April 2014 Dashboard

TRENDS

Brain training can bring ADHD relief

drugs such as ritalin or adderall are the usual way children with attention-span problems are treated. However, a new study is showing that another form of treatment is on the horizon: neurofeedback.

Published in the journal Pediatrics, the study of 104 Boston elementary school students diagnosed with ADHD reported that neurofeedback not only helped them extend their attention spans, it also reduced hyperactive behaviors.

Some children were on medication and some were not. They were randomly assigned to have neurofeedback or cognitive computer training at school three times a week for five months. A control group had no therapy at all, the Boston Globe reported.

The cognitive training helped with attention spans but not the hyperactivity. The study authors are hoping that additional research will duplicate their findings. If so, study author Dr. Naomi Steiner told the Globe that she hopes schools will one day offer this kind of feedback as part of their special education services.

No advantage to single-gender education

put all the girls in a classroom where they can collaborate and work quietly. Get the boys in another room where they can compete with each other and move around a lot. That, in a nutshell, is the philosophy behind the practice of single-gender classrooms.

It turns out this classroom segregation doesn’t help students learn better than those in co-ed rooms, according to a study published by the American Psychological Association.

Lead researcher Janet Shibley Hyde said that, while single-sex classroom and school proponents say the practice increases student achievement, “our comprehensive analysis of the data shows that these advantages are trivial and, in many cases, nonexistent.”

Researchers analyzed 184 studies of more than 1.6 million students from around the world. They also did a separate analysis of just U.S. schools, with the same results.

56,000 The number of laminated cards with “A School Board Vision for Public Education” and the set of “Guiding Principles” distributed since November 2013 by state school boards associations and NSBA. To get cards for you and your board, contact Linda Embrey at lembrey@nsba.org.

Chicago schools reduce suspension rate

A change in chicago Public Schools' student code of conduct has resulted in a 36 percent drop in suspensions over the past two years.

The new code of conduct, put into place in 2012, encourages school officials to avoid using suspensions as a disciplinary tool and instead come up with other ways to deal with student misconduct. Alternatives include conflict resolution techniques, anger coping therapy, and intervention programs.

Suspensions and expulsions have been in the spotlight nationally, after research by the U.S. Department of Education showed that minority students face harsher discipline than their white peers. Suspensions and expulsions also are linked to a higher risk of dropping out.

“We believe this is a work in progress and there’s still more work to do,” Aarti Dhupelia, CPS’ chief of college and career success, told the Chicago Sun-Times. “We still have a large number of suspensions.”

Kiwis? Yes, please!

This winter’s cold weather and storminess have some schools that serve fresh fruits and vegetables for their lunch program changing their menus.

The Green Bay, Wis., school district bought kiwi fruit for a special program. However, frigid temperatures caused schools to close for three days in January, and the food service staff served the fruit to the students before it went bad.

“We had a lot of students say, ‘We really like kiwi, can we have this every day?’” Kathy Walker, food services director for the Green Bay district, told the Green Bay Press-Gazette. “So you never know.”

Using fresh fruits and vegetables, as required by the federal Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010, make planning trickier for districts during weather-related school closings. The longer schools are closed, the more potential for waste.

Tracking bus riders made easy

Wondering if your students got on their buses in the morning? There’s an app for that.

Students at an Illinois high school use a computerized bus pass system to scan their ID cards getting on and off the bus. Parents can access that information by computer -- or, if they prefer, they can get it by text message or through an app for Apple or Android devices.

Jim Conrey, a spokesman for Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Ill., said the technology gives “parents the option to have certainty that their students was picked up or dropped off,” the Daily Herald reported.

The system only is available for bus riders currently; students don’t scan their cards when they enter school or individual classrooms. Conrey said the company was looking to expand the system to be able to tell parents and students how far a bus is from an individual bus stop.

44 school shootings since Newtown

A school shooting has occurred every 10 days since the December 2012 shooting massacre in Newtown, Conn., according to a February report on K-12 and college campuses.

Compiled by two groups -- Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America -- the report counted 13 shootings in the first six weeks of 2014.

