Arts, innovation key to two Blue Ribbon schools
This week, fourth-grader Michael Maguire chose an art project inspired by his favorite actor Sylvester Stallone, someone he sees as a symbol of perseverance, bravery and kindness.

But the drawing was about more than that. It was another exercise at his school, Arnold Elementary, aimed at developing critical thinking, self-discipline and writing skills to help him on state exams.

Arnold and Pasadena elementary schools won the state Blue Ribbon Schools awards earlier this month for high state test scores and academic performance.

School staff said successful strategies include integrating arts into math and reading lessons, engaging students in innovative activities and using real-life scenarios to learn academic concepts.

At Arnold Elementary, more than 98 percent of students in grades 3 through 5 scored proficient or advanced on the reading portion of the Maryland School Assessments from the 2009 school year to the 2013 school year. More than 97 percent achieved those scores in math. The MSA reading and writing tests were replaced by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test last school year.
Back to school for Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg
When Mark Zuckerberg visited Summit Schools, which runs a chain of charter schools in California, the Facebook founder asked to be introduced to the team of engineers behind their fancy new technology for helping kids explore and learn at their own pace.

"Mark noticed there's a big technology element and said he'd love to meet the engineering team. I said, 'Great, you can meet him'," laughed Diane Tavenner, Summit chief executive, explaining there was only one engineer behind the technology.

Summit now has a team of engineers from Facebook who work only on the personalised learning platform that Summit is spreading across the US. "They know our kids, the engineers are in our schools, we are in Facebook - it is a very tight partnership," she said.

Through Summit and a number of other investments, Mr Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan plan to use Silicon Valley as a laboratory for experiments in education, as they rebound from a searing initial experience with giving money to the New Jersey public school system.   >>READ MORE
6 Reasons Your Kid Could Have Less Standardized Testing in 2016
It's been a rough year for standardized testing-the timed, fill-in-the-bubble-with-a-No. 2-pencil mental gauntlets feared by students, loathed by teachers, and loved by education policy makers, perhaps because they no longer have to take them. Testing started in earnest decades ago as a measure of academic skills and intensified in 2002 as education policy specialists suggested it could help students in the United States catch up with their global peers and measure how well public schoolteachers are doing their jobs.

But over the course of 2015, there were major disturbances in the testing universe. Students, with their parents' blessing, chose not to take them; a growing number of colleges questioned their usefulness; and arguably the biggest official proponent of testing decided to leave his post. Here are the top six moments of 2015 that will influence what happens in classrooms next year.    >>READ MORE 
Superintendent Turns Around Underperforming Missouri DistricT
A superintendent has engineered the turnaround of the Jennings School District in Missouri, which had been among the lowest-performing districts in the state of Missouri for years, by increasing attendance and graduation rates while balancing a crippling budget deficit.

Superintendent Tiffany Anderson arrived in the district three and a half years ago determined to help turnaround the Jennings School District, which serves around 3,000 students in an area north of St. Louis that is low-income and predominantly African American.

Since Anderson has arrived, academic achievement, attendance, and high school graduation rates have all increased in the district.  Just this month state officials announced that as a result of these successes, the district has reached full accreditation status for the first time in over ten years, writes Emma Brown for The Washington Post.
Report: Parent Concerns, Approaches Differ by Demographics
A new Pew Research Center report based on a survey of more than 1,800 US parents with children under the age of 18 reveals that there are "stark parenting divides" between lower- and upper-income families.
In 59% of low-income households, parents worried their children would be kidnapped. In families with incomes of $75,000 or more, 44% of parents had that same concern. Of lower income parents, 47% were afraid their child would be shot while 22% of upper-income parents said the same.

Many families, especially those in the less than $30,000 annual income, struggle with situations that are much worse than problems like excessive media use, writes Kelly Wallace for CNN, with kids in low-income families more prone to being victims of violence.

For financially-strapped parents, worries include the neighborhood in which they live and a dearth of after-school activities for their kids. Of the parents in low-income areas, 33% rated their neighborhood as fair or poor compared to 7% of higher-income parents. Upper-income parents, at a rate of 84%, said their children played sports and participated in athletic activities compared to 59% in low-income communities.   >>READ MORE 
Smart Phones, App Track Student Illnesses
One elementary school has partnered with a San Francisco-based startup in the creation of a smartphone application that they hope will prevent the spread of illnesses.

Eastridge Community Elementary School in Aurora, Colorado was selected earlier this year to participate in the FLUency program, which makes use of a mobile application to offer parents and school officials the ability to keep track of each students' health using smartphone-enabled thermometers.

Program participants receive free thermometers that have the capability to automatically and anonymously upload fever symptoms specific to their child's school within the Kinsa app.  Additional symptoms such as runny noses or other pains can be uploaded manually, reports Nelson Garcia for 9News.

Nehru said the app allows parents to discover a flu going around the school before an entire group of children is infected, writes Quincy Snowdon for The Aurora Sentinel.

There are currently about 40 schools across the country participating in the program.  So far, over 1,000 schools have applied to take part.  Eastridge was chosen after Brandon Loy, the school nurse, showed interest.    >>READ MORE
Six silly sheep still asleep.

The big fat cat sat on the rat.

Double bubble gum bubbles double.

How can a clam cram in a clean can?

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Being out of school for a couple of weeks during the holidays is plenty of time to get your kids completely off schedule. With shopping, holiday family get-togethers and the late night on New Year's Eve, your kids have likely forgotten what it means to get up on time and get ready in a timely fashion. The good news is that getting your children back on track isn't as stressful as doing the same after the much longer summer break. Here are a few tricks that can help smooth the transition from school to home and back to school over the holiday break.   >>READ MORE 
Michelle Lehman often felt like she was "putting out fires" at Hershey Elementary School.

As the school's student services coordinator for three years, Lehman said her response to students' complaints of bullying or victimization often was reactive, rather than preventive.

This past semester, however, Lehman piloted a self-defense program for the school's second-, third- and fifth-grade students. The program, called radKIDS, provides "personal safety empowerment education" for students in preschool up to college, according to the organization's website.
Five New Charter Schools Coming to Philadelphia with $10.5 million PSP Grant   
After Philadelphia's School Reform Commission approved the creation of five new charter schools last winter, the nonprofit organizations opening those schools will receive a combined $10.5 million in funding through grants from the Philadelphia School Partnership.

Each of the nonprofits, selected from among 39 applications in February, have a proven record of running successful schools in Philadelphia and will open the new charters over the next few years, according to the Philadelphia Public School Notebook >>READ MORE 


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