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Charter Schools – A Closer Look


In recent months, there’s been a lot of talk in the media about charter schools. More common in urban areas, these public schools began popping up in the early 1990s. Due to their relative newness, many have questions about how these schools operate, what they offer and how they differ from traditional public schools. We put together a basic Q & A:

What’s a charter school?
A charter schools is a non-religious public school that operates under a governing charter (or contract). All major details of its operation —including organization, management and curriculum—are set by the charter. The charter also outlines how the school measures student performance. Since charter schools are funded through tax dollars, they cannot charge tuition and they must maintain open enrollment policies.

How are they founded?
Charter operators include local school districts, institutions of higher education, non-profit groups and for-profit corporations.

How many US students are enrolled?
Approximately three million – or 6% of all public school students – are enrolled in a charter school. Charter school enrollment varies greatly by state. California has the largest number of students enrolled in charter schools (8% of total public school students). A handful of states – Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and West Virginia – do not allow charter schools to operate.

How does the curriculum differ?
Charter schools must adhere to basic state curricular requirements. In addition, most specialize in a particular area, such as language, art or technology. Some charter schools specifically target gifted or high-risk students.

How are they regulated?
Charter schools must participate in state testing and federal accountability programs. However, since charter schools receive more freedom and autonomy in terms of staff, curriculum and budget management, they must have their charter reviewed every three to five years. If the school is not meeting standards, it is subject to being shut down.

Do they perform as well as traditional public schools?
There have been conflicting studies on whether charter school students outperform or underperform their peers attending traditional public schools. Since rules, regulations and accountability vary from state to state, it’s been difficult to evaluate charter school performance at a national level.

Teacher Wishes for the New Year


During this year’s 12 Days of School Furniture Facebook contest, we asked teachers to share their hopes and wishes for 2017. We heard from more than 400 teachers. The most popular response? For students to be “happy, healthy and safe.”

Here are some other teacher wishes from across the USA:

Ms. Y. – Arizona
“My wish for my students is that they learn how to be kind, helpful, productive people who contribute positively to their communities.”

Ms. C. – California
“I wish for smaller class sizes for all of our students so that their many needs can be met appropriately.”

Ms. Y. – South Carolina
“I wish for our school to continue to heal. Our assistant principal passed away before Thanksgiving break. We are ready for a new start with the new year, but will continue to miss our old AP.”

Mr. M. – Missouri
“My wish is for my students to care enough about themselves and others to make a positive difference to the world.”

Ms. V. – Texas
“My new year’s wish for my elementary school is to raise enough funds to provide a new primary playground. Our playground is close to 20 years old, and we are in need of an update to make recess safe.”

Ms. H. – New Hampshire
“I wish for a year not plagued by budget cuts and tough decisions between needed supplies and teachers/staff. I wish for a year where we are able to keep creating the safe, responsible, cooperative place our students call home.”

Ms. R. – Michigan
“My wish for my students is that they learn to take pride in themselves and in everything they do.”

Education Secretary Recommends the End of Corporal Punishment


One of the oldest forms of school discipline may finally be on its way out of the education scene.

Corporal punishment, the paddling, spanking or hitting students for discipline reasons, is surprisingly still permitted in 22 states. Current Education Secretary John B. King Jr. is on a mission to permanently expel corporal punishment from schools.

“Our schools are bound by a sacred trust to safeguard the wellbeing, safety and extraordinary potential of the children and youth within the communities they serve,” King said in a press release. “No school can be considered safe or supportive if its students are fearful of being physically punished.”

Research has shown that physical discipline like spanking can have both short- and long-term negative effects. Children who are spanked often become aggressive and defiant in the short term and may develop depression or post-traumatic stress disorder over time.

Studies have shown that male students receive corporal punishment more often than female students and non-white students are disproportionately physically punished.

According to data from the Education Department’s Civil Rights Data Collection, black students make up 16 percent of the total public school population, but about 33 percent of those students were subjected to corporal punishment in the 2013-2014 school year.

“The use of corporal punishment can hinder the creation of a positive school climate,” King wrote. “Corporal punishment also teaches students that physical force is an acceptable means of solving problems, undermining efforts to promote nonviolent techniques for conflict resolution.”

Does your school allow corporal punishment?

Seating Assignments in the Classroom


Where students sit in class can affect how they learn, studies say.

