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What Will the Fall 2021 School Semester Look Like?

Jul-28, 2021

An older sister with a laptop and a younger sister with a tablet sit on a bed wearing headphones and pajamas.

As back-to-school time approaches, schools around the country are finalizing what instruction will look like for students in Fall 2021. What can parents expect from this school year, and how will it differ from last year? Let's go over some certainties, some predictions and some best guesses.

Unlike previous semesters, school instruction in Fall 2021 will be the most varied state-to-state and district-to-district that it has ever been. Vaccination availability and incentives, mask mandates, social distancing and other policies are inconsistent across the country. Additionally, since children under 12 are not permitted to be vaccinated (as of this date) and school staff are under no obligation to disclose their vaccination status, administrators can make no assumptions about the safety from or communicability of the COVID virus in their schools. This will impact different school districts differently, depending on how they're managed.

While in-person classes will most likely happen almost unilaterally, the hybrid model of teaching, combining in-person with virtual teaching on different days of the week, will probably be the go-to method of instruction as well. School districts have invested millions of dollars in technology necessary for students and staff to take their learning online, with even more orders for laptops pending for the 2021-2022 school year. With so much money, time and effort devoted to teaching via computers, schools are highly incentivized to make the most out of this investment. And as we've discussed, using technology, when properly handled, can have a positive effect on kids' education.

Another concern for schools is being called the "kindergarten bubble." As many parents have delayed enrolling their children in kindergarten during the pandemic, there may be a massive surge in enrollment for the 2021-2022 school year. Add to this the troubling number of children who have not been advancing through their school levels that may have been in normal circumstances, and you have enrollment numbers much higher than schools may be prepared for. This bubble, however large it is, will pass through the next 12 years of instruction and into college/university level. What will the college application process look like for this age group? Fortunately, we're over a decade away from this situation. The more pressing concern is finding enough support in an early childhood education landscape already marked by many problems like underfunding and understaffing.

Though there are many reasons to be concerned about the coming school year, there is also a lot of hope. Many parents and students are eager to go back to in-person instruction and regain the benefits of social interaction and human contact. What is clear is that, until we can welcome kids back to school face-to-face, we won't be able to accurately assess the full effects of the pandemic on our children and their education. Once we do, we'll be able to create a plan to truly move forward.

Tags COVID-19

Feed My Starving Children | Best Brains Volunteers

May-10, 2021

Best Brains' corporate staff recently participated in a Feed My Starving Children volunteer event in Schaumburg, Illinois by assembling and packaging much-needed food to be distributed to hungry children around the world.

"Feed My Starving Children provides an opportunity for us to bond as a team while we can contribute to the well-being of kids who need our help," explained Puja Chokshi, our Franchising Lead and coordinator of the event.

Feed My Starving Children is a nonprofit organization founded in 1987. Based in Minnesota, FMSC has several branches around the US. The goal of Feed My Starving Children is to combat world hunger by partnering with other non-profit organizations to provide balanced and nutritious meals called MannaPacks. Each MannaPacks is assembled by hand, combining dried vegetables, soy-based protein, rice, and a vitamin-rich flavoring powder together into a nutrient-dense and easy to prepare meal. Each MannaPack provides a meal for a family of 6 and is used by their partners to give out to families in need, to provide a healthy and tasty school lunch or however the aid organization sees fit.

Volunteers assemble MannaPacks by hand, observing strict sanitation guidelines. FMSC provides instructions on what to do, shares the impact volunteers have to combat world hunger and keeps a fun, competitive atmosphere during the packing session. Divided into teams, volunteers compete to see who can make the most MannaPacks in the allotted time while the staff plays upbeat music. Lots of organizations use FMSC volunteering sessions as a teambuilding event. Children are also allowed to participate, making it a popular and very thoughtful birthday party activity.

As we celebrate 10 years as a company, Vice President Hana Adas has prioritized finding opportunities to give back. "Best Brains has provided tens of thousands of kids with a quality education and there is so much more that we can do for kids not just here, but everywhere."

We are so proud to contribute to FMSC's mission to provide quality nutrition to kids around the world. Food insecurity is a major issue at home and abroad which impacts the quality of life of children who deserve to grow, learn and thrive.

For $88 you can feed a child in need for an entire year. Donate here to contribute.

Looking for artisan goods made locally to support their communities? Check out the FMSC MarketPlace!

This is Not the Summer for Fun

Apr-16, 2021

A girl holding a medical mask up to her face while on the beach.

Day by day, we have been transitioning back into our normal routines, eager to leave quarantine life in the dust. While it feels exciting, hopeful and liberating, we're also faced with the reality of what has been lost.

