Alert Solutions Blog

Old VS. New: Why K-12 Teachers Should Embrace EdTech

Posted by Nina Caliri on Thu, May 23, 2019 @ 10:05 AM

As technology continues to evolve and develop, it’s steadily taking over the K-12 education space. Although new edtech is designed to help and assist teachers with tasks in and out of the classroom, some teachers are still on the fence.  Why is there so much resistance among teachers when it comes to new educational technology, or edtech?

EdTech - Education Technology

The Ed Advocate says there are many anti-tech teachers due to the power of tradition. A teacher-centered approach in which K-12 teachers are sharing their wisdom with their students and classrooms, engaging the class, and motivating them to be the best they can is the more traditional way to teach.  Now education is changing to more of a student-centered approach instead. The Ed Advocate explains, “In the student-centered approach to education, the teacher serves as a guide who facilitates the learning process, instead of seeking to control it.” Teachers can utilize edtech to help facilitate the student-centered approach to teaching.

Another key reason teachers haven’t completely embraced edtech is because of the lack of training on the different technologies that could help them. Older generations of teachers simply did not have access to the newer edtech that is out there, and even the younger generations are not fully trained on how edtech can help them in the classroom.

Edtech …Out With the Old, In With the New

  • Traditional Attendance Calls vs. Automated Attendance Alerts
    Chronic absenteeism and truancy are plaguing K-12 schools and districts across the country. Each day school administrators are calling parents to report their children are absent, taking up valuable time that could easily be used on other administrative tasks. Introducing Automated Attendance Alert edtech! With automated attendance alerts educators don’t have to worry about calling home as the alert is sent automatically to parents or guardians using their preferred communication method through a school notification platform. This is more efficient than manually calling parents, allows for accurate attendance reporting, and saves staff hours of time.

  • Parent-Teacher Meetings vs. Video Conferences & Calls
    Nowadays there are a high number of working parents who may not be able to attend parent-teacher meetings due to busy schedules, travels, and meetings. By using digital tools such as Skype or Google Hangout teachers can set up video conferences to ensure good parental involvement and parent engagement without parents without having to rearrange their work schedule.

  • Sending Home Paper Information vs. Digitally Sending Information
    Sending students home with field trip approval slips and announcements is not always the most efficient way to get information into the hands of a parent or guardian. Edtech school notification platforms are a great way to communicate important information with parents and ensure they receive it. Our school notification platform, SwiftK12, allows teachers to communicate more effectively with parents and improve parent engagement and response. With secure document delivery, teachers can also automatically email report cards, progress reports, transcripts, and more to student families. This again ensures delivery with real-time reporting, reduces risk of message interception by students, and also reduces paper, ink, and mailing costs.

  • Snow Days vs. Digital Learning Days
    For those living in areas in the U.S. with harsh winters, snow days can take a toll on learning opportunities for students. Even though students may not complain about multiple snow days, edtech is making it possible for some K-12 schools and districts to host ‘digital learning days’ in replacement of the traditional snow day. Anderson School District 5 in South Carolina was selected to be a part of an eLearning pilot program. This program allows students to access their assignments at home via Google Classroom with Chromebook devices. “At the end of the day, it makes common sense and financial sense to implement this program,” Superintendent Tom Wilson said in a news release. “No longer will we need to run buses mid-June for a makeup day that only a quarter of our students attend.”

  • Reporting Bullying Incidents In-Person vs. Anonymous Tip Lines
    Bullying is a problem every K-12 school wants to eliminate in all classrooms. It’s difficult for teachers to intervene with every single bullying incident that occurs inside and outside their classrooms, and with the growth of cyberbullying it becomes more and more problematic. Utilizing an edtech solution like an anonymous bullying tip line can help! Our Speak Up! Anti-Bullying Management platform was designed for schools to help them dramatically reduce school bullying and cyberbullying incidents by allowing students to make reports anonymously.

As technology continues to evolve, Alert Solutions does too. By implementing edtech in your classroom, you could save valuable time, increase parent engagement, and reduce bullying incidents, all while promoting your student-centered teaching approach. There is a lot more educational technology out there. So, teachers… it’s time to embrace edtech!

If you’re interested in any of the edtech tools Alert Solutions has to offer we’d be happy to assist. Please contact us today!

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Topics: bullying, cyberbullying, attendance, school announcement, educational technology, power announcement, powerschool, parent engagement, parent communication, technology trends

School Lunch Debt: Can Your Students Afford Lunch?

