EdBrief

Advocacy Group Sues Two California School Districts for Serving Students Processed Meats

April 24, 2017

The nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, based in Washington, DC, filed a lawsuit on April 12 to stop schools in California’s Los Angeles Unified School District and Poway Unified School District from serving students processed meats – including hot dogs, pepperoni, and luncheon meat – which are linked to colorectal cancer.

The lawsuit alleges that serving foods that have been linked to cancer in school lunches violates California’s Education Code, which mandates that school lunches must be of the "highest quality" and "greatest nutritional value possible." Processed meats are available daily on many California public school menus.

Tracy Childs and Steven Sarnoff, who have two children who were Poway Unified School District students, and Jennifer Mack, a Los Angeles Unified School District teacher, are also plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the California Department of Education, the Los Angeles Unified School District, and the Poway Unified School District...

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Influenza Cases Widespread in California

January 16, 2017

On December 30, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) announced that influenza activity is increasing in the state and has reached “widespread” levels. Areas with the most influenza activity include the Northern California, Central California and Bay Area regions.

Since the beginning of the influenza season in California, CDPH has received reports of three influenza deaths and 29 severe influenza cases resulting in admission to the intensive care unit in patients 64 years old and younger.

In the United States, influenza activity reaches its highest levels between December and February, and may continue through May. It is not too late to get vaccinated against influenza. Now is a perfect time to do it: CDPH recommends the annual flu vaccine for everyone six months of age and older, including pregnant women...

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Parents Spending More Than Nine Hours a Day with Screen Media – and Worry When Children Do the Same

December 19, 2016

A first-of-its-kind study released on December 6 by Common Sense shows that parents spend more than nine hours (9:22) a day with screen media, the vast majority of that time being spent with personal media (7:43) and only slightly more than 90 minutes devoted to work media. The vast majority of these parents (78%) believe they are good media use role models for their kids. Meanwhile, many parents are concerned about their children’s media use, including thinking that their children may become addicted to technology (56%) and that technology use negatively impacts their children’s sleep (34%).

"These findings are fascinating because parents are using media for entertainment just as much as their kids, yet they express concerns about their kids’ media use while also believing that they are good role models for their kids," said James P. Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense. "Media can add a lot of value to relationships, education, and development, and parents clearly see the benefits, but if they are concerned about too much media in their kids’ lives, it might be time to reassess their own behavior so that they can truly set the example they want for their kids."...

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Federal Agencies Release First Joint Policy Brief on Use of Technology with Young Children

November 7, 2016

On October 21, the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services today released a policy brief on the use of technology with early learners to help families and early educators implement active, meaningful and socially interactive learning. The brief includes a call to action for researchers and technology developers, highlighting topics for further research and encouraging the development of research-based products.

"The early learning community has been wisely cautious about using technology with our youngest children," said Libby Doggett, deputy assistant secretary for Policy and Early Learning. "But technology, when used appropriately with caring adults, can help children learn in new ways – and lessen the growing inequity in our country. This brief helps early educators think about developmentally appropriate ways to use technology in their classrooms."...

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Responsible Use of Digital Student Data is the Focus of New Stanford Website

By Krysten Crawford - Rep: September 26, 2016

As today’s students click, swipe and tap through their daily lives – both in the classroom and outside of it – they’re creating a digital footprint of how they think, learn and behave that boggles the mind.

“We’re standing under a waterfall, feasting on information that’s never existed before,” said Mitchell Stevens, a sociologist and associate professor at Stanford Graduate School of Education (GSE). “All of this data has the power to redefine higher education.”

To Stevens and others, this massive data is full of promise – but also peril. The researchers talk excitedly about big data helping higher education discover its Holy Grail: learning that is so deeply personalized that it both keeps struggling students from dropping out and pushes star performers to excel...

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Big Disparities Persist in Californians’ Access to Broadband Internet at Home, Even as More Are Going Online

August 22, 2016

According to a new statewide Field Poll, released on August 1, 84% of California households now have access to high-speed Internet at home. This proportion is up nine points from 2014.

Most of the increase in broadband Internet connectivity is due to the growing popularity of mobile, smart phone devices. There has been a near doubling – from 8% to 14% – in the proportion of Californians who access the Internet at home only through a smart phone. While this is enabling more to get online, these users have more limited functionality when connecting to the Internet than those connecting from a desktop, laptop or tablet computer. In addition, some smart phone users face limitations in data access based on their monthly cell phone plans.

The difference between those who have broadband Internet access through a home computing device and those who don’t is fostering what some are calling an "under-connected" class of Internet users...

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California Medical Association Promotes Child and Adult Vaccinations during National Immunization Awareness Month

August 8, 2016

August marks National Immunization Awareness Month, a national effort to promote vaccinations to protect children and adults from serious, and sometimes deadly, preventable diseases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), immunizations are one of the top 10 public health accomplishments of the 20th century. Among children born during 1994-2013, vaccination will prevent an estimated 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths over the course of their lifetimes.

In response, CMA President Steve Larson, M.D., MPH, issued the following statement:

“By protecting your loved ones, we can protect our entire community against vaccine-preventable diseases. Vaccines have proven the safest way to greatly reduce and prevent infectious diseases like measles, pertussis, polio and bacterial meningitis that once routinely harmed or killed children and adults. August also marks back-to-school month for many families...

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Torlakson Announces Launch of #GoOpen Initiative and Collaboration in Common Professional Learning Community

August 8, 2016

On August 2, California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced the launch of both a new statewide #GoOpen initiative and Collaboration in Common, an online professional learning community and resource exchange platform for all California educators.

In joining the #GoOpen initiative, California becomes the sixteenth state recognized by the U.S. Department of Education for its commitment to support school districts and educators transitioning to the use of high-quality, openly licensed educational resources.

California was recognized for its commitment to a statewide technology strategy that includes the use of openly licensed resources as a central component, developing and maintaining a statewide repository, and participating in a community of practice with other #GoOpen states and districts to share learning and professional development resources. More information on #GoOpen can be found at the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology Web site...

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Upgrading Technology Infrastructure in California’s Schools

June 13, 2016

 

(Editor’s Note: This month, the Public Policy Institute of California, or PPIC, released the following report looking into the topic of “adequate technology infrastructure” given the demands of online testing and other online learning underway in California school districts.)

As California schools move into online testing and online learning, an adequate technology infrastructure is no longer an option, but a necessity. To fully benefit from digital learning, schools will require a comprehensive technology infrastructure that can support a range of administrative and instructional tools. An earlier PPIC report found that most schools need significant technology upgrades in order to accommodate online learning. What upgrades do schools need most, and how much will they cost? How can policymakers help ensure that all students have access to 21st-century learning tools?

This report describes findings based on new statewide data. First, schools need high-density wireless networks, increased bandwidth, and overall network infrastructure upgrades. The challenges are greater in large schools, mostly because of the high cost of wireless networks for large groups of users. Second, IT staffing continues to be an issue in most schools. Only a third of schools have staff onsite to support desktop and local network configuration...

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Teachers Believe Tech Enriches the Classroom, But Schools Struggle with Implementation

May 31, 2016

A large majority of U.S. teachers believe technology helps facilitate learning – however, just 16% of teachers give their schools an ‘A’ grade for incorporating it into their classroom. Almost half of teachers (48%) consider the technology they do have to be outdated. This is the case despite billions of dollars having been spent on both hardware and software for the K-12 classroom – over $6 billion in 2015 alone.

These findings are part of the new Teachers’ Dream Classroom Survey released on May 9. The survey was sponsored by Edgenuity, a leading provider of online and blended learning services. The national survey was conducted to better understand technology use in the classroom and how it impacts the educational experience.

“The rush to technology has often been about devices, with less thought given to the instructional purpose for using computers in the classroom,” said Sari Factor, CEO of Edgenuity. “Educators are now beginning to focus on how to integrate technology to improve student outcomes.”...

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New Report Finds Teens Feel Addicted to Their Phones, Causing Tension at Home

May 16, 2016

A new report issued on May 3 by Common Sense Media finds that 50 percent of teens "feel addicted" to mobile devices, and 59 percent of their parents agree that their kids are addicted. Additionally, parents and children are concerned about the effects mobile device use has on their daily lives – from driving to the dinner table – with over one-third of the families in the Common Sense poll arguing about it daily.

The Common Sense poll surveyed 1,240 parents and kids from the same households (620 parents, 620 kids) and accompanies a white paper that reviews the latest scientific research about problematic media use, including impacts on youths’ well-being and development. Together they offer a fresh, comprehensive review and perspective on addiction and media use in the U.S. today. Common Sense initiated the research to better understand mobile technology’s impact on children’s physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development and to identify families’ need for support...

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FCC Decision Will Help More Low-Income Children Gain Internet Access at Home

April 18, 2016

On March 31, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted 3-2 to update a 30-year-old program to help low-income households and their students gain high-speed Internet access. Previously, the Lifeline program only provided subsidies for voice telephone services; it didn’t include broadband. The decision is a step toward reducing the digital divide and improving student success.

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) cosigned a letter with the Education & Libraries Network Coalition (EdLiNC) asking the FCC to support modernization of the Lifeline program. The joint letter further urged the FCC to require that smartphones provided under the Lifeline program have WiFi capability and permit tethering to laptops and other devices to assist students to gain access from their homes to online homework and other digital resources necessary for their education...

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Eye Physicians: Wearing Eye Protection Prevents Athletes from Getting Benched Due to Injury

April 4, 2016

In support of Sports Eye Safety Month in April, the California Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons (CAEPS) and American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) are offering athletes of all ages guidance on how to best protect their eyes. Sports-related eye injuries cause an estimated 100,000 doctor visits each year.

“Athletes at every level of experience rely on their vision to enjoy the sport that they love,” said Troy R. Elander, MD, CAEPS President. “As physicians, we know the value of physical activity and its long-term health benefits. Protecting eye health with these simple steps ensures that athletes can enjoy their chosen sport without putting their vision at risk.”

Despite the high rates, most of these injuries can be prevented by wearing eye protection. A recent study of high school field hockey players shows that traumatic eye injuries fell 67 percent after eye protection became mandatory...

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School Closes Briefly After Student Is Diagnosed with Measles; Authorities Worried More Cases May Follow

April 4, 2016

Measles is back in the news in California – at this time, the disease has turned up at a public school in Nevada City, a small town in the northern Sierra Nevada foothills.

On March 29, the California Department of Public Health released the following statement:

California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith announced (on March 29) that the Department is investigating a child diagnosed with measles in Nevada County. The unvaccinated child showed symptoms of measles after returning to California from travel overseas. The child has fully recovered but many persons have been exposed including other unvaccinated students at the child’s school.

“As the state’s public health officer, it’s concerning to receive a report of a child with measles because it’s a disease that can easily be prevented,” said Dr. Smith. “Immunization is the best way to protect against measles. Two doses of the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella vaccine are approximately 97 percent effective at preventing disease in exposed persons.”...

