Alert Solutions Blog

Common Core Mobile Apps: What School Administrators Should Consider

Posted by Cassie Breen on Tue, Jul 22, 2014 @ 12:07 PM

Common Core standards have been overwhelming the education world and sending school administrators and teachers through the difficult process of integrating these changes into their K-12 schools. 

The use of mobile technology in K-12 classrooms has been growing; however the number of mobile apps available to school administrators and teachers has also grown exponentially.  This includes the number of mobile apps available to help with the transition to Common Core standards.parentstexting

This leaves school administrators with a few questions: What Common Core mobile apps should our K-12 school use?  What mobile apps will best help us make this transition?

First of all, school administrators need to determine their learning strategy.  School administrators should also consider how it can be assessed with Common Core standard skills of communication, critical thinking and collaboration before adopting any Common Core mobile apps

A recent District Administration article also recommends school administrators assess the Common Core mobile apps and ensure they meet the following criteria:

  • Allow teachers to modify content to meet the students’ needs
  • Accommodate different learning styles, particularly for students with disabilities
  • Include a built-in assessment component to measure progress
  • Promote inventiveness by giving students a chance to create within the app
  • Simulate real-life situations in which students can apply the new Common Core concepts

Read more blog posts related to mobile learning here.

Topics: mobile learning, education

E-Rate and ConnectEd Initiative Helps Improve Technology Access in K-12 Schools

Posted by Cassie Breen on Tue, Jul 15, 2014 @ 15:07 PM

Technology has become an integral part of everyday life, which has made it necessary for K-12 school districts to try and improve technology efforts and connectivity in their classrooms.  This is the basis for the federal initiative to provide all students with high-speed broadband and mobile devices and the revamping of the program that provides discount internet access to K-12 school districts.

The E-rate program, whose modernization is set to be completed by the Federal Communications Commission this fall, will help give all K-12 schools high-speed internet access.  This will shift funding from old technologies, such as pagers, to broadband and Wi-Fi networks in order to eventually reach a goal of 99 percent of America’s students having access to high-speed Internet connections within five years.

The E-rate program was created as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and connects schools and libraries to the internet at a discount of 20-90 percent. Today, more than 95 percent of schools are connected with the help of these funds, up from only 14 percent in 1996, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

Greater access to technology and high-speed internet is also the main goal of President Barack Obama’s new ConnectED initiative.

According to a recent District Administration article, the four goals of the ConnectEd Initiative include:technologyinschool

  1. Upgraded connectivity: Ensuring broadband and high-speed Wi-Fi are available to virtually all U.S. students in their classrooms and libraries.
  2. Access to learning devices: Providing students and teachers with access to affordable mobile devices to access digital resources at any time in or out of school.
  3. Supported teachers: Offering professional development to help teachers use technology properly and efficiently to increase student achievement.
  4. Digital learning resources: Ensuring access to high-quality digital learning materials for students and teachers.

This uniform access to technology in all K-12 school districts will help close learning gaps and improve communication.  K-12 schools will be able to implement more blended learning programs, create more personalized learning efforts and affordably connect through modern communication channels.

Learn more about how Alert Solutions’ Communication Suite can improve communication in your school, download our brochure.

Topics: educational technology, power announcement, powerschool, education

K-12 Schools Go Green and Find Uses for School Lunch Waste

Posted by Cassie Breen on Tue, Jul 01, 2014 @ 14:07 PM

The addition of more fruits and vegetables into K-12 school lunches has been a struggle, especially in regards to the new USDA guidelines.  Many of the fruits and vegetables that students are required to take end up half eaten or not eaten at all.

Some schools find a way to go green and environmentally use the waste created by school lunches.  These schools place a separate trash bin in lunch rooms for food waste specifically.  These scraps are sent to a compost heap where they are churned into nutrient-enriched dirt that farmers or landscape architects can buy.

schoollunchAlthough most of the participating schools exist on the west coast or in the Midwest, more schools across the United States are catching on.  For example, PS 30 in Staten Island, NY has begun to embrace composting in their school.  At P.S. 30, students done with their school lunch have a choice of three plastic bins: one for landfill garbage like plastic bags, foam cups and wrappers; one for recyclables, like metal, glass, plastic and milk cartons; and one for food scraps.

Since students must take these items, but the school district cannot force them to eat the food, an environmentally-friendly solution seemed like the way to go.  In a recent article, Joseph Napolitano, P.S. 30’s assistant principal said, “It’s really being recycled whether they eat it or not; it’s not really a waste.”

