's pullout echoed Utah's, which withdrew from Smarter Balanced last year. And in Indiana, former education commissioner Tony Bennett was denied reelection last November, largely due to his support for the new Core standards. Leaders on both sides of the issue expect that these cracks in state support for the standards may grow.
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A hot topic: Climate change coming to classrooms
NPR
By the time today's K-12 students grow up, the challenges posed by climate change are expected to be severe and sweeping. Now, for the first time, new nationwide science standards due out soon will recommend that U.S. public school students learn about the climatic shift taking place. Mark McCaffrey of the National Center for Science Education says the lessons will fill a big gap.
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Study: Middle school algebra push yields minimal performance gains
Education Week
Many states are pushing students to take Algebra 1 in middle school to prepare them for advanced math in high school. A new analysis, however, suggests that increased enrollment hasn't led to higher math performance for states on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The study was as part of the annual report on education by the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution, in Washington.
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Engineering building a foundation in K-12 curricula
Education Week
When STEM education is discussed in the K-12 sphere, it often seems like shorthand for mathematics and science, with perhaps a nod to technology and even less, if any, real attention to engineering. But recent developments signal that the "e" in STEM may be gaining a firmer foothold at the precollegiate level. For one, a new, national assessment in technology and engineering literacy will be administered to 8th graders next year by the makers of "the nation's report card" on education. Also, engineering design is threaded through a set of "next generation" science standards nearing completion by a coalition of experts and 26 states.
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100 million 'offline' Americans to get cheap broadband, digital literacy skills
eSchool News
Three in 10 Americans are offline, citing both cost and digital skill barriers — but thanks to Everyone On, a new nonprofit initiative, more than 100 million offline Americans, including homes with children, will have cheap broadband access and training in digital literacy skills. According to a new national survey on the current state of home broadband adoption released by the national nonprofit Connected Nation, broadband adoption is on the rise — increasing from 65 percent in 2011 to 70 percent in 2012, but that still leaves almost 70 million Americans (30 percent) offline at home.
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Digitally aided education, using the students' own electronic gear
The New York Times
Educators and policymakers continue to debate whether computers are a good teaching tool. But a growing number of schools are adopting a new, even more controversial approach: asking students to bring their own smartphones, tablets, laptops and even their video game players to class. Officials at the schools say the students' own devices are the simplest way to use a new generation of learning apps that can, for example, teach them math, test them with quizzes and enable them to share and comment on each other's essays.
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Meditation technique enhances children's mental health
Medical Xpress
Educators in schools across the globe are turning to a new philosophy to help improve the behavior and well-being of students. Mindfulness, a form of meditation, has been shown to help with a wide range of mental health conditions and improve well-being in adults. However, few trials have evaluated its effectiveness in children. Professor Willem Kuyken from the Mood Disorders Centre at the University of Exeter is presenting new research findings from a feasibility trial which show how the mindfulness technique is also effective in improving well-being in young people.
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Take-home textbooks lacking? Complaints pique auditor's interest
The Clarion-Ledger
A common complaint from parents is that their children aren't given textbooks to take home — something that, if true, would be a violation of state law. It's a complaint made often enough that State Auditor Stacey Pickering is interested in a comprehensive review of school districts' textbook policies and related expenditures to gauge whether change is needed with those policies or the law, according to a statement from Pickering's office. The goal is "to ensure that students have the best (not necessarily most expensive) materials that foster a solid learning environment at school and opportunities to learn and study at home, that are being paid for with taxpayer dollars," according to the statement.
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6 steps to effective teacher development and evaluation
eSchool News
Some see us as education's odd couple — one, the president of a democratic teachers' union; the other, a director at the world's largest philanthropy. While we don't agree on everything, we firmly believe that students have a right to effective instruction and that teachers want to do their very best. We believe that one of the most effective ways to strengthen both teaching and learning is to put in place evaluation systems that are not just a stamp of approval or disapproval but a means of improvement.
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Education department launches 2013 Investing in Innovation competition
U.S. Department of Education
The U.S. Department of Education announced the start of the $150 million 2013 Investing in Innovation grant competition with the release of the program's invitation for pre-applications for the i3 "Development" grant category and the notice of final priorities for the i3 program overall. The announcement incorporates several improvements the department has made to the grant competition in its efforts to support school districts and nonprofit organizations in partnership with schools to pursue innovative ideas that increase student success.
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Congress tweaks state special education spending mandates
Education Week
States that run afoul of federal rules for special education funding will be punished — though not forever — under a technical, but important tweak to state maintenance of effort under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The change, which was crafted with the help of the U.S. Department of Education, was included in the giant spending bill for the rest of this fiscal year (better known in Inside the Beltway as a continuing resolution, or CR) that Congress passed.
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6 steps to effective teacher development and evaluation
eSchool News
Some see us as education's odd couple — one, the president of a democratic teachers' union; the other, a director at the world's largest philanthropy. While we don't agree on everything, we firmly believe that students have a right to effective instruction and that teachers want to do their very best.

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Newtown, Conn., children remain scared as school tries to move on from Sandy Hook shooting
The Associated Press via The Huffington Post
They relocated the entire student body to a new school unstained by blood. They brought in counselors to soothe shattered nerves, and parents to comfort the distraught. But authorities know they cannot erase the lingering effects of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School — students and faculty members still on edge, still traumatized by the sounds of gunshots and by the horrors they survived.

