K-12 school districts across the US have been affected by the grueling winter this year. Snowstorms have especially affected some schools across the southeast part of the country that normally are unaffected by this extent of winter weather.
Due to these unlikely circumstances, Prince George County Schools in Virginia is just one of the K-12 school districts that are seeing the effects firsthand. The district has closed school four times this school year because of weather, twice as many times as the district canceled classes in all of the 2012-13 school year.
Prince George School District announced on its website that report card distribution has been changed due to the inclement weather. The report cards, which are printed, sorted and distributed by the school system, were supposed to be dispersed on Thursday, Jan. 30. Instead, they went out on Wednesday, Feb. 5.
The use of automated report cards could have helped Prince George School District avoid this issue. Automated report cards allow school administrators to automatically send report cards, transcripts, student evaluations and more via email, in PDF format to student families, safely and securely. << Learn How Much You Can Save >>
By eliminating the process of manually printing, sorting and distributing report cards, schools can save on both valuable staff time and printing costs. In addition to these benefits, automated report cards can also:
1. Reduce Paper, Ink and Mailing Costs
2. Ensure Delivery with Real-Time Reporting
3. Receive Confirmations Electronically within Minutes
4. Reduce Risk of Message Interception by Students
To learn more about Alert Solutions’ Automated Report Card Module for PowerSchool Users, download our brochure today!
One of the most prominent issues in K-12 school districts over the past year has involved school lunch balances. Some school districts across the US were scrutinized for practices that involved denying students their school lunch due to a negative or low lunch balance.
Uintah Elementary School in Utah has been a recent addition to the list of schools who have dealt with low lunch balance concerns. Last month, nearly 40 students at Uintah Elementary School had their school lunches taken away and thrown into the garbage because of negative or low lunch balances in their school lunch account.
Students whose lunches were thrown away were given milk and fruit as a replacement. This upset students, their families and some staff members, bringing attention to the issue.
"It was wrong. It should not have happened, and we apologize that it did," said Salt Lake City School District spokesman Jason Olsen. According to Olsen, a district employee had come to the school to look into its unpaid school lunch account balances. This is said to involve between 50-70 school lunch balances. Olsen also explained that parents were notified if their child’s lunch balance was low before the incident occurred. Some of the parents, however, explained that they did not receive the call from the school regarding their child’s lunch balance.
District policy mandates that schools work with parents on unpaid school lunch balances and give them a large amount of notice before the account becomes empty. Olsen has stated that regardless, the lunches should not have been taken from students.
School administrators need to do what they can to prevent these types of situations. A school notification system can help alert parents of low lunch balances. When their child’s lunch balance becomes low on their meal cards, an alert can be scheduled to automatically inform parents through their preferred communication methods including voice, email and SMS text messaging. School administrators can also view reporting for notifications to ensure parents are receiving these important messages.
With low lunch balance alerts, there is less risk that a child’s lunch balance will become negative or remain low for an extended period of time. This will allow for both school administrators’ and parents’ minds to be at ease, without worrying if a policy is being broken or a child is being denied their lunch.
To learn more about implementing automated low lunch balance alerts in your school, visit our website or contact us today!
Chronic truancy greatly affects K-12 school districts, students and school communities across the US. From lost funding to student drop-out rates and increased crime rates, truancy is much more than just an empty seat a classroom.
School administrators have done what they can to try and counteract high truancy rates through efforts including the improvement of school attendance policies. Detroit Public Schools (DPS) in Michigan is one example of a school district strengthening efforts to reduce truancy through school policy.
At the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year, DPS implemented the 3-6-9 policy. The new attendance policy is a district-wide formalization of past practices, which calls for intervention after a student accrues 3 unexcused absences.
Here is a glimpse of how the policy works according to a recent article:
Detroit Public Schools’ 3-6-9 attendance policy
Three instances of tardiness of more than 15 minutes after the start of class is equivalent of one unexcused absence.
With three unexcused absences, a phone call will be made to the home room and to the student’s home.
With the sixth unexcused absence in the school year, the student will be referred to an attendance agent for intervention.
