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EDU News From Around the Nation

The Latest News and Trends in Education and Technology.

February 2009

We live in interesting times. on January 20, Barack Obama becomes the first African-American U.S. President—a historical moment some thought we would never see in our lifetime.

We’re also witnessing a less welcome piece of history: the worst economy since the Great Depression. But in crisis lies opportunity. In a weekly radio address last month, Obama announced the first details of his economic stimulus package, which he called the largest investment in public works since the 1950s. And it contains good news for the nation’s schools: A key piece of the package will be “the most sweeping effort to modernize and upgrade school buildings that this country has ever seen,” which will include infrastructure repairs, energy upgrades, and investment in new technology.

Although Obama gave no estimate of the cost, experts say it will easily reach the hundreds of billions. Such spending will require massive political support. A recent CNN poll gave the President-elect a nearly 80 percent approval rating. A hopeful sign, perhaps, that the famously fractured American electorate is rallying.

Interesting times indeed.

Breakfast = Learning
Should Schools Offer Free Breakfast to Everyone?

As you likely know from those mornings you skip your cornflakes, breakfast truly is the most important meal of the day. Eating breakfast increases school attendance and raises test scores, according to Harvard researchers.

So why do kids who receive a free or reduced-cost lunch say “No, thanks” to school breakfast? Or choose to fuel up on soda and chips instead of eating the school’s more nutritious fare? The Harvard study, Impact of School Breakfast on Children’s Health and Learning, found that while 18 million children take advantage of the free lunch program, only 8 million eat school-provided cereal, muffins, and milk.

Reasons for the gap: Thousands of schools don’t offer breakfast, even though their students may qualify; breakfast is often served more than an hour before the bell rings, making it difficult for families to arrive on time; and some students don’t want to be seen taking handouts. (Click for the full study)

What’s the answer? Researchers suggest providing universal breakfast, regardless of income level, during the first ten or fifteen minutes of the day. Pass the OJ!


Research Roundup

A window to future success? A study by ACT, the nonprofit research and assessment organization, claims that a student’s level of academic achievement by eighth grade determines preparation for college more than anything that happens in high school. ACT says this underscores that K–12 education is a continuum with a goal of college and career readiness. Download The Forgotten Middle.

Homeschooling on the rise.

The National Center for Education Statistics reports that the number of children homeschooled in the U.S. is now 1.5 million, or 2.9 percent. That’s a 74 percent increase since 1999, the year the center began to keep track of the trend. While 83 percent of homeschooling parents cited religious motivation, the most common answer was concern about the school environment (88 percent). Families who homeschool for other reasons, such as finances, rose to 32 percent from 20 percent in 2003. Twenty percent of families, dubbed “unschoolers,” have left public education to experiment with nontraditional curricula. Click to find more facts.

Poor grades may lead to depression.

University of Missouri researchers found that children who struggle with academic skills in first grade often display a negative self-perception by sixth grade and symptoms of depression by seventh grade. The link seems to be social rather than genetic, with researchers concluding that good grades are an opportunity for praise denied to struggling students, and that these kids feel less able to influence social outcomes. The effect was more pronounced in girls than in boys.

Can kids be too wired?

A study conducted by Duke University found that kids who gain access to the Internet between fifth and eighth grades often experience a slight decline in test scores. Researchers examined data from 1 million students in grades 5–8. Students without a home computer scored the highest in reading and math. Among those with home computers, students who used them no more than twice a month fared the best.

A Second Chance --Prison Charter Schools

Last summer, Gordon Bernell charter school held its first day of class—inside the Albuquerque county jail.

Putting charter schools in jails is an idea that is gaining ground. And with good reason. While 18 percent of the general population has not completed high school, the number jumps to 47 percent for inmates. Earning a diploma can lower recidivism by as much as 20 percent.

A similar charter school in San Francisco recently won approval to greatly expand the program it started in 2003. Five Keys Charter plans to serve most jails in San Francisco County and to open an adult school where former inmates can earn their high school diploma.

State News
New York: Teachers at two New York City KIPP charter schools have voted to join the teachers union. Critics claim union membership is in conflict with the premise of charter schools, but UFT president Randi Weingarten claims that the two “can easily be harmonized.”

California: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed cutting five days out of his state’s school year as a means of peeling away $1.1 billion of a projected $41 billion deficit. At 175 days, California’s new school year would be among the shortest in the nation.

Nebraska: Districts here would be required to spend at least 65 percent of their budget on classroom instruction if a bill proposed by state senator and former elementary school principal Rich Pahls is approved. While many districts already meet that mark, Nebraska’s average was just under 60 percent in 2006–07, with some districts falling as low as 52 percent.

Alabama: A governor’s commission has recommended dividing the teaching profession into a series of ranks that would allow teachers to advance in their careers without entering administration. Teachers would advance by mastering certain education and experience requirements, and take on greater mentoring and leadership responsibilities for increased pay.











The Numbers!
87- the percentage of waking hours an average 18-year-old has spent outside of a classroom, according to classic research by Herbert Walberg.

23-the average decline in the value of university endowments between June and November of 2008. It’s the worst drop since the 1970s.

70-the number of members of the Fans of Arne Duncan page on Facebook at press time.

$27,000 the yearly tuition for New York’s Blue School, a preschool founded by the Blue Man Group.

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