Saturday, March 2, 2013

Why can't I bring cupcakes to school for my child's birthday?

Cupcakes...Who doesn't like cupcakes? Several years ago when I was teaching, there was a policy put in place at my school that banned cupcakes or non-nutrious snacks from the school building. Parents would bring two dozen cupcakes purchased at the local grocery store to school for their child's birthday. When the parents signed-in at the school office, they were told that cupcakes did not meet the nutrition guidelines. The parents took the cupcakes home and the child did not have cupcakes to share as a snack that day for his/her birthday.

Next, a policy was set forth by the school that prohibited non-store food items from being brought to school. The reason provided was that the school was not able to guarantee the sanitation of the food that the parent was providing. Therefore, only store bought or pre-packaged food items were permitted.

Since then, there has been a law passed in the Texas legislature in the Texas Education Code that allows any kind of food item to be brought by a grandparent or family member to any school event or birthday celebration. Although, it is not a very well known law that many people are aware of:
 "Lauren's Law":

Therefore, I am providing information in case anyone comes across a similar situation when I wanted to bring our family's baked good to my child's holiday party.  (names have been changed)

Below is the email correspondence between the classroom teacher and myself:

>>> Kishrussell 12/11/2012 8:57 PM >>>

Ms. M,

I am X's mom and I want to send a homemade treat that our family makes for the holidays for X's class party. I noticed that the flyer that went home stated "all food/drinks must be store packaged". My concern is that this rule is contrary to the Texas Education Code under Subtitle F Curriculum, Programs & services:Chapter 28, SubchapterA Section 28.002, l-3(1) known as "Lauren's law" states:
The State Board of Education, the Department of State Health Services, or a school district may not adopt any rule, policy, or program...that would prohibit a parent or grandparent of a student from providing any food product of the parent's or grandparent's choice to :
(A) children in the classroom of the child of the parent or grandparent on the occasion of the child's birthday or
(B) children at a school designated function.

I would appreciate your consideration.

Thank you,


Dear Mrs. R, 
As per XXISD central office, in order to bring a baked item from your home you must first provide a list of ingredients and where all ingredients were purchased before the item can come into the classroom next Friday. We have many food allergies in our class and this must all be checked and addressed through our school's nurse. 
Thank you, 
Ms. M 
What do you think? Do you think think the teacher's response meets the requirement of Lauren's Law?

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Co.labor.ation: Manipulation by School Fundraiser-Let Me Just Dona...

Co.labor.ation: Manipulation by School Fundraiser-Let Me Just Dona...: The Chocolate War (1974) by Robert Cormier is a book about a private school student, Jerry Renault, who is manipulated ...

Manipulation by School Fundraiser-Let Me Just Donate $20 Please

The Chocolate War (1974) by Robert Cormier is a book about a private school student, Jerry Renault, who is manipulated by his teacher, Brother Leon, and his peers to sell boxes of chocolate for their annual school fundraiser. Jerry refuses to sell the boxes and endures retaliation.

Although, school fundraisers today do not resort to retaliation for non-participation, but it brings to question where is our priority as a community that our schools have to detract from their purpose of educating our children to raising funds? 

The school fundraiser is intended to help schools close the financial gap left by school budgets that fall short of meeting the school’s existing needs. Chocolate bars, coupon books, scented pencils, popcorn, cookie dough, wrapping paper…are a few examples of the fundraisers that my child’s school has sent home over the past couple of years. Yesterday, my child came home with a packet of information about the school’s fifth fundraiser this school year. Everything in the fundraiser is over priced with prices no reasonable person would pay at a retail store.  The companies mark up the prices to make their profit before the school can receive their cut.

The students and parents want to support the school and therefore, are willing to participate in the fundraiser. In addition, incentives are provided for students who sell a certain amount of product or dollar amount receive prizes.  As a result, it is common that grandmothers buy more over-priced wrapping paper than needed so that the grandchildren can get their desired prize(s) offered by the fundraiser company.

Below, you can see the better prizes are for students who sell more products or raise the most money. At the $1,000 level you get the best prize. When my child sees the prizes he can get, he excited because they want the best prize that is offered. 

School Fundraiser Incentive Prizes

The purpose of the school is to educate our children and prepare them for success in their future careers and in higher education. This form of manipulation does not belong in the school environment. Effective parent involvement has proven to impact student achievement when done the right way.

Research articles such as Back to School: How parent involvement affects student achievement (Dervarics and O’Brien, 2011) do not cite fundraising as the most effective source for school improvement or improving student academic achievement. On the contrary it states: “Creating a partnership focused on academics truly does have a significant impact on student achievement.”

