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Summer tips & tricks for readers

School is almost out and everyone is excited about the prospect of no more homework. Alas, summer reading is the new homework. For some of your kids that means intensive reading interventions; for others, it means setting an intention to read several days a week.

Sometimes, summer reading creates its own intense range of emotions if your child is struggling with a summer reading assignment. Your kids may tell you that they just want to relax and that reading encroaches on their “me” time.

I have received some amazing guidance and resources from reading specialists, special education teachers, and even from my kids’ high school teachers as to what my job as parent is in supporting my kids in reading and writing.

Here is what they suggest:

Your job is to make reading fun. Let the specialist do the hard stuff, which includes sounding out words. I know that advice was music to my ears. I always had a hard time sounding out words because English was my second language and as a result of my own dyslexia. I am only too happy to leave sounding out to the professionals!

Find books that are of interest and appeal to your kids, here are some favorites of my kids:

  • Zach Files
  • Brandon Mull series
  • Ghost / Marvel Comics– I grew up loving comic books (This is how I fell in love with reading) so my youngest and I read them together

Read aloud to your kids. My husband has a knack for doing voices, which the kids loved. I also tried recreating voices for my kids, but at the end of the day their Dad was the one with that talent.

Use technology for extra help. If your kid picks a book that might be above his/ her grade level, no worries. While your kid reads let them listen to the audio. You can use tools like Audible or Learning Ally. If there was a movie based on the book, use the movie as a reward for completing the book.  We could then compare and contrast the two media, which deepened the learning.

Set expectations for the following day and review them with your kids. Write them out. Block out where and what they are doing. If there is an opportunity for choice, ask your kids “would you prefer to read at 9 am or 7 pm” and then block the activity on the calendar. Your job is to make sure they follow through.

Set reasonable time frames for your kids, taking their age into account. If they are young a minimum time might be 10 or 15 minutes. They can keep going or stop. If they chose to stop, avoid coaxing. When you attempt to convince your kid to keep reading you have changed the rules on them and you have made life a lot harder for yourself the next day.

For older kids, first review what they have to read and learn and how long it will take to complete. I like to print out a calendar and have them mark in pencil:

  • Date school starts back up?
  • What days are out-of-the-question for reading?
  • What day do they want to start?

Then look at the book and the number of pages. Are they going to break it down by time or pages per day? Plot out how many days it will take on the calendar to complete all of the reading.  This visual can be very helpful for kids who have unrealistic expectations of the time required and help avoid procrastination.

At this stage in the game, you have an advantage because they have created a plan, which you can point to throughout the summer.

Of course, the temptation to procrastinate is still there.  Your job is to reinforce their plan, not to nag.   If they are behind, have them re-draw the calendar to visualize how the work is piling up.

Be patient and be realistic with your expectations. In the beginning, reading may feel like a chore to them. Just keep finding ways to make it fun. Most of all, model the behavior you are seeking. Are you reading or listening to audiobooks? If your kid happens to have a favorite author ask them if they would recommend the book to you. If they do I encourage you to read it. Yes, sometimes I had to work to get through the book, but the reward of getting to talk about it and understand their world always makes the exercise worthwhile.

 

Photo by Lê Tân on Unsplash

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Mindful Parent to Teacher Communications – Lessons Learned

Sometimes keeping up on school emails, newsletters, permissions slips, activity sign-ups, announcements, and checking data in the online student tracking system, the Parent Portal, can seem a little overwhelming for parents. As a working mom with two active children in two different schools, I often find myself skimming communications from both schools between running from one activity to the next. If I have questions about grades or activities or something that happened at school, I quickly send an email to a teacher.

In the past, a rushed email to a teacher may have come off as impatient or judgmental, when it was more likely just a quick message without much thought put into it at all and sent between a meeting at work, pick up from basketball practice and a grocery store run. I’ve learned over the years to take a few extra moments and slow down and to be more thoughtful in my communications with teachers. I’ve found a few changes in my communication attitude and approach have led to more positive outcomes for my children, their teachers, and me.