Posted by Tara Gibson on Thu, Apr 18, 2019 @ 11:04 AM

Did you know 100,000 schools and education institutions across the country provide lunch to 30 million students each day? That’s a lot of cafeteria school lunches! According to the National School Lunch Program, of those 30 million students the program estimates as many as 20 million students receive their lunch for free, 2 million pay a reduced price of 40 cents, and 8 million pay the full price. These incredible statistics are shocking to those who don’t often think about school lunch debt.

Some K-12 school districts are reimbursed this school lunch debt by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which pays schools for lunch expenditures based on the number of students paying full price, reduced price, or are receiving the meal for free. This only occurs if the schools are part of the federal school lunch program.

School Lunch

Students who are not enrolled in a federally subsidized meal plan at their school typically have accounts in which they put money for school breakfasts and lunches. As with any account, once the money is gone the bills will accumulate. This is where school lunch debt begins. The New Food Academy tells us, “…that (school lunch) debt accrual puts an increasing burden on schools that bear it, sometimes to the tune of tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars for a single district. In late December, The Washington Post reported that K-12 students in the D.C. area owe a collective $500,000 in unpaid lunch debt for the first semester of the current academic year alone.”

School lunch costs vary by the school district and state, but according to New Food Academy, on average a single meal costs students $2.48 at the elementary school level and $2.74 at the high school level. Although this price doesn’t sound like a lot, it adds up for families providing for multiple children. Lunches can be expensive and lead to school lunch debt.

Frances Frost, a mother in Maryland, spoke openly to the Atlantic and talked about the various permission slips, picture day fliers, and field trip notices she receives on a daily basis. She had unfortunately missed the reminder on refilling her daughter’s school lunch account. She says “…the lunch server graciously let Natalie keep her selected hot lunch with a reminder to bring money for her meal account.” This isn’t always the norm.  There have been discussions on how school lunch shaming is happening in some schools and districts, which is when the cafeteria workers refuse a student lunch as they do not have any money in their account.

This “shaming” sometimes subjects children to the embarrassment of returning their lunch due to insufficient funds.  According to The Atlantic, “Last year in Bedford, Kentucky, parents complained and accused the local elementary school of “bullying” after a child’s lunch was confiscated and thrown away in front of her friends for running a negative balance. Dominic Gant, a high-schooler in Dowagiac, Michigan, was left embarrassed and hungry when his lunch was taken and trashed for owing $4.95. A 12-year-old in Dickinson, Texas had his school breakfast dumped over a 30 cent debt…” The stories continue. Although school lunch debts can seriously add up and create a financial burden for school districts, the shaming and bullying of children who owe money should not occur.

Alert Solutions may have a fix for this problem. Our school notification system, SwiftK12, allows administrators to set up automated alerts to go home to parents, including low lunch balance alerts. The  low lunch balance alert feature can automatically send parents an email, voice call or text message with the student’s name and the remaining dollar amount. Parents can also choose their preferred communication method to make sure they receive and read the notification.

With this feature, school administrators can:

  • Set up different fee alerts based on the balance level
  • Reduce manual staff labor, freeing up time
  • Easily recover unpaid balances, restoring a healthier cash flow for your K-12 school district
  • Notify and engage with parents more effectively
  • Cut down on paper costs

Free up staff from the tedious task of fee reminders and effectively recover unpaid balances with this helpful tool. Ready to learn more?

SwiftK12 Brochure Download

Topics: student health, school notifications, school announcement, educational technology, lunch balance, power announcement, powerschool, school programs, parent communication

Questions to Ask your School Notification System Provider

Posted by Nina Caliri on Thu, Apr 11, 2019 @ 12:04 PM

Communicating with your school community is critical to ensuring that everyone is on the same page, feels included and is kept informed of important details that might affect them.

For some K-12 schools, using a school notification system is one way to efficiently communicate with students, teachers, staff and parents. If you’re evaluating your options, make sure to ask these questions to your school notification system provider.

Can they provide a secure and reliable network? 

Ask for details on data center redundancy. What types and how many data centers do they have? How do they ensure reliable message delivery? What level of encryption do they use to keep data secured?

How do they provide rapid message delivery?shutterstock_200713358

How many simultaneous voice calls and text messages can they support per second? How do they leverage routing capabilities to maximize speed? Is their system flexible enough to adjust voice call speed to local phone networks or uses email throttling to adapt to different throughput requirements of various ISPs?

