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Kindergarten More Like First Grade

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Kindergarten isn’t what it used to be.

According to University of Virginia researchers who compared kindergarten and first-grade classrooms between 1998 and 2010, today’s kindergarten classrooms closely resemble first grade classrooms from nearly 20 years ago.

Expectations for today’s kindergartners are much higher across the board, especially in reading and math. Advanced instruction starts earlier, in part, because of standard testing that usually begins in third grade.

To make time for increased academic emphasis, time spent on subjects like music and art has decreased. Some educators say that more advanced kindergarten makes preschool for all students an even greater need.

What do you think about kindergarten becoming more academic and challenging?

Schools in Puerto Rico Struggling to Reopen

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It has been nearly two months since Hurricane Maria ripped through Puerto Rico, causing mass destruction. Power is still out on much of the island and the aging infrastructure is nearly beyond repair.

Schools have been hit particularly hard. Late last month, 119 schools reopened and an estimated 40,000 students returned to classes. Unfortunately, nearly 1,000 schools were still closed at the time. Puerto Rico Secretary of Education Julia Keleher estimates that between 15 and 20 percent of all schools will be closed permanently.

The lack of running water and electricity are the biggest challenges for schools attempting to reopen. Schools must pass inspection by safety engineers before reopening.

How can you help the students in Puerto Rico?

Dual Enrollment on the Rise

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More and more motivated high school students are getting a jump on college education through dual enrollment. Dual enrollment allows high school students – typically juniors and seniors – to take postsecondary courses while enrolled in high school.

There are many advantages to dual enrollment. Credits can be earned at a free or reduced rate, decreasing the overall student debt. Students who come to college with multiple credits may end up graduating early, giving them a head start into their young careers.

Dual enrollment can also give disadvantaged students the opportunity to take college courses through state programs, reducing financial burden.

Students considering dual enrollment should meet with a guidance counselor to discuss requirements, as they vary by state.

Would you have been interested in dual enrollment as a high school student?

It’s Turkey Time! The SCHOOLSin 6th Annual Turkey Coloring Contest is Here

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November is here, which means the return of the SCHOOLSin Annual Turkey Coloring Contest!
Thanks to our generous sponsors, we’re giving away more than $11,000 in classroom furniture, school supplies and gift cards.

This year’s prize lineup includes Crayola Gift Towers, Bean Bag Chairs from ECR4Kids, Whiteboard Classroom Tables from AmTab, Surge Series Standing Desks from Academia and much more. There are eight different categories, so everyone has a chance to participate.

Be sure to check out our official rules and tips for sending in your turkeys. We receive thousands of entries, so judging is a bit easier when all of the steps are followed.
Visit our website to print your turkeys and to read the official rules.

All entries must be postmarked by November 17th, 2017. Happy coloring!

Smoking on School Grounds

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For over 20 years, the Pro-Children Act of 1994 has protected students by prohibiting smoking in federally funded facilities that provide education services to children. How far the protection goes outside of buildings and school hours, is often left up to state and local regulations.

For example, a public school that hosts sporting events in the evening may allow guests to smoke outside of the building during halftime or breaks. Walking out to a face full of smoke is fairly common, even for young students attending games.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that secondhand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, with 70 of those able to cause cancer. According to the CDC, secondhand smoke causes nearly 34,000 premature deaths from heart disease each year in the United States among nonsmokers. The CDC reports that, “Even brief secondhand smoke exposure can damage cells in ways that set the cancer process in motion.”

Some school districts have taken a zero tolerance policy on smoking by banning tobacco on all school property any time of the day, any day of the week.

What are your thoughts on smoking on school grounds?

Gender Neutral Pronouns in the Classroom

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It is common for elementary school teachers to send home a welcome letter during the first few weeks of school, introducing themselves to new parents and students.

Chloe Bressack’s “About Me” letter had many of the usual information; her favorite color is red, she likes giraffes and Sour Skittles. It was another part of the letter that raised eyebrows among parents and administrators. Bressack – then a fifth-grade math and science at Canopy Oaks Elementary School – explained that students in her class would be expected to use gender-neutral pronouns. She would be referred to as Mx. Bressack and the pronouns “he, his, she, hers” would be replaced by “they, them, their.”

“I know it takes some practice for it to feel natural, but in my experience students catch on pretty quickly,” Bressack said in the letter. “My priority is for all of my students to be comfortable in my classroom and have a space where they can be themselves while learning.”