Easy ways I’ve found to improve my communications with teachers include: staying positive, checking tone in emails, making appointments, and being open to listening to different perspectives.  

Daniel Patterson is a former teacher and school administrator turned parenting coach. He includes many of the same ideas on how to improve parent-teacher communications in a recent blog post Strategies for Parent-School Communications. Some of Daniel’s key parent-teacher communications strategies include: staying optimistic, respecting hierarchy, making appointments, being direct, considering threats, holding children accountable for their actions.

I’ve tried a few of these strategies over the years and found that every teacher I’ve talked with has the same goals in mind for my children: challenge them to do their best and support them in reaching their full potential.  We can all agree that our great teachers are underpaid for the time and effort they put into their jobs as they meet with parents, plan class time, grade papers and analyze test scores, often outside of school hours. Raising teachers’ salaries and lightening their workload is not something I can do today. However, I’ve learned that just taking a few extra moments and being more mindful in my communications with teachers goes a long way in supporting and respecting their work. 

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In a Competitive Landscape, Newsletters Are The Best Kept Secret

The School Communications Agency works with many excellent sponsors who help us fund Colorado school initiatives. We value this relationship very much. Sponsorship is an important investment, and we are proud to continue to offer a unique way to reach over 150,000 parents, multiple times per month through our digital newsletter program.

As a channel which connects businesses to the educational community, impressions are very important to us. Sponsors have a golden opportunity to make hundreds of thousands of impressions per month at the fraction of a cost of a traditional marketing campaign.

Here’s how we do it:

  • We connect schools and businesses.
    With the ability to brand themselves to 140 Colorado schools, sponsors have direct access to a committed demographic. The number of schools who are working with us is growing all the time, and sponsors get direct access to over 220,000 students and parents in those schools.
  • We deliver newsletters digitally, with a forward thinking approach.
    Our email open rates are over 90 percent, meaning parents are getting immediate exposure to your sponsorship, multiple times per month. That’s upwards of 400 percent over the industry average, according to Constant Contact data.
  • We know education, and how to effectively market your brand to our education audience, which makes us incredibly cost effective.
    According a recent thorough analysis, the average cost per click using Facebook ads was just over 29 cents per click in 2016.  To our sponsors that reach 100,000 parents with us, you would be paying roughly $27,000 for 100,000 Facebook clicks. Many of sponsors reach far more than that. And our rates, of course, are far, far lower. And we are far more targeted.
  • We engage parents with school news that they need and can’t get elsewhere.
    For a run down of the sporting events, or a cutting edge classroom idea that can be used to help their children, parents keep turning to our newsletter. We also work directly with sponsors to specifically brand their message to the K-12 audience. And, best of all, by sponsoring with The School Communications Agency, you get to contribute funding to our students’ futures. We’ve raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Colorado schools so far with your help.

Sponsors, we thank you for your ongoing commitment to improving education. And to future sponsors, please reach out to us.

Together, we can continue to succeed.

 

 

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Newsletters are Great For Efficient Fundraising

Given the overflow of information in our lives, it can be tempting to romanticize about our life before it went digital. Astoundingly, one research firm concluded that on average, Americans interact with their phones over 2,600 times per day. It’s true, digital connections can be as ephemeral as your phone’s news feed, yet we live in a society that is built on digital interactions.

On many levels, it’s impacting how engaged communities perform. High school students on LinkedIn? Check. Teaching middle schoolers how to Tweet. Covered. Getting elementary students to use apps like iMovie? Old hat.

An analog life style, on the other hand, is somewhat of a lost art. So, are local schools a good place to advertise your business through newsletter messaging? The answer seems to be a resounding yes. There are all kinds of signs pointing to a shift back to an analog strategy in the education world, such as using film in photography class. Teaching students to write with pen and paper is suddenly back in vogue. And, incredibly, one of the major reasons for the recent fall in e-book sales is because students want the real thingSociety does, too.

