Third Grade Reading Guarantee

Studies have shown that third grade reading success is a good indicator of how a student will perform in the future.  According to a study by sociology professor Donald Hernandez, a student who isn’t reading on grade level by 3rd grade is four times less likely to graduate by age 19 than a child who does read proficiently by that time.

Teacher and her elementary students

The importance of early intervention for our young struggling readers is becoming more and more apparent. Many students perform well enough to advance through the educational system but struggle because reading skills are lacking. As students reach higher grades, more independent study is required. The students who may have performed well in other subjects like science and math, begin to struggle in all subjects because of the heavy reliance on reading instructions, research and notes.

So, how can we help our students before the deficiencies are  too much to overcome?

Several state have instituted third grade reading guarantees that require students to be reading at level by the end of their third grade year. Students who do not score at the required level will be required to repeat third grade, or at least the reading portion of third grade.

Ohio is the most recent state to add the guarantee, starting in the 2013-14 school year. According to NPR’s StateImpact, the level required is slightly below the current passing score on the state’s Ohio Achievement Assessment.

Florida instituted a similar reading guarantee in 2003. In 2002, only 27 percent of Florida fourth graders were rated at proficient in reading, well below the national average. In 2011, 35 percent of Florida fourth graders were rated as proficient readers, above the national average of 32 percent. Data is from the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Does your state have a reading guarantee? Do you think a third grade reading guarantee is effective in helping struggling readers?

Five End of the Year Activities

The school year is winding down, and summer is almost here. Your students are getting antsy, and quite frankly, so are you. It might be difficult trying to plan lessons for the last week of school, so we want to help. Inspired by Pinterest, we’ve gathered some popular end of the school year activities. Enjoy!

  1. ABC Alphabet Book
    You can either give kids a worksheet of the alphabet in a list or they can create it themselves. Next to each letter, students write a word or phrase describing what they learned this year. It gives students an opportunity to reflect and you the chance to see what lessons stood out the most in their minds.
  2. Letter to Next Year’s Students
    Just as the name sounds, have your students write a letter to next year’s class about what to expect in ___ grade, as well as their favorite and least favorite part of being in ___ grade. They can do this individually or in small groups or you could do it as a class.
  3. Year on a Graph
    Students reflect on their favorite moments of the school year and use them to create an illustrated graph.
  4. Science Day
    Make your own science fun, and enjoy the great outdoors with these homemade recipes for sidewalk chalk, flubber, play-dough, bubbles, silly putty and goo. The students will love it!
  5. Time Capsule
    This is a great activity for older students. Students reflect on what happened both in and out of the classroom throughout the year, then create a time capsule to document it. If the students will be in the same school next year, it would be neat to have them create the capsule now and open it at the end of the next school year, or you could have your class five years from now open it, to see how much (or little) has changed. This can be done individually, in small groups or as a class.

Good luck with the end of the school year!


End of Year Traditions

It’s that time of year. You’re scrambling to wrap up your annual lesson plan. And thanks to snow days (depending on where you live) or sick days… there just isn’t enough time to cover it all.

How do you and your students make the most of the end of the year?

Rather than rush to finish it all, why not reflect on the year’s successes? One idea suggested by The New York Times  is to allow each student to look back at what they’ve accomplished during the year by creating a portfolio of their best work.

This idea makes sense for several reasons. As The Times suggests, we remember things at peaks, or how they end. This means students will enjoy looking back at what they’ve created. Each student can feel a sense of pride in what they’ve produced for you. Not every assignment may warrant special attention, but collectively they comprise a body of work. You can feel a sense of accomplishment as well when you recall the great work they produced.

Another terrific idea from The Times: have each student write a letter to their future self, about memories of the year. You can collect them and return them at a later date. What a great way to help the student recall how they felt about themselves and their class.

Hope these shared ideas make the end of the year a smoother, more relaxed time. Just remember… summer’s right around the corner.

Does Salary Reflect How Much We Appreciate Teachers?

Over the last few days of Teacher Appreciation Week, we have seen plenty of well-deserved love and thanks being doled out to the special educators in our lives. During weeks like these, we remember just how much teachers have shaped our hearts and minds.

While educators have a huge impact on our lives, they are not always rewarded monetarily. According to an article in Monday’s New York Times, teachers were hit hard during the recession years. The article referred to a recent study by the National Council on Teacher Quality that looked at 41 of the nation’s largest public school districts. Data from 2008 to 2012 showed that in many of the school districts, salaries were frozen, raises were considerably smaller and some educators received pay cuts.

The article also pointed out that average teacher salaries remain lower than salaries of many other jobs that require college and graduate degrees ($56,643 is the average teacher salary according to the Department of Education).

