District of Columbia Public Schools Emphasize Student Wellness Using School Specialty's SPARK(TM) Physical Education Program

| Source: School Specialty, Inc

GREENVILLE, Wis., March 17, 2010 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The District of Columbia Public Schools has launched a full-court press to improve the physical fitness and long-term health for all of its students. In support of its recently passed Healthy Schools Act, the district has adopted School Specialty's (Nasdaq:SCHS) SPARK™ Physical Education program. SPARK training for the district's more than 150 PE teachers is currently underway, with curriculum, teacher training, and equipment expected to be provided to all 123 K-12 schools by the end of the 2010-11 school year.

"Healthy students are better learners, and we're confident that by improving their health and fitness, we can improve the success of our academic-focused reform efforts," said Heather Holaday, Program Manager for the District of Columbia Public Schools, which is nationally recognized for its educational reform initiatives. "The SPARK program enables us to raise the energy level and alertness of our students, which helps prepare them to learn. The curriculum gives us new tools and research-proven techniques to ensure our physical education approaches and messaging are consistent, coordinated and effective across all of our schools." 

More than 45 research publications have validated the SPARK program's effectiveness, and it is the only National Institutes of Health-researched program that has been determined to positively affect youth activity levels, fitness, sport skills, enjoyment and academic achievement. In addition, the SPARK program has been honored as an Exemplary Program of the U.S. Department of Education, and cited in the Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health as a "School-based solution to our nation's healthcare crisis." 

"We are delighted that our SPARK program has become part of the exciting educational reform efforts at the District of Columbia Public Schools," said Paul Rosengard, SPARK's Executive Director. "Research shows that students who develop healthy lifestyles at early ages have a better chance to maintain those habits throughout adulthood. By instituting the SPARK PE program, the school district is planting the seeds of success in multiple facets of students' lives, including academic achievement."

The district funded its purchase of the SPARK program through a Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP) grant, a U.S. Department of Education initiative designed to expand or enhance pre-K through 12 physical education programs.   

SPARK programs combine healthy lifestyle messaging and take-home materials with classroom physical activities that emphasize student inclusion to ensure everyone, regardless of athletic ability, experiences success. Through a focus on personal fitness and lifetime sports, the SPARK secondary PE curriculum downplays the competition-based, team sport model. SPARK elementary activities are designed to be more inclusive, active, and fun than traditional PE classes.

About School Specialty

School Specialty (Nasdaq:SCHS) is a leading education company that provides innovative and proprietary products, programs and services to help educators engage and inspire students of all ages and abilities to learn. The company designs, develops, and provides PreK-12 educators with the latest and very best curriculum, supplemental learning resources, and school supplies. Working in collaboration with educators, School Specialty reaches beyond the scope of textbooks to help educators, guidance counselors and school administrators ensure that every student reaches his or her full potential. School Specialty SPARK is a series of research-based curriculum programs, originally funded by the National Institutes of Health and developed by San Diego State University, that promote lifelong wellness. Four program modules focus on Early Childhood, K-12 Physical Education, After School, and Coordinated School Health instruction. Each SPARK program provides curriculum, teacher training, follow-up support and consultation, and content-matched equipment sets, sourced from School Specialty's Sportime product line. For more information about School Specialty, visit www.schoolspecialty.com.

For more information on SPARK, visit www.sparkpe.org or email spark@sparkpe.org or call 1-800-sparkpe.   For more information on this article and/or for a phone interview, contact Billy Beltz, Marketing Director, at bbeltz@sparkpe.org or 1-800sparkpe x2247.

School Specialty, Inc.
Billy Beltz, SPARK Marketing Director
  800-772-7573 x2247 
Corporate Communications 
Mark Fleming