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Articles from October, 2008

Food allergy on the rise

A new CDC report shows that food allergy among children in the United States is seriously on the rise – over the past decade, there has been an 18 percent increase in such diagnoses. With 4 out of every 100 children under the age of 18 suffering from a food allergy, many schools are working hard to develop comprehensive policies and management plans to deal with this potentially life-threatening condition. However, while striving to find a balance between safety and normalcy in the school environment, educational leaders and policy-makers are wrestling with the social, emotional, and practical aspects of food allergy, its associated stigma and isolation, and the newer phenomenon of “food bullies” – kids who threaten children who are food allergic by exposing them to their respective allergens.

Schools are also struggling to answer the difficult questions that come with this: Do we ban peanuts from our cafeterias? Are parents allowed to send in special “homemade” treats for the birthdays? Can we staff every school building with a student at risk for anaphylaxis with a fulltime school nurse? Should we guarantee appropriate substitutions or modifications for meals served to students with food allergies? Currently, there are no Federal guidelines concerning the management of life-threatening food allergies in the school setting to provide the answers…but that could soon change!

As Congress considers legislation that would require the Department of Health and Human Services to develop voluntary guidelines related to food allergy and anaphylaxis management in schools, NSBA is also getting involved with this important issue. Building upon our recent publication, Eating Safely at School: What Education Leaders Need to Know and Do to Prevent and Respond to Food-Related Illness in School, NSBA has partnered with the CDC, the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, and the Rhode Island Department of Education to develop credible food allergy policy guidance for policy-makers, educational leaders, and parents.

So stay tuned!

Erin Walsh|October 31st, 2008|Categories: Wellness, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

New commission to make rules on military compact

A new commission governing the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children held its first meeting in Arizona this week to begin the process of organizing and rule making. The Interstates Compact was established after lawmakers in 10 states passed legislation for adoption. So far 11 states have joined the Compact which addresses perceived inequalities facing schoolchildren of military parents when they are required to relocate across state lines. The member states of the Compact agreed to terms that make the transfer of schoolchildren easier in the areas of eligibility, enrollment, placement and graduation requirements, see a BoardBuzz item here.

NSBA has been discussing the issue with its state school boards associations in assessing the Compact’s impact on school districts. A dozen or so more states are expected to join the Compact next year, according to the Council of State Governments, which is contracted by the Department of Defense to assist member states and the new commission.

NSBA has not opposed the Compact but is monitoring the new commission’s work which could have significant impact on local school districts in member states. Many of the details of the Compact such as enforcement, compliance and specific requirements will be ironed out in the rules that the commission is working on in the next few months. For more information on the Compact, see here.

Erin Walsh|October 31st, 2008|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Bein’ Green

Since we were quite busy with all kinds of receptions, ceremonies, and our own presentations I didn’t get a chance to get to many other concurrent sessions. The school board members I traveled with did get to a few however and were particularly impressed with Green Fingerprints: Leaving our Mark on the Planet by Marina Light from the Center for Digital Education.
As one of the panel to help decide which sessions were accepted to T+L this year I remember the group discussing the need for this topic to be a part of this year’s conference and in the future. I was glad to hear our school board members caught this one and are now motivated to start encouraging more programs in conservation and environmental issues at our school. We do a good job with this but I believe we have some new ideas that we can use here. I encourage everyone to start by placing a reminder in their email signature – something like “Please consider the environment before printing this email” and see if that makes a difference in your paper consumption.

Erin Walsh|October 31st, 2008|Categories: Student Achievement, T+L|

And The Winner Is …

All the votes for the presidential race have been cast and the only thing left to do is to count ‘em up and determine a winner. Ok, maybe just at my friend, Jonathon’s school.

On Thursday, he and the rest of the social studies teachers at Harper’s Choice Middle School in Columbia, MD, put their students’ knowledge and retention of the past several weeks’ worth of lessons on current affairs and national issues to the test. Or should we say the ballot.

But unlike registered voters, the students were given a blind ballot, and asked to select between each of Candidate A’s and Candidate B’s stance on issues like taxes, healthcare, education, and the environment. The candidate they most agreed with garnered their vote.

Of course, the students also were given ballots with the names of each of the party’s candidates, casting their votes in the more traditional manner.

I’m sure this is an exercise that has been administered before, in other classrooms, at other times. But in this election, I can’t help but think such a method would have a significant impact in the outcome.

Personally, I wish all ballots were designed this way. It would force voters to really study the issues that each of the candidates support, instead of relying on hearsay. An informed voter is essential to an effective democracy.

The winner, according to Harper’s Choice, won’t be announced until next week, but my friend is of the opinion, the difference between the results of the blind and traditional ballots might be closer than you think. I’ll keep you posted. But until then, read up on the issues one last time and then make your voice heard on Election Day.