In more encouraging news, data from a National Association of Colleges and Employers survey shows that the average starting salary in the Education category is up 5.1% over last year, going from $38,524 in 2012 to $40,480 in 2013. The average starting salary for education is still the second lowest among the eight categories listed.

Recycle Electronics & Raise Money for Your School

Ever wonder what to do with old AV equipment?

Recycle Califone's 3068 headphones to earn cash for your school!Now you can recycle it, and get a little in return, thanks to a new partnership between Califone – one of our trusted manufacturers – and Funding Factory – a free recycling fundraiser for schools and nonprofits. When your headphones, laptops, MP3 players and old printer cartridges reach the end of their lives, donate them to Funding Factory and earn cash or points towards new technology for your school!

How it Works

1) Collect used headphones, iPods, digital cameras, printer cartridges and more – even if they’re damaged. Every qualifying item has a cash value (minimum $0.10)!

2) Ship recyclables with free boxes and prepaid UPS labels.

3) Receive a check or use your earned points to shop Funding Factory’s Rewards Catalog.

This 100% free fundraiser is an easy way to go green during Earth Month!

Searching for College Financial Aid? Start Here…

Whether you’re a student, parent or educator, it pays to pick up a copy of FAFSA: The How-to Guide for High School Students.

This comprehensive resource can make a big difference for college-bound students seeking financial aid. At a time of federal and state cutbacks, those seeking assistance can find information about the federal grants, college scholarships, work-study programs and educational loans that are available to them.

FAFSA stands for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and the guide helps to make sense of what is needed to effectively complete the application. An accurate and up-to-date application will provide a student the best chances for receiving aid.

The New School’s Center for New York City Affairs has just released the 2013 edition and it is estimated that more than $235 million in student financial aid is available each year (as reported by Student Aid Financial Services, Inc.). Sadly, millions of students aren’t aware of this and much of it is left on the table.

For first-time college applicants, low-income students and immigrants lacking knowledge about the application process, the FAFSA: How-To Guide can be a valuable first step in making college a reality.

Consult with your high school guidance office or view a PDF version via the The New School’s webpage: Users are encouraged to share this link as needed. Information about ordering print copies can be found here as well.

For more about The New School’s Center for New York City Affairs, visit:

Standardizing the Common Core

by Tina Tomkins, Screenflex

The Common Core StandardsCommon Core State Standards Initiative seeks to bring diverse curriculum into one common set of standards for schools nation-wide. The goal is to “raise standards, graduation requirements, improve assessments and strengthen accountability in all 50 states”. Incorporating Common Core Standards into our curriculum as well as our nation’s standardized testing could have monumental effects on students and teachers across the country. We hope that the goal for creating a common core of standards for every state will benefit all students but many are skeptical, and the impact of these changes will be revealed in due time.

This year, 20% of our Illinois ISAT tests include Common Core Standards. The future impact of adopting these new standards is unknown. While standardized testing evolves to include the full implementation of Common Core Standards in 2014, we all hope for a positive outcome for all of our students.

Hopeful Benefits of The Common Core Standards

Parents, teachers and administrators await the outcome of adopting Common Core Standards across the country and hope for positive results. Here are some hopeful benefits of Common Core:

1. Supporters hope to prepare all students for a higher level of education therefore enabling students to become globally competitive.

2. Supporters of the Common Core Standards feel that once incorporated, schools will be able to offer stability for the mobile student. Students who move often will be able to pick up where they left off instead of trying to play catch up or repeating old material. No matter where a student lives, they will be taught these common core standards.

3. The Common Core Standards might allow for comparing scores accurately. Previously, each state had a separate set of standards which made comparing test scores difficult.

4. The Common Core Standards might lead to the development of a higher level of thinking. Students will need to give an answer as well as explain how they arrived at that answer.

5. The Common Core Standards could bring teachers together while they teach the same curriculum.

Concerns of Implementing Common Core Standards

Creating a uniform national standard raises concerns for teachers and parents across the country. Implementing a set of standards in order to enable all students the same opportunity to learn sounds promising, however the assumption that all students should be able to learn and perform the same is an impossibility. Here are some concerns of Common Core Standards:

1. The Common Core Standards may cause good teachers to find other career options. Teachers will need to adjust the way they teach. Teachers will have to teach specifically to these standards such as the way to do a math problem. Standardized testing will require the student to answer correctly as well as show the common core calculation. A teacher who has had success in the past may find Common Core frustrating.

2. The Common Core does not apply to students with special needs.

3. The funds to update technology to accommodate Common Core Standards might not be available. Time and money to get students up to speed on the new requirements might run out before Common Core is fully implemented in 2014.

4. Common core standards will eliminate remedial courses to provide all students with the same core set of standards. Essentially, some think that Common Core Standards will “dumb down” our accelerated students and at the same time, give an unfair disadvantage to low-performing students.