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Schools Adopt Tactics to Cut Violence, But Most Principals Say No to Arming Employees

By Marc Ransford - Rep: February 22, 2016

Under the weight of alarming media stories about violence in schools, a majority of administrators have adopted precautions to curtail such incidents, says a report from Ball State University.

“Reducing the Risks of Firearm Violence in High Schools: Principals’ Perceptions and Practices” surveyed 349 principals from across the country and found that 56 percent of administrators admitting that recent events in national media had influenced their schools to take precautions.

The study found more than one-third of the schools are offering gun violence prevention professional development programs such as bullying or violence prevention, active shooter training and identification of at-risk students.

“Violence is most disconcerting when it happens at schools because of the young age of the victims, the innocence associated with youths and the perceived randomness of the killings,” said Jagdish Khubchandani, a community health education professor at Ball State (in Muncie, Indiana)...

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Do You Have a Policy About Hoverboards on Campus?

Fire Safety Experts Offer Guidelines and Tips Regarding Hazards of Trendy Hoverboards

February 8, 2016

 

(Editor’s note: A number of California school districts are moving to limit or ban the use of hoverboards on campus, but many districts are just now developing their policy stance on this topic. A number of airlines have banned hoverboards on their airplanes. California also has a new state law, which became effective on Jan. 1, which allows electric-powered boards to be ridden in bike lanes and pathways, ideally to help commuters break free from cars and bicycle traffic. Hoverboards were a popular gift during the recent year-end holidays and are becoming a more common sight around the state. Below is an advisory from the National Fire Protection Association, with a number of safety tips regarding hoverboards, which have been involved in several fire-related incidents.)

Citing media coverage of several recent fire incidents, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has issued a series of safety tips urging hover board owners to read product guidelines and be aware of potential fire hazards when using these trendy devices.

“It seems hover boards are the hottest holiday gifts on the planet this year. A number of media outlets reporting fire incidents is cause for caution to avoid Christmas wishes going up in smoke,” said Lorraine Carli, NFPA’s vice president of Outreach and Advocacy. Part toy, part transportation, the self-balancing scooters first seen in the movie Back to the Future, can pose a fire risk...

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CDE Reports Large Increase in Students Automatically Eligible for Free School Meals

February 8, 2016

On January 28, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson reported a 32 percent increase in the number of students automatically approved to receive free meals in California schools as a result of collaborative efforts among three state agencies, two legislators and food policy advocates.

In December 2015, the last month complete data are available, the 32 percent increase meant that 326,029 additional students were automatically approved for free school meals in California’s school nutrition programs. That brings the total number of automatically eligible students in the state to 1.3 million.

Students are enrolled in the free meals program each month through a federally mandated “direct certification” process that grants automatic eligibility to students in families already participating in the CalFresh and California Work Opportunity or Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) benefit programs without the families having to complete any additional meal applications...

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Study Finds Many Parents “In the Dark” About Using Epinephrine for Kids’ Food Allergies

By Marla Paul - Rep: January 25, 2016

When a child has a food allergy, it’s critical for pediatricians and allergists to show parents when and how to use an epinephrine auto-injector and to provide a written emergency food allergy action plan for home and school. It is essential in case of a life-threatening reaction.

But many parents don’t recall their children’s doctors giving them this information, according to a large new study from Northwestern Medicine and the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago.

“These points need to be hammered home by the physician at every visit,” said Dr. Ruchi Gupta, an associate professor in pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a physician at Lurie Children’s Hospital. “This is potentially lifesaving information. Physicians need to make sure patients understand when and how to use epinephrine and that they have an emergency action plan.”...

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Toddlers Rely Heavily on Mobile Devices Even in Poor Families, Survey Finds

By Eric Schulzke, Deseret News - Rep: November 12, 2015

A small survey of an impoverished Philadelphia neighborhood finds startling penetration by and reliance on tablets and smartphones for young children, with the vast majority of households having both tablets and smartphones in the home and most 4-year-olds owning their own mobile device by the age of 4.

The survey, conducted at a pediatric clinic in a low-income urban area, suggests good news and bad news. The good news is that the income-based technological gap is not nearly as large as often supposed. The bad news is that children are left unsupervised for long periods of time.

Because of its limited scope, the survey is meant to point to further research, rather than firm conclusions, but the results were quite surprising on every level...

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U.S. EPA Announces Availability of $7 Million to Replace or Retrofit Old School Buses

October 1, 2015

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced the availability of approximately $7 million in funding for rebates to public and private school bus fleet owners for the replacement and retrofit of older school buses. This is the third rebate program offered under the Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) to fund cleaner school buses.

Many of the nation’s school buses are powered by diesel engines. EPA standards for new diesel engines make them more than 90% cleaner than older ones, but many older diesel engines remain in operation and predate these standards. Older diesel engines emit large quantities of pollutants such as particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). These pollutants are linked to aggravated asthma, lung damage, and other serious health problems.

New to this year’s program is the option of implementing retrofit technologies. Fleet owners can now install diesel oxidation catalysts (DOC) plus closed crankcase ventilation (CCV) systems to reduce emissions by up to 25%...

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State Health Officer Urges Doctors, Nurses to “Think Measles” When Seeing Patients with Fever, Rash

September 17, 2015

California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Director and State Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith is encouraging health care providers and others to consider measles in persons with rash and fever.

“Measles continues to circulate in much of the world outside of North and South America, but with Californians returning from trips abroad and tourists from other countries visiting California, we are reminding health care providers to keep measles in mind when they see patients with symptoms of the disease,” Dr. Smith said. “Although the measles outbreak associated with Disneyland was over in April, it is important at the start of the new academic year to consider measles in patients who present signs of fever and rash, especially if they have had international travel in the prior three weeks.”

CDPH urges health care providers to consider measles in patients of any age who have a fever and a rash. Measles begins with a fever that lasts for a couple of days accompanied by cough, runny nose, and red, watery eyes. The rash may appear 3-7 days after symptoms begin. The rash typically appears first on the face, along the hairline, and behind the ears and then affects the rest of the body...

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Parents Urged to Get Children Up-to-Date on Vaccinations before Back-to-School

August 20, 2015

California Department of Public Health Director and State Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith reminds parents to make sure that their children are up-to-date on required vaccinations before the school year begins.

“Parents should put vaccinations on their back-to-school checklists,” Dr. Smith said. “Vaccinations are the best way to ensure that students are protected and to stop the spread of measles and other serious diseases.”

Children are required to have received certain vaccinations in order to attend school or child care in California. Dr. Smith urges parents to make an appointment now with their health care provider to help protect themselves and their families.

Cost should not be a barrier for childhood vaccinations. If health insurance does not cover the recommended vaccinations, children may qualify for free vaccines under the national Vaccines for Children Program. Talk to your doctor or local health department for more information...

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New Universal Meal Service Option Now Available for High-Poverty School Districts

August 20, 2015

The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the School Breakfast Program (SBP) nationwide include a new universal meal service option, the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), which has been phased in by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) over the past several years. CEP was created through the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, and allows qualifying high-poverty schools to offer breakfast and lunch at no cost to all students without requiring families to complete an annual household application.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Education Secretary Arne Duncan stated in a joint letter, “Qualifying schools and districts – for which 40 percent or more of families get nutrition assistance or participate in other programs – are eligible for a reimbursement rate of up to 100 percent of meals. The program was set up under the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010, and already about 14,000 schools are participating, accounting for six million students.”...

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California Department of Public Health Urges Prenatal Immunization to Combat Pertussis Risk

August 6, 2015

On August 3, California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Director and State Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith warned parents about the continued dangers of pertussis (whooping cough). The disease has already caused one infant death and at least 126 infant hospitalizations in California this year.

“Vaccinated mothers pass protective antibodies to their infants during pregnancy,” said Dr. Smith. “Right now, it’s estimated that fewer than half of all pregnant women in California are vaccinated against whooping cough. We need to increase that number to help improve the health of our children and of our communities.”

CDPH urges expecting mothers to receive a pertussis vaccine (called Tdap because it covers tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis). Prenatal vaccination will help protect newborn children until they are old enough to receive their own vaccination against pertussis. Because immunity decreases over time, women should receive the pertussis vaccine in the last trimester of each pregnancy...

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Governor Signs Bill Streamlining Process for Schools to Stock Epi-Pen Allergy Medications

July 23, 2015

Legislation designed to protect schoolchildren from serious and sometimes fatal anaphylactic allergic attacks will become law in California after receiving the Governor’s signature of approval on July 17. The Governor signed SB 738, which is follow-up legislation from SB 1266, which Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff (R-San Dimas) successfully authored and the governor signed into law last year. SB 1266 required public schools to stock epinephrine auto injectors on campus so critically important medicine can be administered quickly and safely if a student suffers from a serious anaphylactic allergy reaction during school hours.

Recent data from the California School Nurses Organization shows that many schools who are trying to implement SB 1266 have not been able to comply with the safety guidelines because they have been unable to obtain the necessary prescription from physicians, who cite liability concerns...

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Low-Income Households, Spanish Speakers Have Less Access

Wide Differences in Broadband Connectivity across California Households

June 25, 2015

According to a new statewide Field Poll examining the "digital divide" in California, 79% of California households have a broadband connection at home, while 21% do not. Overall, including the much slower dial-up connections, 87% of households reported they have the ability to connect to the Internet from home. The survey was conducted on behalf of the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF), a non-profit foundation focused on promoting broadband deployment and adoption.

The main reason for not having any home Internet connectivity continues to relate to the cost of Internet service or not having a computer or smart phone at home, cited by 77% of those without Internet access at home.

Home Internet connectivity, which includes using a smart phone to access the Internet, varies significantly across different subgroups of the state's households...

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CDE Posts Map to Help Families Find Places Serving Free Meals to Students This Summer

June 11, 2015

On June 4, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced that low-income families can find a place to take their hungry children for free meals this summer by visiting the California Department of Education’s updated 2015 Summer Mea Service Sites interactive Web map, or by calling 1-800-952-5609, option 3.

Thousands of organizations in California have signed up to become Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) meal sites. These sites open 15 days after the school year ends or when year-round schools are off track. The sites must be located in areas where at least half the student population comes from low-income families. Families can go to any meal site and their children will receive free meals. No questions are asked and no income verification is needed. Many sites also offer fun activities for children...

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Research Suggests Risks May Outweigh Benefits

Police in Schools Put Vulnerable Students at Risk of Being Unnecessarily Pushed into Justice System

May 28, 2015

Parents and educators may assume that police patrolling school hallways make for safer schools, but mounting evidence is showing that it can needlessly push some of a school’s most vulnerable students out of class and into the justice system, according to the summer issue of Teaching Tolerance magazine, released in May by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The article – “False Sense of Security” – examines research that shows children of color, children with disabilities and LGBT youths are more likely than their peers to be pushed into the justice system, often over routine discipline matters that have become the purview of school resource officers (SROs) in many communities. The findings come as educators are under pressure to take safety measures in the wake of high-profile school shootings...

