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COMPLETE COVERAGE: Curriculum Changes This Year | Average Spending of $688? | Attendence Rewards | Online Buying | How We Save On The WBEN LIVELINE : Buffalo Schools Transportation Dir | Cheektowaga Sloan's Supt.
West Seneca (WBEN) -- Area students are returning to the classroom this week, and their districts and the federal government are expecting them to perform academically.
It's the first year that districts will be implementing all the elements of the federal government's "Race to the top" program for education, says Donald Ogilvie, district superintendent of Erie 1 Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES).
The common core learning standards will be presented to us, and assessments that match those learning standards will be developed and put in place, he says.
"And for the first time, the annual professional performance reviews of teachers and principals will be based upon, in part, student performance on state tests as well as local measures," Ogilvie says.
He calls it a complex, but well intended change in the way schools operate.
When asked if schools should be starting the year earlier, Olgilvie said he's comfortable with the current calendar -- and believes extending the school year should only happen if changes warrant such a move.
"I'd only do it after we had our new curriculum, our new assessments, any modifications to instruction that would make that time more useful. More time doing the same thing isn't a benefit," he says.
Al Diamico, Buffalo Schools
James Mazgajewski, Supt.,
Not surprising, parents will spend the most on clothing, accessories and electronics this summer. Parents estimate they will spend an average of $246.10 on clothes and $217.88 on electronics. Nearly six in 10 (59.6%) will invest in some sort of electronic device, a sharp increase from the 51.9 percent who planned to do so last year.
Additionally, the average person with children in grades K-12 will spend $129.20 on shoes and $95.44 on school supplies
School day wake-up calls recorded by celebrities. Weekend makeup classes. Contests with laptop computers, private concerts and cars as prizes ????
New research suggests missing as little as two weeks of school can put young children behind their peers, burden overworked teachers, cost districts state dollars and undermine mandates to raise standardized test scores. So many public school districts have launched campaigns to reduce all absences, not just those serious enough to warrant a home visit from a truant officer.
"Students who are getting a 'B' and are OK with a 'B,' they think it's in their rights to skip school now and then," said Berkeley High School Attendance Dean Daniel Roose, who offered a movie night to the grade-level boasting the best attendance last semester. "I've tried to challenge those kids and their families to change the mindset that you aren't impacting anyone but yourself when you skip."
The rewards are designed to supplement courts, mentors and other interventions for addressing serious truancy. They direct attention to what education experts call "chronic absenteeism," which applies to students who miss 10 percent of their classes for any reason and may even have parental permission to be out of school.
To counter slumping attendance that tends to worsen as adolescents get older, about 200 middle and high schools in 17 states will be competing this fall in a challenge organized by Get Schooled, a New York-based nonprofit that uses computer games, weekly wake-up recordings from popular singers and actors, and social media messages to get students to show up in the name of school spirit.
The winner of last year's seven-week competition, a Seattle middle school, received a private concert from R&B performer Ne-Yo, who also served as principal for a day to recognize the 3.7 percent jump in the school's average daily attendance rate of 89 percent.
"The issue of attendance, if you look at the evidence, there are many things that drive it, but one of those is engagement and feeling part of a school community," said Get Schooled Executive Director Marie Groark. "A friendly competition motivates people. It motivates students, all of us."
Elk Grove Unified School District outside Sacramento has made rewards a hallmark of its school attendance strategy for six years. As part of the "No Excuses — Go to School" campaign, middle and high schoolers with a month's worth of perfect attendance have been entered into raffles for laptops, while elementary schoolers with the same records have for bicycles. Local businesses donate the prizes.
The program has been so successful the district changed the rules for winning the grand prize — a $20,000 voucher for the local auto mall, which also agreed to pay taxes and licenses on the winner's new car. To be eligible, high school seniors used to need one month of perfect attendance over the school year. Starting last year, the criterion was raised to five months.
The attendance push has been particularly strong in California, New York, Texas and other states where schools funding is based on how many children are in their seats each day, rather than enrollment. Several California districts have made a back-to-school ritual of reminding parents that schools lose money whenever kids are out.
Some have asked families with children who missed school for avoidable reasons such as family trips to reimburse schools the $30-$50 a day the absence cost in lost funding, or at least consider having a child with the sniffles or a stomach ache show up for the first part of the day so he or she can be counted before going home sick.
"If a child is not at school for any reason at all, including sickness, the district does not collect revenue," the Spreckels Unified School District in Salinas, Calif., wrote in a pledge form issued this month asking parents to take vacations and to schedule routine doctor's appointments when classes are not in session.
Under pressure from the local district attorney and others to improve its attendance rate, officials in Berkeley last year got much stricter about demanding meetings with parents of students with three unexcused absences and conducting midday "sweeps" of local teen hangouts to identify ditchers. By June, the district had made $1.4 million more for the current school year and avoided laying off 148 teachers, said student services director Susan Craig.
The Pomona Unified School District in Southern California last year launched a voluntary four-hour Saturday school on alternate weekends to help recoup some of the money it was losing due to student absences. A few parents initially objected to infringing on traditional family time, but most warmed up to the idea of kids having a way to get caught up, Superintendent Richard Martinez said.
One-third of the district's 30,032 students attended at least one Saturday session, earning the school system an additional $1 million in state funding. "It made people feel like there is a financial benefit to this whole notion of responsible behavior and establishing good habits," Martinez said.
Hedy Chang, director of Attendance Works, a nonprofit that studies chronic absenteeism, said that while it may seem evident that children will not learn when they are not around to be taught, schools only recently have begun to examine their rolls for students who are falling behind due to excessive excused and unexcused absences.
