Advocates Urge Greater Emphasis on Fitness in Schools

09

Dec
2015
Posted By : Erin Bruening Comments are off
Categories :Newsroom

Pictures by SAUL YOUNG

Pictures by SAUL YOUNG

Originally published by Knoxville News Sentinel

by John Shearer

at Dec 8th, 2015

OAK RIDGE — Spotting the 6-foot-2 Women’s National Basketball Association and former Tennessee Lady Vol basketball star Tamika Catchings doing some dribbling drills with first-graders in the Woodland Elementary School gym Tuesday morning was easy.

But figuring out whether she or the group of nearly 20 youngsters half her height was having more fun was a little more challenging.

“I can say without hesitation that physical activity and physical education have been tremendously important in my life,” she said after running around with the children in Jeremy Carringer’s class for nearly 30 minutes.

The longtime star of the Indiana Fever and member of the 1997-98 national championship team at Tennessee under coach Pat Summitt said sports helped her overcome self-consciousness over her hearing and speech problems as a child.

She also hoped her participation in Tuesday’s event announcing two major developments related to physical fitness would help people hear more clearly the call to have physical education a required part of school curriculums.

She was on hand along with retired UT athletics director Joan Cronan and other youth sports fitness advocates to announce the release of a youth fitness study and to say a state physical education bill will be introduced next year.

Pictures by SAUL YOUNG

Pictures by SAUL YOUNG

The bill, if passed, would require that every Tennessee student from kindergarten through fifth grade take at least two gym classes during a regular school week.

The bill, to be introduced by state Rep. Roger Kane, R-Karns, is being called the Tom Cronan Physical Education Act in honor of Cronan’s husband, who was an exercise physiology professor at Carson-Newman University in Jefferson City.

“Like me, Tom was an advocate for living an active lifestyle and promoting fitness, particularly in children,” said Cronan, who said she played three competitive sports as a youth before her college coaching and sports administration career.

Catchings enthusiastically endorsed the bill.

“The bill could make a difference in our Tennessee youth,” she said, saying 60 percent of high school students in Tennessee don’t get any physical education during the school week.

Pictures by SAUL YOUNG

Pictures by SAUL YOUNG

Representatives of the Champions for America’s Future organization also released a study that concluded gym helps youngsters learn how to be active for life and that it can also help them compete better in the classroom.

Burton said Tennessee is one of only eight states in the country that does not require gym class in elementary school. Costanza noted studies show regular physical activity lowers the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and some cancers.

The Early Education Movement in Michigan Isn’t Done Yet.

20

Oct
2015
Posted By : Erin Bruening Comments are off
Categories :Newsroom

DUSTIN DWYER

DUSTIN DWYER

at OCT 14, 2015

Shortly before 10 a.m., the tall strangers in business suits arrive for their tour.

“Morning,” says Denise Brown, who is not a stranger, and not in a suit. She leads this early childhood program at Campus Elementary in Grand Rapids. She’s today’s tour guide for the tall strangers in suits.

“Wow, I’m overwhelmed with 20 of you,” Brown says.

Two years ago, the state of Michigan made a major new investment in preschool. Since then, state funding to help four year olds attend preschool has more than doubled. About 14,000 more children now have access to preschool.

Many of the tall strangers on this tour were deeply involved in making that investment happen. But they’re not done yet. And today’s event is, ultimately, about keeping the movement going.

They step into one of the site’s six classrooms, with a diverse group of preschoolers gathered on a blue rug, singing a song. It goes:

“Lets sing hello, hello, hello …”

The tall strangers watch and smile. This is for them, the best part of the day. This, they will say later, is what it’s all about.

Later, in a conference room, one shelf lined with bagels and coffee, and at the other end of the room, a podium. A podium where one of the tall strangers in a suit, Judi Brown Clarke, talks about the need to give children an early start on education. An early start on a positive self image. An early start on a path toward graduation.

“So anything we can do,” she says, “we stand ready.”

Brown Clarke is a member of the Lansing City Council. She’s also a former Olympian, and what one of the organizers of this event calls an “unexpected messenger” to build the case for investments in the state’s youngest children.

Another unexpected messenger: a retired general, Tom Cutler, who once led Michigan’s National Guard, and who was a wing commander at Selfridge Air National Guard base, where he says recruiting was a huge challenge.

“And guess what the barriers to recruiting often were?” he says to the group. “Education. Physical fitness. Problems with crime in their past … 71 percent of young people really can’t even qualify to entertain having a life in the military.”