What other K-12 schools have they worked with?

How long have they been working as a school notification system provider? How many K-12 schools and students do they support? Are there any K-12 schools in your area that you can speak with?

What features do they have?

Do they offer a mobile app that allows users to send email, voice, social media and SMS text alerts directly from their smart phone? Can the mobile app connect with your student information system, like PowerSchool, to allow users to instantly access up-to-date contact information? Can you automatically email parents important documents such as report cards, progress reports, transcripts, evaluations and student schedules?

By asking these questions to your school notification system provider, you can make sure you’re doing your due diligence in selecting a solution that works best for you and your K-12 school.

Alert Solutions' School Notification Systems

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

Using Accurate Data to Enhance Your Parent-Teacher Communication Strategy

Posted by Tara Gibson on Tue, Apr 09, 2019 @ 08:04 AM

Both parents and teachers are a child’s best role models as they grow up and develop into a young adult. For this reason, it’s very important your classroom encourages great positive parent-teacher communication. This communication should be ongoing throughout the school year, whether it’s a quick message home or a scheduled one-on-one meeting.

Keeping parents involved in their child’s education provides a community feeling which benefits both the student and the K-12 school. Positive parent-teacher communication promotes a level of trust between parents and teachers. As a parent you’re trusting your child is in good hands while they are at school, and as a teacher you’re trusting your students are going home to a positive environment. 

Multiple studies show us that engaged parents directly correlates with the following:

  • Students Perform Better in School
    Studies show students earn better grades and higher test scores. They also attend school more regularly and are more likely to pass their classes.
  • Students Have Improved Behavior & Positive Attitudes
    Students who have involved parents have reduced rates of substance abuse and delinquent acts compared to students whose parents are not involved.
  • Students Have Enhanced Social Skills
    Parent involvement often encourages students to interact with their peers. This leads to better social skills and academic outcomes.

Clean Data for Positive Parent-Teacher Communication

Clean Data for Parent-Teacher CommunicationTo help stay on top of your parent-teacher communication, you have a supportive ally: data. According to Education World, “student data helps keep both parents and the community in the loop about how schools are serving its students. Data helps people within the community compare how schools in the area perform compared against each other.” With clean data, you’re not only able to track how students are performing, but you will have up-to-date parent contact information to communicate that performance.

Using an effective school notification platform helps teachers keep parents engaged in their child’s education. Discover the 3 tools below that your school notification system needs to have:

  1. SIS Integration
    School administrators and teachers are always on the lookout for a school notification system that integrates with their current SIS, or student information system. Although the ease of having an integrated notification system sounds good enough to many, having an SIS integration also allows for greater school data accuracy. Having your school data linked with your school notification system ensures that any message an administrator or teacher sends goes to the correct and up-to-date contact information.

  2. Parent Portal
    A parent portal is an extremely useful tool in parent-teacher communication. When sending out important school alerts and notifications, it’s essential the message is being delivered to parents and staff using up-to-date contact information. Allowing parents to view and edit their contact information and review previously sent messages, documents, and files, is a great way to ensure positive parent-teacher communication. A parent portal also allows users to determine which phone number or email address should be contacted based on the type of message, and allows parents to set their preferred communication methods such as text, email, or phone calls.

  3. Multi-Language Translation Tool
    Working in a diverse school often means English is not everybody’s first language. According to the US Census Bureau, minorities will become the majority in 2023 of children under 18. It can be tricky to foster positive parent- teacher communication when navigating language barriers. Fortunately, with a multi-language translation tool teachers are able to reduce miscommunication by accommodating the language needs of parents, staff, and school community members. Knowing which parent or guardian speaks a different language is important data that will help foster a good relationship between teachers and parents.

The above tools help school administrators and teachers utilize their clean data to nurture positive parent-teacher communication.

Alert Solutions’ school notification platform, SwiftK12, has all three of these helpful tools. We understand communicating effectively with parents, staff, and students is essential in the daily and weekly operations within a K-12 school or classroom.  From unexpected school closures to automated attendance notifications, SwiftK12 enables teachers and administrators to reliably reach hundreds or even thousands of student families within minutes.

Improve parent-teacher communication with your school notification system!

SwiftK12 Brochure Download

Topics: school announcement, educational technology, power announcement, powerschool, education, parent communication

Autism Awareness Month: How Can Your School Promote Acceptance?

