Snack rules behind drop in school vending sales – Education Week

Published Online: October 15, 2014

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — Eating healthy is shrinking something besides waistlines in the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District.

School district officials report there's been a 71 percent drop in revenues collected from vending machines at schools within the district, money that is mostly targeted to fund extracurricular activities, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported (http://is.gd/YsadN1).

Revenue has fallen 71 percent in the last decade, the district's chief financial officer, Mike Fisher, told the school board last month.

Revenues from high schools in the district brought in nearly $225,000 in 2003, but that fell to $64,000 last year, he said.

"It's really unfortunate because the revenue was so beneficial — when we talk about vending — was so beneficial to our extracurricular activities in our schools," board President Heidi Haas said.

The drop became evident after the school district six years ago implemented stricter standards on what could be offered in the vending machines, including reductions in calorie counts and fat and sugar content.

At the beginning of this school year, the federal government instituted stricter guidelines through the Smart Snacks in Schools initiative.

It restricts every school district in the nation from selling snacks that fail to meet certain nutrition standards during the school day. The guidelines also define the school day as starting at midnight and extending until 30 minutes after the final school bell of the day.

Before these standards went into effect, districts could sell 12-ounce cans of soda with more than 100 calories, but now those products with empty calories — defined by the federal government as those coming from solid fats or added sugars — are no longer allowed to be sold.

The standards do not apply to food students bring from home or things like birthday cake served as classroom parties.

School board member Wendy Dominique has asked administrators about stemming the revenue losses by applying for an exemption from the initiative, which is part of the federal Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.

Districts can apply for exemptions for a certain number of days each year for schools to host things like bake sales and other food-related fundraisers.

However, the district's nutrition services director, Amy Rouse, said she has been told the state doesn't intend to seek waivers. The state education department didn't have immediate comment Wednesday to The Associated Press.

"If there's any change or action that can be taken at this time it needs to start from grass roots, and everybody needs to contact their representatives in Congress because the smart-snack regulation is the result of (Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act authorization)," Rouse said.

———

Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com


You must be logged in to leave a comment. Login | Register

Back to Top Back to Top

A-F rating system approved for Arkansas schools – Education Week

Published Online: October 10, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Most Arkansas public schools will soon be graded in much the same way as students.

The Arkansas Board of Education on Thursday approved a new A-through-F rating system that will replace the older practice of rating schools on a 1-to-5 scale. Schools won't be penalized or rewarded based on their results, and grades won't be applied to alternative learning education centers.

A 2013 law required the letter grades, which are meant to be easier for parents to understand, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported (http://bit.ly/1tJGIe4 ).

The Education Board approved an emergency set of letter-grade rules that will become effective after they're sent to the Arkansas secretary of state's office. They also approved an identical set of what are considered to be more permanent rules to go to the Legislative Council for a final review.

Education Commissioner Tony Wood said the grades will be announced in late November or early December, which is near the same time the state's education department completes its annual school achievement report. It lists which schools met or failed to meet their yearly achievement goals on the state tests.

Officials say grades will be based in part on last spring's Benchmark and End-of-Course state test results. The A-through-F rating system can only be used once before it will have to be significantly changed. The state exams are being replaced this school year with a new testing system, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers exams.

At least 14 other states use the A-through-F rating system, including Florida, Alabama, Texas and Oklahoma, according to the Denver-based Education Commission of the States.

———

Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com


You must be logged in to leave a comment. Login | Register

Back to Top Back to Top

Arkansas sees growth in AP test takers, scores – Education Week

Published Online: October 8, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Department of Education says more students are taking Advanced Placement tests — and scores on those exams are going up, too.

The department says more than 25,000 students took the tests last school year, which is a nearly 5 percent increase over the previous year. Students who score a 3 or higher on a scale of 1 to 5 can receive college credit hours.

More than 14,000 tests received scores of 3 or higher, marking a 6.4 percent increase from a year earlier.

The most popular AP exams in Arkansas last year were English language, English literature, U.S. history and world history. State law requires every Arkansas high school to teach at least four Advanced Placement classes in the subject areas of math, science, English and social studies.


You must be logged in to leave a comment. Login | Register

Back to Top Back to Top

Posted in Uncategorized

State may require more math for diplomas – Education Week

Published Online: September 30, 2014

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — The state Board of Education is considering a new requirement for high school graduation that's already in place in most school districts.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (http://bit.ly/1tdPDnQ) reports a proposed regulation would require students to complete three credits of math.

The requirement now is two credits out of the 21 needed to graduate. Half a credit typically is earned in a class each semester.

The state has 54 school districts and 45 already require students to take at least three credits of math.

