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The Children of Flint

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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 www.flintkids.org or www.savethechildren.org.

Pay for Preschool Teachers Remains Low

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Our kids are our most precious commodity so entrusting another adult to care for them and educate them during the formative preschool years is a major step. So why do we continue pay our preschool teachers so poorly?

According to a study by the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, preschool teachers had a mean annual salary of $31,420 in 2013. The numbers are shocking when compared to other teachers. Kindergarten teachers made, on average, over $20,000 more per year, while post-secondary teachers made over $40,000 more per year. The average salary for preschool teachers ranks at the 19th percentile among all occupations.

Having a college degree did not have much of an effect on the preschool teachers’ pay. School-sponsored preschool teachers with a Bachelor’s Degree or higher made an average of $42,800 each year, while other public preschool teachers with the same degree made an average of $33,700.

Preschool has been proven to prepare children for kindergarten by promoting social and emotional development, teaching structure and promoting language and cognitive skills.

Women in Computing Fields on the Decline?

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It’s no secret that the computing workforce is dominated by men. In fact, just 24 percent of all computing related jobs are held by women, according to research by Accenture and the group Girls Who Code. If nothing is done to encourage more girls to enter the field by 2025, the number is predicted to drop to 22 percent.

Women made up 37 percent of the computing workforce in 1995.

The report, entitled Cracking the Gender Code, states that with proper education programs in place, women could make up to 39 percent of the computing workforce by 2025. The key is to provide girls with computer science education that meets their interests at every level of education. Since computing jobs tend to be in the upper part of the income scale, it would also mean a boost women’s cumulative earnings.

Girls Who Code was started with one big goal in mind – to close the gender in technology. Girls Who Code has grown from 20 girls in New York in 2013 to 10,000 girls in 42 states. The program offers free after-school computer science programs for girls in grades 6th through 12th, as well as a seven-week immersion program for girls in 10th and 11th grades.

Does your school have computer science programs specifically for girls? How are girls encouraged to pursue careers in computer science?

Enter Our Annual Turkey Coloring Contest

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Thanksgiving is almost here, which also means the return of the SCHOOLSin Fifth Annual Turkey Coloring Contest! Through the generosity of our sponsors, we are giving away nearly $8,000 in prizes, including great stuff for your classroom, as well as gift cards to your favorite places to shop.

We are also excited to announce the addition of three new categories – special needs students, high school students and teachers. We are stoked about the new categories that give everyone a chance to participate. And, yes teachers, we really want you to join in the fun. Coloring has proven to be a stress reliever so show us what you’ve got!

Be sure to check out our official rules and tips for sending in your turkeys. We receive thousands of entries each week of the contest – our mail carrier shows up each day with crates full of envelopes – so it makes judging much 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 18th, 2016, so start coloring!

Visual Timers Ease Classroom Stress

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Any student might become stressed when hearing how much time is remaining when taking a test, but for those who do not have a good grasp on telling time, the simple announcement can be very upsetting. Visual timers are an effective way of communicating the concept of time without distractions and added anxiety.

There are many types of timers available for classrooms, including visual timers, lighted timers, talking timers, physical timers and timers that can be downloaded as an app. The Time Timer is one type of visual timer that has seen great success among special needs individuals, young students and anyone who would like to make better use of their time.

The Time Timer has an easy-to-read face that is marked for a one-hour countdown. A red dial is set to the desired time and decreases as time passes. Students can easily identify how much time is remaining in an activity, test or before the next transition by glancing at how much of the red dial is showing. Teachers can spend more time teaching and less time answering questions about how much time is remaining.

The Time Timer has received many accolades both in and out of the classroom, including the Teacher Choice Award for the Classroom, the Teacher Choice Award for the Family, Instructor Magazine Teacher’s Pick Award and Silver Edison Award. Edison Awards honor the best in innovation and excellence in the development of new products and services.

Do you think a Time Timer would be a good addition to your classroom? How would it benefit your students?

How Pets Can Better Your Classroom

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Owning a pet has been proven to have health benefits by lowering blood pressure, lessening anxiety and boosting immunity. Because of time and financial restraints, not every family is capable of keeping a pet in their home. So why not invite animal friends into our classrooms?

According to a study conducted by Pet Care Trust and the American Humane Society, the three most common uses of pets in classrooms are:
• To encourage responsibility and leadership among students
• To provide calm and relaxation when children are stressed or when their behavior is unstable, especially for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and other special needs
• To enhance lessons regarding science and nature

The most common pets adopted by teachers in the study were fish, followed by guinea pigs, hamsters, bearded dragons and geckos.

While teachers who participated in the study reported positive results, some challenges were noted. The most common challenges listed were additional costs for the pet, care for the pet outside of school hours and managing student interactions with the pets.

Pet Care Trust, a non-profit public foundation, helps teachers obtain pets for educational use by creating Pets in the Classroom, an educational grant program that provides financial support to teachers to purchase and maintain small animals in the classroom.

