NASSP Weekly Federal Policy Update

On January 28, 2011, in Weekly Update, by Mary Kingston

Announcements:

President Obama delivered his third State of the Union address on January 25 and called for three things in particular that he says are critical to “winning the future”: innovation, EDUCATION, and infrastructure. Of Obama’s key statements on education, he said, “Cutting the deficit by gutting our investments in innovation and education is like lightening an overloaded airplane by removing its engine. It may make you feel like you’re flying high at first, but it won’t take long before you feel the impact.” He also explicitly called on Congress to “fix” No Child Left Behind (though he didn’t request a timeline), and to model it after the Race to the Top competitive grant program that allowed more flexibility for states to implement innovative changes in teacher evaluation, tenure, and technology, among other things.

President Obama is expected to release his Fiscal Year 2012 Budget Request the week of February 14. Stay tuned for news from NASSP on this, and what it means for education. One thing in the budget we can expect is an investment in STEM funding, based on Obama’s remarks in the State of the Union and the following statement from the White House: “The President’s plan will invest $80 million to expand promising and effective models of teacher preparation, which will help train 10,000 more effective STEM teachers per year… The President’s plan will invest $20 million in research that will improve our understanding of how to best recruit, prepare and retain the best STEM teachers.”

Last week I mentioned that Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has declared he wants to abolish the Department of Education because he sees no place for federal involvement in education. Sen. Paul sits on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and actually just introduced a bill reflecting his desire to eliminate federal education funding: www.randpaul2010.com [pdf]. This bill (S. 162) eliminates funding for all Department of Education programs except for maintaining $16.256 billion for Pell. This bill suggests that the federal government de-fund Title I, IDEA, Impact Aid, career/technical/adult ed, teacher quality programs, TRIO, GEAR-UP, campus-based aid, student loans, research, etc. So far there are no cosponsors on this bill, and we hope there end up being none!

News

USDA Issues New Nutrition Standards for School Lunches
In compliance with new nutrition standards set out by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has published a proposed rule to increase the level of nutrition in school lunches. The proposal seeks to align school lunch standards with those recommended by the “Dietary Guidelines for Americans”, which recommends a diet consisting of nutrient-dense foods for the promotion of healthy growth and development. In order to achieve this goal, lunches would include a higher proportion of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while at the same time limiting levels of calories, saturated fats, trans fats, and sodium. Read more on our Principals’ Policy Blog: www.principalspolicyblog.org.

Bipartisan Push For ESEA Reauthorization Looks Possible
Following President Obama’s appeal in the State of the Union address to “fix” No Child Left Behind, key Congressional education leaders seem poised to work with the White House to reauthorize this major education bill. “I don’t want to make it sound like it’s going to be a piece of cake or too easy,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), a leading Republican on education issues, following the State of the Union address. But, he added, “I look forward to coming up with a consensus to fix the problems” with the NCLB law. Read more here: www.edweek.org.

Department of Education Posts “Data Dashboard” As Attempt at Transparency and Accountability
At an education stakeholder’s meeting this past Monday, Department of Education officials introduced the newly posted “Data Dashboard” (version 1.0), which lists 16 indicators of U.S. education achievement and progress. Users can use these indicators, like the percent of 3- and 4-year-olds enrolled in preschool comparing 2005-07 data to 2006-08, or the percent of freshmen graduating from high school within 4 years comparing 2006-07 data to 2007-08, and can dig further into data to see state comparisons, charts of the results, and a breakdown of the data by ethnicity. Officials said that this is just version 1.0, and they will continue to add more indicators that prove rigorous in their statistical accuracy, and relevant to the national conversation of educational benchmarks for our country. Check out the Data Dashboard here: dashboard.ed.gov and read a commentary about its quality from two Education Week writers here: www.edweek.org.

