Happy habits: SEL matters more than ever

“My hope is these extra couple of days will allow everyone to take a little extra time for themselves and their families. Family is, after all, much of what Thanksgiving is all about.”

–Dr. Kelvin R. Adams, Superintendent of Schools, St. Louis Public Schools

Like St. Louis, school districts across the country opted to add an additional partial or entire week off during the holiday season/winter break to allow the students and adults to find time for and take care of themselves.…Read More

K-12 Districts Nationwide Expand Usage of ParentSquare to Strengthen Family Engagement

SANTA BARBARA, CALIF. Jan. 20, 2022—As educators gear up for the remainder of the 2021-22 school year, school-to-home engagement continues to be a top priority. To unify all school communication and build stronger communities, school systems nationwide — including public, private, and charter school systems — have signed on to expand their use of ParentSquare, the premier unified school-home engagement platform for K-12.

Recent school districts to renew and expand their ParentSquare features include the Pleasanton Unified School District, Napa Valley Unified School District, and the Yakima School District. ParentSquare is the only fully unified product that engages every family with school communications and communications-based services—all the way from the district office to the classroom teacher, and all in one place.

Extending community reach. Pleasanton USD, in northern California, has over 14,000 students enrolled in its 30 schools. The district’s overarching goal for signing on with ParentSquare was to make information more accessible and digestible for families, especially during the pandemic. The district recently adopted ParentSquare’s new Community Groups feature to contact alumni of its oldest high school about that school’s centennial. “Some alumni have email, some just have a phone number, but with Community Groups, we now can reach everyone, with relevant information,” said Patrick Gannon, the district’s communications and community engagement coordinator.…Read More

3 best practices to take with us to the ‘other side’

Who would have thought that we would still be teaching in the midst of a pandemic? At the beginning of this school year, public school districts had to make important decisions about how to approach this school year. How would they keep students safe? How would they continue to engage students in learning? And, how would they support teachers in the process?

At St. Vrain Valley Schools in Longmont, Colorado, we acknowledge we are teaching in a pandemic, yet we still need to move students forward and continue to help them grow. This is a delicate balance, especially as teachers are dealing with the stresses of a changing landscape and the desire to find their footing with new instructional challenges.

Prior to and particularly now during the pandemic, coaching has been a vital support in helping educators find balance and maintain the pace they are working. It has also given them adequate time and space to think and process the learning that is occurring in their classroom every day. …Read More

Our rural district’s 4 steps to a new post-pandemic learning reality

Maintaining the continuity of student learning during the COVID-19 pandemic has been an extremely challenging feat for most school districts across the country. However, in the nation’s rural school systems, school administrators and teachers face a unique set of challenges. I believe that the way my school system is overcoming these challenges provides rural school districts a new blueprint for teaching and learning in the evolving COVID world.

My school system is located in Elko, Nevada, and like everyone else, we were impacted by COVID during 2020-2021. The Elko County School District covers 17,203 square miles of mountainous terrain and has major industries of ranching and gold mining. When our schools closed at the onset of the pandemic, providing all students with reliable access to the internet was our first priority. Next, we ensured all students had access to a suitable device, which in our district’s case, was a Chromebook.

While our school system was impacted by the first wave of COVID infections like many others, the second wave of COVID in the Fall of 2021 hit the community extremely hard. A massive surge of cases throughout the county created new challenges as students had to be quarantined at home for long periods due to COVID exposure. The uncertainty of whether a student would be in-person or remote from one day to the next remains a constant battle. …Read More

Automation can help K-12 cybersecurity–here’s how

Across industries, ransomware and cyberattacks have proliferated in the past year, largely due to the rapid shift to remote work and school. The education sector has been hit particularly hard–the 2020 calendar year saw a record-setting 408 publicly disclosed cybersecurity incidents in the K-12 sector, according to The State of K-12 Cybersecurity: 2020 Year in Review.

The report, put out by the K-12 Cybersecurity Resource Center, found that the attacks affected 377 school districts in 40 states and cost millions of dollars to resolve.

The unfortunate reality is that the problem isn’t going to go away–the threat landscape will continue to expand. And compounding this is the fact that education IT departments are too often underfunded. This is where automation can play a key role.…Read More

How social and emotional competence leads to educational equity

Educational equity is achieved by equipping students with tools to overcome some of the pre-existing barriers that impede their ability to succeed in school and thrive. Although educational equity was a priority in many school districts prior to the events of the past year and a half, talks surrounding the initiative have amped up–of the 10 largest school districts in the United States, eight now identify equity as part of their mission statements or core values.

Achieving educational equity requires multiple strategies and initiatives because the sources of inequity are so numerous and varied. One of the most important strategies is the promotion of students’ social and emotional competence (SEC).

First, we must understand how equity is defined. Recently, Jagers, Rivas-Drake, and Borowski asserted that educational equity “means that every student has access to the resources and educational rigor they need” (2018, p.1). Similarly, the Center for Public Education stated that, “equity is achieved when all students receive the resources they need so they graduate prepared for success after high school” (2016, p. 1). Both definitions make clear that the focus of educational equity efforts needs to be on the individual student. Equity is achieved when every (Jagers et. al) or all (CPE) students can benefit from education.…Read More

5 workable scenarios for flexible pandemic learning

We all thought and hoped we were out of the COVID woods, but the rise of the Delta variant left school districts, parents, and teachers rethinking their back-to-school plans. The first wave of the coronavirus left children fairly unscathed, but this new variant is something different.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Delta variant is more than twice as contagious as previous variants and current evidence suggests it might cause more severe illness in unvaccinated people. This is particularly worrisome for parents and educators because children under 12 have not yet been allowed to be vaccinated.

During the first shutdown, schools learned a lot about how to effectively deploy remote and hybrid learning set-ups. According to the Center for American Progress, in the 20-21 school year, 74 percent of the 100 largest school districts in the U.S. chose remote learning only as their back-to-school instructional model. This impacted more than 9 million students.…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