Susan McCauley of the state Department of Education says the state board in June learned that 42 states require more math credits than Alaska.

The board asked the department for a proposal making Alaska requirements comparable.

———

Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com


You must be logged in to leave a comment. Login | Register

Back to Top Back to Top

Posted in Uncategorized

Jeb Bush talks education for Arkansas GOP hopeful – Education Week

Published Online: September 30, 2014

SHERWOOD, Ark. (AP) — Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush praised education proposals from gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson in Arkansas Tuesday despite differences between the Republicans on key school reforms, as the potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate stepped up campaigning for Republicans in tight races ahead of the midterm elections.

Bush singled out Hutchinson's proposal to expand computer science classes in Arkansas schools after the two toured a Sherwood charter school and viewed students' science projects. He also planned to headline a fundraiser for Hutchinson, who is running against Democratic nominee and fellow ex-congressman Mike Ross.

"Your whole education plan is right on target, and I think the state and children of Arkansas will do well with your leadership," Bush said at a news conference.

Bush, the brother and son of the last two Republican presidents, is mulling whether to run for the White House in 2016. Unlike several other possible GOP contenders, he kept a relatively low public profile earlier in the year. But he has actively campaigned for GOP candidates of late. He is the latest of a series of possible 2016 White House hopefuls to appear in Arkansas, including U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

A day earlier, Bush campaigned for Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts in Kansas. Last week, he was in North Carolina to boost Senate candidate Thom Tillis, and he appeared at a fundraiser in Chicago recently for another GOP governor candidate, Illinois businessman Bruce Rauner.

Bush has been an advocate of the Common Core academic standards, which were developed by a bipartisan group of governors and state school officials and later promoted by the Obama administration. The standards have faced a backlash from conservatives in Arkansas and other states, and Hutchinson has said he'll review them next year.

When asked if he had any advice for Hutchinson on the issue, Bush said higher standards are needed — even if it's not Common Core.

"For the United States to succeed and for states to succeed, we need high standards," Bush said. "Whether they're called Common Core or best Arkansas standards, whatever we have today need to be higher and they need to be assessed faithfully and we need to assure that more than a third of our kids are college and/or career ready."

Hutchinson said he believed the two were in agreement.

"I've consistently said whatever standards we resolve that we need to make sure they're high standards and have high expectations for our students and that's critically important and that they're measurable," he said.

Bush has also been a vocal supporter of private school vouchers, an idea that Hutchinson said he doesn't support in Arkansas.

Ross and Hutchinson are running to succeed Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe, who is barred by term limits from seeking re-election. Republicans, who already have a majority among the nation's governors, hope to win a seat in Arkansas from the Democrats.

———

Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo


You must be logged in to leave a comment. Login | Register

Back to Top Back to Top

Posted in Uncategorized

Teacher pay, insurance key issues at forum – Education Week

Published Online: September 24, 2014

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas' leading candidates for governor said Tuesday that high standards are necessary in the state's education system, whether they're known as Common Core or as something else.

Cordial to the crowd and to one another, Democrat Mike Ross and Republican Asa Hutchinson said at a meeting of the Arkansas Public School Resource Center that the state should not water down widely adopted standards because someone perceives them as a federal plan to take over local schools.

"I think the important criteria is that we have high standards," Hutchinson said. "Whether it's Common Core standards or other standards, we need to recognize that, one, we have a mobile society and that was part of the design of the Common Core standards. And secondly, you don't want to do anything to lower the standards and expectations for our students."

Dozens of states adopted Common Core or similar standards to teach children critical thinking skills rather than have them learn information by rote. The goal is to have students nationwide ready for college or a career, rather than face a patchwork of education standards.

"We don't change what we teach them; we change how we present it to them, and in doing so it teaches them in a way that they can be better prepared for college," Ross said.

Both candidates are products of Arkansas' public school system — Ross from the now-shuttered Emmet district and Hutchinson from Gravette — and had a joint one-hour appearance before the group. Each tried to dispel myths that the Common Core standards have forced districts to alter course options.

"It's not a curriculum. It's a standard," Ross said. "It does not do away with cursive writing. It does not do away with memorizing multiplication tables. And it was not written by President Obama. ... It was written by people like Gov. Mike Huckabee and Gov. Jeb Bush and endorsed in a bipartisan way by the National Governors Association."

Ross said states that have moved to gut Common Core standards were putting politics ahead of pupils, and both candidates said they would be open to tweaking standards as long as they weren't weakened.

"I've heard so many different things about Common Core, and I agree there's been some misunderstandings out there," said Hutchinson.

