Author: Silvija Topić

An Earlier Survey Shows Medical Students Experience Stress-Related Neck and Back Pain

While neck pain (NP) and back pain (BP) are problems common to adults, it is surprising to note that among the younger population, NP and BP are also prrevalent among medical students.

The findings were based on a survey conducted in 2013, by researchers at the Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Spine and Scoliosis Service, at Well Cornell Medical College in New York, and the Department of Orthopedics, Balgrist University Hospital, University of Zurich. Print surveys were directly administered to 221 medical students out of 506 enrolled at accredited medical schools. Of the 221 who received the questionnaire, 210 completed the survey, which represented a completion rate of 96%.

The survey questions were formulated by a mix of fellowship trained orthopedic spine surgeon, a research fellow on orthopedic spine service and a medical student. Anonymity among participants was maintained, while Body Mass Index (BMI) and age were limited to what has been established as risk factors of musculoskeletal pain conditions. Lifestyle of the survey participants were evaluated based on the hours per week spent on studying, sleeping, exercising, walking and sitting.

Results of the survey revealed that 51% or 107 of the 210 students said they experience neck pain, back pain or both. Thirty-five percent (35%) of the 107, disclosed suffering from NP, while 47% reported suffering from BP. The rest, representing 31 %, suffered from both NP and BP.

Analysis of the Survey Results to Determine the Cause of NP and BP Among Medical Students

Results gathered from the survey were said to be a reflection of the highly stressful environment that students face when taking up medical education. Stressful conditions are present from as early as pre-med studies, in light of the competitiveness of medical school admissions. Apparently, the mental and physical demands of medical education courses can cause musculoskeletal pain; to which marital status and older age increased prevalence of musculoskeletal symptoms.

Medical students advancing to the academic level where they have to take the initial phase of the United States Medical Licensing Exams, manifested signs of experiencing the most stress. Stress being related to anxiety over the possible results of said test; being the determinant of their eligibility to apply for specific medical subspecialties. Another notable analysis of the results, is that there was not enough evidence to support a correlation between the number of hours spent sitting, to neck pain and back pain.

Apparently, neck and back pain among medical students were more or less connected with mental stress rather than physical. On a relatively frequent basis, neck pain and back pain are accompanied by headaches. The information gathered can be useful on performing studies about the efficiency of medical students while in a related medical environment. The purpose of which is to work toward the improvement of the musculoskeletal health while undergoing medical training.

Those who would be interested to know more about neck pain and back pain caused by musculoskeletal disorder, can find additional useful information at the website of the Central Texas Spine Institute in Austin.

Charter Schools : Are They Really Serving Their True Purpose?

Charter schools are being opposed on all sides, with the leading 2020 Democratic presidential aspirants aligning their plans with the views of those against charter schools. Senator Bernie Sanders vows to ban all for-profit charter schools if he gets elected. Sen. Elizabeth Warren includes a promise to name a public school teacher as the head of future Department of Education.

Other Democratic hopefuls are less aggressive in their stance but are currently voicing commitment in upholding traditional public schools. Most promises focus on giving public school teachers higher pays and dramatically increasing funding for poor students.

Opposition to charter schools is also coming from local and state officials across the country. Operators looking to expand their charter operations in Midland, Texas and Pender County, North Carolina, as well as in other locations, have withdrawn their applications as a result of community protests. In Chicago, the new mayor has pledged to suspend action on applications for new charter schools.

In light of the 7-day teachers’ strike that took place in Oakland, Los Angeles and Sacramento early this year, California’s Department of Education included in its report a recommendation to impose restrictions on charter schools.

The rising state-level movements against charter schools, has in fact influenced federal lawmakers, particularly Democratic Congressional members. Congress is citing lack of oversight in the use of the $440 million federal funding for the charter school program, posing as sources of the millions of dollars being raked in by operators of said schools.

About Charter Schools in the U.S.

The state of Minnesota was the first to pass state laws recognizing the legality of charter schools. Back in 1991, the concept of charter schools was founded on the premise of establishing a new kind of educational institution where innovations on learning methodologies can be tested. If charter initiatives are proven efficient and effective, traditional public schools can replicate such innovations as a way of improving the outputs of low-performing school districts.

Run autonomously by founding operators, approved charter institutions in different school districts, can hold longer school days or number of years than those observed by traditional public schools. As part of a charter’s experimental nature, a school can introduce new curriculum, employ a dual-language program or any other teaching program that deviates from conventional educational arrangements.

Strong Arguments about Charter Schools

Those in favor of charter schools contend that their educational institution provides an alternative learning environment, as opposed to trapping students in a non-performing school within a district. They are calling attention to charter school data that show exceptionally high rates of college enrollment and graduation achievements by their students.

Those against, accuse charter schools of siphoning government money that can find better use in traditional public schools. Accusations include culling of brightest students with the most involved parents, as a means of artificially creating impressions of high level performance in terms of student achievement
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What are Charter Schools and Why the House Appropriations Committee Proposed a Lower Budget for the Program

Charter schools are educational institutions similar to public schools because they receive government funding, and therefore do not charge tuition fees from students. Yet unlike public schools that offer free education from kindergarten level through Grade 12, charter schools offer only primary and/or secondary education.

Moreover, charter schools may be founded by a for-profit organization or by a non-profit organization composed by a group of teachers or parents, or in some cases, a group of activists. That being the case, charter schools operate in accordance within the bounds of a charter or written contract entered into with the body that approved its operation. The approving body may be the state or district in which it operates, or by the authorizing entity or sponsor.

The operation and administration of a charter school therefore are governed by the charter, a condition that may exempt the educational institution from several government laws and regulations imposed on public schools. Still, charter schools are subject to periodic review and assessment by their respective authorizer. In case a charter school continuously fails to meet the standards specified by its charter, authorization of its operation is revoked, giving reason for the closure of the institution.

Although charter schools have grown in popularity, they are currently being criticized for having loose regulations with regard to public accountability and implementation of labor laws. Oppositions to charter school operations arise mostly from state education agencies, unions or local boards, as not a few public school systems are now airing complaints about losing substantial amounts of funding to charters.

House Appropriations Committee Proposes Reduced 2020 Budget for Charter Schools

Recently, the most critical backlash is being directed against the U.S. Education Department. The Inspector General’s 2018 review of the USED drew focus on the department’s oversight of the Charter Schools Program, a matter that has been reported since 2016. Up to the present, the Inspector General reported that the department has ignored recommendations for improvement regarding the Charter School oversight issue.

In light of the matter raised by the USED Inspector General, the House Appropriations Committe has reduced the 2020 budget appropriation for Charter Schools by $40 million. The committee’s reason for the sharp cut is that

“The Education Department has not acted as responsible steward of taxpayer dollars used to help the charter movement.”