Given the attention span of most small children I know, 15 minutes for lunch is unacceptably short. Given the attention span of ADD/ADHD, 15 minutes for lunch is inhumane and counterproductive. The ICCSD’s Wellness policy includes the following:2. On balance, has the No Child Left Behind Act been good for Iowa City’s public school children?
“The school district provides a comprehensive and integral learning environment for developing and practicing lifelong wellness behaviors. The entire school environment, not just the classroom, shall be aligned with healthy school district goals to influence a student’s understanding, beliefs and habits as they relate to healthy nutrition and regular physical activity.”
“The school district supports and promotes proper dietary habits contributing to students’ health status and academic performance.”
Neither of these assertions is evidenced in by the district’s 15 minute lunch. Everything I read on healthy eating indicates that food should be eaten slowly and chewed one bite at a time, not inhaled and rushed down with milk. I assume that the shorter lunch periods are a direct result of NCLB’s pressure to spend every possible moment in class towards more progress on standardized testing. I don’t think the board can mandate a longer lunch but I think elementary students need a minimum of 20 minutes to be able to eat enough food in the healthiest manner. I would do everything I could to help the Superintendent and district administration re-evaluate the lunch period towards extending it to 20-25 minutes. I would have gladly signed the petition to do so. This isn’t going to make me popular but then, honesty is more important to me than popularity…I would like to see High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) containing foods and condiments removed from the breakfasts and lunches provided by the school district. Frequently eating foods containing transfats, lots of added sugar, high saturated fat, HFCS, pesticide residue, MSG and artificial dyes is not healthy. I believe they are at the root of the obesity crisis and the skyrocketing number of ADD/ADHD cases (maybe even the increase in autism spectrum incidence) in this country. One of the main problems with HCFS is that it interferes with leptin and insulin which subsequently impairs the body’s ability to properly regulate and store energy. Please see this link for the most recent research from Princeton http://www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S26/91/22K07/. These studies are also helpful: http://www.jci.org/articles/view/37385 and http://jcem.endojournals.org/content/94/5/1562.full.pdf . I hope to see more research published on HFCS’s affect on behavior in the future. Since fructose and HFCS have not been integrated into food processing/manufacture in the European Union, as opposed to the United States, it would be interesting to compare the two in regards to increases in prevalence of obesity, ADD/ADHD, and Autism Spectrum Disorders.
No. The emperor has no clothes and everyone in this country knows it. NCLB has lead to a nationwide culture of shame, blame, negativity, hopelessness, and punishment in K-12 education. At the minimum, it has not provided an accurate way to measure teaching effectiveness or the skills of our children. “Adequate Yearly Progress” (AYP) measured solely by standardized test scores, including those taken by special education students with learning disabilities (who may not receive adequate accommodations) and ESL students (tests are rarely given in any language except Spanish and even then only in a few states) and disparate state by state defined “proficiency” standards (set well above grade level in many states and quite low in others) provide an unreachable, undesirable goal. 100% “proficiency” by almost every child by 2014 is not possible. I would say the outcome of NCLB is harming our children’s outlook on the future and ability to meet the demands of a 21st century world.3. Do you think that standardized testing plays too large a role in our school system? If so, what should the school board do about it?
Teaching to the test, almost a requirement at this point, has further decimated time and funding spent on all areas with the exception of reading and math. Art, physical education, science, history and the humanities in general have been reduced or cut entirely. The most gifted students have lost access to resources and teaching staff they need to excel, while the below average children have the life and joy stripped out of their school day replaced by preparation for standardized tests. Reading and math are VERY important, but should be approached in balance with other subjects, methods of teaching, and high level reasoning skills. Every child is a complex individual, all learn differently, but the standardized tests don’t measure why a student is having trouble with a question or provide guidance or resources that can help.
The culture of failure labeling and impossible goals that has grown out of NCLB has negatively impacted the morale of the entire public education system: from administrators-to teachers-to students-to parents-to communities. Out of this comes a lack of optimism and hope for the future. Is this what we want to teach our children? No. We need a system that enhances and develops everyone’s strengths, desire to learn, and belief in the chance of a more positive future.
I support the positions of the Forum on Educational Accountability’s “Empowering Schools and Improving Learning” and the Joint Organizational Statement on No Child Left Behind. “The signatories to the ‘Joint Statement’ emphasize the need to shift the No Child Left Behind law from applying sanctions for failing to raise test scores to supporting states and localities and holding them accountable as they work to make the systemic changes that improve student learning”.
