Dashboard June 2017

This Edition's Dashboard

High school journalists uncover principal’s lack of credentials

Fact-checking and persistence by a team of high school journalists in Pittsburg, Kansas, led to the resignation of their incoming principal after they raised questions about her academic credentials.

The principal, Amy Robertson, was scheduled to become the head principal at Pittsburg High School in July, following her move from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. When the student newspaper, the Booster Redux, set out to examine Robertson’s background and credentials, they found accreditation issues surrounding Corllins University, the online school where Robertson said she earned her advanced degrees, along with questions about her work as an education consultant.

The Booster’s exposé received coverage and praise from professional journalists and media outlets across the country. Pittsburg Community Schools Superintendent Destry Brown credited the student journalists for their determination, telling the Pittsburg Morning Sun: “I appreciate that our kids ask questions and don’t just accept something because somebody told them.”

Fighting truancy with a school bus

Everyone understands that a school bus transports kids to school. But who would have imagined that a school bus may encourage kids to go to school?

Yet, that’s the apparent finding of a national study of 14,370 kindergarten students by a researcher at the University of California-Santa Barbara.

It turns out that kindergartners who ride the school bus are less likely to miss school, compared to peers who walk or are driven to school. Nationwide, putting more kindergarten students on the bus could cut the number of student absences by 1.04 million school days.

There’s little research evidence to explain the influence wielded by a school bus, but there are theories: One is that the school bus forces families into a routine of getting to the bus stop on time, and that routine increases the likelihood that children will be up and ready to go in the morning.

Ban the hot dog

Watch out, school board members. The food police are watching your cafeteria menus.

Two California school districts—Poway and Los Angeles—are being sued for serving hot dogs, bacon, and other processed meats in school meals.

In its lawsuit, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine claims such food products violate California’s education code, which requires schools to serve meals of the “highest quality” and “greatest nutrition possible.”

The committee cites research that suggests eating processed meat increases the risk of cancer.

School officials had little to say about the lawsuit, but the committee president, Dr. Neal Barnard, told the San Diego Union-Tribune that the scientific evidence was clear—and, while some might question the value of litigation against hot dogs and bologna, the health issues surrounding processed meat were no less relevant than those used in the fight to ban cigarettes.


Assessing the test

In this issue, we asked our readers what they thought of changes in their state’s policies on testing

“The state is holding steady on the test for now, but changes are coming in the next couple of years. However, they went to computer test taking last year, and it delayed the delivery of results by two months so we don’t get the results of the testing that our students are taking this week and next week until October.”  Terrence Ward, school board member, Missouri

“What plan? The legislature seems to change the tests about every other year or so. There has been some talk of decreasing the number of tests but I’m not holding my breath. Regardless, it takes so long to get the test results back from the state that there is little benefit to students and teachers.”  Terry Reed, school board member, Indiana

“We test TOO long, and have readily abdicated the ability to assess many standards locally.”  Dan Lawson, superintendent, Tennessee

“Tests are not valid indicators. Too many are opting out. Too much teaching to the test. Using tests as punitive measures.”  Michael Weinick, school board member, New York state

No post-grad plans, no diploma

Passing all required coursework will no longer be enough to receive a diploma from Chicago Public Schools (CPS). Starting with the class of 2020, students will have to present a post-grad plan in the form of a college acceptance letter, military enlistment letter, job offer, job program placement, trade apprenticeship, or gap-year program placement.

“We all need to change how we think about what it means to be a high school graduate—a diploma alone isn’t enough anymore,” said Chief Education Officer Dr. Janice K. Jackson in a statement. “At CPS, we’ve long believed that high school is only a stepping-stone, and now we’re ensuring that every one of our students has given real consideration to what’s next—and taken action to succeed.” Bloomberg.com reported that the Chicago Teachers Union opposes the new graduation requirement, saying budget cuts prevent high school guidance counselors from adequately assisting students in developing post-graduation plans.

Nebraska breastfeeding bill supports teen moms

A bill that would help teen mothers stay in school passed the Nebraska State, Senate with overwhelming support. The bill that would extend the state’s breastfeeding law to students, ensuring that they have “appropriate, sanitary and private” breastfeeding, breast pumping, and breast milk storage accommodations in schools. It would apply to all public, private, and parochial schools, according to the Lincoln Star.

Some supporters of Bill LB427 objected when an amendment was added that would require schools to provide written policies to accommodate absences related to pregnancy and parenting, and encourage educational success of those students, saying these would amount to unfunded mandates.