To go through the fundraising process only serves to distract teachers and school staff from their primary purpose, which is to educate our children. As a parent, I would rather be asked to donate $20 to help pay for student field trips, additional art supplies, or other needs that exist with in the school. When I donate my $20, I know that the school will be receiving the maximum benefit of the funds rather than 50% going to the fundraising company. As a community and society, we should be willing to pitch in financially and with our time to fill the gaps that budget shortfalls cause for schools. Our future depends on the investment we make today. Personally, I would much rather donate money directly to the school than to see my taxes increase any day.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

State of the Union of the TX Public Schools-SBOE first meeting of the year

As the New Year has dawned, so has the Texas State Board of Education.  The Texas Education Agency posted the February 1, 2013 Consent Agenda on their website:

Now I know that the Super Bowl or the Stock Show and Rodeo (if you are from San Antonio) is of much more interest to most people at this time, so you are probably wondering why I bother to focus this posting on the State Board of Education (SBOE)'s first meeting of the year. The state of education is in crisis. To be effective as an advocate for our children, we need to equip our selves with the knowledge to address the important issues. In this posting, I will provide you with an introduction to the SBOE members and their contact information, an links to the agendas and minutes of the latest SBOE meeting Jan. 30-Feb. 1, 2013, video clips of the meetings, and how to submit for Petition for the Adoption of a Rule to be considered by the SBOE.

SBOE Members

For those of you new to SBOE, I will briefly talk about the the purpose and background of the SBOE. The primary purpose is to "establish policy and provide leadership for the Texas public school system". It plays the same role a school board does for a school district, except on a larger scale and creates policies to guide school boards to govern the school district. There are 15 elected members. I have included their contact information below. If you want to find out who represents you, click on Who Represents Me.

 Texas School Board of Education Members

Martha Dominguez- SBOE District 1

1771 Billy Casper

El Paso, TX 79936 

(915) 592-9083 


Photo Not Available- SBOE District 2

Ruben Cortez, Jr. (D)735 Habana St.
Brownsville, TX 78526

(956) 639-9171


Marisa Perez- SBOE District 3
P.O. Box 276406
San Antonio, TX 78227

(210) 317-4651
Lawrence Allen, Jr.- SBOE District 4
2130 Vermillion Oak St.
Fresno, Texas 77545 

 (713) 203-1355

Ken Mercer- SBOE District 5
P.O. Box 781301
San Antonio, TX 78278-1301 

 (512) 463-9007

Donna Bahorich- SBOE District 6
P.O. Box 79842
Houston, TX 77279

(832) 303-9091

David Bradley- SBOE District 7
2165 North Street
Beaumont, TX 77701 

(409) 835-3808

Barbara Cargill- SBOE District 8

The Woodlands, TX 
(512) 463-9007

Thomas Ratliff- SBOE District 9
P.O. Box 232
Mount Pleasant, TX 75456

(903) 717-1190 

Tom Maynard-SBOE District 10
P.O. Box 2885
Georgetown, TX 78627 

(512) 763-2801
(512) 532-9517

Patricia Hardy- SBOE District 11
900 North Elm
Weatherford, TX 76086 

(817) 598-2968
(817) 598-2833 FAX

Geraldine "Tincy" Miller- SBOE District 12
1100 Providence Tower West
5001 Spring Valley Road
Dallas, TX 75244-3910 

(972) 419-4000
(214) 522-8560 FAX

Mavis Knight- SBOE District 13
6108 Red Bird Court
Dallas, TX 75232 

(214) 333-9575
(214) 339-9242 FAX

Sue Melton- SBOE District 14
101 Brewster
Waco, TX 76706 

(254) 749-0415

Marty Rowley- SBOE District 15
P.O. Box 2129
Amarillo, TX 79105
(806) 373-6278
(806) 220-2812 FAX 

SBOE Consent Agenda

The meeting began on January 30 and ended February 1, 2013. 

SBOE General Meeting

January 30, 2013
Link to the January 30-SBOE Meeting Agenda Minutes
Video clip #1 of the January 30 SBOE Meeting

Video clip #2 of the January 30 SBOE Meeting   

January 31, 2013 Meeting-Committee on School Initiatives
Link to January 31, 2013  SBOE Meeting Agenda Minutes

Video Clip #1-SBOE Committee on School Initiatives

Video Clip #2- SBOE Committee on School Initiatives

Video Clip #1- SBOE Committee on Instruction

Video Clip #2-SBOE Committee on Instruction

February 1, 2013-Agenda Video Clips

Video Clip- SBOE Meeting-2-1-13

 Creating policies

If you have ever wanted to author a rule for public education and submit it to the SBOE for consideration? Here is how you do it. [19 TAC §30.1(a)]To petition for a new policy to be added to the Texas Education Code, you have to complete the process called "Petition for Adoption of a Rule".  There are specific guidelines that will need to be followed which I have included below.

Statutory Guidelines-Attachment #1
General Provisions-Attachment #2

Here is the form you will need:

Petition for the Adoption of a Rule form

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Public Education Grant-Low Performing School Alternative

Low performing, under achieving…how can students get access to a quality education when the school you go to continues to fall behind the minimum State standards?  Answer: The Public Education Grant  (PEG) Program...
The Texas Education Agency released on January 10, 2013 a list of schools identified under the Public Education Grant (PEG) program. The Texas Education Code, Chapter 29, Subchapter G,    29.201-29.205 provides the legal reference for this program.

