Category: View Point

ViewPoint: Celebrate Local Businesses on November 25

By Rhea Landholm
Center for Rural Affairs, rheal@cfra.org 
Growing up, I would earn a quarter per chore – a quarter each for washing dishes, dusting, sweeping, and more. I pocketed the quarters, hopped on my bike, and rode four blocks to the main thoroughfare in my town of 1,000.
I would peruse toy racks at the pharmacy and hardware store; drool over bulk candy at the grocery store and the flower shop; and peer at notepads in the glass case at the newspaper office. These locally-owned businesses received all of my hard-earned quarters.
At age 8, I didn’t realize I was supporting small businesses or the local economy. I also didn’t think to save my quarters for spending at a big box or department store. I only knew how handy it was to be able to shop in my community.
Main street businesses are an important part of our life in rural America, and Small Business Saturday, on Nov. 25, is the perfect time to celebrate them. Show your support by making purchases, which keep locally-earned dollars in your communities.
In 2015, U.S. small businesses represented 99.7 percent of businesses with paid employees, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. When we shop, eat, and have fun at local establishments, we benefit our neighbors.
During this holiday season, and year round, #ShopSmall. Support your community, your friends, and your way of life. When local businesses succeed, we all win.

ViewPoint: Iowa Schools Are Making a Difference in Early Literacy

By Dr. Julie Davies, Executive Director of Educational Services, Central Rivers Area Education Agency
Statewide efforts focused on making sure all Iowa students are proficient readers by the end of third grade are demonstrating a positive impact in the growth of literacy skills. A report released by the Iowa Department of Education highlights key findings since the early literacy law was adopted by the Iowa Legislature in 2012.
Iowa schools, Area Education Agencies, and the Iowa Department of Education responded to the early literacy law with a focus on prevention of reading difficulties and early intervention for students. The law reinforced the importance that teachers need data and resources in order to provide effective literacy instruction, as well as the need to provide early intervention for students who have fallen behind in reading skills.
A critical component of this statewide effort is an early warning system for literacy. This system is designed to help educators identify and intervene with students in kindergarten through third grade (K-3) who are at risk for reading difficulties. The early warning system, which was fully implemented in Iowa schools in 2014, includes screening the reading skills of all K-3 students. This is done three times a year. Based on this information, teachers are able to provide targeted reading instruction to students who need it and monitor the progress of all students.
The work to put in place a statewide early warning system has begun to pay off. Student results on the screening assessments statewide have improved statewide.
On the screening assessments from fall 2015 through spring 2016:
Of 398 public school districts and nonpublic schools using the early warning system, 60.8 percent saw an increase in the percentage of K-3 students at or above benchmark;The top 10 school districts and nonpublic schools demonstrating increases in the percentage of K-3 students at or above benchmark ranged from 19.5 percent to 32.2 percent.53 school districts showed double-digit increases.The number of students who met or exceeded benchmarks grew 4.2 percentage points from 63.4 percent to 67.6 percent. That equates to almost 9,000 students statewide.
Research shows that students who are proficient readers by the end of third grade are more likely to succeed in school, graduate, go on to college, and earn a living wage. Students who aren’t proficient readers are more likely to drop out of high school, less likely to earn a living wage, and less likely to obtain a postsecondary education.
Central Rivers AEA continues to partner with our area school districts to ensure that all students have access to a high-quality education – beginning with their very first academic years.

ViewPoint: National Farm to School Month: Supporting Local Economies

By Sandra Renner
sandrar@cfra.org, Center for Rural Affairs
October is National Farm to School Month, a time to recognize the importance of improving child nutrition, supporting local economies, and educating communities about the origins of their food.
In 2016, the Center for Rural Affairs joined more than 220 organizations nationwide to promote farm to school throughout October. This year marks the seventh year for National Farm to School Month, designated by Congress to bring awareness to the growing importance of these programs in child nutrition, local economies, and education.
What makes farm to school special? The program helps students learn where their food comes from and provides healthy access to more fruits and vegetables. It is an avenue for rural schools to keep spending in their communities with purchases made from local farms and food businesses.
Educators can also weave farm to school into math and science curriculum. The program is a great addition to business and entrepreneurship classes, as well as cooking classes. Imagine learning culinary skills using seasonal, local ingredients and how to buy them.
According to the 2015 U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm to School Census, farm to school programs have invested more than $789 million in local communities; offered 17,089 salad bars with healthy options to students and staff; and grown 7,101 school gardens. Approximately 1,039 school districts serve local foods during the peak season in the summer months and 1,516 school districts start farm to school early in their pre-K programs.
The numbers don’t lie. Farm to school is a win for students, farm, food businesses, and communities. For more information on National Farm to School Month, visit our online toolkit at www.cfra.org/f2smonth.

