A Degree to Give Back

Graduate programs in philanthropy have been around for years.  Yet until recently, undergraduate programs in philanthropy were nonexistent. Recognizing a need, Indiana University opened the Center on Philanthropy in 201o. And this month, the first degrees in philanthropic studies were received by five deserving students.

The organizers of the program state that the degree is “intended to produce future nonprofit leaders who are not only well-versed in the nuts and bolts of nonprofit management but also comfortable weighing the philosophical questions they will encounter on the job.” Through their years of study, these students were able to experience several internships and volunteering opportunities that prepared them for the diverse set of circumstances they may encounter on the job. Philanthropic acts do not occur in a vacuum; rather they are influenced and molded by political, legal and social forces. Indiana University – as well as other nonprofit graduate programs – give grads a foundation that will help them navigate these sometimes controversial issues.

Undergraduate degrees in the nonprofit sector are a growing trend. The Center on Philanthropy alone expects enrollment to triple within the next three years. It could be argued that this growth is at odds with a Knowledge Networks study which found that today’s grads value “financial security” above community impact and involvement. Or is it possible to pursue both? Tell us what you think.


Career and Technical Education: The New Voc Ed

Throughout the years, vocational education, or voc ed, has had a reputation for being a last-ditch effort for educational misfits. Traditionally, the purpose of voc ed was to teach students a specific trade to help them transition from high school into the workforce. In recent years, however, the concept of vocational education has been re-thought.

The new term, Career and Technical Education (CTE), has come to mean more than just job training for non-academic students. According to the Association for Career and Technical Education, CTE programs equip students  to be “career-ready” by teaching them “core academic skills, employability skills and job-specific, technical skills.”

CTE is gaining popularity as more schools learn about its benefits. An Arizona high school has recently seen a rise of interest in CTE, even among its college-prep students. Students are attracted to the opportunity to master a skill they love, and teachers enjoy the students’ new found enthusiasm for subjects like math, science and reading, now that they are applicable to real life situations.

Even in the poor economy, CTE-related jobs are in high demand, as they meet society’s unique need for skilled tradesmen. In Florida, recent graduates who earned a career-focused associate degree or post-secondary certificate from a community college are earning up to $11,000 more than those who received a bachelor’s degree from the state’s 11 public universities.

Misfits? Or misunderstood?

Does your high school offer classes in Career and Technical Education? If so, do you notice a difference in the students who participate in CTE? If not, do you think your students would be receptive to a CTE program?

Artco-Bell Closeout Specials

Spring has sprung, and summer vacation is only weeks away! To celebrate the end of the school year, SCHOOLSin is excited to offer you incredible closeout specials on select Artco-Bell school furniture products. Enjoy huge savings on these chairs, desks and combo desks, but only while supplies last!

Discover Series School Chair – Taupe

This popular chair features an ergonomically-designed contoured shell seat with a flexible back. The tubular steel frame offers sturdy support, and nylon swivel glides protect floors. Built-in handles allow for easy moving and stacking. Closeout deal on 18″ chair only.

H-Series School Chairs – Navy or Cranberry

These durable chairs are constructed with thermoset hard plastic to ensure years of dependable use. A heavy-gauge steel frame supports the molded melamine seat and back. Closeout deal on 13 1/2″, 15 1/2″, 17 1/2″ and 18 1/2″ chairs.

R900 Series Open Front Desks

These spacious desks feature an 18″ x 24″ work surface, a 5″ high steel book box and a sturdy steel frame with adjustable leg inserts. Closeout deal on solar oak laminate, grey nebula laminate and sand solid plastic tops.

Discover D700 Series Combo Desks

These comfortable chair desks feature an ergonomically-designed contoured shell seat with a durable top. An 18″ x 24″ work surface provides plenty of room for books, notebooks and other materials. Closeout deal on 18″ navy chair and pecan laminate or gray solid plastic top.

