Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2008

School lunches to offer more veggie, soy options

Report: State ranks above average in education

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This month, county students will see three more vegetable and soy dishes in their lunches — a bean burger, soy chicken nuggets, and vanilla soy milk.

‘‘It’s wonderful that the Montgomery County Public School system is expanding its menu to include more vegetarian choices, giving students the opportunity to choose healthier and more compassionate foods in the cafeteria,” said Erica Meier, executive director of the District-based Compassion Over Killing, in a statement.

In August, the school system earned a B+ from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine for changes and improvements to the foods it offers students, according to a report released by the committee.

The grade is based on how well a school system promotes healthy eating and offers healthy foods. The Montgomery system earned a C- in 2004 and a B- last year.

Making the grade

The state earned a B last year on its overall performance in education, but was graded C- in the teaching category, because it is not doing enough to improve the profession, according to a report by Education Week, a trade publication. The nation got an overall grade of C on education performance, according to the report.

States were graded based on their ratings across six areas: chance for success; K-12 achievement; standards, assessments and accountability; transitions and alignment; the teaching profession; and finance.

Maryland ranked first in the nation in the number of students who scored a 3 or better on AP tests last year, the increase in AP test scores from 2000 to 2006, and the increase in eighth-grade reading scores over the past three years.

As for teaching, student achievement is not tied to teacher evaluations, the report said: There is no annual basis for teacher evaluations, teacher evaluators do not receive formal training, and there’s no statewide system in place to limit or reduce class size.

Parent academy

The Parent Academy’s winter session has started.

The academy was formed after parents wanted more information and ways to get further involved in their children’s education.

Workshops are free. Winter session topics include: how to keep children safe on the Internet, how to better understand the special education process, how parents at each school share in decision making, how to help children develop good study and organizational skills, and how to prepare for college and careers. Detail on workshops may be found at www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org and click on Parent Academy on the left.

Call 301-517-5940 or 301-279-3100 to register. Or download a form from www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org and fax it to 301-279-3815. Forms can also be mailed to the Division of Family and Community Partnerships, 451 Hungerford Drive, Suite 508, Rockville, MD 20850.

Loan guide

The Maryland Higher Education Commission has unveiled a pamphlet for students looking for private loans to help pay their college tuition.

Forty-five percent of the state’s college students use private student loans to help pay tuition, according to the commission.

The pamphlet, called the ‘‘Guide to Understanding Private [Alternative] Student Loans,” is available at www.mhec.state.md.us.

The pamphlet provides information about private loans, the relationship between a school and a private lender, how much a private student loan costs, and how private loans differ from federal student loans.

Transfer applications

Parents who want to transfer their children to another school can do so between Feb. 1 and April 1.

Changes are permitted if an older sibling attended the requested school, if the school continues the feeder pattern from middle school to high school, if there is a documented hardship, or if a student is selected for an exempt program.

An assignment change form, which is inside an assignment information booklet, which can be downloaded from www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org⁄info⁄transfer.shtm beginning the first week of February. For more information, contact the principal of your home school.

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