New STEM Track for Middle Schools Ticketed in Tennessee

There’s clearly a greater emphasis in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education at secondary schools in the United States. But only recently have middle schools started to develop programs for selected students graduating from elementary schools.

For example, schools in the Collierville Schools system in Tennessee are offering an invitation-only STEM intensive track for the 2015–16 school year. Forty-eight sixth-grade STEM Scholars—almost half of whom are girls—will take three years of advanced math, language arts, and STEM courses together. The goal: to produce higher achievement results—especially in the STEM field—as the students enter high school. Was there much interest among students in the program? About one-third of fifth graders in the community took the aptitude test when it was offered in January.

31 States Have Recieved NCLB Waivers

No Child Left Behind LogoThe U.S. Department of Education has approved seven new No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver renewals, bringing the total number of states receiving waivers to 31. The states receiving the most recent waivers from the federal government are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Mississippi, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin. The waiver extensions range from one to three years.In announcing the new waivers, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said, “The last six years have seen dramatic progress for America’s schoolchildren. The high school dropout rate is down, and graduation rates are higher than they have ever been. As a result of our partnerships with state and district leaders to couple flexibility with reform, we are seeing remarkable strides and bold actions to improve student outcomes.” For more updates on No Child Left Behind, follow @nclb on Twitter.

Are Early Start Times Detrimental to Teen Students’ Health?

The answer is yes-at least according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The study, published in CDC’s “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report,” found that the average start time for 39,700 public middle schools, high schools, and combined schools was 8:03 a.m. based on data from the 2011-12 school year. However, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, teenagers need up to nine-and-a-half hours of sleep per day, “but their natural sleep rhythms make it hard for them to fall asleep before 11 p.m.” The result of a lack of sleep, according to the study, can lead to depression and obesity in teens, along with poor academic performance and experimentation “with tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs.”Of course, as most principals know, this is a problematic issue. While many parents call on their local districts to start school later, district officials often argue that starting class later would make it more difficult to schedule after-school sporting events, which often require teams to take buses to other parts of their districts. Education Secretary Arne Duncan supports moving back school start times, stating, “It’s completely a local decision, but I’d like to see more school districts at least consider delaying start times. A later start to the school day could help boost students’ academic performance and reduce tardiness and absenteeism. Our common sense tells us that sleepy students don’t do well in school, but the research also exists to back it up. Studies show that when students are rested, they are more alert and ready to learn.”

Virginia District Considering Eliminating Sports

A task force convened by the school district in Fairfax County, VA, to address a projected $100 million budget shortfall has released a set of recommendations that includes getting rid of all sports.”Major savings could come from getting rid of all school sports, limiting extracurricular activities, and increasing class sizes,” the panel recommended. The district—located in one of the largest and wealthiest counties in the United States—is grappling with rising enrollment and stagnant funding. The district is hardly the only one in the country thinking about cutting back or eliminating sports, but it’s important to remember that this is just a task force recommendation. The issue is drawing a ton of public scrutiny, so don’t expect schools to make rash decisions on cutting sports programs.