Uniflex 7400 Series Combo Desks

These standard chair desks include a comfortable, double-contoured shell seat paired with a durable high-pressure laminate desk top. Closeout deal on 17 1/2″ and 18″ navy chairs and bannister oak or fusion maple top.

Find more great closeout specials and sale items at www.SCHOOLSin.com.

The Gifted Gap

If you examine the data for any school, most likely you’ll find a correlation between the number of gifted students and the number of affluent families living within the district. Wealthier school districts typically have higher percentages of students who qualify (per testing) as gifted. Conversely, poor and rural districts report lower percentages of gifted children. For example, in New York City public schools, the number of gifted students increased 20% this year in the wealthier districts. But the number of students that qualify in the poorer districts is falling. In fact, so few students qualify in those districts, administrators haven’t opened gifted programs.

So why the discrepancy? And what are the long-term implications of this unequal system?

Let’s first examine what giftedness is. Just the word “gifted” can conjure up everything from eye rolls to feelings of superiority to the image of a model student who breezes through life. The basic definition is simple: outstanding levels of aptitude or competence in one or more domains. But recognizing it in each individual child is the challenge. Often children who are gifted do not advance equally in all areas. They may read three or four grade levels higher, but still need help dressing themselves. Gifted children can be wired differently than their peers, feeling uncomfortable or uninterested in social situations. As for the stereotype of the straight-A, well-adjusted student? Yes, those kids do exist, but they are one subset of larger group. In fact, many gifted children also have a learning disability or a diagnosis such as ADHD, so their “gift” seems to be cancelled out by their struggles to make it through a school day. This is why it is so important to fully recognize each child’s strengths and weaknesses and educate them accordingly.

Easier said than done, right?

It’s easy to see how a gifted child from a disadvantaged background can fall through the cracks. They may come to school hungry, anxious or stressed. The child may dislike school, and feel discouraged while there. The teacher may have an over-crowded classroom and too few resources, and dealing with behavioral issues may take up a lot of his or her time. The school system may not have the funding to test for giftedness. To an overwhelmed parent or busy teacher, the potential may go unrecognized. Thus, the children who are gifted in one or more areas become bored, frustrated and disengaged.

Gifted children at well-funded school districts face a much brighter proposition. Their school can afford the testing. Their teachers have good classroom ratios and resources. And personally, there is a lower occurance of hunger, poverty or other obstacles to learning. Once their giftedness is recognized, the child can be challenged with the appropriate material. Their self-esteem improves. They can spend time with children who are wired the same way, making them feel less of an outsider. These children can continue to excel, and their future accomplishments are limitless.

Obviously, all children can’t live in top-rated school districts, and the school funding debate has no end in sight. At the state level, gifted programming mandates and funding vary widely. The good news is that the majority of states do mandate gifted testing and programming, and have some funding for it. But 20% of states do not mandate or fund gifted programs at all. In 2010, the Equity in Excellence Act was introduced by two senators as a solution to this problem. If passed, this bill would have “support[ed] high-need school districts in eliminating the achievement gap between high-achieving, low-income students and their more advantaged peers.” (source: NAGC). Unfortunately, this bill was not enacted.

Let us know your thoughts on gifted programming. Are/how are gifted children educated in your school district?

Freedom of Expression or Dress Code Violation?

School dress codes and their gray areas are often a cause of headaches for parents, administrators, teachers and students. To avoid distractions and disruptions, many schools – even public schools – have adopted uniform policies. But, how far is too far when it comes to students and their freedom of expression?

Officials in Delaware’s Christina School District were forced to ask themselves that question last month when sixth-grader Brianna Moore showed up at school with freshly-dyed pink hair. Moore received the hair coloring from her parents as a reward for bringing up grades. School officials initially ruled that the hair color was a violation of the school rule regarding unnatural or excessive hair color and Moore was told she could not return to classes at Shue-Medill Middle School with pink hair. After talks between the school district’s attorney and the American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware, Moore was permitted to return to school without changing her hair color.

