An online newsletter produced by EdSource
with support from The California Endowment 


Sept. 11, 2014 Issue 19

Dear Friends:

Welcome to our latest issue of EdHealth!
We're excited to be back in the swing of the new school year.   


In this issue, we look at a range of student health and wellbeing issues, including whether a quieter cafeteria will encourage students to eat school lunches, the growing number of homeless students in need of support at school and a possible increase in a district's cost for textbooks for students who are visually impaired or blind. 


As always, please let our health and wellness reporter, Jane Adams, know about any student wellness issues and upcoming events you think deserve greater coverage. And if you have not yet subscribed to EdHealth, please click here


Best regards,



Louis Freedberg

Executive Director


School Lunch

A quieter cafeteria is part of a district's Local Control and Accountability Plan
Students at Taylor Mountain Elementary, part of Bellevue Union School District in Santa Rosa, enjoy lunch in a less-crowded, less-noisy cafeteria. Photo credit: Jane Meredith Adams/ EdSource Today

Cafeterias are noisy places, but Bellevue Union School District in Santa Rosa is working to turn down the volume in hopes it will encourage students to eat their lunches. Written into the district's new Local Control and Accountability Plan is the goal of monitoring and maintaining "a reasonable noise level" in Bellevue Union's four K-6 school cafeterias. (It's on page seven of the plan, under "Improving School Climate.")

To lower the decibels in 2014-15, the district added an additional lunch period to reduce the number of students in the cafeteria at each meal serving. Having four 30-minute lunch periods instead of three means fewer students are in the cafeteria, automatically dropping the noise level and making it easier for lunchtime monitors to keep an eye on what's happening at student meal tables, said Patty Gallagher, food service program manager.

The idea of a quieter cafeteria emerged during during the Local Control and Accountability Plan process in conversations about improving the school environment, said Gallagher. "Several district employees wanted a more peaceful environment so the students will eat," she said. 
Poll finds most parents support healthier school food policies

Parents of children who participate in the school meals program every day support national  nutrition standards by a 3-to-1 margin, according to a national poll released this week by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the American Heart Association.

Overall, some 72 percent of parents surveyed support the standards, which require school districts that receive federal reimbursement for meals to provide fruits and vegetables, limit the use of salt and offer more whole grain foods.

In addition, 72 parents of all parents surveyed support nutrition standards for snack foods sold through vending machines, school stores and a la carte cafeteria menus. As of July 1, school districts that receive federal reimbursement for meals are required to follow the U.S. Department of Agriculture's "Smart Snacks in Schools" standards. To meet the standards, a snack food must be a fruit, a vegetable, protein, dairy, or whole grain; have fewer than 200 calories; and be low in fat, sodium, and sugar.  
Related: In a sign that healthy lunches are gaining favor among students, a survey of a nationally representative sample of school administrators and food service staff found that while half said that students complained about the meals at first, 70 percent of those surveyed agreed that students like the new lunches. The survey results were in a study published in the August issue of the journal Childhood Obesity. Perceived student complaints were significantly higher among rural schools than urban or suburban schools.

Number of homeless students increasing

More than 269,000 California public school students - about 4 percent of all students, double the national average - don't have a consistent place to call home at night, according to a state report released this week. More than half of these homeless students are in pre-kindergarten through 5th grade.

Although many homeless students, despite their difficulties, manage to thrive academically, they are in need of academic, emotional and health care support at school, according to "California's Homeless Students: A Growing Population," a report from the  California Homeless Youth Project, an initiative of the state-run California Research Bureau.

Read more at EdSource Today.

Check the data about kindergarten vaccination rates in California
How California ranks on school physical activity and health screenings
Use this EdSource Today vaccination database to see how many kindergarteners are vaccinated at any public, charter or private California elementary school, as of the 2013-14 school year.
California has four-out-of-five school-based physical activity and health-screening laws advocated by a new State of Obesity report from the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Special Education

New funding law could raise district costs for textbooks for visually impaired students
Boxes of textbooks in braille and large print await delivery to students at the state Clearinghouse for Specialized Media and Translations in West Sacramento. Photo credit: Jane Meredith Adams/ EdSource Today
For decades, the California Department of Education has produced and distributed textbooks for blind or visually impaired students out of its 50,000-square-foot warehouse in West Sacramento at no cost to districts. 


But under the state's new  Local Control Funding Formula,  

spending authority has shifted from Sacramento to school districts. That has put the traditional way braille textbooks have been produced and paid for at risk, and raised a host of issues as to whether the state or local districts should be responsible for underwriting them. Read more at EdSource Today



Test scores indicate the cost of missing school

Student miss school because they're suffering from uncontrolled asthma, sick with a cold, depressed or a host of other reasons. As efforts to improve attendance ramp up under new state priorities and district Local Control and Accountability Plans, a new report found that students with more absences had poorer scores on a national test.


Fourth- and 8th-grade students who reported more absences from school had poorer scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), generally referred to as the nation's report card, in reading and math in 2013, according to a report by Attendance Works, a national nonprofit that focuses on increasing school attendance.


Read more at EdSource Today


Webinars: Chronic Absence and Walk to School Programs

Reducing chronic absence
through positive connections
Encouraging students to walk to school


Attendance Works, an Oakland-based nonprofit organization, on Sept. 30 will talk about using data and positive relationships to reduce chronic absence. Among the topics is "attendance buddies."  


In one model, New York City schools assigned "success mentors" to chronically absent students in 100 schools. Students

with mentors attended school an average
of nine more days than similar students
at other schools.


Tuesday, Sept. 30, "The Power of Positive Connections: Reducing Chronic Absence Through People," 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. PT. To register, click here



On Sept. 12 administrators of the Safe Routes to School program of the California Department of Public Health will describe how to start a "Walk to School" program.  


Topics include the basics of conducting a "walk audit," how to assess appropriate activities for your school and environment, and where to find free tools and resources, as well as ongoing technical assistance.


To view districts in California and across the nation that have Safe Routes to School programs, click on the map here


Friday, Sept. 12, "Walk to School 101," 10 to 11:30 a.m. PT. To register, click here


Recent Editions of the EdHealth Newsletter:

EdHealth Newsletter Issue 18: California ahead in abolishing harsh discipline policies
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

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