Arranging students in the best configuration and with peers they work well with can take some time and trial and error. An arrangement that works well with one group of students can be a disaster with others.

Neat rows of desks can provide easy walkways for educators and janitors, but limit interaction between students at the ends of the rows. Perhaps limiting interaction is the goal when students with conflicting personalities are involved.

Collaborative learning is popular in many of today’s classrooms, so it is not unusual to see learning circles or pods throughout the room. Many modern desks and tables are shaped to allow them to be pushed together for group work. Mobile desks and tables are also an excellent option. Move the desks together for collaboration then easily push back into rows for testing or independent work.

Another challenge in classroom seating is deciding which students should sit together. Are students given free choice regarding seats or are they assigned by the teacher? Will uninterested learners naturally choose a seat in the back of the classroom and cliques exclude student who aren’t a part of their peer groups? It may take a few weeks to learn about your students to know who will work together. Put together group activities to find those who are comfortable leading, those who prefer to support and those who need a little encouragement to participate at all.

What are your strategies when deciding classroom seating?

Singapore Students Top the List


When it comes to education, teenage students in Singapore continue to outperform their peers.

According to a study released in December by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), students in Singapore are the world’s top performers in math, science and reading. Rounding out the top five performances based on the three categories were Japan, Estonia, Chinese Taipei and Finland. American students ranked 25th, an increase from a ranking of 36 out of 65 countries in 2013.

The recent Program for International Assessment (PISA) report surveyed 540,000 15-year-old students in 72 countries and economic zones. The US survey was based on an assessment given to students in North Carolina and Massachusetts only.

The most recent survey focused on science. Only 12 out of the 72 countries improved in science on the most recent assessment.

“A decade of scientific breakthroughs has failed to translate into breakthroughs in science performance in schools,” said Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary General. “Every country has room for improvement, even the top performers.”

Surviving Winter Break Anticipation


Most teachers can attest, the week leading up to winter break is not for the faint-hearted. Kids are already looking ahead to holiday excitement, parties, sleeping in and playing outside in the snow. Of course, the last week of school in December is also one of the busiest for teachers, chock full of assessments, end-of-the-semester grading and general housekeeping as the calendar year winds down.

We’ve compiled a few tips to help you survive teaching in December!

1. Tie up as many loose ends as you can now. That’s easier said than done, but there are likely a few mundane tasks that always get put off that you can clear off your plate now.

2. Enlist the help of parent volunteers. Ask parents for help with things like planning classroom parties, organizing and recording simple data. No teacher wants to worry about a marshmallow snowman craft when a pile of fluency folders is waiting to be reviewed.

3. Keep your usual classroom routine. There will be distractions, that we know. Assemblies, class parties and projects tend to steal the show in December. Don’t make unnecessary changes during this time such as changing assigned seats, lengthening or shortening recess time or mixing up the order of classes. Kids need an anchor when so much excitement is swirling around them.

4. Don’t go easy on discipline. Again, kids thrive on consistency. The holiday spirit shouldn’t mean lightening up on the rules. Normal discipline helps kids stayed focused and helps you ward off the dreaded pre-break chaotic classroom.

5. Combine holiday fun into lesson plans. Tie a holiday theme into your curriculum without disrupting the lesson plan.

6. Don’t expect much on the last day. Focus is probably waning by this point, so give yourself and the students a break on your last day together for the year. Avoid saving tests and assessments for the last day. Plus, who wants to grade it all over break?

What tips do you have for fellow teachers leading up to holiday break?

School Nurses on the Decline


An old familiar and comforting face is missing from our schools. The use of a full-time nurse in schools is rapidly declining because of budget cuts nationwide.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that a full-time nurse should be present at every school, but that is often not the case. According to data from the National Association of School Nurses, only 45 percent of the U.S. public schools have a full-time, on-site nurse. Thirty percent had a part-time nurse, often one that splits time between several schools, and a whopping 25 percent have no school nurse at all.

When no nurse is available, schools often rely on administrative assistants, counselors and teachers to tend to hurt or ill children and to distribute medicine. Stretching resources and expecting expert advice from those who are not trained in the medical field can have scary consequences when it comes to the health of a child. Life-threatening conditions like childhood asthma and food allergies are prevalent in most schools. The NASC reported that 67 out of every 1000 students has asthma, while 20.7 out of every 1000 students reported have life-threatening allergies.