Any student with more than nine unexcused absences per school year will face a truancy referral to the attendance department. The case will be processed and forwarded to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office.
Among many other reasons, the change in policy was spurred from $4.3 million in lost state aid because fewer than 75% of DPS students came to school on several days.
Although each school district can create its own attendance policy, Michigan law requires all students who turned 11 before 2009 to attend school regularly until age 16 and those who turned 11 on or after Dec. 1, 2009, must attend school regularly until they graduate or reach age 18. Parents whose children do not attend school regularly face prosecution for educational neglect, a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail or a $50 fine.
Nearby school districts to DPS also have attendance policies in place including:
In Livonia, students see grades drop by a third after the first 16 absences. When a student has chronic truancy, the school files a report with the police department.
Harper Woods students may get a credit hold after six absences in one semester. They then must complete school work at an attendance-redemption program held on Saturdays. Suspensions of one to 10 days are possible, as well.
It is important for parents and school administrators to place a large emphasis on the reduction of student truancy. By implementing policies, monitoring attendance and keeping school administrators and parents informed of absences, school districts can work towards reducing chronic truancy.
Learn more about reducing truancy in your school with automated attendance alerts.
I think we can all agree that the enormous growth in technology, especially over the past decade, has had both positive and negative effects. Communication has been opened up through multiple channels, including email, voice, SMS text messaging, and social media, allowing people to easily and instantaneously get important information out to thousands. But what happens when false information is shared? This is where instantaneous communication becomes a downfall, as this information too, will reach thousands.
In the case of K-12 school districts, the distribution of rumors and false information can cause major issues, especially when tragic occurrences such as school shootings and other emergency situations are the topic. If this misinformation reaches parents, students and the school community through communication channels, the rumors can rapidly spread and cause panic and concern.
So, if social media sites and multi-channel messaging can partake in spreading a school rumor why would K-12 school districts want to be involved with such technology?
Simple. This is because the same technology that helps to spread a rumor can also control it. This is exactly what happened recently at Daphne High School in Alabama. A rumor about a school shooting had been started on Facebook, a social media site. Students who had seen the rumor notified the principal, Dr. Meredith Foster, who acted quickly to try and stop to the false information from spreading further and causing greater concern.
In order to control the rumor, K-12 school districts can utilize a school notification system. This enables school administrators to send a message through the preferred communication channels of email, voice, SMS text messaging and social media. In the instance of a false rumor, school administrators can put the minds of student families, faculty members and the school community at ease, by instantaneously and reliably sending a message reassuring the information is false. This will help eliminate the need for concern and rectify the situation.
To learn more about Alert Solutions’ School Notification System in order to improve communication in your school, download our brochure.
Educators across the US are struggling to come to terms with the implementation of Common Core Standards. K-12 teachers and school administrators are challenged with how to change curriculums and practices in order to accommodate these new standards.
Although the Common Core Standards have the intention of improving student learning and making K-12 students more college and career ready, there are some apparent challenges brought on by their implementation, including:
A lack of professional development and curriculum materials aligned with the Common Core.
Inadequate technology infrastructure.
Changing assessment practices.
Rushed implementation with little regard for practicalities.
Minimal guidance for educators needing to adjust what they teach and the way they teach it.
Major curriculum publishers are doing their best to develop comprehensive professional development materials that will assist K-12 educators with the transition. Some K-12 school districts have also produced their own materials and offered resources. Also, the implementation is up to the districts, which adds to the inconsistency in the application of the Common Core Standards.
Since the Common Core Standards are an obvious hurdle for K-12 educators and their curriculums, here are some strategies recommended by eSchool News to help create a successful transition:
1. Understand the expected student outcome for each standard and determine the skills that students must master in order to achieve expected learning results.
2. Personalize learning experiences for all students and provide intervention or remediation for underperforming students.
3. Break down lessons into manageable concepts, and provide multiple teach/model/practice opportunities for different kinds of learners.
4. Support grade-level reading of complex texts by providing students with appropriate reading materials, including vocabulary instruction that applies the Three Tiers of Words:
a. Common Words
b. High-frequency Words, and
c. Domain-specific Words.