Decades of research into the benefits of early childhood education show how it leads to better health, less crime and higher academic achievement later in life.

That’s the message this group is working to send, to convince political leaders to invest more in programs to help the youngest children.

And they’ve been successful. Here in Michigan, funding for preschool has gone up by $140 million in the past two years. Thousands of families that couldn’t afford preschool before now, can.

“Yes we were successful in getting more funding for four-year-old pre-K,” says Matt Gillard of Michigan’s Children. “But the research, and everything indicates that there’s a lot more to do around early childhood than just four-year-old pre-K.”

I caught up with Matt Gillard, president of a group called Michigan’s Children, after the meeting

“You guys fought for extra funding for preschool,” I said. “You won. So why are you still talking about it?

“Well, because there’s much more to do,” Gillard said. “I mean, yes we were successful in getting more funding for four-year-old pre-K, but the research, and everything indicates that there’s a lot more to do around early childhood than just four-year-old pre-K, especially with the kids facing the most barriers, and from the most vulnerable situations. And so there’s a lot more that other states are doing. There’s a lot of success out there. There’s a lot communities are doing. And I think there’s a lot more work to be done in Lansing, and by our state legislature if we really want to make Michigan the best place to raise a child.”

Gillard, and the other adults in suits, are well-aware of the challenges they face while legislators consider other budget priorities – the push for more road funding is one example.

But preschool’s supporters heard those counter-arguments before. They won funding for four year olds. Now they want to win funding for programs that serve kids age zero to three.

COMMENTARY: Kids Need to Learn Life Skills

15

Oct
2015
Posted By : Erin Bruening Comments are off
Categories :Newsroom
(Photo: Craeg Photography)

(Photo: Craeg Photography)

Originally published in the Courier-Post 

by APRIL HOLMES and STEVE MESLER

at 2:57 p.m. EDT October 13, 2015

One of us is a Paralympic gold medalist in the 100-meter dash who grew up near Camden. The other is an Olympic gold medalist in bobsled from Buffalo. The obvious connection between us is athletics. The subtler link is that we were both raised not only with a strong work ethic, but also within an environment that fostered social skills and emotional stability.

Those values are a major reason we work with Classroom Champions, a program that’s expanding in Camden and Philadelphia that creates virtual mentorship relationships between Olympians and Paralympians and underserved schools across the country. Connecting an athlete’s message with a kid who may not have the same advantages we did can make a major difference in that child’s life.

We’re two of the lucky ones. But a lot of kids — including many of the students in the schools Classroom Champions works with — face problems throughout life that are a byproduct of deficits in social-emotional learning.

It’s easy to take for granted that children will learn how to socialize properly. People often assume that kids naturally understand how to cope with the full range of emotions that life has to offer. The reality is that learning those skills doesn’t come easy for a lot of children.

Both of us had adults in our lives from a young age who helped us cultivate healthy relationships and learn how to behave properly around other people. Many children don’t have that kind of guiding influence. They end up facing problems throughout life that are a byproduct of deficits in social-emotional learning.

Social-emotional learning is an educational approach focusing on life skills that will help students become well-adjusted adults. Social-emotional learning helps teach kids basic concepts like taking turns, managing emotions, making sound decisions, resisting negative peer pressure and working well in groups.

Research highlighted by the sports leader group Champions for America’s Future reflects just how crucial social-emotional learning development can be: In a study that began two decades ago as part of the Fast Track Project in central Pennsylvania, Nashville, Durham and Seattle, teachers assessed students’ “social competence,” based on social-emotional learning-related criteria such as cooperation with peers and understanding others’ feelings.

The final results of the study came in earlier this year, and they are remarkable: A child’s social-emotional development level upon entering kindergarten can predict with significant accuracy a host of life outcomes by age 25. Those outcomes include whether the child will need special-education services, graduate from high school on time, live in public housing, ever receive public assistance, ever be arrested, ever stay in a detention facility or have stable employment.

Those life-altering possibilities, ranging from education to crime to public assistance to career prospects, speak to the importance of social-emotional learning .

One particularly stunning revelation from the study is that kindergartners who scored well on teachers’ assessments of their social skills were twice as likely to graduate from college than children who scored poorly.

What these results tell us is that a foundation for lifelong success must be laid in the first years. That’s why we need to invest in quality early-childhood and middle-childhood programs that stress social-emotional learning.

Both of us are fortunate enough to work with children on a regular basis through our foundations. Many of these children face unique challenges in life. We see the tangible benefits of social-emotional learning firsthand, particularly for children in kindergarten through eighth grade.

