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December 06, 2011 3 min read
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| NEWS | DISTRICT DOSSIER

A ‘Winning Hand’ for School Budgets

Education Resource Strategies, a Watertown, Mass.-based company that helps large urban districts strategize how to deploy their resources, has created a novel game-style process to help school leaders think about budget trade-offs.

Called School Budget Hold ‘Em, the game has the goal of creating a “winning hand” of cards that melds budget priorities with educational priorities.

Leaders of a district start with the percentage that needs to be cut from their budget, and then create a combination of cards equaling that percentage. For example, one card notes that increasing the size of noncore and elective classes by four or five students saves about 1.3 percent. Another card says that a response-to-intervention program adds one-tenth of 1 percent. The cards offer several other options for cuts and investments.

Karen Baroody, the managing director for ERS, said the game allows leaders to think strategically about priorities and reduce defensiveness around certain programs. This is especially important to districts that have already made several rounds of cuts, and are now looking at difficult choices, she said.

—Christina A. Samuels

| NEWS | COLLEGE BOUND

College-Readiness: Help Teens Manage Sleep

College students today lose more than 45 minutes of sleep each week due to their cellphones disrupting their sleep, a study from the University of Rhode Island reveals. The students who used technology at the highest rates also had higher levels of anxiety and depression compared with the rest of the students in the study.

In our culture, it’s almost a sign of achievement to function on minimal sleep, but lack of sleep carries risks, according to the University of Michigan Health Services’ website. Not getting enough rest can cause decreased academic performance; car accidents; illnesses, such as colds and flu; and depression and anxiety. College students are twice as likely to be depressed as the general population, and researchers think their sleep habits contribute to this prevalence.

High school students, too, often suffer from too little sleep. Sometimes teens have a hard time unwinding before 11 p.m., and many have to get up by 6 a.m. for school.

While the average adult needs seven to eight hours of sleep, teensneed at least nine, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Students in the Rhode Island study had a “sleep debt” of two hours each night, which is on par with other national sleep studies.

Getting used to the college scene is demanding enough, let alone trying to do it on too little sleep. If we can help our high school students manage their schedules and value a sound night’s sleep, perhaps they can carry that over to college. And that can carry over to their grades, retention, and completion.

—Caralee Adams

| NEWS | SCHOOLED IN SPORTS

Ideas for Making School Football Safer

After nearly a year’s worth of writing about youth football, student-athlete safety, and a whole boatload about concussions, I offer some suggestions for making high school football safer:

1. Institute stronger penalties for helmet-to-helmet hits.

2. Ban the wedge formation: The wedge formation is exactly what it sounds like—often three players, with arms or hands linked, setting up a wall for opposing players during kickoffs.

3. Mandate baseline-concussion tests: For those unfamiliar with baseline-concussion tests, these are typically 20-minute online tests that measure a player’s healthy brain.

4. Reduce practices: In just one week this past August, at least three high school student-athletes died during a brutal heat wave where temperatures soared over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

5. Return to leather helmets?: Logic would dictate that given the technological advancements over the past 100 years, modern football helmets should be much more protective than the old-time leather football helmets, right? As it turns out, a new study found that leather helmets often protect as well, if not better, than modern-day helmets against a wide range of head impacts.

Modern helmets do protect against splitting players’ heads open much better than leather helmets, but aren’t tested against forces that may cause concussions. Should youth-football helmets be tested against not just high-impact, skull-cracking forces, but the lower-impact, potentially concussion-causing impacts, too? There’s little question anymore.

—Bryan Toporek

A version of this article appeared in the December 07, 2011 edition of Education Week as Blogs of the Week

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