According to a recent USA Today article: “She is not going to be suspended tomorrow, next week, next month, etc., for the pink hair,” the district’s attorney, James McMackin, wrote in an e-mail to ACLU attorney Richard Morse. “District policy does not apply with regard to the hairstyle at issue.”

How strict is your school’s dress code? Is it strongly enforced?

Brianna Moore, 12, returns home from school on Tuesday in Newark, Del.
Photo by Suchat Pederson, The (Wilmington, Del.) News Journal

Real-Life Hunger Games: Childhood Hunger in America

All you have to do is turn on the TV, glance at the cover of a magazine or walk down the street to see it, splashed across the front of a dramatic image: The Hunger Games. The popular movie, adapted from Suzanne Collins’ same-titled young-adult novel, made millions at the box office its opening weekend. But for the 16 million children in America who struggle every day with not having enough to eat, there’s nothing game-like about hunger.

65 percent of America’s teachers regularly see kids who come to school hungry because they aren’t getting enough to eat at home, according to a nationwide survey conducted by Share Our Strength, a nonprofit dedicated to ending childhood hunger.

If we want to improve the education system, we must ensure that every student is nourished. A hungry child can’t concentrate on math class, because he’s thinking about what’s for lunch. A hungry child acts out with classmates, because her starving brain simply can’t focus. A hungry child is more likely to be late for school and sleep in class, because the body requires too much energy to wake up and stay alert.

Although most schools provide lunch – and sometimes even breakfast and a snack – kids need continual nourishment. Weekends are especially difficult for children who may go two and a half days without eating a full meal. One 4th grade teacher in rural New York noticed that every Monday a certain student acted out, but by Tuesday morning – after being fed breakfast, lunch and a snack by the school on Monday – he was calm. Once the school began sending backpacks of food home with needy students every Friday, she saw a “dramatic change” in not only that student, but other students as well.

Sometimes students will tell teachers they’re hungry, but many times they won’t. Teachers, take note of the following signs of hunger from Strength.org. A student who is hungry may:

  • Suffer from poor health, feels sick or tired often
  • Sleep in class
  • Have difficulty with math and language skills
  • Be aggressive and fight with classmates and teachers
  • Feel anxious and have difficulty concentrating
  • Under-perform and have poor grades
  • Frequently miss school or arrive late

If you notice a student displaying these behaviors, it could be a result of hunger. If you discover that it is, look for resources at your school, local food bank or local nonprofit and on the web at strength.org/teachers.

How have you seen students affected by hunger? What is your school or community doing to keep kids nourished?


Childhood hunger doesn’t just affect elementary school students. It’s also an issue many college students face. Stay tuned for our future blog, “Hungry for Learning or Just Hungry?” which explores the issue of hunger in higher education.

No Child Left Behind Waivers – The Beginning of the End?

In February, 11 states were granted waivers from some parts of the No Child Left Behind education reform law after they agreed to continue to raise standards and accountability but with a more flexible approach.

“We’ve offered every state the same deal: We’ve said, if you’re willing to set higher, more honest standards then we’re going to give you the flexibility to meet those standards,” President Obama said then in a New York Times article.

Since NCLB was signed into law by President Bush in 2001, many educators, parents and students have argued that its stringent standards took away the creativity and flexibility needed in classrooms. In their minds, classrooms are becoming so focused on reaching goal numbers on the tests that other areas are ignored or neglected.

The 11 states receiving waivers are: Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

As of the end of February, 26 additional states and the District of Columbia had already formally submitted waiver requests to the U.S. Department of Education, according to a U.S. Department of Education press release.

“The best ideas to meet the needs of individual students are going to come from the local level. Like the first round of waiver applicants, these plans will protect children, raise the bar and give states the freedom to implement reforms that improve student achievement,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in the release.

Has your state received a NCLB waiver? How has NCLB affected your classroom?