Research

Study Identifies Effective Teacher Evaluation Practices
A report on the Teacher Advancement Program (TAP) from the National Institute for Excellence in Teachings finds that evaluator training, classroom teacher involvement, and a thorough feedback mechanism count as the top priorities to integrate in effective evaluation systems. TAP is a comprehensive teacher compensation, career advancement, professional development, and evaluation system that 11 states have adopted to serve more than 10,000 teachers. You can read all recommendations in this report, More than Measurement: The TAP System’s Lessons Learned for Designing Bet ter Teacher Evaluation Systems, here: tapsystem.org [pdf].

Resources:

I encourage you all to see the documentary Race to Nowhere, which showcases the pressures on students of high-stakes testing, and questions the purposes of such intensive testing when the curriculum and assessments do not teach and measure what we truly need to teach and measure students to best prepare them for 21st century careers. Check out the film here (www.racetonowhere.com) and look up upcoming screenings in your area here: www.racetonowhere.com.

http://www.nassp.org/Portals/0/Content/60855.pdf

NASSP Weekly Federal Policy Update

On January 21, 2011, in School Reform Policy, by Mary Kingston

Announcements:

President Obama will deliver his third State of the Union address on January 25 and it is rumored that he will feature education reform in his remarks. According to PolitiFact, an organization that documents and tracks presidential promises made during the campaign period, Obama “has fulfilled or made progress on most of his campaign promises to improve the nation’s schools,” with a track record of keeping 11 of his 48 education promises, compromising on four of them, and making progress on another 24. One of the promises “in the works” is to reform No Child Left Behind. Check out more at www.politifact.com.

Here are some proclamations recently made that will hopefully incite you to the point of action:

  1. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has declared he wants to abolish the Department of Education because he sees no place for federal involvement in education. On his website he states: “I am against any federal funding or control of education. Historically, education was funded and controlled locally. Even now, most funding is local. You can’t have it both ways. Most teachers despise No Child Left Behind. If you want to be rid of it, you must also oppose federal funds!” (See here for more: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/no-child-left-behind/are-rand-pauls-education-views.html).
  2. The House Rules Committee just approved HJ Res 28, a resolution to reduce spending to 2008 levels or less. The vote for this resolution is expected to take place next Tuesday. As stated by House Appropriations Chairman Rogers in response to the resolution, “This resolution is a statement that we have heard this message loud and clear, that we will move immediately to reduce spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels, and that deep cuts to a host of government programs will be made…As I have said before, it is my intention to craft the largest series of spending cuts in the history of Congress.” NASSP urges you to join us in our fight for adequate federal funding for education. Contact your members of Congress this month to explain to them in your role as a school leader why you need federal funding for success at the school level!

House Committee appointments have now all been finalized. Go here (http://edworkforce.house.gov/OurTeam/MeetTheMembers.htm) to see who in Congress is representing you on the House Education and Workforce Committee and if it includes anyone from your district. The Committee consists of 22 Republicans (12 new on the Committee) and 17 Democrats.

NASSP Executive Director Gerald N. Tirozzi welcomed Secretary of Education Arne Duncan this week during his NASSP Radio podcast for a discussion on the future of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Secretary Duncan shared his thoughts on what principals can expect on NCLB, his contingency plan, his thoughts on dealing with tight budgets and the policy of removing principals as part of school reform efforts. Listen to the interview here: http://www.principals.org/tabid/3847/default.aspx.

News

Teachers’ Unions Prepared to Defend Position as Governors Seek Changes

Teachers’ unions across the country are preparing a defensive strategy as governors- including many newly elected Republicans-seek to change certain job protections and benefits that teachers have enjoyed to this point. Specific provisions governors and lawmakers seek to change include teacher compensation and evaluation, reductions in tenure protections, and reductions in state-funded pension systems for teachers. Read more here: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2011/01/19/17unions_ep.h30.html.
Speaking of Governors, Many Seek More Control Over State Education

Agenda

Governors and elected state school officers have historically battled for power over a state’s education agenda. Now this struggle for power has intensified with governors claiming that they need more control of education policy in order to significantly improve some of their lowest-performing schools. One such governor seeking more authority is Washington Governor Chris Gregoire, who wants to create a new Cabinet-level secretary who answers to her and who would oversee state education divisions and departments from early childhood through college. Read more here: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2011/01/20/18control.h30.html?tkn=ZOZFLafMUJJYSTfhEh267jQg8UTja95n6yAr&cmp=clp-edweek.