The groups found that 70 percent of shootings after Newtown were done by minors, and three-quarters involved guns brought from home, according to the New York Daily News. The incidents included assaults, homicides, suicides, and unintentional shootings.

“Schools now routinely have lockdown drills reminiscent of Cold War air raid drills,” Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said in a press statement.

“Parents in communities across the country live in fear. An estimated 90 percent of school districts have tightened security since Newtown -- installing metal detectors, surveillance cameras, and bullet-proof glass.” Shannon Watts


MISPERCEPTIONS

You do what?

Members of the public say the funniest things. And they often have little clue about what school board members actually do.

We asked our Reader Panel members to name the biggest misperception that the public has about school board work.

“The biggest misperception is that a single board member can make changes alone. The second biggest is that a board member can take over the superintendent's role.” Nancy Hartman school board member Missouri

“My children have told me on a few occasions that they've had teachers joke with them that they better do their jobs because I can get them fired. So I think the biggest misperception is that, as a board member, I wield this amazing power to move mountains in the district. It doesn't work that way! It's that delicate balancing act of working with other board members on solutions because I am only one vote. It's also that constant struggle to inform folks that my duties as a board member are limited to policy, budget, and superintendent performance.” Kathy Korte, school board member, New Mexico


READER PANEL

Adult education works

In this issue, we asked readers to tell us their adult and community education success stories.

“An over 80-year-old mom who completed her GED said it best: We are never too old to learn something new, and it is never too late to accomplish a task that is worth accomplishing.’” Bob Gragg, semi-retired superintendent and consultant, Oklahoma

“Billings’ Adult Basic Education programs have resulted in projects and services in credit recovery, alternative learning centers, and shared technology which have increased our graduation rates.” Kathleen Aragon, school board member, Montana

“Our program is very old and run by a citizen group. They are a fixture in our high school and remain a shining light of community spirit.” James Butt, school board member, Pennsylvania

"It is always very exciting and satisfying to hand diplomas to adults. Their heart-warming stories of interrupted education, and final graduation -- sometimes at the same time as their own children -- are inspiring and moving!” Gail Monohon, school board member, California

For more adult education stories from readers, or to join ASBJ’s Reader Panel, go to www.asbj.com/readerpanel.


TRENDS

College does pay off

Think a college education is expensive? Try not going to college

A survey by the Pew Research Center found that college graduates from ages 25 to 32 -- so-called Millennials -- who are working full time earn $17,500 more annually than employed young adults holding only a high school diploma.

College graduates in that age group also say that the costs of a college education were worth it -- that it has paid off or will pay off in the future.

About 22 percent of Millennials with only a high school diploma were living in poverty, in contrast to 6 percent of Millennial college graduates.

Adding to the benefits, college-educated Millennials are more likely than their peers with high school diplomas to be employed full time, and are much less likely to be unemployed -- 3.8 percent for the college educated vs. 12.2 percent for high school grads.

Biometrics gets thumbs down in Florida

Iris, retina, and palm scanners; voice recognition; fingerprint readers -- all part of biometrics, the practice of using physical characteristics for student identification -- are being used in a small-scale way in schools.

However, the practice is getting scrutiny from Florida lawmakers, who introduced a bill that would limit or outright ban the use of biometric data collecting in state schools. The concern was student data security.

School board members who wanted the flexibility to make their own policies were not happy about the move from the legislature.

“Biometrics is coming,” Miami-Dade School Board member Raquel Regalado told the Miami Herald. “It exists in the market. It will exist in our schools. It may end up being a viable way to ensure there isn’t fraud.”

Some districts are using palm and fingerprint scanners in cafeterias and buses.

Are you connected yet?

with the goal of 99 percent of U.S. students having access to high-speed Internet within five years, President Obama has pledged $2 billion in federal government support to schools.

“In a country where we expect free Wi-Fi with our coffee, we should demand it in our schools,” Obama told a crowd of people outside a school in suburban Washington, D.C., according to the Washington Post.

The president’s February announcement came during his post-State of the Union tour. The ConnectEd program, according to the White House, will be a “breakthrough investment in schools.”

Currently, Internet speeds at 70 percent of the nation's schools are too slow for students to take advantage of rich digital content and have the opportunity to connect and collaborate online.