June 14th, 2012
04:00 PM ET

District's 'Teacher of the Year' laid off

by John Martin, CNN

(CNN) - As many as 33,500 teaching jobs nationwide have been lost since September, according to a recent analysis by the Washington Post. Sutterville Elementary School 6th grade teacher Michelle Apperson joined the ranks of those unemployed educators when she was laid off by the Sacramento City Unified School District.

Apperson isn't a new teacher, and she's not considered the bottom of the barrel. She taught at Sutterville for nine years, and was selected as this year's Teacher of the Year for the entire district. That distinction did not prevent Apperson's pink slip.

The district was facing a $43 million budget shortfall, which it addressed in part through cuts in its workforce – including teachers. A district spokesperson said the way teacher layoffs are handled is mandated by state law, and that the layoffs were based on seniority. Gabe Ross, the district's spokesman, called the situation "awful" and said, "It's another sign of how education's funding really needs an overhaul."

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Filed under: Economy • Elementary school • Policy • Teachers • video
Walmart Foundation pledges $20 million for summer programs
June 14th, 2012
02:30 PM ET

Walmart Foundation pledges $20 million for summer programs

By John Martin, CNN

(CNN) – About 14 million children will participate in summer programs across America this year. An estimated 24 million more children “are on the outside, looking in,” Gary Huggins, CEO of the National Summer Learning Association, told CNN. Their parents would enroll them in these programs if they were available and affordable.

Walmart and its philanthropy arm, the Walmart Foundation, announced on Wednesday that it is giving $20 million to support youth summer programs that promote healthy meals, educational opportunities and employment and skills training.

The six grant recipients are the YMCA of the USA (Y-USA); National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA); National Summer Learning Association (NSLA); Innovations in Civic Participation (ICP); Building Educated Leaders for Life (BELL); and Brandeis University. They operate or support summer programs in 350 communities.

NSLA, ICP and BELL will focus on summer learning initiatives. A Johns Hopkins study shows that low-income students can lose two months of math and reading ability over a nonproductive summer.

NSLA’s Huggins told CNN "there is a growing recognition among [school] district leaders that students are losing ground, and we have to stop that."
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Filed under: At Home • Extracurricular • Lunch • Practice • Summer learning
Does obesity affect school performance?
June 14th, 2012
12:28 PM ET

Does obesity affect school performance?

By Amanda Gardner, Health

(Health.com) – Obese children and teenagers face a slew of potential health problems as they get older, including an increased risk of diabetes, heart attacks, and certain cancers. As if that weren't enough, obesity may harm young people's long-term college and career prospects, too.

In recent years, an uneven yet growing body of research has suggested that obesity is associated with poorer academic performance beginning as early as kindergarten. Studies have variously found that obese students - and especially girls - tend to have lower test scores than their slimmer peers, are more likely to be held back a grade, and are less likely to go on to college.

The latest such study, published this week in the journal Child Development, followed 6,250 children from kindergarten through fifth grade and found that those who were obese throughout that period scored lower on math tests than non-obese children.

What's more, this pattern held even after the researchers took into account extenuating factors that can influence both body size and test scores, such as family income, race, the mother's education level and job status, and both parents' expectations for the child's performance in school.

Copyright Health Magazine 2011

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Filed under: Early childhood • Kids' health • Policy • Practice • Testing
My View: Let preschoolers, kindergartners play to learn
June 14th, 2012
06:34 AM ET

My View: Let preschoolers, kindergartners play to learn

Courtesy Kathleen Landwerhle/Champlain CollegeBy Laurel Bongiorno, Special to CNN.

Editor’s note: Professor Laurel Bongiorno is director of the master’s degree program in early childhood education at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont. She is working on a book on the value of play in early childhood development.

(CNN) - Young children, ages 3 to 5, learn through play at home. It’s easy to observe.

But then preschool and kindergarten arrive all of a sudden, and children in today’s school environment are often subjected to scripted lessons and direct instruction.

Whether it’s classic theorists such as Jean Piaget or contemporary researchers such as David Elkind, there is general agreement that children learn through hands-on experience, through their play.

So why the disconnect? Why the pressure on teachers to “teach to the (standardized) test”? And why the misconception that testing addresses accountability? Studies show children are at their best during play, so shouldn’t we observe and assess them during play?

My research shows that Mom and Dad help their child develop vocabulary and letter recognition through songs, games and books filled with fun stories. They clearly understand the connection between play and learning.

Not only do they see the benefit of language and literacy play, but they also describe how their children develop physically through running, jumping and climbing, and how they advance small motor skills by stacking blocks, drawing with markers and squeezing glue bottles. In these areas, play is what matters, too.
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Filed under: Early childhood • Preschool • Voices