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Vast Majority of Schools Now Meet Updated Federal Meals Standards

May 28, 2015

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced on May 6 that the USDA's Food and Nutrition Service has released data showing that 95 percent of schools are successfully meeting the updated meal standards made possible by the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

Vilsack said, "Updated healthy school meal standards were created based on the expert advice of pediatricians and nutrition experts and are being widely embraced by students, parents, educators, and nutrition professionals. We are very encouraged that 95 percent of schools are now successfully providing more nutritious meals to their students. We are working with schools to provide funding, training, and flexibility so that 100 percent of schools will be able to successfully serve children healthier meals. Now that we are so close to the finish line, it would be unwise to roll back healthy meal standards just as they are beginning to work to ensure our kids have access to the balanced, nutritious food doctors recommend."...

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School Breakfast Reform Bill Clears First Hurdle

May 7, 2015

In a victory for education and hunger activists, the California State Assembly Education Committee on April 22 approved AB 1240, the Breakfast After the Bell bill, in a 6-0 bipartisan vote. The legislation would require thousands of schools across the state to adopt a meal program that serves breakfast during the school day, either in the classroom or during a mid-morning break.

Introduced by Assemblymembers Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) and Tony Thurmond (D-Richmond), AB 1240 calls for practical changes to improve access to the school breakfast program and ensure more students start their school day well-nourished and ready to learn. The policy is supported by two-thirds of California voters, according to a Field Poll released earlier this month...

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Torlakson Reports California Making Progress on School Connectivity

April 23, 2015

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson reported to state leaders on April 17 that California is on the right path toward connecting all students to the world through technology.

The California Department of Education, State Board of Education, and the K12 High Speed Network worked together to present its findings in the Connecting California's Children 2015 Supplemental Report: Findings and Observations to the California Department of Finance, Legislative Analyst's Office, and the Assembly and Senate budget committees.

"This report provides a snapshot of where we are today, so we can take the steps to ensure no child is left offline and all students have access to the technology that will prepare them for college and careers in our high-tech economy," said Torlakson...

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Measles Outbreak That Began in December Now Over

April 23, 2015

The California measles outbreak that began in December 2014 is over, it was announced on April 17 by Dr. Karen Smith, director of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and state health officer.

No new outbreak-related measles cases have been reported to CDPH for two 21-day incubation periods (42 days), allowing public health officials to declare the outbreak that infected 131 Californians to be over.

“We are pleased this outbreak is over, but caution that measles can be reintroduced in California at any time when an infected person brings it to the state,” said Dr. Smith. “The best defense for protection against the highly infectious measles is vaccination.”...

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Ready for New Online Standardized Testing?

PPIC Survey Finds Technology Readiness Varies Widely in California School Districts

April 9, 2015

California school districts have sufficient hardware and bandwidth to administer the new online standardized tests. But they struggle with software issues and staff training. These are among the key findings of a report released on April 6 by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC).

More than 70 percent of respondents in a survey by the California Educational Technology Professionals Association expressed confidence in the quality and quantity of their hardware and network reliability to test all students. But only half of district respondents were confident about their ability to handle software issues, such as the installation of secure browsers, distribution of IDs, and quick log-ins for students.

A clear majority of districts reported problems with staffing: 68 percent of schools do not have enough staff to provide technical support or do not provide sufficient training for teachers and IT staff...

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Hispanic-Latino Families See Benefits in Educational Media But Have Uneven Access to Digital Opportunities

March 12, 2015

Hispanic-Latino families are utilizing some digital tools at rates that rival their middle class white peers, but have fewer opportunities to tap into educational content that could advance children’s early growth and long-term achievement, according to findings from new publications released on February 18 by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop.

The results of a new national survey, reported in Aprendiendo en casa: Media as a Resource for Learning Among Hispanic-Latino Families, indicate that there are significant gaps in access to computing devices and high speed Internet for children raised in English-only, bilingual and Spanish-speaking families. Families that speak primarily Spanish and which had the lowest incomes were least likely to have home Internet access or own computers, tablets, and e-readers. They were also least likely to say that their children access educational content through these technologies...

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Federal Guidance Issued on Protecting Student Privacy While Using Online Educational Services

March 12, 2015

On February 26, the U.S. Department of Education released model terms of service guidance and a training video aimed at helping schools and districts protect student privacy while using online educational services and applications.

The guidance offers examples of terms of service provisions to help school officials identify which online educational services and applications have strong privacy and data security policies and practices.

"Reading and understanding terms of service agreements is tough, even for lawyers. We hope this guidance will help school officials identify privacy-friendly apps and online services and avoid providers that might abuse student information," said Kathleen Styles, the U.S. Department of Education's chief privacy officer...

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California Department of Public Health Makes Template Letter to Parents Regarding Measles Exposure Available

January 29, 2015

The recent outbreak of a cluster of measles cases – many linked to exposure at Disneyland in Orange County – has now produced 73 confirmed cases of measles in California (as of January 22).

Thusfar, a majority of the confirmed cases in California have been among persons age 20 or older. However, the California Department of Public Health, as well as many school districts, are preparing for the possibility that there might be more cases among K-12 students.

The California Department of Public Health has a measles webpage, which is being periodically updated:

http://www.cdph.ca.gov/HealthInfo/discond/Pages/Measles.aspx...

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FBI Investigates LAUSD Program to Provide iPads to Students, Seizes 20 Boxes of Records

December 11, 2014

The Los Angeles Times reports that the FBI is investigating the Los Angeles Unified School District’s troubled effort to provide iPads to students, and has seized records relating to the purchase of the tablet computers and related software.

In a Dec. 2 article by reporters Howard Blume, Victoria Kim and James Rainey, the Times reported:”

Fallout over the Los Angeles school district's $1.3-billion plan to provide iPads to every student intensified Tuesday with the revelation that the FBI is conducting a criminal investigation into the failed effort...

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USDA: More Than Half of Nation’s High-Poverty Schools Now Offer Free Meals to All Students

December 11, 2014

Kevin Concannon, Under Secretary in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced on December 9 that more than half of the nation’s high-poverty schools are now offering breakfasts and lunches to students at no cost through the new Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), made possible by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. The provision improves access to nutritious meals for low-income students while reducing administrative burdens for households and schools.

“This initiative reduces hunger among children in high-poverty areas, and ensures students have access to the healthy food they need to succeed in school,” Concannon said during a visit to Fresno’s Edison Computech Middle School. “USDA is encouraged by the initial response of eligible schools and districts during this first year of nationwide implementation.”...

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Policy Brief Examines Roles of Family Engagement, Technology in Education of Young Children

November 19, 2014

Family engagement in the education of young children has been shown to benefit those children, as parents and other family members play an important role as “teachers” during the time children spend outside the classroom.

In a new policy paper, a group of early childhood education experts, convened by RAND and PNC Grow Up Great, finds that how parents engage with children during at-home technology use is an important element in building children’s technology literacy. Moreover, parental involvement inside the classroom has also been shown to positively influence the academic and social skills of students. These findings are particularly relevant for children from low-income families given the importance of building technology literacy in a larger range of activities and devices...

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Organizations Representing K-12 District Leadership Partner to Strengthen Digital Advocacy and Learning

November 13, 2014

On October 30, the AASA, The School Superintendents Association, Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), and National School Boards Association (NSBA) launched Leading the Digital Leap – a joint campaign empowering K-12 superintendents, district technology leaders, and school boards to strengthen their digital advocacy and enable digital learning in their districts.

The partnership, the first to bring together the major professional associations representing district leaders, will provide educators with insight and resources on “how” to expand learning horizons through technology.

“No one knows more about the impact the digital revolution is having in our world than leaders of America’s public school system,” said Dan Domenech, Executive Director, AASA...

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Bullying of Students with Disabilities Addressed in Federal Letter of Guidance to Schools

October 30, 2014

As part of National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, the U.S. Education Department's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued guidance to schools on October 21, reminding them that bullying is wrong and must not be tolerated – including against America's 6.5 million students with disabilities.

The Department issued guidance in the form of a letter to educators detailing public schools' responsibilities under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of Americans with Disabilities Act regarding the bullying of students with disabilities. If a student with a disability is being bullied, federal law requires schools to take immediate and appropriate action to investigate the issue and, as necessary, take steps to stop the bullying and prevent it from recurring...

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National School Lunch Week: New Poll Validates Concerns about Federal School Meals

October 16, 2014

With the start of National School Lunch Week on October 13, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) is calling for flexibility and relief from the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to address the unintended consequences of onerous requirements for federal school meal programs in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.

NSBA’s survey of school leaders shows that since that law went into effect in 2010, 83.7 percent of school districts saw an increase in plate waste, 81.8 percent had an increase in cost, and 76.5 percent saw a decrease in participation by students.

To address the issues, 75 percent of school leaders encourage an increase in federal funding for school districts to comply with the new standards and 60.3 percent support additional flexibility for school districts to improve their ability to provide good nutrition without harm to instruction, personnel, and other school district operations...

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Survey Finds School Meals Offer Healthier Choices, But Struggle with Student Participation

October 2, 2014

A national survey of school meal program operators finds that schools are expanding creative menu options, nutrition education and other initiatives to promote healthy school meals, yet many districts still struggle with decreased student lunch participation at all grade levels, and other challenges related to new nutrition standards for school meals. The findings are part of School Nutrition Association (SNA)’s “School Nutrition Operations Report: The State of School Nutrition 2014,” based on survey responses from 1,102 school nutrition directors working in school districts nationwide.

The survey revealed that since SNA’s State of School Nutrition 2011 survey, school meal programs have increased healthy options for students and expanded menu choices to appeal to diverse student tastes...

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Commentary

Let Local School Districts Identify Healthy Meals Students Will Want to Eat

By Thomas J. Gentzel
Executive Director of the National School Boards Association (NSBA)

September 18, 2014

A recent poll released by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the American Heart Association concludes that a majority of parents agree with strong federal nutrition standards for school breakfasts and lunches.

These parents are in favor of sound nutrition for their children. The National School Boards Association (NSBA) agrees with them. All school board members – and nearly 40 percent are parents of school-age children – understand the critical importance of student health.

That is why NSBA supports flexibility that would allow communities to feed their students healthy food that also reflects school districts' unique needs, resources, and circumstances...

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Torlakson Issues Guidance to Schools on Unaccompanied Immigrant Children

September 4, 2014

Setting aside $3.5 million in federal funding to assist schools that see an increase in unaccompanied immigrant children this school year, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson on August 25 advised school districts of their obligation to serve every child in California regardless of where they come from or where they were born.

"We don't make immigration policy in our classrooms; we help every child who comes through our doors," Torlakson said. "With our help and support, I am confident that California's schools will be able to provide a safe haven for children waiting for authorities to reunite them with their families."...

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CDE Announces Funding Available to Help Schools with Limited Internet Connections

September 4, 2014

Eligible districts and charter schools are encouraged to apply for new funding to help school sites connect to a high-speed network in time for next spring's new online assessments, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said on August 26 as he announced the Broadband Infrastructure Improvement Grant (BIIG) Program.

