<![CDATA[NBC Chicago - Chicago News - [CHI] Supporting Our Schools Supply Donations Drive]]>Copyright 2019http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/localen-usMon, 11 Nov 2019 17:01:21 -0600Mon, 11 Nov 2019 17:01:21 -0600NBC Local Integrated Media<![CDATA[Support a Back-To-School Project in Chicago-Area Schools]]>512856161Mon, 22 Jul 2019 16:15:58 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Supporting+Our+Schools1.JPG

It's summer in Chicago, but "back to school" is closer than it seems.

All too often, kids don’t have the school supplies — pens, paper, notebooks, and even tables and chairs — they need to succeed, and teachers struggle to fill the gap.

The good news: It's easier than ever to help.

From now through Aug. 2, join NBC 5 and Telemundo Chicago’s "Supporting our Schools" giving campaign to help local teachers and students in need. This year, you pick the classrooms you want to directly impact across the city and suburbs.

Through the NBC 5-Telemundo Chicago DonorsChoose.org section, you will see various requests from teachers across the Chicago area.

From technology to books to furniture, these projects help enrich the learning opportunities in thousands of classrooms. Find a project that inspires you or impacts a school in your neighborhood.

To get started you can head directly to donate at donorschoose.org/nbc5.

Making a Difference is as easy as A-B-C! 

How to Donate

There are two ways to give.

The first way is to hand-pick a project on the giving page to support. To do this:

1. Go to DonorsChoose.org\nbc5 and click the "Project requests" tab

2. Scroll through our list of classroom projects across the city and suburbs, and select a project that interests you. Read the project page to learn more about the teacher, students and a full breakdown of where your money is going.

3. If you would like to donate, go to the “Give” box in the upper right-hand corner.

4. Enter the dollar amount of your choice and click "Give." Follow the "Proceed to checkout" prompts. Choose your payment method and enter your information. Confirm your payment by clicking "Place this donation."

Once a project is fully funded, DonorsChoose.org will facilitate the purchasing and delivery of the project materials

The second way to give is through the giving page, and DonorsChoose will automatically choose a project for you. To do this:

1. Go to DonorsChoose.org\nbc5

2. Enter the $ amount of your choice in the green "Give" box in the upper left corner.

3. Click "Give"

4. Click "Proceed to checkout." Choose your payment method and enter your information. Confirm your payment by clicking “Place this donation.”

<![CDATA[Bulletproof Backpacks a Surprising Back to School Option]]>513519651Fri, 02 Aug 2019 07:47:46 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/bulletproof-backpacks.jpg

One of the hottest back to school accessories this year may surprise parents -- bulletproof backpacks. The bags highlight the harsh reality and dangers faced by students today.

Anna, a mother of two, said she was more frustrated and sad than shocked to see the bags on store shelves and, despite the numerous shootings at schools in recent years, said she wouldn't purchase one for her children.

"I don't think it's necessary," she said.

Guard Dog Security, a manufacturer of the bags, said they're resistant to a 9mm handgun and a .45 Magnum.

"If you're in an active shooter situation, your first instinct should be to run away from this scenario. Take the backpack to yank it over your head and cover your vital organs," said Yasir Sheikh, president of Guard Dog Security.

The key component, manufacturers say, is the Kevlar mesh in the back of the bag.

"It's designed to stop the penetration," said Adam Campbell, gun instructor.

In tests, the bag stopped a 9mm round and a .45 at 15 feet.

"I can feel it in there, but it did not penetrate with a .45," Campbell said.

A high-velocity rifle, however, was able to penetrate the bag.

"It's really, really super high velocity compared to those handguns, so like we said, went right through,"  Campbell said.

Manufacturers admit the bags aren't the ultimate solution, but they do allow students to take a proactive approach to their safety with a layer of protection.

The backpacks retail for about $119 for youth sizes and $190 for adult sizes.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Help Complete These 'Supporting Our Schools' Projects]]>513600531Fri, 02 Aug 2019 15:59:06 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/sticker+fun.png

Today, on the last day of NBC 5 and Telemundo Chicago’s annual "Supporting our Schools" giving campaign, we want to help as many teachers as possible get their classroom projects funded.

Here's how you can help: Click on the links below and choose a project to help fund. Or head to the NBC 5-Telemundo Chicago DonorsChoose.org section to browse more projects.

Thank you for all your help! For more information about "Supporting Our Schools," head here.

$50 or less

Teacher, May I Take That Math Game Home?! (completed)

Ms. Pugliese's Kindergarten Class! (completed)

Choo Choo! All Aboard for Train Play! (completed)

Light up our Lives! 

STEM Fun!  (completed)

Mini Paintings, Big Ideas (completed)

Flexibly Focused  (completed)

Inhale Love. Exhale Support for the Children  (completed)

Supplies for the New Guys to Start a New Year!  (completed)

Mo’ Mo Willems Pigeon Stories 

$100 or less 

Sticker Time Fun (completed)

Tools for Creativity- Unlocking Potential (completed)

Alternative Seating for Active Learners  (completed)

Wiggle on a Wobble Chair and Game Time!

Making Math FUNctional with Hands-on Centers (completed)

Classroom Makeover!

Help them Make Something Beautiful

New Who Was and What Was Books! 

Casting a Spell on American History 

$150 or less 

Math Technology (completed)

Increasing Precision and Productivity with Mice!

Fun, Fun Math Activities For ESL Students

Flexible Learning Inside Our Classroom! (completed)

Preschoolers in Search of Robots

Vocational Training Tools 

Making Ready Readers 

Help Our Class Start Off Next Year! 

Oh, The Places You’ll Sit! 

Exploring Your Identity Through ART 

<![CDATA['Supporting Our Schools' Spotlight: Eco-Friendly Initiatives]]>513513331Thu, 01 Aug 2019 16:04:30 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/support+our+schools+eco.png

From now through Aug. 2, join NBC 5 and Telemundo Chicago’s "Supporting our Schools" giving campaign to help local teachers and students in need.

This year, you pick the classrooms you want to directly impact across Chicago and the suburbs. Through the NBC 5-Telemundo Chicago DonorsChoose.org section, you will see various requests from teachers across the Chicago area.

Need help picking? We'll help along the way. Here are a few supporting eco-friendly projects:

Rocketbook...Second Try!

Help Our Butterfly Garden Soar

Bugging Out!

Garden Stools for Our Courtyard

Rabbit Habitats

Hands-On Is How We Learn!

Making an Impact on the Environment with Bottles and Straws

<![CDATA['Supporting Our Schools' Spotlight: Bilingual Education]]>513055871Mon, 22 Jul 2019 15:50:44 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/kids+classroom.jpg

From now through Aug. 2, join NBC 5 and Telemundo Chicago’s "Supporting our Schools" giving campaign to help local teachers and students in need.

This year, you pick the classrooms you want to directly impact across Chicago and the suburbs. Through the NBC 5-Telemundo Chicago DonorsChoose.org section, you will see various requests from teachers across the Chicago area.

Need help picking? We'll help along the way. Here are a few projects supporting bilingual education:

The Craze for the Holidays

I Can See Clearly Now

Bilingual Artists

Promoting Early Literacy Development in Spanish

Mirror Magic

Leer Means Read

Help Me Bring My Students Work to Life

We can Read Spanish, Too!

What Does That Book Look Like: Multi-Genre Journaling

<![CDATA[Colorado School District Introduces 4-Day Weeks to Cut Costs]]>491182701Sat, 18 Aug 2018 12:49:43 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-98477696.jpg

Hate Mondays? Maybe you should consider moving to Colorado. A school district in the Centennial State has canceled school on Mondays in favor of a four-day school week.

But Garfield-like attitudes is not why school district 27J, located outside Denver, made the decision. The district, which serves 18,000 students in Brighton, Commerce City, Henderson, Thornton and Aurora, believes that the shorter week will cut costs by roughly $1 million in the first year. 

By not having classes on Mondays, the school district will only need to pay for services like school buses and substitute teachers four days out of the week. 

District 27J public information officer Tracy L. Rudnick tells CNBC Make It that the district expects for these savings to increase over time as administrators find new ways to improve efficiency. 

"[One million] is a small portion of our overall operating budget, but we anticipate as we continue down this path additional savings will be seen year after year," says Rudnick. "We have been able to put a counselor in every elementary school and roll out our One-2-Web program which puts a Chromebook in the hands of every middle and high school student."

In a statement, Superintendent Chris Fiedler confirmed that the decision was widely influenced by the district's financial realities as well as the need to attract and retain teachers in the district.

"In the context of our financial reality, we must be increasingly strategic in allocating our resources (including our use of time) to the priorities that matter the most for our students and their learning," he writes. "A prepared tomorrow begins with the best teaching and learning today — and that requires attracting, retaining and developing the best teachers and support staff so we can deliver on our mission."

According to Rudnick, 27J is among the lowest funded school districts in the Denver-metro area, making it difficult to keep high-quality teachers. "We have had years when we have lost over 15 percent of our teaching staff because they can make $10,000 more in a neighboring district," she explains.

Indeed, in April, thousands of teachers in Colorado walked out of their classrooms in protest of low wages and low school funding.

While the school district may save some money with the new initiative, parents of young children may have to spend a bit more on child-care. The district plans to provide all-day child care services on Mondays for $30 a day per student in order to help families with parents who work on Mondays.

This story first appeared on CNBC.com. More from CNBC:

Photo Credit: Getty Images, File
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<![CDATA[US School Districts Weigh Duty to Migrants in Shelters]]>491180971Sat, 18 Aug 2018 14:35:19 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/reuniting-families-obscured.jpg

When San Benito, Texas, school leaders learned of an influx of children to a migrant shelter in their small town near the U.S.-Mexico border, they felt obliged to help.

The superintendent reached out and agreed to send 19 bilingual teachers, mobile classrooms and hundreds of computers to make the learning environment resemble one of his schools.

While a government contractor bears responsibility for educating children at the highly guarded center, local officials say they stepped up partly because of a law that calls on school systems to educate any child, anywhere within their district.

"This is not a political issue. This is not a racial issue. This is a moral obligation, and actually our legal obligation," said Michael Vargas, who leads the board of the San Benito Consolidated Independent School District.

San Benito is one of a small number of U.S. school systems that are preparing for the first day of school on both their public campuses and in new classrooms set up at nearby federal youth migrant shelters. In neighboring Brownsville, Texas, the superintendent is working on an agreement to deploy teachers and services to help educate 800 children housed in federal facilities in her district.

The school systems pitched in amid an outcry over the separation of children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border under the Trump administration's zero-tolerance policy for illegal immigration. Several hundred children remain separated from their parents, but most of the thousands of young people held in federal shelters across the U.S. are unaccompanied minors who arrived in the country without their families.

The Associated Press inquired with public school districts in 61 cities nationwide where shelters are known to exist within their boundaries. Among the 50 that responded, most said they had no contact with the shelter or federal program authorities. Some outside the border states, including Camden, New Jersey, said they only recently discovered the existence of migrant shelters in their community.

Many noted they would educate all children regardless of immigration status, as required by law, if their families or legal guardians sought enrollment on their campuses.

"Until this becomes a real-time issue for us, we have no official position," said Superintendent Dennis Blauser of the Oracle, Arizona, school district.

In Texas, some districts already had longstanding agreements to run classrooms with public school teachers at migrant shelters.

By law, the federal contractors that operate the shelters are required to have a "care provider" give children six hours a day of structured learning time.

Southwest Key, the largest contractor operating such facilities, has agreements with two school districts, including San Benito. It is also working to create partnerships with the Brownsville Independent School District and with a charter school network run separately by Southwest Key's parent organization.

Salvador Cavazos, Southwest Key's vice president of educational services, said the nonprofit shelter operator has for years offered great basic services but is now welcoming more help from outside school systems as an enhancement as the number of children in its care grows.

He said Southwest Key gets appreciative feedback from families after the average 30- to 45-day stay for each child, and most students leave with some level of academic gain. He said the children do "a lot of good work" studying through a project-based curriculum that is aligned with state standards.

"They do history projects. They do class presentations. They do read-alouds with the books and novels that they're reading," said Cavazos, a former school teacher and administrator.

The districts' role is largely limited to their regular school year, though the shelters also provide supplemental curriculum during summer months.

Rochelle Garza, a Brownsville, Texas-based attorney who advocates for the children in court noted the students can be detained for a semester or more with repeating instruction as other kids cycle in and out.

Brownsville Superintendent Esperanza Zendejas said she felt a responsibility to honor the spirit of a 1982 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that affirmed all children in the United States are entitled to enroll in their local public school district for a free education.

Zendejas said the district also has an obligation to work around the troubling circumstances of such a vulnerable population of children, just as the law enforces for homeless children. She said her school district is well-equipped and willing to handle the important task, and ready to provide teachers and special education, bilingual and support services.

"The question of who gets educated in our country is coming up, and my belief is everybody should receive an education if you are in this country," Zendejas said.

But Thomas Saenz, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said the children should be released from custody and be allowed to learn at public school campuses instead of the schools creating an inadequate experience within the confines of the shelter.

"It's not a time for amateurs, and some school districts are frankly amateurs in dealing with short-term incarcerated youth after trauma" from family separation, Saenz said.

The San Benito school district's agreement with Southwest Key, signed in May, is modeled on a similar arrangement in Harlingen, Texas. It gives the district control of curriculum and instruction, while Southwest Key has responsibilities that typically would fall to a guardian, including getting the children ready for school. It also requires facility staff to assist in the classrooms and intervene in the event of a crisis.

The district said it will recoup its costs for the teachers and the 570 Chromebooks and laptops on the federally contracted sites by counting those children as part of its official enrollment. The district expects that will bring in about $2.8 million in state funding.

Still, there has been some blowback from critics over a school district that in recent years struggled financially. Vargas, of the San Benito district board, said he was confronted with unexpected hostility by some in the impoverished border town who fear the plan will siphon resources from their own schools.

"I would hear it from other people going to church: 'Why are we going to help — insert derogatory term — kids?'" he said.

The Texas Education Agency has said local school districts intervening would be doing so voluntarily because the legal obligation to provide educational services to children in federal detention lies with the federal government.

Cavazos said Southwest Key's ultimate goal is to help the children transition into a regular classroom environment so they can continue their education.

"I would hope that they are able to thrive in the communities that they end up (in), even if it is their home country," he said.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago

Photo Credit: AP, File]]>
<![CDATA[How to Ease Kids' Anxiety About School Safety]]>491021901Thu, 16 Aug 2018 10:07:14 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AdobeStock_113156084.jpg

Given the number of high-profile school shootings last year, both children and adults may be feeling anxiety about school safety. As many kids head back to school, knowing how to speak with them is key in helping to alleviate fear and worry about their personal safety. Here’s where to start, according to Parent Toolkit.

Create a sense of normalcy and return to a routine. Children can feel safer when things are "normal" and they may open up about their thoughts. If they don't open up, encourage them with open-ended questions and let them lead the conversation. Know their concerns and worries are valid and recognize them.

As most schools have active shooter drills or other safety practices, discuss with children why this is necessary and identify any adults they can turn to in those moments. 

Remember to keep these discussions age-appropriate. For elementary school kids, stay brief and simple and remind them they will be OK. For middle schoolers, prepare for more specific questions. For high schoolers, be ready to discuss more opinions and identify reputable online sources to seek information.

<![CDATA[How to Pack a Stress-Free School Lunch]]>491017901Thu, 16 Aug 2018 07:13:33 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/cafeteria1.jpg

With the school year starting again, it’s time to start to think about the routine of packing school lunches. For many time-pressed parents, this is a formidable task.

But it doesn’t need to be. I’m a registered dietitian and a clinical instructor at Georgia State University, and I have a few easy suggestions. The first has to do with the food itself, and the others are about organizing the meal.

Packing a powerful lunch
Research has shown that a balanced lunch of complex carbohydrates and protein offers children energy and brain fuel to help them get through a day of learning. For the main course, pair a complex carbohydrate, such as whole grain breads, crackers, pasta, beans, fruit, milk and yogurt, with a protein as your child’s main course. Some examples include a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread, beans with rice and salsa, peanut butter and jelly, tuna salad on crackers, yogurt and granola or cottage cheese with fruit.