Department of Agriculture Seeks to Make School Lunches and Breakfasts Healthier

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has published a proposed rule to revise the nutrition standards for meals provided by the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs, under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The updated nutrition standards, which are based on recommendations by the National Academies’ Institute of Medicine, would add more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free and low-fat milk into school meals. Schools would also have to curb the levels of calories, saturated fat and trans fat, and sodium in meals. See a comparison of the nutrition standards at http://www.usda.gov/documents/cnr_chart.pdf. If interested, public comments on the proposed rule will be accepted through April 13. Go here for more information: http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=FNS-2007-0038-0001.

AFT-Commissioned Report Outlines Overhaul of Teacher Discipline Plan

Kenneth Feinberg, an arbitration expert commissioned by the American Federation of Teachers to propose recommendations to handle teacher misconduct, proposes a complete overhaul of the current drawn-out discipline process. Feinberg’s plan recommends that misconduct cases be decided within 100 days by a special examiner instead of an indeterminate time period that leads to situations like New York City’s “rubber rooms” (closed last year), where teachers were paid full salaries while awaiting court action on their cases. Causes for teacher discipline include absenteeism, corporal punishment and sexual advances to students. Read more here: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/20/education/20teachers.html?_r=1&hpw.

Research

The Center for American Progress just released a report that assesses the “educational productivity” of more than 9,000 school districts across the country. The report finds that the most productive districts overall spend more on teachers and less on administration, partner with their communities to save money, and have school boards willing to make tough decisions. Access the report (and summary) here: http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2011/01/educational_productivity/report.html.

Researchers have discovered that, of 3 different methods, taking a test on subject matter proved the most fruitful in terms of helping students learn and retain information. The other two methods- repeatedly studying the material and drawing detailed diagrams on what they are learning-did not prove as successful as taking a test when it came to accessing (or retrieving) that information later. As the article points out, “Why retrieval testing helps is still unknown. Perhaps it is because by remembering information we are organizing it and creating cues and connections that our brains later recognize.” These findings would seem to endorse the purpose of formative assessments (daily exit slips, weekly quizzes, etc) to hold students accountable for what they are learning. Read more here: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/21/science/21memory.html?_r=1&hpw.

Resources:

I encourage you all to see the documentary Race to Nowhere, which showcases the pressures on students of high-stakes testing, and questions the purposes of such intensive testing when the curriculum and assessments do not teach and measure what we truly need to teach and measure students to best prepare them for 21st century careers. Check out the film here (www.racetonowhere.com) and look up upcoming screenings in your area here: http://www.racetonowhere.com/screenings.

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Child Nutrition Bill Finally Clears Congress

On December 6, 2010, in Student Health & Wellness, by Amanda Karhuse

Schools will soon receive more money for meal reimbursement thanks to the last-minute passage of a bill reauthorizing the National School Lunch Program, as well as other child nutrition programs. After pulling the bill from the schedule the day before, the House approved the Senate version of the bill (S. 3307) on December 2 and it headed to the president’s desk for his signature.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act establishes farm-to-school programs, implements school wellness policies, increases the meal reimbursement to schools by six cents for the first time since 1973, and gives the federal government the authority to regulate all food sold in schools.

The bill authorizes $4.5 billion for child nutrition programs over 10 years and offsets the increased spending by rolling back a scheduled 2013 increase for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps). Not without its hurdles, the legislation was met with a great deal of resistance along the way, falling victim primarily to partisan politics.

