Social services alone won’t improve learning

Cincinnati has piloted community schools, which “wrap health, dental, therapeutic, and family support services around existing schools” to “improve students’ learning and life prospects,” writes Paul Hill of University of Washington’s Center on Reinventing Public Education. The idea has spread to New York City and Philadelphia.

However, social services along won’t improve student outcomes, he warns. Students from poor families need a high-quality academic education in addition to social supports.

Oyler School in Cincinnati offers a full range of support services -- at a high cost.

Oyler School in Cincinnati offers a full range of support services, but costs are high and the effect on achievement is not clear.

Oyler School, Cincinnati’s model community school, provides an array of health services, including vision and dental care and mental health counseling.

However,  “the links between even intensive services and student learning are weak and tough to find,” Hill writes. “In Cincinnati, the strongest link between wrap-around services and outcomes like normal progress in school comes from attendance gains: on-site health services mean a parent or guardian no longer needs to take children out of school to wait all day to be seen at an emergency ward.”

“Careful studies” have found that students’ learning growth in the Harlem Children’s Zone “is a result of improvements in the schools,” rather than improved social and health services, he writes.

“Despite enormous support from Cincinnati hospitals and businesses, only Oyler has the full menu of services,” Hill notes. Community schools are expensive.

Healthy lunches = more veg in the trash

Before/after photos of lunch trays show vegetables often end up in the trash.

Federal school lunch rules require that children take a fruit or vegetable. Kids aren’t eating healthier, according to a new study. reports the Washington Post. Most of the healthy food ends up in the trash.

“The basic question we wanted to explore was: does requiring a child to select a fruit or vegetable actually correspond with consumption. The answer was clearly no,” Sarah Amin, the lead author of the study, said in a statement.

This salad, featuring raw green pepper and croutons, is supposed to contain chicken.

This salad, featuring raw green pepper and croutons, is supposed to contain chicken. Photo: Hans Pennink, AP

Children took 29 percent more fruit and vegetables after the rule went into effect, the study found. But their consumption of fruits and vegetables declined by 13 percent.

Food waste went up. In many cases, the researchers wrote, “children did not even taste the [fruits and vegetables] they chose at lunch.”

Last year, a Harvard study using a different methodology found students ate the same amount of fruit, but 16.2 percent more vegetables. However, students threw out 40 percent of fruit on their trays and 60 to 75 percent of vegetables.

CDC: Schools start too early

Teens aren’t getting enough sleep to stay healthy because school starts too early, warns a Centers for Disease Control report. Five of six middle and high schools starts classes before 8:30 a.m.
Adolescents need 8.5 hours to 9.5 hours of sleep each night, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. However, “their natural sleep rhythms make it hard for them to fall asleep before 11 p.m.,” writes Emma Brown in the Washington Post.

Tired teens do worse in school and are “more likely to be overweight or depressed . . . and to experiment with tobacco, alcohol and other drugs,” writes Brown.

The CDC, in its new report, calls insufficient sleep among the nation’s teenagers a “substantial public health concern,” and says that while parents can help by teaching their children good sleep hygiene (no cell phones in the bedroom, for example), it is important for schools to do their part by ensuring that class doesn’t start too early.

Delaying school start times by one hour increases math and reading scores, writes Finley Edwards in Do Schools Begin Too Early? “The effect is largest for students with below-average test scores, suggesting that later start times would narrow gaps in student achievement.”

Cucumbers are the new birthday cake

Cucumbers are the new birthday cake in Berkeley, California, the “epicenter of extreme parenting, writes Julia Scheeres on Ozy.

“For many parents here, raising children is a competitive sport where points are scored for depriving kids of life’s simple pleasures,” she writes.

While other six-year-olds eat birthday cake, “Emma” is ushered inside by her mother. She’s not allowed to eat “junk food.” While her mother is in the bathroom, the little girl spots a “giant bowl of jelly beans.”

“The red ones are cinnamon,” Scheeres tells her. “The green are watermelon — my favorite.”