When considering complex carbohydrates, look for three to five grams of fiber per serving. Two slices of whole wheat bread usually contains three grams of fiber or more. A piece of fruit is a good way to get in complex carbohydrates, satisfy a sweet craving and avoid sweets with added sugars. Keep in mind that research suggests children should eat less than 25 grams of added sugar per day.

Next, concentrate on selecting fruits and vegetables that are in season. The U.S. dietary guidelines recommend that school-aged children have at least two cups of fruit and three cups of vegetables per day. In-season fruits and vegetables, which are at their taste peak and are more abundant, are good choices. Choose fruits and vegetables that will not brown quickly or get smashed in the lunch bag.

Include a few snacks that your child can eat along with lunch or during snack time at school. Good snack choices include easy-to-open items such as granola bars, trail mixes, string cheese with a piece of fruit, individual yogurts or cottage cheeses, and pretzels and hummus. Be sure to check for added sugars in yogurts and trail mixes, keeping in mind the recommendation for less than 25 grams.

Do not forget hydration. A water bottle for the day along with milk or a low-sugar – 10 grams or less per serving – juice box or pouch is a good option. Many juice companies offer options that are lower in sugar or include a serving of vegetables blended in with 100 percent fruit juice.

The logistics of lunches
Start your kids off early by involving them in the planning and shopping for the ingredients needed to pack their school lunches. Allow young packers to grab the side items to go into their lunch, such as fresh fruit and granola bars, while you pack the main, more labor-intensive food items.

Utilize the time to role-model healthy nutrition by packing your lunch for work with your child. Set aside time in your daily routine for lunch-packing so that it doesn’t creep up during stressful times such as running out the door in the morning. Assembly lines are a fun way to involve the whole family in packing lunches. A job can be created for all ages and cooking abilities.

Invest in reusable lunch containers. They may have more upfront cost, but overall the containers reduce waste and save money otherwise spent on lunch baggies. Firmer plastic or glass containers can also help to prevent browning and smashing of lunch items. Kids can have an added allowance opportunity of cleaning out their lunch boxes and containers to have them ready for the next day!

When shopping for lunch items, shop in bulk for nonperishable items such as granola bars, crackers and snacks and look for buy-one-get-one-free deals at your local grocery store. If concerned about fruits browning or bulk items going to waste, consider the cost benefit of prepackaged items that have longer expiration dates and will not brown. Examples include fruit squeeze pouches, single guacamole or hummus packets, peanut butter packet and yogurts.

Do not feel like your child needs something different each day. School is often a stressful time, and the lunch period is usually 20 minutes or less with the focus being on little talking and more eating so that kids can get back to learning on a full stomach. Often, lunch is “comfort food” from home for kids, and they enjoy having a routine lunch that they can count on during their school day.

If shopping, preparing and packing lunches is too overwhelming, you cannot go wrong with the National School Lunch Program. Often, you can save money and have more nutrition than packing a lunch from home. Farm-to-school initiatives and better overall nutrition have made school lunches a healthy, affordable option for families. When considering the financial impact of packing lunch from home versus buying school lunch, be sure to fill out your federal eligibility application for free or reduced meal eligibility.

This article was originally published on The Conversation, an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts. Read the original article here

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Tips for Back-to-School Shopping and Getting the Best Deals]]>490627701Sun, 12 Aug 2018 04:40:39 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/080118schoolsupplies.jpg

The summer weather may still be in full force, but fall is definitely in the air, at least when you consider one of the year's biggest retail events: Back-to-school shopping. Here's a list from NBC News of expert tips on how to get the best savings — and navigate the chaos with as little stress as possible.

Before heading out, be sure to make a budget and compare prices at a few different locations. Take inventory of items you already have, and clip some coupons from your local paper.

When you hit the store, leave the little kids at home to prevent overspending. Shop around, and don't miss the clearance or sale aisles.

To save on specific items, August is a good month to buy sneakers and office supplies. Though backpacks, lunch boxes and clothes may be in smaller supply after the school year starts, wait to buy them in later months when they go on sale. Also, consider buying tech refurbished and on tax-free holidays or major shopping days like Black Friday or Cyber Monday.

Photo Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA['A Struggle': 18 Percent of Teachers Work Multiple Jobs]]>490004721Thu, 09 Aug 2018 05:33:07 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AP_18116782351434.jpg

Jennifer Williams can’t afford to work just one job.

In addition to teaching 10th grade English full time in Baltimore, the single mother works four side jobs, including a waitressing gig on nights and weekends. She also runs her school’s literary magazine, coaches volleyball and supervises the speech and debate team.

In the U.S., about 18 percent of public school teachers reported earning income from other jobs during the 2015-2016 school year, according to a June report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). They earned an average of $5,100 from that employment.

Previous survey data showed the rate had hovered around 16 percent in 2004, 2008 and 2012. (Only four of the last 13 teacher surveys asked teachers about outside jobs, said Maura Spiegelman, an NCES statistician.)

After a full day of teaching, Williams rushes to pick up her daughter from school and then drops her at home, with barely enough time to get to the waitressing job by 4:30 p.m. When she works the night shift, she’ll get home around 11 p.m. By then her daughter has made herself dinner and gone to bed.

“My kid becomes a latchkey kid,” Williams said of her 14-year-old. “I feel guilty that she is taking care of herself.

Williams' teaching salary is $50,000. She said she takes home about $34,000 after various deductions. It's far too low to make ends meet, so the income from her other jobs goes toward necessities.

Compared to other workers with college degrees, teacher pay has declined over the past several decades. According to a 2016 report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), public school teachers’ wages were 17 percent lower than comparable workers in 2015, compared to just 1.8 percent lower in 1994.

This disparity amounts to a teacher pay gap, said economist Sylvia Allegretto, who co-authored the EPI report. Although college students are increasingly graduating with large amounts of student debt, the wage gap makes it even harder for teachers who take out loans to pay for their education. 

Allegretto fears this set of circumstances, along with broader budget cuts, is  dissuading prospective teachers from entering the field.

"Can we still attract the best and brightest?” Allegreto said in an interview. “Those teachers we really need to educate our children and future workforce? We’d like this to be an upstanding profession that people want to go into. Making that choice has become more difficult.”

Allegreto wasn’t surprised that three of the states with recent teacher strikes—Arizona, Colorado and North Carolina— also had the widest pay gaps in the country. Teachers there earned 63 to 65 cents for every dollar paid to other college graduates in 2015, according to EPI.

Kellyanne Brown, a high school government teacher, was one of about 20,000 teachers who participated in Arizona's statewide teacher walkouts at the end of April.

Brown has held second jobs in guest services at a movie theater and as a restaurant hostess. She said the odd hours affected her teaching.

“I would put off grading and lesson planning,” Brown said in a statement. “My prep is 7th hour and a lot of the times I would sleep at my desk cause I was so tired."

Brown wants people to know that teachers "aren't asking to get rich." 

“We just want enough so we don't have to have second jobs or sell plasma in order to pay for basic bills," she said.

Elizabeth Lyon, a teacher for over 35 years, is at the top of her pay scale. She moonlights as a massage therapist after school and on weekends. The extra work pays her rent, but not much else.

"We make it through the month, but we’re pretty tapped out by the end of it," Lyon said. 

Williams has also struggled to make ends meet every month, even with the extra income. She had to request forbearance, halting payments on her student loans. Sometimes she puts the grocery bill on a credit card. She wishes she could spend more time with her daughter.

“Going into teaching I knew that teachers don’t make the most money,” Williams said. “I also understand we have a pension and benefits. But I didn’t think it would be a struggle like this.”

Photo Credit: Ross D. Franklin/AP Photo, File photo
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![CDATA[Back-to-School Supplies Get Revamp, From Scents to Llamas]]>490374801Wed, 08 Aug 2018 11:53:40 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AP_18215757709281-School-Supplies.jpg

The microwave ate my homework? Reusable notebooks where writing disappears with heat are among the basic school supplies raising their game against gadgets like iPads.

Also hot in the paper aisle this year: Decorative tape, creative journals and scented pencils in smells like bacon and pickle.

"There's an explosion of innovation and fun" in school supplies, said Scott Bayles, vice president of stationery at Walmart. He noted that people are looking for ways to relieve stress through creative expression, and that's trickling down to kids.

Companies that make school supplies have figured out how to get parents to spend more by offering innovations on the basics, said Marshal Cohen, chief industry adviser at The NPD Group. At Staples, for example, a pack of 72 basic No. 2 pencils costs about $15.49, or 21 cents each, while a pack of five scented pencils runs $7.99, or $1.60 each.

Overall, stores expect a healthy back-to-school shopping season, fueled by a strong economy and high consumer confidence. Deloitte forecasts that back-to-school spending will increase 2.2 percent to $27.6 billion this year, with the average spending per household rising slightly to $510 from $501 last year. That includes $112 on school supplies, up from $104.

Here are four trends:

NEW KINDS OF NOTEBOOKS AND PENS: The Rocketbook Wave notebook that runs about $25 works like a traditional pen and paper version. But when pages are full, you can scan them with the app and send the contents to the cloud. If you used the Pilot FriXion pen, you can erase the notes by heating it in the microwave, and then reuse it. Using only the Pilot FriXion pen works in a similar way. You can make corrections on a page by heating the ink in the microwave or by rubbing the eraser tip to cause friction. Put it in the freezer and the ink will reappear.

Bullet journals that adults have adopted over the past few years are making their way to the back-to-school aisles. The notebooks become a mix between a diary, a wish list and a to-do list, and can help keep track of homework, school projects and school events. Events can be marked by an "O'' bullet, while tasks can be a dot.

DECORATIVE TAPE: Adhesive tape including Japanese paper called washi has been growing in popularity, and the trend has moved into school supplies. Kids are using the tape to decorate their notebooks, pens and pencils and other items, says Kaleigh Sands, a Staples spokeswoman.

"It's customizable," Sands said, noting that kids want to personalize their own items.

SCENTS AND COLORS: Elmer's has been expanding beyond its famous white school glue to purple, pink and blue glitter glue and even a slime starter kit. Retailers are also widening their arrays of scented pencils. Walmart has added such smells as bacon, grass, onion, mud and pickle. Target's scented pencils feature such smells as cola and jelly doughnut.

LLAMAS VS. UNICORNS: Rainbow unicorns are seeing a bit of competition. Llamas are in demand for decoration on backpacks and other school supplies. Dayna Isom Johnson, a trend expert at Etsy, said the search results for unicorns have more than doubled in the first six months of this year compared to the same period last year. They're still way ahead, but the interest is llamas is growing — search results for them more than tripled in that same time frame.

"It might be time for something new to come along," Johnson added.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago

Photo Credit: Carrie Antlfinger/AP]]>
<![CDATA[School Supplies Cost Down as New Year Approaches: Survey]]>489768261Wed, 01 Aug 2018 11:11:19 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/080118schoolsupplies.jpg

Back-to-school shopping isn't getting more expensive for once, according to new survey.

The cost of classroom supplies dropped across every grade level ahead of the 2018-19 school year, according to the latest Huntington Backpack Index.

While some costs fell, college preparatory material costs increased 10 percent.

The index is an annual survey that analyzes the costs of school supplies and other expenses arranged by The Huntington National Bank and nonprofit organization Communities in Schools.

(Disclosure: Communities in Schools is a partner of NBC- and Telemundo-owned stations' Supporting Our Schools campaign.)

This year, parents can expect to pay less for students’ school supplies and other school fees than they did in 2017. According to index data, parents will pay about $637 for an elementary school child, $941 for a middle school child and $1,355 for a high school student.

A middle-income, two-child and married-couple family will spend about $13,000 per child each year, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data on the cost of raising a child. Child care and education accounts for 16 percent of that figure.

The decrease in the cost of school supplies will likely prove beneficial to teachers, as well. Ninety-four percent of public school teachers pay for classroom supplies, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics.

The price changes come after last year’s index revealed that school supplies became more expensive between 2007 and 2017. Over that 10-year period, prices for supplies increased by about $10.

Each year, Huntington receives classroom supply lists from elementary, middle and high schools throughout eight states and constructs a representative list of required supplies and fees. Then, it selects moderately priced items at national online retailers to determine the costs.

“We need to ensure that every child in America comes to school equipped for success,” said Dale Erquiaga, president and CEO of Communities In Schools, in a statement. “Regardless of reduction in cost,the price of school supplies remains a challenge for low-income families and for teachers who often supplement supplies for their classrooms. That’s why we bring existing community resources inside schools to make sure that no student starts out behind.”

Photo Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Mom Starts Crayon Recycling Business, Funds School Supplies]]>489508081Mon, 30 Jul 2018 08:26:38 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Mom_Recycles_Crayons_for_School_Supplies_Funding-153295953960900002.jpg

Megan Tannenbaum first started the "Great Crayon Project" as a means to recycle broken crayons she found at her daughter's school. What was first meant to be a "cute home project" is now a small business that donates its proceeds to fund school supplies for kids from broken crayons prepped by employees hired from the local community.

<![CDATA[Schools Eye Facial Recognition Technology to Boost Security]]>488864701Mon, 23 Jul 2018 06:11:33 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/securityAP_18201745749475.jpg

The surveillance system that has kept watch on students entering Lockport schools for over a decade is getting a novel upgrade. Facial recognition technology soon will check each face against a database of expelled students, sex offenders and other possible troublemakers.

It could be the start of a trend as more schools fearful of shootings consider adopting the technology, which has been gaining ground on city streets and in some businesses and government agencies. Just last week, Seattle-based digital software company RealNetworks began offering a free version of its facial recognition system to schools nationwide.

Already, the Lockport City School District's plan has opened a debate in this western New York community and far beyond about the system's potential effectiveness, student privacy and civil rights.

"We shake our heads that we're having to deal with and talk about these kinds of security issues," said Robert LiPuma, technology director for the Lockport district, east of Niagara Falls, "but here we are."

The idea behind the Lockport system is to enable security officers to quickly respond to the appearance of expelled students, disgruntled employees, sex offenders or certain weapons the system is programmed to detect. Only students seen as threats will be loaded into the database. Officials say it is the first school district in the country to adopt the Canadian-made system it is installing.

Administrators say it could thwart shootings like February's attack in which expelled student Nikolas Cruz is charged with killing 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

"This would have identified (Cruz) as not being able to be in that building," said Tony Olivo, a security consultant who recommended the system for Lockport. Cameras mounted throughout the building would have followed the banned student's every move until he left.

Critics say the technology has been absent from schools for good reason.

In light of Lockport's plans, the New York Civil Liberties Union asked the state Education Department to block the technology from any New York school, saying it would "have a chilling effect on school climate." Education officials say they are reviewing the request.

"Lockport is sending the message that it views students as potential criminals who must have their faces scanned wherever they go," NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said.

Jennifer Lynch, senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group, said any school considering facial recognition must consider who will have access to data, how such a system would be managed and whether students can opt out.

Others question the technology's cost and effectiveness, given reports like one released in February by MIT and Stanford University that found some facial recognition programs don't work as well on racial minorities and women.

Lockport parent Belinda Cooper would have preferred metal detectors in her 15-year-old daughter's school.

"It would have been cheaper for the school district, and you can guarantee no guns or knives will be brought in," she said.

District officials say the Aegis system they are installing, made by SN Technologies of Ontario, will not build or store a database of student and faculty face prints that could be shared with the government or marketers. Nor will the $1.4 million cost, funded through a state technology bond, siphon funding from staffing or supplies.

District officials acknowledge it won't stop a determined attacker from coming through the door, nor will it warn against someone who is not a known threat.

But "there's no system that's going to solve every problem," LiPuma said. "It's another tool that we feel will give us an advantage to help make our buildings and our communities a little safer."

Individual schools and districts, as well as the governors of Wyoming and one other state, have already expressed interest in RealNetworks' customizable SAFR System, senior product director Michael Vance said.

At the University Child Development School in Seattle where it was piloted, rather than rely on office staff buzzing in late arrivals or visitors, the system gives parents who have registered their faces automatic access through a locked gate and tells the office who is coming. Schools can opt to register students' faces and customize how to respond to people who have been flagged for alert.

"All of that resides with the school," Vance said. "We don't see it. We don't have access to the pictures, the images, the video, anything like that. It's stored in the same way that school attendance databases, grades, records, everything is kept."

