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June 12, 2014 Issue 18

School Climate

 California ahead in abolishing harsh disciplinary policies
John Deasy, superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, speaks at the release of a new national report on how to improve school discipline practices. Photo credit: The Council of State Governments Justice Center


California's recent efforts to reduce suspensions and encourage more positive approaches to discipline put the state "at the top of the list together with a handful of other states" in promoting a healthy school climate, according to a report released by The Council of State Governments Justice Center


School climate is defined as the degree to which students and staff feel engaged, supported and respected at school, according to the National School Climate Center. Central to school climate is how schools prevent and address behavioral conflicts. 


"Research and data on school discipline is clear," according to a synopsis of the 400-page report, School Discipline Consensus Report: Key Findings, Recommendations and Examples of Action. "Millions of students are being removed from their classrooms each year, overwhelmingly for minor misconduct. Students experiencing suspensions and expulsions are disproportionately nonwhite, disabled and students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender." 


Read the full story at EdSource Today


Related report: Case studies of schools receiving school improvement grants, a report released in June by the U.S. Department of Education, discusses factors in school turnarounds, including improving relationships between students, teachers, staff, administrators and parents, and revising discipline policies.   

Local Control Funding Formula

How many high-needs students? Free lunch sign-ups examined
A comparison of the projected and the actual percentages of low-income, English learners and foster youth in the five largest school districts. The count of these students determines how much extra state education funding the districts will receive under the new Local Control Funding Formula.

After a frenetic effort to count every high-needs student in the California public school system, the first official tally under the sweeping new K-12 finance law is in - and the mixed results have brought renewed scrutiny to how low-income students eligible for the national free school meals program are tallied.

The long-anticipated counts determine the amount of extra state education funding districts receive this fiscal year and next. In three of the five largest school districts, the number of high-needs students -- defined as low-income, English learners or foster youth -- is lower than expected.

The new Local Control Funding Formula defines students as "low-income" if they are eligible for the National School Lunch Program. But the authors of the law neglected to specifically address how to count thousands of children at a subset of schools in high-poverty neighborhoods where all students receive free meals, whether they are eligible or not.


Read the full story at EdSource Today


Health in Sports
To ensure that schools are supporting athletic programs for girls and young women, state Assembly Bill 2512 would call for schools to include sports participation data, by gender, as part of district Local Control and Accountability Plans. The bill, authored by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, would call for districts to show they are in compliance with federal Title IX non-discrimination law. The bill passed the Assembly and was voted out of the Senate Education Committee. It is headed for the Senate floor.

A bill that would limit full-contact practices for middle and high school football teams

passed the state Senate Education Committee and is headed for the Senate floor. Authored by Assemblyman Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova, Assembly Bill 2127 previously passed the Assembly. The California Medical Association opposed the bill and asked for language specifying that a physician is the only health professional able to determine how and when a teenager who has suffered a brain injury may return to play. 


The more control vending machine suppliers have over what's sold in schools, the more likely that the machines will be stocked with junk food, according to a new analysis by Bridging the Gap, a research organization funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The analysis, which is forthcoming in the Journal of School Health, states that supplier "say" in foods leads to fewer fruits and vegetables.
As Congress prepares to vote on relaxing standards for school lunch nutrition, the School Nutrition Association, which has a membership of 55,000 school food service professionals, has created a furor by arguing in favor of relaxed standards. Politico reports on the association's financial ties to the food industry. In an editorial, the Sacramento Bee notes the association's sponsors include PepsiCo.
Special Education

Noting that special education students are disproportionately children of color, a report commissioned by President Barack Obama called for an examination of how diagnoses of intellectual, behavioral or learning disorders are made.

Children who are American Indian, Alaska Natives or black were more likely in 2012 to be labeled as intellectually disabled than children in all other racial or ethnic groups combined, according to a report released in June by My Brother's Keeper Task Force, an initiative created by Obama in February to address opportunity gaps for boys and young men of color.

"We need to study and bring more awareness to the reasons why children are being
placed in special education programs and whether alternative forms of behavioral
management and training for teachers should be employed before placement decisions
are made," the report stated. Graduation rates and academic achievement scores for special education students are low.

For the first time, the U.S. Supreme Court used the term intellectual disability in a ruling, according to Disability Scoop. The new language is a notable shift away from "mental retardation," a phrase that families of disabled individuals have long worked to eliminate from use. 

Recent Editions of the EdHealth Newsletter:

EdHealth Newsletter Issue 17: Measuring social and emotional factors for accountability
EdHealth Newsletter Issue 16: Vaccination opt-outs rise as school nurses try to educate
EdHealth Newsletter Issue 15: Special education needs a 'do-over,' state panel told
EdHealth Newsletter Issue 14: Educating special ed students isolated in juvenile facilities
EdHealth Newsletter Issue 13: Trying a "trauma-informed" approach in special education

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