ViewPoint: School is Back in Session: Practice School Bus Safety

Today marks the first day of school for students in the Union Community School District. As families settle into the new routine that includes getting youngsters to and from school, an important part of the daily commute will involve transportation by way of a school bus.
Each day thousands upon thousands of children board school buses to take them to and from school. Parents and caregivers entrust their children’s well-being to the care of school bus drivers and aides. Although parents may worry about school bus accidents, such accidents are few and far between.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration advises that school buses are designed to be safer than passenger vehicles in avoiding crashes and protecting against injury. Buses are arguably the safest mode of transportation for getting kids to and from school. By keeping millions of cars off the roads surrounding schools, school buses contribute to less crowded roadways, which are less conducive to accidents.
Danger Zone
Though parents may feel buses are most likely to be in accidents while in transit, experts advise that children are more likely to get hurt during pickups and drop-offs when they’re in the “danger zone” of the bus. The danger zone is a 10-foot radius around the outside of the bus. Bus drivers and other motorists find kids in the danger zone are more difficult to see, and children can get struck by either the bus or oncoming cars that fail to stop when the bus is picking kids up or dropping them off.
Knowing the Safety Rules
While a large part of protecting children is on the shoulders of the school bus driver, it is also vital for passengers to learn the basics of school bus safety. Parents can help educate their children about using caution in and around the bus by following these guidelines:
Get to the bus stop 5 to 10 minutes prior to the assigned pickup time. Rushing last-minute can lead to injury, especially if you’re chasing down the bus.
Remain on the sidewalk or grass at the bus stop. Do not step off the curb into the street until the bus has arrived and is completely stopped.
When boarding the bus, go directly to a seat and sit down. Remain seated while the bus is in motion.
Keep voices low so as not to distract the driver.
Keep your head and hands inside of the bus, and never hang out of the window.
Do not throw things on the bus or play rough with friends or classmates.
Keep the aisle clear at all times.
Be careful when boarding and getting off the bus. Only get off at your designated stop unless you have permission to get off elsewhere.
When exiting the bus, walk at least 10 steps past the front of the bus and cross in front where the driver can see you. Do not cross behind the bus.
Wait for the driver to give you a signal that it is safe to cross. Be sure to check that all cars on the road have come to a complete stop.
Get to the sidewalk or off the street as quickly as possible.
Do not get into the cars of strangers waiting around bus stops, even if they offer to take you home.
Safety guidelines are not limited to students only. Each year, bus drivers in our community have the unpleasant task of reporting drivers who fail to obey the flashing lights and the extended stop sign of a school bus. Drivers should never roll past a school bus when its yellow lights are flashing.

ViewPoint: Seven Ways to Make Mornings Less Hectic

Make school and work mornings less harried with some easy tips to add to routines.
Many families find the rush is on to make it to school and work on time each morning. Feeling rushed in the morning is a recipe for added stress. Rushing through things is a poor way to begin a day, and those feelings of uneasiness can put a damper on the rest of the day ahead.
Making mornings less hectic involves a few different strategies that parents and kids can easily incorporate into their daily routines.
1. Wake up slightly earlier. Getting up earlier than normal, even if it’s just 15 to 20 minutes before you’re accustomed to getting out of bed, can help reduce morning stress. Resist the temptation to hit the snooze button over and over again. A few extra minutes each morning can make you feel more relaxed and make for a smooth, stress-free start to the day.
2. Get some work done the night before. Prepare lunches the night before and have them ready in the refrigerator. In addition, lay your clothes for the following day out each night. This saves time and takes a couple more things off your morning to-do list.
3. Ease back into a routine. As a new school year dawns or a long vacation comes to an end, begin going to bed earlier and start waking up earlier as well. This can make the transition from carefree mornings to busy mornings go more smoothly.
4. Prep backpacks in the evening. Look through folders, sign paperwork, check assignments, and do whatever is you need to do the night before to save your family from having to scramble in the morning. This ensures those permission slips get signed and items make it back into school bags.
5. Opt for school lunch a few times. Look ahead on the school lunch menu and speak with children about which meals they enjoy. Let kids purchase school lunch on those days to give yourself a day off from lunch detail.
6. Have quick breakfast foods available. Smoothies, cereal bars, oatmeal, and whole-grain cereals are fast and nutritious ways to start the day.
7. Carpool whenever possible. Busy families can save themselves extra work by proposing a neighborhood carpool. Sharing school drop off detail frees time up for parents once or twice a week, and kids may enjoy traveling to school with their friends. Mornings can be tricky when family members are getting ready for school and work at the same time. By practicing a few daily rituals, it’s possible to curb the rush and start the day happier and more relaxed.

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    Friday, December 15 2017

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