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School health & wellness news roundup: Week of July 21, 2014

July 25, 2014

From this week’s news:

  • Mass. tops US in study of children’s well-being
    Boston Globe:
    Young people have a better chance to thrive in Massachusetts than in any other state, according to a national analysis of children’s overall well-being. Nearly all children in the state, 99 percent, have health insurance. Reading and math proficiency rates exceed the national average. About 1 in 7 children live in poverty, compared with about 1 in 5 nationwide, according to the 25th annual Annie E. Casey Foundation “Kids Count” report, released Tuesday.
  • Is Your School Looking Out for Students After Trauma? How Long After?
    EdWeek Inside School Research blog:
    A new PLOS-Medicine study finds children and teenagers whose mom or dad died were 50 percent more likely to die themselves by early adulthood. Why does this matter to schools? The researchers focused on wealthier countries where the orphaned children were less likely to be left without medical care or resources themselves if their parent died, but there were still “social-behavioral consequences of parental death, such as the loss of a care giver, misbehaviors, and functioning impairment [which] can increase the risk of death from injuries or other external causes.”
  • Bullying the Focus of National Initiative Launched by More Than 170 Mayors
    EdWeek Rules for Engagement blog:
    Mayors of more than 170 cities have joined an anti-bullying initiative that aims to “develop a series of evidence-based responses to combat the epidemic of bullying in school districts nationwide,” the U.S. Conference of Mayors said. The Mayors’ Campaign to End Bullying is a partnership of the national mayors’ organization and The BULLY Project, an advocacy organization inspired by the film BULLY.
  • Are Healthier School Lunches Winning Over Students?
    While many students weren’t keen on more nutritious school lunches when their districts first began complying with new federal meal standards in the 2012-13 school year, they eventually warmed up to the healthier fare, complaining less and eating as much as they did before the rules went into place, according to two national surveys of school administrators released Monday.
  • Rates of abdominal obesity leveling off among kids
    Reuters Health:
    After rising steadily for more than 10 years, the proportion of U.S. kids defined as obese due to a large waist circumference held steady between 2003 and 2012, according to a new analysis of national data.

School health & wellness news roundup: Week of July 14, 2014

July 18, 2014

From this week’s news:

  • Most Kids Eat Fruit, Veggies Daily: CDC
    HealthDay News:
    More than three-quarters of U.S. children eat fruit on any given day, and nearly 92 percent dig into vegetables in a 24-hour period, a new U.S. health survey reveals. But consumption of fruits and vegetables declines as kids move from preschool to high school, according to the survey from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • New York City Reports a Decrease in Severely Obese Children
    The Health Department announced that severe obesity among New York City public school students in grades K–8 decreased 9.5%, from 6.3% in the 2006–07 school year to 5.7% in the 2010–11 school year. Among public school students in grades K–8, obesity also decreased during this period by 5.5% (from 21.9% to 20.7%), suggesting that the public response to the obesity epidemic is affecting all levels of childhood obesity. These findings were released in the journal, Preventing Chronic Disease.
  • E-Cigarettes and Federal Regulation
    E-cigarettes are currently unregulated at the federal level. But in April 2014 the FDA moved to change that, issuing a proposed rule that would give the agency the authority to regulate e-cigarettes as a tobacco product, banning their sale to people under 18 and prohibiting free samples, among other constraints. The FDA will accept comments on the proposed rule until August 8, 2014, and could well extend that time. Then it is likely to spend many more months crafting its final rule.
  •  Want More Stress In Your Life? Try Parenting A Teenager
    NPR recently conducted a poll with our partners at the RWJF and the Harvard School of Public Health looking at the extent of stress in America. We found that about one-third (34 percent) of those who live with one or more teenagers said they’d had a great deal of stress in the past month.
  •  Health Beyond Health Care: Expanding Physical Activity Opportunities in Every Neighborhood
    More than half of youths in the United States have access to parks or playground areas; recreation centers; boys’ and girls’ clubs; and walking paths or sidewalks in their neighborhoods, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), State Indicator Report on Physical Activity, 2014.
  •  Poor Teens’ Health May Benefit From Top Schools
    Disadvantaged teens may get more than an academic boost by attending top-notch high schools — their health may also benefit, a study suggests.

