Arkansas Department of Education and Solution Tree Launch Professional Learning Communities at Work Pilot Program in Schools

BLOOMINGTON, IN—(Marketwired – August 01, 2017) – The Arkansas Department of Education (ADE), in partnership with Solution Tree, announce a new program to develop and expand the Professional Learning Communities at Work™ process across Arkansas. Eleven schools and one district have been selected to serve as working models for the professional learning community process, conducting action research and sharing best practices with other schools throughout the state. As part of the program, schools will receive up to 50 days of training, coaching and support to build and sustain a strong culture of collaboration that will enhance student learning.

The schools and district were selected through a rigorous application and evaluation process. A panel of educational professionals knowledgeable of the PLC at Work process reviewed 83 applications and selected the following to receive support from Solution Tree, a national professional development provider that specializes in professional learning communities.

  • Ballman Elementary School in the Fort Smith School District
  • Bragg Elementary School in the West Memphis School District
  • Douglas MacArthur Junior High School in the Jonesboro School District
  • Eastside Elementary School in the Greenbrier School District
  • Frank Mitchell Intermediate School in the Vilonia School District
  • Joe T. Robinson Middle School in the Pulaski County Special School District
  • Monticello Middle School in the Monticello School District
  • Morrilton Intermediate School in the South Conway County School District
  • Premier High School of Little Rock
  • Prescott School District
  • Rogers High School in the Rogers School District
  • Spradling Elementary School in the Fort Smith School District

“These schools and district submitted outstanding applications that demonstrate their commitment to student–focused learning,” ADE Commissioner Johnny Key said. “The intensive work to build collaborative teams this school year will not only improve communication and the sharing of resources among teachers, it will result in student progress. When educators share best practices and work together to address areas that need improvement, our students have endless opportunities to grow and learn. These schools are committed to ensuring Arkansas leads the nation in student–focused education.”

Solution Tree CEO Jeff Jones said of the program, “This partnership is the embodiment of our vision to transform education worldwide to ensure learning for all. Everyone at Solution Tree is eager to collaborate with all of the Arkansas Department of Education, and we congratulate all the Arkansas educators who now have a greater opportunity to deeply implement transformative professional learning communities into their schools.”

The PLC at Work process centers around three big ideas that drive work inside each school: focus on learning, build a collaborative culture and create a results orientation. PLC at Work schools are distinguished by the process in which educators work collaboratively in recurring cycles of collective inquiry and action research to achieve better results for the students they serve. When the PLC at Work process is implemented with fidelity, schools experience dramatic improvement in learning results by both students and adults.

Those selected will be part of a collaborative evaluation process between Solution Tree and the state legislature and agencies that gather data regarding student achievement, teacher practices and effective professional development. Participants will be matched with a certified PLC at Work associate from Solution Tree. These associates will provide intensive on–site training, observation, coaching and other job–embedded staff development as school and district personnel implement, deepen and sustain the PLC at Work process. The schools and district selected will create action plans that focus on increasing student achievement through aligned curriculum, formative assessment and proven instructional strategies.

Act 427 of 2017, which amended Arkansas Code Ann. § 6–20–2305(b)(5), provides funding for the pilot program, which is free for those selected. For more information about the pilot program, please visit the ADE website at http://www.arkansased.gov/divisions/special–projects/professional–learning–communities–in–arkansas and follow ADE on social media using #PLC4AR.

About Solution Tree

For nearly 20 years, Solution Tree has worked to transform education worldwide, empowering educators to raise student achievement. With more than 30,000 educators attending professional learning events and more than 4,260 professional development days in schools each year, Solution Tree helps teachers and administrators confront essential challenges in schools. Solution Tree has a catalog of 515 titles, hundreds of videos and online courses and is the creator of Global PD, an online tool that facilitates the work of professional learning communities. Follow Solution Tree on Twitter: @solutiontree

Best Bets for Back to School

MISSION, KS—(Marketwired – Aug 1, 2017) – (Family Features) Every family needs the right items on hand to ensure students are geared up to succeed in the classroom and on the playing field. These supplies and handy tools are designed to make back–to–school season easy as 1–2–3 for kids and parents alike.

A sticky solution
Art projects abound when a new school year begins and the perfect paper crafts require a secure bond that withstands transportation from school to home. An Elmer's Re–Stick Glue Stick lets little hands fine–tune placement of different pieces for up to five minutes before a permanent bond forms. The sticks apply smoothly and dry clear for a mess–free appearance that is ideal for younger learners, as well as making poster presentations, crafts and more. See what ideas will stick for you at elmers.com.