Nevertheless, citing a patchwork of regulations, Vance said the company would welcome the kind of government guidelines for facial recognition technology that Microsoft President Brad Smith called for in a blog post July 13.

In Lockport, as crews worked on wiring the system inside, 16-year-old student Teliyah Sumler expressed some reservations.

"I feel like it's too personal," she said. "Cameras all in my face. It's too much."

Khari Demos, 22, who has two siblings in Lockport High School, said he worries for their safety and views facial recognition as another piece of a security puzzle that includes locked doors and active shooter drills.

"It'll actually identify who should and shouldn't be in the school," said Demos, who graduated from the school in 2013. "The system will never be 100 percent perfect but it's a step in the right direction."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago

Photo Credit: Carolyn Thompson/AP]]>
<![CDATA[Common Goes Back to School to Help Teachers]]>488739901Fri, 20 Jul 2018 11:31:23 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/072018common.jpg

Rapper Common has won three Grammys, a Golden Globe and an Academy Award but a recent visit to a New York City school was "humbling" — mainly because many of the students were too young to know his music.

The award-winner showed up at P.S. 111 in midtown Manhattan on Thursday as an ambassador for the Adopt-A-Classroom initiative.

He made the surprise appearance with his mother, Dr. Mahalia Hines, to present the school with a $10,000 check.

While Common has a diverse fan base, it probably doesn't include many fourth and fifth graders. He joked about their reaction when he was introduced.

"The kids they were looking like, 'Who is this dude? We don't know him.' But I'm still just here to connect with children, and connect with the people and our teachers. So, I felt that it was more fun. It is humbling, but it is fun to try and get them to pay attention," Common said.

According to Adopt-A-Classroom, 96 percent of teachers nationwide bear the cost each year to equip their classrooms with the basic materials students need to learn.

The organization estimates that teachers spend more than $700 out of their own pocket each year. The program provides funds for teachers to purchase school supplies.

After addressing the students in the school's gymnasium, Common went upstairs to visit a classroom. He shared his love of writing, and even recited the lyrics to his acclaimed hit, "Black America Again."

"When I saw the kids I really was just trying to let them know we were here because we care and that we value them and that they have the world at their hands," he said.

For the second year in a row, Adopt-A-Classroom has partnered with Burlington Stores. Shoppers can make a $1 donation to the organization at checkout through Aug. 18.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago

Photo Credit: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Help Chicago-Area Teachers and Students This Summer]]>487705821Mon, 09 Jul 2018 16:30:58 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/supporting+our+schools+teacher.jpg

From July 8 through July 31, join NBC 5 and Telemundo Chicago’s “Supporting our Schools,” a giving campaign to help local teachers and students in need. This year, you pick the classrooms you want to directly impact across the city and suburbs.]]>
<![CDATA[Big Move for Big Bird: Sesame Street Is Entering Classrooms]]>488724131Fri, 20 Jul 2018 08:40:14 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Plaza+sesamo+personaje+autista.jpg

Sesame Street is taking its beloved, critically acclaimed brand of educational television into the highly profitable world of classroom curriculum — a move that experts say could open the door for other companies to move into the sensitive learning space with possible influence on children.

Sesame Workshop, the company behind Big Bird and Elmo, and McGraw-Hill Education, a billion-dollar for-profit company known for school textbooks, announced their partnership Thursday. Both declined to disclose the financial terms for their new line of classroom instructional materials.

"Sesame Workshop probably can be trusted to do this in an ethical way, but the door opens for other companies to do it in a less ethical way," said Heather Kirkorian, a University of Wisconsin professor who studies the effects of media in young children.

The TV program and Sesame Workshop's other educational pursuits have long been lauded for their record of helping kids learn, portraying diverse characters and offering sensitivity in addressing childhood experiences.

The new classroom materials include videos featuring social-emotional and literacy lessons delivered by its famous characters and meant to be used at "circle time," when young children typically gather to sing songs or hear stories. They also are offering resources for teachers and parents to help reinforce the lessons.

The instructional materials are on the market for children in preschool through fifth grade, and they are expected to be used in classrooms as early as fall 2019. Educators now have access to review the materials, but they haven't been piloted in a classroom yet. They must be approved by school principals and administrators.

Dr. David Hill of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which urges parents to be cautious and selective about screen time for children, said that by age 3, kids can learn from a limited viewing of high-quality TV programs like Sesame Street but that little research exists on such regular media use in the classroom.

Hill, a pediatrician, said a young child's brain cannot distinguish between programming and advertising, which could raise questions about the precedent that Sesame Street is setting.

"When you introduce a commercial influence on a nonprofit endeavor, I think everyone naturally has some concerns about the tension that ensues," Hill said.

Sesame Workshop is a nonprofit and would have to invest its revenue back into its educational mission.

"With a proven whole-child curriculum that serves as a framework for everything we do, Sesame Workshop has put children first for nearly fifty years," said Akimi Gibson, company vice president.

A much-discussed study in 2015 indicated that preschoolers exposed to the show gained immense benefits, which were compared to that of the Head Start program for low-income children, though the authors of that study later rebuked the idea that the show alone could or should replace any actual school program.

The researchers declined to comment on Sesame Street's latest classroom endeavor.

Sesame Street has been a household brand since debuting in 1969 on public television. In recent years, it lost federal funding to produce the show and has partnered with HBO.

Its name recognition is so high that it is equally known for its broad array of licensed merchandise, from bibs and backpacks to toys and games. It has also achieved cult status for its celebrity appearances and satirizing humor that serves as a hook for parents.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Obama Reveals Summer Reading List]]>488129911Wed, 18 Jul 2018 12:57:40 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-886536854.jpg

Former President Barack Obama is heading to Africa this week to visit Kenya and South Africa, but before he departs he’s sharing his summer reading recommendations.

The former president, who is visiting the continent as part of a celebration of the 100th anniversary of former South Africa President Nelson Mandela’s birth, wrote a lengthy Facebook post for his summer reading list, featuring a group of authors from Africa.

“I wanted to share a list of books that I’d recommend for summer reading, including some from a number of Africa’s best writers and thinkers – each of whom illustrate our world in powerful and unique ways,” he said.

Here is the former president’s list:

“Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe

“A Grain of Wheat” by Ngugi wa Thiong’o

“Long Walk to Freedom” by Nelson Mandela

“Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“The Return” by Hisham Matar

“The World As It Is” by Ben Rhodes

The former president’s foundation will convene over 200 leaders in South Africa during his visit, and he will deliver a speech to honor Mandela’s birth. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Strangers Give Chicago Teacher Money for Students on Flight]]>488423331Wed, 18 Jul 2018 10:13:54 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/kimber+bermudez+facebook.jpg

Kimber Bermudez was simply flying to visit her parents in Florida when the Chicago teacher’s trip took an unexpected turn — ending with a gesture from strangers that left her stunned.

What began as a simple conversation with her seatmate led to three other passengers on the plane handing her cash to enable her to better help her students, who come from predominantly low-income families on the city's Northwest Side.

As she boarded Southwest flight 1050 to Florida last Tuesday, Bermudez began talking to the man seated next to her.

"I have been known as a talker since I was a child," she told NBC 5.

Bermudez said she quickly began discussing her job at Carlos Fuentes Elementary, a charter school in Chicago's Avondale neighborhood.

"He said, 'What do you do?' I said, 'I am a teacher' and he asked where," she said. "He said, 'What is your greatest struggle?' And I started talking about our school and the amazing educators here."

Bermudez noted that she works in a low-income school where her students often face everyday challenges no child should have to deal with. She said teachers at her school often use their own money to help students whose families couldn't afford to buy supplies. 

“We talked about the world and how no child should ever do without,” she wrote in her post. “In 2018, kids should never be hungry or in need of anything.”

The man asked her for her work information as his company often donates items for schools like the one Bermudez works in.

“I was not intending for him to say that, and then gave him my school email. Then something amazing happened...” she wrote.

That's when a man sitting behind Bermudez revealed he had overheard her conversation.

"He was tapping me, 'Hey I'm sorry for listening' and handed me cash and I was trying to understand what was happening," she said. 

"I heard your story; do something amazing," the man told her.

Bermudez, who later learned the wad of cash totaled $500, told the man she would use the money to buy her students books and give back to the community.

But it didn’t end there.

As the plane landed, Bermudez said another man sitting across the aisle from her handed her $20 and the man in front her of turned around to give her $10 more.

“I started crying on the plane,” she wrote. “I told all four men that I would do something amazing for the kids. I was not telling my story to solicit money, and never intended to walk out of that flight with anything other than my carry on.”

She told NBC 5 the money will change her students' lives in the classroom. 

"With more resources I will get to do more and the kids will get to do more," she said. "I am just baffled and blown away by all of this." 

Bermudez’s recount of what happened on her flight has been shared more than 800 times since she posted it on Facebook last week.

“I do however hope that posting this continues the chain reaction of people helping those in need, and especially the children in need,” she wrote. “It doesn’t have to be a school in Chicago, and any bit helps!”

She asked that her post be shared in an effort to find the generous strangers to thank them “and their amazing hearts.”

“My heart is in complete shock and awe right now,” she wrote. “When the world seems crazy there are always good people. I would do anything for my students, and want to thank these strangers. I don’t know the name of the man who gave me the $500 or the other generous strangers, but they deserve to be recognized.”

Signed, she wrote, Kimber Bermudez, Aisle 14 Seat C.

Photo Credit: Kimber Bermudez/Facebook
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<![CDATA[Harvard Dropouts Help High Schoolers With College Process]]>487826111Tue, 10 Jul 2018 17:23:07 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Ex-Harvard_Students_Create_Virtual_College_Counselor.jpg

When middle school friends Zack Perkins and Johan Zhang were trying to get into college, they say they had little guidance.

Their public school guidance counselor had hundreds of other students, and they didn't have thousands of dollars for a private college adviser. They leaned on older peers. And when they got into Harvard University, they figured they could help others navigate the college admission process.

In their dorm room, the friends started Admissions Heroes.

"We had tons of spreadsheets," said Perkins. "We tracked requirements at each of the schools and we built a comprehensive profile for each student."

By their sophomore year, the first 21 students they helped advise all got into their top-choice schools, and that brought a wave of references. They hired more peer mentors and created a program that matches the students' information and preferences with schools and then calculates their chances of admission. CollegeVine was born.

"After working with so many students, we actually found a way to quantify extracurriculars in a real, predictable way in an algorithm," Perkins said.

By the spring of 2015, Perkins and Zhang had dropped out of Harvard.

"We were thinking, 'We have this corporate finance final tomorrow. Should we do that, or kind of help families change their lives?'" Zhang recalled.

Their dorm room business is now in Cambridge. They have a staff of 60, as well as 650 current and recent graduates working as mentors.

They're offering pro bono work for students who can't afford their services.

<![CDATA[NYC Teachers to Get 6 Weeks of Paid Parental Leave]]>486078751Tue, 10 Jul 2018 08:11:51 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/baby-child-father-451853+edited.jpg

New York City will provide six weeks of parental leave at full salary for all of its public school teachers.

The agreement was announced Wednesday by Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio, union and school officials.

The contract covers about 120,000 workers. They include 79,000 teachers, plus United Federation of Teachers-represented school nurses, therapists, guidance counselors, secretaries and others.

The benefit will take effect on Sept. 4.

Birth parents and non-birth parents will get the paid leave for the birth of a child. It also will apply to the adoption or fostering of a child under the age of 6.

The city estimates that more than 4,000 new parents a year will use the benefit.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago

Photo Credit: Pexels/CC]]>
<![CDATA[Outsourcing School Lunch: Food Deliveries Are Remaking Meals]]>487766211Tue, 10 Jul 2018 07:13:13 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AP_18191393573969-Outsourcing-School-Lunches.jpg

Rachel Harrington wants her children to have nutritious packed lunches to enjoy at school but she gets frustrated trying to create them.

"Making lunches for my kids is one of my least favorite activities. I'd like to do it the night before, but that never happens," said the mother of two. "There are a lot of complaints."

It's a chore she's happy to outsource two days a week to a business in her hometown of Lexington, Massachusetts. "Having two days off is like a dream," she said. "Sometimes I forgot that it's a Red Apple Lunch day. When I realize I do not have to make lunches, I'm so happy."

Families around the country are finding new options for their children's midday meal thanks to a growing number of delivery options catering to students. Some deliver to the schools, others to homes. As for teens calling in their own food deliveries, some schools allow it and others don't.

Lisa Farrell launched Red Apple Lunch after market research confirmed her suspicion that lunch packing was a "stress point" for parents. "You only have so much time in the day," she said. "Some customers didn't like what was offered at school. Folks just needed another option."

She and her team pack healthy lunches, incorporating local food when possible, and deliver them to homes so that kids can take them to school the next two days. The company delivers two lunches on Monday and two on Wednesday.

Many of Farrell's clients also have the option of buying a hot lunch provided by their child's school, but not all schools offer that.

Kiddos Catering in Chicago has come up with a different twist: providing restaurant meals to schools that contract with it. Owner Michelle Moses and her staff work with area restaurants to create a variety of kid-friendly choices, and deliver the meals to the schools five days a week. Parents select the lunches from an online order form that lists the day's featured restaurant and its menu choices.

"Each day is a different restaurant with six to 10 menu options," she said. "It offers so much choice to kids."

The service appeals to parents because they think their children are less likely to toss out restaurant food than a packed lunch, Moses said. Sarah Goldman, who uses the program at Kipling Elementary School in Deerfield, Illinois, agreed.

"I know my kids are going to eat because they love it," she said. "I know they're finishing their lunch."

The schools appreciate that Moses handles the ordering, payment, pickup and food distribution in the cafeteria.

"Schools really want to be in the business of educating kids," she said. "They don't want to be in the food and beverage business."

That doesn't mean that schools always like it when teens (or parents) take it upon themselves to order food through phone apps. Many schools have banned that practice, citing safety concerns about delivery drivers showing up at school unannounced and the burden of tracking down students to alert them that their meals have arrived.

"These types of deliveries pose an unnecessary security risk for students and staff," said Bernard Watson, director of community relations for Gwinnett County Public Schools in Suwanee, Georgia. "In addition, our award-winning school nutrition program provides students with a wide variety of tasty, nutritious meals on-site, so there is no need to order food from outside."

But in places where there is no formal policy about restaurant deliveries, they can come in handy. When Spencer Wood's daughter forgot her lunch last spring, he arranged for the local Panera to deliver her a meal.

"I called the school to make sure it was OK, and they said families do it all the time," said Wood, of Canal Winchester, Ohio. "They were very helpful, telling me when to have it sent and reminding me to tip the driver. "

His 12-year-old daughter, Madison, loved the special delivery of macaroni and cheese, he said.

A restaurant meal is a nice treat, agreed Jacob Levin, a recent graduate of Bexley High School in Bexley, Ohio. He relied on a sub shop to deliver a sandwich to him during lunchtime meetings or other appointments that conflicted with his lunch period.

"It was a convenient option. In most cases, I would not have been able to eat at school if it weren't for the delivery option," he said. "Having a restaurant-quality sub also was much more enjoyable than cafeteria food."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago

Photo Credit: Nam Y. Huh/AP]]>
<![CDATA[Help Fund Teachers' Classroom Projects This Summer]]>486475421Mon, 16 Jul 2018 13:19:46 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/BACK-TO-SCHOOL2.png

Editor's note: Want to help make a difference in Chicago-area classrooms? Click here!

It's summer in Chicago, but "back to school" is closer than it seems.

All too often, kids don’t have the school supplies — pens, paper, notebooks and even tables and chairs — they need to succeed, and teachers struggle to fill the gap.

The good news: This summer, it's easier than ever to help.

How to Make a Difference in Chicago-Area Classrooms

From July 8 through July 31, join NBC 5 and Telemundo Chicago’s “Supporting our Schools,” a giving campaign to help local teachers and students in need. This year, you pick the classrooms you want to directly impact across the city and suburbs.

Through the NBC 5-Telemundo Chicago DonorsChoose.org section, you will see various requests from teachers across the Chicago area.

From technology to books to furniture, these projects help enrich the learning opportunities in thousands of classrooms. Find a project that inspires you or impacts a school in your neighborhood.