Although not all students follow the directions and throw items away in the trash bins, there are a “green team” of students who carefully pick out unwanted junk, while wearing latex gloves.  Even with less than a quarter of school buildings participating, the weight of all discarded scraps came to 1,400 tons between September and March, compared with 450 tons during the entire 2012-13 school year.

The New York City school composting program kicked off just two years ago in 230 school buildings in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island and is expected to at least double in the fall.  The city is hoping this will encompass 1,300-plus school buildings.

To view the full article click here.

To read more about “going green” in your school check out more blog posts.

Topics: environment, school announcement, power announcement, powerschool, education, go green

K-12 School Districts Require Clear Backpacks to Enhance School Safety

Posted by Cassie Breen on Tue, Jun 24, 2014 @ 12:06 PM

Due to the occurrence of tragic events, such as school shootings and stabbings, school safety has become an even greater concern for K-12 school districts.  From metal detectors to bulletproof whiteboards, some schools have been taking drastic measures to try and ensure the safety of their students.

One smaller solution for many K-12 school districts, however, has been the banning of traditional backpacks.  In place of traditional backpacks, school districts are requiring students use clear or mesh backpacks.  This is in hopes that the more transparent bags will deter students from bringing violent weapons onto school grounds and make it easier for students and faculty to spot potentially harmful items.

Although these backpacks cannot completely prevent school violence from occurring or keep students from carrying weapons, K-12 school districts utilizing this method in their school safety and emergency preparedness plans feel it is a step in the right direction.  Some school districts requiring the change from traditional backpacks include:clearbackpack

  • North East ISD in San Antonio, Texas
  • Dallas ISD in Texas
  • Chicago Public Schools in Illinois

Although taking steps to enhance school safety is important, K-12 school administrators should also ensure their school has an emergency preparedness plan.  By creating an emergency preparedness plan, school districts can outline school safety guidelines and precautions, as well as organizing a plan in case an emergency situation should occur.

How do you feel about the requirement of clear backpacks in K-12 schools?  Share your thoughts on our blog.

For tips on creating an emergency preparedness plan in your schools download our guide.

Topics: school safety, power announcement, powerschool, education

K-12 Schools Revitalize Report Cards to Enhance Parent Engagement

Posted by Cassie Breen on Tue, Jun 17, 2014 @ 13:06 PM

It’s the time of year when parents are beginning to receive report cards.  Opening up an envelope to find a paper with A, B, Cs and a few comments pasted across them is what traditional report card expectations entail – but what if that’s not enough anymore?

Parent engagement and parent communication is a crucial part of the K-12 school system.  Especially with the rising demands of state testing and new curriculum requirements, it is more important than ever that parents remain informed of their children’s progress in school, where they excel and areas where they need extra help.

ReportCardThese are just a few reasons why some K-12 schools are breaking away from the traditional quarterly report cards and implementing a more engaging and informative method.  For example, Georges Vanier Elementary School in Surrey, British Columbia began a pilot program to make communication between parents and teachers more detailed, frequent and collaborative.

The school sends messages to parents at least once a week through parent-preferred communication methods such as email and SMS text messaging.  These messages include items such as videos of a school project or a photo of their student’s journal entry, providing real-time insight into a student’s learning and progress.

Since the updates are more frequent and detailed than the average five or ten week progress report, a parent can view both their child’s highs and lows, eliminating the surprises that may come with more traditional report cards.  Although the school still distributes traditional report cards quarterly as well, they are hoping to move away from traditional report cards all together in the future.

This more cumulative and engaging method of progress reporting includes more than just test scores.  This allows the progress to be viewed and the grade to be compiled throughout the  learning process.  Through K-12 school notifications and technology, the report card procress is being redefined and invigorated, creating a greater environment for parent engagement and greater parent communication.

Do you feel like K-12 schools should revamp traditional report cards?  Share your thoughts on our blog!

Are you a PowerSchool user? Download our brochure to learn how our Automated Reports Module can help streamline report card distribution at your school.

Topics: report cards, power announcement, powerschool, education, parent engagement

Mobile Technology Thrives as a Learning Tool in K-12 School Districts

Posted by Nina Russo on Tue, Jun 10, 2014 @ 13:06 PM

K-12 school districts have seen a growing use of technology in their classrooms.  From smart boards to iPads, technology is an integral part of learning and communication in today’s K-12 school districts.

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Mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets have increasingly been seen in K-12 classrooms, despite much debate.   Although some concerns still remain, mobile technology has grown as a learning tool and is gaining more support from school administrators.

One way school administrators can deflect the cost of integrating mobile learning into school districts is by implementing a BYOD (bring your own device) program, allowing students to use the technologies they already use in their everyday lives.

