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If you’re hungry, chances are that you won’t be focused on your meeting, paying attention to a seminar or truly engaged in anything you’re trying to do. The same happens for children in school. Being hungry affects their capacity to focus in the classroom (as noted by, for example, the Economic Policy Institute and the Center for American Progress).

There are numerous reasons students may come to school hungry: Tight family budgets, limited morning time to prepare a nutritious meal, or a child being physically incapable of eating immediately after waking up. Research shows that school breakfast programs can address these circumstances. And through innovative programs such as Breakfast in the Classroom, schools and districts are ensuring that no child slips through the crack and has to spend the school day hungry. ...

By Nora L. Howley, Manager of Programs, NEA Health Information Network

We’ve all heard it said, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” But too many children in the United States are starting school each day without breakfast.  As NEA President Dennis Van Roekel pointed out last week on the Huffington Post: “If we're honest with ourselves, the faces of hunger are everywhere -- in every area, every city and every demographic. The 2012 edition of the 'Kids Count' report, one of the most widely quoted surveys on the condition of children in the U.S., indicates that child poverty is mounting. This is not just an issue of an extra donut or bagel. This is chronic hunger affecting millions of children every day, and the consequences are staggering.” Hungry children cannot learn, they cannot concentrate, and they certainly can’t achieve at the levels they would otherwise.

Educators everywhere know this problem all too well. A new poll from Share Our Strength found that three out of five educators report students coming to school hungry and the majority of those say that the problem is getting worse. 

Expanding participation in school breakfast is one of the most important and ...

This weekend I started reading David McCullough’s most recent book, The Greater Journey, which chronicles the experiences of some of the United States’ most accomplished writers and thinkers on their visits to Paris in the early part of the nineteenth century.  I’m still at the very beginning of what promises to be a fascinating book; however, I’m enjoying the description of the initial culture shock these prominent Americans had when they arrived in Paris and learned that most of the French knew very little about the United States and didn’t even speak English!  

McCullough points out that the French people’s initial introduction to the United States and its citizens came in 1835 when Baron Alexis de Tocqueville published his first edition of Democracy in America on his return from an extended stay in the US.  In his publication, de Tocqueville described the nature of American politics; the evils of slavery; and American’s love of money.  But the passage that has stuck with me is de Tocqueville’s assertion that from the beginning “the originality of American civilization was most clearly apparent in the provisions made for public education.”

This profound observation by de Tocqueville almost two hundred years ago frames the current debate on resource allocation and the future of both public schooling and our democratic way of life in a fresh context.  While the United States once again garnered the most ...

Not in most states, according to a national report card dedicated to answering that question.

Back in 2010, the first edition of a national report card on school funding and fairness was released. Considering “fair” school funding to be “a state finance system that ensures equal educational opportunity by providing a sufficient level of funding distributed to districts within the state to account for additional needs generated by student poverty,” it concluded that most states do not do a good job of ensuring equality of educational opportunity for all children. Last month, the second edition of this report card (which included funding data through 2009) was released – and once again, many states are falling short.

Just six states performed well on all measures of fairness that the report considered. Iowa, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Vermont maintained their performance from the 2010 report, with Kansas and New Mexico joining them (Connecticut and Wyoming fell out of this group in 2012). Three states received below average rankings on all indicators – Florida, Missouri, and North Carolina.

These indicators reflect a number of core principles, one of which is that “varying levels of funding are required to provide equal educational opportunities to children with different needs.” Another is that the overall level of education funding matters ...

Remember the Super Committee? Formally known as the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, it was a bipartisan congressional committee established by the Budget Control Act of 2011 tasked with identifying $1.2 trillion in federal budgetary savings (through spending cuts, revenue increases and program reforms) over ten years.

If you remember the Super Committee, you also remember that it failed. And the consequence of that failure is looming on the horizon: Sequestration.

Sequestration refers to the across-the-board budget cuts of approximately nine percent that are scheduled to take effect on January 2, 2013. It is a blunt instrument, applying budget cuts to all discretionary spending programs, from defense to education and medical research to housing, regardless of program effectiveness or return on investment.

The most widely discussed aspect of sequestration is cuts to defense spending. Almost immediately after the Super Committee failed, talks began among some lawmakers as to how sequestration could be reformed to ...

Public systems are inherently complex because they involve multiple levels of government and numerous actors. Such systems, funded with taxpayer dollars, engage the concept of public good. Collective dollars contribute to a framework from which the broader citizenry benefits. The U.S public education system exemplifies complexity, from diverse funding streams to policy-making at the federal, state and local levels to the daily functioning of schools and classroom teaching. As such, public education is often at the heart of a greater debate over the role of government and the concept of public good. ...

Shortly after I wrote a blog post in late April about the data showing the effect of poverty on student academic achievement, I received an article from listing and describing the ten poorest high schools in the United States.  The data sadly correlates the level of poverty and student achievement in a manner that is in line with the data Stanford University has gathered through years of research around contributing factors in student achievement.  The surprise is that not all the ten poorest high schools are traditional public schools:  one is a charter and one is a virtual high school. And they too have trouble helping students succeed, once again illustrating that school structure – charter, traditional or virtual – is not the determining factor in educating children to their highest potential.  A sampling of the schools on the list— ...

On May 17, the Learning First Alliance (LFA) honored Jack Jennings, who founded (and recently retired from) the Center on Education Policy after a long and distinguished career on Capitol Hill, with our 2012 Education Visionary Award. In accepting the award, Jennings explained what he believes will bring about major improvement in education in the United States: A focus on curriculum, teacher quality, and funding.

What follows is an excerpt from his speech.

We are in a world where you can’t stand still. We are in a world where we have to improve. And unfortunately, national leaders are coming across in education as saying that things are okay, and I don’t think that is helpful. I think that it is much more helpful to say that American education must be better than it has been in the past for the sake of the kids, but also for the sake of the country.

But I also believe that we are on the wrong agenda today. We are on an agenda that is not going to get us very far. We need a new vision and we need a new agenda for education.

Let me tell you how I arrived at this. I wrote a paper…looking back on 50 years of school reform. We’ve had three major movements in school reform. The equity movement of the 1960s and 1970s, which brought about a lot of good, especially for kids with disabilities, for women, for ...

Studies show that the physical and mental health of students is inextricably linked to their academic success. Fourteen percent of students in school have asthma that impacts their daily living. One third of teen girls will become pregnant before age nineteen, and many of them will not complete high school successfully. Eleven percent of families are food insecure—their children do not get enough to eat and they may come to school hungry.

That is precisely why schools can and should create the conditions for optimal learning, including the basics of health services, from healthy meals to physical activity to health education that teaches life-long skills.

“Our members work with students every day whose health and school conditions impede their ability to learn. That’s why NEA members are taking the lead to advocate for school and learning conditions that result in a higher level of student engagement and fewer absences” said National Education Association (NEA) President Dennis Van Roekel at Health in Mind,  hosted by ...

It seems the one thing we can all agree on when discussing how to improve public schooling for all our children is that we need data to guide our approach to personalizing teaching and learning in the classroom, so that we can ensure student success and support teacher effectiveness.  Yet we persist in ignoring data that points to root causes that hamper the most talented school leaders in their work with children. 

At a recent meeting on Capitol Hill, researcher Sean Reardon from the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE) shared data showing the only developed country in the world with a larger percentage of children living in poverty than the United States is Mexico.  So the US is #2 in the developed world in children living in poverty (22 percent of our children live in poverty).  Dr. Reardon also ...

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