Smart sipping
Good hydration is important for overall health and keeping a water bottle by your side is one way to help ensure you're keeping your intake steady throughout the day. The Contigo AUTOSPOUT Chug Water Bottle enables simple sipping on the go with its patented technology and high flow for quick, one–handed drinking. The vacuum–insulated stainless steel keeps beverages refreshingly cold for up to 24 hours, and a protective spout prevents leaks and helps keep out dirt and germs. Find more information at gocontigo.com.

Word–wise
From creating spaces at home that help organize school paperwork to identifying personal items like laptops or calculators, an electric labeler makes short work of the job. The DYMO MobileLabeler offers Bluetooth connectivity for fast and easy setup, along with a voice–to–text feature and spellcheck to help save time. A free app lets you create the label via a smartphone using a wide variety of colors and font libraries then print the size you need from 1/4 inch–1 inch wide. Learn more at dymo.com.

Organize with color
Keeping track of schedules, homework and other activities can be an exhausting chore, but a color–coded dry–erase board is one way to keep everything straight. A highly visible, low–odor ink like the one used in the EXPO Dry Erase Markers with Ink Indicator makes getting organized fun, plus the easy–to–see ink levels ensures you'll never unknowingly run dry. The versatile chisel tip marks broad, medium and fine lines, and six bold and bright colors let you add a little creative flair to your efforts to bring order to the chaos. Check out these and other dry–erase tools at expomarkers.com

A cool way to refuel
A rigorous morning of academics calls for an energizing and nutritious lunch to power through the end of the school day. Rubbermaid BRILLIANCE Lunch containers are leak–proof with airtight latches and adjustable insert trays and dividers to create custom compartments inside. The ultra–durable material keeps the container stain–free and odor–free. They're also BPA–free and safe for the dishwasher, microwave and freezer. Find this and other lunch solutions at rubbermaid.com.

Artwork for the senses
Nothing sparks creativity like engaging all the senses, and an array of bold scents and vivid colors is the perfect combination for some inspired artwork. Mr. Sketch Scented Crayons come in a package of 12 and feature a twist design that means they never need sharpening. A hard plastic body reduces crayon breakage, making these instruments ideal for children as young as 3 years of age. Explore more crayons and tools to encourage creativity this school year at mrsketch.com.

A bright idea
Defining important text or keeping track of key calendar dates is easier with Sharpie Clear View Highlighters that feature a see–through tip that allows for precise highlighting. The versatile blade–style tip draws thick lines for highlighting or thin, defined lines for underlining, while specially formulated ink technology resists smudging of many pen and marker inks. Choose among four bright colors to make your mark and find additional answers to your highlighting needs at sharpie.com.

About Family Features Editorial Syndicate
Established in 1974, Family Features is a leading provider of free food and lifestyle content for print and online publications. Our articles, photos, videos and web content solutions save you time, money and help create advertising opportunities. Registration is fast and free — with absolutely no obligation. Visit editors.familyfeatures.com for more information.

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Active Community Assistance

MISSION, KS—(Marketwired – Aug 1, 2017) – (Family Features) Social responsibility comes in all shapes and sizes, but ultimately it comes down to one common purpose: making the world a better place. From volunteering at local shelters and community centers to feeding those in need at your local food bank, there are countless ways to give back within your community.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 25 percent of people in the U.S. volunteered in 2015. However, studies on health and volunteering show that people who volunteer report feeling emotionally, mentally and physically better. Multiple studies show that volunteering has been linked to lower stress levels, lower levels of depression and longevity.

If that's not incentive enough, lending support to organizations in your community can often bring immediate and tangible results that give you a connection and sense of community. There are some programs that even enable people to make a difference by matching them with volunteer or funding opportunities. One example is the America's Farmers Grow Communities program, sponsored by the Monsanto Fund.

“It's exciting to see communities strengthened by their residents,” said Angela Allen, program manager for the America's Farmers Grow Communities program, which focuses on supporting local nonprofits in rural communities with the help of local farmers. “The good news is there are several simple and easy ways people can get involved in their communities and make a difference.”

Here are five ways that you can lend a hand:

Volunteering. Nonprofit organizations rely on the support of loyal donors and volunteers to deliver on their missions to improve the communities they serve. Time and talent are among the most valuable gifts you can give a deserving cause. One of the greatest benefits of volunteering is the chance to put your energy and abilities to use for a cause you care about, whether it's feeding the hungry, rescuing animals or some other cause that is close to your heart. Volunteering provides a feel–good way to pursue your personal interests.