The bill advanced, 29-3. According to the U.S. Department of Education, about one-third of female students who drop out of high school do so because they become pregnant.

Canadian school districts shunning U.S. field trips

Canada’s largest school board stopped booking field trips to the U.S., citing concern that President Trump’s travel ban targeting visitors from select Muslim-majority countries could impact some of its students. In a statement, the Toronto District School Board, which serves about 245,000 students, said it made the “difficult decision” because it believes students “should not be placed into these situations of potentially being turned away at the border.”

“We’re committed as a school board to equity, inclusiveness and fairness, and it’s not appropriate that some students would not be able to attend based on their country of birth,” Toronto board chair Robin Pilkey told CBC Radio-Canada.

Other Canadian districts, including the Burnaby School District in British Columbia and the Greater Essex County School District in southwestern Ontario, also cancelled U.S.-bound trips, citing travel concerns, as did the Girl Guides of Canada (counterpart to Girl Scouts USA).

Early hunger feeds kindergarten gap

Infants and toddlers who grow up without enough to eat are more likely to perform poorly in school years later, a study finds. Published in the journal Child Development, the study suggests that growing up hungry is likely to make children less ready for kindergarten compared to classmates who grow up in homes with enough to eat.

Researchers analyzed U.S. Department of Education data, which followed 10,700 children born in low-income households and surveyed parents on the quantity and quality of food in their households. They found that children who experienced food insecurity at 9 months old were more likely five years later, in kindergarten, to have lower reading and math scores than similar low-income 9-month-olds who didn’t experience food insecurity.

When food insecurity occurred in the preschool years, it also had a negative, but overall weaker, impact on school performance. “Preschoolers at least are getting some access to food in their classrooms if they go to preschools, or their child care centers,” researcher Anna Johnson of Georgetown University told National Public Radio.

Foreign students: U.S. schools easier

Nine in 10 foreign exchange students say that schools in the U.S. are easier than their schools back home. And 65 percent say American students spend less time on schoolwork than do students in their home schools. Those percentages have increased since the Brookings Institution’s Brown Center on Education conducted a similar survey in 2001, the group says.

That suggests that, while U.S. schools have pushed to make their high schools more competitive and effective over the past 15 years, so has the rest of the industrialized world, researcher Tom Loveless told USA TODAY. Two in three of the 259 foreign exchange students surveyed also said that, in U.S. schools, it is “much more” important to do well in sports than in their home country; 23 percent rated athletic success “a little more” important.

International network boosts ELL achievement

English language learners (ELLs) are the most rapidly growing student populations in school districts across the nation, but often face the steepest academic climb. The International Network For Public Schools, a collaboration of schools across the country focused on improving the academic outcome of ELLs and recent immigrants, appears to have mapped out a plan for success.

Started in 1985, the network says leadership, professional and curriculum development, coaching, workshops, and community partnerships are essential to build and strengthen the instructional practices that benefit ELLs. Most of the network’s schools also employ a full-time social worker who helps immigrant students access community resources and provides emotional support to those feeling fear and uncertainty.

Currently, 27 schools in seven states, including Washington, D.C., are members of the Internationals Network. Last year, ELLs who attended the network’s high schools in New York City graduated at a rate 16 percentage points higher than ELL students in the city’s public schools, National Public Radio reported.

High Court sides with family in disabilities case

In a unanimous 8-0 decision that advocates say expands the rights of special education students, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that school districts must give students with disabilities the chance to make meaningful, “appropriately ambitious” progress.

The case in question, Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, focused on a Colorado teen with autism and attention deficit disorder. His parents removed him from his local public school, where he made little progress, and placed him in a private school, where he made “significant” academic and social improvement.

The parents sued, claiming the district had failed to provide the free appropriate public education guaranteed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In an interview with the Denver Post, Francisco Negrón, Jr., general counsel of the National School Boards Association, said the court had issued a “measured” decision that “would lead to schools more carefully tracking the progress of special-needs students.” Negrón also praised the court “for saying it would defer to the judgment of educational officials.”

Later school day has many advantages

Want to reduce the number of car accidents each morning? Ease student rates of depression? Raise academic performance? Improve the mental health of teenagers?

Then start high school a little later in the morning—no earlier than 8:30 a.m.
The claimed litany of benefits of a later school start has parallels to the healing qualities of a 19th century “magic elixir.” It sounds too good to be true.

But apparently, such benefits are backed by the research, asserts the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. A lack of sleep in teenagers is associated with obesity, depression, suicide, risk-taking behaviors, athletic injuries, a lack of classroom alertness, and even the number of traffic accidents.

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