“In a country as great as ours, no child should go hungry and all children deserve healthy meals. With this vote, today we make a commitment to the neediest children in our country, to the future of our country and to the millions of families who rely on the federal child nutrition programs as a nutritional safety net,” said House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (D-CA) in a press release. “It’s a shame that the majority of Republicans put politics ahead of our children’s health and voted against this bill. They are standing on the wrong side of history. I hope it doesn’t foreshadow what is in store in the next Congress.”

Expressing opposition to the Senate bill, House Education and Labor Committee Ranking Member John Kline (R-MN) stated, “Members of the U.S. House of Representatives—Republicans and Democrats alike—have been completely shut out of the legislative process of extending and improving child nutrition programs. This legislation, which dramatically increased federal spending and food mandates, has not received a single House committee hearing or vote. And today, it was brought to the House floor without any opportunity for members to offer and debate amendments.”

Rep. Kline offered a motion to recommit the bill that would have removed a provision to set a minimum price for school lunches. The proposal would have replaced that language with a new provision to prohibit schools or childcare providers that hire convicted sex offenders or do not run background checks on their employees from receiving funding under the bill. Democratic leaders, who feared that the Senate would not have time to pass the bill if it was amended by the House, instead pulled the bill from consideration. The next day, the House voted, 416-3, to approve a separate bill (H.R. 6469) that included the provision on background checks.

Prior to the vote, national organizations representing school boards and superintendents expressed their concern to the child nutrition bill in its current form. “Despite good intentions to improve child nutrition, this bill has numerous new and problematic requirements that taken together make it difficult if not impossible for school districts to successfully implement,” said Anne Bryant, executive director of the National School Boards Association (NSBA), in a letter to House members. “It creates additional burdens and unfunded mandates at a time when our school districts are facing severe budget shortfalls. Without adequate funding, schools would find it difficult to comply with the proposed new standards, reporting, training, administration, and other mandates.”

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Due to significant concerns from various groups, Congress has not yet reauthorized the child nutrition bill set to expire on September 30 but instead has approved a short-term extension of it. Congress will then likely revisit reauthorization during the lame duck period after the November elections.

As occurred with the $10 billion education jobs bill in July that saved nearly 300,000 education jobs, passage of the child nutrition bill requires offsets to other programs to make it politically feasible. The Senate approved a bill (S. 3307) in August to authorize $4.5 billion for child nutrition programs over 10 years and offset the increased spending by rolling back a scheduled 2013 increase for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (i.e. food stamps). To express opposition to this offset to food stamps, 50 House Democrats wrote a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) urging her not to introduce the Senate bill and instead to have the House vote on its own version of the bill, without cuts to the food stamps program. As a result, the House proposed its own bill (H.R. 5504) which would authorize $8 billion over 10 years, and was passed by the House Education and Labor Committee in July but has since stalled because this bill did not identify any offsets. The Congressional Budget Office projected that the House bill would add $6.5 billion to the deficit over the course of 10 years.

Not only does the House bill pose as unfavorable in its effect on the federal deficit, it is currently opposed by national organizations representing school superintendents and school board members. “The bill does not provide sufficient resources to cover the local cost of providing the federal free and reduced-priced lunches and breakfasts,” stated the American Association of School Administrators, the Council of Great City Schools, and the National School Boards Association in a letter to Congress. “Moreover, the bill adds multiple new requirements while failing to reimburse these additional costs as well.”

Both the House and Senate bills are noteworthy for a few reasons. First, they would provide more funding to school lunches, beyond changes for inflation, for the first time since the 1970s. And second, both bills would establish federal nutrition standards for the first time for food served outside the school cafeteria, such as in vending machines and at school-sponsored activities. Special exceptions would be made for school fundraising activities unless they were conducted through school stores, snack bars, or a la carte sales. The House bill would also require a study on the marketing of food and beverages in elementary and secondary schools, including on educational materials, vending machines, and score boards.