Yet so much social-emotional development occurs — or doesn’t — before kids reach kindergarten that making sure our youngest learners get social-emotional learning-focused instruction is especially critical. Early-childhood education programs can help kids become productive members of society, while also fostering a lifelong culture of health.

We should make a commitment to teach social-emotional learning skills in preschool, as well as maintaining that commitment into elementary and middle school. Investing in quality early-childhood and middle-childhood programs with an emphasis on social-emotional learning should be a goal for everyone who wants to give all children the best chance to become stable, educated and ambitious adults.

April Holmes is a Paralympic gold medalist in track and field, Classroom Champions mentor and member of Champions for America’s Future. Steve Mesler is an Olympic gold medalist in bobsled, co-founder, president and CEO of Classroom Champions and member of Champions for America’s Future.

Shannon Boxx on Unexpected Messengers for Early Childhood Panel

14

Oct
2015
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Categories :Newsroom

Champions for America’s Future member and World Cup and Olympic soccer champion Shannon Boxx participated in the featured “Unexpected Messengers for Early Childhood” panel at the 2015 ReadyNation Global Business Summit for Early Childhood Investments.  Ms. Boxx discussed the importance of early childhood advocacy from her perspective as a sports leader.  The panel featured a prominent member from the Council for a Strong America’s (CSA) five organizations.  Each of the five panelists offered a unique point-of-view on how to advocate effectively for investments in early childhood.

Road to success is paved in earliest years: Classroom Champions focuses on social-emotional learning

18

Sep
2015
Posted By : Erin Bruening Comments are off
Categories :Newsroom, Uncategorized
From left in the back row, Steve Mesler, Houghton Academy teacher Noah Spalding, Leigh Parise and Mayor Byron Brown gather with three Classroom Champions students from Spalding’s class at this summer’s Corporate Challenge in Delaware Park.

From left in the back row, Steve Mesler, Houghton Academy teacher Noah Spalding, Leigh Parise and Mayor Byron Brown gather with three Classroom Champions students from Spalding’s class at this summer’s Corporate Challenge in Delaware Park.

 Originally published in The Buffalo News

By Steve Mesler

Member, Champions for America’s Future

SPECIAL TO THE NEWS

on September 6, 2015 – 12:01 AM

One of the most rewarding moments I’ve had during my years of working with students from underserved communities came when one of the children spontaneously reminded me to wear my protective vest as I prepared for a bobsled competition.

This was a big deal. It showed me that the kids were learning something just as important as math or reading: They were learning empathy.

Many of us take social skills and emotional stability for granted, but those elements don’t come easy for a lot of children. Growing up in Buffalo, I was fortunate to have two parents who were both teachers. They instilled in me from an early age not only the value of education, but also the value of cultivating healthy relationships that helped me learn how to behave properly.

Those values are a major reason why my sister, Leigh Parise, Ph.D., and I created Classroom Champions, a program we’re expanding in Buffalo that creates virtual mentorship relationships between Olympians and Paralympians and underserved schools across the country.

Connecting an athlete’s message with a kid who may not have the same advantages I did can make a major difference in that child’s life.

I’m one of the lucky ones. But a lot of kids – including many of the students in the schools that Classroom Champions works with – face problems throughout life that are a byproduct of deficits in social-emotional learning.

Social-emotional learning (SEL) is an educational approach focusing on life skills that will help students become well-adjusted adults. SEL helps teach kids basic concepts like taking turns, managing emotions, making sound decisions, resisting negative peer pressure and working well in groups.

A child’s understanding of SEL concepts by the time he or she reaches kindergarten can be so pivotal that it can predict behavioral patterns stretching well into adulthood.

Research highlighted by the sports leader group Champions for America’s Future reflects that reality: In a study that began two decades ago as part of the Fast Track Project in central Pennsylvania, Nashville, Durham and Seattle, teachers assessed students’ “social competence,” based on SEL-related criteria such as cooperation with peers and understanding others’ feelings.

Researchers announced the results of the study this past July. The take-home point was that social-emotional development by the time kids reach kindergarten can predict with significant accuracy a host of life outcomes by age 25. These outcomes include graduating from high school on time, stable employment, needing special-education services, living in public housing, receiving public assistance, being arrested and having ever stayed in a detention facility.

That range of impacts, from crime reduction to educational success to less reliance on government assistance programs, speaks to the breadth of benefits of SEL.