School health & wellness news roundup: Week of July 7, 2014

July 11, 2014

From this week’s news:

  • Fun — not winning — essential to keep kids in sports
    USA Today:
    The No. 1 reason that kids drop out of sports is because it’s no longer “fun,” says the new study from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. The study, published in the Journal of Physical Activity & Health, homed in on the factors that made organized sports fun for kids — findings that could help combat the rising risks of childhood obesity.
  • To Make Children Healthier, A Doctor Prescribes A Trip To The Park
    When Dr. Robert Zarr wanted a young patient to get more exercise, he gave her an unusual prescription: Get off the bus to school earlier. Zarr writes park prescriptions on a special prescription pad, in English and Spanish, with the words “Rx for Outdoor Activity” on top, and a schedule slot that asks, “When and where will you play outside this week?”
  • Common Genes Link Reading, Mathematical Learning
    Science World:
    A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Oxford and King’s College London shows that reading skills are greatly connected to mathematical capabilities. In fact, study findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, found that the same genes responsible for these intellectual abilities are typically linked.
  • Criminalizing Bullying Discourages Reporting, Groups Say
    EdWeek Rules for Engagement blog
    : Ratcheting up the consequences of hurtful or abusive speech to an immediate school suspension or a criminal citation removes valuable, intermediate steps from the process. Knowing the immediate severity of the punishment for bullies, victims might hesitate to report them, and school officials might be more likely to look the other way, the groups, including the National School Climate Center, said in a brief filed in a New York court case related to a local statute that criminalizes cyberbullying.
  • For Most Kids, Nice Finishes Last
    A new study holds up a mirror to America’s parents. A surveyed 10,000 middle and high school students in 33 different schools around the nation about what they thought their folks cared about most: that they achieve at a high level, that they are happy (defined as “feeling good most of the time”), or that they care for others. Almost 80 percent of youth picked high achievement or happiness as their top choice, while about 20 percent selected caring for others. The survey also shows that about 80 percent of kids themselves rank achievement or happiness as most important, paralleling what they believe their parents value most.

School health & wellness news update: Week of June 30, 2014

July 3, 2014

From this week’s news:

  • Schools Weigh Expanding Free Meals to All Students
    Schools will have more time to decide if they want to take advantage of a new federal provision that would allow them to provide free meals to all students after the U.S. Department of Agriculture extended the deadline to opt in from June 30 to Aug. 31.
  • Why Teenagers Act Crazy
    : Adolescence is practically synonymous in our culture with risk taking, emotional drama and all forms of outlandish behavior. Until very recently, the widely accepted explanation for adolescent angst has been psychological. Developmentally, teenagers face a number of social and emotional challenges, like starting to separate from their parents, getting accepted into a peer group and figuring out who they really are. It doesn’t take a psychoanalyst to realize that these are anxiety-provoking transitions. But there is a darker side to adolescence that, until now, was poorly understood: a surge during teenage years in anxiety and fearfulness. Largely because of a quirk of brain development, adolescents, on average, experience more anxiety and fear and have a harder time learning how not to be afraid than either children or adults.
  • In New Orleans, a case study in how school, health care decentralization affect neediest children
    Hechinger Report:
    One New Orleans 15-year-old with explosive disorder felt abandoned after the only therapist she trusted left town. A 14-year-old diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, who became suicidal and threatened others, had to travel 300 miles to get admitted to a hospital. A 6-year-old with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder was told he couldn’t come back to his public school until his mother found mental health care services for him. In recent years, New Orleans has become a case study in how children and families are affected by rapid decentralization of public education and mental health systems.

Bonus: City Connects in the news!

  • Deserving of Celebration: Public Education Done Right
    Too often, news on the education front is all gloom and doom. Achievement gaps are stubborn, and current education reforms don’t seem to be making schools better. In communities across the country, however, teachers, parents, communities, and local leaders are doing great things in and with public schools. As we celebrate America’s independence, and the bicentennial of Francis Scott Key’s penning of the Star Spangled Banner, let’s also celebrate examples of comprehensive approaches to education that are doing it right and seeing great results. In Boston, Massachusetts, the birthplace of the American revolution, City Connects celebrates its fifteenth year of providing comprehensive supports to students by leveraging community assets and connecting them to each students’ unique needs.

Happy fourth of July! We’ll be on hiatus next week, returning the week of July 14.

School health & wellness news update: Week of June 23, 2014

June 27, 2014

From this week’s news:

  • Children in Poor Neighborhoods at Greater Risk of Obesity
    Science World:
    Children who grow up in poor neighborhoods may be more likely to deal with weight issues, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology.
  • Local School Wellness Policies: Where Do They Stand and What Can You Do?
    Local school wellness policies provide an opportunity to create and support a healthy school environment, promote student health, and reduce childhood obesity. Because they are required for all school districts participating in the federal Child Nutrition Programs including the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program, millions of children can be reached through implementation of these policies which focus on creating supportive school nutrition and physical activity environments. Research has documented that although almost all districts have adopted a wellness policy, they lack specificity related to competitive foods as well as requirements for implementation and compliance.
  • U.S. Students Get Top Scores for Sleepiness
    While U.S. students often catch flak for their performance on large-scale international assessments, they may be approaching world dominance on one such indicator: sleepiness.
  • Gratitude Lessons May Help Students with Social, Academic Issues, Study Says
    EdWeek Rules for Engagement blog:
    New research suggests that five, 30-minute classroom discussions that teach children to more deeply analyze what happens when someone gives them a gift or does something nice for them could have measurable effects on their overall level of gratitude. That, in turn, will give them a more positive outlook on life and make them more likely to demonstrate the prosocial behaviors necessary to build supportive relationships with their peers, say authors of a study published in School Psychology Review.
  • Pediatrics Group to Recommend Reading Aloud to Children From Birth
    In between dispensing advice on breast-feeding and immunizations, doctors will tell parents to read aloud to their infants from birth, under a new policy that the American Academy of Pediatrics announced on Tuesday.
  • How Childhood Neglect Harms The Brain
    Experts have long known that neglect and abuse in early life increase the risk of psychological problems, such as depression and anxiety, but now neuroscientists are explaining why. They’re showing how early maltreatment wreaks havoc on the developing brain.

