Los Angeles Unified, the country's second-largest school system, is home to more than 650,000 students, and 42 percent of them are overweight or obese. In 2011, the district decided healthier school lunches were the best way to help them not be.
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Record-low temperatures caused by the Polar Vortex have forced schools across the country to close this week. Weather-related school cancellations tend to raise anxieties about whether we're a nation of wimps. During President Obama's first winter in Washington, he complained when his daughters' school closed for bad weather: "We're going to have to apply some flinty Chicago toughness to this town." In response to this latest round of school closings, a Virginia mom sighed, "Hasn’t anyone heard of gloves, scarf and a hat when it’s cold?? Just bundle up—people do it all over the world. We are such wimps to cancel school."
As a high-school English teacher, I read well over a thousand student essays a year. I can report that complete sentences are an increasingly endangered species. I wearily review the point of paragraphs every semester. This year I tried and failed to spark a senior class protest against "blobs"—my pejorative term for essays lacking paragraphs. When I see a winky face in the body of a personal essay—and believe me, it has happened enough to warrant a routine response—I use a red pen to draw next to it a larger face with narrow, angry eyes and gaping jaws poised to chomp the offending emoticon to pieces Pac-Man-style. My students analyze good writing and discuss the effect of word choice and elegant syntax on an audience's reading experience. The uphill battle is worth fighting, but I'm always aware that something more foreboding than chronic senioritis lines up in opposition.
Standardized testing has long been a part of public education. Since 2002, the U.S. Department of Education has required that states receiving federal education funding test third- through eighth-grade students in reading and math, which is usually done in the spring and used to generate school and district report cards. Some states and districts have added annual tests in other grades and subjects, or even added fall testing. The most controversial new tests are those that have been added to the schedule in order to evaluate teachers.
Sarah Theule Lubienski didn't set out to compare public schools and private schools. A professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she was studying math instructional techniques when she discovered something surprising: Private schools—long assumed to be educationally superior—were underperforming public schools.
Memorization, not rationalization. That is the advice of my 13-year-old daughter, Esmee, as I struggle to make sense of a paragraph of notes for an upcoming Earth Science test on minerals. “Minerals have crystal systems which are defined by the # of axis and the length of the axis that intersect the crystal faces.” That’s how the notes start, and they only get murkier after that. When I ask Esmee what this actually means, she gives me her homework credo.
Just when you thought drug running couldn't get more extreme, U.S. border patrol officers find 33 cans of marijuana in the desert near the border that they believe were fired from a cannon in Mexico. Authorities caught wind of the new technique when they received reports of some strange canisters popping up near the Colorado River in southern Arizona recently. Agents arrived at the scene to find the cans which collectively held 85 pounds of marijuana. That's worth $42,500 on the street. By the looks of it, the smugglers had loaded the cans into a pneumatic-powered cannon (think: potato gun) and blasted them 500 yards over the border. Bummer none of their buddies came to pick it up before the police.
These are tough times for plagiarists and would-be academic cheaters. That may seem a counter-intuitive statement, given how much material is online, just waiting to be copied-and-pasted, and how many services are ready to write your papers for you for a nominal (or not so nominal) consideration.