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K-12 School Districts Looking For Options to Make-Up Snow Days Following Harsh Winter

  
  
  
  

After the brutal winter weather that swept across the US, it is hard to imagine that summer vacation is in sight.  This is leaving many K-12 school districts at a crossroad as K-12 schools in at least 10 states, and the District of Columbia, used up all of the year’s allotted snow days by mid-February, according to the Associated Press.

Some K-12 school districts have explored the option of extending the school year into summer vacation months.  However, the months of June and July can equate to hot classrooms and summer jobs, pushing many K-12 school districts to considering other alternativesSchoolClosingNotification resized 600

K-12 school districts have already begun to try and make up lost time.  They have done so through methods including:

  • Cutting Spring Breaks and Other Vacation Days

  • Cutting Professional Development Days

  • Logging Online Learning Hours

  • Holding Saturday Classes

Most state legislation requires K-12 school districts to provide 180 days of instruction each year.  Due to this winter’s unusually harsh conditions, some states have allowed some districts to forgo making up all their snow days.   The states who are allowing this include Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio and South Carolina, and more states are expected to do the same.

This harsh winter has also brought light to state legislation regarding future winter weather. Some states may move from instructional days required to instructional hours. “This gives districts more flexibility in making up lost time,” Kathie Christie, spokesperson for the Education Commission of the States says. Districts in states that adopt this model could add hours to the school day to make up lost time, rather than adding full days to the calendar, she adds.

Do you have a school notification system in place to inform staff and parents of weather-related school closings and delays?  Alert Solutions can help!

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Bullying and Cyberbullying – Study Shows Increased Risk with Student Social Status

  
  
  
  

Bullying and cyberbullying has been an ongoing issue in K-12 school districts across the US.  When dealing with this issue, many realize some students are bullied because of their social status in school and lack of popularity. However, new research shows that as popularity rises, so does the risk of being bullied.

The study published by Robert Faris, an associate professor of sociology at the University of California-Davis  and Diane Felmlee, a professor of sociology at Pennsylvania State University, shows that as the students are more popular they are at greater risk of bullying from peers competing for the same social status.  This is especially so in middle school and high school and could lead to gossip, harassment or even physical attacks.

A recent USA Today article also explains that the effects of bullying are magnified the more popular the victim becomes.  These are issues including:

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  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Anger

  • Decreased School Attachment

Many times, this type of bullying and victimization involving high-status students is "a distinct pattern of bullying that's often not thought of as bullying" and consequently goes unaddressed, says Robert Faris.

The study was conducted through interviews of 4,200 students in eighth, ninth and tenth grades.  During the interview, students were asked to name their five best friends in the school which was used to identify the students' popularity and the social network of the schools. Students were also asked to name up to five peers who picked on them or were unkind to them as well as five they picked on or were mean to, in order to create maps focused on victimization and aggression.

The research found that among both boys and girls, students in the middle of the school social hierarchy who moved up the social ladder to the 95th percentile, had and increased likelihood that he or she would be bullied or victimized by his or her peers of more than 25%.

Parents and school administrators should realize that even students who are popular can still be bullied and victimized by their peers.  Bullying and cyberbullying affects a wide range of students and although it may be easy to overlook instances involving high status students, it is important to have anti-bullying efforts that focus on the entire school and student body.

For tips on improving anti-bullying efforts in your school,download our Guide to Developing an Effective Anti-Bullying Strategy.

 

Create an Anti-Bullying StrategyDownload our Guide!

 

Instant Recess® Helps Curb Child Obesity and Promote Physical Activity in K-12 Classrooms

  
  
  
  

Child obesity has been a growing concern for K-12 school administrators and parents across the US.  As the growth of child obesity continues, the budget for physical education appears to decrease in many K-12 school districts.

Studies show that 1 in 5 children are obese by age 6.  Also, many students, especially at the elementary grade age, perform better academically with their participation in daily physical activity.  A 2009 report from the New York City Health Department and the New York City Department of Education showed a correlation between higher fitness and higher standardized test scores.  These findings, among others, are part of the reason that many teachers are discovering ways to add physical activity into their classrooms.

Many of these techniques are known as “Instant Recess®” activities.  Here are a couple examples from a recent District Administration article where K-12 school teachers are utilizing Instant Recess® in their classrooms:

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  • Mary Szarka, and other elementary school teachers from the School District of Philadelphia use Activity Works, a media based, plug-and-play program that combines physical activity with state and national mandated curriculum for first through third grades.  Szarka utilizes an interactive whiteboard when her third grade students start to get weary and takes them on an aerobic learning adventure.  For example, students can use Activity Works to “climb a ladder” and learn about a space shuttle, exploring and creating physical activity.  During this adventure they are also developing an understanding of objects in the sky, which is a national science standard.

  • Wendy Gonzalez, a kindergarten teacher at Lawndale Elementary School District in California, creates Instant Recess® through a series of DVDs and Youtube videos.  This promotes 10-minute bursts of physical activity in order to help improve health and productivity when students are antsy or slouchy.  For example, Gonzalez pops in a CD of kid-friendly music and starts a routine that might involve neck rolls or marching in place and ending with deep, relaxing breathing.

