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By Gail Connelly, Executive Director, National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP)

Early childhood education may be the single most important part of a successful learner’s P-12 experience. Because of that, early learning is an essential focus for elementary school leaders.

Nationwide, more than one out of every three third-grade students is still unable to read at grade level. Later, students drop out of high school at roughly the same rates as those who were struggling to read in elementary school. These are important reminders to elementary (and middle) school principals about how early the patterns of future success or failure are formed in the students they work with every single day.

NAESP understands the significance of early childhood education and the need to support a seamless continuum of learning for children coming from high-quality early childhood learning settings to the early grades, or from “age three to grade three.” Building an aligned P-3 system is a national and state priority. Investment in early childhood education systems and practices are essential to ensure that all children have a chance to learn on equal footing— especially those from low-income or disadvantaged backgrounds, who are at risk of ...

*October 2, 2013 Update: Despite the federal government shutdown, the marketplace opened as planned and received more than 1 million visitors in the first day, more than five times the number of users that have been on Medicare.gov at one time. While users encountered system glitches, which were largely anticipated, this is only the first day in a six month open enrollment period, and improvements are expected to be ongoing.

Healthy kids come to school better able to focus on classroom learning. Having access to quality affordable health care will only increase the quality of life for the nation’s youth, their families and the surrounding communities. In a time of economic hardship, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) ensures that millions of Americans who lack insurance now have access to affordable care. State-based health care marketplaces (or exchanges) open today and offer significant opportunities for students, parents, teachers and school communities across the country. The marketplace is a one-stop shop, a site run either by your state or the federal government that allows you to fill out an application and compare health insurance options available in your area. Most Americans will be eligible to participate in the exchange; however, you can opt to remain on your employer’s plan if you already receive coverage.  You can learn more about your options, and eligibility, by going to ...

By Haylie Bernacki, Specialist of Unified Sports School and College Growth, Special Olympics North America Project UNIFY 

For years, a main initiative within Special Olympics Project UNIFY schools and State Programs has been the expansion of Unified Sports, which combines individuals with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team. It was inspired by a simple principle: training together and playing together is a quick path to friendship and understanding. Project UNIFY State Program staff are expanding relationships with state interscholastic associations to increase the credibility, reach, and depth of Unified Sports throughout school districts across the country. The hope is that every child will be able to play on a school sports team, regardless of their ability level. ...

Education doesn’t exist in a vacuum, but sometimes the most obvious connections are easy to miss – even those that are right in front of us. In an era of high-stakes testing, more rigorous standards and decreasing budgets, some stakeholders and policymakers may wonder why schools should invest time and money on students’ health.  But health care, education and poverty are inextricably linked, and an innate understanding of how these policy spheres intersect locally is almost always required to ensure that each child has an equal opportunity to learn.

Physical Health ...

By Jim Bender, Executive Director, NEA Health Information Network

I suspect that most of us have never heard the sound of a child with whooping cough. We may never have seen a child covered with chickenpox or swollen from the mumps. So we forget that every year children still contract these preventable diseases and get very sick, and some may die.

So far, 2013 has seen major outbreaks of measles in New York and North Carolina. There also have been major outbreaks of pertussis (whooping cough) in Texas, Oregon, Washington, and other states.

Educators and schools can play an important role in helping families get the immunizations they need. 

All members of the school community—educators, education support staff, administrators, and parents—can help to carry the message of immunization for students and adults.  Advocacy for Vaccines from NEA Health Information Network provides an overview of what you can do to help build support in your school.  ...

By Joseph Bishop, Director of the National Opportunity to Learn Campaign and Executive Director of Opportunity Action

Last week, New York education officials released scores from the first Common Core-aligned standardized state tests. Student scores showed a dramatic drop in performance from previous years.  Statewide, just 31.1 percent of students tested proficient in English Language Arts, and 31 percent tested proficient in math.

We can’t be surprised by the results, as New York leaders and many state decision-makers across the country have failed to recognize that new standards alone won’t drive students to succeed. Standards must be matched with common core supports for students, parents, teachers and principals.  The challenge the National Opportunity to Learn Campaign is trying to address with organizations like the Alliance for Quality Education and A+New York is about more than closing the achievement gap on state tests. We’re working to rectify the ever-present opportunity gap that ...

You cannot just “PBIS” a child who happens to be misbehaving or acting out. That simple reality is probably one of the most important facts about Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), also known as school wide positive behavioral supports (SWPBS). It’s defined as a framework for enhancing adoption and implementation of a continuum of evidence-based interventions to achieve academically and behaviorally important outcomes for all students. Through this framework, PBIS seeks to improve school climate, reduce discipline issues and support academic achievement. In mid-July, George Sugai from the Neag School of Education (also Director, Center for Behavioral Education & Research and Co-Director, Center of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) joined out-going Principal Rodney Moore from Stone Hill Middle School in Ashburn (VA) – a school that implemented PBIS – at a U.S Department of Education briefing in Washington D.C. ...

It doesn’t take a degree in psychology to acknowledge that humans are complex beings; how often does a friend, colleague or family member do something you perceive to be simply inexplicable? Given our diverse nature, it should come as no surprise that educating children is not an exact science; each one is unique. Ultimately, they are the result of their background, family and economic circumstances, and life experiences. A student’s potential and capacity for achievement rests with our country’s capacity to recognize and respond to these systemic challenges, perhaps even embrace them, to support the whole child. Consider the following statistics highlighting the challenges our country faces: ...

By Nora Howley, Manager of Programs, NEA-Health Information Network

It is hard not to turn on the television, flip through the paper, or open the news app on your smart phone without coming across concerns about the health of children around everything from obesity (one third of children are overweight or obese) to prescription drug misuse (almost 21% of high school students report they have taken a prescription drug without a doctor’s script).

Schools can do a number of things to address these concerns. They can provide healthier food, offer more opportunities for physical activity, and create community events to help parents better understand the risks associated with prescription drug misuse and abuse.  But regardless of the health problem, one of the most important things that schools can undertake is to have a strong, standards-based health education program. ...

The economy may be slowly improving, but many families and children are still struggling to get by in communities across the country. Economic insecurity increases childhood stress and negatively affects a student's ability to focus and be present in the classroom. School counselors are on the front lines when it comes to supporting students through this and other challenges ranging from incidents of bullying, issues at home, academic struggles, and depression and anxiety, to name just a few.

Recently, Mindy Willard, the American School Counselor Association's (ASCA's) 2013 National Counselor of the Year, was kind enough to share her insights and experience with Public School Insights (PSI). She has created a counseling program at Sunset Ridge Elementary School that serves all its 650 students through a range of activities and interventions. She also provided specific goals, interventions and results from the program, highlighting how such efforts support student health and learning. And, as the National Counselor of the Year, she shared some of her thoughts on the challenges counselors face, important facts to highlight in advocacy efforts and what she's looking forward to doing this year in her national role. 

Public School Insights (PSI): First, congratulations on being named the 2013 ASCA School Counselor of the Year. And thank you for taking the time to answer some of our questions about your work and the value of school counselors. Could you share with us what drew you to counseling?

Willard: I always knew I wanted to work with people, children in particular; it wasn’t until college when I discovered the idea of becoming a school counselor. I was pursuing my undergraduate degree in Psychology and quickly realized there was not a whole lot I could do with that degree. I began exploring my options, spending summers working with children in juvenile detention facilities and group homes. I discovered I really wanted to ...

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