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The Public School Insights Blog

A new report released by the Harvard School of Public Health assesses the educational and economic benefits of the School Breakfast Program. This work is especially timely as we face a perfect storm of rising hunger and declining budgets.

Hunger has clear costs to education attainment. Hungry students miss school more often. Even when they are in school, their cognitive abilities slacken. Not surprisingly, students who receive breakfast do better academically, enjoy better health and have fewer discipline problems than their peers who go without.

The Harvard report also lays out the economic costs of student hunger: "When schools do not provide breakfast to children, the loss of return on educational investment becomes a hidden tax paid by the local district and community." By eradicating student hunger, the authors estimate, the nation could increase its return on educational investment by billions every year.

Stimulus, indeed. ...

The National Staff Development Council (NSDC) just released a report reviewing the the status of teacher professional development in the United States. Their conclusion: We're making incremental progress in teacher induction and mentoring programs, but we lag woefully behind other nations in providing the kinds of professional development that improve student learning.

Surveys of teachers reveal that disjointed, one-time, "drive-by" professional development workshops remain the norm for large majorities of American teachers. This, despite strong research demonstrating the benefits of intensive, on-going professional development that is tied closely to teacher practice, focuses on student learning, supports school improvement priorities and forges strong working relationships among teachers. NSDC's findings could have profound implications for how schools allocate teachers' time and structure the school day.

The report describes the striking differences between teacher professional development practices here and abroad. NSDC's press release sums up these differences:

The United States is far behind [other nations] in providing public school teachers with opportunities to ...

vonzastrowc's picture

Stimulus Circus

It seems everyone's weighing in on education spending in the stimulus package, but much current criticism of this spending is generating more heat than light:

  • Some seem to think education spending is inherently un-stimulative--as if job losses and drastic district spending cuts in a half-trillion dollar industry were somehow irrelevant to the national economy.
  • Some would like to tie the stimulus money to hard-hitting reforms such as national standards and changes to teacher compensation. (Important topics for debate, no doubt, but stimulative?)
  • Some cherish the odd notion that there's nothing like a wrenching economic recession to improve

Walter Dean Myers understands second chances. A high school dropout by age 17, he enlisted in the army and worked odd jobs as a young adult. It was his lifelong relationship with books that put him on a path to becoming one of the nation's most celebrated young adult authors. Five Coretta Scott King Awards and two Newbery Honors later, Myers is sharing the lesson of second chances with a new generation of at-risk youth.

Last week, Myers spoke with us about the central themes of his new novel, Dope Sick: personal responsibility and redemption. The novel tells the story of a young man facing the consequences of a drug deal gone wrong who has an opportunity to review and revise his life choices. This story line reflects a belief Myers avowed throughout our interview: We must empower teens to take greater control of their lives.

Dope Sick has become the centerpiece of an effort to do just that. Myers is collaborating with and the NEA on the Second Chance Initiative, which aims to help youth make better choices. As part of this initiative, the novel will be available for free on HarperCollins' website from February 10th through 24th. The initiative also offers Dope Sick reading guides and writing activities along with resources on preventing high school dropout, teen pregnancy and substance abuse.

Underlying this effort is Myers' long-standing faith that reading can offer hope to teens who need it most.

Listen to highlights from our interview with Walter Dean Myers here (16 minutes), or read a transcript below:


PUBLIC SCHOOL INSIGHTS: You're releasing your new novel, Dope Sick, very soon. What's the novel about?

MYERS: It's about a young man who has reached a point of crisis in his life. He goes into a building, running from the police, and he meets another young man his own age. The new young man is a somewhat fantastic creature who can call up ...

vonzastrowc's picture

Stimulus Lowdown

The National Education Association has assembled some mighty helpful documents spelling out funding levels proposed in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill.  They've even broken out funding by state and congressional district. Check out their resources here. ...

There's something about the nation's education challenges that inspires a need for villains--and that's a shame. Many think tank dwellers cast teachers and administrators in that role: slothful, self-serving adults who value bureaucracy over children. (Please.)

Former big businessman and current Nevada university chancellor James Rogers is also on the hunt for villains in the education morality play, but he reserves his venom for "the public." Blogger Robert Pondiscio unearthed a Youtube video of Rogers exempting educators from blame: "The majority of educators work very hard, are much smarter than their critics, and are far more organized and efficient than their critics."

Rogers spends most of his time laying the blame for an education "disaster" at ...

Others may have known this was coming, but it threw me for a major loop. Jennifer Jennings, a.k.a. "Eduwonkette," is packing in her famous blog to spend more time on her dissertation. We will miss her ability to keep education wonks of all stripes honest. In her very first posting over a year ago, she famously wrote:

Education-policy debates are dominated by a small number of very loud voices....  Ideological claims, rather than research, data, the experience of educators, and common sense, are wielded as weapons.

The final sentence of her final posting leaves at least a glimmer of hope for her bereft readers: "So I guess this is goodbye, at least for now." ...

A sobering article in Saturday's Wall Street Journal details the Harlem Children's Zone's financial worries as foundations and and private investors cut back or bail out altogether. The deepening recession and Madoff mess have apparently taken a toll on Geoffrey Canada's groundbreaking effort to break the cycle of poverty in Harlem.

The WSJ article offers a bracing reminder of what can happen when efforts to serve the public good must rely overwhelmingly on private grants and ...

For the past several weeks, Public School Insights has used the presidential inauguration as an occasion or interviewing leading educators, community members and others about the status and future of civics education in American schools. In our final interview, South Carolina Superintendent Steve Hefner offers his thoughts on U.S. civics education in the wake of an historic presidential election and inauguration.

Hefner, whose Richland 2 school district has won broad acclaim for its civic education focus, is a bit less glum than most about the current state of civics. While he certainly presses for more civics in schools, he also believes that the surge of youth interest in the recent election and inauguration offers schools an extraordinary opportunity to promote greater civic knowledge and engagement.

Listen to about five minutes of highlights from our interview:

Or read the transcript of these highlights below:

PUBLIC SCHOOL INSIGHTS: Are American students, in your view, getting enough civics education?

HEFNER: I think they're getting more today than maybe at the time that I first began in the profession, about four decades ago. Do I think they're getting enough? I think that there is still a need for a greater emphasis on civics education, but ...

vonzastrowc's picture

Evolution... Again

As the battle over evolution heats up again in Texas, science educators are presumably bracing themselves for more years in the wilderness.

At issue is language in the current state standards that requires students to examine the "strengths and weaknesses" of every scientific theory. Intelligent design advocates and their creationist kissing cousins are loath to see this language go, as it encourages skepticism about evolution. Science advocates, by contrast, would like to see these words dead and buried, because they see them as the thin end of the creationist wedge. 

As the evolution pendulum continues to swing back and forth, teachers will have to fend for themselves without consistent--or scientifically sound--guidance on how to survive in this uncertain environment. ...

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