A number of teachers said districts had opted against teaching cursive writing and laid the blame on the time it takes to meet the Common Core standards for achievement in math and English.

Hutchinson said Common Core standards must be reassessed if they cut into the time needed for cursive writing or multiplication.

"It's not because the standards prohibit it, but because the curriculum gets so packed and they (local boards) see it as unnecessary so they make a decision not to do it," he said.

"If you don't like what they're doing, you need to run against them," Ross said.


You must be logged in to leave a comment. Login | Register

Back to Top Back to Top

Posted in Uncategorized

Teacher pay, insurance key issues at forum – Education Week

Published Online: September 23, 2014

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas educators say the next governor of the state will need to help teachers overcome low pay and high health insurance premiums.

At a forum Tuesday in Hot Springs, the major-party nominees for governor told a meeting of the Arkansas Public School Resource Center they were sympathetic but that their ability to help is limited.

Responding to a question from the audience, Democratic candidate Mike Ross said tax cuts passed last year amid negotiations in Arkansas' Medicaid program will likely limit revenue growth to $50 million next year.

Republican candidate Asa Hutchinson agreed to the need to increase teacher pay and control insurance costs but told the crowd the next governor will face a challenge doing so.


You must be logged in to leave a comment. Login | Register

Back to Top Back to Top

Posted in Uncategorized

Grant to address mental health concerns in schools – Education Week

Published Online: September 23, 2014

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The state department of education has received $9.1 million in federal grant funds to help address mental health issues in school-age children.

The grant is set to run for five years, with $1.8 million to be distributed annually.

Todd Brocious is an education specialist with the department.

He says the money will go toward districtwide training in Anchorage, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough and Kenai, aimed at early intervention. It also will help provide more resources at alternative schools in those districts. Brocious says that includes additional staff to work with students.

Brocious says states were limited to three districts in their applications and there were population size requirements. He says the department also looked at the concentration of alternative schools in deciding what districts it would focus on.


You must be logged in to leave a comment. Login | Register

Back to Top Back to Top

Posted in Uncategorized

$993,780 approved for Ark. school internet study – Education Week

Published Online: September 22, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Legislative Council has approved a $993,780 contract to assess broadband access, equipment and connectivity at every school in the state.

The contract with CT&T Inc. of North Little Rock will begin immediately and the findings are due back to the Legislature by December, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Saturday (http://bit.ly/1mn6cAr ).

The council also approved a $149,500 sole-source contract with Camelot Global Services of Philadelphia to study the operations of the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery and make recommendations on how to increase scholarship revenue.

Both contracts have drawn scrutiny from some state legislators over the past week during Legislative Council subcommittee meetings, but Friday's approval authorizes work to begin.

"There have been numerous committee meetings in which data has been presented to the Legislature. Over the last four months, a good majority of that data has proven to be suspect or in some cases inaccurate," said Rep. Jeremy Gillam, R-Judsonia, who has championed the need for the independent broadband study.

"There are a lot of outside groups putting a tremendous amount of pressure on members to make decisions," Gillam said.

Legislators have been fighting over how to move forward with increasing high-speed broadband internet access at the state's schools for more than a year. The conversation has shifted to become a part of the state's educational adequacy plan because the gap in technological access may be creating a gap in educational opportunities, some districts have argued.

Lack of access to broadband has started to cause problems for schools in Arkansas as more standardized tests are moved to online formats. Act 1280 of 2013, passed by the Legislature, also requires that every school district provide at least one interactive online course beginning this fall.

Several studies have been conducted by groups appointed by Gov. Mike Beebe or the Legislature, but the validity of those studies has been both touted and questioned by various groups that have failed over the past six months to reach a consensus on whether the solution should focus on a state-managed network or rely on private providers to bridge the gap in connectivity.

———

Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com


You must be logged in to leave a comment. Login | Register

Back to Top Back to Top

Posted in Uncategorized

School districts add security cameras – Education Week

Published Online: September 22, 2014

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — The number of security cameras in Alaska schools is going up.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (http://bit.ly/1sUPRjx) reports video cameras are being installed in Fairbanks middle and elementary schools and it's part of a statewide trend aimed at making schools safer.

Fairbanks technology director Janet Cobb says a $4 million, multi-year state project is paying for technology and security upgrades.

Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District spokeswoman Catherine Esary says local officials want the community to know that school safety is the No. 1 priority for the district in the wake of school shootings elsewhere.

Anchorage School District chief operating officer Mike Abbott says the district is wrapping up a project to install surveillance cameras at all schools.

———

Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com


You must be logged in to leave a comment. Login | Register

Back to Top Back to Top

Posted in Uncategorized