Despite opposition to the bill from various sides, the Obama administration is committed to enacting a new law this year, particularly since child nutrition is one of the First Lady’s priorities. First Lady Michelle Obama is urging swift passage of the reauthorization bill in order to make improvements to the US Schools Challenge, a program that requires schools to meet higher standards for the food sold in schools, disseminate nutrition information, and encourage students to participate in physical education programs. Mrs. Obama has also been heavily promoting the “Let’s Move” campaign, which, in her words to local children at the launch event September 8 in New Orleans, LA, seeks to “end childhood obesity in a generation, so that kids born today grow up at a healthy weight.” Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has also made public appearances to promote the bill, making the bill a likely priority during the lame duck session after the November elections. NASSP will keep you updated on how movement of this bill unfolds.

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The House Committee on Education and Labor this past week approved the Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act (H.R. 5504), clearing the bill for a vote on the House floor. The legislation seeks to improve access to school meal programs in and outside of school and to improve the quality of these meals through both food safety requirements and, for the first time ever, nutrition standards for food served outside of the lunchroom, such as in vending machines.

In his opening remarks, Chairman George Miller (D-CA) noted that First Lady Michelle Obama has made it her top priority to end childhood obesity and improve children’s health. In order to realize these goals in the First Lady’s “Let’s Move” campaign, however, Congress must support legislation to reauthorize child nutrition programs. Miller noted that over 25% of all Americans aged 17 to 24 are too heavy to join the military and stressed that the issue of childhood obesity combined with the persistence of childhood hunger reveals the importance of this legislation.

The bill seeks to improve child nutrition in a few key ways. First, it would improve access to school meal programs in and out of the school. It would eliminate applications to certify children eligible for the school lunch program and instead would use Medicaid and SCHIP (the state children’s health insurance program) data to enroll eligible students. Similarly, it would use census data instead of paper applications to identify schoolwide income eligibility in high-poverty communities. The bill would also improve access to out of school meal programs for children in school- and community-based summer and after-school programs, in home-based child care, and in low-income rural areas.

In addition to improving access, this bill would improve the quality of school meal programs in an effort to curb the increasing problem of childhood obesity. First, the bill would increase the reimbursement rate to 6 cents per meal-the first increase in 30 years-to encourage healthier meal requirements as proposed by the Institute of Medicine. Also, it would increase funding for nutrition education, promote public and private partnerships to create community-wide strategies, and help communities establish local farm-to-school networks and school gardens, all to promote healthier eating practices for children. The bill also seeks to improve the quality of school meals by extending food safety requirements to anywhere food is stored, prepared or served in the school, and by expediting notification of recalled foods. However, of concern to NASSP and our members, the bill would also establish federal nutrition standards for the first time for food served outside the cafeteria, such as in vending machines and at school-sponsored activities.

This legislation, now awaiting a vote on the House floor, underscores the importance of access and quality of school meals every day of the year, and not just on high-stakes testing days. NASSP sees this bill as an important step toward ensuring that children come prepared each day to achieve at their highest potential.

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Soaring food prices and increased transportation, energy, and personnel costs are hitting school nutrition programs hard. Despite a recent 4% increase in the reimbursement rate for federal school nutrition programs, the School Nutrition Association (SNA) predicts these programs will lose approximately $3.3 million each school day during the 2008–09 school year. To help cover these shortfalls, SNA is calling for emergency funding relief from the federal, state, and/or local levels.

The costs of bread, milk, pasta, cheese, fruits, and vegetables have all risen by over 10% since 2007, and with inflation hovering at around 4% in recent months, school districts are being forced to make tough choices in order to help feed the nearly 50 million students served annually by the National School Lunch, National School Breakfast, Child and Adult Care Food, and summer food service programs.

According to an SNA survey of school nutrition directors, 75% of respondents said they are raising the price of school meals for paying students; 69% said they are drawing on their financial reserves; and 62% are considering reducing the number of school nutrition employees.

To help cover costs, schools are also downgrading their menu offerings to less expensive items (i.e. serving spaghetti in place of lasagna); removing meat and cheese from salad bars; and limiting participation in free breakfast programs.