Giving blood. According to the American Red Cross, every 2 seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood. There is an ongoing need to replenish a communities' blood supplies, whether for medical uses or in the aftermath of a tragedy. Giving blood is fast, relatively painless and can save lives.

Donating. Money doesn't make the world go 'round, or so the saying goes. However, it can make a difference when it comes to bettering the community. Nonprofit and community organizations rely on monetary contributions not only to fulfill their existing program needs, but also to expand those services to impact more people. Rather than a single, one–time gift, consider setting up an ongoing donation so your impact continues over time. For small or rural nonprofits in particular, a little bit goes a long way. Another touching way to donate funds: give in honor of a loved one, either as a gift for a special occasion or in memoriam. Rather than giving your parents a gift for Mother's Day or Father's Day, think about a small donation to their favorite charity.

Applying for funding opportunities. Another way to help your community thrive is by exploring avenues to create new funding opportunities for nonprofits. For example, the America's Farmers Grow Communities program provides farmers an opportunity to help a nonprofit of their choice. Eligible farmers can enroll in the program until Nov. 1 at GrowCommunities.com for a chance to direct a $2,500 donation to a local eligible nonprofit organization. Since 2010, the program has given more than $26 million to nonprofits, including food banks, emergency response organizations, youth agriculture programs and more.

Paying it forward. Not every step you take in support of your community has to be a large one. In fact, the ripple effect of a series of smaller deeds can have a truly momentous impact. You can set the feel–good wheels in motion in your own community by simply thinking about a time when someone generously gave their own resources to benefit you and paying forward that kindness with a matching endeavor. You might let a frenzied mom go ahead of you in line at the grocery store or pay for a meal for the elderly couple behind you at the drive–thru. Small gestures spread a feel–good spirit that can encourage others to do their part to make the community a better place, as well.

These are just a few ways that you can give back. Get out and meet with your friends and neighbors in your community to discover how you can best use your time and talents to help the greater good.

How Much Should I Give?

Many community organizations find that donors struggle with the question of how much they should contribute. Donors want to give enough to make an impact, but may fear what they can afford is too small an amount to be meaningful. Small nonprofits will tell you that no donation is too small. If you're uncertain, though, don't hesitate to ask. Most organizations can offer guidance at every giving level so you can feel confident your gift will truly make a difference.

Be a Star Volunteer

Volunteers are the driving force for many community causes. Get your start as a volunteer with these tips:

1. Identify a cause or organization that strikes a personal chord. Investing personally helps ensure you genuinely enjoy the time and means you're more likely to give your best effort.

2. Explore what you can give. It may be basic labor like sorting donated items, making calls or stuffing envelopes, but there could also be room to lend your own special skills or talents, such as bookkeeping or artistry.

3. Approach your volunteer role as you would a paying job. Meet with leaders beforehand to gain a clear understanding of mutual objectives, organize a work schedule and deliver on your commitments.

4. Invite friends or family to join you to make giving back to your community an experience you can share together.

About Family Features Editorial Syndicate
Established in 1974, Family Features is a leading provider of free food and lifestyle content for print and online publications. Our articles, photos, videos and web content solutions save you time, money and help create advertising opportunities. Registration is fast and free — with absolutely no obligation. Visit editors.familyfeatures.com for more information.

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Earn an A+

MISSION, KS—(Marketwired – Aug 1, 2017) – (Family Features) Back–to–school season means it's time to get back to the business of learning. This year you can ace your back–to–school shopping excursion with these time– and money–saving steps that can make getting the whole family ready for a new school year a breeze.

Start with a list.
Walking into the store without a list is an open invitation for impulse buys and forgotten items that end up costing you more time and money with a return trip. Create a thorough list by categorizing all the items you'll shop for, such as supplies, electronics and clothing. If you want to take an extra–organized approach, try color coding items by the section of the store where you would expect to find them.

Set a budget.
Knowing what you can afford to spend ahead of time can save regret and returns after you shop. Calculate how much you'll need to cover all the items your students truly need, then tack on some room for wants. One must–have is a high–quality backpack, like the High Sierra Access Backpack, which includes a dedicated storage area for your child's laptop, among other features. If your total budgeted expenses exceed your available funds, consider browsing weekly circulars to keep your budget in check.