And who can disagree? There’s still nothing like a face-to-face meeting, or nothing quite as good as feeling pages of a book bend in your hand. Or a newsletter to pass around. Our newsletter, vital to the communications of Colorado schools, is distributed with the expressed interest of being passed around, hung with a magnet, highlighted, posted on a bulletin board, and sent in the mail to grandma. Retweet it, you cannot.

For schools, it’s proving to a be a vital communication mechanism. And for sponsors, it’s as highly targeted as you can get. One hundred percent of parents who engage with the TSCA newsletter get access to family friendly, community centric products they need – guaranteed. It’s right in front of them and in their eyes. Compare that to an ad on the internet. That’s a 98 percent higher viewership than effective internet advertising. That’s just another huge reason to go analog. Here are a ton more.

Sponsors, we can work with you on branding your messaging and delivering meaningful results. Schools, we can create easy fundraising ideas and improve parent-teacher communication.  And, if you still do want to go digital, we have an app for that!

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Data Shows that Funding Drives Achievement

I’ll never forget my first job teaching in the South Side of Chicago. It was gratifying to be making a difference in a community that needed difference makers. There were some limitations, but in teaching you can’t ask for better professional development than to make due with what you’ve got. We used old textbooks, and there was an extremely finite supply of paper on hand, so we used great collaboration to drive our success.

I also learned something just as valuable – how school funding works. What struck me each day when I boarded the train to get home was how the buildings gradually got nicer, the architecture more stunning, the schools better funded, the further north I got.

So, I think this headline says it all: “Sixth graders in the richest school districts are four grade levels ahead of children in the poorest districts.

Or, this stat: that the best school districts in the country spend more per student than the already high average, which NPR recently cited as around $11,000 per pupil. When you look at the map, districts that are spending the most are generally the highest achieving. When you dive deeper into the rankings, there is a pretty strong correlation to how much funding is received to overall achievement. Many districts listed here are either tops in funding nationally, or leaders in their state.

The latest census shows how the majority of government funding goes into school infrastructure and salaries, among other vital operations, but you can never overlook how important the small things are, too. It’s simply true that you won’t find a happier teacher than one who just got a new electric pencil sharpener or some good computer speakers to make their job easier. (Or a box of donuts in the teacher workroom!)

And so I’ll add some personal reflection on how all funding helps. I remember back to my second teaching job, just as fondly as my first. I had a great new class. I was rearing to go, especially to teach the kids writing, a passion of mine. I bought all kinds of supplies for the kids, a color printer and ink, and some books the school didn’t have that were absolute musts for anyone learning how to be a better writer. The tally came at the supply store, about a third of my paycheck. I winced for a second, turned around, looked back, and there were a line of teachers behind me doing the same thing. Turns out, I was just one of the thousands of teachers who spend upwards of $500 a year of their own money on supplies each year. So yes, funding matters,  and a TSCA sponsorship can make a huge difference. Contact TSCA today to learn how the value of a sponsorship can help teachers teach and districts be the best they can be.

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Be Your Own Hero

Below is a funny story about self confidence from author and humorist Harvey Mackay. As you can see from the story, self confidence alone might not get you there, but it is the key to moving forward. Every teacher knows that self confidence goes a long way to improving student performance. Read and enjoy: 

A soldier in a ragtag revolutionary army lost his rifle, so he went to his group’s leader for a replacement.

“What am I going to do?” asked the soldier. “We are going to have a big battle tomorrow and I don’t have a rifle.”

“Don’t worry,” said his leader. “The other side doesn’t have very good weapons either, and they are so brainwashed, they believe anything they hear. Just pretend you are pointing a rifle at them and say, ‘Bang! Bang!’ It will have the same effect as if you fired a real rifle at them.”

“OK,” said the soldier skeptically, hitching up his threadbare uniform, “But I lost my bayonet, too.”

“Do the same thing,” said his leader. “When the hand-to-hand combat begins, just point your fingers like this and say, ‘Stab! Stab! Stab!’ You’ll see it has the same effect as using a bayonet.”