As school meals become less attractive to students, there is a fear by some that participation in these programs will wane and that students may not receive adequate nutrition, causing academic performance to suffer as a consequence.

“Providing children with access to healthier, nutritious foods while at childcare, school, or summer camp is vital to our efforts to help all children learn, succeed, and thrive. And at a time when the United States faces staggering rates of childhood obesity, helping young children develop healthy and nutritious eating habits must be a top national priority,” said House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (D-CA) at a July hearing.

Although several bills have been introduced in both the House and Senate to address student nutrition and obesity issues, it is unlikely that any will be passed this year, as energy, housing, and national security issues will likely dominate the Congressional agenda.

NASSP has consistently advocated for a comprehensive federal approach to education that takes into consideration the health, nutrition, and other nonacademic needs of America’s students. As an allied organization of SNA, NASSP supports federal efforts to provide all students with nutritious meals that will strengthen their bodies and minds.

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By a vote of 263-160, the House overwhelmingly approved legislation (H.R. 6049) to extend the Qualified Zone Academy Bond (QZAB) program for one year, providing an additional $400 million for the program.

QZAB funds can be used for school renovation and modernization, developing curriculum, purchasing equipment, and training school personnel. Most schools that participate in the QZAB program have 35% or more of their students eligible for the National School Lunch Program. Schools in high-poverty areas are also usually eligible.

NASSP actively advocated for passage of H.R. 6049 through its participation in the Rebuild America’s Schools Coalition.

The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration. We’ll keep you posted on developments, so check back often!

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In late January 2008, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued the largest beef recall in American history, affecting school nutrition programs in 45 states and the District of Columbia. Over one-third of the 143 million pounds of recalled beef was purchased for use in the National School Lunch program.

The recall follows evidence that meat from non-ambulatory or “downer” cattle from the Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company had made its way into the U.S. food supply. Meat from non-ambulatory cattle is banned by federal law from entering the food supply, as these cattle may suffer from bovine spongiform encephalopathy, popularly known as mad cow disease. While no illnesses have thus far been reported, the recall brings into question the safety and quality of food provided by schools.

“A recall such as the Westland case contributes to the public’s perception that school food is inferior and of lower quality. Moving forward we need to assure the public that the same level of care is taken with the behind the scenes treatment of food as is taken with the preparation and serving of food,” said Penny Parham, administrative director of the Department of Food and Nutrition for Miami-Dade County Public Schools, at a March hearing before the House Education and Labor Committee.

Part of ensuring the safety of school food involves having adequate systems in place to notify school administrators of food recalls. In the Hallmark/Westland recall, the USDA used a Rapid Alert System, which sends e-mails, faxes, and cell phone messages to state educational agencies, providing them with news updates and instructions for disposing of affected food. USDA continues sending each alert until it receives notification that the communication has been received.

Not everyone agreed that the USDA’s response to the recall and communication to schools was adequate however. For instance, the USDA put out a press release saying that the cattle involved in the recall are “unfit for human food” before information was sent to local schools, said Mary Hill, president of the School Nutrition Association. “Frequently, the information reaches the parents before the information reaches the local school. That is not good. Parents start calling before we have any information,” Hill continued.

In the wake of the recall, the USDA is working to improve its response mechanisms, said Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kate Houston. She also assured policymakers at the hearing that “the food supply is safe. This includes USDA commodities available to schools and other outlets participating in our nutrition assistance programs [including the National School Lunch program].”

In the midst of the recall and questions about the safety and quality of school food, it is important to keep in mind the important role that school nutrition programs serve. “We know that when children don’t have enough nutritious food to eat, it can have serious negative effects not just on their health but on many aspects of their lives, including their ability to learn. We can’t expect children to go to school on an empty stomach and still be able to succeed academically,” said Rep. George Miller (D-CA), chairman of the House committee.