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What learning cursive does for your brain
Psychology Today
Dr. William Klemm, a Professor of Neuroscience at Texas A&M University, writes: "Ever try to read your physician's prescriptions? Children increasingly print their writing because they don't know cursive or theirs is unreadable. I have a middle-school grandson who has trouble reading his own cursive. Grandparents may find that their grandchildren can’t read the notes they send."

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Testing, early learning and the pace of reform: Talking with teachers
ED.gov Blog (commentary)
Arne Duncan, the secretary of the Department of Education, writes: "Our work at the U.S. Department of Education aims to make sure that students throughout this country have the education that they deserve — an education that will give every student a genuine opportunity to join a thriving middle class. A crucial part of that work is supporting, elevating and strengthening the teaching profession. As often as I can, I spend time talking with teachers about their experience of their work, and of change efforts to improve student outcomes."
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Seattle eases rules on exams teachers are boycotting
The Seattle Times
Seattle school leaders have decided to relax a few requirements for the Measures of Academic Progress this spring, the exams that are the focus of a teacher boycott that has received national attention. Ninth-graders who have passed the state's reading exam will not have to take the MAP reading test, too, officials said. Officials also are recommending that high schools use the MAP's algebra test for students enrolled in algebra classes, rather than a more-general math test that has been required in the past.
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TRENDING ARTICLES
Missed last week's issue? See which articles your colleagues read most.

    Newtown, Conn., children remain scared as school tries to move on from Sandy Hook shooting (The Associated Press via The Huffington Post)
Making digital libraries work, with or without BYOD (The Journal)
Inquiry, curiosity, exploration and the Common Core (Edutopia)
Expanded learning time linked to higher test scores (Education Week)
Study points the way to better public schools (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Don't be left behind. Click here to see what else you missed.


Indiana court backs school-voucher law
The Wall Street Journal
Indiana's Supreme Court upheld a law that lets taxpayer funds pay for private schools, boosting an effort to expand what is already the broadest such voucher program in the U.S. and rebuffing critics who say it undermines public education. The court's five judges unanimously rejected the argument of the state's largest teachers union and other plaintiffs that the Indiana voucher program violates the state Constitution because it uses public funds to support religious education. Most of the voucher funding goes to parochial schools.
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Fort Worth, Texas, anti-bullying program may be going national
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Students around the country could be wearing anti-bullying buttons, lanyards and wristbands with a motto familiar to Fort Worth school students: It's Not Okay. That's the name of an initiative to promote respect, integrity and civility created by Fort Worth school district administrators that's in place on Fort Worth campuses. Trustees are scheduled to discuss a proposed licensing agreement with a New York-based company that would allow other districts to use the It's Not Okay phrase on items such as silicone bracelets, magnets and pencils. In return, Fort Worth schools would net royalty payments from the materials sold elsewhere, officials said.
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Protesters march against Chicago school closures
The Associated Press via Fox News
Hundreds of teachers, parents and opponents have marched through downtown Chicago, vowing to fight a plan to close 54 Chicago Public Schools. The march came as Mayor Rahm Emanuel's insisted he's done negotiating and the closures are a done deal. Emanuel and schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett say closures in the nation's third-largest district are necessary because CPS faces a $1 billion budget shortfall and has too many schools that are half-empty and failing academically.
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1 in 5 New York City preteens have mental woes
New York Post
More than 145,000 city children — roughly one in five — between 6 and 12 struggle with mental illness or other emotional woes, a new study has found. The city Health Department's analysis shows that 6 percent of kids in that age range have been diagnosed with ADHD, depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety and other behavioral problems. That's 44,000 children. A survey of parents also reveals that 14 percent of undiagnosed kids — about 101,000 children in that age group — "have difficulties with emotions, concentration, behavior or getting along with others."
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Indiana school voucher ruling could influence others
The Associated Press via ABC News
The Indiana Supreme Court upheld the nation's broadest school voucher program in a ruling supporters say could set a national precedent as other states look to build or expand programs that use public money to allow students to attend private schools. The state's highest court unanimously upheld a 2011 law providing vouchers for low- and middle-income families and cleared the way for an expansion being debated in the Indiana Statehouse. But more importantly, it could settle the case law for other states where voucher programs face legal challenges, supporters contend.
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NAESP election open Monday
NAESP
On Monday, April 1, NAESP's election opens. Eligible members will elect a new president-elect as well as directors for Zones 3, 4 and 6. Voting will be open from April 1 through April 30. Electronic ballots will be available on the NAESP website — but you will need to log in to access the ballot, which is members-only content. Visit the NAESP election page for candidate information and instructions for logging in.
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Webinar: New tools for Common Core implementation
NAESP
On Tuesday, April 16, join Margaret Millar of the Council of Chief State School Officers for a webinar. Millar will walk participants through a number of free resources on Common Core implementation. Read more about this webinar on NAESP's webinar page and watch archived presentations on brain-based learning, school safety and more.
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Before the Bell is a benefit of your membership in the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP). For information about other member benefits, visit www.naesp.org or contact us at naesp@naesp.org.

Before the Bell is a digest of the most important news selected for NAESP from thousands of sources by the editors of MultiBriefs, an independent organization that also manages and sells advertising. The presence of such advertising does not endorse, or imply endorsement of, any products or services by NAESP. Neither NAESP nor Multiview is liable for the use of or reliance on any information contained in this briefing.

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