School health & wellness news roundup: Week of June 16, 2014

June 20, 2014

From this week’s news:

  • When school’s out, weight can pile on
    HealthDay News:
    As the school year ends, many children feel they’re gaining two months of freedom. But new research suggests many will gain something else: unwanted weight. Between June and August, many U.S. kids pack on excess pounds, particularly if they’re overweight to begin with, according to a Harvard-led review of previous research. The study was published online June 12 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in its journal Preventing Chronic Disease.
  • Schools Brace for Launch of Federal Snack Rules
    Federal nutrition rules set to go into effect July 1 would force enticing items like cheesy pizza off the menu—a change that school officials fear might motivate many students to leave campus during open lunch periods to seek unhealthy options at nearby fast-food restaurants.
  • School Policies and Practices to Improve Health and Prevent Obesity: National Secondary School Survey Results
    Bridging the Gap:
    The growing recognition of the public health and economic consequences of childhood, adolescent, and adult obesity has led to a variety of policies, programs, and other interventions to stimulate healthy eating and physical activity, often despite the lack of evidence on their impact.
  • Study Links Child Health Coverage, College Attainment
    Inside Higher Ed:
    When children have health insurance, they are more likely to finish high school, enroll in college and earn a bachelor’s degree, according to a study released today by the National Bureau of Economic Research (abstract available here).
  • U.S. schools develop a nicer version of gym class
    Washington Post:
    The program at the Prince William County school is part of a national effort to mobilize a generation that has been labeled the most sedentary in the nation’s history. It represents a major shift in physical education to reverse the trend of inertia, with gym teachers working harder to make sure that their classes don’t appeal just to the most athletic students while the rest of the kids in school-issued shorts are left sitting on the sidelines.
  • Anxious Children Have Larger ‘Fear Centers’ in Their Brains: Anxiety Disorder Development
    Science World:
    Scientists have found that alterations in the development of the “fear center” in the brain during childhood may have an important influence on the development of anxiety problems.
  • Kids In Juvenile Detention Face Risk Of Violent Death As Adults
    NPR Shots blog:
    Delinquent children are much more likely than their nondelinquent peers to die violently later in life, a study finds. And girls who ended up in juvenile detention were especially vulnerable, dying at nearly five times the rate of the general population.

New Report Details Positive Outcomes for City Connects Students, Schools

June 19, 2014

Fifteen years ago, a small team of school, university, and community partners began working on creating the system of student support that is now City Connects. We were  hopeful that we would be able to demonstrate that addressing students’ out-of-school needs would lead to improvements in academic achievement and student well-being.

Our hopes have been more than realized. City Connects not only supports student thriving in school, but contributes to significant academic gains as well.  Our longitudinal research shows that for children who attended City Connects in elementary schools, the beneficial effects continue into high school. We can definitively say that the City Connects system of student support makes a positive and long-term difference in the lives of children.

We are pleased to announce the publication of The Impact of City Connects: Progress Report 2014, detailing results from the 2011-12 academic year in City Connects’ Boston and–for the first time–Springfield, MA, public schools. Highlights include:

  • Lower rates of dropout
    Students who attended City Connects elementary schools beginning in kindergarten have 50% lower odds of dropping out of high school than students never in a City Connects school. See page 25 of the report for the full analysis. 
  • Improved standardized test scores
    After leaving City Connects elementary schools at the end of grade 5, students go on to outperform their peers in middle school and achieve close to state averages on both English and Math statewide standardized test scores (MCAS). Benefits are especially pronounced for students most at risk, like English Language Learners. See page 22 of the report for the full analysis.
  • Supporting school transformation
    After one year of implementing City Connects in Springfield’s persistently underperforming (“turnaround”) elementary schools, the gap between these schools and other Springfield schools was significantly reduced in grades 3, 4, and 5 for both English and Math MCAS. See page 35 of the report for the full analysis.

“The data in this report make clear that thoughtful strategies and rigorous practices that provide non-academic supports for students can make a significant difference toward closing the achievement gap for children living in poverty,” said Mary E. Walsh, Ph.D., Executive Director of City Connects and the Kearns Professor at the Boston College Lynch School of Education. “Schools have always made efforts to address students’ out-of-school needs. This report shows that using evidence to inform practice, making effective use of community resources, and tailoring a plan for every student can alter trajectories for children. It has implications for changing the way school counselors, social workers, and other student support staff meet the needs of students.”

For more information:

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