The BIIG funding opportunity is being administered by the K-12 High Speed Network in consultation with the California Department of Education and the State Board of Education. The goal is to help students, educators, and staff connect to a reliable high-speed network so they can implement the new computer-based California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) assessments in the 2015 spring testing window...

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USDA Oversteps Authority with New School Nutrition Regulations, NSBA Says

May 15, 2014

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to evaluate the financial impact the federal school nutrition law and proposed regulations will have on school districts and give waivers to school districts that prove the financial and regulatory burdens are insurmountable.

The NSBA maintains that having overstepped its regulatory authority, the USDA should also eliminate a proposed regulation that would subject all foods available in school – including those that are not sold on the school campus during the school day, such as treats brought from home for birthday parties – to meet the strict nutrition guidelines consistent with competitive food standards...

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New Guide Helps School Boards Navigate Student Data Privacy Concerns in the Cloud Computing Era

May 1, 2014

As school districts increasingly move to cloud computing instead of on-site data storage, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) and its Council of School Attorneys (COSA) have released a guide for school boards introducing the legal issues associated with protecting student data and suggesting best practices.

The guide, “Data in the Cloud,” seeks to raise awareness of student data privacy concerns, and to provide a framework for comprehensive student data privacy approaches in school districts...

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CDE Updates List of Programs Serving Nutritious Meals to Low-Income Families

April 17, 2014

Disadvantaged families in California can now access interactive web pages with up-to-date lists of child and adult care centers offering nutritious meals at low or no cost, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on April 14.

"Having enough nutritious food to eat is a huge contributing factor to a child's ability to succeed in school and in life," Torlakson said. "These centers offer an important resource for families, and I hope this information gets them the support they need."...

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About One in Eight Students Bused to School

LAO Weighs In on School Transportation

March 6, 2014

(Editor’s Note: California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office – LAO – issued a report on February 25 examining issues relating to school transportation. Here are the highlights of the LAO’s findings, as well as a link to the complete report.)

Executive Summary

Report Reviews State’s Approach to Funding School Transportation. In 2013–14, the Legislature undertook a major restructuring of school finance but retained the state’s Home–to–School Transportation (HTST) categorical program. Recognizing the need for additional reform, the Legislature asked our office to assess and make recommendations for improving the state’s approach to funding school transportation...

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Duncan Releases New Guidance on Protecting Student Privacy While Using Online Educational Services

March 6, 2014

The U.S. Department of Education's Privacy Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) released new guidance on February 25 to help school systems and educators interpret and understand the major laws and best practices protecting student privacy while using online educational services.

The guidance summarizes the major requirements of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) that relate to these educational services, and urges schools and districts to go beyond compliance to follow best practices for outsourcing school functions using online educational services...

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Torlakson Urges Agencies to Apply to Become Summer Food Service Program Sponsors

February 10, 2014

Helping students get enough nutritious food during the summer recess will help them succeed in school in the fall, according to State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, who on Monday (Jan. 27) urged eligible organizations to become sponsor meal sites under the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).

“California’s young people need healthy meals and intellectual stimulation as much when school is out of session as they do during the regular school year,” Torlakson said. “That’s why I’m urging leaders at school, in the community, and other agencies to sign up to become summer meal sites to help keep kids well-nourished and ready to learn when they return.”...

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New Tools for Student Placement, Education Planning

California Community Colleges Board Supports Student Success with Technology Investments

November 14, 2013

The California Community Colleges Board of Governors, continuing its push to improve student success and expand access, on Tuesday approved more than $31 million in funding for online tools that will streamline assessment for entering students, help them develop education plans and expand the range of on-line courses they can take.

“These technology investments complement policy changes that California community colleges are making to provide students with the services they need to help them reach their educational goals,” Board of Governors President Manuel Baca said.  “Our board is focused on improving student success and expanding opportunities for students. These tools support those goals.”...

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Report by Centers for Disease Control Shows Schools Cutting Back on Soft Drinks, Junk Food

August 29, 2013

School districts nationwide are showing improvements in measures related to nutritional policies, physical education and tobacco policies, according to the 2012 School Health Policies and Practices Study (SHPPS), released on Monday (Aug. 26) by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  SHPPS is the largest and most comprehensive survey to assess school health policies.

"Schools play a critical role in the health and well-being of our youth," said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. "Good news for students and parents – more students have access to healthy food, better physical fitness activities through initiatives such as ‘Let’s Move,’ and campuses that are completely tobacco free."...

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California Supreme Court Rules Schools May Give Students Insulin Injections without Nurse

August 15, 2013

California schools may give students insulin injections and other medications without having to call in licensed nurses, the state's highest court ruled Monday.

"California law expressly permits trained, unlicensed school personnel to administer prescription medications such as insulin in accordance with the written statements of a student's treating physician and parents," Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar wrote for the California Supreme Court.

The court’s unanimous ruling was a setback for the California Nurses Assn., which had argued that only licensed healthcare workers could administer medicine under a state law that bars the unauthorized practice of nursing...

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Torlakson Announces Grants to Help Students Get Nutritious Food at School

July 25, 2013

Hundreds of school sites across California will share more than $12.5 million in state and federal grants to provide nutritious food to students while also supporting local farmers and the local economies, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on July 16.

“Students too preoccupied with hunger don’t learn as well as well-nourished children,” Torlakson said. “Often the only place students — especially ones from economically disadvantaged households — can get nutritious food is at school. These grants will help ensure hungry children have access to good food all during the school day to help nourish their growing bodies and minds.”...

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“Smart Snacks in School”

USDA Announces New School Nutrition Guideline

July 11, 2013

Tom Vilsack, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced on June 27 that under USDA's new "Smart Snacks in School" nutrition standards, America's students will be offered healthier food options during the school day.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 requires USDA to establish nutrition standards for all foods sold in schools – beyond the federally-supported meals programs. The "Smart Snacks in School" nutrition standards, published in the Federal Register, reflect USDA's consideration and response to the nearly 250,000 comments received on the proposal earlier this year...

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Poll Finds Internet Use Varies By Income, Region, Ethnicity

Most Parents Visiting School Websites, But Far Fewer Getting Schoolwork Assignments Online

July 11, 2013

Californians have sharply increased their use of cell phones or tablet computers to go online in the last two years, and they are much more likely to use social networking sites – and checking on their children’s school websites. But parents are much less likely to check their children’s online schoolwork assignments. These are among the key findings of a statewide survey released June 26 by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC). It is the fourth in a series focusing on information technology issues and was conducted with funding from the California Emerging Technology Fund and ZeroDivide...

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Obama Calls on FCC to Get 99 Percent of Students Connected Within Five Years

June 20, 2013

On June 6, President Obama announced a new initiative called ConnectED to connect 99 percent of America’s students to the internet through high-speed broadband and high-speed wireless within 5 years, calling on the FCC to modernize and leverage its existing E-Rate program to meet that goal. The President also directed the federal government to make better use of existing funds to get Internet connectivity and educational technology into classrooms, and into the hands of teachers trained on its advantages.  And he called on businesses, states, districts, schools and communities to support this vision. This initiative does not require Congressional action...

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Groups Caution against “Excessive” Security Measure

Educators Call for Interdisciplinary, Multi-tiered Framework to Improve School Safety

April 11, 2013

Leading education organizations issued a statement on April 4 calling on Congress and the Obama Administration to enact school safety policies that will genuinely support the well-being and learning of students over the long term, rather than reactive strategies that may cause more harm than good. The American School Counseling Association (ASCA), National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO), National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), and School Social Work Association of America (SSWAA) released A Fram ework for Safe and Successful Schools...

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Proper Nutrition Aids in Student Achievement

Participation Rising in School Breakfast Programs

March 14, 2013

While an average of 1.3 million California children each day participate in the state's School Breakfast Program, about 63,000 more last year than in 2011, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson marked National School Breakfast Week (March 4-8) by urging families to make sure all children get the nourishing food they need to succeed in school.

"Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and California's School Breakfast Program helps make sure that no child starts the school day too hungry to think and learn," Torlakson said...

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“Crunch Time” Habits Contribute to Student Obesity

Poll Finds Busy Schedules, Hurried Meals Leading to Poor Nutritional Choices After School

February 28, 2013

Childhood obesity is a major public health challenge today, with complex roots interwoven into nearly every facet of American life. This poll addresses one narrow slice of this web: the challenges that families face during the “crunch time” of the work and school week, between 3p.m. and the time children go to bed. Compared to the school day, this may be a time when parents and other adults in the household have more influence over what their children eat and do, but it is also a busy time when many are racing home from work, arranging for their children’s extracurricular activities, trying to monitor homework, and getting ready for the next day...

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Girls Take to Social Networking Faster Than Boys

Survey Finds Kids Reading Digital Texts, But Still Enjoying Books Printed on Paper

January 18, 2013

In the fourth edition of the Kids & Family Reading Report™ , a national survey released on Monday, kids age 6-17 and their parents share their views on reading in the increasingly digital landscape and the influences that impact kids’ reading frequency and attitudes toward reading.

The study, a biannual report from Scholastic (NASDAQ: SCHL), the global children’s publishing, education and media company, and the Harrison Group, a leading marketing and strategic research consulting firm, reports that...

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Poll by California Endowment:

Californians Generally Support Recent School Meals Overhaul; Students Say Lunches Are Getting Better

November 1, 2012

Students who say school lunches are getting better outnumber those who think meals are getting worse by more than a 3-to-1 ratio, according to a poll released October 18 by The California Endowment. The survey is the first to ask California students what they think about the national school meal nutrition standards that took effect this academic year.

The nutrition standards, which were developed by experts at the Institute of Medicine and United States Department of Agriculture, include...

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CDE Announces New Web Tool to Save Schools Time When Submitting Waiver Applications

October 18, 2012

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on October 9 that the California Department of Education's (CDE) Waiver Office has created a new Web tool that allows local school administrators to submit state waiver applications online.

“This move to online waiver applications will save paper, save money, and save time, both for local school districts and the state,” Torlakson said. “It's one more step we can take to work more efficiently with local school districts. And when you consider that we process more than 1,000 waivers a year, the savings will be substantial.”...

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CDE Begins Gathering Data on School Technology

October 4, 2012

Forty-two percent of California schools participated in the technology survey of which there are to be six data extractions between 2012 and 2014 in a nationwide effort to gauge readiness for new online assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards, prompting State Schools Superintendent Tom Torlakson to urge more schools to take part in the future.

“We know our schools already face enormous day-to-day challenges—but we also need to understand what issues they face as we move to online testing over the next few years,” Torlakson said. “We know this effort will take time, energy and resources — all of which are in short supply...

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Torlakson Appoints Sandip Kaur as New Director of CDE's Nutrition Services Division

September 20, 2012

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson has appointed Sandip Kaur as the new Director of the California Department of Education’s (CDE) Nutrition Services Division.