Yes. Standardized testing measures only a student’s ability to take the test. That alone is not an accurate measure of success. Standardized testing should only be a small part of measuring the educational success of a child, teacher, school, or district. The current frequency of mandated testing is far too high. I would like to see it drop to, at the most, 3rd, 6th, 9th, and 12th grades. Money saved from such frequent testing would be better used towards smaller class sizes, lower teacher to student ratios, and other invaluable resources. The measuring of success and learning must include information from multiple sources to include teacher input, student progress, classroom work, and other evidence of student learning.4. Local school boards have been increasingly subject to state and federal mandates. Do school board members have an obligation to think independently about whether those mandates are good for kids? If so, what should a school board member do if he or she concludes that those mandates are not in the best interests of the kids, or are contrary to our community’s values? (See this post.)
I will do everything possible with the board, and in my own life, to help effect the recommendations of the Forum on Education Accountability in the district, the state, and the country. See http://www.edaccountability.org/Empowering_Schools_Statement.html. As they shouldn’t be the primary source of the evaluation of the student, I will also fight standardized testing results being used as the primary evaluation source of teachers, principals, and schools. Working on this with our state and federal leaders, and the Members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is imperative.
Work to satisfy them only as much as necessary to receive continued funding, look for other sources of funding, bringing hypocrisy out into the light, and actively engage the entire community in placing pressure on the state and federal government to make positive change now.5. Do you support the current pervasive use of token rewards to get students to comply with school rules? If not, what role should the school board take in reining that practice in?
“Do school board members have an obligation to think independently about whether those mandates are good for kids?” Of course we do, a board member’s obligation is to serve the best interests of their schools and their entire community regardless of their personal views or governmentally mandated current opinion.
Boards need to exemplify the very best examples of careful reasoning and effective, appropriate action.
Candy should never be given as a reward and goes against the district’s wellness policy. Little tickets seem unimportant to many children as evidenced in the collection of them extracted from the laundry. When my child “wins” a prize, his only talk is of the prize and his memory does not seem to equate the reward with what he did to earn the ticket that won it. Rewards should always be relevant to the desired effort – if not, they mean nothing. While I think there is a place for PBIS in the schools, I think that we should work with the teachers, administrators, students, and parents to determine what that should be. Quality time or a healthy 20-25 minute lunch with a teacher or principal, where there is discussion of good choices and praise of achievement, would be a better reward than another soon forgotten piece of non-biodegradable plastic. We should be giving rewards that will be remembered, valued, and associated with the best effort or choice made. The board can work with the superintendent towards this as soon as possible and report back to the public on changes and progress.6. How should the schools approach the teaching of moral or ethical values? (See this post and this post.)
Teaching of moral or ethical values could too easily become proselytizing. Without parent involvement, how are we to know if our children are being taught the values shared at home? Chris – your first description in the blog “A parent’s thoughts about school, in Iowa City and beyond” is the style of teaching I learned the most from in school, the kind I benefited the most from, and what has served me best throughout my life. I not only remember those lessons in self-discovery and reasoning, but I remember those teachers the most of all. Dr. Workman and Mrs. Nancy Petersen come to mind first. From Dr. Workman I learned the process of working something out for myself, of self-examination of thought. From Mrs. Petersen I learned how to convey that well in writing and to others. The two skills served me well in college and throughout my life. At the elementary school level, and higher, a child who comes to a point of view through discussion and dialogue will remember that experience and be able to apply that process throughout their lives. That is a 21st century skill; one that can’t be measured on a standardized test. Not one where we can be told the “right” answer, but a process to be used continuously.7. What should the district’s plan be as the number of SINA schools grows and the number of schools into which those students can transfer shrinks?
I’m sure I wasn’t the only one “surprised” by the district’s unfolding policy towards SINA busing. My impression is that SINA transfers have primarily been used in by the more affluent and, therefore, less in need. More affluent families are likely better able to provide transportation in the first place. SINA transfers have segregated our schools even more than city planning and redistricting. In a somewhat perverse reverse on what SINA was “meant” to do, it would be better if all schools were SINA so this selective segregation could stop. In the meantime, I support the district’s choice to dramatically decrease money spent on SINA busing so long as it continues to be available to those most in need that choose to go to a school that is a better opportunity for their children, i.e., with smaller class sizes, lower FRL, or better resources. The money our district can save from busing SINA transfers is burned in the gas the buses use to increase traffic and pollute our environment. That money should be used to provide better resources and smaller class sizes in our schools. If the public pressure for change on NCLB doesn’t improve the situation first, all schools becoming SINA will force a change. We all know the state and the federal government can’t and don’t want to run our schools – they haven’t been showing much success in what they are supposed to control and they certainly aren’t helping that by micromanaging the public school system.Links to other candidates’ responses are here.