Fight Harassment, End Name-calling, Create Positive Learning Communities

According to the old adage, sticks and stones can break your bones; in the real world, name-calling and verbal harassment can be just as hurtful to young students. With this in mind, NAESP is joining the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) in supporting No Name-Calling Week, an annual week of educational activities whose purpose is to end name-calling of all kinds in U.S. schools and communities. This year’s No Name-Calling Week takes place Jan. 25-29.

National Elementary Honor Society featured on the "Today" Show

Members of the Gautier Elementary Honor Society—from Gautier, Mississippi—were recently featured on NBC's "Today" show. The students were highlighted in the show’s "Everyone Has a Story" segment after fourth-grade teacher Maury Gusta submitted a winning entry in the show’s essay contest. Gusta, who was in a devastating car accident his senior year of college, went on to graduate, realize his lifelong dream—to become a teacher—and found his school’s National Elementary Honor Society (NEHS) chapter.
The chapter is for fourth- and fifth-grade students who maintain a 3.0 GPA and perform community service. Gautier Elementary Principal Michelle Richmond is an NAESP member. NEHS was established in 2008; this Communicator article reviews the activities of the program’s first year. 

Would You Pay Your Students?

According the October Communicator article titled “A Twist to Pay for Performance: Cash for Students,” schools in New York City and Washington, D.C., are using cash as a motivator for students to perform well in school. For example, middle schoolers in the District of Columbia can earn up to $1,500 a year for such accomplishments as good test scores, solid attendance, and completing homework.

Although the New York City program, which distributed $1.1 million to the 5,889 participating students last school year, is fully funded by private monies, the District of Columbia will pay for nearly half the $2.7 million set aside for its program. The remaining funds will come from private grant monies.

What do you think about the idea of paying students for good grades and test scores, as well as for solid attendance records—can it work? If you had the option of implementing such a program in your school, would you?

Here’s what one principal said: Money is a motivator. However, I am very concerned that to proceed with such a path is futile ... To implement such a plan will increase taxes and stipulate that every child must be paid to do what he or she must do as a member of society ... If I were given the option to implement such a program, I would not comply. If directed to implement such a program, I would resign my position.

The Talented and Gifted Child

Washington Post education columnist Jay Mathews recently addressed the issue of how public schools can best serve talented and gifted children. He published a number of insightful reader comments from parents and educators that illuminate the concerns of helping these students reach their highest potentials. One reader suggested that parents should home school gifted children. What do you think? Can public schools accommodate gifted children?

The May/June 2009 issue of Principal will be dedicated to talented and gifted children, focusing on what schools are doing to support these students and, in the wake of No Child Left Behind, whether or not schools are meeting their needs. For information about how to submit an article about this or other topics, visit the Principal Web page.

Tomorrow’s Leaders

NAESP's executive director Gail Connelly announced the launch of the National Elementary Honor Society (NEHS) at the Opening General Session during NAESP's annual convention. Connelly was joined onstage for the announcement of this new program by Gerald Tirozzi, the executive director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP). Connelly and Tirozzi presented the first NEHS charter to Shepardson Elementary School, where NAESP President Mary Kay Sommers is principal.

"Whole child development is imperative for our schools to be successful," said Connelly. "The National Elementary Honor Society is a great way for schools to focus on this development and to recognize our young students for their accomplishments in leadership and service. We are excited about providing schools with the opportunity to participate in such a prestigious program and to help develop our nation's future leaders."

NASSP administers the National Honor Society™ (NHS) and the National Junior Honor Society™ (NJHS) and the NEHS was created to help schools give students in grades 4-6 national recognition for their accomplishments.

"The National Honor Society and the National Junior Honor Society have done a tremendous job of giving outstanding students the recognition they deserve for excellence in some of the most important aspects of their lives," said Tirozzi. "We are confident that the National Elementary Honor Society will enrich the education and the educational experience of younger students as well."

Incidentally, a study commissioned by the Girl Scouts of the USA found that young people ranked "being a leader" behind other goals such as "fitting in," "making a lot of money" and "helping animals or the environment." The results were published in a recent issue of The Washington Post. What do you think? How important is it for students to see themselves as leaders? How do these findings measure up to the leadership potential among students at your school? What can schools do to increase leadership skills in their students?

Ten-year-old Raises Awareness of Homeless Children

As most of us were recovering from our Thanksgiving weekends on Monday morning, Zach Bonner completed his 280 mile journey from Tampa to Tallahassee to raise awareness and support for the estimated 20,000-40,000 homeless children in Florida.

According to the National Center on Family Homelessness, more than 1.35 million children are homeless during a year’s time. Every state is required to have a state coordinator for homeless education, who ensures the understanding of and compliance with the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act in public schools throughout the state. The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act is the federal law that entitles children who are homeless to a free, appropriate public education and requires schools to remove barriers to their enrollment, attendance, and success in school. 

The National Center for Homeless Education, which provides research, resources, and information enabling communities to address the educational needs of children and youth experiencing homelessness, also offers best practices and model programs for after-school programs, community collaboration, early childhood, identification, and unaccompanied youth.