Posted by Philip Young on Tue, Apr 02, 2019 @ 09:04 AM

Today is Autism Awareness Day, and the month of April is Autism Awareness Month!

Autism Awareness

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is defined as a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, speech and nonverbal communication, and repetitive disorders.  There are many different subtypes of autism which are influenced by both genetic and environmental factors. Some people can live entirely independently with little support, and some require a significant amount of support in their day-to-day lives.

Autism Speaks shares autism affects an estimated 1 in 59 children in the U.S. today, and the indicators of autism often appear by age 2 or 3. There can be developmental delays that appear sooner which leads to an earlier diagnosis. The sooner the diagnosis, the sooner early intervention can start. Research has made it clear that high-quality early intervention can improve learning, communication and social skills, as well as underlying brain development.

Texas Autism Society shares since the 1970’s the Autism Society have been celebrating National Autism Awareness Month (NAAM) to highlight the growing need for concern and awareness about autism. The month of April is a great opportunity for K-12 schools and educators to teach students about autism and issues within the autism community. There are many ways for students to support their peers in school who may have autism, and raise both acceptance and awareness within the school community.

6 Ways to Promote Awareness During Autism Awareness Month

The Texas Autism Society has several great ideas that are fairly simple for K-12 schools to implement during April to raise awareness:

  • Share Autism Facts
    Consider sharing several autism facts on puzzle pieces around the school and mention these facts on the morning announcements for everybody to hear. You could hang the puzzle pieces on hallway walls or post them on a bulletin board for students and faculty to see.
  • Invite Guest Speakers
    Bring guest speakers into school to present to students. “Speakers can be people on the spectrum, family members of individuals with autism, or professionals in the field.” Your K-12 school could hold a special assembly for these presentations.
  • Autism Awareness Shirts
    Encourage your students and faculty to wear a certain color or specific autism awareness shirt one day of the week.
  • Showcase Autism Awareness Books
    Ask your school library to showcase books about Autism on display throughout the month of April. A few books mentioned by Texas Autism Society include: The Autism Acceptance Book by Ellen Sabin, Tobin Learns to Make Friends by Diane Murrell, Of Mice and Aliens by Kathy Hoopman, and Wishing on the Midnight Star by Nancy Ogaz. For a larger book suggestion list, click here.
  • Autism Movie
    Show a movie about autism during a lunch period or in the classroom. A few movies mentioned by Texas Autism Society include: Life Animated, Autism the Musical, Best Kept Secret, Family Next Door, Rain Man, Jack and the Red Hearts, Autism in Love, and The Story of Luke.
  • Create an Autism Ambassador Club
    Autism New Jersey has an Autism Ambassador Program that has a significant impact on increasing the acceptance of autism. “Ambassadors of all ages engage their communities by creating informational displays and presentations in their schools and workplaces, organizing successful fundraising events, and enlisting the support of legislators and state officials throughout April, National Autism Awareness Month.”

Spreading awareness doesn’t only need to happen in school. Get your students’ parents involved by sending home friendly reminders with your school notification system. SwiftK12 allows school administrators and teachers the ability to send messages home using parent-preferred communication methods such as text, emails, social media, and phone calls.

Make this month the biggest and best Autism Awareness Month your school has ever seen!

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Topics: student health, school announcement, educational technology, power announcement, powerschool, school programs

Digital Tools to Improve Parental Involvement in K-12 Schools

Posted by Philip Young on Thu, Mar 21, 2019 @ 13:03 PM

With the digital world continuing to expand year over year, educators are beginning to leverage several technologies to help increase parental involvement in K-12 schools. However, some are skeptical of these digital tools and the effectiveness they have in creating meaningful relationships between teachers and parents. With this being said, the typical in-person parent-teacher meetings are not as common since the evolution of digital technology.

Mom and Daughter on Phone - Parental Involvement

According to a 2016 report, “there’s been a steep drop in the number of parents who believe that more intimate forms of communication—face-to-face meetings with teachers, for example—are the most effective means to convey important information about students.” This study also tells us there is a growing acceptance of digital methods among both teachers and parents.

Parental involvement is a trending topic in the education field.  Studies show students with engaged parents are more likely to attend school, graduate on time, do better academically, and are less likely to drop out. Students are also less likely to get in trouble and have substance abuse problems.

Keeping parents in the loop of day-to-day activities is not always easy, but with the help of digital tools like social media, video calling, and automated notifications, teachers are saving time and keeping parents happy.