5. Demonstrate all forms of writing with students, and provide detailed explanations so they understand different writing forms.
6. Reinforce conceptual understanding of key ideas in math instruction, and require students to justify why an answer is correct.
7. Infuse instruction with cross-curricular concepts to embed key ideas, and take advantage of repeated opportunities to integrate, apply, and synthesize standards.
Check out some of our other education blog posts!
Do you want to hear some great news?! Alert Solutions is excited to announce the release of School Announcement 4.0!
School Announcement 4.0 is an innovative notification system designed to meet the evolving communication needs of K-12 schools and districts. The platform enables users to send alerts using communication channels parents prefer: email, voice, SMS text and social media.
Along with the enhancements made to existing features of the School Announcement platform, here is a drill down of what Version 4.0 has to offer:
School administrators can easily posts messages and alerts to their social media accounts including Facebook and Twitter.
The specially developed Mobile Command Center allows school alerts and parent notifications to be sent directly from any mobile device via email, voice, SMS text messaging and social media websites.
This great new feature enables school administrators to automatically receive alerts of severe weather approaching their K-12 school or district.
Create a seamless daily update cycle between your SIS and School Announcement.
But wait…there’s more! School Announcement also got a makeover! The School Announcement website has a new design to better serve customers. In addition to the improved look and design, there are also new and exciting things to explore on the website including:
1. K-12 Resource Center
2. Send Yourself a Test Message
3. Latest Education Blogs
Alert Solutions is thrilled to be starting 2014 off with such exciting improvements. School Announcement Version 4.0 will enhance the customer experience and make it even easier to improve parent engagement and school communication!
Learn more about School Announcement today!
K-12 school districts across the US have seen instances that prove emergency situations could occur at any time. From tragic school shootings to natural disasters, school administrators should ensure they have an emergency preparedness plan in case these unfortunate events occur.
Unfortunately, however, this is not necessarily the case. A recent study produced by Save the Children, a non-governmental disaster relief organization focused on children, found that more than half of the states and the District of Columbia do not require K-12 schools or day care centers to meet minimum standards to protect children during major emergencies.
Besides these shocking results, the study also found:
Numerous states do not require specific plans for reuniting children with their parents after an emergency.
Some states don't require plans for helping children with special needs.
Iowa, Idaho, Kansas and Michigan do not require K-12 schools to have emergency plans for multiple hazards, such as school shootings or natural disasters.
40% of K-12 school districts had updated their disaster plans in the past year.
"Children are among the most vulnerable in an emergency," says Jeanne-Aimee De Marrais, Save the Children's senior director for U.S. emergencies. "Parents assume their children go to school or child care and they are protected, but the events of the past year showed the emergency plans in place are not enough."
By conducting these studies, Save the Children hopes to continue to improve emergency preparedness plans across the US. Since the research began six years ago the organization has seen vast progress. To meet the minimum standards, states must require emergency preparedness plans to address the following four issues:
Evacuation and relocation
Children with special needs, such as those with disabilities
Multiple hazards in K-12 schools.
The first study reported that only four states met minimum standards.
Does your school meet the minimum emergency preparedness requirements?
For tips on how to create or improve your school’s Emergency Response Plan, check out Alert Solution’s Emergency Preparedness Guide today.
Social media is being seen more and more as a tool for K-12 classrooms. From research to field trips, teachers are using social media and technology in order to boost teacher collaboration and proactively strengthen student’s digital skills.
In an effort to contribute to this venture, Google+ has recently launched Connected Classrooms, a program that connects K-12 teachers with virtual field trip resources. Google+ presents Connected Classrooms as a structured way to service K-12 teachers in locating virtual field trips and connecting with other educators.
Connected Classrooms bring together virtual field trip providers and educators to accomplish tasks such as gauging interest in various virtual field trips and coordinating schedules. The Google+ Team also works to help K-12 teachers identify strategies for their virtual field trips. These strategies include:
Teachers can discuss what virtual field trips have worked for other educators.
Teachers receive advice on what content coincides with each field trip.