“Sandip brings a wealth of experience into her new leadership position at the Department, and I appreciate the hard work she has already put in to help make sure California’s children have access to nutritious meals,” said Torlakson. “She’ll play a key role in carrying out our Team California for Healthy Kids initiative designed to help children develop the habits that will make them healthier in school and throughout their lives.”...

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New CDE Education Technology Task Force Offers First Recommendations, Starts Overhauling Decade-Old Plan

August 23, 2012

Rather than seeing smart phones and other electronic devices as barriers to learning, educators should be using them as central tools in preparing students for the careers of the 21st century economy, according to a new report that teachers and other education experts prepared for State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

Torlakson created the Education Technology Task Force under his No Child Left Offline initiative earlier this year to begin setting the stage for a modern California Education Technology Blueprint...

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Connected Educator Month Offers Tips, Strategies and Other Resources Throughout August, Online

August 9, 2012

Because no educator should be an island, the U.S. Department of Education has declared August Connected Educator Month. Throughout August, more than 100 of the nation’s leading education organizations, communities, and companies will come together online to celebrate and explore the power of professional online communities and networks to meet the needs of education professionals – novices and leaders alike.

Connected Educator Month events will begin on August 1, with three days of the foremost innovators in education leading a series of online keynotes and panels, engaging participants in ongoing dialogue and learning...

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Torlakson Announces 342 Schools Will Receive Federal Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Grants

August 9, 2012

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, announced on Tuesday that 342 schools will share $11.1 million in federal Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) grants.

“Students who don't have enough nutritious food to eat can have a tough time succeeding in school,” Torlakson said. “As part of my Team California for Healthy Kids initiative, we are working to help improve their health and physical fitness — which in turn is linked to academic success. Not only will these grants provide fresh fruits and vegetables to elementary school kids, they will also help the local economy by encouraging schools to buy produce from local farmers.”...

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California PTA-Supported Legislation Enabling Schools to Use Defibrillator Signed Into Law

July 19, 2012

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation supported by the California State PTA that will enable schools to utilize Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) devices without risk of liability for civil damages resulting from a rescue effort when all requirements of the law are met.

SB 1436, by Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), was also sponsored by the American Heart Association. PTA supported the measure as part of its commitment to encourage local schools and school districts to acquire AEDs for their campuses...

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Torlakson Reminds New 7th Grade Parents to Vaccinate Children and Prevent Whooping Cough

May 31, 2012

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson reminded parents on May 15 that they need to vaccinate students entering the seventh grade to protect them against whooping cough, as required by California law.

"I call on all parents to act as soon as possible and ensure their children receive this important vaccination," Torlakson said. "Taking a few minutes now will help protect your child's health, and help them get off to a smooth start in the next school year."...

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Program to Aid Local Food Producers, Nourish Students

Federal Grants Aim to Bring Local Food to Schools

April 19, 2012

On Tuesday, the United States Department of Agriculture announced new funding that aims to provide fresh, healthy food for children in schools across America, and to bolster and sustain local farmers and ranchers.

The agency said today that $3.5 million in new funding will be available to help local school districts organize and implement new Farm to School programs. Those critical initiatives seek to educate children about where their food comes from and improve the quality of school meals...

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New Data Tool Helps High School Counselors Increase FAFSA Completion and College Accessibility

April 4, 2012

The U.S. Department of Education has released a new tool that will help high school counselors and school leaders by giving them a resource to monitor FAFSA completions and better help students access higher education. School officials can now track FAFSA submission and completion statistics at individual high schools on the FAFSA Completion website, which will help them ensure that their students are filling out the FAFSA and therefore are able to determine their eligibility for federal student aid – a key factor in families’ college decisions...

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Family of Four Earning $41,348 Can Get Reduced-Price Meals

New Eligibility Guidelines Announced for Low-Income Families to Qualify for Nutritious Meals

March 22, 2012

More low-income families will be able to afford healthy meals and snacks for their children in day care under new income eligibility guidelines announced last week (March 14) by the California Department of Education.

Under the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), families with children in child care centers can qualify for free or reduced-price meals if their household income is equal to or less than the income eligibility guidelines...

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NSBA Disappointed That New Federal Nutrition Standards Don't Come With More Funding

March 1, 2012

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is expressing disappointment with the new federal nutrition standards announced in January – in particularly, the NSBA is disappointed that the new standards don’t come with more funding.

Executive Director Anne L. Bryant of the NSBA said “Local school boards across the nation are acutely aware of the importance of ensuring that children have access to healthy and nutritious food and officials even before these regulations have developed innovative steps to improve school nutrition programs...

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Torlakson Urges Agencies to Apply to Become Summer Food Service Program Sponsors

February 9, 2012

In an effort to help keep children well-nourished during the summer recess and ready to learn when they return to school in the fall, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson is urging eligible organizations to apply as summer meal sites through the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).

In an announcement on Feb. 1, Torlakson said "Often the only nutritious meal a low-income child receives is at school, but that all comes to a halt during the summer recess. I urge eligible organizations to sign up to provide nutritious meals to these kids through the summer, so their growing minds and bodies won’t be hampered by a lack of proper nutrition."...

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USDA Upgrades School Lunch Standards

January 26, 2012

First Lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack unveiled new standards for school meals on Wednesday, which are expected to result in healthier meals for kids across the nation. The new meal requirements will raise standards for the first time in more than fifteen years and improve the health and nutrition of nearly 32 million kids that participate in school meal programs every school day. The healthier meal requirements are a key component of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which was championed by the First Lady as part of her Let's Move! campaign and signed into law by President Obama...

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National School Boards Association Launches New Food Allergy Policy Guide for Schools

January 12, 2012

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) has published a 58-page policy guide “Safe at School and Ready to Learn: A Comprehensive Policy Guide for Protecting Students with Life-threatening Food Allergies” to help school leaders establish policies and practices that support the safety, well-being, and academic success of students with life-threatening food allergies.  

“It has been estimated that one in every 25 school-aged children has a food allergy with the rates of reported food allergies increasing 18 percent in the ten year period from 1997 to 2007,” said Anne L. Bryant, NSBA’s Executive Director...

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U.S. Education Department Announces New Measures to Safeguard Student Privacy

December 15, 2011

On December 1, 2011, the U.S. Department of Education announced new regulations to safeguard student privacy while giving states the flexibility to share school data that can be helpful in judging the effectiveness of government investments in education.

The new regulations will strengthen the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) by protecting the safety of student information, increasing the Department's ability to hold those who misuse or abuse student data accountable and ensuring our taxpayer funds are invested wisely and effectively...

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Experts Release New Legal Guide for State's Pregnant and Parenting Minors

December 15, 2011

A 14-year-old in Sacramento wonders if she can stay in school while she’s pregnant and after she has her baby. A 16-year-old in Los Angeles questions whether she qualifies for state support if she becomes homeless after her baby is born. A 15-year-old in San Jose worries that her school will notify her parents if she goes to the doctor during school hours for a pregnancy test. If you’re a California teacher, guidance counselor, coach or youth worker, do you know what to tell these teens? Do you know the best ways to help?

These scenarios occur each day in schools across California, and the educators who work with minors often do not know where to turn for accurate and unbiased information...

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High Unemployment, Foreclosed Homes Trigger Increase

New York Times Reports Big Surge in Number of Students Receiving Free or Low-Cost Meals at School

December 1, 2011

In a front-page article published Wednesday, the New York Times reported that “Millions of American schoolchildren are receiving free or low-cost meals for the first time as their parents, many once solidly middle class, have lost jobs or homes during the economic crisis, qualifying their families for the decades-old safety-net program.”

The article by reporter Sam Dillon also found “The number of students receiving subsidized lunches rose to 21 million last school year from 18 million in 2006-7, a 17 percent increase, according to an analysis by The New York Times of data from the Department of Agriculture, which administers the meals program...

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Report: School Resource Officers a Waste of Resources

November 17, 2011

Having school resource officers (SROs) and other police in schools causes more harm than good, according to Education Under Arrest: The Case Against Police in Schools, a report released Tuesday by the Justice Policy Institute (JPI). The report finds that when schools have law enforcement on site, students are more likely to get arrested by police instead of having discipline handled by school officials. This leads to more kids being funneled into the juvenile justice system, which is both expensive and associated with a host of negative impacts on youth. With federal funds being cut for policing and local budgets tight, author and JPI Associate Director Amanda Petteruti stated that “schools would be better served by using scarce resources for programs and personnel that will have a long-term positive impact on both school safety and student outcomes.”...

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Thirty-Eight Percent of Children Still Overweight

California Students Making Headway in Battle against Childhood Obesity – But Successes are Uneven

November 10, 2011

A new study released Wednesday offers hope that California may finally be getting a handle on its 30-year battle with childhood obesity, but it also showcases a patchwork of progress that leaves the majority of the state's counties still registering increases in obesity rates among school-age children.

According to the study, A Patchwork of Progress: Changes in Overweight and Obesity Among California 5th, 7th and 9th Graders, 2005–2010, prepared by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and the California Center for Public Health Advocacy (CCPHA), the percentage of overweight and obese children in the state dropped 1.1 percent from 2005 to 2010...

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CDE Announces Fee Reduction for Child Nutrition Program Agencies Receiving USDA Foods

October 6, 2011

Creating a potential savings of $1 million a year for school districts, the California Department of Education's (CDE) Food Distribution Program (FDP) announced last week that shipping, handling, and administrative fees charged in the distribution of U.S. Department of Agriculture food goods were reduced by 20 percent beginning October 1.

“With the financial emergency facing our schools, it's more important than ever to contain costs and pass those savings to where they will do the most good — our schools and classrooms,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson...

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New Federal Initiative

"Digital Promise" Aims to Update Learning Technology

September 22, 2011

Last Friday, the White House and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the launch of “Digital Promise,” a new national center created by Congress with bipartisan support to advance technologies to transform teaching and learning.

Digital Promise will receive startup funds from the Department of Education as well as the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. It will be overseen by a board made up of prominent leaders in education and technology appointed by Secretary Duncan based on recommendations from the House of Representatives and United States Senate...

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Federal Department of Education Updates Website, Adding New Data Tools, Social Networking Options

September 8, 2011

The U.S. Department of Education has launched version 2.0 of ED Data Express, an interactive Web site aimed at making accurate and timely K-12 education data available to the public. The upgraded site adds new data visualization tools, enhanced documentation, and social networking options for users.

The first version of ED Data Express was launched in August 2010. The site consolidates relevant data collected by the Department from several different sources and provides a variety of tools that allow users to explore the data and create individualized reports...

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Free Cookbook Available with Kitchen-Tested Recipes

Districts Offering Healthier School Meals with Locally-Grown, Seasonal Ingredients and Diverse Recipes

By Jeff Hudson - August 11, 2011

About 100 food and nutrition professionals from across the state gathered last Thursday at UC Davis to learn how to make tastier, more nutritious school lunches. The key message? Use fresh, locally grown ingredients, tangy spices and ethnic recipes that reflect the diversity of California’s population.