3 Digital Tools to Improve Parental Involvement

  1. Social Media
    Social media is a great way to stay connected with parents and promote parental involvement. Working parents may not be able to make it to parent engagement nights, but following classroom social media accounts such as Facebook pages or Twitter streams will keep them in the know. EdTech shares through using social media “they (parents) can stay more informed and offer more help and expertise during a time that’s more convenient for them.”

  2. Video Conferences & Calls
    If you can’t meet a parent in person, try video calling from the comfort of their home! Like mentioned previously, many parents are working and traveling which makes it difficult to meet with their child’s teachers. Video conferencing software such as Skype, Google Hangout, and FaceTime allow for great parental involvement digitally.

  3. Text Messaging & Automated Alerts
    Automated alerts and text message alerts are an easy way to boost parental involvement. This is becoming a preferred communication method for both teachers and parents alike. According to EdTech, “A lot of young parents become intimidated by formal conferences or can’t get time off work to attend. Many teachers have found that the ability to text parents has made communicating with them much easier.” A study was conducted in 2017 by Columbia University and parents were sent texts weekly about their children’s grades, absences, and missed assignments. This resulted in an “18 percent increase in student attendance and a 39 percent reduction in course failures.” The numbers speak for themselves!

Alert Solutions’ industry leading school notification platform, SwiftK12, allows teachers and administrators to send text messages home to parents with ease. SwiftK12’s automated attendance alerts also serve as a great tool to help save staff time and ultimately increase attendance rates.

Pearson Education explains that improving communication and parental involvement using digital tools won’t happen overnight. They recommend a few tips to help with nurturing parent engagement outlined below:

  • Involve Parents in Coursework
    Find ways to get parents involved in homework and other school projects. This can be done by sending helpful reminders home through their preferred communication methods.

  • Teach Parents About Digital Learning
    With the many skeptics out there, it’s important to talk with parents about your school’s approach to digital personalized learning. Pearson recommends sharing “how are students benefiting, how much time per day are they spending on screens, how does digital allow students to work at their own pace and meet competencies, what will homework look like and overall WHY digital.”

  • Remember: Not All Parents are Fluent English Speakers
    Break down those communication barriers! There are tools for parents and teachers make it easier to grow and sustain parental involvement and engagement across a language barrier. SwiftK12 is a helpful tool as it translates messages with ease.

  • Set Expectations
    Make sure parents know what to expect! Parents who have multiple children enrolled in one school may be overwhelmed if each teacher has a different way to communicate with them. Pearson provides the following example; “Imagine having 2 children each with 6 different teachers who have 6 different ways to access information. This can create deep frustration that is hard to overcome.”

At Alert Solutions, we understand the importance of parental involvement and keeping parents engaged - it has so many benefits for students. We’ve kept up with new technology trends with our school notification platform, SwiftK12. Reaching parents is easy to do with our quick alerts and automated lunch and attendance alerts. 

Ready to learn more? Download our brochure today!

SwiftK12 Brochure Download

Topics: school announcement, educational technology, power announcement, powerschool, education, parent engagement, parent communication

Could Digital Learning Games Help K-12 Educators?

Posted by Philip Young on Mon, Mar 11, 2019 @ 12:03 PM

In a world where technology is taking over, K-12 educators are looking for new and exciting ways to make their classes fun and engaging. This is being done with the help of digital learning games.  

Digital Learning Games in the Classroom

To put it simply, a digital learning game is a self-guided game that promotes a variety of educational subject matters. These games could relate to subjects such as history, math, science, and more. Instead of teachers lecturing at the front of the classroom, students are encouraged to take an autonomous approach to learning. This student-centered method allows students to generate their own knowledge and receive information through the game itself.

How Do Teachers Feel About Digital Learning Games?

The response to digital learning games was not always as positive as it is today. Many educators were hesitant to stray from the traditional methods of teaching, as it was all they knew. A study conducted by Yun-Jo An and Li Cao found teachers did not seem to fully understand the educational value of digital learning games. Within the study they worked with 50 teachers to show them the usefulness of digital games, and develop their own digital games. “Teachers were generally skeptical about the pedagogical value of digital games, partially due to their lack of familiarity with games, and they remained skeptical about using games in teaching even after playing various games.”