A recent eSchool News article shows the results of a study focused on mobile learning in K-12 school districts.  Here are some of the highlights:

  • School administrators say the following devices have had a significant impact on transforming teaching and learning:

    • Tablets - 41 percent

    • One-to-One Programs - 28 percent

    • Mobile Apps - 22 percent

    • BYOD - 22 percent

    • 86 percent of school administrators said mobile learning increases student engagement.

    • 67 percent say mobile learning also helps each student personalize his or her learning.

    • In 2010, just 22 percent of school principals said they were likely to let students use their own mobile devices in school and this year’s survey reveals that 41 percent of principals said they now support the move. An additional 10 percent said they had already changed school policy to support BYOD.

Not only does mobile technology give students access to more digital learning opportunities, but can be used as a communication tool for the school district as well.  School administrators can use a “Mobile Command Center” to monitor their social media pages, or send important notifications to staff, students and families via email, voice and SMS text message.

Does your school support mobile learning initiatives?  Share your thoughts on our blog!

To learn more about the School Announcement Mobile Command Center, download our brochure


Topics: school notifications, mobile learning, educational technology, power announcement, powerschool, education

New Bill Eases USDA School Lunch Guidelines’ Strain on K-12 Schools

Posted by Cassie Breen on Tue, Jun 03, 2014 @ 12:06 PM

School lunches have consistently been a hot topic surrounding K-12 school districts over the past couple years.  With an increase in nutrition and school lunch guidelines, there have been numerous obstacles and controversy surrounding the subject.

In 2012, the USDA began generating school lunch guidelines for K-12 school districts in order to promote student health and produce healthier school lunches.  These school lunch guidelines incrementally required K-12 schools to add more fruits and vegetables to meals, include whole grains, and reduce salt and fat content. However, many K-12 school districts have found these changes to be unaccepted by a large portion of their students.

According to a recent article, the House Committee on Appropriations has found numerous K-12 school districts have been losing revenue due to the rejection of the USDA school lunch guidelinesSome of the reasons for this include:

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  • Adding significant amounts of produce to meals is expensive;

  • Students who don’t like the new meals are dropping out of the lunch program;

  • And students who stay in the program are trashing many of the food items (such as vegetables) they are required to take.

    • A study of 18 elementary schools found that up to 70 percent of fruits and vegetables that were added to meals ended up in the trash.

Although student health is very important to many school administrators, this leaves them struggling to find a balance between what will meet the school lunch guidelines, what students will eat, and how to maintain a positive revenue stream.

For this reason, among others, the Appropriations Committee has recently passed a budget bill for K-12 schools regarding school lunch guidelines.  This bill allows schools whose food programs have been losing money for six months to apply to opt out of the nutritional guidelines for 12 months.  This means exempt schools would receive a temporary pass on mandatory fruits, vegetables, calorie, sodium, and fat limits, as well as a delay on implementing guidelines requiring healthier snacks choices, which takes effect in July.

The School Nutrition Association, representing both school food administrators and food manufacturers, supports the bill.  The group is also asking the USDA to reevaluate even stricter requirements that are planned.

Although the USDA school lunch guidelines still exist and the challenge of making nutritional meals more appealing to students will continue, schools will have more time to figure out how to deal with the concerns of increased food costs, decreased participation in the National School Lunch Program and simply how to make healthy “stuff” taste good.

How do you feel about the USDA school lunch guidelines?  Share your thoughts on our blog!

Topics: student health, school announcement, power announcement, powerschool, education

K-12 School Districts in Need of Better Bullying Prevention Approaches

Posted by Cassie Breen on Tue, May 27, 2014 @ 11:05 AM

There is no question that some of the largest concerns in K-12 school districts relate to bullying and cyberbullying.  In 2011, a National Crime Victimization study showed close to 1.2 million students reported someone was hurtful to them at school once a week or more.  Of this number, 540,000 students say this happens almost daily.

Due to these statistics and the results of similar studies, many researchers and analysts are finding it clear that the approach taken by many K-12 school districts to stop bullying is not working.  These plans solely put emphasis on increased adult supervision and punishing bullies when an issue is brought to an adult’s attention.

stopbullying resized 600In numerous cases an adult is unaware, because students do not report the bullying incident due to fear of social repercussions from their peers.

By providing students a way to anonymously report incidents of bullying and cyberbullying, K-12 school districts may encourage more students to report bullying or harassment.  By eliminating the fear of their peers knowing the identity of the “reporter”, students may feel more comfortable letting an adult know the situation occurring.