Naomi Dillon, Senior Editor

Naomi Dillon|October 31st, 2008|Categories: Student Achievement, American School Board Journal|

Cool Tunes

For the first six years of my career I taught instrumental music and music theory and always used technology a bit with my students – tech was my hobby at that time. Now, the roles have reversed with technology being what I do and music is a hobby. So I am always excited to hear the winners of the MENC/T+L Student Electronic Music Composition Talent Search. We were lucky enough a few years ago to have a student win in the middle school category which I know was very exciting for her and her parents. Take a listen to their compositions and read their stories below at:

Congratulations to all of them and encourage your music students and teachers to get involved with this program!

Erin Walsh|October 31st, 2008|Categories: Educational Technology, T+L|

Web 2.0 tools

Nifty end-of-conference preso just now — plenty of hands-on time, a G-Cast cel phone ==> podcast demo that seems promising for folks without lots of podcasting gear, and interesting use of pbwiki to generate ideas and pages for discussion.

Great table conversations about the need for professional development vision, funding, personnel to enact Web 2.0 / tech-integration / literacy-redefinition efforts. At our table, we had a Board Member, a Chief Tech Officer from a district, and me, a non-profit professional developer.

Presenters used PBWiki to host the conversation about social – legal – ethical issues around using Web 2.0 in our districts / schools. We surfaced a bunch of the core issues, and commented on them on sub-pages. Wonder what a next step with that particular Wiki, and our thinking, would have been?

Call me crazy, but I still want to see a rockin’ match between a Wiki’s core functionality — ability to spin off pages, links, and edits — and a topic in a for-educators’ workshop. Maybe I need to try to develop one. Anyone out there got suggestions for using a Wiki super-well with adults, say in a professional development context?

Erin Walsh|October 30th, 2008|Categories: Student Achievement, T+L|

Redefining Literacy, Y’all! (Warlick @ NSBA)

David Warlick, in his Thursday morning presentation, challenged attendees to redefine literacy for the uncertain future. Sounding pretty Big6-ish at first, he suggested literacy was about finding, evaluating, and applying/contextualizing info; then inferring/building meaning and organizing it into personal digital libraries.

Fun happened when he opined that we educators need to “Stop integrating technology – start integrating literacy and teaching kids to teach themselves.”

Loved the tag-cloud comparisons, using Tag Crowd, of FDR’s Day That Shall Live in Infamy and Churchill’s Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat speeches — two stirring 20th c. come-to-war speeches. Why *are* those tag clouds — keyword-frequencies — so different looking? Have at it, Social Studies and English teachers…

Erin Walsh|October 30th, 2008|Categories: Student Achievement, T+L|

Moodle Wednesday

Had a great time with Moodle on Wednesday @ NSBA T+L Seattle 2008. Got to co-present a session (“Taking It to the Next Level Online with Moodle”), with Nicole Yemothy of Kent School District (WA) — attendees seemed to enjoy seeing how Nicole’s using Moodle with 7th grade students in a science class, plus the overview of Moodle hosted in a Moodle course. Deep dive: Moodle’s “Choice” activity continues to be a winner, in terms of

*eliciting students’ prior understanding*
*letting students choose project or topic ideas*
*doing formative assessment after experiencing content*

Then attended Randy Orwin’s “Moodle Magic…” session 2pm — great setup: thin-client Linux network giving us all online access; entry Moodle Feedback survey on who we are and what we know about Moodle; and tons of information on Moodle modules and functionality, Web 2.0 and open-source software in general. Well-deserved applause ended this great session.

Erin Walsh|October 30th, 2008|Categories: Student Achievement, T+L|

Glum and glummer

As states grapple with budget shortfalls across the country, the looming impact on schools — which can account for a majority of state funding — is not pretty.

New York schools may be fortunate to see level funding from the state, which is facing a $1.5 billion shortfall. The New York State School Boards Association is advising school boards to begin explaining to their communities the impact of potential cuts. “You’re in the middle of the school year, you’ve set the tax rate _ tax bills have already gone out,” David Albert of the NYSSBA said. “You’ve planned your spending … Midyear school cuts would be devastating.”

In Alabama, the state informed school districts this week that it is short 25 percent on the state allocations that help districts meet end-of-month payroll, forcing districts to tap into reserve accounts or take out loans to pay employees, reports the Birmingham News.

In California, schools and other agencies are in the crosshairs of a multi-billion dollar state shortfall, writes the Sacramento Bee.

Education Week (registration needed) recently summarized the impact of the economic crisis on school districts.

Erin Walsh|October 30th, 2008|Categories: Educational Legislation, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Vouchers to go before Arizona court, again

The Arizona Supreme Court announced this week that it will hear an appeal of an appelate court ruling from earlier this year that struck down the state’s two small private school voucher programs. While the two programs in question enroll only about 500 students, a favorable ruling by the state Supreme Court would likely generate new legislation to create a more expansive voucher program, according to the Arizona Daily Star. No hearing date is as yet scheduled.

Erin Walsh|October 30th, 2008|Categories: Privatization, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|
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