The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) provides a wealth of information for families, teachers, administrators, and community members on their website. However, finding the information you were looking for used to involve navigating an extremely complicated series of menus and links, backing up from dead ends, and sometimes futile searches. However, right before the holidays, ISBE debuted their redesigned website with easier navigation, topics arranged in several different ways, and even a short introductory videos on how to move around and how to search the new website.
Across the top of the website are links to areas for key education stakeholders, including administrators, teachers, families, communities, and new media. The topics link at the end of the menu takes you to a grid of 21 separate topics, including:
A dozen of these topics are highlighted on the lower half of the home page. The bottom of the page provides links to the Superintendent’s weekly message and a calendar of ISBE meetings.
As the deadline for the state’s ESSA implementation plan approaches this spring, the easy access to Illinois’s draft plan and reader’s guide will be critical to families wanting to provide feedback. The third draft of the plan is currently being completed and should be available in the near future. Likewise, the information on the upcoming state assessments, including the PARCC assessment for grades 3 through 8 and the new SAT assessment for high school juniors, will be helpful for families wanting to understand the schedule for assessments and the release of their child’s results. There is also information on the new physical fitness assessments that are starting this year.
With the proliferation of misinformation circulating on social media today, it is especially useful to be able to go directly to the root source for accurate information. The new ISBE website makes finding that core information directly from the source so much easier than it has been in the past, allowing families to find out exactly what their child’s school needs to be doing to provide them with a quality education.
Snow days are great when you’re a kid—a day off from school to play in the snow! But for a parent, it can be a challenge to keep the kids busy throughout the day. Edutopia has resources for teachers and families to turn snow days into learning opportunities. Here are some highlights.
How Snowflakes are Formed
You may have watched a TED talk or two, but TED-Ed talks are short videos from educators brought to life by professional animators. If you’ve ever had a child ask how snowflakes form or why they are shaped the way they are, this five-minute video on the science of snowflakes answers those questions and more. To go beyond the video, the National Snow & Ice Data Center has a Snow Science page that explains even more about snow (e.g., the types of snow crystals, the types of snowfall, and the types of snow formations), with lots of pictures to go with the easy to understand descriptions.
Do Some Science Experiments
The Exploratorium in San Francisco was one of the first hands-on science museums. The museum also provides Science Snacks on their website—short, easy to do experiments that use common household items. There are well over 100 experiments on the site, so find one or two that interests your budding Einstein.
Snow Day Bingo
Edutopia created a Snow Day Bingo card with items to check off throughout the day. It is probably not an accident that “Watched Frozen” is on the card twice.
Don’t let a snow day be just shoveling and worrying about how to keep the kids entertained. Check out the full article for over a dozen activities to fill a snow day with more than just playing video games and eating snacks.
Latino students are graduating high school and enrolling in college at the highest rates in our history, and they are now the largest minority group in our nation’s colleges and universities. However, only 23% of Hispanic adults 25 and older have an associate degree or higher, and only 12% have a masters or doctorate.
In order to better support Hispanic students in completing high school and enrolling in college, the US Department of Education released ¡Gradúate! 2.0: A College Planning Guide to Success on October 11th. The guide is a follow-up to ¡Gradúate!: A Financial Aid Guide to Success. Both guides are available in English and Spanish and are useful to all families. The new guide outlines the steps that students should take through high school up through heading off to college, including:
- Preparing for College
- The Process of Applying and Enrolling
- Paying for College
- Preparing for the First Semester of College
Students who are the first in their family to go to college face challenges that those whose parents went to college don’t deal with and may need extra support, whether it is taking the classes needed to be accepted into college, understanding the application process, or applying for financial aid. This new guide will provide these students and their families with information and resources to navigate the process of going to college.
Social media is the place for PTAs and other organizations to engage their members. Whether it is Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or some other platform, social media lets PTAs keep their members informed about events, share information, and connect in ways that printed newsletters in backpacks never could. Now, Skills Platform and several nonprofit social media experts have collaborated to create The Charity Social Media Toolkit.
The toolkit is a free online resource to provide not just the fundamentals and tactics for social media use but also inspirational case studies from across the nonprofit sector. The toolkit will help your PTA develop a social media strategy, determine what platforms to use, and leverage those tools to benefit your PTA. Chapters include:
Each section or chapter concludes with three top tips and three links to further reading on the subject. Check out the full toolkit and turn your PTA into a social media powerhouse.