To get started you can head directly to donate at donorschoose.org/nbc5.

Making a Difference is as easy as A-B-C!

<![CDATA[Retro School Supplies You Used to Use in Class]]>428677203Thu, 05 Jul 2018 10:00:15 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/sos-supplies-thumb-2018.jpgJust like calculus and art theory, there are some things you probably don't bring with you once school ends. Take a trip back to school with these retro supplies you might've once begged mom or dad to buy. ]]><![CDATA[Famous People You Didn't Know Used to Be Teachers]]>424657733Thu, 05 Jul 2018 06:59:07 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/famous-teachers-thumb.jpgHave you ever had a really great teacher that you still remember years after you've graduated? Some of these former teachers are more than just impossible to forget — they're famous! Check out more of these famous people who used to be teachers. Did you know about everyone on this list? ]]><![CDATA['You Should Be Proud': Jimmy Fallon Speaks at Parkland Graduation]]>484427021Tue, 03 Jul 2018 15:50:11 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/214*120/060318+msd+graduation+fallon.jpg

On Sunday, seniors at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School walked across the stage to accept their diplomas and become graduates of the class of 2018.

After a difficult school year due to a shooting on campus in February that left 17 dead, including four seniors, comedian Jimmy Fallon attended Sunday’s ceremony to give a commencement address.

Fallon gave an uplifting message, mixed with some humor.

“Today you are graduating from high school. You should be incredibly proud of yourselves. That doesn’t mean you should rest on your laurels, or your yannys,” said Fallon.

Fallon also tweeted about the event, saying they should keep making a difference in the world.

“Keep making good choices,” the late night talk show host said. “I’m not saying it because you need to learn it. I’m saying it because you already taught it to all of us. I can’t promise that life will be easy, but if you make good choices and keep moving forward, I can promise that it will get better in ways you haven’t even thought of.”

This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![CDATA[How Crayola Crayons Are Made]]>428270883Mon, 02 Jul 2018 13:00:09 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/DIT+CRAYOLA+CRAYONS+THUMB.jpg

Ever wondered how Crayola Crayons are made? We go through the entire process and share some surprising facts about how many crayons are made every year.]]>
<![CDATA[Michelle Obama: 'College Wasn't Meant to Do Alone']]>486199651Thu, 21 Jun 2018 16:14:37 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/062018michelleobama1.jpg

Former first lady Michelle Obama told first-generation college freshmen to surround themselves with a community to help them survive college.

Mrs. Obama was the first in her family to attend college. She said: "Finding a cohort for yourself and starting to build your community is going to be important. College wasn't meant to do alone."

She spoke at the fifth annual Beating the Odds summit. Reach Higher, an education initiative launched by Mrs. Obama during her husband's presidency, partnered with Twitter and Handshake, a college-to-career network, for the daylong workshop. It included a celebrity panel with La La Anthony from the Starz show "Power" and Daveed Diggs from the blockbuster musical "Hamilton."

Mrs. Obama, 54, who attended Princeton University, remembered how odd she felt her first time on the campus. "It was like a whole new language," she said. "I had never sat in a lecture, I didn't know what a syllabus was."

Anthony only spent one semester at Howard University and blamed her dropping-out on a lack of encouragement and a lack of knowledge about resources that were available to help her.

"I was always in a rush to get into what I thought was the 'real world,'" she said.

Aniyah Fields, 18, of Washington will be the first in her family to go to college. Fields, who plans to attend George Washington University this fall, said Mrs. Obama's message will encourage her to continue her education despite her difficulties.

"Even though there are times I'll doubt myself, I know that those struggles have prepared me," said Fields, whose purse featured a picture of a Vogue magazine cover that the former first lady posed for in 2013.

Fields plans to major in innovation and entrepreneurship with dual minors in philosophy and Spanish.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago

Photo Credit: Shannon Finney/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Parents Revolt Over Elite NYC School's Race Division Policy]]>487061081Mon, 02 Jul 2018 06:09:34 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Little+Red+School+House+2.jpg

An elite West Village private school that has been separating students into homerooms by race for the past year will end the policy amid furor from parents who only recently learned about it.

This past school year, pupils at Little Red School House who identify as students of color in two of the school’s middle school grades were placed in homerooms together, Director Phil Kassen said in a letter to the school community dated June 27.

Parents “revolted” when they learned about the policy last month, according to the New York Post, which first reported the story. A few parents claimed the school has been segregating classes for longer than just the 2017-2018 school year.

“My daughter who is 11 was like, ‘Wow, this is crazy. They are talking about separating by color,’” one parent told the outlet. “And I was thinking how antiquated is this? This is backwards. It’s almost like segregation now.”

The school’s tuition is around $45,485 per year, and a number of celebrities’ children attend, according to the Post.

In his letter, Kassen said the policy “came about after much conversation with the faculty and was prompted by a conversation with a number of recent graduates, reflecting on their experience at LREI and suggesting that we create greater opportunities for connection and support.”

The policy was meant “to better support our students of color,” he said. The school had planned to continue its new policy this fall, but ultimately decided not to.

“I think that it is essential to note that our groupings were not created to take away rights or opportunities from anyone, but rather to create the most supportive environment possible for all students, which is the very heart of our mission,” he said in the letter.

“During the coming months we will continue to look for ways to ensure that the full LREI experience is available to all of our students and to create dialogue that reinforces our diverse community in which all voices are heard,” he added.

<![CDATA[Proposed Merger Comes as Key Education Programs Dismantled ]]>486733441Tue, 03 Jul 2018 13:30:59 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/070318pencedevos.jpg

While President Donald Trump has tweeted about fixing the country's education system, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is working to fade out key Department of Education programs, with her latest move coming this week.

During the campaign, Trump pledged to eliminate the Department of Education and last month took the first step when he proposed the agency be combined with the Department of Labor.

Though doing away with the department would likely appeal to Trump’s base, education and labor experts said the proposal is unlikely to pass because it aims to merge two agencies with different objectives. The proposal would require congressional approval. 

Still, even if Congress doesn’t approve the proposal, the Trump administration has taken multiple steps to dismantle several of the department’s signature programs.

This week, DeVos is expected to eliminate Obama administration policy that protected students in debt to for-profit institutions, according to NBC News. DeVos’ desire to loosen regulations on for-profit colleges has prompted lawsuits from several state officials.

Critics of DeVos’ plans believe they’re intended to diminish the Department of Education’s oversight function, according to NBC News. Merging the education and labor departments could help the administration do the same.

The Department of Labor didn't respond to NBC's request for comment. The Department of Education didn't make anyone available to comment.

"It's an ideological check off with small government conservatives in the Republican coalition," Seth Harris, a Cornell professor and former deputy secretary of labor under the Obama administration, said in an email to NBC. "They expect Republican presidents to downsize government. Going from two Cabinet departments to one may make it appear that Trump is committed to that agenda."

The merger proposal was introduced as the Trump administration aims to rescind a policy that asked schools to consider race in their admissions processes. The Obama-era policy was implemented to encourage diversity.

Sydney Morris, co-CEO of education advocacy group Educators for Excellence, said it’s unclear how the proposed department changes would impact teachers and students locally.

Since its inception in 1980, the Department of Education has created federal financial aid policy, monitored educational trends and made sure students have equal access to education.

The Department of Labor seeks to improve working conditions, protect benefits, connect employers with potential workers and monitor changes in employment trends.

Despite its small chance of passing in Congress, the proposal prompted concerns about the department’s role and funding of programs to help disadvantaged students, such as support for Title XI, special education and the approval of grants.

“We keep hearing to better coordinate education we need it to lead to jobs,” Laura Schifter, a Harvard professor who teaches a course about the federal government’s role in education, told NBC. “Education is much broader than the sole purpose of producing jobs. That’s something that’s lost.”

Educators are also concerned with the impact a potential merger would have on the Department of Education’s staff size. Though it has more than 4,000 employees, the agency sometimes fails to accommodate requests in a timely manner, said Noelle Ellerson, the associate executive director of policy and advocacy for The Schools Superintendents Association.

Harris, meanwhile, said the objectives of the two agencies only overlap in the category of workplace development and that it’s a myth that parts of both departments don’t already collaborate.

DeVos said in a statement that the proposal “will make the federal government more responsive to the full range of needs faced by American students, workers and schools.”

The plans to reorganize several agencies were first mentioned in March 2017, when Trump sought a review of the government to determine how to make it more efficient. The Trump administration previously expressed a desire to cut the Department of Education’s budget.

Trump’s efforts to makes changes to the Department of Education continue a trend among Republican administrations. Former President Ronald Reagan attempted to remove the department in the 1980s.

“It’s very clearly not a proposal that’s meant to be implemented,” Harris said. “It doesn’t talk about cost, structure [or] employees. It doesn’t talk about what the benefits would be.”

Photo Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[NY School Silences First Black Valedictorian, Mayor Steps In]]>487323241Mon, 09 Jul 2018 15:14:04 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/lovett+snip.PNG

The first black valedictorian at a New York high school has delivered his graduation speech at Rochester City Hall after saying he was banned from addressing his classmates at graduation last month.

The Democrat and Chronicle reported Wednesday that Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren invited Jaisaan Lovett to speak after he was denied an opportunity to address his classmates.

Lovett told the newspaper he believes he was denied the chance to speak due to personal animosity from the school's leader Joseph Munno. In his emotional speech, which was posted to YouTube by the City of Rochester Mayor's Office, Lovett says the graduation address was about more than just him.

"To Mr. Munno, my principal, there's a whole lot of things I've wanted to say to you for a long time. ... I'm here as the UPrep 2018 valedictorian to tell you that you couldn't break me. I'm still here, and I'm still here strong," he says.

"And after all these years, all this anger I've had toward you and UPrep as a whole, I realized I had to let that go in order to better myself. And I forgive you for everything I held against you."

Lovett is the first black valedictorian to graduate from the University Preparatory Charter School for Young Men.He received a full scholarship to attend Clark Atlanta University in the fall. He’d previously interned in Warren’s office.

The school’s board of trustees says it’s reviewing what happened. School leader Joseph Munno has not yet responded to NBC 4's request for comment.

Lovett says he’s previously clashed with Munno, including once after protesting safety conditions in the school’s lab.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago

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<![CDATA[Virginia School Renamed to Honor Obama]]>485966152Mon, 02 Jul 2018 12:49:56 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/thumbnail76.jpg

A Richmond, Virginia, school that honored a confederate general has been renamed Barack Obama Elementary.]]>
<![CDATA[Future of AP Classes Unclear as Schools Seek Alternatives ]]>485951571Thu, 15 Nov 2018 16:40:36 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-959202870.jpg

Leaders of some of Washington, D.C.'s top private schools announced this week they are eliminating advanced placement classes by 2022, drawing attention to the “diminished utility” of the courses in a joint statement.

Instead, the schools plan to offer classes geared toward “collaborative, experiential and interdisciplinary learning,” according to the statement, which also explained students feel pressured to take the courses to improve their chances of being admitted to college.

The schools’ decision follows the national trend of private and some public schools moving away from structured AP courses in favor of comparable hands-on, project-based coursework, education officials said. It also comes at a time when some public schools in large cities are working to increase the number of AP classes offered to students.

“It’s hot right now to [stop offering AP classes],” said Denise Pope, a senior lecturer at Stanford’s Graduate School of Education who has studied the benefit of AP classes for students. “...At these independent schools, the quality of teaching is not going to change. The level of challenge may even go up.”

AP courses are designed to be rigorous and comparable to college classes, according to the College Board, the organization that oversees the AP program. Students take an exam at the end of the year and can earn college credit depending on their scores.

School leaders at Georgetown Day, Holton-Arms, Landon, Maret, National Cathedral, Potomac, St. Albans and Sidwell Friends in Washington on Monday highlighted a common criticism of AP classes: teachers sacrifice in-depth lessons to ensure they cover all of the material that can potentially appear on the test.

The freedom that comes without the pressure of an AP or International Baccalaureate program produces the best learning outcome for students, Pope said. Some students enrolled in AP courses might not read on a college level, which results in kids “not always passing at the rate they should be,” she said.

Still, students are actively enrolling in AP classes. In the class of 2017, more than 1.17 million students took 3.98 million AP exams in public schools, the College Board said.

Eighty-two percent of private colleges said in a recent survey that AP courses are “extremely or very helpful” when reviewing a students’ application, prompting the College Board to call the schools’ decisions surprising.

“Over the past decade, the students at just these DC-area independent schools have earned more than 39,000 credit hours at the colleges to which they sent their AP scores,” College Board said in an email to NBC. “At a time when the placement, credit, and admission benefits of AP have never been greater, it’s surprising that these schools would choose to deny their students these advantages.”

The decision to stop offering AP courses won’t negatively affect high school students’ applications, Greg Roberts, the University of Virginia’s Dean of Admission, told NBC.

High schools send colleges an academic profile that helps admission counselors understand grading scales and identify the most challenging courses a school offers. Students are evaluated in the context of their own schools, Roberts said.

Some schools have a system in place that allows hands-on courses to affect a student’s GPA the same way an AP course would, Pope said. For the University of California, for example, schools can complete a waiver describing the class and asking for it to impact a student’s GPA in a similar way.

“This is not something shocking or entirely new,” Roberts said of schools doing away with AP classes. “It’s not something that in any way should concern families or students as they approach the college admission process with the familiarity and comfort they’re used to.”

In New York City, the AP for All campaign aims to give every high school student access to AP courses. At least four AP courses are offered at every “traditional” public Washington, D.C., high school. Nonetheless, Pope anticipates more public schools will begin to eliminate AP and IB curriculums.

“We’ve yet to see it come to fruition, where it’s eliminated completely,” Pope said. “It’s on the horizon for these public schools.”

Photo Credit: Larisa Lipuntsova/Getty Images/iStockphoto]]>
<![CDATA[US to Stop Advising Schools to Consider Race in Admissions]]>487232791Wed, 04 Jul 2018 03:05:10 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AP_17223727758282-President-Trump-Betsy-Devos.jpg

The Trump administration said the government would no longer encourage schools to use race as a factor in the admissions process, rescinding Obama-era guidance meant to promote diversity among students.

The shift announced Tuesday gives colleges the federal government's blessing to leave race out of admissions and enrollment decisions and underscores the contentious politics that for decades have surrounded affirmation action policies, which have repeatedly been challenged before the Supreme Court.

The Obama administration memos encouraging schools to take race into account were among 24 policy documents revoked by the Justice Department for being "unnecessary, outdated, inconsistent with existing law, or otherwise improper." Attorney General Jeff Sessions called the changes an effort to restore the "rule of law," though civil rights groups decried the move and some universities said they intended to continue their diversity efforts as before.

The action comes amid a high-profile court fight over Harvard University admissions that has attracted the government's attention, as well as Supreme Court turnover expected to produce a more critical eye toward schools' race-conscious admissions policies.

The court's most recent significant ruling on the subject bolstered colleges' use of race among many factors in the admission process. But the opinion's author, Anthony Kennedy, announced his retirement last week, giving President Donald Trump a chance to replace him with a justice who may be more reliably skeptical of admissions programs that take race and ethnicity into account.

The new policy dramatically departs from the stance of the Obama administration, which said schools could consider race in admissions decisions. In one 2011 policy document, the administration said courts had recognized schools' "compelling interest" in ensuring racially diverse populations on campuses.

"Institutions are not required to implement race-neutral approaches if, in their judgment, the approaches would be unworkable," the guidance said. "In some cases, race-neutral approaches will be unworkable because they will be ineffective to achieve the diversity the institution seeks."

That guidance has now been rescinded, as have about a half-dozen similar documents, including some that sought to explain court rulings affirming the use of race to make admissions decisions.

In one such document, the Obama administration stated, "As the Supreme Court has recognized, diversity has benefits for all students, and today's students must be prepared to succeed in a diverse society and an increasingly global workforce."

The Trump administration's announcement is more in line with Bush-era policy that discouraged affirmative action and instead encouraged the use of race-neutral alternatives, like percentage plans and economic diversity programs.

Though such guidance doesn't have the force of law, schools could presumably use it to defend themselves against lawsuits over admission policies.

The Trump administration's Justice Department had already signaled concern about the use of race in admissions decisions.