Having a professional nurse on site can also cut down on missed school time for students. The first inclination for an untrained staff member tending to a sick or hurt child is often to call the parents. The NASC reported that of the students seen by a school registered nurse, only nine percent were ultimately sent home from school.

Does your school have a nurse on site?

For-Profit vs. Public Colleges: Which Leads to a Bigger Payday?


For-profit schools have come under scrutiny in recent years for leaving students with sizable debts, poor graduation rates and less-than-favorable job prospects. Newer government regulations require for-profit career colleges to better prepare students for the workforce or risk losing access to federal student aid. These rules seek to protect students from taking on debt they cannot repay and to protect taxpayers from high loan default rates.

This month, the U.S. Department of Education dealt another blow to the for-profit college sector. Their November report shows that public college graduates tend to have higher incomes than for-profit school grads in the same fields. In fact, the average annual difference was around $9,000. For workers in the $30,000 – $50,000 salary range, that’s a pretty significant number.

The report examined career programs at about 3,700 public and for-profit schools. A variety of fields were studied, including auto mechanics, pharmacy tech, welding and culinary arts. Around 1.3 million students are currently enrolled in these career college programs.

The Department of Education hopes to further protect students by releasing debt-to-earnings data in January 2017. College career programs that don’t meet the new requirements will be in jeopardy of losing federal student aid eligibility.

More Happy Customers


SCHOOLSin recently wrapped up a partial renovation project involving several schools in the Forest Hills School District, located in Cincinnati, Ohio. The project included the addition of modern and traditional school furniture, such as tables, reading couches, mobile classroom chairs and more.

We spoke with Cary Harrod, a fifth-grade language arts and social studies teacher, whose classroom saw numerous changes during the renovation.

Would you mind telling me a little bit about your new space?
“Our new learning space was designed around the notion of personalized learning. My classroom is steeped in personalized learning, giving students ownership over the pace, place and path of their learning. It consists of a variety of types of seating, including high stools, chairs on wheels, gumdrop seats, a sofa and two soft chairs. We have three writable tables, two cafe tables and three Ethos chairs. The students spend a great deal of time exploring how they best learn and the environment acts as a “third teacher”. We have developed spaces around David Thornburg’s concept of campfire, caves and watering holes.”

How did the students react when they first saw the new classroom?
“They absolutely loved it. At the “Back to School Bash”, there was total excitement and one of my students didn’t want to leave. They continually seek new spaces depending on the learning.”

What is your favorite piece of new furniture?
“I love the writable tables because making thinking visible is paramount to the personalized classroom.”

What do the students like best?
“The couch. We’ve just moved the couch to another area in the room and they’re asking for another one for the now unoccupied space. The two soft chairs are also wildly popular. Who doesn’t want to be comfortable when reading and writing?”

SCHOOLSin is happy to work with your school, whether you are replacing one or two pieces of furniture or designing an entire new learning space. Call us today at (877) 839-3330.

The Children of Flint


The Flint water crisis is well into its 18th month. Infrastructure improvements have been made, yet the community is still reeling. Water must still be filtered before it’s safe to drink. Residents continue to bathe in bottled water. Pets are dying from drinking contaminated water.

But it’s the children of Flint that have suffered the most. Nearly 30,000 Flint children were exposed to high levels of lead both at home and in school. For some, elevated levels of lead in their blood have caused developmental delays and behavioral problems that will affect them for years to come.

These issues are funneling into Flint area classrooms, which are woefully under-funded and unprepared to handle students’ needs. Flint Community Schools are already operating at a $10 million deficit due to the city’s economic decline. Schools have closed and consolidated. Classroom sizes have grown. There are now fewer teachers and resources for the students.

Just this week, a class action lawsuit was filed against the Michigan Department of Education and two area school districts for failure to provide health screenings and special education services to the children of Flint. In the lawsuit, the ACLU of Michigan and the Education Law Center also alleges that the state government is failing to provide a safe school environment, adequate personnel and sufficient classroom resources. According to the Detroit News, this is just one of more than 450 filed civil lawsuits related to the water crisis.

As media coverage fades, the inexcusable and tragic events in Flint continue to drag on. It will take years to completely upgrade infrastructure, adequately fund schools and settle lawsuits. In the meantime, the children of Flint need our immediate help.

If you’d like to help or donate to the children of Flint, please visit or

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