The Tallahassee Democrat newspaper reported that parental reactions on social media were mixed.

Bressack was recently reassigned to an adult basic education program in the district. A statement from school officials stated that the district has a “responsibility to provide a productive educational environment free of distractions for our students, teachers, and staff.”

What are your thoughts?

Schools in the News

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Like many adults, students often read their news on computers, tablets or mobile devices. Some middle and high school students have never even picked up a newspaper, once our number one source for news.

There are many benefits of using the newspaper in your classroom, including enhancing reading and comprehension skills, encouraging critical thinking and the in-depth exploration of current topics as opposed to summaries and character limits found in social media.

Here are some of the many ways you can use newspapers in your classroom:

Say My Name
Have students identify and circle proper nouns in news stories.

Can I Have the Definition?
Ask students to highlight tricky words and then discuss as a class.

What’s Happening?
Pick a local current event each day and have students journal their opinions on the topic.

Student Times
Allow students to create their own newspaper. Have them choose topics, interview other students and teachers, write and edit stories and layout the final product.

How do you use newspapers in your school?

Take it Outside

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Temps are cooling and fall foliage is starting to appear. It’s a great time to send your students outdoors. Along with the fresh air, there are several benefits to spending time outside. Studies show it reduces childhood obesity, decreases aggression, boosts creativity and improves classroom performance.

Children today spend about half as much time outside as their parents did. Busy schedules, academic demands and technology are often to blame. Here are a few suggestions for incorporating outdoor time into the school day:

Use technology. Most middle and high schoolers are hooked on their phones, so use that to their advantage. Ask them to create a video nature journal on their phone or tablet. Entries can be assigned on a weekly or monthly basis to establish ongoing outdoor time.

Plant a classroom garden. Planting a garden helps build important life skills. It requires planning, preparation, physical labor, maintenance and patience. Gardening also reduces stress, and the teamwork will improve social skills and communication.

Create art out of nature. Head outside with your younger students for art and craft time. Collect pinecones for decorating, pick flowers to press or use berry and plant juices as paint. Ask older students to create a wood carving or rock sculpture garden.

Take your students on a hike. If your school is located near a park or the woods, plan an educational hike. Have students bring a snack and small journal. Spend time discussing observations about their environment, and have them write down plant, tree and insect varieties they discover along the way.

Assign outdoor homework. This is an easy way to fit in some outdoor time. Have your students complete their homework assignments or study for quizzes outside. Ask parents to sign off so they understand that it’s a priority. Track their progress – you may find that subject recall and grades start to improve!

Germs Join Students Back in School

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As teachers know, back to school time also often means back to sniffles, colds and shared germs.

The beginning of the school year is a prime time for illnesses to spread. Children who have spent the summer outside in the fresh air are now contained in a small area where germs can easily be passed back and forth. Since the school year is new, parents are also less likely to keep kids home with minor illnesses like colds and stomachaches.

Some of the common back-to-school illness include colds, pink eye, gastroenteritis and strep throat. Fall is when we commonly see the flu virus begin to emerge, all the more reason to get your flu shot early.

The CDC offers the following advice for preventing the flu and other illnesses:

• Get vaccinated
• Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
• Stay home if you are sick
• Try to avoid close contact with others
• Disinfect shared surfaces
• Wash your hands often

Reinforce good hygiene habits in your classroom and post signs about hand washing in bathrooms and hallways. Not all germs can be avoided, but friendly reminders do help.

How do you prevent the spread of germs in your classroom?

After Charlottesville Attack Schools Consider Name Changes

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The brutal, racially motivated attacks that occurred at a rally in Charlottesville, Va. last month have prompted school officials across the country to reconsider the names of their academic institutions.

In 2015, nearly 200 American schools were named for Confederate leaders, including Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. Schools in Dallas, San Diego, San Antonio, Jacksonville and Oklahoma City are among the areas where community members have petitioned for a change in school name.

Charges are still being filed against those criminally involved in the violent white supremacist rally that resulted in three deaths. The goal of the protestors was to oppose the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue from a community park. Similar Confederate monuments have been removed over the last two years, sparked in part by the mass killing of nine people in a Charleston, SC church by a white supremacist in 2015.

Has your school made recent changes to its name or mascot based on recent events?

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