In fact, one staggering revelation from the study data is that kindergartners who scored well on teachers’ assessments of their social skills were twice as likely to graduate from college than children who scored poorly.

What these results tell us is that the road to success is paved in the earliest years. That’s why we need to invest in quality early-childhood programs, including programs that stress social-emotional learning.

As someone who works with K-8 students, every day I see tangible benefits to SEL for kids older than 5. And since so much social-emotional development can occur before kids reach kindergarten, expanding access to quality preschool can help our youngest learners get an important jump-start. Early-childhood education programs can help kids to become productive members of society, while also fostering a lifelong culture of health.

Investing in quality education programs with an emphasis on SEL should be a goal for everyone who wants to give all children an opportunity to become educated, committed and ambitious adults.

Steve Mesler, an Olympic gold medalist and world champion bobsledder, is president and CEO of Classroom Champions.

Coach K – Quality Pre-K Is a Win for Everyone

27

Jul
2015
Posted By : Sara Pruzin Comments are off
Categories :Newsroom

Quality Preschool Is a Win for Everyone | Commentary

Georgia Tech v. Duke.  Duke won 72-66.  Head coach Mike Krzyzewski honored for 1000th win which occurred two games previous.  Wednesday February 4, 2015. (Jon Gardiner/Duke Photography)

Georgia Tech v. Duke. Duke won 72-66. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski honored for 1000th win which occurred two games previous. Wednesday February 4, 2015.
(Jon Gardiner/Duke Photography)

Just eight and a half minutes into our ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament semifinal, the scoreboard read “Notre Dame 18, Duke 5.”

As the coach of the guys who had 5 points, this was a less-than-ideal scenario.

We eventually lost, 74-64. The lesson? Falling behind is a tough obstacle to overcome, even if there’s a lot of time left on the clock.

Being talented helps. Hard work matters, too. But, even with ability and effort on your side, facing a sizable early deficit makes it difficult to win ballgames.

Unfortunately, the grim message on the scoreboard that night in March is an apt metaphor for the situation in which many young children find themselves today.

At-risk kids who can’t access high-quality preschool experiences face an early deficit of their own — except the stakes are much higher than the outcome of a basketball game.

Wisconsin v Duke.  NCAA Championship. Duke won 68-63.  Lucas Oil Stadium Indianapolis, IN.  April 6, 2015. (Jon Gardiner/Duke Photography)

Wisconsin v Duke. NCAA Championship. Duke won 68-63. Lucas Oil Stadium Indianapolis, IN. April 6, 2015. (Jon Gardiner/Duke Photography)

Without the benefit of quality early education, children’s math and literacy skills can be up to 18 months behind those of their more-advantaged peers by the time these kids start kindergarten. Adults may not see an 18-month deficit as insurmountable, but remember that a year and a half represents nearly one-third of a 5-year-old’s life.

That’s a huge disadvantage. Far worse than being down by 13 points in a basketball game. These children might be scrambling to catch up for the rest of their education — and possibly for the rest of their lives.

That’s bad for the children, bad for their teachers and bad for the country.

Helping kids erase that learning gap is one reason I established the Emily K Center, named in honor of my mother, in 2006. I care deeply about making sure children have the resources they need to compete. All of us at the center want kids to dream big, act with character and purpose, and reach their potential as leaders in their communities. The center provides a variety of services that prepare kids from low-income families for success at all levels of education.

The experience of working with the Emily K Center reinforced my understanding of just how challenging school can be for underprivileged children. Children who aren’t “ready to learn” when they begin kindergarten face a major uphill battle.

Research highlighted by Champions for America’s Future shows that quality early learning experiences help kids develop social skills that support academic achievement. These experiences form a foundation for math and literacy so children are ready to learn when they begin kindergarten.

Quality early-education programs can help lead to higher rates of high-school graduation, college attendance and employment, and they promote a lifelong culture of health. Children everywhere need to have the best chance possible to reach those results.

We now have an incredible opportunity to help these children.

Congress has begun to take important, bipartisan steps to make quality early learning available to more kids. They’re doing that through reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the education law that promotes educational opportunity for all children.

An amendment added to the Senate bill while in committee would give states and communities more funding to create and improve access to quality preschool programs, especially for kids from low- and moderate-income households. Today, hundreds of thousands of families can’t afford preschool, which costs an average of $4,000 to $13,000 per year, depending on location.

But Congress needs not only to reauthorize the ESEA, but also to include this critical funding stream in the final version. I sincerely hope our leaders in Washington will recognize that learning begins at birth, not on the first day of kindergarten.