But Emma flees when her mother returns. “We don’t believe in sugar,” the mother sniffed.

. . . It’s all done with a sneer of moral and intellectual superiority: “I read a study linking sugar to childhood diabetes; therefore, Liam shall never eat candy again!”

But it’s not just sugar. Television, movies, electronics, toys, books and music all figure onto the blacklists of these killjoys.

Berzerkeley is full of Deprivationists, she writes. One couple stuck a candle in a cucumber for their daughter’s fifth birthday.

A neighborhood father tossed out all of his kids’ toys after reading that American kids were “overstimulated.” He then gave them a “toy” he’d seen kids play with in Africa — a plastic milk jug with a rock inside. Still worried about overstimulation, he gave away all their books but two.

One mom recently bragged to me that her 8-year-old daughter had no idea who Katy Perry was because they didn’t allow her to listen to the radio. The glum little girl attended a pricey music school and her parents didn’t want to corrupt her with “lowbrow” sensibilities.

Scheeres was raised by Calvinist parents who shielded her from pop culture to save her soul. “They angrily denounced Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny,” she writes. “But this only made me covet the neighbor girl’s enormous chocolate bunny that much more.”


Stop with all the snacking, advises Amanda Kolson Hurleyin a Washington Post blog.

Half of American kids snack four times a day, according to a 2010 study, she writes. “On average, kids are consuming 600 calories a day from snacks, 168 more than they did in 1977 (you know, back when strollers didn’t have little food trays attached to them).” 

Her 9-year-old sometimes snacks in class, again at his after-school program and a third time when he gets home. Sometimes he skips lunch and isn’t hungry for dinner. It’s all about the snacks.

Parents “walk around with trail mix and Sun Chips stuffed in our bags like we‘re mobile, no-fee vending machines,” writes Hurley, who admits to being a snacking enabler herself.

Every group activity includes snack time, often with a snack schedule for mothers.

One mother I know pushed back when the self-appointed “snack coordinator” at her daughter’s preschool tried to institute a second snack in addition to the pretzels and juice the kids were already served. Preschool ran from 9 to noon. My friend didn’t see why the children would need more than one snack to tide them over until lunch.

The child obesity rate has doubled over the past 30 years, Hurley notes. Raising kids to expect frequent snacks — at the expense of meals — isn’t helping.

Pink cookie is banned — and in demand

Pink cookies will not be sold at Elyria, Ohio schools, reports the Chronicle-Telegram. The popular cookies  — named Best Cafeteria Cookie by Cleveland magazine in 2009 — have too much real butter and sour cream icing to meet federal guidelines.

A tray of pink cookies are seen at Elyria Schools.  CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO

“We could modify the recipe by changing the size, using whole-grain flour or putting on less icing, but in doing that you are not making the same cookies,”  said Scott Teaman, food services director with Sodexo Inc., the district’s contracted food provider. “There is only one way to do the pink cookie, and to do it any other way would not do it justice.”

Forty years ago, Jean Gawlik, the former food production manager for Elyria Schools, used her mother’s recipe for the pink cookies.

You can’t change the recipe of the pink cookie,” said Elyria Mayor Holly Brinda. “It’s like eating diet potato chips. It’s not right.” Pink cookies are “one of those things that’s special to our community.”

The cookie ban has spurred demand, reports Reason’s Hit & Run. The bakers are taking special orders for “the perfect cookie.”  If the district can figure out how to ship the cookies, they now have customers around the country and in Canada asking for a box of pinks.

Big Nanny explains how to roast marshmallows

How Does Your Marshmallow Roast? asks the U.S. Forest Service. The advisory tells parents to keep children 10 feet from the fire and “use a roasting stick of at least 30 inches in length.”

That would prevent the marshmallow from getting overcooked — or cooked at all.

Yet the illustrative photo shows two girls holding short sticks and standing very near the fire.

