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Buckle Up on Buses

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Buckle Up on Buses

Did you know that school buses are the largest form of transit in the United States? Each day, an estimated 480,000 school buses carry 25 million children to and from school, according to the American School Bus Council.

Because of their sheer weight, size and design, school buses are also one of the safest ways to travel. On average, only six passengers die each year in school bus crashes compared to the approximately 2,000 children killed in motor vehicle crashes, says the National Conference of State Legislators. Still, given the precious cargo, even more safety improvements are constantly being considered, including the use of seat belts.

In November 2015, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Administrator, Mark R. Rosekind, emphasized the importance of seat belts in school buses.

“The position of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is that seat belts save lives,” Rosekind said in a speech at a National Association for Pupil Transportation event. “That is true whether in a passenger car or in a big yellow bus. And saving lives is what we are about. So NHTSA’s policy is that every child on every school bus should have a three-point seat belt.”

Many districts require school buses to have a seat belt for each child. As of 2015, 12 states have introduced bills that would require school buses to have seat belts installed, but none of the bills have passed.

Do the buses in your school district have seat belts?

Transgender Bathroom Controversy Reaches Schools

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Transgender Bathroom Controversy Reaches Schools

The debate over transgender bathrooms has reached the public school sector.

In May, the Obama administration issued a letter to public school districts regarding civil rights protection for transgender students. The joint letter from the Departments of Education and Justice states that, “A school may provide separate facilities on the basis of sex, but must allow transgender students access to such facilities consistent with their gender identity. A school may not require transgender students to use facilities inconsistent with their gender identity or to use individual-user facilities when other students are not required to do so.”
While the letter does not have the force of law, violating its parameters could result in lawsuits or the loss of Federal funding.

The letter frequently refers to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX), which prohibits sexual discrimination in educational programs and activities.

Soon after the letter was issued in May, 11 states filed a lawsuit, claiming that the directive is unlawful. The lawsuit reads, the Obama administration has “conspired to turn workplace and educational settings across the country into laboratories for a massive social experiment, flouting the democratic process, and running roughshod over common sense policies protecting children and basic privacy rights.”

The lawsuit was joined in early July by 10 additional states, who claim that the Departments of Education and Justice overstepped their boundaries in issuing the directive.

School Sports Cover Costs with Pay-to-Play Fees

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School Sports Cover Costs with Pay-to-Play Fees

High school athletes dream of getting paid to play the sports they love. But what happens when they are required to pay money to help fund the sports?

Many schools have opted for pay-to-play systems that charge student athletes a fee for each extracurricular they participate in.

Sports fees are nothing new for parents who have long been opening their wallets for youth sports leagues and clubs. Sanctioned school sports were typically free, though, until the past few decades when state funding struggled to keep up with growing programs.

A survey of 470 schools in Ohio found that about half require a sports participation fee. The range is large, with some schools requiring a $50 pay-to-play fee for each sport, while others soared over $1,000 per sport.

Charging a fee is often viewed as a better alternative to eliminating sports or adding a school levy to the ballet. Still, the fees can be a burden for low-income families or those with multiple children competing in sports. Participation almost always declines when fees are added.

Does your school have a pay-to-play procedure for sports or other extracurricular activities?

School Funding Slow Compared to Prison Funding Growth

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School Funding Slow Compared to Prison Funding Growth

Over a 33-year span, state and local governments have increased spending on prisons and jails at three times the rate they have increased spending on preschool through 12th grade education, according to data released this month by the U.S. Department of Education.

From 1979–80 to 2012–13, public preschool through 12th grade expenditures increased by 107 percent (from $258 to $534 billion), while total state and local corrections expenditures increased by 324 percent (from $17 to $71 billion).

The expenditure rate for schools was lower than that for corrections in all 50 states. Seven states – Idaho, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, and West Virginia — increased their corrections budgets more than five times as fast as education budgets.

The numbers are even more startling when comparing higher education. According to the report, between 1989–90 and 2012–13, state and local higher education appropriations were nearly flat, while corrections expenditures grew by 90 percent.

“Budgets reflect our values, and the trends revealed in this analysis are a reflection of our nation’s priorities that should be revisited,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. in a press release. “For far too long, systems in this country have continued to perpetuate inequity. We must choose to make more investments in our children’s future. We need to invest more in prevention than in punishment, to invest more in schools, not prisons.”

Decoding Computer Science

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Decoding Computer Science

Computer science is a foreign language to most people. Code.org is trying to change that by making the subject more accessible and understandable. As part of its efforts, the non-profit created Hour of Code, a 60-minute introduction to computer science, intended to “demystify code and show that anybody can learn the basics.”

The official Hour of Code event takes place annually in December, during Computer Science Education Week, but the tutorials are available year-round online at hourofcode.com. They are available in 40 different languages and range in difficulty level for people ages 4 to 104. Tutorials can be completed on a computer or with a pencil and paper, individually or in groups.