The department, for instance, sided this year with Asian-American plaintiffs who contend in a lawsuit against Harvard that the school unlawfully limits how many Asian students are admitted.

Students for Fair Admissions, the group suing Harvard, is led by Ed Blum, a legal strategist who also helped white student Abigail Fisher sue the University of Texas for alleged discrimination in a case that reached the Supreme Court.

Blum said Tuesday the organization "welcomes any governmental actions that will eliminate racial classifications and preferences in college admissions." Harvard, meanwhile, said it would continue considering race as an admissions factor to create a "diverse campus community where students from all walks of life have the opportunity to learn with and from each other."

Civil rights groups criticized the Trump administration's announcement, saying it went against decades of court precedent permitting colleges to take race into account.

"We condemn the Department of Education's politically motivated attack on affirmative action and deliberate attempt to discourage colleges and universities from pursuing racial diversity at our nation's colleges and universities," Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said in a statement.

Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association, said "affirmative action has proven to be one of the most effective ways to create diverse and inclusive classrooms." She said the announcement underscored the stakes surrounding the upcoming Supreme Court appointment.

The high court has been generally accepting of considering race in admissions decisions to achieve diversity. In a 2016 opinion written by Kennedy, the court granted affirmative action policies a victory by permitting race to be among the factors considered in the college admission process.

The ruling bitterly disappointed conservatives who thought Kennedy would be part of a Supreme Court majority to outlaw affirmative action in education. Justice Antonin Scalia died after the court heard arguments in the case but before the decision was handed down.

The new affirmative action guidance may add to an already contentious fight over the next justice.

With Trump expected to announce his nominee next week, the issue should be a central part of any confirmation process, said Howard University law school dean Danielle Holley-Walker.

She called the new guidance "highly unfortunate and counterproductive" and said the decision is another indication that the Justice Department under Sessions is likely to be aggressive toward schools that do continue to factor in race in admissions decisions.

"People have been talking about precedent in regard to Roe. v. Wade" — the landmark 1973 ruling affirming a woman's right to abortion — "but it's important to remember that affirmative action has been a precedent for the past 40 years," she said. "This is a clear attack on precedent. Any Supreme Court nominee needs to be asked if they support precedent related to affirmative action."

Associated Press writers Mark Sherman, Jesse Holland, Collin Binkley and Errin Haines Whack contributed to this report.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago

Photo Credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP, File]]>
<![CDATA[School Fundraisers Reach New Heights, But Inequality Remains]]>434140403Thu, 27 Jul 2017 13:28:16 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/weirdstuff.jpg

Four tickets to a Yankee game. Golf for a dozen in the oceanside resort of Westhampton, New York, cocktails included. Even Lasik eye surgery.

All were prizes for Public School 116’s Spring Benefit Auction in May. Fundraising for the New York City elementary school has come a long way from bake sales and car washes.

The school’s PTA, through all of its efforts, contributed $243,000 to school supplies, programs and activities for the 2016 school year, and has an additional $88,000 to spend. But even that is pocket money compared to the $1 million or more routinely taken in by a cluster of public schools in Manhattan’s pricier neighborhoods.

Schools across the country use donations to pay for everything from musical instruments to computers, money officials say is needed given cuts in state and local funding. Rich and not-so-rich parents eager to ensure their children lack for nothing fill in the gaps.

“A lot of parents are very happy to help,” said Falu Shah, the vice president of external fundraising for P.S. 116’s PTA. “Everybody — at least for the final fundraiser, the auction -- a lot of parents who are not regularly in PTA — get involved. We want to encourage parents to do that because you don’t have to come regularly but at least for this one thing where our school depends on your funding.”

But what about schools in poorer neighborhoods where parents cannot afford such luxuries? What kind of divide is created when they cannot match their counterparts’ fundraising abilities?

“Schools can’t depend on handouts, whether it’s handouts from private foundations or from parents, to make up the shortfalls in what public funding is required to provide them,” said Jessica Wolff, the policy director at the Campaign for Educational Equity at Columbia University’s Teachers College in New York City. It is unfair, inequitable and, in New York, unconstitutional, she said.

Wolff said that as much as she applauded parents who wanted to support their children’s schools, they were put in a terrible position when public funding falls short of what is needed even for such basics as paper and cleaning supplies.

A study from Indiana University in 2014 found that the number of nonprofits founded to benefit schools more than tripled between 1995 and 2010, from 3,475 to 11,453. The amount they raised quadrupled, from $197 million to $880 million, according to the study by Beth Gazley, a professor at Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs, and Ashlyn Aiko Nelson, an associate professor at the school. 

Rob Reich, a political science and education professor at Stanford University, said that private fundraising by parents, while well meaning, only exacerbates inequalities. Wealthy districts already spend more per pupil in public dollars, and the problem worsens when philanthropic dollars are added, he said.

He looked at dollars raised by schools in the San Francisco Bay area in 2013, comparing such wealthy communities as Menlo Park and Palo Alto with Oakland and San Jose, and found enormous differences in the amount contributed per pupil. Data showed parents in Oakland and San Francisco districts were able to raise less than $100 per child. By contrast, Menlo Park asked parents for $1,500 per child; Palo Alto, $800 per child; and the school foundation in tony Hillsborough, California, $2,300.

“So even though you’re supporting the public schools and in that respect your own kid in the public schools, you’re magnifying the existing funding inequalities between Palo Alto and Oakland,” said Reich, who wrote about the private fund raising in a New York Times op-ed in 2013.

Tax incentives for charitable donations ought to put weight on assistance to the disadvantaged, he said. Instead, charitable giving by wealthy parents not only lowers the taxes the donor has to pay but also cuts into tax revenues that would have been distributed equally to rich and poor schools.

He gave these possible solutions: Don’t treat donations to wealthy schools as a charitable contribution under the tax code or double the incentive to give to a school that primarily serves children who receive free- or reduced-priced lunches.

But the support has limits and others question how much impact donations can really have compared to public education funding on the whole. All charitable giving, from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to a local PTA, contributed only about $2 billion to public schools each year, said Jay P. Greene, a professor of education and political science at the University of Arkansas.

That’s “buckets into the sea” compared to the $600 billion the United States spends on K-12 education each year, he said.

Because of the scale, private philanthropy cannot change public education with money alone, he said. Nor do foundations have enough political power to sustain changes over time if parents and others do not support them, he said. But foundations can change public policy if they leverage their money — convincing a state to adopt a law allowing charter schools, for example.

“They can help create a policy but then others have to benefit from that policy, become constituents and advocate for that policy on their own, independent of the foundation,” Greene said. “If that doesn’t happen, whatever policy change they attempt will die because it won’t have the enduring political support it needs to survive.”

Gazley and others note that even if public money dwarfs donations overall, the differences in private fund raising can matter to individual schools.

“When you view it case by case it is a problem because it makes people in those communities feel unequal in terms of the way is raised and also possibly get unequal services,” she said.

Some experts argue that there is not enough information about private money to show that it works to the advantage of rich schools. Corporations and organizations such as the Gates Foundation could even out inequalities by giving more to poor schools.

Wolff isn't convinced by the argument. 

“That doesn’t ring true to me at all,” she said.

Wolff agreed that there was too little accountability for private funding of schools, and that poor schools got federal money that wealthier schools did not. But none of the private donations are enough to make up for what is not being provided in public funding, she said.

Meanwhile, at P.S. 116, a school in the Kips Bay neighborhood on the East Side of Manhattan, parents are paying for professional development for the faculty, enrichment programs for the children and books and materials for all of the classrooms. 

Shah said she had never felt pressure to donate. 

“Absolutely not,” she said. “Our principal, Jane Hsu, is absolutely fantastic. She has never asked us once. We do it because we want to support the school.”

The most recent data on the school provided by the New York City Department of Education shows that 92 percent of parents thought their children's instruction was rigorous. Sixty-six percent of students meet New York state standards on the state's English test; 58 percent on the math test. The pass rate of the school's former fifth-graders in their sixth-grade math, English, social studies and science classes is 95 percent.  

Kips Bay has long been popular with young New Yorkers who work at the United Nations and the major hospitals on First Avenue but more families are moving in. 

Shah said that the moment parents get involved with the PTA, they start thinking about ways to raise money, Shah said. Everyone comes together to help in any way they can, she said.

“Because our school is superb,” she said. “P.S. 116 is just out of this box. The teachers are so amazing. Even the teachers donate.”

<![CDATA[Rapper Common Surprises Students at NY School, Donates Money]]>435648153Mon, 24 Jul 2017 08:52:54 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AP_17201549067087-common.jpg

Oscar and Grammy winner Common surprised a group of New York students by donating $10,000 to help their teachers buy supplies like calculators and science kits.

The rapper-actor partnered with the nonprofit AdoptAClassroom.org and Burlington Stores to give Renaissance School of the Arts in Harlem the funds on Thursday. Students cheered loudly after they learned the musician was at their school.

Common was on-site with his mother, Dr. Mahalia Hines, an educator and member of the Chicago Board of Education. She said she remembered spending her own money to buy essential materials for her classroom.

Common encouraged the students to keep their grades up and to persevere — in school and in life.

Burlington has been raising money from its 599 stores to help other schools, asking customers to donate $1 or more.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago

Photo Credit: Charles Sykes/Invision/AP]]>
<![CDATA[Some Look to VR for the Future of Classroom Learning]]>431078893Wed, 19 Jul 2017 16:42:33 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/VR-classroom.jpg

Instead of reading about cell biology, or even watching a very cool video on cell biology, imagine you could shrink down small enough to go inside a cell and observe biochemical reactions up close.

And what if you could use your own hands to smash molecules together, just to see what happens?

That’s what Connor Smith envisions when he considers the future of classroom learning. Using virtual reality technology to improve education is something the University of California, San Diego senior thinks about a lot, in fact, and he’s already created a VR application that replicates the inside of the human body.

"I’ve never seen kids so interested in cell biology in my life as when they tried out Cell VR," Smith said. He cites this as one example of how "VR can really get people passionate" about learning, without realizing they're learning.

"It’s kind of like 'Magic School Bus'-esque: It can take you and make you smaller; it can take you across time," Smith said.

But virtual reality has yet to go mainstream. It’s still a wild west of tech: an environment where anything is possible. The issue facing educators interested in bringing VR tech to their classrooms, though, isn't whether it's possible, but whether it's feasible. Although mobile VR only requires a headset — Google’s Cardboard headset costs as little as $15 — and a smartphone, those costs can still be the limiting factor for classrooms on tight budgets.

And as Kevin Krewett writes in a July Forbes article, another crucial factor keeping VR from ubiquity is that smartphones are not optimized to run “continuous, graphics-intensive” VR applications. Even for the early-adopter gamer set, Krewett says, issues like a lack of an established social community around VR and even motion sickness have helped keep the tech near the fringes.

Those obstacles aren’t keeping innovative developers from trying, though. In addition to Cell VR, Smith also designed an application that replicates a high school chemistry lab.

Replacing a real-world lab with a virtual version, he said, has the potential to cut down on both the risks and the expense of maintaining a functional chemistry lab used by hundreds of students.

In the team's virtual lab, a student can move around just as she would in any real-life chem lab. But the student can’t scald herself. She won’t break an expensive beaker. She won’t cause a devastating explosion if she mixes the wrong amounts of the wrong chemicals.

"Chem lab activities are very kinesthetic activities. Students are involved in the lab; they’re learning by doing, and that’s fantastic. But it’s expensive, and sometimes intimidating," Smith said.

Learning within a particular place or context helps students not only find solutions to problems at hand, but to develop new ways of thinking, said Zoran Popovic, director of the Center for Game Science at the University of Washington.

"You remember cognitively very differently when you’re in the situation, directly experiencing something," Popovic said.

Smith is part of a UCSD virtual reality club, which has visited local schools to demonstrate the tech to middle and high school students.

Dr. Susan Domanico teaches high school science courses at La Jolla Country Day School, a private school in San Diego, and her students' interest in potential applications of VR technology prompted her to invite Smith and other members of UCSD's Virtual Club to put on a classroom demo.

"As I've learned more about VR over the course of this year, I see it fitting in different ways in different classes," Domanico says. She thinks it would work as a great supplementary learning tool in her neuroscience and biology classes, helping students "grasp many of the complex concepts we explore in biology."

Access is still an obstacle for getting VR into classrooms; virtual reality headsets like the Oculus or the Google Cardboard require the use of smartphones. As Popovic points out, "most affluent kids get phones in middle school, but for the majority of the student population, it's pretty much a luxury. It's not going to happen if everyone doesn't have access to the tech."

The tech may be cost prohibitive at this point; then again, for many public schools, so are new textbooks, Bunsen burners and field trips to working farms or planetariums or national monuments.

Zachary Korth has taken classroom VR at least one step further: He had his Portland, Oregon, middle school engineering and computer science students come up with and build virtual reality applications, including one that recreated the inside of their school building. The application, the students reasoned, would be useful for a new student, who could use it before their first day to learn how to navigate unfamiliar surroundings.

Korth said he bought the six Cardboard headsets his class used with his own money, and he loaned his smartphone to students who didn't have their own to use in class.

Still, he and his students faced technological roadblocks in trying to bring their ideas to full fruition.

"Some of the trouble, the reason why some of these didn't come to fruition, was because of the lack of technology," Korth said. "I will say that in my school, we had a lot of technology — it just didn't have the right technology."

Korth explained that his school was equipped with tablets, but for students to build functional VR worlds they'd need PCs with certain amounts of memory and processing speeds.

"We tapped into an interest of theirs that could have gone so many places. It just didn't, because we didn't have the technology available," he said.

Smith thinks there's more to schools' hesitancy in adopting the tech than just the cost.

"Even if a school would get just a single VR system students could use, long-term that would be much cheaper than a science lab, for example," he said. "But right now it’s still very much in that early adopter phase."

That's why he feels it is important for he and his fellow VR developers and enthusiasts to visit classrooms to give students, and teachers, the chance to become familiar with the technology.

"I don’t think it’s something that is going to 'disrupt' the classroom," Smith said.

He thinks it's likely VR will continue to supplement students' more traditional textbook- or tablet-based learning. In fact, he envisions textbooks coming with supplemental VR applications, written by the same authors, so students can combine two- and three-dimensional learning.

"Three-dimensional learning is just what we do in real life," he said. "We pick things up with our hands. And we look at them."

Photo Credit: Getty Images, File
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<![CDATA['Back to School' Sales Starting Early Summer for Retailers]]>435015083Mon, 17 Jul 2017 17:36:00 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/NC_schooldaze07172017_1500x845.jpg

Forget buying your children's school supplies in late August - retailers like Wal-Mart are starting sales in late June and early July this summer.]]>
<![CDATA[Chicago-Area School Supply Donation Locations Near You]]>434983793Mon, 17 Jul 2017 11:24:23 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/SCHOOL+SUPPLIES+THUMB.jpg

Join NBC 5 and Telemundo Chicago from July 17-28 as we host a school supply drive across the Chicago area and suburbs. Donations will benefit students in programs at Boys & Girls Clubs and Community In Schools locations across our area.

You can drop off school supply donations at more than 200 locations, including at T-Mobile, Carson’s and Xfinity stores. Several Metra locations will provide drop off locations July 25-27.

See the full list of donation locations below. 