Madelyn Morrissey (left) and Katie Roth roast marshmallows near the George Washington/Jefferson National Forest. (Courtesy Adrian Roth)

Madelyn Morrissey (left) and Katie Roth roast marshmallows near the George Washington/Jefferson National Forest. (Courtesy Adrian Roth)

After providing the traditional recipe for s’mores,  the feds urge readers to “grill thin slices of pineapple and substitute chocolate for the sweet, warm fruit.” (Perhaps the writer means: Grill pineapple, throw it away and stick with the chocolate.)

Don’t use too much marshmallow, the advisory goes on, and try “slices of angel food cake instead of graham crackers” to cut more calories.

What’s the point of low-calorie s’mores?

Or the kiddies might enjoy not roasting marshmallows.

 Grab a small bag of chocolate or peanut butter chips – or a combination of the two. Take a banana and slice one side open, exposing the fruit but leaving the peel intact. Slice the banana, add a few chocolate chips then top with tiny marshmallows. Or substitute the chips for blueberries from the local farmer’s market. (Again: Throw away the blueberries and stick with chocolate chips.) Place the banana in aluminum foil and wrap tightly. Place the foil-wrapped fruit next to but not on the flames. Wait five to 10 minutes or enough time for the chips and marshmallows to melt. Open and enjoy with a spoon.

Another way to limit the amount of marshmallows used is to substitute them with marshmallow crème, a spreadable version of marshmallows that helps you more easily regulate portion. (“Substitute with”? No.) For healthier treats, use large strawberries, apple slices, banana chucks, pineapple or other fruit. Put a piece of fruit on a roasting stick, dip quickly in the crème and roast over indirect heat until a delicious golden brown. You’re still having campfire fun, but the focus is on a healthier evening snack.

The Blaze mocks the nearly 700-word article on how to do — or not do — something Americans have successfully done for close to 100 years.

A commenter nails it: “S’more-ons.”

Anti-vaxxers attack student documentary

Our society is “under-vaccinated,” argues Invisible Threat, a film made by broadcasting students at Carlsbad High near San Diego. It was completed more than a year ago, but anti-vaccine activists raised such a furor that few have seen the film, reports the Los Angeles Times. 

The high school’s PTA canceled an on-campus screening in May, fearing a protest.

Some of the students initially believed vaccines and autism were linked, they told the LA Times. As they researched the issue, they changed their minds.  “It was all social controversy. There was no science controversy,” said Allison DeGour, who will be a senior this fall.

Here’s a free trailer:

California’s whooping cough epidemic is escalating.

Affluent parents are the most likely to put their children — and others — at risk by avoiding vaccination. Latinos have high vaccination rates and less whooping cough, apparently because they tend to trust doctors’ advice.

Students say healthy lunches are ‘tolerable’

Sixty-three percent of high school students and 70 percent of middle schoolers say the new, healthier school lunches are tolerable, according to a new report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. 
Complaints about the food are down, students said. But food waste is up.

Some school districts are dropping out of the federal lunch program because they’re losing money, reports Education News. More full-pay students are brown-bagging or going off campus to buy lunch.

In Fort Thomas, Kentucky, students are rejecting the cafeteria food, says Superintendent Gene Kirchner.

“We watch children every day walk past the cash register and then throw away things that we are forced, have forced them to take essentially, as a result of the federal requirements for lunches … There’s no guarantee that the things they bring from home are healthier, or that if they stop by the minute market on the way to school and what they grabbed at that point is a healthier option,” Kirchner said.

My nutritionist stepdaughter will not be designing school lunches this year. The “ridiculous” federal rules have made it so time-consuming that the nonprofit where she works was losing money on the contract.

The gender gap is TEM-only

Here’s the percentage of Bachelor’s degrees conferred to women, by major (1970-2012) courtesy of Randal S. Olson.


More than 80 percent of degrees in health and public administration are earned by women, he notes. Nearly 80 percent of education and psychology degrees also go to women. In biology, women earn 58 percent of degrees.

Even in math, statistics and physical sciences, women earn more than 40 percent of degrees. Business is close to 50-50.

He flips the chart to show that men are lagging in everything but engineering, computer science, physical science, math and statistics. Women are close to parity in everything but engineering and computer science.