Learning First Alliance

Strengthening public schools for every child

Healthy Kids

Blog Entries

Having health insurance makes a huge difference for children in school. Schools can make a huge difference by identifying uninsured students and connecting them to health insurance. The key is asking a simple question on school enrollment forms: "Does your child have health insurance?"

Make this part of your back-to-school plans this year. AASA, the School Superintendents Association, and the Children’s Defense Fund are excited to offer proven strategies, tips and tools to schools districts across the country through the "Insure All Children" Toolkit (www.insureallchildren.org), which shares real school stories and experiences and offers useful tools for ensuring all children in your school are happy, healthy and ready to learn. ...

Like the tiles in a mosaic, each interesting on its own but collectively presenting a separate image, the current state of public education in America generally does not appear as a complete picture when reading individual news stories or research studies. The challenges facing public schools are many, but together they conspire to threaten this most vital institution if left unaddressed.

At the outset, we need to acknowledge that America is changing – both in terms of its racial and ethnic composition, as well as in its income disparities. A recent report by the Government Accountability Office found that the percentage of schools in which students mostly are Hispanic and black, as well as from low income families, has risen significantly, and frequently is accompanied by fewer resources and educational opportunities.

Poverty is having a particularly profound impact on children. More than 50 percent of students in U.S. public schools today are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, according to the Southern Education Foundation. Although this should be deeply troubling, the prevalence of childhood poverty is hardly discussed by elected officials, and it has been virtually ignored in this year’s political debate. ...

Summer break is often seen as an idyllic time for teachers, parents and students to take vacations, have fun, and forget about the stress of school.

But for the growing number of students living in poverty, summer vacations can be a significant setback to their learning, researchers say.

“Summer learning loss is a significant contributor to the achievement gap,” says Sarah Pitcock, CEO of the National Summer Learning Association. “Every summer, low-income youth lose two to three months in reading achievement while their higher-income peers make slight gains."

According to NSLA, these losses accrue each year, and by fifth grade, cumulative years of summer learning loss in reading and math skills can leave low-income students two-and-a-half to three years behind their peers. Further, disadvantaged students may also deal with food insecurities and safety issues when they are out of school. ...

When the city of Flint, Michigan switched its water source in 2014, issues with the water quality became immediately apparent. But it wasn’t until recently that the problems with the water supply, corrosion of pipes and lead in the water became national news. Now, the water situation had turned into a crisis.

“Educators and students in Flint are doing the best that they can. Children and staff are only allowed to wash hands with the water from the faucets. Children have daily water in bottles. After-school programs use hydration stations to fill cups and water bottles in the schools,” said Karen Christian, President of the United Teachers of Flint.

Times of crisis often bring people together, and the residents of Flint are no different. In the face of anger, frustration, fear and health concerns about lead poisoning – especially for children who are still developing and growing – people are banding together to fight for their rights and to help one another access clean water. ...

Sometimes, you know you have to get involved because you can make a difference. That’s why Sara Brown, a health room assistant at Bordeaux Elementary School in Shelton, Washington, got involved in fighting student hunger. With more than 70 percent of her students’ families classified as low-income or homeless, hunger was a real issue in her school.

“We know that hundreds of children come to school without eating breakfast, and skipping breakfast can make kids feel tired, restless, and irritable,” said Sara. “This can lead to moodiness, changes in energy levels, and low retention.”

So, Sara and her fellow educators took action. With the help of her school’s community and staff members, Bordeaux Elementary School is working closely together with families to end student hunger. One of their great ideas to alleviate the issue is their school’s share bin.

“Our share bin is simple. If you have a piece of fruit or other food in your lunch that you didn’t eat or touch, you place it in the share box. This food is still good to eat and can easily be given to a student who is still hungry,” said Sara. ...

The National Institutes of Health is launching a 10-year, multifaceted study on adolescent brain development that could provide important clues to how students learn and grow.

As the largest effort ever undertaken on this topic, the study will include about 10,000 children and will follow 9- and 10-year-olds into early adulthood to look at the impact of both genetics and environmental factors on brain development. The study seeks to set standards for brain development and help doctors identify risk factors that could lead to issues such as depression, substance abuse, lower academic achievement.

By following a large number of children over a long period of time, researchers may see consistent patterns that lead to the achievement gap, said Dr. Gaya Dowling, the NIH project director who presented a webinar today explaining the study to Learning First Alliance member organizations and partners. ...

Spring forward! My least favorite Sunday morning of the year. Sure, spring is coming and the daylight will linger in the warmer temperatures, but losing that hour can be rough for an already sleep-deprived nation. But it’s even worse for our nation’s teenagers, who already get less than the recommended hours of sleep needed for their growth during this time of transition into adulthood. And this is not just about being overscheduled or overstimulated, up all night texting with their friends; it’s about the science behind the adolescent need for more sleep. ...

School counselors bear a tremendous responsibility to guide their students to academic and career success and, along the way, nurture their emotional well being. For Katherine Pastor, school counseling is a career that allows her to help hundreds of students at at Arizona’s Flagstaff High School achieve their potential each year.

The American School Counselors Association named Ms. Pastor as the 2016 School Counselor of the Year and is celebrating National School Counseling Week from February 1-5, 2016. Ms. Pastor and other finalists were honored by First Lady Michelle Obama at a White House ceremony on January 29, which can be viewed on YouTube. ...

Have you ever felt lonely, invisible or alone? Now imagine feeling that way every day. Social isolation is a growing epidemic in the United States and within our schools. Too many of our young people suffer silently every day because they feel excluded, left out, or that they don’t belong.

Excessive feelings of social isolation can be associated with violent and suicidal behavior. In fact, one study reports that chronic loneliness increases our risk of an early death by 14 percent. Young people who are isolated can become victims of bullying, violence and depression and as a result, many further pull away from society, struggle with learning and social development and choose to hurt themselves or others.

The good news is that we can do something about this. Together we can create more inclusive and connected classrooms, schools and communities!

Sandy Hook Promise is asking schools across the country to join us February 8-12, 2016 for National Start With Hello Week. ...

Recently, I was honored to present to 350 Utah education support professionals (classified school staff) on bullying prevention. These workers truly are the eyes and ears of the school, but unfortunately are considered the “Rodney Dangerfields” of our schools because “They Don’t Get No Respect.”

It is clear from a 2010 NEA nationwide survey of education support professionals on bullying; we need to change this perception if we ever hope to win the war on bullying.

Even though ESPs have played a crucial role in preventing school shootings and student suicides, we sometimes forget that ESPs are on the front lines when it comes to witnessing bullying and can play a major role in whole-school bullying prevention. We need to make administrators more aware of this and provide ESPs with the resources and training they need NOW!

I believe we can accomplish this by:

First – Understanding the Vital Role ESPs Play in Schools: ...

Syndicate content