Extra Credit


At home:



  • New York state released results from the state’s last standardized tests this morning. It’s the first test that aligns with the state’s version of the federal Common Core Standards, so the results have a lot to say about testing standards and education accountability. West Virginia is in the process of rolling out its own version of Common Core and that’s been controversial. We’ll get our first clues about the effectiveness of those standards when West Virginia students take a new standardized test themselves. Until then, though, we can look to New York — Gotham Schools is doing a great job of decoding the test score results.
  • I also liked this piece from the Washington Post on what schools across the country are doing to deal with parents who take issue with the teacher their child has been assigned to for the fall. Spoiler: Those parents often get pushy.

The back-to-school vaccine rush

From today’s paper, my story on the rush to immunize local kids before the first day of school.  That can be an ordeal in a normal year, but has the potential to be especially messy this August in Putnam county, where the county health department has at least partially closed in the wake of financial difficulties.

Here’s the crux of the issue, from my story:

Kanawha County schools resume classes in just four days. The Aug. 9 start date is the earliest in county history and has caused a scramble to get all students inoculated in time.

And Kanawha-Charleston also has been covering all clinical services for the Putnam County Health Department, which folded under the weight of a financial crisis in June.

By state law, students must have a host of vaccinations before they can attend classes. As such, Kanawha-Charleston will be open to walk-ins through much of the week.

Last year school systems across the state were struggling to get kids immunized before school because of new state laws that required 7th and 12th grade students to get new vaccines — not just kindergarten and preschool kids like in  past years. At least in Kanawha County, though, officials don’t expect that crunch to be as difficult this year as it was in 2012.

Back to school season is upon us: in stores, kid-sized mannequins are clad in denim, they wear backpacks and carry pencil cases. Students will return from the first day of school — Friday in Kanawha County schools — with lists of supplies for the year.

All that stuff costs money. And because of a few national surveys on the cost of school supplies, we can get an idea of how much.

My colleague Jared wrote last week about Huntington Bank’s “Backpack Index,” which measures the cost of all the things parents usually need to buy kids when they go back to school. The index found that the cost of school supplies increased 7.3 percent since last year. And, Jared wrote:

Parents of elementary and middle school children will pay 5.3 percent more for supplies this year, according to the survey. Huntington said the average elementary school parent is expected to spend about $577 their child’s supplies, while middle school parents should spend about $763.

And check the Backpack Index website for a back-t0-school budgeting tool that is kind of cool.

On the other side of that coin is the National Retail Federation’s annual survey on back-to-school spending — that survey predicts back-to-school spending to be down this year, but still expects total spending to reach $72.5 billion. Of that, back-to-college spending should account for something like $45.8 billion.

For young kids, most of that money will be spent on clothing, apparently:

The biggest portion of back-to-school shoppers’ budgets will go toward new apparel and accessories: 95.3 percent of those with school-age children will spend an average of $230.85 on fall sweaters, denim and other chic pieces of attire. Additionally, families will spend on shoes ($114.39) and school supplies ($90.49).

Fewer families with children in grades K-12 will purchase electronics (55.7%), and those that are going to invest in a new tablet or smartphone are going to spend slightly less than last year ($199.05 vs. $217.88 in 2012).

But for college kids, the most money will go toward technology, and stuff to outfit their dorms and apartments.

Though almost every category will see a decrease in spending, there’s one area that will increase for retailers: dorm and apartment furnishings. Two in five (42.0%) families will spend an average $104.76 on new bedding, small refrigerators and microwaves, up from $100.27 last year. Spending on food items is expected to increase as well ($104.44 vs. $100.18 last year).