It’s official—back to school season is in full swing! Now that many teachers and students have returned to the classroom, there are some exciting initiatives in the works that are poised to enhance school experience across the US.
Massachusetts Schools Prioritize Nutrition
Massachusetts schools continue to participate in the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement, a research-based program designed by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service to support the Child Nutrition Programs. Members of the USDA’s Team Nutrition initiative work to create and help schools implement best practices to aid students in making healthier nutritional choices every day. In addition to funding state agencies in offering students nutritious and low-cost meals, Team Nutrition also provided training to the staff of 51 Commonwealth schools preparing for the 2016-2017 academic year. Schools across the state benefited from professional assistance from three Smarter Lunchrooms coaches this year. Coaches helped schools create practical nutrition plans, establish feasible goals, and identify helpful resources. A suite of educational materials, including infographics and a Tool Kit for back-to-school events, are available on the Team Nutrition website.
Illinois Gives Boost to Agriculture Education
A bill prioritizing agricultural education in Illinois was signed into law on August 16th. State Senator Scott Bennett, a sponsor of the legislation, hopes it will give a needed boost to agribusiness in Illinois by designating agriculture education as a subject area currently experiencing staff shortages; this official acknowledgement will make scholarships available for those who want to pursue agriculture education as a career. The new law will also provide a grant to fund up to 50 percent of the personal services costs for an agriculture education instructor. The new law will take effect in January 2017.
Texas Legislature Study Addresses Pre-K Classroom Size
Following the passage of House Bill (HB) 4 in 2015, which authorized funding for the HB 4 High-Quality Prekindergarten Grant program, a 2016 study was conducted to explore the connection between class size, student-to-teacher ratio, and quality of learning experience for children preparing for kindergarten. The study, conducted by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and the Department of Family and Protective Services, showed that both class size and student-to-teacher ratio tend to impact classroom effectiveness. Based on these findings, the TEA is recommending that prekindergarten classrooms in the state not exceed 22 pupils each, and that the student-to-teacher ratio not exceed 11:1 for classes that have between 16 and 22 students. For a class of 15 or fewer students, a maximum student-to-teacher ratio of 15:1 is now recommended.
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