According to a recent report from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, only 25 percent of high schools in the U.S. offer computer science classes. Yet, the Occupational Outlook Handbook projects the field will grow 11 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations.

Teachers at Risk for Vocal Damage

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Teachers at Risk for Vocal Damage

One of the main tools for classroom instruction may be harmful to teachers.

A new study funded by the National Institutes of Health found that teachers have more than twice the voice problems as people in other professions. Talking all day in a noisy environment can lead to vocal fatigue, whose symptoms include hoarseness, vocal tiredness, aching neck muscles and loss of voice.

Females are particularly at risk for developing long-term vocal problems. This may be due to a biological difference between men and women. The study discovered that female teachers with more symptoms of vocal fatigue had reduced lung function.

One way to protect teachers’ voices is to use an amplification system, such as a wireless microphone. Teachers at Fenton Avenue Charter School in California routinely use microphones in their classrooms. In addition to less strain on their voices, they’ve noticed that students can hear them more clearly and are better behaved.

Providing every teacher with a microphone would be costly for schools, but in the long run, it may be an investment worth making.

School’s (Not) Out for Summer

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School’s (Not) Out for Summer

For most students, summer means several months of vacation. But for the 5 million kids in the United States who attend year-round schools, summer is just a continuation of classes. According to Statistic Brain, there are more than 3,000 year-round schools in 46 states.

Year-round schooling can eliminate the “summer achievement gap”, meaning students lose an average of one month of learning over break. With lower income students, it can be as much as a year’s worth of academic skills. This loss is cumulative year after year, so it is significant by the time they get to high school. A Johns Hopkins University study found that summer learning loss during elementary school explained two-thirds of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income ninth graders.

There are several different year-round schooling schedules. The most common are the 45-15 plan (45 days in school, 15 days off), the 60-20 plan (60 days in school, 20 days off) and the 90-30 plan (90 days in school, 30 days off).

Year-round schools can be either single track or multi-track. A single-track calendar means the whole school is on the same schedule, while a multi-track calendar has students on different schedules. Multi-tracks can be used to accommodate more students, since some students are in school while others are on vacation.

Most year-round students are in class the same amount of days – 180 – as students on a traditional schedule.

Drama is More Than an Extracurricular

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Drama is More Than an Extracurricular

As schools focus on core subjects and STEM programs, theater frequently ends up on the losing end of the funding battle. Yet, drama education boasts countless benefits for students’ physical, emotional, social and cognitive development.

Several studies have shown that students who participate in the arts have higher standardized test scores than those who don’t. Specifically, students involved in drama have better reading comprehension skills. Performing complex works, such as Shakespeare, increases students’ ability to understand difficult math and science materials.

According to the American Alliance for Theatre & Education, attendance rates are higher and dropout rates are lower for students who participate in the arts.

Social awareness is a lesser talked about benefit of drama education. Through stories, poems and plays, students are exposed to people from different time periods and cultures. Studying their social issues and conflicts helps students learn not only history, but also empathy.

Drama also helps students build self-esteem, learn problem-solving skills, express emotions, and collaborate with others – all valuable life skills.

States Drop the Ball on Physical Education

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States Drop the Ball on Physical Education

Students benefit greatly from physical education, but states are not doing enough to ensure that children are active and fit.

Only 19 states set a minimum amount of time for elementary students to participate in physical education, according to 2016 Shape of the Nation data recently released by the Society of Health and Physical Educators and Voices for Healthy Kids (SHAPE).

“The benefits of physical education ring clear as a school bell,” says Nancy Brown, American Heart Association CEO. “With effective physical education, we can keep kids’ hearts healthy and their minds in gear to do their best at school every day.”

In some schools, physical education is not required at all. The study reported that “more than half of states (62%) permit school districts or schools to allow students to substitute other activities for their required physical education credit.”

Many states also reported allowing physical activity to be withheld as a punishment. In some cases, recess was revoked to punish students for poor behavior or performance.

Invention Could Help Students with Dyslexia

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Invention Could Help Students with Dyslexia

An estimated 20 percent of the population – about one in every five people – suffers with some form of reading disability. While words and sounds flow together easily for some, others see jumbled letters and disconnected ideas.

Dyslexia is one type of reading disability. The International Dyslexia Association defines dyslexia as “a cluster of symptoms that result in people having difficulties with specific language skills, particularly reading.” As most young readers progress through school, they evolve from sounding out words and letters to understanding content. A student with dyslexia may struggle without the help of phonics-based reading instruction.

Jamee Miller, who knows first-hand the difficulties of having dyslexia, had a breakthrough idea as she struggled to keep pace with reading in college courses. Miller, with the help of her husband, Payden, developed the Read ‘n Style pen, a smart pen that reads text to individuals through a discreet Bluetooth earpiece.

The Millers assembled a group of individuals, known as The Hidden Abilities Team, to help Jamee’s dream come true. The Read ‘n Style pen is currently in development. To learn more, visit www.hiddenabilities.org.

 

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