The daylong session – titled “Rethinking School Lunch: Cooking with California Food in K-12 Schools” – featured lots of cooking and plenty of talking, covering strategies that can help schools encourage youngsters to try new foods...

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Study Finds Ninety Percent Kept at Unsafe Temperature

Doctors Warn Sack Lunches from Home Can Make Kids Sick If Not Kept at a Safe Temperature at School

August 11, 2011

Sack lunches packed by parents can be an inexpensive alternative to school-prepared lunches, but they can also make kids sick if not kept at a safe temperature. Even lunches that include ice packs can reach unsafe temperatures.

In the study, “Temperature of Foods Sent by Parents of Preschool-aged Children,” published in the September 2011 issue of Pediatrics (published online Aug. 8), the sack lunches of more than 700 preschoolers at nine Texas child care centers were measured with noncontact temperature guns 1.5 hours before the food was served...

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Chang: "These Students Never Had a Fighting Chance"

Solving Chronic Absence in Grades K-1 Could Do Much to Close Achievement Gap for California Students

By Jeff Hudson - July 28, 2011

California school districts could do much to reduce the much-discussed achievement gap by simply improving attendance in grades K-1.

That was the point stressed by Hedy Chang, director of the national and statewide initiative Attendance Works, in her presentation to the State Board of Education earlier this month.

“For kids who are chronically absent in grades K-1, the likelihood of them reading at grade level at grade 3 is only 17 percent,” Chang told the SBE. Students who are behind grade level for reading in the third grade typically face challenges as they try to catch up...

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"Supportive School Discipline Initiative" Announced – Effort Aims to Address "School-to-Prison Pipeline"

July 28, 2011

Federal Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder last Thursday announced the launch of the Supportive School Discipline Initiative, a collaborative project between the Departments of Justice and Education that will address the “school-to-prison pipeline” and the disciplinary policies and practices that can push students out of school and into the justice system. The initiative aims to support good discipline practices to foster safe and productive learning environments in every classroom.

“Maintaining safe and supportive school climates is absolutely critical, and we are concerned about the rising rates and disparities in discipline in our nation’s schools,” said Secretary Duncan...

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Federal Government Awards $14 Million to 35 School-Based Health Center Programs in California

July 21, 2011

Education Secretary Arne Duncan joined Health and Human Services Department Secretary Kathleen Sebelius last Thursday to announce awards of $95 million to 278 school-based health center programs across the country – including $14 million to some 35 programs in California. Provided by the Affordable Care Act, the awards will help clinics expand and provide more health care services at schools nationwide.

The awardees are currently serving approximately 790,000 patients. Last week’s awards will enable them to increase their capacity by over 50 percent, serving an additional 440,000 patients...

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Survey Identifies Summer Nutrition Gap as Students Who Regularly Ate Subsidized School Lunches Go on Vacation

June 23, 2011

According to a new report released last Wednesday, more than 80% (two million) of California's children who ate subsidized school lunches during the last academic year did not eat lunch served through the federal summer nutrition programs in July 2010. The report by California Food Policy Advocates (CFPA), entitled School’s Out… Who Ate? A Report on Summer Nutrition in California, pinpoints budget cuts to summer school as the main reason why low-income children lost access to free, nourishing meals last summer...

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Law Requiring Adolescent Booster Comes into Effect in July

Whooping Cough Cases Still Running High in State

June 16, 2011

Dr. Howard Backer, the Interim Director of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), warned last Friday that the number of pertussis (whooping cough) cases in 2011 continues to be above both the 2009 baseline levels and the numbers seen by this time last year. Backer also encouraged parents to ensure that their adolescent’s immunizations are up-to-date in compliance with a new California law that is slated to go into effect July 1, 2011.

“In 2010, California experienced a record high number of pertussis illnesses, including 10 infant deaths,” said Backer...

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Legislators, Businessmen Urge Brown to Restore Funding for State Education Data Systems

By Jeff Hudson - June 9, 2011

Various legislators and education stakeholder groups are trying to get Gov. Jerry Brown to change his mind about two California Department of Education data systems, CalPADS and CalTIDES.

In his May Budget Revision, Brown proposed cutting $3.5 million in funding for the two systems, which would effectively shut them down.

CalPADS, the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System, is designed to track students over time, even if they move from school district to school district within the state. CalPADS has been online for nearly two years...

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Duncan, Napolitano Call for School Earthquake Drills

April 21, 2011

On Tuesday, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano called on K-12 schools and colleges and universities throughout the country to help their students, faculty and communities prepare for earthquakes by participating in public earthquake drills.

California has been holding an annual ShakeOut event promoting earthquake preparedness for several years. The effort began regionally in 2008, with a Southern California focus. In 2009 and 2010, the California ShakeOut was observed statewide, with last year’s event (held on October 21) drawing an estimated 7 million participants...

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Child Asthma Guide Released in English, Spanish

April 14, 2011

The American Association of School Administrators (AASA) and the National School Boards Association (NSBA) have released a guide for families, youth-serving organizations, and schools leaders, describing steps each can take to provide a consistent and supportive environment for children with asthma.

In the Schoolyard and Beyond: Addressing Childhood Asthma in Your Community was developed under a cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Division of Adolescent and School Health. The hard copy publication is available in both English and Spanish and is also downloadable for distribution from both NSBA (www.nsba.org) and AASA (www.aasa.org)...

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Federal Initiatives to Safeguard Student Privacy Announced

April 14, 2011

The U.S. Department of Education last Thursday announced a series of initiatives to safeguard student privacy while clarifying that states have the flexibility to share school data that are necessary to judge the effectiveness of government investments in education. Over time, interpretations of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) have complicated the valid and necessary disclosures of student information without increasing privacy protections and, in some cases, dramatically decreased the protections afforded students.

To help strike a balance between student records privacy and data availability, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the following steps...

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Report Links Breakfast to Academic Achievement

Majority of K-8 Teachers See Hunger in Classroom

February 24, 2011

Two-thirds of teachers across the United States say they have children in their classrooms who regularly come to school too hungry to learn because they are not getting enough to eat at home, according to a new national survey released Tuesday.

More than 60 percent of the teachers surveyed for “Hunger in Our Schools: Share Our Strength’s Teachers Report” say that the problem has increased in the past year, and many find that breakfast programs are a key link to students’ ability to succeed academically...

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Effort Aims to Keep Schools from Blocking LGBT Content

ACLU Launches "Don't Filter Me" Initiative

February 17, 2011

The American Civil Liberties Union, in partnership with Yale Law School, launched a campaign on Monday called “Don’t Filter Me” to assess censorship of web content in public high schools.

The campaign asks students to check to see if web content geared toward the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities – a frequent target of censorship in schools – is blocked by their schools’ web browsers. Students can report instances of censorship to the ACLU LGBT Project...

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'Shots for School'

Website Details New State Requirements for Students to be Vaccinated against Pertussis

February 10, 2011

On February 1, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and California Department of Public Health Director Mark B. Horton sent a letter to school districts describing the state’s new requirement for students to be vaccinated against pertussis (also known as whooping cough).

In California, the past year saw the highest number of cases of pertussis in more than 60 years...

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Changes will Improve Health and Address Childhood Obesity

New Federal Nutritional Standards for School Meals

January 20, 2011

The U.S. Department of Agriculture last week published a proposed rule to update the nutrition standards for meals served through the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs as part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, signed into law by President Barack Obama on December 13, 2010.

The new proposed meal requirements will raise standards for the first time in fifteen years and will make critical changes to school meals and help improve the health and nutrition of nearly 32 million kids that participate in school meal programs...

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"Cordon Bleu Standards . . . Fast Food Funding"

Torlakson Praises New Federal School Meal Guidelines, But Points out Funding Gap

January 20, 2011

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson last Thursday praised proposed stronger federal school meal nutrition standards – but also expressed concerns that unless accompanied by more funding, compliance would be a challenge for schools.

“The United States Department of Agriculture has proposed cordon bleu standards.  But so far Congress has provided only fast-food funding,” Torlakson said.

Fifty-five percent of California's 6.2 million students receive free or reduced-price meals...

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Duncan Releases National Education Technology Plan

November 17, 2010

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan last week released the U.S. Department of Education's plan for transforming American education through technology, a process that would create an engaging state-of-the-art, cradle-to-college school system nationwide.

“We have an unprecedented opportunity to reform our schools,” Duncan said during the State Educational Technology Directors Association Education Forum.  “With this technology plan, we have laid out a comprehensive vision for how teachers working with technology can transform student learning in classrooms across America...

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O'Connell Announces Launch of CDE on iTunes U, with Free Professional Development Resources

October 28, 2010

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell on Wednesday announced the launch of CDE on iTunes U, a dedicated area within the iTunes Store (www.itunes.com).

“The launch of CDE on iTunes U means that the California Department of Education (CDE) is able to offer educators free professional development resources that are produced primarily by local educational agencies and private education institutions throughout the state,” O’Connell said. “Districts and schools are under tremendous pressure to make every dollar count. Teachers can now download top-rated educational content at no charge from CDE on iTunes U.”...

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New Law Kicking In

Pertussis Hits Highest Level in Decades, Students Required To Get Booster Shot by July 2011

October 21, 2010

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) reported on Tuesday that California is experiencing the largest number of reported cases of pertussis (whooping cough) in six decades.

There have been 5,978 confirmed cases so far in 2010 – the most since 6,613 cases were reported in 1950.

The California Department of Public Health recommends that all
Californians 10 years and older receive a booster shot against pertussis (also known as “Tdap.”...

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Sharing Strategies That Improve Student Achievement

O'Connell Says New Social Network Collaboration Website "Is Like Facebook for Teachers"

September 23, 2010

On Wednesday, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell released a new Web 2.0 tool designed to encourage teacher collaboration and innovation called Brokers of Expertise: http://www.myboe.org/.

“The Brokers of Expertise Web site is like Facebook for teachers,” O’Connell said. “Educators can use this site to innovate and collaborate. Through this virtual social network teachers may share and learn about strategies that improve student achievement...

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ACSA Calls for Integrated Technology to Prepare Students for New Tools of Communication

September 9, 2010

In order to better prepare students for a changing world, schools must promote a more effective use of technology into the classroom, according to a new position paper by the Association of California School Administrator’s Technology Leadership Group.

The position paper, approved by ACSA’s Board of Directors, provides recommendations for educational leaders to promote integrated technology in the teaching and learning experience...

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Feds Seek to Enroll Five Million Uninsured Children in Medicaid, Children's Health Insurance Program

September 9, 2010

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan last week highlighted the Connecting Kids to Coverage Challenge to enroll five million children in Medicaid and CHIP (Childrens Health Insturance Program) within five years.

Although health coverage is currently available to children in families with incomes up to about $45,000 per year in nearly every state, an estimated five million uninsured children are eligible for Medicaid or CHIP but not enrolled...

