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Thompson: Here's Hoping School Reform 2014 Will Focus On Students' Needs

HealthPerhaps the National Public Radio series on schools and students' health is a sign that the pendulum has swung.  Maybe the next generation of reform will focus holistically on children's welfare.

Eric Westervelt's These Days School Lunch Hours Are More Like 15 Minutes explains that school administrators are under such intense pressure to increase minutes of instruction and boost test scores that many students get less than 15 minutes for eating lunch.  Also, eating healthier foods can take more time because it takes longer to enjoy a salad than gobble down french fries. But, as an educator explained, "you've got two important and competing priorities."

Parents are now pushing back but, until recently, accountability data ruled.

Maanvi Singh's To Get Kids Exercising, Schools Are Getting Creative  explains that the Center for Disease Control recommends 150 minutes per week of exercise for K-5th grade students. But NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard School of Public Health polled parents and found that the majority say their elementary school children get less than two Physical Exercise classes a week. Consequently, "parents and educators are starting to 'think beyond the gym walls,'" and devise creative ways to encourage physical activity.

School Stress Takes a Toll on Health, Teens and Parents Say, by Patti Neighmond, reports that nearly 40% of parents say their high-schooler is under a lot of stress from school, and it is from academics, not social issues or bullying. The NPR poll reported on all types of parents' perceptions.  Were the poll focused on the inner city, where imposing a stressful competitive culture  was supposed to cure the stress of poverty, I wonder if a higher percentage would have been found.

Allison Aubrey's Parents of Sleep Deprived Teens Push for Later School Start Times  may also foreshadows parents redefining the education debate. The NPR poll found that half of parents of high school students report a start time before 8 a.m.  Cognitive science has documented the sleep needs of students but, until now, this huge issue has taken a back seat in policy debates.

All that was missing from NPR's outstanding series was a report on the growing grassroots uprising where parents demand more testing, more punishment, and more top-down micromanaging of curriculum and instruction.

Just kidding!

For nearly a generation, school reformers have focused on test scores that might or might not mean something. Increasing those primitive metrics a few points might mean life or death for a school, or the careers of educators.  Parents have yet to see evidence that those statistics have had benefits for their children.  But, body mass and diabetes indicators, cholesterol and stress levels, and hours of sleep are numbers that say something which really matters. Parents seem to be driving a two-part strategy with real potential, pushing back on standardized testing and concentrating on students' welfare, not adult political battles.-JT(@drjohnthompson)Image via.



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