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School Climate and Child Wellness: Rules for Engagement's Most-Read Posts of 2014

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It's been a big year for issues related to school climate, student health, and schools' efforts to take on a whole-child approach.

In January, federal agencies kicked off 2014 by releasing long-awaited guidance on civil rights and school discipline. That guidance set the tone for much of Rules for Engagement's content throughout the year. Some of the blog's most popular posts related to shifts in school discipline and concerns about zero tolerance policies.

In the aftermath of the 2012 school shootings in Newtown, Conn., and subsequent acts of violence elsewhere, posts about school safety also drew great reader interest.

And, as schools take a broader look at equity, readers were also drawn to posts about how poverty is affecting schools and how schools can better tackle the non-cognitive issues students bring to the classroom, such as exposure to trauma and a lack of sleep.

Here's a look at Rules for Engagement's most popular posts of 2014.

12. Poverty Has Spread to the Suburbs (And to Suburban Schools)

"While schools in all sorts of communities have worked for years to tackle the effects of poverty for individual students, the Brookings report notes that concentrated poverty requires policy makers to tackle the 'double burden' of not only their poverty, but also the disadvantages of those around them. That may mean increasing reliance on models like community schools, which offer 'cradle-to-career' or 'wraparound' services, such as in-school health care, parenting interventions, and community outreach to ensure that their students can grow academically."

11. Sandy Hook Shooter's Needs Went Unmet by Schools and Parents, Report Concludes

"A review of the mental health and educational history of Newtown, Conn., school shooter Adam Lanza paints a picture of repeated missed opportunities—by schools, relatives and mental health professionals—to intervene in a downward spiral of isolation, emotional instability, and mental illness."

10. Grants to Rehab School Kitchens Included in Obama's Budget Proposal

"About 88 percent of 3,459 food-service directors recently surveyed by Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation said they needed additional equipment to adequately prepare meals. About 55 percent of respondents said they need infrastructure changes, like additional space for food storage and service. New school nutrition standards, which call for more fresh produce and grains, have fueled a need for upgrades, they said."

9. Robin Williams' Death: What We Shouldn't Say When We Discuss Suicide

"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that young people are especially susceptible to influence from others in this public health issue. Last night, as news of Williams' death spread, Education Week saw a spike in traffic to this commentary piece about schools' role in preventing suicide. This is clearly a concern to many folks who spend their time caring about kids. As educators, how can you counteract harmful messages your students may be receiving about suicide and steer them toward healthier conversations?"

8. In School Shootings, 'He Just Snapped' Is a Myth, Psychologist Says

"Allowing the myth that shooters 'just snap' to persist robs the public and the mental health community of chances to learn from attacks, gathering small pieces of insight that may further improve risk-assessment methods, a psychologist said."

7. Police Restraint of 9-Year-Old Student Was Not Excessive Force, Court Rules

"A federal appeals court has upheld the police use of a restraining hold on a 9-year-old student suspected of stealing an iPad from his school, though two judges called the police officer's actions 'regrettable' and a third judge lamented police tactics in schools by asking, 'Why are we arresting 9-year-old schoolchildren?' "

6. Pediatricians Call for Later School Start Times to Combat Sleep Deprivation

"High schools and middle schools should start at 8:30 a.m. or later to better sync schedules with students' natural sleep cycles, the American Academy of Pediatrics says in a new policy statement published Monday. At the start of puberty, sleep-wake cycles shift two hours later, making it difficult for students to wake up as early as they did when they were younger, the statement says."

5. Ebola: Some Schools Shut Down; Others Screening for Virus

"Districts doing screenings, including a handful in Virginia and Texas, are asking newly enrolled students and students who fall ill at school about their travel history to determine if they've recently visited any of the African countries most heavily impacted by the virus, news reports say."

4. Snapshots Gauge States on Whole-Child Indicators

"Educators and policymakers should be mindful of the non-cognitive factors that affect a student's learning and of the nonacademic results that can stem from effective policy, an education association said Wednesday. To promote awareness of those inputs and outputs, ASCD, the Alexandria, Va.-based professional association, released its state-by-state snapshots that show a variety of 'whole child' data and policy recommendations."

3. Attendance Affects Achievement: Study Provides State-by-State Look

"The link between actually showing up to school and doing well academically may seem pretty obvious to many educators, but the analysis provides a new examination of the extent to which the two correlate, the report says. That's in part because states define and measure chronic absenteeism differently, making it difficult to track and compare across the country. The self-reported NAEP data gives researchers a rare opportunity for a more thorough analysis, they wrote."

2. For Success in Life, Character Matters as Much as Academic Skill, Study Says

"Non-cognitive skills and character competencies have as much of an effect on success as academic skill, researchers from the Center on Children and Families at the Brookings Institution conclude in a study released today."

1. New School Health Model Incorporates 'Whole Child' Principles

"Federal officials and health experts unveiled a new school health model this week that incorporates "whole-child" elements—like school climate issues, student engagement, and community involvement—alongside components of the more traditional coordinated school health model that has been widely used since it was introduced in 1987."

Happy New Year, readers! I look forward to continued conversations with you in 2015.

Follow me on Twitter @EvieBlad.

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