Teachers can view information on each virtual field trip sorted by grade level and content to build the most successful itinerary.
“This is really just the beginning of where we see Connected Classrooms going,” said Lisa Jiang, Google+ Education Partnerships Lead. “We see this as an opportunity to not just attend a virtual field trip, but for teachers to become more proactive in using digital tools to help equip their students with the skills they need for digital citizenship.”
Google+ hopes Connected Classrooms can continue to evolve so K-12 teachers can collaborate and learn from one another and students can integrate the virtual field trips into a digital learning environment. By bringing together K-12 teachers and schools across the globe, Connected Classrooms is adding to the continued evolution of social media and digital learning.
K-12 school districts have been part of an ongoing struggle to combat bullying and cyberbullying. School administrators and staff work to instill anti-bullying strategies and programs to promote a safe and positive school environment.
In order to ensure elementary students understand what bullying and cyberbullying is, how to prevent it and the what to do if it happens, some schools are looking to outside sources to help with anti-bullying education. One example is Fisher Elementary School in Arlington, VT.
Fisher’s students were visited by TIGER, (Theatre Integrating Guidance, Education, and Responsibility), a five-person educational theater company based out of New Hampshire. TIGER performed a one-hour musical skit for elementary students on anti-bullying education called, "Bully Free, You and Me."
Fisher’s School Counselor, Tristina McDonald, explained the group has visited the school once a year for the past four years, each year focusing on a different theme. Although McDonald teaches students about bullying awareness throughout the school year, she believes TIGER's performance is more effective.
"I think when the kids are this young, 5 to 10 years old, you can talk about it (bullying) but I think they learn better seeing the concepts acted out and seeing real life situations," McDonald states.
Here is how TIGER’s performance works:
1. TIGER members act out various bullying scenarios for the elementary students through song, dance, and dialogue, also offering solutions to each of the problems.
2. Each show uses TIGER as a different acronym to coincide with the show's theme.
For Example, in the case of "Bully Free, You and Me," TIGER stood for "Take action, I can say, "no," Get help, Exit when necessary, and Respect,"
3. Following the show, the older elementary studentsare placed into groups to participate in follow-up anti-bullying education workshops.
Learn more about developing an anti-bullying strategy and combating bullying and cyberbullying in your school.
Learning in the classroom has evolved throughout recent years from chalkboards and notebooks to whiteboards and iPads. This has not only changed the way students learn, but also how teachers remain engaged with their students.
Many K-12 school districts have previously looked at the use of technology and social media in the classroom as a student distraction and a hindrance on learning. However, due to the growing use of these tools in the professional world some schools are viewing their use differently.
It has become a commonality for students to use social media for personal use, but social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are now being used in the classroom. Teachers are finding that incorporating the use of social media in their lessons not only increase student engagement but also promotes the use of social media in a responsible and professional manner.
Students can utilize social media sites to research, keep up with current events and to engage with their peers and other students across the nation. Some examples of how teachers are incorporating the use of social media sites in their classrooms include:
Chris Lazarski, a teacher at Tosa West in Wisconsin, teaches students to use Twitter
for serious research and discussion. Lazarski also utilizes KQED’s Do Now program, which encourages students to use social media tools to keep up on current events.
Kristi Levy, a teacher at Oshkosh West High School in Wisconsin, has increased student engagement through the integration of technology and social media into her classroom. Levy allows her students to participate in “Genius Hour” during which they can work on a project of their choice. Levy’s students use Twitter to conducts research and use the social media site in a professional manner for their projects.
Claudia Felske, a teacher at East Troy High School in Wisconsin, has integrated technology into her classroom. Felske has noticed that her students use mobile devices to communicate and therefore adapted the use of My Big Campus, a social media site similar to Facebook, so that students can communicate with one another and her curriculum can become more relevant to her students.
“Social media is creating a different kind of learner — one that leverages many different sources and collaborates with multiple voices as part of the learning process,” Felske said. “It fosters a set of collaborative skills needed in today’s high-tech, global society.”
Check out the rest of our blog posts regarding social media in the classroom!