NBC Tower | 454 N. Columbus Drive, Chicago, IL 60601 | Monday - Friday 8am to 5:30pm

Nicholson STEM Academy | 6006 S Peoria St Chicago, IL 60621 |

Prospectives Charter School - Rodney D. Joslin Campus | 1930 S Archer Chicago, IL 60616

Xfinity Store | 901 W. Weed St. Chicago, IL 60642 | Mon – Sat 9:00am – 7:00pm

Xfinity Store | 1255 W. North Ave. Chicago, IL 60642 | Mon – Sat 9:00am – 7:00pm

Xfinity Store | 3128 N. Ashland Ave. Chicago, IL 60657 | Mon – Sat 9:00am – 7:00pm

Xfinity Store | 7927 Golf Rd Morton Grove, IL 60053 | Mon – Sat 9:00am – 7:00pm

Xfinity Store | 701 N. Milwaukee Ave. Vernon Hills, IL 60061 | Mon – Sat 9:00am – 7:00pm

Xfinity Store | 3041 Butterfield Rd. Oak Brook, IL 60523 | Mon – Sat 9:00am – 7:00pm

Xfinity Store | 3199 East Lincoln Hwy. Merrillville, IN 46410 | Mon – Sat 9:00am – 7:00pm

Xfinity Store | 14225 S. 95th Ave. Orland Park, IL 60462 | Mon – Sat 9:00am – 7:00pm

Xfinity Store | 2802 Plainfield Rd. Joliet, IL 60435 | Mon – Sat 9:00am – 7:00pm

Xfinity Store | 1229 E. Golf Rd. Schaumburg, IL 60173 | Mon – Sat 9:00am – 7:00pm

Xfinity Store | 57 S. Randall Rd. Batavia, IL 60510 | Mon – Sat 9:00am – 7:00pm

Xfinity Store | 1122 W. Boughton Rd. Bolingbrook, IL 60440 | Mon – Sat 9:00am – 7:00pm

Xfinity Store | 6000 NW Hwy. Crystal Lake, IL 60014 | Mon – Sat 9:00am – 7:00pm

Boys & Girls Clubs of Porter County – Valaparaiso Club | 354 West Jefferson St. Valaparaiso, IN 46383 | Mon – Fri 6:30am – 6:30pm

Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Indiana | 8392 Mississippi St. 2nd Floor Merrillville, IN 46410 | Mon – Fri 8:30am – 5:00pm

Boys Club of Cicero | 5500 West 25th St Cicero, IL 60804 | Monday - Friday 10:00am – 5:00pm

Boys & Girls Clubs of Kenosha - Troha Center | 1330 52nd St. Kenosha, IL 53140 | Monday - Friday 9:00am – 5:00pm

Boys & Girls Club of Dundee Township Administrative Office | 20 South Grove St. Ste 201 Carpentersville, IL 60110 | Monday - Friday 8:00am – 5:00pm

Boys & Girls Club of Elgin | 355 Dundee Ave. Elgin, IL 60120 | Monday - Friday 8:00am -10:00pm

Boys & Girls Club of Lake County | 1801 Sheridan Rd. Ste 202 North Chicago, IL 60064 | Monday - Friday 8:00am – 5:00pm

Boys & Girls Club of Michigan City - Westcott Club | 321 Detroit St. Michigan City, IN 46360 | Monday - Friday | 9:00am – 7:00pm

Union League Boys & Girls Clubs - Club One | 2157 W 19th Street Chicago, IL 60608 | Monday - Friday 8:00am – 5:00pm

Union League Boys & Girls Clubs – Barreto | 1214 N Washtenaw Ave. Chicago, IL 60622 | Monday - Friday 8:00am – 5:00pm

James R. Jordan Boys & Girls Club and Chicago Bulls Family Life Center | 2102 W. Monroe St Chicago IL, 60612 | Monday - Friday 10:00am – 2:00pm

Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago - Kidz Express Club | 5221 W. Congress Parkway Chicago, IL 60644 | Monday - Friday 10am - 2pm

Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago - Little Village Club | 2801 S. Ridgeway Ave Chicago, IL 60623 | Monday - Friday 10am -2pm

Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago - Logan Square Club | 3228 W. Palmer St. Chicago IL, 60647 | Monday - Friday | 10am - 2pm

Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago - Pederson-McCormick Club | 4835 N. Sheridan Road Chicago, IL 60640 | Monday - Friday | 10am - 2pm

Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago - True Value Club | 2950 W 25th Street Chicago, IL 60623 | Monday – Friday 10am - 2pm

Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago - Louis L. Valentine Club | 3400 S Emerald Ave. Chicago, IL 60616 | Monday – Friday 10am - 2pm

Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago at Orville T. Bright Elementary School | 10740 S. Calhoun Ave. Chicago, IL 60617 | Monday - Friday 10am - 2pm

Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago at Brunson Math & Science Specialty Elementary | 932 N. Central Ave. Chicago, IL 60651 | Monday – Friday 10am - 2pm

Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago - Carter Club at Coppin AME Church | 5627 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago IL, 60637 | Monday - Friday 10am - 2pm

Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago - Cook Club at John W. Cook Elementary School | 8150 S. Bishop St. Chicago, IL 60620 | Monday - Friday 10am - 2pm

Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago - Ford Heights Club at Tidye Philips Grammar School | 1401 E. 13th Pl. | Ford Heights, IL 60411 | Monday - Friday 10am - 2pm

Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago - Green Club at Wendell Green Elementary School | 1150 W. 96th Street Chicago IL, 60643 | Monday - Friday 10am - 2pm

Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago - Hay Club at John Hay Elementary Community Academy | 1018 N. Laramie Ave. Chicago, IL 60651 | Monday - Friday 10am - 2pm

Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago - Logandale Club at Logandale Middle School | 3212 W. George St. Chicago, IL 60618 | Monday - Friday 10am - 2pm

Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago at North Lawndale College Prepatory High School | 1615 S. Christiana Ave. Chicago, IL 60623 | Monday - Friday 10am - 2pm

Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago - SOS Children's Village Club at Chicago Village Lavezzorio | 7600 S. Parnell Ave. Chicago, IL 60620 | Monday - Friday 10am - 2pm

Chicago Union Metra Station (July 25-27 only) | Canal St. and Jackson Blvd. Chicago, IL 60661 | NA

LaSalle Street Metra Station (July 25-27 only) | 414 S. LaSalle St. Chicago, IL 60605 | NA

Millennium Metra Station (July 25-27 only) | Michigan Ave. and Randolph Chicago, IL | NA

Van Buren Street Metra Station (July 25-27 only) | Michigan Ave. and Van Buren St. Chicago,IL | NA

Ogilvie Transportation Metra Station (July 25-27 only) | Madison St. and Canal St. Chicago, IL | NA

Metra Headquarters (July 25-27 only) | 547 W. Jackson Blvd. Chicago, IL | NA

T-Mobile | 2620 North Narragensett Avenue Suite B-5 Chicago, IL | Store business hours

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T-Mobile 408 Nelson Rd. New Lenox, IL Store business hours

T-Mobile 170 E. Lake Street Unit B Bloomingdale, IL Store business hours

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T-Mobile 298-5 W. North Ave. Villa Park Store business hours

T-Mobile 1651 E 37th Ave. Hobart Store business hours

T-Mobile 714 Route 83 Mundelein, IL Store business hours

T-Mobile 13478 Archer Ave. Lemont, IL Store business hours

T-Mobile 1639 N. Milwaukee Ave. Chicago, IL Store business hours

T-Mobile 850 Milwaukee Ave 104 Vernon Hills, IL Store business hours

T-Mobile 4999 Old Orchard Center Ste M50 Skokie, IL Store business hours

T-Mobile 1732 Sherman Ave. Evanston, IL Store business hours

T-Mobile 8470 W. Golf Rd. Niles, IL Store business hours

T-Mobile 5710 W Touhy Avenue. Space A-4b Niles, IL Store business hours

T-Mobile S 7309 W. Irving Park Rd. Chicago, IL Store business hours

T-Mobile 335 E. 35TH St. Chicago, IL Store business hours

T-Mobile 205 West 87th Street Suite C Chicago, IL Store business hours

T-Mobile 1751F W Howard St D-111 Chicago, IL Store business hours

T-Mobile 640 South Sutton Rd 6 Streamwood, IL Store business hours

T-Mobile 845 N. Michigan Ave. 7022 Chicago, IL Store business hours

T-Mobile 50 South Mannheim Road Unit J-04 Hillside, IL Store business hours

T-Mobile 2911 W Addison T-6 Chicago, IL Store business hours

T-Mobile 606 W. Roosevelt Rd. Chicago, IL Store business hours

T-Mobile 36 S. State Street Chicago, IL Store business hours

T-Mobile 4430 Fox Valley Center Dr. 105 Aurora, IL Store business hours

T-Mobile 4021 West 167th Street Country Club Hills, IL Store business hours

T-Mobile 2024 N State Route 50 Bourbonnais, IL Store business hours

T-Mobile 2946 U.S. Route 34 Oswego, IL Store business hours

T-Mobile 2859 N. Milwaukee Ave. Chicago, IL Store business hours

T-Mobile 1140 Fox Valley Center Drive Aurora, IL Store business hours

T-Mobile 3333 West Touhy Ave Space H12 Lincolnwood, IL Store business hours

T-Mobile 2109 Southlake Mall #428 Merrillville, IN Store business hours

T-Mobile 700 Orland Square Dr. Room G01 Orland Park, IL Store business hours

T-Mobile 159 YORK TOWN MALL 159 Lombard Store business hours

T-Mobile 2934 Ashland Ave. Chicago, IL Store business hours

T-Mobile 2312 Harlem Ave. North Riverside,IL Store business hours

T-Mobile 17640 Torrence Ave. Lansing Store business hours

T-Mobile S 6466 N Sheridan Rd. Chicago, IL Store business hours

T-Mobile 9140 S. Commercial Chicago, IL Store business hours

T-Mobile 1658 West 119th St. Chicago, IL Store business hours

T-Mobile 2520 W. Jefferson St. Joliet, IL Store business hours

T-Mobile 1217 Golf Rd. Rolling Meadows, IL Store business hours

T-Mobile 4800 W. 211th Street Suite C Matteson, IL Store business hours

T-Mobile 700 N. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL Store business hours

T-Mobile 3340 Mall Loop Dr Space 1249 Joliet, IL Store business hours

T-Mobile 7171 Kingery Highway Willowbrook, IL Store business hours

T-Mobile 2737 Elston Ave. Chicago, IL Store business hours

T-Mobile 2106 Southlake Mall, Spc 9025 Merrillville, IN Store business hours

T-Mobile 227 W. Monroe St. Chicago, IL Store business hours

T-Mobile 2744 N. Clark St. Chicago, IL Store business hours

T-Mobile 50 E. Randolph St. Chicago, IL Store business hours

T-Mobile 824 W. North Ave. Chicago, IL Store business hours

T-Mobile 6179 Lincoln Ave Space 12 Chicago, IL Store business hours

T-Mobile 5141 W. 95th St. Oak Lawn, IL Store business hours

T-Mobile 1908 N. IL Route 83 Roundlake Store business hours

T-Mobile 275 Parkway Dr, Suite #613 Lincolnshire, IL Store business hours

T-Mobile 2535 County Line Rd. Algonquin, IL Store business hours

T-Mobile 1007 South Rand Rd Lake Zurich, IL Store business hours

T-Mobile 356 S. Weber Rd Romeoville, IL Store business hours

T-Mobile 594 E. North Ave Carol Stream Store business hours

T-Mobile 801 Butterfield Rd, Suite #101 Wheaton, IL Store business hours

T-Mobile 17W704 22nd St Oakbrook Terrace Store business hours

Carson's at Westfield Louis Joliet Mall 3340 Mall Loop Drive Joliet, IL Store business hours

Carson's at Spring Hill Mall 4000 Spring Hill Mall Dundee, IL Store business hours

Carson's at Randhurst Village 1025 Center Dr. Mount Prospect Store business hours

Carson's at Evergreen Plaza 9700 S Western Ave evergreen Park Store business hours

Carson's at Yorktown Center 230 Yorktown Shopping Center Lombard Store business hours

Carson's at Edens Plaza 3200 Lake Avenue Wilmwtte, IL Store business hours

Carson's at Stratford Square Mall 4 Stratford Square Bloomingdale, IL Store business hours

Carson's 120 S Riverside Plaza Chicago, IL Store business hours

Carson's at Chicago Ridge Mall 9800 S Ridgeland Ave. Chicago Ridge, IL Store business hours

Carson's at Harlem Irving Plaza 4200 N Harlem Avenue Norridge, IL Store business hours

Carson's at Lincoln Mall 300 Lincoln Mall Matteson Store business hours

Carson's at North Riverside Park 7505 W Cermak Road North Riverside, IL Store business hours

Carson's at Orland Square Mall 4 Orland Square Orland Park, IL Store business hours

Carson's at Hawthorn Center 3 Hawthorne Center Vernon Hills, IL Store business Hours

Carson's at Ford City Mall 7601 S Cicero Avenue Chicago, IL Store business hours

Carson's at Lincolnwood Town Center 3333 W Touhy Avenue Lincolnwood, IL Store business hours

Carson's at Northfield Square Mall 1602 N State IL- 50 Bourbonnais Store business hours

Carson's at Charlestowne Mall 3850 E Main Street St. Charles Store business hours

Carson's at Fox Valley Mall 3 Fox Valley Center Aurora, IL Store business hours

Carson's at Streets of Woodfield 601 N Martingale Road Schaumburg Store business hours

<![CDATA[How Ongoing 'Toxic Stress' Can Affect a Child's Brain]]>434030573Wed, 12 Jul 2017 06:06:22 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AP_17192441853371-Toxic-Stress.jpg

A quiet, unsmiling little girl with big brown eyes crawls inside a carpeted cubicle, hugs a stuffed teddy bear tight, and turns her head away from the noisy classroom.

The safe spaces, quiet times and breathing exercises for her and the other preschoolers at the Verner Center for Early Learning are designed to help kids cope with intense stress so they can learn. But experts hope there's an even bigger benefit — protecting young bodies and brains from stress so persistent that it becomes toxic.

It's no secret that growing up in tough circumstances can be hard on kids and lead to behavior and learning problems. But researchers are discovering something different. Many believe that ongoing stress during early childhood — from grinding poverty, neglect, parents' substance abuse and other adversity — can smolder beneath the skin, harming kids' brains and other body systems. And research suggests that can lead to some of the major causes of death and disease in adulthood, including heart attacks and diabetes.

"The damage that happens to kids from the infectious disease of toxic stress is as severe as the damage from meningitis or polio or pertussis," says Dr. Tina Hahn, a pediatrician in rural Caro, Michigan. She says her No. 1 goal as a physician is to prevent toxic stress. Hahn routinely questions families about stresses at home, educates them about the risks and helps them find ways to manage.

Mounting research on potential biological dangers of toxic stress is prompting a new public health approach to identifying and treating the effects of poverty, neglect, abuse and other adversity. While some in the medical community dispute that research, pediatricians, mental health specialists, educators and community leaders are increasingly adopting what is called "trauma-informed" care.

The approach starts with the premise that extreme stress or trauma can cause brain changes that may interfere with learning, explain troubling behavior, and endanger health. The goal is to identify affected children and families and provide services to treat or prevent continued stress. This can include parenting classes, addiction treatment for parents, school and police-based programs and psychotherapy.

Many preschoolers who mental health specialist Laura Martin works with at the Verner Center have been in and out of foster homes or they live with parents struggling to make ends meet or dealing with drug and alcohol problems, depression or domestic violence.

They come to school in "fight or flight" mode, unfocused and withdrawn or aggressive, sometimes kicking and screaming at their classmates. Instead of adding to that stress with aggressive discipline, the goal is to take stress away.

"We know that if they don't feel safe then they can't learn," Martin said. By creating a safe space, one goal of programs like Verner's is to make kids' bodies more resilient to biological damage from toxic stress, she said.

Many of these kids "never know what's going to come next" at home. But at school, square cards taped at kids' eye level remind them in words and pictures that lunch is followed by quiet time, then a snack, then hand-washing and a nap. Breathing exercises have kids roar like a lion or hiss like a snake to calm them. A peace table helps angry kids work out conflicts with their classmates.

The brain and disease-fighting immune system are not fully formed at birth and are potentially vulnerable to damage from childhood adversity, recent studies have shown. The first three years are thought to be the most critical, and children lacking nurturing parents or other close relatives to help them cope with adversity are most at risk.

Under normal stress situations — for a young child that could be getting a shot or hearing a loud thunderstorm — the stress response kicks in, briefly raising heart rate and levels of cortisol and other stress hormones. When stress is severe and ongoing, those levels may remain elevated, putting kids in a persistent "fight or flight" mode, said Harvard University neuroscientist Charles Nelson.

Recent studies suggest that kind of stress changes the body's metabolism and contributes to internal inflammation, which can raise risk for developing diabetes and heart disease. In 2015, Brown University researchers reported finding elevated levels of inflammatory markers in saliva of children who had experienced abuse or other adversity.