After introducing several different types of digital games, the teachers in this study began to see their worth and were enjoying the games at the same time. An and Cao conducted several different studies and “examined the changes in teachers’ attitudes and perceptions after being exposed to or playing (digital learning) games.” The educators’ attitudes had gone from skeptical and unsure, to positive and excited about the prospect of digital learning in the classroom.

The Benefits of Digital Learning Games 

Researchers at Vanderbilt University and partners at Legends of Learning conducted their own study on digital learning games, and the effects they had on the students and their classroom environment. This research showed the comparison of students who were exposed to digital learning games and those who were not, and the results were very interesting. They showed students who utilized game-based learning out-performed those who did not, and “special education students involved in the study authored lengthier responses to open-ended questions, displayed greater confidence in the subject matter after playing the games, and achieved more than a whole standard deviation difference.”

According to ESchool News, there were 5 specific outcomes from this study revealed by the teachers:

  1. Deeper content games supported in-depth learning, developing investigative, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.
  2. The subset of quiz-style games reinforced lessons and helped review material.
  3. Different types of game play simulated interest and engagement, particularly in students prone to being off-task.
  4. Games prompted student-led discussions, collaboration, and the sharing of knowledge.
  5. Simple and complex games increased confidence and content mastery.

This study also found there was a rapid increase of engagement within the classroom, teachers were a lot more enthusiastic after seeing the positive results of digital games, and there was a clear increase of student attention spans.

“The results highlight the potential of digital games for enhancing instruction, particularly in light of the teachers strongly positive experiences and interest in continuing to use games like these in the future,” said researcher and co-author Douglas Clark, professor, Vanderbilt University.

Bringing Digital Learning Games Home

Digital learning games shouldn’t only be used in classrooms. Teachers should encourage parents to promote these fun educational games at home as well. The benefits of game-based learning are clear from the multiple studies conducted. We recommend sharing the results and the positive outcomes from digital learning games with parents and guardians. This is easy to do in a simple email home, or a digital newsletter from a reliable school notification platform, like SwiftK12.

Alert Solutions has always emphasized the importance of parent engagement and involvement in their child’s education. This is one way to do so! The benefits of parental involvement include increased student success, social skills, graduation rates, and more. 

Want to learn more? Contact us today.

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

Why K-12 Schools Should Take Student Mental Health Seriously

Posted by Philip Young on Thu, Feb 28, 2019 @ 10:02 AM

Mental health awareness is a topic being discussed more often, and it’s a conversation many need to have. Mental health conditions are becoming more prominent in students around the teenage and adolescent ages, with many experiencing this onset by the age of 14.

Student Mental Health - Student Taking ExamThe National Alliance on Mental Health shares startling statistics, such as one in five youths currently live with a mental health condition, and less than half of these individuals do not receive any services for their condition. “Undiagnosed, untreated or inadequately treated mental health conditions can affect a student’s ability to learn, grow and develop.”

K-12 schools are the place the majority of young people spend their days. It’s extremely important that school teachers and administrators educate themselves on student mental health and make sure their students are getting the help they need.  NAMI explains school personnel play an important role in identifying the early warning signs in students who are experiencing an emerging mental health condition. Once identified, students should be connected with effective services and support.

Common Student Mental Health Disorders

Mental health disorders come in many shapes and sizes, and students begin to battle these issues at a young age.  Many mental health disorders impact everyday life, making it difficult for students to focus entirely on schoolwork. Some of the common mental disorders are listed below, with the help from Teen Mental Health.

  • Anxiety disorders are classified as disturbances in brain mechanisms that are designed to protect a person from harm. Below are the types of anxiety disorders:
    • General Anxiety Disorder
    • Social Anxiety Disorder
    • Panic Disorder
    • Specific Phobias
  • Mood disorders are classified as disturbances in usual mood states. Below are a two common mood disorders:
    • Major Depressive Disorder, or commonly referred to as Clinical Depression
    • Bipolar Disorder
  • Personality disorders are classified as maladaptive personal characteristics. Below are several personality disorders:
    • Eccentric: Paranoid, Schizoid, Schizotypal
    • Dramatic/Emotional: Antisocial, Narcissistic
    • Fear Related: Avoidant, Dependent, Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder
  • Eating disorders are classified as disturbances of weight and feeding behavior. A few eating disorders to look out for include:
    • Anorexia Nervosa
    • Bulimia Nervosa
    • Binge Eating Disorder
  • There are many more mental health disorders listed by Teen Mental Health. Click here for more.

