Friday, December 6th, 2013
The school lunch “hour” is a misnomer at schools across the country, many of which give students as little as 15 minutes to eat lunch. NPR reports:
At many public schools today, kids are lucky to get more than 15 minutes to eat. Some get even less time.
And parents and administrators are concerned that a lack of time to eat is unhealthful, especially given that about one-third of American kids are overweight or obese.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that students get at least 20 minutes for lunch. But that means 20 minutes to actually sit down and eat — excluding time waiting in line or walking from class to cafeteria.
At Oakland High [in California], over 80 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. And officially, students get about 40 minutes for the meal. But Jennifer LeBarre, Oakland Unified School District’s nutrition services director, admits that the actual table time is far shorter. At times it’s just 10 minutes.
“I think it’s a legitimate complaint that there’s not enough time to eat,” LeBarre says. “If we are being asked to eat our lunch in 10 minutes, that’s not enough for us. So I really think we need to really work more for the 20-minute table time.”
Oakland High is hardly alone. In a wide-ranging by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health, 20 percent of parents of students from kindergarten through fifth grade surveyed said their child only gets 15 minutes or less to eat.
Ironically, relatively new federal school-nutrition guideline changes may be making the situation worse. Under federal rules, schools have to increase the availability and consumption of fruits and vegetables — among other changes. It’s part of an effort to improve nutrition and combat childhood obesity.
But eating more healthful foods can take more time, LeBarre says. “It’s going to take longer to eat a salad than it will to eat french fries.”
Image: School lunch box, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, December 4th, 2013
American teenagers are continuing to slip in the rankings of high school achievement internationally, according to the results of the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). Americans were found to be roughly average in science and reading, but below the international average in math. NBC News has more:
Vietnam, which had its students take part in the exam for the first time, had a higher average score in math and science than the United States. Students in Shanghai — China’s largest city with upwards of 20 million people — ranked best in the world, according to the test results. Students in East Asian countries and provinces came out on top, nabbing seven of the top 10 places across all three subjects.
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan characterized the flat scores as a “picture of educational stagnation.”
“We must invest in early education, raise academic standards, make college affordable, and do more to recruit and retain top-notch educators,” Duncan said.
Roughly half a million students in 65 nations and educational systems representing 80 percent of the global economy took part in the 2012 edition of PISA, which is coordinated by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD.
The numbers are even more sobering when compared among only the 34 OECD countries. The United States ranked 26th in math — trailing nations such as the Slovakia, Portugal and Russia.
The exam, which has been administered every three years to 15-year-olds, is designed to gauge how students use the material they have learned inside and outside the classroom to solve problems.
U.S. scores on the PISA have stayed relatively flat since testing began in 2000. And meanwhile, students in countries like Ireland and Poland have demonstrated marked improvement — even surpassing U.S. students, according to the results.
Top Talkers: Teenagers are making no progress on international achievement exams, the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment results show. Jon Meacham, Julie Pace and Mike Barnicle discuss.
“It’s hard to get excited about standing still while others around you are improving, so I don’t want to be too positive,” Jack Buckley, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, told the Associated Press.
Image: Students taking a test, via Shutterstock
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Friday, November 15th, 2013
A Florida principal is in agreement with the mother of a seventh-grader who was placed on the honor roll despite having a C and a D on his report card that the placement was misguided and should be reversed. More from ABC News:
Principal Kim Anderson of Pasco Middle School in Dade City, Fla., was siding with Beth Tillack who was upset that her seventh grade son Douglas was on the honor roll and his report card came with a teacher’s comment, “good job” and a smiley face.
The principal said that 45 percent to 50 percent of the school’s students are on the honor roll. She said it was a “difficult situation” and that Beth Tillack was justified in questioning policies surrounding the school’s standards and system of assessment.
“I do agree with her,” said Anderson. “I feel it’s important for students to progress by meeting standards. We measure them by standards, they know if they’ve met them or not. Sometimes grades don’t always indicate that.”
The Pasco Middle School honor roll system is based on a weighted grade point averages, meaning that the 3.16 average Douglas Tillack achieved overall for his four A’s, a C and a D, just pushed him over the honors requirement line, which is set at 3.15.
Theoretically, children could get an F and still qualify for the honor roll, said Anderson, which is problematic when a child might not be motivated to perform like they should.
“Her son is a bright boy and can do the work. There are choices he’s making,” Anderson said. “He knows exactly what he can get away with. Maybe this is a wake-up call that there are higher expectations.”
Beth Tillack told ABC News affiliate WFTS that when she saw the report card and the honor roll notice, “I immediately assumed it’s a mistake. It was glaring in the fact that it said ‘good job’ and then there was a D.”
Tillack said that after her complaint, the school reissued the card, replacing “good job” with “Work on civics. Ask for help.”
“The bottom line is there’s nothing honorable about making a D,” said Tillack. “I was not happy, because how can I get my child to study for a test when he thinks he’s done enough?”
Image: Report card, via Shutterstock
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Friday, November 8th, 2013
Some parents who are unhappy with a Tennessee high school’s lunchtime program that separates students who are under-performing academically so they can receive additional instruction while they eat, calling the program “segregation” that is unfairly punishing kids who struggle academically. School officials, however, insist that the program has nothing to do with civil rights, and everything to do with education. More from The Huffington Post:
According to local outlet WSMV-TV, La Vergne High School in Rutherford County has been requiring some of its students to attend academic intervention classes during lunchtime, in an effort to raise the grades of struggling students. The outlet reported that some parents are not pleased with the school for forcing certain students eat in a separate location.
“I call it a civil rights violation and segregation, no doubt,” local parent Paul Morecraft told WSMV.
However, Rutherford County School District spokesperson James Evans told The Huffington Post over the phone that La Vergne administrators decided to hold academic interventions during lunch so that the program would not cut into class time. He also disputes WSMV-TV’s assertion that the program forces some La Vergne students to eat separately from others in the cafeteria.
According to Evans, every student in the school is given 25 minutes for lunch. After that time, students who need extra help take another 25 minutes to study in a “learning lab.” Students who are in good academic standing have the option of staying in the cafeteria or participating in other enrichment activities for the extra 25 minutes.
“One misconception is that students are losing their lunchtime or being made to eat in some separate location,” Evans told HuffPost. “They’re still eating in the cafeteria for 25 minutes.”
Students who are scoring below an 80 percent in any subject are required to attend academic intervention.
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Image: School double doors, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, October 29th, 2013
The American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending that kids who suffer a concussion, a common sports-related injury, shouldn’t return to school right away, lest they exacerbate the temporary symptoms of concussion that relate to learning and retaining information. More from Time.com:
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Although children may appear to be physically normal after having a concussion, they may actually have trouble learning new information and retaining it. Going back to school may exacerbate these symptoms, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in a new clinical report presented at the AAP National Conference & Exhibition in Orlando.
Research shows that it takes about three weeks for a child to fully recover from a concussion. If their symptoms are especially severe, they should stay home from school. Even though kids with concussions may appear asymptomatic, they often report difficulty focusing on schoolwork and taking tests, especially in math, science, and foreign-languages. Medical experts are worried that too much learning stimulation can overwhelm a brain that is still recovering, and make it even more difficult for a child to get back on track. If systems are mild, parents can consider sending their kids back to class, but should inform teachers about the concussion so adjustments can be made to the pace of the class if needed. The researchers call this necessary step, “cognitive rest.”