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California Experiencing Biggest Outbreak in 50 Years

O'Connell Urges Families to Vaccinate Their Children to Avoid Spread of Whooping Cough

September 9, 2010

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell today urged parents on Tuesday to keep their children’s vaccinations up to date as an epidemic outbreak of pertussis (whooping cough) in California has reached its worst level in 50 years.

“The deaths of eight babies and the confirmed or suspected cases of 3,600 whooping cough bacterial infections in the state may have been prevented with childhood vaccinations against this and other diseases,” said O’Connell...

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Federal Education Department Launches New ED Data Express Website, Combining Sources

August 12, 2010

The U.S. Department of Education launched a new interactive Web site last Friday, aimed at making accurate and timely education data available in a single place.

A key element of the Department's open government plan, ED Data Express consolidates relevant data collected by the Department from several different sources and provides search tools that allow users to create individualized reports. The data is available at www.eddataexpress.ed.gov...

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Booster Shot Recommended for Teens

Whooping Cough Epidemic May Be Worst in 50 Years, Public Health Director Urges Vaccination

July 29, 2010

Urging Californians to get vaccinated now, Dr. Mark Horton, director of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), warned last Friday that the state is on pace to suffer the most illnesses and deaths due to pertussis, also known as whooping cough, in 50 years.

“Whooping cough is now an epidemic in California,” Horton said. “Children should be vaccinated against the disease and parents, family members and caregivers of infants need a booster shot.”...

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O'Connell, Chiang Encourage Schools to Expand Breakfast in the Classroom Programs

July 15, 2010

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell and State Controller John Chiang last Friday encouraged schools to expand a key student nutrition program and advised school administrators today that serving students breakfast in the classroom will not negatively impact instructional minutes requirements.

“Research consistently shows that hungry students do not learn easily or effectively,” said O'Connell.  “The breakfast in the classroom program provides nourishing food for students while teachers start classroom instruction...

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June Court Decision Goes into Effect on July 8

Districts Must Prepare for Administering Insulin Shots to Diabetic Students

By Jeff Hudson - July 8, 2010

As California school districts prepare for the start of the new school year, they also need to make plans for nurses to administer insulin shots to diabetic students who need them while at school.

In a ruling that came down on June 8, 2010 – and goes into effect today (July 8) – the California Court of Appeals ruled that school district employees who are not licensed nurses may not administer insulin to students with diabetes...

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How Strong is Your Password?

Nine Tips for Improving Your District's Security by Helping Staff Manage Their Passwords Better

By Tina Burkhart - July 8, 2010

In recent weeks, new stories about an international spy ring that was exposed also raised broader issues regarding technology security.  According to Computerworld, in searching one of the homes of one of the suspected spies, the 27 character password for the persons’ computer was written down and kept in the office next to the computer.  Once they had the password, the investigators were able to use the password to find messages hidden in files.  When this was discussed with technology security experts, their response was that it continues to be common to find passwords written on sticky Post-It notes, or in a desk drawer...

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Department of Education Sets New Bar for Transparency with Launch of Data.ed.gov

June 24, 2010

The U.S. Department of Education launched the website Data.ed.gov, which is intended to eventually serve as a “one-stop shop” for education data and allow practitioners, researchers, and the public to access data that can inform their work in classrooms and communities across America.

The Department plans to make the grant-making process more transparent to the public through this website by providing substantial amounts of easily accessible data about applications, applicants and their partners, while still protecting privacy and proprietary information...

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O'Connell Announces Summer Meal Program for Families Hard Hit by Economic Downturn

June 24, 2010

Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell recently announced that socioeconomically disadvantaged children may receive free meals during the traditional summer recess under the Summer Food Service and the Seamless Summer Feeding Option at hundreds of sites throughout the state.

“Many families are still reeling over the economic downturn that has made feeding the family quite a challenge,” said O’Connell.  “Thankfully, there are still places for families to take their kids and certain adults for a free, nutritious meal to help spread their grocery dollars during the summer break.”...

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Community Involvement Essential When Rearranging School Attendance Boundaries

By Ted Alejandre - June 10, 2010

(This story is the first in an occasional series designed to help school districts handle transitions and changes as they implement budget reductions.)

As districts continue to face severe reductions in school funding, all potential avenues are being considered to address the current fiscal crisis. One difficult area of savings involves the closure of a school site. While the savings in implementing closures are attractive, the controversy and public pressure that go with any school closure make this decision extremely difficult. However, due to the extreme pressure of budget reductions in place, many districts are considering the option...

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Risk Management . . . Can It Be Deferred?

By Kimberly Dennis - May 20, 2010

Almost every article you read these days is full of bad news.  The unemployment rate is up, the federal deficit has reached unprecedented proportion, and our Governor is deferring revenue payments once again.

As school districts prepare for another fiscally difficult year, many have reduced and/or eliminated the position responsible for risk management within the organization.  But while the position may no longer exist, the practical functions of the job remain...

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Does Your District Have a Policy? And Is That Policy Followed?

Issues Students Face Using Social Networking Sites

By Tina Burkhart - April 29, 2010

(Part II in a series)

As discussed in the previous article on social networking sites, students and adults are increasing using social networking sites to communicate and to keep up with the news.

Students are able to communicate through their social media sites from computers and most cell phones.  These sites are attractive because they allow students to communicate with many friends and family members simultaneously.  However, the immediacy of the response and the ability to connect from anywhere can lead students to some common difficulties...

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Jicama's a Hit in Alisal, Where Food Program Nourishes Many Students Four Times a Day

By Jeff Hudson - April 21, 2010

Irene Vargas, director of food services in the Alisal Union Elementary School District, is always on the lookout for ways to improve nutrition, which promotes good health and good study habits – especially for the district’s neediest students.

Alisal serves an “early bell” breakfast, and a mid-morning snack, followed by lunch, and an afternoon school snack for students who stay after 3 p.m. for extra academic enrichment programs aimed at narrowing the achievement gap. “So we’re feeding many of them four times a day,” Vargas said...

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Should Teachers, Students Use Facebook?

Social Media Has Growing Impact on School District Communication

By Tina Burkhart - April 8, 2010

(Part I in a series)

Many students and adults are regularly using social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.  According to a recent Nielsen study, this year more people accessed social media sites than checked their e-mail.

The immediacy of the information and the ability to share the information with large groups of friends contributes to students’ comfort in using these forms of communicating.

Most school districts block these sites within their information networks...

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Federal Task Force on Childhood Obesity Asks the Public for Ideas to Solve Obesity Challenge

March 25, 2010

The U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Education and Health and Human Services are asking the public for ideas to help the Task Force on Childhood Obesity come up with recommendations for public and private sector actions to solve the problem of childhood obesity.  The work of the Task Force will complement the efforts of First Lady Michelle Obama as she leads a national public awareness effort to tackle this critical public health issue...

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Many Districts Can Save By Pooling Resources

Exploring Shared Central Services Is a Conversation Worth Having . . .

By Solveig Monson - March 11, 2010

Tough economic times are often the impetus for creative thinking which can provide new approaches and solutions to problems.  School districts throughout California should be engaged in this kind of creative problem-solving as they deal with the real-world impact of the state budget morass and its impact on quality education for all students.

While some districts and communities may be talking about unification, another topic is also well-worth discussion and evaluation, in the short-term.  It is a discussion that may be easier and more efficient than unification...

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School Nutrition Programs a Priority

Obama Administration Pushes Swift Reauthorization of Child Nutrition Act

March 4, 2010

The Obama Administration is pushing for the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act to reduce hunger and improve the health and nutrition of our nation's children, and reduce childhood obesity – legislation that impacts school children and school districts around the country.

“The priorities announced by Secretary Tom Vilsack for the upcoming Child Nutrition bill would be a major step in the right direction for the health and well-being of our school children,” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said last Wednesday...

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U.S. Department of Education Releases Report on Use of Data Systems to Support Reform

January 29, 2010

States and school districts are making significant progress in building educational data systems and are starting to use that valuable data to change classroom practice and improve student achievement, according to a new report released this week by the U.S. Department of Education.

But school leaders are still searching for the best models to mine the data and to discover the best instructional methods for students, the report says...

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Duncan Reminds Educators That Kids Under 10 Need a Second Dose of H1N1 Flu Vaccine

January 15, 2010

Arne Duncan, the federal Secretary of Education, reminded elementary school educators and parents last week health authorities now recommend that all children under 10 years of age should receive a second dose of the H1N1 flu vaccine to ensure full protection against the virus and prevent further outbreaks of the flu.

To underscore this message, Secretary Duncan joined U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, Congressman Jim Moran, and Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Patrick Murphy for a tour of an H1N1 school vaccination clinic...

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Deadline to Apply is January 15

O'Connell Calls for More School Breakfast Programs to Help Hungry Students Succeed

January 13, 2010

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell on Wednesday urged local educational agencies to apply for available School Breakfast Program and Summer Food Service Program Start-up or Expansion grants.  The deadline to apply for the competitive grants is Friday, January 15, 2010.

“We have long known that it is harder for hungry children to learn in school, and that they are more often tardy or absent compared to well-nourished children,” said O’Connell...

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O'Connell Announces Distribution of Personal Protective Equipment to Help Combat Flu

December 11, 2009

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell announced a multi-agency effort last Friday to distribute millions of protective masks and gloves to schools throughout California to help prevent and mitigate the spread of the H1N1 influenza virus and other influenza outbreaks.

“In order to prevent the spread of disease, the federal H1N1 guidance for schools calls for the use of personal protective equipment in situations in which a student becomes ill while on campus,” O’Connell said...

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TSS/ACSA Workshops Explore Intricacies of Charter School Petition Process

October 23, 2009

A growing number of charter school petitions are being received by California school districts.  These petitions can consume significant amounts of valuable administrative time, as well as financial resources for legal consultation.  In response to this situation, Total School Solutions and the Association of California School Administrators are sponsoring one-day workshops to provide an objective perspective and overview of charter petition process and related legal requirements...

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Citing Early Start of School Year, State Fair Drops Traditional August Dates, Opts for July

October 16, 2009

Bowing to changing social trends and family lifestyles, the California State Fair will abandon its traditional late August dates and switch to late July dates in 2010.  In announcing the change, the State Fair’s board indicated that the primary reason for the change is that the Fair’s traditional August dates now conflict with classroom instruction in more and more school districts – leading to a significant decrease in State Fair attendance on weekdays.

An audit by the State Fair of the 2009-2010 Greater Sacramento Area K-12 school population revealed that there are approximately 400,000 school-age children in the State Fair’s target geographic area...

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New "Green Energy" Pilot Program Launched

October 2, 2009

The California Department of Education (CDE) and Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) are laying the groundwork for a new “green energy” academy pilot program.  The New Energy Academy, announced this week, is designed to provide energy career education for students who might otherwise not have the opportunity.  CaliforniaALL (CalALL), a non-profit committed to enhancing the success of California's students, has also supported development of the Academy...

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O'Connell Releases Draft of New Pandemic Flu Manual for Schools – Comment Sought

October 2, 2009

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell held news conferences in San Jose and San Diego on Thursday to update the public about efforts to combat the spread of the H1N1 virus and to release a draft of the Pandemic Influenza Planning Manual for California public schools.