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Urban Schools Gaining Ground

On November 27, 2007, in Middle Level Reform, Student Health & Wellness, by Mary Kingston

Despite the challenges of high concentrations of poor and minority students, the recent release of the 2007 Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA) of reading and math shows that urban schools are gaining ground.

TUDA is a study of fourth and eighth graders that was conducted by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in 2002, 2003, 2005, and 2007. Eleven urban districts participated in the voluntary study in 2007, including: Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, the District of Columbia, Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, and San Diego.

Reading
At both the fourth and eighth grade level, eight districts increased their reading scores from the 2005 TUDA. Gains were not equal however for Black, Hispanic, or low income students.

Black students in the fourth grade made gains in four districts, compared to Black students at the eighth grade, who made gains in only one of the eleven participating urban districts. Similarly, fourth grade Hispanic students made gains in reading in two districts, while eighth grade Hispanic students made gains in only one. The trend reverses itself for low income fourth grade students, who made slight gains in reading scores in only four districts, as opposed to six districts at the eighth grade level.

Math
Eighth grade students generally faired better than their fourth grade counterparts for mathematics. All eleven districts increased their eighth grade math scores from the 2005 TUDA, as opposed to only eight districts at the fourth grade level.

The trend continues for both Black and low income students, who increased their math scores in six districts at the eighth grade level, whereas fourth grade Black and low income students increased their scores in only five districts. However, eighth grade Hispanic students increased their math scores in only four districts, as opposed to five districts at the fourth grade level.

Contextualizing the Results
In considering the results of this assessment, it is important to keep in mind that Black and Hispanic students make up approximately 38% of fourth graders across the nation, and 56-92% of fourth graders in the eleven districts.

In the eighth grade, 40% of students nationally were eligible for the National School Lunch Program in 2007, yet approximately 47-100% of eighth graders in each of the eleven districts were eligible for the program.

“In many cases, when scores for only Black, Hispanic, or lower-income students in the [eleven] districts are compared with their peers nationally, students in the districts score comparably or higher. Additionally, over time, these student groups are making gains,” according to the TUDA executive summary.

To view the full results for the 2007 Trial Urban District Assessment results for reading and math, visit nces.ed.gov.

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The renewal of legislation that would govern school nutrition programs was the topic of debate at an early April field hearing in Atlanta, Georgia by the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee. Discussion centered around the Food Stamp Program (FSP), the nation’s primary nutrition assistance program. The importance of proper nutrition and its connection to school performance is well-documented. Food stamps can be the difference “between students who can absorb and learn at school – and those whose spirit is absent because their bodies are deprived,” testified Mary Dean Harvey, division director of the division of family and children services.

While discussion at the hearing often broadened to the role and importance of federal food programs to families, the hearing itself was demonstrative of the heightened focus lawmakers have paid to nutrition and its pervasive importance throughout society – including schools.

Several legislative initiatives have been introduced in Congress that address the issue of childhood nutrition, among them, the Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Act of 2007 (S. 771/H.R. 1363), introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Rep. Lynn C. Woolsey (D-CA) respectively. This legislation would update federal nutrition standards for snack foods sold in school cafeterias and would apply those standards everywhere on school grounds, including in vending machines and school stores.

To emphasize his interest in child nutrition, Sen. Harkin held a hearing on child nutrition and the school setting the same day this legislation was introduced in both the House and Senate. During that hearing, Harkin stated that “we must bring nutrition guidelines for foods sold outside of the cafeteria in line with those required for food sold inside of the cafeteria. School breakfast and lunch programs adhere to strong guidelines, but as soon as students leave the cafeteria, they are inundated with the over-promotion of junk food in vending machines and snack bars. This undercuts our investment in school meal programs and steers kids toward a future of obesity and diet-related disease. We must update nutritional guidelines across the board.”

As NASSP previously reported, Harkin introduced the Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Act in the previous Congress without success, but he is optimistic about its passage this year and believes that reauthorization of the 2002 Farm Act provides another opportunity to pass the legislation if it does not pass on its own.

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