Explore your inventory.
It may be buried under a summer's worth of knick–knacks, but digging out the supplies your child cast aside at the end of the last school year may be worth the effort. Items like scissors, rulers and protractors may not need to be replaced every year if they're still in working condition. Assess what items you have that can be reused and those that need to be replaced for the new school year.

Cut extra stops.
Dashing all over town to find all the items on your supply list is not only time–consuming, it's unnecessary. At stores like Office Depot and OfficeMax, you can find all the academic tools and supplies your student needs to head back to the classroom. What's more, a store that specializes in school supplies will have a broad selection and ample stock of the essentials.

Try online shopping.
When you know exactly what you need, shopping online is a great time–saving solution. Online shopping makes it incredibly simple to keep tabs on your budget before you make purchases and easily keep track of the items in your shopping cart. If you need to hand–select a few items in person, you can always take advantage of a “buy online, pick–up in store” option. This service lets you do your shopping from home with just a quick stop in–store to pick–up your purchases.

Buy in bulk.
It may seem counter–intuitive when you're trying to trim your spending, but if you can swing it, go ahead and buy extra items that you'll likely need to replace mid–year. The sale prices during the back–to–school season aren't likely to repeat during the school year, so in the long run you'll save money and avoid a last–minute shopping trip on a busy school night in the future. Items like Stellar fashion notebooks, which give note–taking a fashionable twist, are great to have on hand throughout the school year.

Research specials and promotions.
For many stores, the back–to–school shopping season is second only to the holidays. This means you can expect widespread sales, promotions and special deals, such as “deals as low as a penny.” Some states also offer tax–free holidays near the beginning of the school year, which are honored at multiple retailers and generally restricted to school–related purchases like clothing, supplies and some technology.

Weigh quality vs. quantity.
When you have a lengthy list of items to purchase for each child, it can be tempting to cut corners and skimp on spending. In some cases, being cost–efficient is smart, but do your research beforehand to avoid selecting items based solely on price. Value and quality don't always go hand–in–hand and if you buy an item that falls apart or breaks down quickly, you may end up spending more to replace the items later. While it may be simpler for students to use printers and other machines at school, an all–in–one Epson Expression EcoTank Wireless Printer at home can be a convenient solution when late–night homework is bearing down.

Make dollars do double duty.
While most families expect to spend a sizable amount on back–to–school purchases (nearly $700, according to a 2016 survey by the National Retail Federation), making that money go a little further can soften the blow. You can help improve education in your community by shopping at stores that give a percentage of proceeds back to local schools. Programs vary; in some cases, you can even designate proceeds to the school district of your choice.

Take more notes on smart back–to–school shopping ideas and deals at officedepot.com.

About Family Features Editorial Syndicate
Established in 1974, Family Features is a leading provider of free food and lifestyle content for print and online publications. Our articles, photos, videos and web content solutions save you time, money and help create advertising opportunities. Registration is fast and free — with absolutely no obligation. Visit editors.familyfeatures.com for more information.

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Memory-Making Meals Mark Back to School

MISSION, KS—(Marketwired – Aug 1, 2017) – (Family Features) Most families are looking for ways to spend more time together, but managing the family schedule can be a daunting task, especially with the additions of nightly homework and extracurricular activities a new school year brings.

Hectic weeknight schedules during back–to–school season don't need to get in the way of quality time spent around the dinner table with these simple tips for enjoying dinner together.

Designate a time. Write dinner time on a calendar in the kitchen so every family member is aware of this special time and can look forward to sitting down together. Even if your schedule is overwhelming, pick a specific day each week and block out time to have a meal as a family.

Rely on foods rooted in tradition. Experimenting with recipes can add quick and easy new favorites to the family meal repertoire like Spaghetti and Turkey Meatballs, a modern twist on the nostalgic family classic. As food trends come and go, RAGÚ continues to be a culinary staple for family meals. For 80 years, RAGÚ has gathered families at the table to celebrate the tradition of creating memories around a mouthwatering meal. Whether that's a new take on ravioli or a family–favorite pasta dish, families can count on serving up delicious pasta sauces rich with bold, Italian flavors and vine–ripened tomatoes.

Create rituals. To build a tradition in the kitchen, try involving the whole family by showing your kids age–appropriate ways to contribute to their favorite meal. Let them measure ingredients to create better–for–you turkey meatballs, carry ingredients from one place to another, mix and pour ingredients, and set the table. Creating a ritual of cooking a favorite back–to–school meal with your kids is a good way to help them build healthy habits and skills that will last a lifetime.

