Local School Topics

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Despite High Expectations, Broward County Bus Service Begins on Wrong Foot
The first day of school in Broward County resulted in six students getting dropped off by their bus in the wrong city after school. Not a good start for a district that promised better bus service for the new school year. Will a lawsuit follow?
Broward County began the school year with high expectations for their bus service. The district purchased new buses and brought on new drivers in hopes of raising their level of service. Throughout the first few weeks of the previous school year, transportation officials were inundated with complaints from parents about bus delays and children getting dropped off at the wrong location. Unfortunately, a major error on the first day of school cost the county’s bus safety another black eye even before the school year was in full swing.
Kids Left at Wrong Stop, in Wrong City
The Huffington Post reports that seven students between the ages of 10 and 13 were dropped off in the wrong city on the first day at Forest Glen Middle School. Instead of getting dropped off at their Coral Springs stop just a few minutes from the school, the students got off the bus seven miles away in Pompano Beach. The students were left near Broward Health North Hospital in Pompano Beach, according to NBC Miami.
The students involved in the incident told the bus driver he was going the wrong way, but he refused to stop, the Huffington Post reported. One of the students contacted her father by cell phone. The parent asked to talk to the bus driver, but students said the bus driver refused to take the phone. As one might suspect, many of the parents of the students have called the school district to complain about the incident.
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Boston Public Schools Offer Free Lunches
Kids in Boston Public Schools will enjoy free lunches this year, thanks to participation in a federal program that cuts out paperwork required to prove eligibility for the free lunch program.
Free lunches for all kids at Boston Public Schools
This year, Boston Public Schools students will be returning to free lunches when they return to school. The large district recently joined a national program that serves free meals to all students, regardless of income level. This program eliminates the need for families to complete paperwork involving sensitive information like income amounts and ensures every student has access to a hot, nutritious lunch as part of their daily learning experience.
No Paperwork Required
The Boston Globe reports that the district has signed on to a federal initiative designed to simplify the process of offering free or reduced-price lunches to low-income students in a district. In some cases, the process of qualifying for affordable meals in school meant filling out complex paperwork that families might not always understand. For example, families in Boston Public Schools speak as many as 100 different languages, which meant that even forms completed in English might be difficult for some parents to comprehend completely.
This video explains how the Community Eligibility Option works in detail.
In addition, the process of receiving free lunches can create a socio-economic divide in some schools, as some students got free food and others had to pay for it. While many students used identification cards that made the process more discreet, some students still pay for their meals with cash. By allowing every student access to a free meal, needy students are no longer singled out in the lunch line.
Capitalizing on Success of Breakfast Program
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Soda Ban to Expand at Some Fairfax County Schools
Seven schools in this large district will be piloting a new soda ban that will keep the bubbly stuff away from students during school hours, as well as during afterschool activities.
Students heading back to school in Fairfax County may be doing so without access to some of the sugary drinks they love most. This large school district is experimenting with a pilot program that bans sugar-filled soft drinks on school property – both during school hours and after. If the pilot program is a success, sodas may be removed from schools on a larger, county-wide scale.
Banning “Public Enemy Number One”
The new soda ban comes on the heels of recent media reports likening soda to “public enemy number one.” Studies continue to support the fact that soda consumption is linked to the obesity crisis in the United States, as well as a host of other potential health problems.  A recent report at Fox News cited a study from Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City that showed precisely how the body responds to soda consumption.
“The main thing is excess calories,” Dr. Christopher Ochner, assistant professor of pediatrics and adolescent medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai, explained to Fox. “If everything else in their diet is equal, a person who has a can of coke a day adds an extra 14.5 pounds per year, just from the calories alone.”
Ochner adds that some studies have suggested that all calories are not created equal in terms of how the body processes them. Those that come directly from sugar may be more easily turned into fat by the body than calories from other food sources. The fact that
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How Miami-Dade is Turning the Tide
This floundering school district has found new life in recent years. What is their secret to success?
Miami-Dade has been a struggling school district. With high poverty rates and an ethnically diverse student population, many schools within this large district have not been successful in preparing students for life after school. A history of high dropout rates, low attendance and poor academic performance has plagued the students and teachers in this Florida district. However, the tide appears to be turning for Miami-Dade, thanks to the work of the current superintendent and his dedicated staff.
A New Leader
Alberto Carvalho took over the reins of Miami-Dade in 2008. In 2010, a blog at the website for the U.S. Department of Education described some of the changes that were already being seen in the district. First, the Education Transformation Office (ETO) was formed to provide support to 19 of the district’s failing schools. The schools on the list received individualized support in the areas of professional development, family engagement and curriculum.
The blog also noted the following three areas of focus in turning around some of the struggling schools:
  • A culture shift that helped the students and faculty at the schools feel respected and supported
  • Additional support to ensure every student in the district completed high school
  • A focus on professional development that includes building professional learning communities
Despite the fact that the district was still in the early stages of its transformation at the time this blog was written, the author was already impressed with the amount of progress that had been made. The approach to the transformation appeared to be a
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Montgomery County Public Schools Employee Devises Tracking System to Identify Potential Dropouts Early
We examine the new tracking system devised by an evaluation specialist in Montgomery Public Schools, which boasts it can identify potential dropouts as early as the second semester of first grade.
An evaluation specialist at one of the largest school districts in the country claims to have found a system for determining academic success from a very young age. The Montgomery County Public Schools employee, Thomas C. West, has announced that he has developed a tracking system that can predict high school dropouts as early as the first grade. Does it work? And more importantly, is it even ethical to use such a system on children just starting out in the wide world of academia?
“Startling Accuracy” Seen with System
Time reports that West’s tracking formula appears to be able to predict dropout rates with “startling accuracy.” The formula can be utilized as early as the second semester of first grade, and incorporates many of the usual factors for predicting academic success. These factors include behavior issues, reading skills and frequency of school absences.
A study conducted on the formula by researchers at Johns Hopkins University shows the system can identify 75 percent of future potential dropouts as early as the first grade. According to 360 Education Solutions, the red flags indicate two factors – a lack of student motivation and a lack of academic success. While these factors may not be news to educators, the new identification formula has many more than a little interested.
Getting Clues Early
The primary difference is in how early and accurately this type of data may be collected and analyzed today. In the past, it would take months, or even years, for schools
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