Every week, we compile top stories from our Twitter feed and present them here in an attempt to bring attention to, stay informed on and continue the dialogue about the most important issues in our community. To stay abreast of the latest, follow us on Twitter.
This week on the childhood obesity roundup, we’re featuring stories which examine the role that schools and soda play in obesity prevention:
- A recent study shows that childhood obesity appears to be declining in Philadelphia. Local experts credit the public school system for a number of programs which they believe contributed to the decline: schools banning soda and fried foods, teacher support in the classroom, and after school programs which promote healthy eating.
- In California, the soda tax wars are percolating, and big soda is expected to spend a “tsunami” of money in the attempt to beat back the taxes. Not all of the spending is as overt as the soda tax prevention: An American Beverage Association group “last year donated $10 million to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to fund research into childhood obesity.”
- Meanwhile, a recent study shows that the partnership of the nation’s major soft drink companies with the William J. Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association has led to a 90% reduction in drink calories in schools between 2004 and 2010.
- In Austin, Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas and the Austin Independent School District joined forces to launch a no-soda initiative called “Don’t Do the Dew.” They have challenged Austin students to try and go without soda during the school week, Monday through Friday, until the end of the school year.
- One Kansas school district is trying an innovative approach: they are sending 15 children, ages 11-17, to school at a health camp in South Carolina for the entire fall semester.
- At The Baltimore Sun, Cathy Demeroto explains how federal programs that make school meals a priority addresses the challenges of both hunger and obesity: “At a quick glance, it may seem that attempts to reduce hunger and promote healthy eating are competing goals. Yet, evidence shows us that expanding participation in federal nutrition programs… reduces childhood hunger and improves children’s diets. At the same time, improving the quality of these federal programs, with a primary goal of preventing obesity, may well increase participation.”
- The new school fitness assessment allows for standardized comparison of fitness levels. Says American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown: “The information collected can be used to inform course curriculum development, children’s physical activity programming and policy change. In addition, the data will be a key resource in developing future strategies to tackle the childhood obesity epidemic, reduce children’s risk factors for heart disease and promote daily physical education in schools.”
- Finally, we leave you with a thought-provoking piece from Noah Smith at The Atlantic: ”Big Government, Small Bellies: What Japan Can Teach Us About Fighting Fat.”
Ed reform & ed data
In a week when the Chicago teachers’ strike prompted Nicholas Kristof to call education “the most important civil rights battleground today,” we made note of some stories about how new education data tools can empower parents to help their kids, about how the proliferation of school choice can be confounding if not well planned, and about the challenges educators face, both in terms of new technologies and poorly designed evaluation systems.
- At Education Week, Michele Molnar shares examples of parents using ed data to take an active role in their childrens’ education.
- At The Washington Post, Emma Brown reports on how the wait-list shuffle for charter school admission makes it hard to get a good public education: “The uncertainty is not just hard on parents, who must rearrange daily schedules, commuting patterns and after-school care. It’s also difficult for children, who bid farewell to friends and adjust to new routines as they swap schools, and for teachers, who must orient new students to classroom expectations.”
- A new poll shows overwhelming support from K-12 teachers and parents for ed tech in the classroom. The poll also revealed one of the major stumbling blocks to successful implementation: 82% of teachers feel that they are not adequately trained on the technology to use it to its fullest potential in the classroom.
- Finally, we loved a trio of stories on the complexity of evaluating educators:
- Sara Mead’s post at Education Week, proposes that teacher evaluations focus on the kids rather than the adults: “Nearly all of our conversations around teacher evaluations focus on teachers as the unit of analysis–for example, many states have provisions designed to dismiss teachers who are rated ineffective for two years. What if we flip that and look at kids as the unit of analysis, using teacher evaluation data to track the quality of instruction to which children are exposed over time.”
- Dana Goldstein elegantly summarized “Why Evaluating Teachers is Complicated, No Matter What You Think of the Chicago Strike,” citing a number of studies and books.
- In District Dossier, Jackie Zubrzycki wrote about a new report from the National Association of Elementary School Principals and the National Association of Secondary School Principals that echoes Goldstein’s argument. According to the report, writes Zubrzycki, “principal evaluation should be multifaceted and growth-oriented rather than punitive and reliant on standardized test scores.”