Experiments in animals and humans also suggest persistent stress may alter brain structure in regions affecting emotions and regulating behavior. Nelson and others have done imaging studies showing these regions are smaller than usual in severely traumatized children.

Nelson's research on neglected children in Romanian orphanages suggests that early intervention might reverse damage from toxic stress. Orphans sent to live with nurturing foster families before age 2 had imaging scans several years later showing their brains looked similar to those of kids who were never institutionalized. By contrast, children sent to foster care at later ages had less gray matter and their brains looked more like those of children still in orphanages.

Toxic stress is not the same as post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD is a distinct mental condition that can result from an extremely traumatic event, including combat, violence or sexual abuse. Experts say it can occur in adults and children who live with persistent toxic stress, including children in war-torn countries, urban kids who've been shot or live in violence-plagued neighborhoods, and those who have been physically or sexually abused.

The toxic stress theory has become mainstream, but there are skeptics, including Tulane University psychiatrist Dr. Michael Scheeringa, an expert in childhood PTSD. Scheeringa says studies supporting the idea are weak, based mostly on observations, without evidence of how the brain looked before the trauma.

The American Academy of Pediatrics supports the theory and in 2012 issued recommendations urging pediatricians to educate parents and the public about the long-term consequences of toxic stress and to push for new policies and treatments to prevent it or reduce its effects.

In a 2016 policy noting a link between poverty and toxic stress, the academy urged pediatricians to routinely screen families for poverty and to help those affected find food pantries, homeless shelters and other resources.

"The science of how poverty actually gets under kids' skin and impacts a child has really been exploding," said Dr. Benard Dreyer, a former president of the academy.

Some pediatricians and schools routinely screen children and families for toxic stress, but it is not universal, said John Fairbank, co-director of the National Center for Child Traumatic Stress. "That's certainly an aspiration. It would be a big step forward," said Fairbank, a Duke University psychiatry professor.

Much of the recent interest stems from landmark U.S. government-led research published in 1998 called the Adverse Childhood Experiences study. It found that adults exposed to neglect, poverty, violence, substance abuse, parents' mental illness and other domestic dysfunction were more likely than others to have heart problems, diabetes, depression and asthma.

A follow-up 2009 study found that adults with six or more adverse childhood experiences died nearly 20 years earlier than those with none.

Some children seem resistant to effects from toxic stress. Harvard's Nelson works with a research network based at Harvard's Center on the Developing Child that is seeking to find telltale biomarkers in kids who are affected — in saliva, blood or hair —that could perhaps be targets for drugs or other treatment to prevent or reduce stress-related damage.

That research is promising but results are likely years off, says Dr. Jack Shonkoff, the center's director.

Alvin and Natalie Clarke brought their young grandchildren into their Cass City, Michigan home after their parents jailed on drug charges. The 6-year-old grandson hits, yells, breaks toys, misbehaves in school. His 4-year-old sister used to have nightmares and recoil in fear when her baby doll was left alone on the floor — signs her therapists say suggest memories of neglect.

The Clarkes had never heard the term "toxic stress" when they were granted guardianship in 2015. Now it's a frequent topic in a support group they've formed for other grandparent-guardians.

Their grandson's therapists say he has PTSD and behavior problems likely stemming from toxic stress. Around strangers he's sometimes quiet and polite but the Clarkes say he has frequent tantrums at home and school and threatens his sister. He gets frightened at night and worries people are coming to hurt him, Natalie Clarke said.

Weekly sessions with a trauma-focused therapist have led to small improvements in the boy. The Clarkes say he needs more help but that treatment is costly and his school isn't equipped to offer it.

The little girl has flourished with help from Early Head Start behavior specialists who have worked with her and the Clarkes at home and school.

"Thank God she doesn't remember much of it," Natalie Clarke said. "She's a happy, loving little girl now."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Chuck Burton]]>
<![CDATA[How to Support Chicago School Supplies Drive This Summer]]>432746843Fri, 28 Jul 2017 16:35:19 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/20160928+Classroom+Generic.jpg

All too often, kids don’t have the school supplies — pens, paper, notebooks and more — that they need to succeed in school. Teachers struggle to fill the gap without the resources they need.

So July 17-28, join NBC 5 and Telemundo Chicago as we host a school supply drive across the Chicago area and suburbs. Donations will benefit students in programs at Boys & Girls Clubs and Community In Schools locations across our area.

Though the donation period ends July 28, if you still want to participate, monetary donations can be made to the Boys & Girls Clubs and Communities In Schools in the Chicago area.

Supporting Our Schools Drop-Off Locations

You can drop off school supply donations at more than 200 locations, including at T-Mobile, Carson’s and Xfinity stores. Several Metra locations will provide drop off locations July 25-27. Click here for a full list of donation locations.

Need ideas of what to donate? See the wish list of school supplies below. If you can’t make it to a location near you, you can still make a difference by donating funds directly to Boys & Girls Clubs and Communities In Schools in the Chicago area to help local kids in need start the school year off right.

Special thanks to the following for their partnership on this project: T-Mobile, Carson’s, Xfinity, Metra, Aramark, and Chicago Public Schools. Thank you for Making A Difference.

School Supply Wish List 
































Photo Credit: Shutterstock / maroke]]>
<![CDATA[10 Tools to Use in Your School Garden]]>431604373Thu, 06 Jul 2017 07:22:02 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AdobeStock_142992771.jpgWhether you’re just breaking new ground on a school garden or are a seasoned pro looking to spend more class time outside, here are 10 tools that will help turn your garden into a fully equipped outdoor classroom.

Photo Credit: ewapee - stock.adobe.com]]>
<![CDATA[Revealed: The Best High School-Themed Movie Ever]]>432713793Fri, 28 Jul 2017 10:50:57 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/highschoolmovies.jpg

After weeks of voting we have a winner. 

"Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. But we think you're crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us - in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain...and an athlete...and a basket case...a princess...and a criminal.Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Club."

One John Hughes classic "The Breakfast Club" defeated another Hughes classic "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" to be crowned the best high school-themed film of all-time. (Or at least among those who voted.) 

This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![CDATA[Schools Reviewing Meal-Debt Policies That Humiliate Kids]]>432635153Wed, 05 Jul 2017 06:25:43 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/armus-school-lunch.jpg

Teaching assistant Kelvin Holt watched as a preschool student fell to the back of a cafeteria line during breakfast in Killeen, Texas, as if trying to hide.

"The cash register woman says to this 4-year-old girl, verbatim, 'You have no money,'" said Holt, describing the incident last year. A milk carton was taken away, and the girl's food was dumped in the trash. "She did not protest, other than to walk away in tears."

Holt has joined a chorus of outrage against lunchroom practices that can humiliate children as public school districts across the United States rethink how they cope with unpaid student lunch debts.

The U.S. Agriculture Department is requiring districts to adopt policies this month for addressing meal debts and to inform parents at the start of the academic year.

The agency is not specifically barring most of the embarrassing tactics, such as serving cheap sandwiches in place of hot meals or sending students home with conspicuous debt reminders, such as hand stamps. But it is encouraging schools to work more closely with parents to address delinquent accounts and ensure children don't go hungry.

"Rather than a hand stamp on a kid to say, 'I need lunch money,' send an email or a text message to the parent," said Tina Namian, who oversees the federal agency's school meals policy branch.

Meanwhile, some states are taking matters into their own hands, with New Mexico this year becoming the first to outlaw school meal shaming and several others weighing similar laws.

Free and reduced-price meals funded by the Agriculture Department's National School Lunch Program shield the nation's poorest children from so-called lunch shaming. Kids can eat for free if a family of four earns less than about $32,000 a year or at a discount if earnings are under $45,000.

It's households with slightly higher incomes that are more likely to struggle, experts on poverty and nutrition say.

Children often bear the brunt of unpaid meal accounts. A 2014 federal report found 39 percent of districts nationwide hand out cheap alternative meals with no nutritional requirements and up to 6 percent refuse to serve students with no money.

The debate over debts and child nutrition has spilled into state legislatures and reached Capitol Hill, as child advocacy groups question whether schools should be allowed to single out, in any way, a child whose family has not paid for meals.

"There's no limit to the bad behavior a school can have. They just have to put it in writing," said Jennifer Ramo, executive director of New Mexico Appleseed, an advocacy group on poverty issues. "We live in a credit society. I think schools should handle debt like everybody else does: You don't take away food from children. You feed them and you settle the bill later."

Spurred by Appleseed and others, New Mexico in April passed its anti-meal-shaming law, which directs schools to work directly with parents to address payments and requires that children get a healthy, balanced meal regardless of whether debts are paid on time.

Elsewhere, the California Senate in May unanimously approved a bill that prevents schools from denying lunch if a parent or guardian has not paid.

Thresa Thomas, a Los Angeles Unified School District food service worker for students with severe physical and learning disabilities, grinds up complimentary cheese sandwiches in a food processor to serve through feeding tubes to students who don't bring lunch and whose parents have not paid.

"They're not able to complain too much," she said. "We should give them all the same food, and we should collect the money as much as possible."

Texas recently adopted a temporary grace period for students to keep eating cafeteria food while debt payments are negotiated with parents.

At the federal level, language has been proposed for next year's House appropriations bill that would set minimum standards to protect children from public embarrassment and leave them out of payment discussions.

New Mexico's Hunger-Free Students' Bill of Rights Act was ushered through the Statehouse by Democratic Sen. Michael Padilla, who was raised in foster homes and vividly recalls having to sweep and mop the lunchroom to earn meals at an Albuquerque public school.

"It's shouldn't be that way," Padilla said. "This should not have to be a thought for a child."

Federal cash subsidies feed two out of three students statewide — yet meals still go unpaid, school administrators say.

"The piece that is really different in this legislation is that you cannot turn a child away no matter what they owe," said Nancy Cathey, who oversees food services at Las Cruces Public Schools.

That provision is likely to drive up the district's unpaid meal accounts, which recently totaled $8,000, she said. The district previously declined to serve high school students who cannot pay and extended a $25 credit to middle-schoolers.

Most districts aim to keep meal costs close to $3.20, the typical federal reimbursement rate for free lunches.

The Albuquerque district is still weighing whether it can afford to serve the same hot meal to all students and do away with an alternative cold meal that has been nicknamed derisively the "cheese sandwich of shame."

Sian McCullough of Albuquerque said her stepdaughter was confronted in first grade with an alternative brown-bag lunch when their meal account went unpaid.

"The intent was, 'We do this because the kids will go home embarrassed and send the money,'" she said. "It just didn't sit well with me."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago

Photo Credit: Mary Esch/AP Photo]]>
<![CDATA[Go Behind Celebrities' Ceremonial School Donation Checks]]>428925483Thu, 13 Jul 2017 07:27:08 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/BOST_000000006463357.JPG

In May, New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski made headlines for donating $70,000 to support women’s athletics at six school districts across New England, including Boston’s.

At a ceremony commemorating the gift, Gronkowski doled out autographs and selfies to a crowd of female athletes gathered around him. “Give it up for our ladies right here,” he said, turning toward the cheering students.

Donating to public schools can be a great opportunity for celebrities to give back — while attracting positive publicity — but the process often requires more than simply cashing a check.

For Boston Public Schools, the novelty oversized check they received from the Gronk Nation Youth Foundation was merely ceremonial, since what was donated did not actually come in the form of cash.

“The portion of the donation designated for the Boston Public Schools is a product donation that will go toward the purchase of sports gear for female BPS athletes,” BPS Communications Director Richard Weir said in a statement.

While it’s not unusual for celebrities to center their charitable organizations around the causes that matter to them, it’s becoming more common for them to try and cater donations toward the needs of a particular school or district.

It can come publicly, as with Chance the Rapper's $1 million donation to Chicago Public Schools (matched by the Chicago Bulls), or more discreetly, like Nicki Minaj quietly sending funds to educate children in a small Indian village.

In some cases, schools must comply with the benefactor’s wishes in order to receive a donation, and even in situations where the school has a greater say in how the money is used, there are usually guidelines it must follow in order to prove the funds are being well spent.

“Most grants do come with terms and conditions and a written grant agreement,” said Aaron Dorfman, president and CEO of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy. Donors “want to make sure that they have a legal, binding agreement in place so that if something goes wrong or it goes off the rails they can attempt to get the money back, or at least argue that they did everything they could to try and make sure that the money was used appropriately.”

That kind of agreement was important when the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave a $40 million grant to Pittsburgh Public Schools in 2009.

Before the district was chosen, officials had to prepare an extensive proposal outlining how they would use the funds to improve teacher effectiveness. And once the grant was secured, the foundation maintained a great deal of oversight.

“Twice a year the district and the union would come together with the foundation,” said Tara Tucci, the district’s director of performance and management. “We would talk about any changes of course that might need to happen and communicate together about how the implementation was going.”

Disagreements between the teachers union and district officials in 2014 delayed the creation of improved criteria for evaluating teachers, which was one of the requirements for receiving the grant.

In response, the Gates Foundation issued a statement urging those involved to come to a resolution, leaving payments in jeopardy. Eventually the union and district obliged.

Among other things, the money has been used to create a bonus program that rewards outstanding teachers and established paid “career ladder” positions that allow instructors to take on leadership roles similar to those of an administrator while remaining in the classroom.

“It’s enabled us to create a culture where we’re providing feedback and there’s a continuous kind of growth and improvement,” Tucci said.

Another major donation to schools that hit some bumps in the road is the $100 million Mark Zuckerberg gave to Newark Public Schools in 2010.

Announced on “Oprah” and meant to transform the district, the donation came with no strings attached. But much of the money was squandered on unions and consultants, according to a 2015 book, “The Prize,” which chronicled the donation's implementation and found it left a mixed legacy.

The district’s superintendent, Chris Cerf, wrote an op-ed reviewing the book that said it was balanced, “shining a light on the maddening intractability of much that needs fixing in urban education” but also that it “caused some philanthropists to question additional investments in public education.”

Dorfman said mishaps like these are not unusual when dealing with public figures: “Celebrity philanthropy is less strategic, less thoughtful, more likely to be deployed improperly.”

One common mistake he’s seen among celebrity foundations — like the Gronk Nation Youth Foundation, which did not return requests for comment — is “hiring family or friends to run their organizations.” In Dorfman’s eyes, hiring people with expertise in the field is crucial to success.

For those looking to circumvent the common roadblocks associated with philanthropy, crowdfunding websites like DonorsChoose.org have become a popular tool. DonorsChoose has raised a total of $548,504,503 and funded 927,733 projects since it was started in 2004, according to the website.

On DonorsChoose, educators can post grant requests for specific projects. When one is fulfilled, DonorsChoose uses the money to purchase the requested materials and send them to the schools.

“There’s no exchange of cash and the teachers don’t have the burden of going out and having to buy everything,” said Chris Pearsall, vice president for brand and communication at DonorsChoose.

(Disclosure: DonorsChoose.org is a partner in NBC- and Telemundo-owned stations’ Supporting Our Schools campaign.)

The site allowed Laura Simon, the STEM coordinator for Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District in Southern California, to take school supply matters into her own hands — and she likes that.

“I’m marketing myself and saying what we need and why we need it,” said Simon, who received a grant from actress Gwyneth Paltrow last year that enabled her to buy iPads.

She never met Paltrow, whose donation came as part of #BestSchoolDay, an annual day of giving in which celebrities and executives flash-fund pending projects in the state or district of their choice.

The idea came after Stephen Colbert, who is on the DonorsChoose Board of Directors, auctioned off his set from “The Colbert Report” and used some of the funds to pay for every project in his home state, South Carolina. Other participants have included Serena Williams, Ashton Kutcher, Elon Musk and Anna Kendrick.

“You can choose based on what’s important to you, what you believe in,” Kendrick told Colbert in a 2016 interview on “The Late Show.”

Dorfman said that crowdfunding sites like DonorsChoose can be helpful to those interested in supporting a cause because they have “the advantage of being very easy and open and accessible, [allowing] lots of small-dollar donors to get behind things that they care about."

Photo Credit: necn]]>
<![CDATA[Rihanna Urges World Leaders to #FundEducation]]>430914243Tue, 27 Jun 2017 05:03:17 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Rihanna20.jpg

Rihanna is known for calling people out on social media, but this time she’s doing it for a good cause.