However, in addition to anonymous communication,  K-12 school districts need to focus on more than just adult intervention.  Many schools that have begun to revamp their bullying prevention plans have done so by adding student leadership to their existing plans.

By encouraging student leadership in K-12 school districts:

  • Students can gain greater skills that promote positive interaction and create more positive role models.

  • The climate of support for bullying will decline.

  • Bullying and cyberbullying incidents will be more readily resolved.

  • Positive student intervention in bullying incidents will increase.

How does your school deal with the growing issue of bullying and cyberbullying?  Share your thoughts on our blog!

For tips on how to improve your bullying prevention plan, download our guide!


Topics: bullying, cyberbullying, school announcement, power announcement, powerschool, education

3 Education Strategies to Bridge the Learning Gap During Summer Break

Posted by Cassie Breen on Tue, May 20, 2014 @ 13:05 PM

Summer break is right around the corner and K-12 students are looking forward to all of the fun that comes with time away from school.  Although many students participate in activities over the summer, their minds may be disconnected from education, causing a need to catch up on lost knowledge at the beginning of the school year. 

Teachers, school administrators, parents and community members may also lose connectivity to their school or district over the summer months, producing a need to bridge the gap in communication from the school year through their summer break.

According to a recent article, there are three education strategies students, teachers, administrators and community members can utilize in order to lessen the effects of the learning gap created during summer break and improve educational outcomes.

These education strategies include:

1.)    High-Tech Education Strategies:  This strategy uses social media and other preferred communication methods, such as email and SMS text messaging, to connect with parents.  Teachers and school administrators are able to connect with students and families through these channels, keeping them engaged and informed.  Teachers and administrators can use the school year to establish routine communication with students and families that can easily continue ithroughout the summer.  By creating a sense of community, communication and engagement is strengthened and connectivity is more apparent during the summer months.

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2.)    High-Yield Education Strategies:  Teachers can use this strategy by encouraging students to have “self-assigned” learning.  By supporting self-assigned learning during the school year and promoting educational activities before summer break, teachers can enrich student learning and create a learning mentality that can be carried throughout the summer.  Teachers can combine this with high-tech strategies to engage with parents regarding these activities and communicate with students and families throughout the summer to check-in on progress.

3.)    High-Touch Education Strategies:  This strategy instills learning through building relationships with the school community.  By learning more about the school community throughout the school year, relationships can be built to last throughout summer break.  School leaders might organize a community walk that highlights resources and challenges in a school neighborhood.   This can create greater community awareness and activism while creating future school partnerships.

Through the utilization of these education strategies, K-12 schools can develop greater results for education throughout summer break including:

  • Stronger learning outcomes for students through the creation of summer learning time for families.

  • Stronger communication and engagement with students and parents.

  • Improved understanding of the school community, its resources and challenges.

How does your school incorporate learning into summer breaks?  Share your thoughts on our blog.

To learn more about improving communication and engagement in your school, download our brochure.



Topics: power announcement, powerschool, education, school programs

Blended Learning: A Successful Option for K-12 School Education

Posted by Nina Russo on Tue, May 13, 2014 @ 12:05 PM

Blended learning has become prevalent as a learning option for K-12 students today.  With the combination of traditional and online education, blended learning is a way for students to learn at their own pace; however, there are a number of challenges in order to make it work.

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An Education Week study has suggested that 95 percent of school administrators believe students need more personalized pacing in their learning.  85 percent also believe students need more learning time outside of school.

According to a recent eSchool News article, options for implementing a blended learning model include the rotation model, in which students rotate as a group from teacher-led instruction to online instruction and back again; and the flex model, in which students rotate on a customized schedule between online instruction and small group discussions or one-on-one tutoring.

Blended learning has been especially successful in teaching world languages.  Below are a few examples of blended learning successes in K-12 schools include:

  • Coventry Village School in Vermont: Students learn French by working with online curriculum for 45 minutes a day, four days a week.  Melissa Souliere, a teacher who serves as an on-site facilitator, reinforces this instruction by having her students play games such as Hangman using French vocabulary, and by leading other whole-class and small-group activities in French.

  • Jessamine Career and Technical Center in Kentucky: Students in grades 9-12 are learning Spanish in a blended model.  Jessamine’s implementation of blended learning includes a supportive administration, access to technology for every student while they’re in school, and robust on-site technical support.  Students express they enjoy the class because of its differentiated learning and sense of freedom that comes with setting their own learning pace.

Does your school offer opportunities for blended learning?  Share your experiences on our blog!

To learn more about educational technology check out our other blog posts!

Topics: educational technology, power announcement, powerschool, education

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