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Involvement in Extracurriculars Brings Benefits

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Extracurricular activities – clubs, sports and lessons found outside of the typical school day – provide great benefits to students of any age.

Studies have shown that children who participate in at least one extracurricular activity generally have better school attendance and grade point average than their peers who do not participate in extracurricular activities.

Involvement in an activity outside school hours requires students to sharpen their time management skills and to stay organized. Children are challenged to set their own goals and come up with success plans, without the help of a parent.

While extracurricular activities build independence, they also build teamwork skills. Children on a team or in a club are required to work together towards a common goal, whether that be winning a game, coming up with a new invention or solving a math problem. Teamwork is a vital skill for success in the classroom, as well as the future work environment.

The United State Census Bureau reports that 57 percent of children ages 6 to 17 participate in at least one extracurricular activity. Approximately 35 percent of those children participate in sports, while 29 percent are enrolled in lessons and another 29 percent are members of a club.

What extracurricular activities does your school offer?

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Elementary Reading Levels Indicators for Future Success

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In education circles, it is well known that third grade is a crucial year for meeting reading benchmarks. Studies have shown that 16 percent of students who are not reading proficiently by the end of third grade do not graduate high school on time.

The numbers are even drearier for poor students who grow up in poverty-stricken neighborhoods. Among those students who are also behind in reading in third grade, 35 percent will not graduate on time.

According to the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, about 67 percent of students nationwide fail to reach proficient reading benchmarks by the end of third grade.

Many state mandates are now in place to ensure that children are being prepared to become successful readers from the moment they enter the school in kindergarten. Struggling readers are identified earlier and extra help is being provided where needed. Universal preschool is being offered in many places, but experts agree that the foundation for reading starts at home, long before children are school age. Parents are encouraged to read aloud to their little ones, to engage in conversation often and to plant the seeds for a lifetime of reading.

Some states have a third-grade reading guarantee in place. Students who do not score high enough on the test are required repeat third grade. The test is typically administered to public school students several times during the year; some students with reading disabilities are exempt from the requirements.

What measures does your school take to encourage reading success?

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Increasing Need for Recess

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Most children fall well below the recommendations for daily activity, according to a recent study by researchers at John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. In fact, the study showed that the average older teen has an activity level comparable to the average 60-year-old.

While results for younger children weren’t stellar, activity levels really took a hit once kids entered the 12 to 19 age range. Fifty percent of boys and 75 percent of girls in this age range were not getting at least 60 minutes of moderate exercise per day. It is no coincidence that the age is also when tweens and teens no longer get recess during school.

Recess, or any type of physical break from a long time of sitting, has proven to have great health benefits. In addition to promoting physical activity, recess gives kids time to work on face-to-face social skills, something lacking in today’s type-and-text society. A study by researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City also showed that students who were given a 15-minute recess behaved better in class.

What do you think about older kids being offered recess during the school day? For teachers of younger students, how long is recess at your school?

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Welcome, Academia

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Here at SCHOOLSin, we are constantly on the lookout for manufacturers who share our mission of providing quality school furniture at reasonable prices. We found our match in Academia, the newest addition to our website!

Like SCHOOLSin, Academia is a family-owned business that is committed to helping those who help so many – our educators! We now carry Academia’s entire line of school furniture, including comfortable school chairs, collaborative desks, activity tables and much more. From traditional school furniture to the latest and greatest in the industry, Academia has what you are looking for.

We had the pleasure of sampling many of the items in the Academia line before adding the products to our website and we were very impressed. The furniture is sturdy, attractive and has a look that is comparable to higher end brands.

Academia school furniture comes backed by a 15-year warranty, so you can rest assured that it will look great year after year. Also, Academia products are MAS Certified Green, making them a better choice for the environment.

Be sure to check out all of the Academia products at SCHOOLSin.com . Call our friendly sales team at (877) 839-3330 and we will gladly assist you with a price quote or order.

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Is Cursive Writing Still Important?

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Ask a middle schooler to sign a document and you might be surprised by what you see. The signature will likely end up being the teen’s finest printed letters since many children were never taught cursive writing in elementary school.

By 2010, most states had implemented Common Core standards which do not require the teaching of cursive writing. Since standardized tests are now conducted on computers, the emphasis has switched to teaching children typing skills all while writing skills are falling to the wayside.
Although being tech-savvy is necessary for future generations, the case for good old-fashioned handwriting can be made.

Since many historical documents, including the Declaration of Independence, are written in cursive, students must be familiar with that type of writing to be able to read these pieces of the past. The documents can be transcribed into print, but they then lose the nostalgia and part of the connection to our forefathers.

Also, banks and many other institutions require a signature with transactions. Printed signatures are much easier to forge.

Research has also proven that cursive writing strengthens the mind and activates areas of the brain that control fine motor skills. Elementary students who were studied scored higher on spelling tests when the words were written in cursive, perhaps because the connecting letters better linked the pieces of the words together.

The importance of cursive writing has not gone unnoticed. A poll of educators on our SCHOOLSin Facebook page revealed that 95 percent were still in favor of teaching cursive writing even with the high demands of meeting testing standards.

Lawmakers are taking notice, as well. Illinois was the most recent state to push for legislation that would require cursive education in elementary classroom. At least 14 other states have implemented similar legislation in the last two years and many have plans in the works.

Does your school require cursive writing? How do you feel about the importance of cursive writing?

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Kids Still Prefer Print Books

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From tablets and phones to handheld games and laptops, electronic devices are a major part of our children’s lives. Despite the love for electronic devices, most kids still prefer to read books the old-fashioned way.

Nearly two-thirds of children ages 6 to 17 agreed that they would always prefer books printed on paper over ebooks, according to the recent Kids and Family Reading Report.