Over the past week, the singer has been tweeting world leaders urging them to “#FundEducation” as part of her work with the Global Partnership for Education.

So far Rihanna has tweeted at French President Emmanuel Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Argentine president Mauricio Macri, and the press secretary for German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Her goal is to get heads of state to commit $3.1 billion dollars to help educate children in developing nations.

The push comes ahead of the annual G20 summit, a meeting of the 20 major world economies. The forum will take place July 7-8, in Hamburg, Germany.

Rihanna also urged her fans to join her in reaching out to the G20 members. 

This is not the first time Rihanna has done philanthropic work for education. Last year, after being appointed as global ambassador to champion education for the Global Partnership for Education, she visited Malawi to help teach math and fundraise. She also started a scholarship to help international students coming to the United States for college.

Photo Credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images
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<![CDATA[The Cost of School Supplies Is Rising, Fast: Survey]]>428650113Fri, 30 Jun 2017 15:12:16 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/199*120/Generic-kids.jpg

The cost of raising a child has decreased slightly, but it's a different story for their school supplies. They've gotten steadily more expensive since 2007.

In the last decade, the price of supplies and extracurricular activities increased by 88 percent for elementary school students, 81 percent for middle school students and 68 percent for high school students, according to the latest Huntington Backpack Index, an annual survey of the cost of school supplies and other expenses compiled by The Huntington National Bank and school support nonprofit Communities in Schools.

For over ten years, the index tracks the costs of required classroom supplies and school fees that parents have to pay, in an effort to show that public school costs more than just what's assessed in taxes. It's one of the few figures that tracks the cost of school supplies.

(Disclosure: Communities in Schools is a partner of NBC- and Telemundo-owned stations' Supporting Our Schools campaign.)

The Backpack Index was just shy of $1,500 for high schoolers last year, the most recent year available. It was $1,001 for middle schoolers and $662 for elementary schoolers.

Meanwhile, raising a single child in the United States was projected to set parents back between between $12,350 and $13,900 annually, between food, housing, education and more. That figure is lower by several hundred dollars than two years before, according to the most recent U.S. Department of Agriculture "Cost of Raising a Child" reports.

Every school year, teachers send out a list of school supplies and fees that will cover the student for the year. Between 2007 and 2017, prices for school supplies rose by an estimated $10, according to the index. If a high school student plays more than one sport, that'll incur up to $375 in fees, an 87.5 percent leap from 2015.

One of every five school-age children was living below the federal poverty line in 2014, nearly 11 million children in all, according to U.S. Department of Education data. Many of the students struggle with the cost of basic school supplies, let alone the cost for school sports, clubs or activities.

"We designed the Backpack Index as a basket of goods," said George Mokrzan, director of economics for Huntington Bank in a press release. "As we assess the cost annually for the same supplies and fees, we see significant outpacing of inflation. While families can shop around and minimize the burden of buying supplies leveraging discount retailers, brands and personal networks, extracurricular fees for activities like sports and band come at a set price."

Huntington annually reviews classroom-supply lists from cross section of schools from eight states and the costs of the supplies are determined by selecting moderately priced items at online retailers.

“We need to be sure that every child in America comes to school equipped for success,” said Dale Erquiaga, president and CEO of Communities In Schools, in a press release. “But many students struggle with the cost of basic school supplies, let alone the cost for school sports, clubs or activities. That’s why we bring existing community resources inside schools to make sure that no student starts out behind on the very first day of school.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images, File
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![CDATA[Olympians Remember Their Favorite School Supplies]]>428270873Sun, 25 Jun 2017 21:20:51 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/SCHOOL+SUPPLIES+THUMB.jpg

For the "Supporting Our Schools" school supplies and donations drive, we asked Olympians to tell us about their favorite back-to-school items.]]>
<![CDATA[Classroom Gadgets: Supplies Go From Old School to High Tech]]>429481823Sun, 25 Jun 2017 14:26:27 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/armus-smartboard.jpg

The days of notebooks, chalkboards and flour sack babies in schools across the country may be ending. Many of today’s schools are incorporating Chromebooks, Smart Boards, and even high-tech infant simulators that are taking the classroom into a highly digitized 21st century.

As tablets, laptops and apps have taken hold with consumers in recent years, they have also gained a steady following within schools, said Ellen Meier, a professor at Teachers’ College at Columbia University.

One influential addition in many classrooms is the Chromebook, a low-cost, simplified laptop, loaded with Google apps like an internet browser and word processor, that can work offline. Last year, Chromebooks made up 5.4 million of the devices sold for U.S. classrooms, or just under half of the total, according to the Associated Press.

Chicago Public Schools has spent about $33.5 million to provide Chromebooks for more than a third of its 381,000 students, The New York Times Magazine reported. “In less than 10 seconds, a student can grab a Chromebook and be off and running,” Rajen Sheth, who oversees Google’s Chromebook business, told the magazine.

With these basic laptops or tablets like iPads, schools can create virtual classroom hubs that let students view assignments, submit homework and talk to teachers online on platforms like Moodle and Blackboard.

Meier, who directs Columbia’s Center for Technology and School Change, said that schools are facing a growing impetus to make sure that more students have experience using keyboards because tests are increasingly being administered online.

Cassettes or CDs in foreign language classes, meanwhile, are getting competition from interactive language lessons apps like DuoLingo. It's being used by tens of thousands of students, according to the company.

“More and more technology is being used in classrooms for practicing math and reading skills,” Eric Cayton, vice president of merchandising at Staples, said in an email. “In order to do this work independently, headphones now often appear on [back-to-school] shopping lists for students in elementary school.”

But the digital revolution in the classroom isn’t just tied to the arrival of laptops and tablets. High-tech reinventions of traditional school supplies are starting to make older models obsolete.

The same way that classic chalkboards were phased out in favor of dry-erase boards in the late 1990s, the Smart Board — an interactive whiteboard/projector combo — is now the board of choice in many classrooms. Texas Instruments, meanwhile, has kept its monopoly on calculators with the TI-Nspire, a modern version of the company’s bulky devices from the 80s and 90s.

More than three million classrooms now use Smart Boards, whose latest model of touch TVs can hook up to Chromebooks, according to a Smart Board representative.

Benjamin Glazer, an editor at consumer shopping website DealNews, said he predicts that many traditional items on back-to-school lists may also receive a digital update soon.

“There’s a strong possibility you might see things like smart binders or smart notebooks where you can access calendars and schedules from a touch screen inside the notebook,” he said.

But what’s often more important than the technology itself is how it ends up being used in the classroom, researchers say.

“The Smart Boards have become well-known for replacing blackboards, but they have so many things that we often don’t prepare our teachers to do,” Meier said. “There’s going to be an ongoing parade of new devices, but devices are not the answer in terms of how we can use these tools for more thoughtful teaching and learning.”

In any case, the most basic supplies — like paper, pencils and erasers — won’t be going away anytime soon.

“Every year, we see massive price loads on those items,” Glazer said. “Retailers continue to treat them as doorbuster deals that will bring in customers.”

Photo Credit: Boston Globe via Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[School Librarians Embrace Technology — If the Budget Allows]]>428662883Sun, 25 Jun 2017 21:54:08 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/burlesonfeuerherd.JPG

In a profession most readily associated with the printed word, school librarians have embraced what may seem like an unlikely tool.

Librarians in public schools across the country are mixing new technologies like iPads and the internet with old to teach their students fundamental skills, while also preparing them for the digital age. But their progress is threatened by a familiar problem in education: funding.

“Librarians are really embracing technology and integrating tech tools into their teaching in very meaningful and effective ways. The issue for school librarians is budget,” said Kathy Ishizuka, executive editor of the publication School Library Journal.

Librarians in schools that have robust support have seized the opportunity.

Todd Burleson, the school librarian at Hubbard Woods Elementary School in suburban Winnetka, Illinois, is running with technological innovation. In his library, technology isn't just used to consume information on a screen, it's used to create it, he said.

On an average day, his elementary school students may be producing their first book on an iPad, complete with self-shot photos, digitally-produced drawings and audio tracking. Or they may be using a green-screen iPad app to layer-separate animated sequences to produce videos.

But Burleson hasn’t shelved the hardcover books.

Children’s books offer stories that are written specifically for their reading level, something a Google search does not do.

“Books are one of the most valuable pieces of information that we can get,” he said.

Navigating this mix of technology and traditional media – “books and bytes,” as Burleson calls it – is, for him, why school librarians are so essential in the 21st century, and other school library advocates agree.

“Just because the children have that device in their hand, or have access to that essential information, does not mean they can find it efficiently and evaluate once they’ve found it,” said Audrey Church, president of the American Association of School Librarians. “I think we need librarians in schools now more than ever because of that teacher role they play in the area of information literacy and digital literacy.”

It’s now part of librarians’ jobs to teach students to be effective users of technology. This includes showing them how to identify appropriate online sources, condensing search results — even sniffing out fake news.

But training kids in new technology is not possible if the funds are not there.

In many cases, sheer cost puts libraries on the chopping block, said Christie Kaaland, a school library advocate and director of the library education program at Antioch University.

“A library is expensive. Print material is expensive. Technology is expensive,” Kaaland said.

Library funding is not equal across the United States. Certain states require a certified librarian to be on staff at every public school. Others do not.

In wealthier districts, librarians can rely on parent-teacher organizations to provide funds. In others, librarians often rely on grants to supplement the money budgeted for the purpose.

In some districts, tightening funds simply means fewer school libraries and certified librarians on staff.

In New York City, the largest school district in the country, the number of school libraries more than halved from 2005 to 2014, from 1,500 to about 700. In Philadelphia, another of the largest districts in the country, just eight full-time librarians are employed. 

Librarian and advocate Tracey Wong saw the effects of funding cuts firsthand at public elementary schools in low-income neighborhoods of the Bronx, New York.

Wong’s first librarian job at P.S. 63 in the Bronx evaporated when her principal pulled funding and shut down the school’s library, she said.

After that, she went to work at another low-income public school in the Bronx, where she secured just under $1 million in about three years through private grants. With the funds, she brought in laptops, computers, iPads, a smartboard, and transformed the once-decrepit library into a bustling media center.

The new tools paid off: One of her students won an academic contest and was selected as one of five kids in the country to meet billionaire businessman Warren Buffet. Another won $500 in a separate contest and was taken to City Hall to meet the mayor of New York.

But despite her successes, Wong’s library eventually went the way of P.S. 63.

“A new principal came on board,” Wong said. “So by my third year being a librarian, she decided to shut down the library and was going to make me a fifth grade teacher.”

Instead, Wong left the New York City school system to work as a librarian in neighboring Westchester County.

Wong’s experience, while disheartening, came as no surprise, she said.

From the time she was studying to become a certified librarian, Wong was told to expect job loss and funding cuts.

The reality made Wong an advocate for libraries from the start. She secured grants to fund technology for her schools; lobbied principals to reopen libraries that had been shut; and now tracks her professional experiences on her website and frequently writes about how educators can secure grants for their schools.

“Advocacy is something you have to work on early, it’s the most important part of your job,” Wong recalled being told while earning her degree. “If you don’t start to do it, you’re going to realize you should’ve been doing it, and by that time it’s going to be too late because they’re always cutting jobs.”

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Todd Burleson]]>
<![CDATA[As School Gardens Grow, So Do the Students Who Tend Them]]>428846753Sun, 25 Jun 2017 15:03:06 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/212*120/IMG_03194.JPG

For Rebecca Lemos-Otero, the founder of a nonprofit that creates school gardens, plots of vegetables and flowers don't only offer new ways to teach science or math. And give kids opportunities to be outside and moving about. And show them that their neighborhoods can be green and beautiful.

School gardens also leave some students with a taste for much-maligned kale and other fruits and vegetables they've grown themselves, Lemos-Otero said.

"The expectation that kale is part of your meal, versus this exotic food that it felt like 10 years ago, it's amazing," Lemos-Otero said.

Some organizations gather school supplies like notebooks, pens and backpacks, but her organization, City Blossoms, works directly with a dozen schools, mostly in Washington D.C., to supply them with gardens and keep them going year after year.

The goal for the 10-year-old organization is to make gardening routine for the students, not a special event. Older students sell their produce at farmers markets or to their teachers in school-based community supported agriculture subscriptions.

"They become more comfortable with expecting to try different foods. They become much more comfortable with exploring the food that's put in front of them, especially if they have something to do with the preparation or the growing of it," Lemos-Otero said.

Edna Chirico of the nonprofit Real School Gardens said she has seen a similar change.

"It is amazing," she said. "If they grow it, if they take care of it, if someone shows them how to cook it, the students eat it 100 percent of the time."

Some of the gardens are quite elaborate.

Real School Gardens works with schools to develop deluxe gardens, which they call outdoor classrooms. In a three-year process, teachers, students and community members can submit design ideas for the space, which include things like whiteboards, student seating areas that are shaded from sun or protected from rain, a shed full of school supplies.

Those features are intended to eliminate the possibility that a teacher might say, "Well, we were going to go outside for class today, BUT..."

"Beyond just going outside and having fun, it's about learning. Every piece of that space is intentional and has a reason for being there," said April Martin, the group's Mid-Atlantic regional director.

Real School Gardens has partnered with schools across the country for these large-scale projects, which are available only to low-income schools that apply for the program and meet qualifying criteria. It also services schools that already have garden spaces or standing beds on their campuses but want to learn more about how to integrate garden projects into learning across subjects.

School gardens remain popular, despite all of the criticism of former first lady Michelle Obama's push for healthy school lunches and claims from school cafeterias of millions of dollars in food being discarding because students refused to eat. There were more than 7,000 across the country in 2015, according to a census done by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The federal government — which built a "School Garden Army" during World War I and backed victory gardens at schools in World War II — encourages gardens through grants, guidance and support for food purchased from them, according to the USDA.

Today, City Blossoms and Real School Gardens are just two of many nonprofits working to get gardens up and running, in schools and elsewhere. Parents and others can contribute to the organizations or in some cases volunteer in the gardens. Groups also seek donations of plants and other supplies.

Even if the garden programs do not address school lunches directly, as Real School Gardens says, by transforming the outdoors into a space for structured open-air learning, students are able to spend more time outside, with dirt and earthworms, kale and potatoes, and to see how fresh foods grow.

That's important for children who know little about agriculture, especially those who live in cities. (Or adults for that matter: A recent survey by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy found that seven percent of American adults believe chocolate milk comes from brown cows.)

"We really want them to be able to connect with where their food comes from," said Jenny Schrum, director of youth programming at City Green, which works with 80 schools in New Jersey.

"There's many children who did not know that vegetables come from the ground, so it's very eye-opening," she said.

One thing that school gardens aren't necessarily doing is growing food that students, well, eat. Which is understandable, given various practical restraints like how much and what can be grown on a particular plot. Even a fairly large school garden couldn't provide food on the mini-industrial scale necessary to feed hundreds of kids daily.

But some schools are trying to get a taste of what they've grown into the schools.

The 14 schools in Charlotte, North Carolina, that are partnered with Real School Gardens all focus on the same "big six" vegetables: broccoli, carrots, peas, cabbage, spinach and cauliflower — plus, a bonus seventh vegetable, the sweet potato. Having students grow the same foods that they see on their lunch trays, even if not the produce from their gardens, gives them the chance to make connections between food production and food consumption, the group says.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of City Blossoms]]>
<![CDATA[Back to Basics: Cost of Essential School Supplies and Fees]]>428674453Mon, 26 Jun 2017 07:53:24 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/thumbnail-123454321.jpgFrom basic schools supplies to extracurricular activities, sending your child back to school can put serious financial strain on your family’s budget, even if you’re careful to look for sales and discounts. Take a look at the average cost of items your child will need when heading back to school, from cheapest to most expensive, based on 2015 and 2016 data compiled by The Huntington National Bank and nonprofit Communities in Schools.]]><![CDATA[From 'Potter' to 'Twilight,' 15 Years of Kids' Bestsellers]]>426439491Mon, 26 Jun 2017 09:19:58 -0600https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-51550352.jpgChildren's literature is full of all kinds of stories, packed with wizards and vampires, adventure and love. Which ones topped the charts? Check out the best-selling kids' books of the last 15 years.

Photo Credit: RACHEL GRIFFITH/AFP/Getty Images]]>