"If you have a parent who calls in and says my kid is sick, the kid might be sick. Sometimes, they can have transportation issues, or if there is a lot of bullying or separation anxiety for a kid going to school, it will come out as sick," Chang said. "If it continues as a habit, someone needs to notice and talk to the kid and the family ... so you can nip it before it becomes a big problem."
When it comes to devising strategies for getting kids to school, the approaches do not need to be flashy, according to Ken Seeley, president of the National Center for School Engagement in Denver. In Martinez, Calif., teachers had their classes write letters to absent students with at least three unexcused absences to let them know they were missed. And some parents created a "walking school bus" that picked up students who had had a hard time making it to class.
"We give away a lot of alarm clocks," Seeley added.
Earlier Coverage: Poor retail sales numbers earlier this year are prompting retailers to put out the traditional October or September back-to-school supples earlier this year, and a small cadre of bargain shopping moms are apparently embracing the trend. MORE
Sick Of Standing Inline for Supplies?
A bevy of subscription buying services with names like FabKids and Kiwi Crate have emerged over the past year that cater to parents who want help keeping their kids dressed and entertained.
Think of it as a modern, kid-friendly spin on the "Beer-of-the-Month Club" model.
For $20 to $40 a month, selected items arrive at your doorstep in brightly colored boxes, saving time and gas money. Most services offer free shipping. And some say they're actually cheaper than going to the store.
But shopping experts say you could also go broke if you don't do your homework. Those monthly fees can add up. Not to mention the temptation to go "subscription happy," signing up for a host of services that just clutter up the house. And you have to weigh which services best suit your needs and offer the most flexibility in returns and other financial terms.
"This saves shoppers time," says Sucharita Mulpuru, a Forrester Research analyst. "It creates a shortcut in their lives. But the challenge is whether the quality of merchandise is good, whether it's useful and whether you get value."
Here's what to think about:
FIGURE OUT YOUR NEEDS: First, consider how useful or enjoyable the service is. Check out the sites' Facebook and Twitter feeds to see what others are saying about them.
For arts-and-crafts activities, sites like Kiwi Crate, Green Kid Crafts and Babbaco offer projects the companies say are selected by panels of experts. These projects, which are different each month, range from papier-mache moons to paper robots.
For services like these, it's important to be realistic about how much time you'll be able to devote to the projects, which can take several hours.
DO YOU REALLY WANT TO BE SURPRISED?: Not all the services let you choose exactly what you get. That may be a bigger issue for clothing, because it's a more personal purchase.
Some services try to customize the experience. FabKids personalizes the three-piece outfits for girls based on a 15-question quiz. That includes questions on size and age but also the child's favorite color and even personality traits.
Based on that profile, FabKids emails you three top outfit picks. If you don't like them, you can go to the site to pick something else.
But if you like the luck of the draw, you might be better off with Wittlebee, which sends six different items each month. The site targets newborns to 5-year-old boys and girls. Members can specify style preferences and needs. For example, are you looking for pajamas or socks? But the company throws in a twist. Wittlebee's CEO Sean Percival says, "You get half of what you want." The other half is a surprise.
BE CLEAR ON WHAT YOU GET: Consider what you're getting in that box. For example, Kiwi Crate and Babbaco provide the first pair of scissors in the first shipment, and always provide glue. But for Green Kid Crafts, you're buying your own. That service's hook is that all its materials are eco-friendly.
Green Kid Crafts and Kiwi Crate both charge $19.95 a month. Babbaco is $29.99, but it also provides an item tied to a monthly theme. So to go with a moon and star kit kids earlier this year, it sent along a pair of binoculars.
As for clothing sites, are you a brand snob? Wittlebee features such brands as Calvin Klein, American Apparel and smaller labels like Laughing Giraffe, for $39.99 monthly.
FabKids' three-piece outfits for a monthly fee of $39.95 are designed by the company. For style guidance, FabKids has teamed up with actress Christina Applegate, a mom herself.
IS IT REALLY WORTH BYPASSING STORES?: Jodi Furman, author of a blog called Livefabuless.com, says parents looking to save money on art supplies, rather than trying to find unique projects, should just go to a store like Wal-Mart or Target.
"Now is a good time to stock up," said Furman, because of stores' back-to-school sales. But Kiwi Crates and Babbaco argue parents waste money because many times they buy art supplies in bulk and then never end up using them. The materials are also of high quality.
FabKids CEO Andy Moss says his site offers the same quality of clothing as you might find at J.Crew or Gap but for half the price.
Wittlebee's Percival says that each box has a retail value of $100. When the service was launched in February, it was selling a lot of closeouts from brands but now big clothing suppliers are approaching the company and are willing to give big discounts.
LOOK FOR FLEXIBILITY: Poke around to make sure you can return the box of goodies for a refund if you are disappointed.
At FabKids, you can skip the month at no cost if you don't like any of the options. You can also cancel your membership at any time, as in the case for many of the sites.
PAY ATTENTION: Be careful about keeping track of your memberships. You can easily forget to cancel the service when you don't want it anymore.
"That's one more thing that could get lost in the fray," Furman says.
The Dreaded School Supply List
From The National Retail Federation
With eight in 10 Americans saying the economy will impact their school and college spending plans, it’s no surprise promotions and coupons are popular with families this summer.
According to the NRF's 2012 survey, of those who have already begun shopping, two in five (38.5%) with children in grades K-12 say at least half of the school-related purchases they made were influenced by coupons, sales and promotions, down slightly from 41.5 percent last year. The same number of college shoppers (38.6%) said at least half of their purchases were influenced by sales and promotions, up from 34.2 percent last year.