Surprisingly, the age group with the strongest preference for print books is one that seems among the most consumed with electronics. Seventy-one percent of middle school students – those ages 12 to 14 – said they would always give printed books the nod.

The preference is even stronger among college students, based on results from a separate study. The study, conducted by American University linguistics professor Naomi Baron, found that a whopping 92 percent of U.S. college students questioned prefer print books over ebooks.

Do you offer ebooks in your classroom? Which do your students prefer, ebooks or printed books

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Field Trips Being Eliminated

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Field trips were once a standard in public schools, when children were paired with a buddy, given parent chaperones and assigned fun research work at the local zoo, museum or theatre. Unfortunately, the hands-on learning we experienced as children might be missed on the next generation.

Field trips are being eliminated from many public school systems, with expenses and time away from the classroom being some of the reasons given.

According to a study by the American Association of School Administrators, 30 percent of public schools surveyed reported eliminating field trips in 2011-2012, an additional 34 percent stated field trips were eliminated in 2013-2014 and another 10 percent eliminated field trips in 2015-2016.

Studies have shown that field trips have been proven to deepen and enhance classroom study. The website, Informal Science, cited three studies that presented the possible positive outcomes of field trips. Field trips:

• Expose students to new experiences and can increase interest and engagement in science regardless of prior interest in a topic (Kisiel, 2005; Bonderup Dohn, 2011),
• Result in affective gains such as more positive feelings toward a topic (Csikszentmihalyi & Hermanson, 1995; Nadelson & Jordan, 2012).
• Are experiences that can be recalled and useful long after a visit (Salmi, 2003; Falk & Dierking, 1997; Wolins, Jensen, & Ulzheimer, 1992).

Field trips are especially important for disadvantaged students, who otherwise have little chance of visiting new places because of lack of funds and transportation. Students who come from wealthier situations may have many opportunities to visit the latest art exhibit or musical performance, but for others, a field trip may be their only chance at the experience.

Does your school go on field trips? Where do they visit?

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Teacher Shortage

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The demand for teachers continues to increase while the number of individuals enrolled in teacher preparation programs decreases, resulting in the largest teacher shortage in the United States since the 1990s.

As the economy recovers from recent recession years, school districts have begun filling spots that were previously eliminated due to budget crunching. Additional teachers allow for smaller class sizes and more diverse course offerings. But now that districts are finally getting the green light to hire, qualified candidates aren’t there.

According to the study, “A Coming Crisis in Teaching? Teacher Supply, Demand and Shortages in the U.S.”, enrollment in teacher-preparation programs dropped from 691,000 in 2009 to 451,000 in 2014, a 35 percent decline.

“Our analysis estimates that U.S. classrooms were short approximately 60,000 teachers last year,” Leib Sutcher, the study’s co-author, told reporters. “Unless we can shift these trends, annual teacher shortages could increase to over 100,000 teachers by 2018 and remain close to that level thereafter.”

Subject areas with the greatest shortages include mathematics, special education, science and bilingual education.

The biggest concern is the number of teachers leaving the profession. It is estimated that almost two-thirds of the teachers who leave the profession do so before retirement age. Reasons cited for leaving include low salary, testing demands and overall dissatisfaction with teaching conditions.

Has your district struggled recently with finding qualified teachers?

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Meet the Next Secretary of Education

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The new year also brings changes to the national education scene as we know it. In November, President-elect Donald Trump chose philanthropist Betsy DeVos as the next U.S. Secretary of Education. DeVos replaces current Education Secretary, John King Jr., who at age 40, is one of the youngest Cabinet members in American history.

DeVos, a former chair of the Michigan Republican Party, is best known for being a strong advocate for school vouchers, which would allow poor students to use public funding to attend private schools. DeVos has not worked in public education and her children attended private, Christian schools.

As is the case with most highly visible positions, DeVos has her share of critics and supporters.

National Education Association president, Lily Eskelsen Garcia, wrote: “Betsy DeVos has consistently worked against these values, and her efforts over the years have done more to undermine public education than support students.”

Foundation for Excellence in Education chairman and former Florida governor, Jeb Bush, called DeVos an “outstanding choice.”

“She has a long and distinguished history championing the right of all parents to choose schools that best ensure their children’s success,” said Bush in a statement. “Her allegiance is to families, particularly those struggling at the bottom of the economic ladder, not to an outdated public education model that has failed them from one generation to the next.”

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Preparing for Parent/Teacher Conferences

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Parent involvement is crucial to providing the best education for each student. The most-thought out and executed plans at school can be thwarted by apathy toward education at home. One way that can help involve family is quarterly parent/teacher conferences.

According to data from the Department of Education, 76 percent of parents who were polled reported attending at least one regularly scheduled parent/teacher conference during the 2011-2012 school year. The number is even higher – 87 percent – for private schools.

Conferences can be a nerve-wracking time for parents and could be a reason that some skip conferences all together. An article on Scholastic.com encourages parents to prepare for conferences by gathering scores, homework papers and notes throughout the quarter for a good representation over a period of time. It’s also important to talk to your child about his or her concerns before the conference.

During the conference, it’s important that both parents and teachers keep a positive attitude. Arrive early, come prepared with questions and find out the best way to communicate with the teacher.

For teachers, preparation is also key. Time is often limited to 15 or 20 minutes per conference so efficiency is a must. Bring notes, scores and work samples. An article on Edutopia.com reiterates the importance of being solution oriented. Instead of just presenting the parents with their child’s struggles, offer solutions on how everyone can work together to help him or her improve. Take time to learn more about the child and show that you care.

How often does your school have parent/teacher conferences? How are they formatted?

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