These programs can help improve student health and productivity in K-12 school districts, as well as contributing to the fight against child obesity

Check out more of our blog posts relating to student health.

Chronic Absenteeism Raises Concern among Connecticut Lawmakers

  
  
  
  

Chronic absenteeism is a growing issue in K-12 school districts.  Students who are chronically absent are at risk of dropping out of high school altogether.  These students are even less likely to finish high school than those who have low grade point averages.

TakingAttendance resized 600

Due to the major concerns that stem from students with chronic absences, Connecticut lawmakers are considering a bill to help curb the issue.  The bill calls for:

  • K-12 school districts where 10% or more students are chronically absent must establish a school attendance review team to discuss the issue.

    • This is also the case for K-12 school districts containing a school with a chronic absence rate of 15% or more.

    • The school attendance review team will consist of school administrators, guidance counselors, social works, teachers and community program representatives.

    • The school attendance review team will meet at least once a month to review cases of chronically absent children and recommend school interventions or community referrals to help solve the issue.

The goal of this bill would be to work with school districts, students, student families and the community to track chronic absenteeism early enough so that the issue does not progress and result in students dropping out of school.  This will also place a greater emphasis on chronically absent students rather than a daily attendance rate in K-12 schools in order to identify and confront the issue.  Representative Andy Fleischmann explains that a school could have a daily attendance rate of 91%, but could also have dozens of children who are chronically absent.

The state of Connecticut defines chronic absence differently than the bill does at this point. The state says any child who misses 10 percent or more of days of school for any reason (excused or unexcused) is considered chronically absent. The bill, however, defines chronic absence as any child who has 18 or more unexcused absences in a school year.

A recent article shows the following statistics for Connecticut K-12 school districts:

  • 11.5% of students were chronically absence last year.

  • The percentage of Connecticut schoolchildren chronically absent in grades K-3 is 8.9%; in grades 4-8 is 9%; and for high school grades 9-12 is 16.9%.

To learn more about reducing chronic absenteeism and improve attendance in your school, download our new School Administrator’s Guide to Reducing Chronic Truancy.

 

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5 Education Issues in K-12 Schools Rise to the Top in 2014

  
  
  
  

K-12 school districts have been part of numerous changes over the past decade.  Whether it has been in regards to testing, teaching curriculum or the law, legislators and school administrators have encountered numerous obstacles.

In the first quarter of 2014, the education industry has already seen multiple changes in policy, perspective and trends.  According to a recent eSchool News article, here are some of the biggest issues the education industry will face throughout 2014:

iStock 000013340578Large resized 6001.       Technology and Digital Learning:

Technology and digital learning has been seen as a supplement to face-to-face instruction, but the move to a more digital form of learning means educational technology remains at the forefront.  There has been an increased prevalence of BYOD, bring your own device ,and expanded access to mobile devices and apps in K-12 school districts. This leads to the potential issue of high-speed internet access for all students in all schools.

2.       K-12 Assessment and Accountability Systems:

States are moving to online assessment systems as the Common Core State Standards are implemented.  This shift aims to create assessments that collect data and enable teachers and school administrators to better analyze that data.

3.       Early Childhood Education

Over the past few years there has been greater research which demonstrates links between early childhood education and success in later years. Early childhood education has also been linked to smaller achievement gaps and fewer disciplinary problems in school and adulthood. This will lead many states and local legislations, along with school administrators, to examine whether they have the means to expand early childhood education offerings and opportunities.

4.       College, Workforce, and Life Readiness

One reason for the increased emphasis on students’ use of technology on a daily basis in school is to help them develop skills that will be valuable in both college and the workforce.  Whether a student attends college or takes aplace in a high-competition career, skills such as technology tools, problem-solving skills and  critical thinking could be an imperative part of their success.  Developing these abilities throughout their K-12 school career will help ensure success in college or their careers.

5.       Degree Attainment and College Completion

State policy makers have increasingly focused high school graduation rates in order to promote college attendance and completion.  This is done in effort to demonstrate how important higher-education skills and knowledge are to the workforce. Setting goals to ensure that more students enroll in and complete college will be one of the most important issues of 2014.

What do you think are some of the largest issues faced education will face this year?  Share your thoughts on our blog!

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Automated Report Cards Can Help Your School Avoid Distribution Delays

  
  
  
  

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.

GoingGreen resized 600Due 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!

 

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Low Lunch Balances in One Utah Elementary School Land Some Lunches in the Trash

  
  
  
  

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.

LunchBalanceNotification resized 600Uintah 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!

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Reducing Chronic Truancy: Michigan School Districts Revamp Attendance Policies

  
  
  
  

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:attendnace resized 600

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.

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School Notification Systems: Help Control Rumors at Your K-12 School District

  
  
  
  

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.

rumors resized 600In 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.

 

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New Common Core Standards - Seven Strategies for Transitioning K-12 Educators

  
  
  
  

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.

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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.

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