Understanding the Impact of Student Mental Health

As the first line of defense, educators must understand the importance of student mental health, and the impact it has on young people. Unfortunately, when a young adult is faced with a mental health disorder, they often don’t address or treat it until a later age. Student mental health disorders correlate with low achievement, disruptive behavior, chronic absenteeism, and even dropping out of school altogether.

As the first signs of a mental health disorder usually present themselves around the age of 14, teachers who interact with students this age should begin to keep an eye out for any behavior that appears to signify mental illness so that they’re able to get the help they need.

How to Spot & Address Student Mental Health Concerns

There are a few indicators to look out for when considering student mental health. If you see a student withdrawing, being unsocial, lacking self-confidence, or acting out of character, they may need help.

Nancy Barile, an award-winning teacher, started to notice that one of her students was not herself. She explains this student was always punctual when it came to classes and homework, was meticulous with her appearance and was always friendly. When Nancy noticed she no longer tried with her school work, was showing up to school disheveled and wearing the same clothes, and was uncharacteristically withdrawn, she knew something was terribly wrong.

Luckily there were mental health experts ready to help. Nancy explains, “They discovered that (this student) was depressed and suicidal, and she needed an immediate psychiatric intervention. She was hospitalized for a period of time, but she was able to return to my classroom a few months later. With the help of medication and therapy, she managed to graduate with her class.”

This is an important example of how teachers and administrators can spot a problem and effectively address a student’s mental health concern.

Having open communication and informative conversations about these tough subjects is extremely important, as it could save a student’s life. 

Alert Solutions works with many K-12 districts and schools across the country, all of which should be aware of the importance of student mental health. Sharing information internally and externally with students, teachers and parents will help keep everybody informed and engaged in the topic of student mental health awareness. This can easily be done through blogging, social media, and with a school notification platform such as SwiftK12.

Interested in learning more about SwiftK12? Download our brochure below.

 SwiftK12 Brochure Download

Topics: student health, school announcement, school safety, educational technology, power announcement, powerschool, school culture, school climate

K-12 School Budgets: 4 Ways to Cut Costs Efficiently

Posted by Tara Gibson on Thu, Feb 14, 2019 @ 09:02 AM

Discussions on school budgets and cutting costs come up in K-12 school districts across the country each year. Every district looks for efficient ways to streamline operations and save money without putting students at a disadvantage and upsetting teachers, administrators and parents.  

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The role and purpose of a K-12 school budget is outlined within the AASA White Paper: School Budgets 101 as “a district’s plan for the upcoming year as related to anticipated revenues and expenditures. School budgets allow districts to translate sometimes intangible missions, operations and objectives into reality by outlining and providing specific programs and funding/financial terms.”

According to the Government Finance Officers Association, “Budgeting principles and policies should be developed collaboratively by the district’s school board and the staff members who develop and recommend the budget. Because both parties have integral roles in developing, adopting, and, ultimately, implementing a budget, both parties must strongly support the principles and policies underlying the budget.”

Everybody should be involved with these important financial decisions, and everybody should seek to balance the school budget equally to benefit the district and in turn the teachers and students. So, how do you make these difficult resolutions?

Making Room in Your K-12 School Budget: 4 Suggestions

Cutting school budget costs is no easy feat. The below suggestions are examples of what some K-12 school districts have done to help with slimming down yearly costs.

  1. Target School Utility Costs
    One thing to consider when discussing your school budget is what your yearly utility costs are. If you’re able to bring down electricity costs from your building equipment and lighting, that may free up some room for your budget. According to School Leaders Now, a district in Grapevine-Colleyville found that the lightbulbs in all of their buildings were not energy efficient. “A company was hired to help encourage more energy-minded behavior, from decreasing water usage to making sure all lights were turned off at night. Together those strategies lowered the district’s utility bills from $4.7 million in 2011–12 to $3.3 million this past year (2017).”

  2. Consider Contracting Services & Sharing Services
    A School Budgeting Report refers to contracting services, or outsourcing, as “a practice of making agreements with outside organizations to provide services in a school district.” These outsourced services are a great way for you to maximize your school budget, and cut costs on services such as food & nutrition, transportation, security, custodial services, maintenance, tutoring, and more. Reduced purchasing costs occur with outsourcing as contractors often have the ability to buy in higher volumes. School districts can also share these services with other districts. In a recent study, “Deloitte found that potential savings across the country from shifting just a quarter of non-instructional services to shared services could potentially yield savings in the range of $9 billion.”

