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Sportime® Featuring SPARK™ Launches Project IGNITE!, a New Online Resource Developed by Physical Educators for Physical Educators
First-of-its-kind, free-access platform brings the power of collaboration and crowdsourcing for research-based info and best practices in physical education, with the goal of advancing the teaching profession

GREENVILLE, Wis., Oct. 04, 2016 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Sportime® featuring SPARK™, the award-winning physical activity equipment and PE curriculum brand of School Specialty, Inc. (OTCQB:SCOO) (“School Specialty”, “SSI” or “the Company”), is thrilled to announce the availability of its new and industry-first Project IGNITE! platform. This innovative online resource allows administrators, physical educators, university professors, and pre-service teachers to have collaborative conversations about what effective teaching looks like in a physical education and to begin the shift from a teacher evaluation lens to a professional growth mindset.

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“In February 2015, the SPARK Innovation team members were asked a question, ‘what needs to be created to support teachers in being the best they can be for students?’ The discussion that ensued focused on a recurring problem, the minimal knowledge of what evidence-based teaching practices looked like in physical education. Push forward to today and we are launching Project IGNITE!, a resource that includes SPARK Lesson Checklists, an Effective Teaching Resource Document and the much-awaited Project IGNITE! Video Library,” stated Naomi Hartl, PE Development & Technology Specialist, Sportime featuring SPARK. “The purpose of Project IGNITE! is to elevate the profession by providing a platform that shares videos of what effective teaching looks like in a physical education setting, through the free online video library.”

Multiple Resources Support the Physical Educator Community
As part of the Project IGNITE! offering, administrators and teachers can leverage several written and visual resources -- all available for free on SPARKecademy.org:

  • SPARK Lesson Checklists allow teachers to reference quality lesson specifications and to self-reflect on their lessons.
  • Components of Effective Teaching: What Does It Look Like? Resource Document shares simple best practices found in a physical education lesson that can be observed when viewing a lesson.
  • Project IGNITE! Video Library contains a bank of videos that have been crowdsourced and vetted by an elite group of effective physical educators from across the country. These videos show what basic, proficient, and distinguished teaching looks like. The videos align with the Project IGNITE! categories of effective teaching: Design, Instruction, Management and Assessment.

“Project IGNITE! creates a bridge between teacher evaluation systems and physical education. It provides us with common language for principals, supervisors, physical educators, higher education professionals and pre-service teachers around our content and practice,” commented Judy LoBianco, PE Supervisor, South Orange-Maplewood Schools, New Jersey. “Bridging that gap helps us in talking about the language of Danielson and Marzano and translating those pieces into how it should look and sound specific to physical education. Nothing like this has ever been done before. Principals, supervisors, teachers, higher education professionals and pre-service teachers can greatly benefit from this information and reflect on their practice in a way they have never done before.”

A recurring issue in physical education is the lack of knowledge or support for what evidence-based, effective teaching practice looks like in a physical education setting. As a result, physical educators are more often evaluated on subjective criteria (e.g. their students are smiling or seem happy, moving or busy, and exhibiting good behavior) than their classroom peers. The question is, how can teachers and administrators begin a collaborative conversation about teacher growth and student learning if evaluating physical educators is not fully understood? While the physical education classroom may “look” different from a general classroom, both require sound instructional practice, which is essential for an effective physical education program. There are many resources available (i.e. blog posts, journal articles and books) that allow educators to read about what effective teaching looks like, but there aren’t any that give them a bird’s eye view into this unique setting – until now through Project IGNITE!

“Our SPARK Innovation team continually looks for ways to enhance and elevate the physical education profession by developing more ground-breaking solutions that help teachers, administrators and school districts deliver the highest standards and most beneficial instruction,” concluded Dr. Kymm Ballard, Executive Director of SPARK. “We’re extremely excited about the newest Project IGNITE! tool and expect it will have a tremendous impact not only on teachers nationwide who are able to collaborate on best practices and share their expertise, but ultimately their students who stand to gain better learning experiences. We look forward to the platform serving the community to its fullest!”

About Sportime and SPARK
Sportime and SPARK are the two premier physical education brands of School Specialty, Inc., a leading distributor of innovative and proprietary products, programs and services to the education marketplace. Physical fitness is critical to student success and the Company’s products, including Sportime PE Equipment and innovative physical education curriculum from SPARK are carefully selected to enhance physical development, help children enjoy physical activity and show them how to be active throughout their lifetime. Through Sportime’s complete selection of high-quality fitness and sports equipment, including balls, jump ropes, and bean bags, we are able to help educators engage and energize students to get active today and sustain a healthy lifestyle tomorrow.

For more information on Sportime featuring SPARK, go to www.sportime.com. Follow us on social media: @Sportime_SPARK for Twitter and /SportimeSPARK for Facebook.

About School Specialty, Inc.
School Specialty is a leading distributor of innovative and proprietary products, programs and services to the education marketplace. The Company designs, develops, and provides educators with the latest and very best school supplies, furniture and both curriculum and supplemental learning resources. Working in collaboration with educators, School Specialty reaches beyond the scope of textbooks to help teachers, guidance counselors and school administrators ensure that every student reaches his or her full potential. Through its SSI Guardian subsidiary, the Company is also committed to school, healthcare and corporate workplace safety by offering the highest quality curriculum, training and safety and security products. Finally, through its SOAR Life Products brand, the Company offers thousands of products that sharpen cognitive skills and build physical and mental strength in fun and creative ways. From childhood through adulthood, they help individuals live life to the fullest – engaged, happy and well.  SOAR Life Products is a customized offering for hospitals, long-term care, therapeutic facilities, home care, surgery centers, day care centers, physician offices, and clinics. For more information about School Specialty, visit www.schoolspecialty.com.

@SchoolSpecialty
Connect with School Specialty on social media; search School Specialty on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. For Ideas and resources, educational trends and inspiration for today’s educators – visit the Schoolyard blog.

Company Contact:
Katie Fenton
Marketing Manager, Sportime featuring SPARK
Tel: 800-772-7573 ext. 2212
Email: katie.fenton@sportime.com

Media Contacts:
Glenn Wiener and Dionne Manchester
GW Communications (for School Specialty)
Tel: 212-786-6011 / 212-786-6068
Email: gwiener@GWCco.com / dionne@GWCco.com

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