Step away from your cell phone. Designate dinnertime as a no–cellphone zone. Leave your mobile devices in another room to allow for time to reconnect with your loved ones and be fully present.

Create fun dinner table topics. Making the table a fun place to be is the best strategy for getting your family to dinner and keeping them at the table longer. Make a game out of sharing the best parts of your day with each other. This can be a great way to laugh together as well as an opportunity to offer much–needed advice and support.

Find more easy recipes to bring the family together during the busy back–to–school season and throughout the year at RAGU.com or on Facebook.

Spaghetti and Turkey Meatballs
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Servings: 5
     
10   ounces spaghetti
1   pound (85 percent lean) ground turkey
1/2   cup Italian–seasoned, dry bread crumbs
1/4   cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus additional (optional)
1/4   cup chopped Italian parsley
1   egg, beaten
3/4   cup water, divided
1/2   teaspoon kosher salt
1   tablespoon extra–virgin olive oil
2   cloves garlic, minced
1/2   teaspoon crushed red pepper
1   jar RAGÚ Homestyle Thick and Hearty Traditional Sauce
     

Cook pasta as directed on package, omitting salt; keep warm.

Combine turkey, bread crumbs, Parmesan, parsley, egg, 1/4 cup water and salt. Shape mixture into 25 (1 1/4–inch) meatballs.

In large, nonstick saute pan on medium heat, heat olive oil, garlic and crushed red pepper. Add sauce and remaining water once garlic is golden.

Arrange meatballs in sauce; cover and cook 10 minutes, or until cooked through (165 F), stirring occasionally. Serve with cooked spaghetti and additional Parmesan, if desired.

Tip: Use a small ice cream scoop or melon baller to easily make evenly sized meatballs.

About Family Features Editorial Syndicate
Established in 1974, Family Features is a leading provider of free food and lifestyle content for print and online publications. Our articles, photos, videos and web content solutions save you time, money and help create advertising opportunities. Registration is fast and free — with absolutely no obligation. Visit editors.familyfeatures.com for more information.

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Tidy Back-to-School Transitioning

MISSION, KS—(Marketwired – Aug 1, 2017) – (Family Features) With shopping that needs to be done and supplies that need to be gathered for busy days ahead, preparing for the back–to–school season can descend into near chaos for many parents. When long school days leave little time for organization and decluttering, any home can quickly become a mess.

According to a survey conducted by ClosetMaid, 92 percent of parents describe their kids as messy. Among those same parents, 80 percent give their kids chores and about half of them end up doing the work themselves to ensure it's done properly. Two out of three of the parents surveyed said their children's messiness often leaves them in bad moods. Considering one of the hardest things about back–to–school season is creating an organized routine, the time to start is now.

When every room in the home can use some reorganization, decluttering in preparation for busy school days can be overwhelming. A smart place to start is in the room you and your kids waste the most time looking for things. These other useful tips can help you take it from there:

  • Tackle your child's closet and take inventory of what's in it. Before you buy anything new, go through and get rid of torn clothes and items that no longer fit. It can help you see what is needed and ultimately make it easier for them to get dressed in the morning.
  • Get your command center in tip top shape. Set up a system for storing important paperwork and create a centralized family calendar to help coordinate everyone's schedules.
  • Create a drop zone. Contain clutter before it spreads too far around the house with ClosetMaid's KidSpace, a line of juvenile storage furniture featuring a storage locker that is perfect for backpacks, coats, sports equipment and supplies. Since it's kid–sized, children can be responsible for making sure their belongings are put neatly away.
  • Create a comfy homework station. Designate a special space, perhaps under a lofted bed, that can keep kids organized, productive and focused on work while helping inspire creativity.
  • Download productivity apps on your phone. Help make your life easier as you get into the swing of the school year with apps that assist in organization and time management to help reduce day–to–day family stresses associated with hectic school days. 

One thing is certain every school year: having an organized home and systems in place can keep parents happier and the household running smoothly. Find more home organization ideas and tips at ClosetMaid.com.

About Family Features Editorial Syndicate
Established in 1974, Family Features is a leading provider of free food and lifestyle content for print and online publications. Our articles, photos, videos and web content solutions save you time, money and help create advertising opportunities. Registration is fast and free — with absolutely no obligation. Visit editors.familyfeatures.com for more information.

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