This week, we continue to see a response to the “F as in Fat” report; we are reading more incontrovertible evidence that sugary drinks play a large role in obesity; and we wrap up with a few stories about the impact that increasing childhood obesity rates are having on our nation’s health.
- In Illinois, nonprofit health organizations are using the long-term predictions from “F as in Fat” to drive home the real consequences of what a doubled obesity rate – 27.1 percent now to 53.7 percent in only 20 years - could mean for the state. Says Elissa Bassler, CEO of the nonprofit Illinois Public Health Institute: “It’s not enough to wag your finger and say eat less and exercise more. This is such a tremendous problem that it’s going to take us changing the social condition rather than telling individuals they don’t have the willpower to lose weight.”
- NPR reports that the “F as in Fat” report shows a correlation between produce intake and obesity: “The states with the lowest fruit and veggie consumption are West Virginia (7.9 percent), Louisiana (8.2 percent), Oklahoma (9.8 percent) and Mississippi (10.3 percent). And how does this track with obesity rankings? Seven of the 10 states with the highest rates of obesity were in the bottom tier for fruit and vegetable consumption.”
- In the wake of the NYC soda ban, Time Healthland reports on a trio of studies which provide undeniable evidence that cutting out soda curbs weight gain in children: “[T]he new research suggests that limiting children’s access to sugary beverages can indeed curb weight gain: one paper found that providing children with water or diet soda as an alternative to full-sugar soft drinks can lead to meaningful drops in children’s fat deposits and weight; another showed that drinking a single no-calorie drink a day, instead of a sugary one, slows weight gain, independent of other behaviors like overeating or failing to exercise. A third study finds that for people who are already genetically predisposed to obesity, drinking sugary sodas can make their weight problem worse.”
- Bloomberg uses the success of the soda ban to push ahead with his anti-obesity initiative, focusing now on getting healthier food into hospitals. CBS News reports: “In recent years, the city’s 15 public hospitals have cut calories in patients’ meals and restricted the sale of sugary drinks and unhealthy snacks at vending machines. But now the city is tackling hospital cafeteria food, too. And the Healthy Hospital Food Initiative is expanding its reach: In the past year, 16 private hospitals have signed on.”
- ABC News reports that the food industry is bracing itself for the blowback from a recent study which shows that in the past three years, marketing for child-targeted cereals rose by 34%.
- U.S. News Health reports on a recent study which confirms the connection between childhood obesity and heart disease: “In their analysis, the researchers found that, compared to normal-weight children, obese children had significantly higher blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels as well as thicker heart muscles. These risk factors can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke by 30 percent to 40 percent when these children reach adulthood, the researchers warned.”
- Finally, at the Chicago Tribune, we read about a comprehensive weight loss program for adolescents and the challenges faced when attempting to streamline the program to make it both more convenient and more affordable.
This week on the ed reform roundup, we are sharing with you a number of stories around a central topic: what can be learned from charter schools and early models of blended learning; specifically, how can the successes be repeated, and how can failures be prevented?
- At Education Week, Tom Vander Ark shares his thoughts on a recent Philanthropy Roundtable session on blended learning. He quotes Alex Hernandez of Charter Growth Fund: “What we need now are a lot of blended learning proof points and a lot of capital to iterate. We are trying to optimize these early models and figure out what to scale.”
- Nina Rees, President and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, concludes her blog post at Huffington Post titled: “What Public Charter Schools Have Taught Us About Public Education” by saying: “After two decades, it’s clear what charter schools can accomplish. The challenge for the next 20 years is to build on these accomplishments to ensure that every child can realize the benefits of a high-quality public school education.”
- At Learning Matters, John Merrow worries that blended learning models run the risk of repeating the mistakes of charter schools: “As I see it, the charter school movement has fallen into the test score obsession that entangles regular public schools. That was not the dreamers’ vision — they wanted charter schools to take risks, to try stuff and then share what works and doesn’t work with traditional public schools. I fear that blended learning is going to fall into this trap. I believe that those who champion blended learning must be showing the rest of us how it allows students to travel new roads and reach new destinations, while their teachers ensure that they are also writing clearly, calculating accurately, et cetera.”
- At The Washington Post, Jay Matthews asks: “Are KIPP achievement gains inflated?” His conclusion, unsurprisingly, is that it’s too soon to tell: “Several schools, both regular and charter, have shown gains in low-income neighborhoods by taking the KIPP approach of expanding learning time and improving teacher recruitment, training and support. But they number less than 1 percent of all schools, and it will take much time — and many more arguments — to figure out if they have something all disadvantaged schools can use.”
- From The New York Times comes an Op-Ed from Chester E. Finn, co-author of the book “Exam Schools: Inside America’s Most Selective Public High Schools.” He writes: “It’s time to end the bias against gifted and talented education and quit assuming that every school must be all things to all students, a simplistic formula that ends up neglecting all sorts of girls and boys, many of them poor and minority, who would benefit more from specialized public schools.”
- Finally, from Jan Fletcher at The Journal: ”9 Keys to Success in Hybrid Programs.”
This week, we leave you with two pieces which put a face to the education gap, and the way that personal attention can make a difference:
- At the Huffington Post College blog, Dr. Devorah Lieberman, President of the University of LaVerne, asks us to imagine a student named Alex, whose family, economic, and academic struggles make college completion unlikely. To address the needs of students like Alex, her university has instituted an innovative program which exposes first generation high school students from the community to campus life, with overwhelming success: “Since 2005, 300 students have participated in the program, and 95 percent of those students have gone on to attend college. Today, we are seeing these students graduate and assume equally significant employment.” We wonder what would happen if more institutions adopted this practice.
- Finally, we leave you with an NPR StoryCorps piece about Tierra Jackson, a student who was repeatedly disciplined in high school for being late, but who didn’t want to tell anyone at the school that her problems stemmed from her homelessness. When she finally explained her situation, she received overwhelming support, and learned in the process that it was okay to ask for help: “I think the first teacher I gave the note to came to school with this bag of things for me. And I didn’t know how to accept it. But after that, she never treated me differently, and I think that’s one of the things I appreciated. I knew that I’m intelligent, you know. I have a brain with thoughts that matter.” Tierra is now a junior in college, working two jobs to help support her family.