The manual, created by the California Department of Education (CDE), is a state-specific supplement to the guidance provided for schools by the Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Department of Education...

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State Board May Soon Offer Webcast of Meetings

By Jeff Hudson - September 11, 2009

California’s State Board of Education (SBE) is apparently moving to offer live webcasts of its meetings in Sacramento – with a pilot broadcast perhaps becoming available as soon as next week’s SBE meeting on September 16 and 17.

This is a welcome idea, since it will give local school board trustees, superintendents and other district-level administrators a better window through which to observe the policy discussions that take place at SBE meetings between SBE trustees and senior administrators from the CDE...

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State, Federal Authorities Release More Resources Regarding H1N1 Flu and Schools

By Jeff Hudson - August 28, 2009

The California Department of Education (CDE) and the federal Department of Education (DoE) released additional guidance to local school districts during the past week regarding Novel H1N1 flu, also known as “swine flu.”

The CDE released an announcement reviewing recommended procedures to prevent the spread of flu, including having students stay home until 24 hours after they no longer have a fever, sending students who become sick at school to a separate room until they can be sent home, and so on...

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O'Connell: New Cost-Saving Technologies May Be Used to Submit Student Attendance

August 21, 2009

The Internal Revenue Service initiated electronic filing of tax returns, on a limited basis, way back in 1986.

Now, some 23 years later, California is ready to let school districts submit student attendance data electronically.

The transition could save school districts hundreds of thousands of dollars.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell announced this week that local educational agencies may be approved by the CDE...

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New Report Evaluates Free Digital Texts

August 14, 2009

The California Learning Resource Network (CLRN) has released its review of free digital textbooks, evaluating more than a dozen texts that are now available to school districts.

The report outlines how high school math and science textbooks submitted under the first phase of the initiative measure up against the state’s rigorous academic content standards. Of the 16 free digital textbooks for high school math and science reviewed, ten meet at least 90 percent of California’s standards. Four meet 100 percent of standards...

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New Federal Guidance on H1N1 Announced, Duncan Urges Schools to Prepare for Flu Season

August 7, 2009

Federal authorities, including Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, announced new, updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control for local school districts regarding H1N1 flu.  The announcement was made at a press conference early Friday morning.

A new vaccine against H1N1 flu will likely be available in mid-October.  It will consist of two shots, administered about three weeks apart. Sec. Duncan and Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, encouraged districts to consider establishing vaccination...

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What Students Need to Know About Privacy – and Protecting Their Identity – on the Internet

By Tina Burkhart - July 10, 2009

A university student wrote a negative article about her hometown on her MySpace online journal.  The article was seen by a resident of her hometown and it was given to the local newspaper.  The local newspaper published the article as a letter to the editor, and included the student’s name.  The student’s family’s business soon lost customers (based on negative reactions to the article) and her family received death threats, and ultimately had to move.

University admissions staff often do research on students who apply online...

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Free Digital Texts Offered to Schools

June 19, 2009

Nine “content developers,” including Pearson Education, one of the nation’s major textbook publishers, submitted a total of 20 free high school math and science digital textbooks by the June 15th deadline for the first phase of Governor Schwarzenegger’s Digital Textbook Initiative.

The Governor’s Digital Textbook Initiative aims to review existent free digital textbooks to determine whether these materials meet to California’s academic content standards.  If these free materials are deemed suitable, California schools may utilize them in the classroom...

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Study Urges Preschool Effort to Improve Nutrition, Promote Exercise, Reduce Obesity

By Jeff Hudson - June 12, 2009

The initial recommendations of a new study on child care nutrition and physical activity — recommending interventions during the years before children enter kindergarten — was released on Wednesday by the California Department of Education and the California Health and Human Services Agency.

The report concludes that better nutrition and more exercise would pay dividends in terms of the health of California’s children.  These findings probably won’t come as a major surprise to many K-12 educators,...

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Cyberbullying: What Teachers Need to Know

By Tina Burkhart - June 12, 2009

Part II in a Series

In the first article on cyberbullying, we discussed what cyberbullying is, and why students get involved in cyberbullying.  In this article we will discuss what teachers need to know.

Teachers are usually familiar with what to do when a student is being bullied by another student at school. 

But teachers also need to recognize the warning signs that a student may be a cyberbully, or a victim of cyberbullying.  Teachers need to know what to do when they find that a student is a victim of cyberbullying...

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Upgraded iSchoolFinder Software Helps Districts Project Student Enrollment

By Jeff Hudson - June 5, 2009

Total School Solutions (TSS) and Helm Solutions Group (HSG) have released a new and upgraded product called iSchoolFinder.com version 3, which school districts can use to forecast future student enrollment.

Many schools and parents have enjoyed the ease–of–use found in the earlier versions of iSchoolFinder.com for locating appropriate schools for students based on a student’s home address.

This new version incorporates current year enrollment data, and projects future year enrollment...

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Cyberbullying: A Behavior Problem You Cannot Afford to Ignore

By Tina Burkhart - April 3, 2009

Bullies and bullying have been around for a long time.  From verbal threats to written notes and “slam books,” students have found ways to threaten other students.

Cyber bullying is a complex and challenging issue, and in this article we will look at what cyber bullying is, and why students are involved in cyber bullying.

Today’s technology has given students additional opportunities to bully others, and the impact of a single act can spread quickly...

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Act Swiftly to Access Federal Economic Stimulus Funds Supporting School Technology Programs

By Tina Burkhart - February 27, 2009

The federal economic stimulus plan includes $650 million additional dollars for education technology in schools.  The funding will come to the states through the federal Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) program.  The plan is for half of the funds to go out to the states within the next 40 days, and the rest of the funds to arrive within six months.

The technology funds should move more quickly than some other areas of funding because the process to award the money to the states is already in place...

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Districts Seek Solutions for Hungry Students

By Tina Burkhart - January 23, 2009

School districts are reporting more students filing applications and qualifying for subsidized meals.  Last year the number of meals served through the program increased by 4.9%.  The program funding the meals expended all of the funds allotted for meals prior to May and June thus districts have not received funding for the meals served in May and June of 2007-2008.

The combination of higher food costs and energy costs, along with this increase in the number of students eating subsidized meals, has left districts struggling with how to continue providing meals for the increasing number of hungry students...

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Data Breaches Aren't Just Business Issues... They Are School District Issues, Too

By Solveig Monson - December 12, 2008

How secure is your district's Information Technology System?  Do you adequately protect confidential information about your students and your employees?  Do you know if your district has had a data breach?

When a breach compromises staff or student data, it can devastate the life of the victim for years to come.  The effects of a Social Security number being stolen can have lasting consequences.  There are some that will use an unauthorized SSN to get a job, and some who will use it to assume the identity of another...

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New Law Requires Internet Safety Training

By Tina Burkhart - December 12, 2008

On October 10, the Broadband Data Improvement Act was signed, requiring school districts that receive federal e-rate funds to provide Internet safety training to students.

School districts will now be required to "educate minors about appropriate online behavior, including interacting with other individuals on social networking websites and in chat rooms and cyberbullying awareness and response."  This requirement will be added to the certification districts sign when they file their e-rate 486 forms in the spring...

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Is Technology a Part of Your Facilities Master Plan?

By Tina Burkhart - November 21, 2008

Most school districts create a facilities master plan to address construction of new schools, and modernization of old schools.  These plans often include technology wiring infrastructure – but the plan should include much more.

Technology is changing the way America works and relaxes.  The changes need to be reflected in the infrastructure designed for schools – and this is often where school districts fall behind...

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Smart Classrooms: Technology is Easy to Acquire, But Needs Planning to Implement

By Tina Burkhart - October 31, 2008

Fifteen years ago, schools and universities began creating "smart classrooms" – model learning spaces that provided all of the technology tools available at the school.  These classrooms were exciting, but changed instruction only minimally because the room had to be reserved, and was not the "regular" classroom in which most instruction took place.  Cost of the early smart classrooms was one of the reasons these classrooms were scarce.

Today, many schools are integrating the ideas pioneered in the early smart classrooms...

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The Inter-dependence of Special Education and Transportation: Why not Collaborate?

By Solveig Monson - October 24, 2008

Did you know that there is no state or federal requirement for busing students to and from school – except for some Special Education students?  Transportation is considered a "related service" to Special Education, yet most districts fail to develop and insist on a real collaboration between their Special Education and Transportation divisions.

Here's what we know...

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Providing Tech Support with Fewer Techs

By Tina Burkhart - October 10, 2008

Every tech director I meet can tell a story about budget cuts in their department – and many are worried about further cuts.

These tech directors are worried by this trend, because each year the responsibilities of the technology support department get larger, while the staff numbers stay the same or get smaller. Every director wants teachers, students and office staff to be able to fully use the systems, software and hardware...

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Have You Measured the Effectiveness of Your Local Wellness Policy?
How is Your District Doing?

By Solveig Monson - September 26, 2008

The Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 required that all local education agencies or school districts that participate in the National School Lunch and/or School Breakfast Program develop a local wellness policy to promote the health of students and addresses the growing problem of childhood obesity.  These policies were required for all LEA’s, regardless of size, as of July 1, 2007.

A local wellness policy must include, at minimum...

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Are You Ready for Online Classes?

By Tina Burkhart - September 26, 2008

The past ten years have seen online classes for adults increase dramatically, growing from a few technology classes or limited graduate school lessons to a broad array of routinely offered classes, covering many different subjects.

Online classes have also become a common learning tool for professional development in the work place and in many industries, with the goal of meeting professional growth requirements...

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Technology Partnerships that Work: a real-life example

By Tina Burkhart - September 12, 2008

As a former Director of Technology in multiple districts, I know how hard it is to balance the day to day tech emergencies with long-term technology planning.  In most cases, the long-term planning is postponed for a “quieter” day and meetings with vendors are pushed to the back burner.  This practice may hinder possible partnerships that will have long-lasting benefits for the district. In Fresno Unified School District, Kurt Madden, chief technology officer, took the time to create partnerships...

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Student Information System Selection

By Tina Burkhart - September 1, 2008

Many school districts in California face the challenge of selecting a new student information system. Pearson School Systems has announced product support will end on August 1, 2010 for the SASI student information system.  According to Pearson, SASI is used by 16,000 schools nationwide.  These districts are being offered a free license to another Pearson student information system called PowerSchool.  School districts with SASI will need to decide which student information system best fits their needs.  Selection and implementation of a new system...

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Health And Safety - Schools, Staff
And Students!

By Solveig Monson - September 1, 2008

Is your school district meeting the regulatory requirements for protecting the health and safety of your school district faculty, staff and students? Do your personnel know what to do in the event of a workplace injury? Will your school sites know what to do if an OSHA complaint is made regarding an unsafe workplace condition?

Did you know that every California employer, including public school districts, must establish, implement and maintain a written Injury and Illness Prevention (IIP) Program...

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