Access to high-quality early education is essential to preparing kids to be as competitive as possible in their academic careers and beyond. Success in the modern workplace is based largely on abilities that begin to develop in the preschool years, such as collaboration, creativity and critical thinking. We want children to have those skills.

Our basketball team was able to recover from that setback against Notre Dame and go on to win a national championship. But too many children who fall behind in their learning won’t have the luxury of another chance at victory. If they can’t beat the odds and rally, their game will be over.

Giving young children the educational opportunities they deserve will make winners of us all.

Mike Krzyzewski is the head men’s basketball coach at Duke University and the founder of the Emily Krzyzewski Center in Durham, N.C.

Photos credited to: Duke Photography / Duke Sports Information.

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Judi Brown Clarke: All Kids Deserve Educational Opportunities

27

Jul
2015
Posted By : Sara Pruzin Comments are off
Categories :Newsroom

(Originally published in the Lansing State-Journal on July 17, 2015)

Competition on the world stage is personal to me, but it’s more than just athletics. Representing the United States at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles is one of the great honors of my life. Part of that honor comes from the passion and support I felt from my fellow Americans. Millions of Americans watched on television and opened their newspapers each day to follow our progress as we won a record 83 gold medals.

The pride I feel about how well our country performed athletically in 1984 is equaled by the concern I feel about how our country is performing academically today: American children rank 27th among developed nations in math achievement, 17th in reading, and 20th in science. Here in Michigan, only 37% of fourth-graders are proficient in math, 30% are proficient readers, and nearly a quarter of our students fail to graduate from high school on time.

As a Lansing City Council member and someone who has worked in education for decades, I know the nation’s interest in and support for our Olympic athletes sadly doesn’t match the outcry over our grim academic statistics.

The path to academic improvement can be likened to an athlete’s Olympic journey. None of us simply showed up expecting to medal. We began our training as children, building on a foundation of early development, with support from our families, coaches and others who prepared us to be our best.

The same principle holds true when it comes to the impact of quality early learning.

Research highlighted by Champions for America’s Future speaks to this impact. Here in Michigan, a long-term study of kids in our Great Start Readiness program showed a 35% increase in high-school graduation rates compared to kids who didn’t participate.

Many of these benefits extend into the workforce. By age 40, individuals who had been served by Michigan’s Perry Preschool program were earning 36% more than those who hadn’t.

Today, our nation has a terrific opportunity to put more kids on that track toward success. Congress is considering steps to increase access to quality early-learning experiences through the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the law that promotes educational opportunity for all children.

A dedicated funding stream for quality early education through a renewed ESEA would provide Michigan’s Great Start Readiness Program — the state-funded preschool program — with resources that would enable many more children to participate. It would be a competitive step toward a stronger future workforce.

While the honor of Olympic achievement is bestowed upon a select few, the challenge facing our kids and our nation affects everyone. Let’s demonstrate we’re up to the task by ensuring all children are prepared to go the distance as competent students and citizens in the years to come.

Judi Brown Clarke is diversity director for the National Science Foundation’s Bio-Computational Evolution in Action Consortium at Michigan State University.

Champions for America’s Future joins the Congressional Women’s Softball Game

01

Jul
2015
Posted By : Sara Pruzin Comments are off
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On Wednesday, June 24, members of Champions for America’s Future helped out with the 7th annual Congressional Women’s Softball Game in Washington, D.C., where female members of Congress and the Press battled each other in a friendly game to raise funds and awareness for young women with breast cancer. Champs member Shelley Smith, a legendary ESPN journalist and breast cancer survivor, threw the honorary first pitch, while Carol Hutchins (“Hutch”), head coach of the University of Michigan‘s softball team, served as an umpire for the game.

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Apr
2015
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Michigan Law Enforcement, Business, Faith-Based, Sports, and Retired Military Leaders Release Video: Tout Benefits of High-Quality Preschool—Two Years Best

09

Mar
2015
Posted By : Sara Pruzin Comments are off
Categories :Newsroom

(LANSING, MI) — Michigan leaders today released a new video touting that high-quality preschool helps to lay the foundation for a child’s success in school and beyond.

The leaders in law enforcement, business, faith-based organizations, sports, and the retired military released the video on behalf of Council for a Strong America (CSA) and its five membership organizations under its umbrella. The CSA nonprofit organizations comprise the unique and powerful voices of leaders in the five different sectors who are working to ensure young Michiganians have access to high-quality early childhood care and education proven to prepare individuals for success.
(more…)

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