5. Curriculum may be “watered down” in some states where they have held more difficult standards in past years, slowing academic improvement and negatively impacting the high achieving student.

A new study researches the negative changes in math scores after the district policy required that all students take Algebra I. This study reports that in a classroom where there is a mix of low performing and high performing students, high achieving students suffered a slower rate of academic improvement, while low-achieving students did not show a benefit. What the study found, is that though the low-achieving students did complete their course work, their grades declined and failure rates increased. Unfortunately those students were no more likely to enter college even though they were able to complete the course.

Only time will tell whether adopting the Common Core Standards will revolutionize education positively for our students. The impact and the future of our students will not be known for several years, but we hope that the move to adopt these Common Core Standards will be a positive one.

Tina regularly writes about room dividers, utilizing space efficiently, and office fun at Screenflex Room Dividers. You can also find her on Screenflex’s Facebook page, Google Plus, and Twitter.


Table and Chair Sets Make Planning Easy and Affordable

Finding coordinating chairs for your new tables can present a real challenge. Will a certain chair offer enough leg room when used with specific tables? What style looks the best with the tables you have chosen? How much will all of these separate pieces cost when added together? With help from our friends at National Public Seating and OFM, SCHOOLSin has put together dozens of table and chair sets that make outfitting your multipurpose room, science lab, office, classroom, training facility or cafeteria a breeze.NPS Folding Table & Chairs Set

Since the tables and chairs offered in each set are made by the same manufacturer, you can rest assured that the quality, warranty, style and shipping is consistent. Some of the table and chair packages even come with chair dollies and table trucks, saving you the hassle of finding storage and transport for your new furniture. All of these packages are available exclusively at SCHOOLSin.

Shop now and enjoy sale prices on all table and chair sets. Packages start at $154.75 and you’ll find many great options that are sure to fit in any budget.

NPS Science Table and Stools Set OFM Cafe Table & Chairs Set   OFM Conference Table & Manager's Chairs Set

Never Stop Learning

They say all the world’s a stage – but with the growth of online learning – all the world’s a classroom. Universities and colleges worldwide have been offering an increasing number of classroom courses in an online setting. Known as massive open online courses (MOOCs), they offer educational opportunities to all students regardless of their financial situation or location.

The Financial Times has reported on the rise of MOOCs both in the US and the UK. The overall sentiment is that MOOCs are expected to increase educational opportunities for the less advantaged, while leading to improved curriculum on campuses. Even Ivy League universities are offering free, non-credit courses in a variety of disciplines. As an example, an archived Yale course on The American Revolution taught by Professor Joanne Freeman offers downloadable course materials and lectures via the Apple iTunes store.

And the growth of MOOCs since 2008 continues in earnest. The New York Times recently reported on two new ventures that will bring together 29 and 12 universities respectively into larger, multinational MOOCs. 

One interesting tidbit about MOOCs as reported by The New York Times:  While some of the university online classes can have upwards of 100K students per course, only about 10% complete them.

Stepping Outside School Walls

Who says school furniture has to be limited to a school setting? Since adding the “Pin It” option to the product pages on our website, we’ve been able to see how Pinterest users are considering our products for their homes.

Carpets for Kids Animal Sounds Preschool Rugs

From bright and colorful classroom rugs to traditional school furniture like school chairs and desks, our products are great additions to home playrooms, study areas and even kitchens. Since our products are made by companies that specialize in school furniture, they tend to be safer and more durable than most store-brand offerings. Some are even backed by a lifetime warranty.

How can school furniture find a place in your home? Consider these ideas!:

  • Storage Cubbies – Organize your play area with high-quality storage furniture that is sized just right for your little ones. Shop several top brands and still beat prices on less-durable cubbies and shelves found in stores.
  • Rugs – Whether your child loves animals, maps or something a little more interactive, we have the right rugs for your playroom. These highly durable rugs are all stain resistant and tested to stand up to the wear and tear of your little one’s busy days. Artco-Bell Discover Series HD Stacking Chairs
  • Stack Chairs – Give your eating area a contemporary touch by replacing traditional chairs with stack chairs in fun colors. Brighten your mornings by sitting in a vibrant and unique chair like a Sunset Orange Artco-Bell Discover Series HD Stacker Chair.
  • Lift Lid Desks – Want to go retro in your child’s study area? Check out our Artco-Bell lift-lid desks for a classic look combined with today’s excellent durability.
  • Whiteboards – Hang a whiteboard in your kitchen for a fun menu board or grocery reminder. Whiteboards are also a great way for kids to practice penmanship and to let their artistic side shine. We offer whiteboards in many sizes, so it’s easy to find the one that’s right for you.

For even more ideas on home uses for our products, check out our Pinterest page!