July 5, 2016

5 Back-to-School Reminders

The Fall semester begins as early as August 8th for students in my area, so this post highlights strategies to get a jump start on the new school year.

Elementary and secondary level stakeholders, primarily educators and parents, will want to bookmark this back-to-school checklist. From school supplies and attire to reminders about back-to-school nights, this checklist promotes proper preparation to prevent poor performance in the coming school year. Some strategies on the list are reminders; others you may be reading for the first time.

School Supply Lists
As outlined by the GreatSchools Staff, there are certain staples students need across grade levels. These include notebooks, paper, pencils, and pens. I've gathered a couple of resources that offer grade-appropriate school supply lists below. We want to have these on hand for learners, so they're equipped to meet the challenges to come.
  • School-Supply-List.com offers a printer-friendly list by grade level (K-12) or visitors can email the list to themselves and friends.
  • Office Depot & Office Max sell supplies online and in stores. Supplies are categorized by grade level through college; plus, there's a section for classrooms.

Budget cuts are a hot topic in education. This causes schools to shift responsibilities to families. Often, parents and teachers dole out funds for basic school supplies needed to succeed. The cost of school supplies adds up quickly for families already strapped for cash. This year, consider buying supplies for a family that's less fortunate. Implement a drive in your community. If you'd like to join the effort, Jackson Education Support is collecting school supplies to donate during Fall semester.

Uniforms & School Attire
Having access to appropriate materials and resources solves part of the problem. It's not enough for students to be equipped to play the part, they need to look the part as well. For younger students, this is less of an issue. Conversations with students about proper school attire may have lifelong effects. Discuss: What is proper school attire? How does school attire differ from street clothes or casual dress? Expose students to the notions that uniforms are intended to foster focused learning environments and that, in the absence of uniforms, wearing proper school attire has similar effect. In worst case scenarios, students learn to disagree without being disagreeable as they understand reasons behind the rules.

Back-to-School Night
When is it? Where is it? Who's my child's teacher? Who is my professor? These are a few questions to ask early on. When the big day arrives, make every effort to attend. Work schedules make this next to impossible for some. If you find yourself in this category, think outside the box. Think beyond parental engagement. Think family engagement! Often times, information shared early on is integral to student success. Share this information-gathering responsibility with family members and friends.

Prepare for student success with discussions centered on these questions...
  1. What are your goals for the course?
  2. What resources (e.g., books, websites, apps) will you use during the course?
  3. How often will you require homework?
  4. May I have a copy of the syllabus or pacing guide?

Build rapport with conversations centered on these questions...
  1. What is the best way to monitor progress toward learning goals?
  2. How can I support your classroom management system?
  3. When is the best time to contact you with questions or concerns?
  4. How can I encourage learning at home?

Academic Pacing Guides
Pacing Guides are tools used by K-12 educators to prepare students for state assessments. They're similar to syllabi handed out the first week of higher education courses. Classroom learning activities are chosen based on pacing guides. Lessons are designed based on pacing guides. Educators are also assessed based on how closely classroom instruction at any point in time aligns with grade-level pacing guides.

Mississippi pacing guides are available by an assessment company known as TE21, Inc. (Individual districts make these available as well.) TE21, Inc produces CASE Benchmark Assessments. Benchmark assessments gauge student performance during the school year; assessment results provide timely feedback to teachers and are used to inform classroom instruction. Though pacing guides may differ from district to district, consider printing the Mississippi Pacing Guides offered by TE21, Inc.

The goal of this reminder is that parents print pacing guides early on to prepare students for learning challenges. A student who struggled with fractions last year will like struggle with fractions in the Fall semester. With pacing guide in hand, we morph into a super heroes. As students transition from one language arts concept to the next, stakeholders predict the future by simply following the pacing guide.

Online Performance Records
We live in a data-rich society. Technology allows us to make data-driven decisions more quickly now than ever before, and educators are leveraging this fringe benefit of the 21st century. Districts aggregate student data in online portals. Parents access to student data in real-time by logging into these portals. Teachers share virtual (online) grade books that reveal attendance, missed or late assignments, and exam and homework grades. Applications like PowerSchool afford an opportunity to help students correct behavior and address misconceptions about content in a timely manner.

After viewing my top five back-to-school reminders, I hope you feel more prepared to help students bridge the transition from summer to school mode. Jackson Education Support offers a number of options to aid this transition that include exam proctoring, parent and student events, private tutoring, and writing assistance. Specialty subjects include literacy, math, and science. Visit je411.com to learn more.