Why we use a multilingual districtwide platform for personalized communications

With more than 15,000 students across 25 different schools in central Washington state, one of our biggest goals coming into this past school year was to develop a feature-rich communications system that was the same for teachers, schools, and the district. We looked at the options on the market, talked to other districts about what they are using, and then put in a new school-home communications platform in place for the 2021-22 school year.

One of our concerns when adopting a new platform was whether it could handle multilingual communications for the district, where our students speak eight different languages–mainly English and Spanish, so that was our previous sole focus.

If you take Spanish and English out of the mix, we’ve never communicated using the six other languages before, unless it was an Individual Education Plan or something else that had to be translated. We’ve never communicated our normal messaging out in ALL languages that impact our families.…Read More

3 strategies to address new school nutrition standards

The summer of 2022 brings changes to school meal requirements for the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program, as school nutrition programs transition from pandemic-era flexibilities—such as loosened restrictions around food preparation and packaging—back to pre-pandemic requirements. Millions of pre-K–12 students across the nation depend on school meals every day, and the changes are significant.

Below, I’ve highlighted what these requirements mean for school districts and key strategies for school leaders to consider if hurdles arise.

Learn from the pandemic’s impact on school nutrition programs…Read More

4 ways to increase classroom engagement

The COVID pandemic has tested everyone, and few were more tested than teachers. Many educators adjusted to entirely new teaching requirements during the pandemic, while districts rushed to supply tools and technologies to address the need for remote and hybrid learning environments. Now, as we are making our way into the second half of a new school year, still more unknowns await. Educators are tasked with the challenge of building a sense of belonging while boosting learning gains, no matter where their classroom turns out to be.

One advantage educators have in 2021 and 2022 is that the tools purchased to address teaching during COVID-19 remain on-hand and relevant for the upcoming school year. From laptops and tablets to headsets and digital styluses, new tech options open up possibilities that allow all students, regardless of location, age or learning style, to thrive.

As educators, it’s important we harness the power of these essential tools to boost classroom engagement and productivity. Even simple adjustments can yield a big impact on a child’s learning experience and help students focus on their work, encourage collaboration, and ensure engaging educational experiences are always within reach.…Read More

6 ways to optimize your school’s SEL curriculum

When I became principal of Brookwood Elementary School five years ago, I came with a deep understanding of the value of social-emotional learning (SEL) for K-5 students. Having used the 7 Mindsets SEL curriculum for roughly six years at my prior school, I knew right away that I could help my new school optimize its SEL curriculum, which had been in place for about a year.

I didn’t have to convince them that they had a great SEL curriculum in place because they had already adopted it and were using it. We just needed to put some more systems in place for the teachers to really buy into it.

Here are six steps we took to make that happen:…Read More

3 steps to creating a comfortable learning environment

Students have started a new school year and are facing the many challenges still present with in-person learning amid a pandemic. One of the most important to address is how schools address student safety and health–both physical and mental. CDC research has already documented the negative effects COVID-19 has inflicted upon children’s mental well-being.

Schools that established health and safety policies and procedures before this academic year began are best poised to help protect their students’ well-being. But it’s not too late–as school leaders confront the evolving situation, security technology can help build an environment where students feel safe, comfortable, and confident, and where every person’s well-being is prioritized.

Integrating security technology doesn’t have to be a complex process. Keep reading for an easy-to-follow approach school leaders can use to identify and execute on opportunities for enhancing their students’ health and safety journey.…Read More

Using the rule of threes for a technology strategy

As the new school year starts amid fresh uncertainty, educators are grappling with how to navigate what I’ve come to call the “And Era.” The And Era is not about going only remote or returning to purely in-person experiences, but adopting the best of both. While many schools are bringing kids back into classrooms this year, the spread of the Delta variant and other factors out of their control mean they must again be prepared to support a mix of virtual and in-person learning.

That means focusing on what they can control–developing and deploying a strong technology strategy that will give them the agility to combine varying degrees of in-person and remote elements into a seamless learning experience. The heart of that strategy should center around three interdependent components: hardware, software, and the network.

While the stakes are enormous, the American Rescue Plan (ARP) and its $130 billion in new K-12 funding offers great hope that schools will be able to secure the technology, expertise- and resources they need to build an educational infrastructure for the next generation. Given the possibility that many students will spend one-fourth of their learning journey under these trying circumstances, making best use of those funds to implement a thoughtful technology strategy is more important than ever.…Read More

Delta variant forcing districts to find new ways to assess learning

At this point last year, we hoped we’d be on the other side of COVID-19. Instead, the combination of the Delta variant and a new school year means educators and administrators are finding themselves in a state of flux. Cases in school districts are on the rise. Large numbers of students are quarantining. In some instances, there aren’t enough teachers in school buildings to conduct in-person learning.

As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic, teachers are facing a whole new type of disruption to their ability to teach. Now more than ever, they need to be able to continually assess learning, to have a line of sight into what students know and what students do not yet know.

Why is it so hard right now?…Read More

4 tips to boost classroom engagement and productivity

The past 18 months tested everyone, and few were more tested than teachers. Many educators adjusted to entirely new teaching requirements during the pandemic, while districts rushed to supply tools and technologies to address the need for remote and hybrid learning environments. Now, as we are making our way into a new school year, still more unknowns await. Educators are tasked with the challenge of building a sense of belonging while boosting learning gains, no matter where their classroom turns out to be.

One advantage educators have in 2021 is that the tools purchased to address teaching during COVID-19 remain on-hand and relevant for the upcoming school year. From laptops and tablets to headsets and digital styluses, new tech options open up possibilities that allow all students, regardless of location, age or learning style, to thrive.

As educators, it’s important we harness the power of these essential tools to boost classroom engagement and productivity. Even simple adjustments can yield a big impact on a child’s learning experience and help students focus on their work, encourage collaboration, and ensure engaging educational experiences are always within reach.…Read More

7 eye-opening back-to-school predictions

This back-to-school season is unlike any before it. Not only are many students heading back to full in-person learning after more than a year of virtual or hybrid learning, they’re doing it in the middle of COVID-19 surges nationwide.

The pandemic brought with it a renewed focus on glaring equity gaps, the need for strong cybersecurity practices, and social-emotional support for students and educators.

Here, educators share some of their back-to-school predictions, including trends and practices they expect to see as the school year progresses.…Read More

Do your teachers think PD is a dirty word?

This past year, teachers were introduced to a lot of new technology to help facilitate distance learning. And, because of this, professional development (PD) time often morphed into technical training–how to use Zoom, how to best utilize a new learning app or software program, how to troubleshoot student device issues.

With so much on teachers’ plates, this so-called PD became draining. Teachers simply couldn’t spend any more valued time learning yet another new program. And they weren’t getting the important support they needed to make tactical pedagogical shifts for their evolving learning spaces.

Heading into a new school year, we have a chance to hit the reset button to restore true PD time into teachers’ schedules.…Read More