Do you have a pet in your classroom?

Managing Food Allergies at School

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Food allergies increased in children by a whopping 50 percent from 1997 to 2011, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Up to 15 million Americans have food allergies, including one in every 13 children. On average, that’s two children per classroom who suffer from food allergies, based on information from Food and Allergy Research Education (FARE).

For parents of children with food allergies, the school cafeteria can be a scary place. Foods that could potentially harm or even kill allergic children could be present and in close proximity. Children are notorious for sharing treats and trading lunches, even when the school recommends they not.

Fortunately, many resources are available to schools for keeping kids with food allergies safe in the lunchroom. FARE recommends that every child with a food allergy have a Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Care Plan on file. The physician-signed plan outlines recommended treatment in case of an allergic reaction and includes emergency contact numbers.

In 2013, President Obama signed a bill aimed at increasing the availability of epinephrine – a medication that reverses the effect of allergies – in schools. As of July 2016, eleven states require schools to stock epinephrine. Hawaii has pending legislation and the remaining states have laws or guidelines allowing schools to stock epinephrine.

The CDC provides a free tool kit for managing food allergies at school, with tip sheets for teachers, transportation staff, school nurses and more.

How does your school manage food allergies?

A Case for Financial Education in our Schools

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The United States lags way behind other developed countries when it comes to financial education. In a 2014 Standard & Poor survey, the USA ranked 14th (behind Canada, Australia and much of Europe) in financial literacy.

Why are we falling short? Simply put, most states don’t mandate financial courses.

According to the Council for Economic Education’s 2016 Survey of States report, just 20 states require high school students to take an economics course, and only 17 states require a personal finance course. There’s also been a decrease in the number of states that conduct standardized testing of economic concepts. Currently, 16 states require testing; that’s down significantly from 25 in 1998.

Students clearly benefit from more advanced financial courses in high school. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA) Investor Education Foundation, a proponent of financial literacy, found that high school students who take personal finance courses go on to have higher credit scores and lower debt as young adults.

Take the state of Georgia as an example. Financial education mandates there are considered “rigorous.” Teachers are even trained before teaching the coursework. Credit scores for individuals who had gone through the program averaged 11 points higher than those who graduated prior to the mandate. The study also found that participants had lower credit delinquency rates.

Limited time and stretched resources are the biggest barriers to incorporating this coursework into the public school curriculum. So schools are partnering with nonprofits and financial institutions for help. Several Delaware schools are working with NAF to launch a financial ed program geared toward under-served students. And BB&T just announced the expansion of its Financial Foundations Program to 15 states. That’s progress, but is it enough?

We want to hear from you. Does your high school offer personal finance classes? Are they optional or mandatory?

Racial Disparities Still Prevalent in Schools

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Racial Disparities Still Prevalent in Schools

Despite efforts to level the playing field for all students, racial disparities are still very much a part of some schools.

According to a report released by the U.S. Department of Education in July, African-American and Latino students are behind in opportunities offered and more likely to be suspended from school. The Civil Rights Data Collection survey is conducted biennially, with the latest report surveying 50 million students in 95,000 schools during the 2013-2014 school year.

One area of the study revealed that schools with a high number of black and Latino students were less likely to offer advanced classes in math and science. Just 33% of high schools with high black and Latino student enrollment offer calculus, compared to 56% of high schools with low black and Latino student enrollment. Only 48% of high schools with high black and Latino student enrollment offer physics, compared to 67% of high schools with low black and Latino student enrollment.

Minority students are more likely to be suspended than their white peers. In kindergarten through 12th grade, black students were 3.8 times more likely to be suspended than white students.

The disparity “tears at the moral fabric of our nation,” Education Secretary John B. King Jr. told reporters.
“What sets the U.S. apart from any other country is the idea that opportunity is universal. These data show that we still fall far short of that ideal.”

Ready for Kindergarten?

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Ready for Kindergarten?

To send or not to send – it’s a question that many parents of kindergarten-aged children face at the start of each school year. Some children appear born ready for school, eagerly awaiting their turn to board the big yellow bus and engage with peers away from the comforts of home. Other children may appear petrified at the idea of leaving their parents or struggle with sitting still for long periods of time.

There is no blanket answer for when a child is ready for kindergarten. What might be right for one child is not necessarily the answer for another. Parents know best about their child’s readiness and can help the child along by exposing them to educational environments like museums, story time at the library and hands-on crafts and experiments right at home.

The Ohio Department of Education provides a helpful Kindergarten Readiness Guide on its free website. The checklist is broken into four parts: physical skills, health and safety needs, personal needs and social and emotional skills. As the website points out, young children change quickly – a skill they struggled with last week might be accomplished today.

Some of the items on the checklist include:
• Does your child use scissors?
• Has your child learned their first and last name?
• Can your child use the bathroom alone?
• Does your child play well with other children?
• Does your child follow routines?

What are some kindergarten readiness skills you would suggest?

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