Double Take

More and more twins, triplets, and other multiple-birth children are seen in school buildings these days, and it seems that principals face the dilemma of whether to keep siblings in the same classes throughout the year. According to a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article, 21 states have either passed legislation or are considering laws concerning twins or other multiples in schools. Parents appear to be adamant one way or the other about how to place their children, so legislators have sided with them by proposing laws that would leave the decision in the hands of the parents.

There is no cut-and-dry research as to whether it is better to separate multiples or keep them together in the classroom, which makes the issue a bit complex. It would be interesting to know what some principals’ experiences have been with multiples in their schools.

Immigrant Students Fear Raids

Moving story in yesterday’s New York Times about the plight of immigrant students. “Immigration Raid Leaves Sense of Dread in Hispanic Students” tells the story of high school students in Willmar, Minn., who juggle state tests, jobs, and the constant fear of immigration raids.

Kids Think Green

How does the discussion about global warming and climate change affect school-aged children? Climate change scenarios are defining a generation in the same way that the Depression and the Cold War defined the lives of previous generations, according to a recent article in The Washington Post. As a result, school-aged children are the drivers of a host of green activities. For example, a student in Herkimer Elementary School in Herkimer, NY was inspired to initiate a program promoting energy efficiency by replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs. Other schools around the nation are preparing for this year’s Earth Day, April 22, with activities like nature walks, recycling projects, and tree planting.

Is More Daylight Worth the Payoff?

Have you recovered from your lost hour of sleep? In accordance with the new federal law, daylight-saving time started three weeks earlier this year.  And though most of us welcome the extra overall daylight, some school administrators worry about children’s safety as they travel to school in the dark.  Add to that the fact that testing times started this week for many districts—and students could use the extra sleep—and that hour will be missed even more sorely.   

Should Elementary Schools Welcome Sixth Graders?

A new study conducted by researchers at Duke University and the University of California at Berkeley has concluded that sixth graders perform better at elementary schools than they do in middle schools. “Should Sixth Grade Be in Elementary or Middle School? An Analysis of Grade Configuration and Student Behavior” finds that sixth grade students who attend middle school are more likely to exhibit disciplinary problems, and that “the exposure to older peers and the relative freedom from supervision have deleterious consequences.”  Read the full text of the study at http://www.pubpol.duke.edu/research/papers/SAN07-01.pdf.

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

Interesting program at San Francisco's Jean Parker Elementary School where fifth graders are enrolled in a course that teaches them the fundamentals of business. In the class, the students learn how to create a global marketing plan, learn words like "revenue" and "prototype," and meet with venture capitalists and executives. Advocates say programs like this help children think about entrepreneurship and finance, but critics call them "kiddie MBA" programs and say they are thinly veiled advertisements that undercut the nonprofit motive of public education.

No Name-Calling Week (January 22-26)

NAESP is a proud founding member of a coalition of organizations that started No Name-Calling Week, an initiative that seeks to focus attention on name-calling in schools and provide students and educators with the tools to launch an ongoing dialogue about ways to eliminate this problem in their communities. (We hope you’re reading Rosie and Donald.)

This year, lesson plans were created as an additional resource to use during the week (and even after the week is over) to provide elementary school students an opportunity to engage in activities that teach them about tolerance, respect, and understanding. The lesson plans can be downloaded for free at www.naesp.org/client_files/NNCWElementaryLessonPlans.pdf

More Students Receiving Free Breakfast

The Food Research and Action Center released a report yesterday indicating that a record number of students from low-income families—7.7 million to be exact—are receiving free- and reduced-price breakfast at school. While 40 states increased participation, the federal breakfast program still only feeds two in five children who need it. “Reaching a lot more children with breakfast in schools is probably the most cost-effective and fastest way to improve children’s learning and health, improve attendance and, of course, reduce hunger,” says James Weill, the Center's president.

If You’re Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands

A happy student doesn’t necessarily translate to a high-achieving student, a report by the Brookings Institution’s Brown Center on Education Policy concludes. The report’s author Tom Loveless writes that “Despite the call to make schools more relevant, there is little evidence that relevance increases student engagement…Real student engagement is not about keeping students happy, boosting their self-esteem, or convincing them that what they are learning is relevant; it’s about acquiring new knowledge and skills and pursuing the activities that contribute to that attainment.”

The report—“How Well Are American Students Learning?—is based on national and international testing data and evaluates the role that student happiness and confidence play in achievement. Loveless is quoted in the Boston Globe saying, “The implication is not ‘Let’s go make kids unhappy. It’s ‘Let’s give kids better signals as to how they’re performing, relative to the rest of the world.”

Is ‘Healthy Celebration’ an Oxymoron?

Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday season, and we’re certain that many schools soon will be planning classroom or schoolwide holiday celebrations for their students. But as reported in the December issue of NAESP’s Communicator newsletter, some schools have cut back or completely eliminated sweets and other unhealthy foods from their festivities. Instead of cookies and cupcakes, they will be feasting on fruit and veggies, among other healthy spreads—all for the sake of children’s health. Some schools have even banned food altogether from celebrations. Have these schools gone too far? What effect have the mandated wellness policies had on your school?

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