How do I qualify? If your child’s school fails to meet the minimum passing standard (with 50% or less students passing) on the state assessment OR received an Academically Unacceptable rating for any of the three preceding years then your child qualifies for a transfer to any other school district or school within the district for the next school year. A list of identified schools can be found at the following link:

When you think of a grant you think of free money…but this grant does not provide money directly to families but rather, it opens up the opportunity for students to access quality education programs and services without cost to the family.  For in-district transfer, the school receiving the transfer student will receive an additional supplement of funding. Disclaimer: the transfer is at the discretion of the school or school district. The transfer request may be denied or accepted.

Below are the general guidelines for the Public Education Grant program:
·      The school must notify each parent no later than Feb. 1, 2013
o   Notification needs to contain an explanation:
§  What is the Public Education Grant Program
§  How a parent may request a transfer, both for in-district and out-of district
§ Available in English and Spanish
·      Receiving schools/districts may not discriminate based on race, ethnicity, academic achievement, athletic abilities, language proficiency, sex, or socioeconomic status.
·      Effective for the 2013-14 school year
·      Transfer may only happen to a non-PEG school
·      The receiving school or district may not charge tuition to the student, parent, or school district of residence
·      Transportation is not provided free of charge for transfers from the PEG school to the new school

 Public Education Grant website:

Public Education Grant List of Eligible Schools:

 Methodology for identifying schools on the 2013-14 PEG list

Frequently Asked Questions

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Homework...what do I do????

Homework…homework can be overwhelming especially when it takes hours every night to complete. In high school, it is common for homework to take a long time based on the number of classes a student has. What about in first grade? “What is a reasonable amount of homework?” I asked my son’s first grade teacher, Ms. G.

On the first day of first grade at his new school, my son, Doug, came home from school with a list of required daily homework.  Below is a summary of the list of daily homework with a breakdown of time for each assignment (the times were not given by the teacher, but were determined based on actually completing the homework each night for the first week of school).
Estimated Time to Complete
Daily math worksheet
10 min.
Daily reading worksheet
10 min.
Daily handwriting worksheet
5 min.
Practice for Spelling test
10 min.
 Read for 20 minutes every night
20 min.
Total homework time:
55 min.

A first grader is usually six years old at the beginning of the school year. My question to the teacher was “Is it developmentally appropriate for a six year old to have 55 minutes of homework each night?”

1.     Check your school district’s homework policy. This can be found in the school board policies and procedures. Homework may be handled as a district or school. You can request a copy of the homework policy from your child’s school. Make sure to ask for a copy of the school and district homework policy. 

2.     Some references that provide more information on homework:

p. 77 of the Homework Family and Community Engagement Handbook: 

Myths about Homework in Early Childhood 

What is the Value of Homework? Research and Reality

Gaithersburg Elementary School In Maryland Gets Rid Of Homework In Favor Of Reading Time

Help! Homework Is Wrecking My Home Life!

What is your experience with homework? We would like to hear from you...

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Parent Conferences-Right or Wrong?

A parent, Gwen, told me about an incident that happened with her son at school. Gwen said that after many parent conferences with her son's teacher about the disruption of another student in class, the other student continues to distract the teacher from being able to teach the lesson. Next, Gwen brought it to the principal's attention. The principal told her that she may no longer have conferences with the teacher.

Gwen asked me if I could help. I pulled the information below to help her know her rights and how to appropriately respond to the situation.

Her child's school receives Title I funds. A school can be a Title I school for a few different reasons which I won't go into at this time but will in a later post. In her school's case, 40% or more of the school's student population qualifies for free or reduced lunch. The public law for Title I can be found at: PL 107-110, Section 1114(b)(1)(F) 
Under this law, schools are to use their Title I funds to promote parent involvement under Component #6: Strategies to Improve Parent Involvement. Below is what is stated in Component #6:

Under the consulation, "...have face-to-face parent teacher conferences..." is the statement that provides Gwen with her right to continue to have parent conferences. If the principal insists on stopping her from conferencing with her son's teacher, then this information will be helpful to provide her with the public law that allows her to continue to have face-to-face parent conferences.

1. Document what was discussed at each conference.
2. Request that minutes or documenation of the meeting be taken to reference at a later time.
3. At the end of the conference, summarize what was discussed and have each person in attendance sign the minutes of the conference.
4. In the minutes include: Names of person's attending, date, time, location, purpose of the meeting, list outcomes you hope to achieve at the end of the conference, action steps, and have each person sign the minutes
5. If another person takes the minutes, don't leave the conference without getting a copy of the minutes and any handouts that were referenced or shared

Another good resource for Parent-Teacher conferences can be found below from the Harvard Family Project:

For tips on Parent-Teacher conferences visit: Harvard Family Research Project-Tips for Parent Teacher Conference