Student Literacy Increases With AmeriCorps Engagement

The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) sponsored a trial of 1,530 Minnesota kindergartners to determine the short-term and long-term impacts of the Minnesota Reading Corps program on literacy.  Results from the trial indicated that the average kindergartner with an AmeriCorps tutor realized greater student literacy outcomes then those students without a tutor.  Other key results from the study:

  • AmeriCorps tutors helped the average first grade student perform 26 percent better than the expected level for on-track students 
  • Students with higher risk factors who received AmeriCorps tutoring significantly outperformed students who did not.
  • The Minnesota Reading Corps program is replicable in multiple school settings using AmeriCorps members with varied backgrounds

Source: http://www.nationalservice.gov/sites/default/files/documents/Research_Brief_MRC_final.pdf

 

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Minnesota House Passes Lunch Bill

Last Thursday, the Minnesota House unanimously passed a bill that would authorize $3.5 million in 2015 to ensure that all children who qualify for the 40-cent reduced lunch are not denied a hot meal at school.

The measure is the result of a study by the Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid survey of 309 public Minnesota school districts and found that 46 school districts (15%) reported “…a policy or practice of an immediate or eventual refusal to serve hot lunch or an alternative meal to a child who cannot pay.”  The legislation closes the gap between the federally funded free lunch program and the reduced-price lunch program.

The measure now moves to the State Senate where similar legislation will be reviewed by the Education Policy Committee.

Senate To Vote On Child Care Block Grant

This week, the U.S. Senate will vote on a bipartisan sponsored bill (S. 1086) to reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) for the first time in over 17 years.

The CCDBG provides States with the resources needed to help low-income families gain access to quality and affordable child care and after-school programs.

Proposed changes to the CCDBG will:
  • Improve the health and safety of children in child care settings and require annual inspections
  • Provide more consumer/family information about the availability of child care and child care quality
  • Enable children to have more stable, consistent child care assistance

Source: http://www.naeyc.org/policy/federal/3_11_14

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) has simple, straightforward templates which you can utilize to inform your Senator of your support of the legislation.

New School Wellness Guidelines Proposed

The White House and U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed new school wellness guidelines that limit the marketing of junk food to children during the school day.  The guidelines are aimed to combat $1.8 million of youth-targeted marketing by food and beverage companies where 90% of the money is focused on the promotion of fast food, sugary drinks and cereals and candy.  In conjunction with the announcement, the U.S. Department of Agriculture launched a new School Nutrition Environment and Wellness Resource website which includes resources for food marketing practices that comply with Smart Snacks in School standards.

Also announced was an expansion of a federal nutrition program to 22,000 schools across the country.  These schools will now be eligible to serve free breakfast and lunch to all low-income students.

Source: http://www.fns.usda.gov/school-meals/child-nutrition-programs 

Policy and a Pint: A Personal Perspective

This week’s guest blogger, Carrie Curtis, recently attend Policy and a Pint: The State of Education hosted by The Current and the Citizen’s League and shares her perspective on the panel discussion.

Policy and PintEarlier this week I attended ‘Policy and a Pint’, an event hosted by MPR’s The Current and the Citizens League.  This is a reoccurring forum dedicated to discussing a single public policy topic and this month’s topic was “The State of Education.”  To help inform and speak on behalf of our state’s need to close the achievement gap, they included guest speakers Sondra Samuels of the Northside Achievement Zone, Kerry Muse of Venture Academy in Minneapolis and Michelle Walker, CEO of St. Paul Public Schools.  As a new member to the JLM and girlfriend to an elementary school teacher, I was excited to be part of this event and found the discussion to be honest, full of passion and hopeful for the future. 

To kick off the event, the panel debunked a few myths regarding the achievement gap noting this discrepancy is more than test scores – it is preparation, attendance, reading levels, and participation.  While testing may be the most prolific factor, they all illustrate the disparity between students of race, socioeconomic status and gender.  They also made it clear that if we are to have a conversation about the achievement gap, we need to have a conversation about race.  This sentiment was also shared by Principal Lorraine Cruz of Richard R. Green Elementary school at the JLM January General Meeting.  It’s a conversation that no one wants to have, but is necessary if we are to make progress.  When it came to discussing solutions, a key theme to me was customization.  Michelle Walker talked about “equity v. equality”.  In today’s schools, teachers need to ensure that all children are treated the same  (i.e. equality), but Michelle pointed out that not all students are the same.  Instead, teachers need to suit individual student needs to ensure that all students achieve their potential (i.e. equity).  Kerry Muse also shared some secrets to his success – he makes sure his kids are engaged in their own learning and development by having them reflect on what they know and what they need because every child wants to learn.  Sondra made my favorite statement of the evening –  when it comes to the achievement gap, “we don’t have a child problem, we have an adult problem” as it’s going to take change from policy makers, educators and parents to close this gap. 

The closing message to the audience was to do more than talk about the achievement gap instead, to take action – make a difference by attending school board meetings, volunteer as a reading buddy, and advocate for policy changes that will create equity.  To learn more about the action the Northside Achievement Zone is taking, check out their website at http://northsideachievement.org/

Attend Parents United for Public Schools Advocacy Boot Camp

Parents United for Public Schools will host the final session in a three-part series on advocacy next Monday, March 10th at the Eisenhower Community Center.  The third session will focus on the question, why do we need to be advocates?

The session runs from 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm and is free of charge.  To register and to learn more about the series, visit the Parents United for Public Schools site.