  3. Go Green & Paperless
    Did you know the average school with 100 teachers can use over 250,000 pieces of paper annually? We did the math in a prior blog post and found that these costs add up to about $32,500 in paper and printing costs. A shocking number for handouts! Our Secure Document Delivery Module allows administrators to send report cards, transcripts, school schedules, student evaluations, and more home to parents electronically (with no page limit), saving schools thousands.

  4. Online Schools & eTextbooks
    Most K-12 school districts receive money from the state based on student enrollment. In 2013 the Grapevine-Colleyville district launched a virtual school which boosted their number of students enrolled to almost 14,000. “The virtual campus within the district teaches students from all over the state. The expansion was a way to increase state funding and service a larger number of students with fewer teachers, resulting in cost savings.” Another way school districts can utilize online schooling and e-learning is by conducting Summer School online instead of on campus. Technology also makes it possible for schools to save money by switching from traditional textbooks to eTextbooks. Governing tells us “Traditional textbooks cost California $350 million annually. By transitioning to online textbooks, the state hopes to encourage students' participation in virtual learning while radically reducing textbook costs.”

Alert Solutions works with many school districts across the country. We provide an affordable school notification system, SwiftK12, with features like our Secure Document Delivery Module that allows schools to cut out paper and save money! Get started today.

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Topics: school announcement, mobile learning, report cards, educational technology, power announcement, powerschool, education, school programs, go green

K-12 Schools: Are Digital Learning Days the New Snow Day?

Posted by Nina Caliri on Tue, Jan 29, 2019 @ 11:01 AM

It’s no question that winter is here and in full swing.  Winter storms are sweeping the United States leaving feet of snow and hazardous road conditions. During this time of year, K-12 schools and districts prepare for the onslaught of snow days for their students, ultimately meaning extra days tacked on at the end of the school year.

For a few districts, snow days are a thing of the past! Introducing; digital learning days.

What is Digital Learning?

Child at Home for Digital Learning Day

By definition, “digital learning is any instructional practice that effectively uses technology to strengthen a student’s learning experience.” Schools are adopting these digital learning days to replace snow days, allowing students to remotely take classes and complete assignments from the comfort of their homes.

According to DigitalLearningDay.org, opportunities for learning are available anytime and anywhere, and individualized instruction ensures all students reach their full potential to succeed in college and a career. In the grand scheme of things, digital learning days are helping set up K-12 students for the future; especially with the rapid growth and improvement of technology.

Where Are Digital Learning Days Being Adopted?

We’re seeing many K-12 school districts beginning to implement digital learning days as snow day replacements, as classrooms across the country are being equipped with digital devices during lessons.

Washoe County School District

WCSD is one of the first districts to start implementing digital school days, after successfully completing a pilot program last year. The district says this program “will limit disruptions and promote 21st century job readiness and post-secondary educational opportunities for working and learning remotely.” Sharon Kennedy, the Incline Middle School principal, says digital learning days hold the students accountable and  the extra days that would have been snow days won’t be added to the end of the school year. "It's with most things that are new, it's a work in progress," Kennedy said. 

Anderson School District 5

The Anderson School District 5 in South Carolina is also adopting digital learning days to replace snow days, and they are the first school district in the state to do so. They were selected to be a part of an eLearning pilot program, which “lets student’s access assignments at home via Google Classroom with Chromebook devices. Students in grades 3 through 12 will be required to take their Chromebooks home to access the assignments.” Better yet, internet connectivity isn’t required to complete the assignments. “At the end of the day, it makes common sense and financial sense to implement this program,” Superintendent Tom Wilson said in a news release. “No longer will we need to run buses mid-June for a makeup day that only a quarter of our students attend.”

The Downsides of Digital Learning Days?

K-12 districts have been seeing a lot of success with the implementation of digital learning days, but some parents have objected these new policies according to BBC News. "When it snows, let the kids enjoy it," said one commenter. Another said the decision would "ruin school even more", and someone else called snow days "a fun part of childhood". Adam Baker of the Department of Education in Indiana said “Students are still able to enjoy snow days and outside time. Many have PE and science assignments that have them enjoying the outside weather.”

As technology continues to develop, Alert Solutions anticipates more schools and districts will begin to implement digital learning days. With our industry-leading school notification system, SwiftK12, administrators will easily be able to communicate with parents and families when these digital school days will be. 

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

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