The soldier was even more skeptical of this advice but there wasn’t anything he could do about it. As the sun came up, the enemy came charging over the hill right at him and he held out his imaginary rifle, saying loudly, “Bang! Bang! Bang!” To his amazement, one of them dropped, then another and then another. “Bang! Bang! Bang!” he shouted with increasing confidence.

But suddenly he saw a particularly fierce, huge enemy soldier coming right at him. “Bang! Bang! Bang!” he shouted, but the huge enemy soldier kept coming right at him until he was just a few feet away. “Stab! Stab! Stab!” said the frightened soldier, waving his fingers right at his adversary.

But nothing worked. The enemy soldier rolled right over him, kicking him in the stomach and stepping on his face. As he went by, the enemy soldier grunted, “Tank! Tank! Tank!”

Self-confidence alone doesn’t guarantee success, but it’s hard to get started or push through the inevitable obstacles without believing in yourself first. Building self confidence for our students in our schools is important to The School Communications Agency and one way we help is by assisting schools with improved communications through informed and engaged, parents.

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Your School Newsletter Is a Great Source for Fund Raising

Your school newsletter is a great way to improve communications, engage parents and create a more informed and involved community willing to contribute to the success of your school. The School Communications Agency has been working with Colorado Schools for over 5 years now and has helped schools raise close to $1 million dollars. That’s $1 million dollars for schools to use in any way they want that would not have otherwise been available to them.  Our goal is to reach over $5 million raised for Colorado schools in the next 3 years.

We can turn your school newsletter (or use the TSCA Free App instead) into a consistent and reliable source of funds. We build a three-pronged structure of support between The School, The Parents and Community Sponsors who are family friendly, highly rated, community oriented companies that want to be involved in school success.

Our process to engage schools, parents and the community is simple and involves helping schools in the following 3 ways:

  1. Improve Your Newsletter by ensuring (a) higher quality content; (b) better, easy to read layouts; (c) consistent, regular publication, and (d) expanded distribution
  2. Gain More Parent Engagement by creating a communications strategy that gets parents the information that they want
  3. Building on the community of support by creating a win/win situation that brings in new sponsors interested in helping school succeed but who are also interested in communicating directly to your parent community

Whether you are a school, a PTA or PTO, or family friendly community centric business, be a part of our success and contact The School Communications Agency today. https://theschoolcommunicationsagency.com/contact/

 

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4 Ways to Connect With Colorado School Parents

Schools have long talked about how best to connect with parents. Do you send them text messages, send a notice home with the students, put it in your school blog, website or newsletter, use robocalls (heaven forbid) or shout it from the school’s roof top?

A nephew of mine who is a middle-school Principal told me a story about a communications problem he had. The district decided to start the school day an hour later in the coming school year. Starting 6 months before, they began announcing it to the parents and students. They used every form of communications they could think of. But, sure enough, on the first day of school about 20% of the kids showed up at the wrong time. Confused kids, angry parents, frustrated administration.

You might never achieve total communications with parents and your students, after all they are busy people just like you. But here are 4 suggestions to consider for connecting with Colorado school parents.

  1. Pull Don’t Push: Communications starts with engagement. Rather than focusing on only “pushing information” out to parents, create ways to get parents involved so that they want to seek information. (Pull the information from you).
  2. Need to Know Versus Want to Know: Schools spend a lot of energy sending out information that is interesting (maybe) but not very important. When you do too much of this you can bury the important information in the noise of “too much information”.
  3. It’s About Them Not You: School communications is usually based on the school bragging about all the good things they are doing. That’s OK. There is a place for that. But as every marketing communications manager in private industry knows, good communications that gets read takes an audience-centric approach. Talk to the parents not about yourself.
  4. Make it Fun: Good school-parent communications is full of pictures, graphics and white space. Don’t over explain or describe. Create school newsletters and parent Apps that are visually inviting.