Bye-Bye, Pink Slime

Lean finely textured beef  - aka “pink slime” is currently enjoying its last 15 minutes of fame. . .and perhaps its last appearance on your child’s lunch plate. It’s been hard to miss the [social] media storm surrounding it. An investigative piece was recently done on this substance, which is commonly found in fast food burgers as well as school lunches.  Outrage and disgust followed. Why? Because pink slime is comprised of low grade meat scraps that are spritzed with ammonia gas. And not only is pink slime highly processed and treated with chemicals; opponents claim that it’s also void of nutritional value.

It seems clear that this “food source” isn’t the best choice for our growing and developing children, right? And doesn’t the USDA’s recent decision to provide school districts with a choice seem to confirm that?

Not so fast, says Beef Product Inc., one of the largest providers of government purchased school beef. Their new website, pinkslimeisamyth.com refutes claims that lean finely textured beef is unhealthy and unsafe. An “Emotional Defense” about a child’s death also appears on their website, making the case for why meat needs to be processed with heat and chemicals.

It seems that the pink slime debate is just the latest hot button issue when it comes to health and nutrition. As our country slowly moves toward a healthier, more natural way of eating, acceptance of processed and chemically treated foods will dwindle. This guarantees that school lunches will continue to change, because the public will demand it. Perhaps the bigger question is: “How do we determine if the food served in schools is healthy enough for our children, and who should have the power to do so?”

Using YouTube in the Classroom

Teachers have been using videos to enhance classroom learning for decades. There’s something special about seeing a lesson come to life on screen that makes it worth remembering. Years after my elementary school days, I still recall the numerous Reading Rainbow, Schoolhouse Rock, Bill Nye the Science Guy and Voyage of the Mimi episodes much more clearly than anything I read in a textbook.

Nowadays, many videos in the classroom come from YouTube, which offers a rich collection of educational content across a wide array of topics. YouTube, of course, also has plenty of unsuitable, non-educational content, which is why a growing number of schools have banned access to the site. Fortunately, in December, Google launched YouTube for Schools, an education-centered alternative to YouTube.

YouTube for Schools allows teachers and administrators to customize the content available to students. Students can only search for videos on the YouTube EDU channel, in addition to the ones their school has posted. Videos on YouTube for Schools don’t show comments or related videos, as a way to eliminate distractions and keep kids focused on the task at hand.

So, how can you incorporate YouTube or YouTube for Schools into your classroom? Here are some ideas from Edudemic:

  • Have students prepare for class by watching an introductory video of a topic, so you can spend class time building on concepts, instead of just lecturing
  • Spark a discussion by showing a video clip of a different perspective or viewpoint
  • Help struggling students by providing them with videos that further explain difficult concepts
  • Quiz students on videos by using a Google Form to embed your quiz on a class site so students can watch the video and take the quiz simultaneously
  • Review for tests by creating a “test review” video with your explanations of concepts

Whether it’s a math problem, a science experiment, an important historical figure or a book, YouTube is a great way to bring lessons to life. But, as LeVar Burton said on Reading Rainbow, “You don’t have to take my word for it.”

How do you use YouTube in your classroom?

Our Thoughts are with Tornado Victims

Friday was a devastating day for many people in our country.  Deadly tornadoes ripped through at least 12 states, from Alabama to Ohio. The death toll is now 39. At SCHOOLSin, our thoughts go out to the victims and their families during this time of recovery. We would also like to commend the teachers, school administrators, bus drivers and parents who worked hard to keep students safe. Their quick decisions saved many lives.

If you’d like to help, please visit the Red Cross website.  Or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. There are many people who are homeless now, and the Red Cross is setting up numerous shelters. They’ll need food, water and other supplies for the next several weeks, if not months.

Reviewing the NWS Tornado Safety Brochure with your students is a good way to prepare them for tornadoes and severe weather. Tell us about your school’s severe weather preparedness plans.