At The School Communications Agency we partner with schools to achieve a community of engaged, informed parents

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Building Community and Improving Education

 

With the recent appointment of Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary the question of how best to keep our schools strong (and improve those that are struggling) is the subject of much debate. And while The School Communications Agency does not take sides in the political argument, it seems clear that the future will continue to involve a mix of public, private and charter programs. However, the core of the discussion should include the need to build the communities that support our schools through better parent and business engagement, regardless of which of the three arenas are involved.

In an NEA Policy Brief, entitled “Parent, Family, Community Involvement in Education”  NEA President Dennis Van Roekel states that “Parents, families, educators and communities—there’s no better partnership to assure that all students pre-K- to high school—have the support and resources they need to succeed in school and in life.” And he goes on to say:

“In addition to the vital role that parents and family members play in a child’s education, the broader community too has a responsibility to assure high-quality education for all students.”

Community is defined as not only parents, teachers, administrators but also the vital businesses that provide support and role models for eventual success. When businesses support schools, both the schools and the businesses succeed.

NEA states that Parent, family, and the business community’s involvement in education correlates with higher academic performance and school improvement. When schools, parents, families, and communities (businesses) work together to support learning, students tend to earn higher grades, attend school more regularly, stay in school longer, and enroll in higher level programs.

And, as this article from Education World shows, the businesses involved do better as well: School-Business Partnerships That Work: Success Stories from Schools of All Sizes .

This concept of community and business engagement is further supported in separately published research noted in the NEA brief where Joyce Epstein of Johns Hopkins University, described six types of involvement— parenting, communicating, volunteering, learning at home, decision making, and collaborating with the community— for schools, families, and communities to engage all parties and help meet student needs.

The NEA Policy Brief concludes by providing a list of the top 10 ways to succeed at building a community that improves education. Among the top 10 ways, communications and community involvement are highlighted:

  1. Ensure timely access to information, using effective communications tools that address various family structures and are translated into languages that parents/families understand.
  2. Develop an outreach strategy to inform families, businesses, and the community (businesses) about school and family involvement opportunities, policies, and programs.

At The School Communications Agency, we connect schools with the community to make sure that great communications happen. Our goal is three fold: 1) Engage Parents; 2) Provide financial support to schools, and 3) Help business that support schools reach the right audience and grow their businesses.

We love this goal and like talking to teachers, administrators, parents and businesses about your ideas on how the make strong schools through strong, engaged communities. Contact me at Jerry@tscaschools.com or our community engagement leader at Doug@tscaschools.com.

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Get To Know The School Communications Agency

With 167 schools, 135,000 engaged parents and over $750,000 already given back to schools, The School Communications Agency’s (TSCA) mission is to engage parents and sponsors with quality content through multiple channels delivered how they want it (mobile, paper, email, etc.), plus provide funding that respects the unique needs of each school community. Our goal: Improved Communications, engaged parents, better schools.

What makes TSCA a unique organization is our Three-Fold Impact: 1) Engaged Parents – leading to better, more effective schools, happy teachers and successful students; 2) Funds Raised– that go directly to the school outside of traditional budgets thus providing discretionary funds to meet the most pressing needs identified by the PTA/PTO or school; and 3) Business Growth – that increases the impact and significance of our mission for both schools and investors. As we grow, our impact grows.

School Engagement: TSCA is the perfect impact investment. For every $100,000 invested we add over 100 schools and donate at least $150,000 more per year to education. But this is more than a play for school funding; it is a mission to create better schools through higher levels of parent engagement. When we add 100 schools we impact at least 50,000 students and engage nearly 100,000 parents!

Growth Record: TSCA has been operating since 2013 as a small regional company in northern Colorado. The current management team acquired that business in 2016 and expanded into four new territories: Texas, California, Florida and Missouri.  In 2017 we anticipate growing to 500 schools and providing an additional $1 Million in annual funding support for our client schools.

The Future: Our goal is to sign up 13,000 schools, creating a community of 6 million parents and sponsors generating $20 million in school funding and $50 million in revenue.

Our Team: The TSCA management team of proven entrepreneurs has strong experience in growing companies, selling media advertising and developing high volume production environments.

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