For our children, a year at home in front of the computer has left them lonely and unsupported. Although many dedicated educators have stepped up, to do their best to make distance learning work for all children, the truth is that even a superhero wouldn't have been able to help every child. Our children need help, and they need help NOW.

Unfortunately, this is not the summer for just fun. If you don't have a game plan for your child now, they will get left behind. In fact, children who aren't involved in some type of supplemental education in the summer regress in their education and, after this past year, losing more ground is the last thing your child needs.

It's time to FIGHT BACK against learning loss! Lucky for you we've been working hard since the initial COVID outbreak helping children not only stay on track, but also excel. According to a recent survey, 96% of parents reported that their children have been performing better academically during the pandemic, and we couldn't be prouder! As we open our centers to in-person classes once again, we welcome both old and new children back, so that they can experience the same success.

Everyone knows teachers don't stop working in the summer and Best Brains' teachers are no exception. School may be out for summer, but our state-certified teachers are still in our classrooms pushing our children to achieve their best potential. They have the necessary protective equipment, sanitizing wipes and a dedication to education unparalleled in our industry. They are ready to welcome your children back into our centers.

As much as we'd like to, we can't hide from what has happened. We have to face the future head-on. Best Brains provides a supportive, nurturing and safe environment for children. This gives them the confidence they need to go after their dreams, to ask questions and to make their voices heard. They're not giving up and we won't either! Every decision we make is designed to help them be their best because your child deserves the absolute best.


Tags COVID-19

Can You Afford to Sit Out the ACT/SAT?

Mar-22, 2021

A group of high school students sitting on the stairs and looking at their homework.

Sometimes it feels like a child's entire life is just one long build up to taking the ACT or the SAT test! And while attending a four-year American college or university is not the best lifepath for everyone, it's always important for our kids to have options, and scoring well on the ACT or SAT opens many paths to success, not the mention builds a strong academic foundation that kids can apply to any area of their life!

Students scheduled to sit their ACT or SAT exams faced a huge hurdle in 2020, with the pandemic and social distancing causing exams to be cancelled, postponed, or offering extremely limited seating. Colleges responded in turn, many, especially state colleges, waiving their ACT/SAT requirements, and even merit-based scholarship qualifications. People have been questioning for years whether the ACTs and SATs are a necessary component of the college application process. Will ACT and SAT requirements continue to drop off in a post-COVID future?

This simple answer is No. Even if some public universities drop the ACTs or SATs, they will still be a major determining factor in deciding which students can attend the more prestigious universities in the US, where competition for spots is fierce and every point matters. Secondly, many merit-based scholarships rely on these scores as an indication of who is deserving of funding. Sitting out these tests can cost a child thousands of dollars in the long run. Finally, many states have turned to the ACTs and SATs in recent years as part of their graduation requirements. Statewide testing can be expensive, both to develop and to proctor. Relying on the ACTs and SATs to measure students' success while continually working on improving the test itself take a huge burden off of their shoulders.

When we think of the ACTs or SATs, we tend to think of a number, but not about what that number represents. For a child to achieve a high test score, it represents so many things. It's a test of their patience and perseverance. It's a measure of their confidence, self-sufficiency, and determination. It represents the depth and breadth of knowledge that they have acquired up to that point. We have always believed that test scores are an indication of success, not the success in itself.

If your child needs help achieving success on their tests, our long-term test prep course can give them the tools they need, either in the classroom or online!

Best Brains' New Coding Program Makes STEM Fun!

Feb-22, 2021

A child working at a computer on a programming exercise

Best Brains Coding Program is here! Coding has been a highly requested and hotly anticipated addition to the Best Brains catalogue of outstanding programs. It's also the most requested alongside our Public Speaking and Creative Writing classes. We're so excited to share this program with you, and to grow and expand these programs in the coming months!

Coding programs have exploded in popularity over the last few years, and it's easy to see why! As our world becomes more and more automated, digital, and plugged in, more and more code is required to do the heavy lifting to keep this world running. A basic understanding of computer science will be essential for our kids as they grow up and enter the workforce, and more and more jobs will require computer literacy to stay relevant.

STEM education is vital for our kid's success, not only to challenge them academically but to impart valuable 21st century skills. Coding courses engage logical and creative thinking at once, making them the perfect choice for a growing mind. Plus, most kids love new media and are endlessly curious about how it works and how they can create content of their own!

Is my child old enough for Coding classes?

We've designed several levels of courses to provide content for kids across a wide spectrum of ages. Since coding requires a certain level of math literacy, we start beginner courses at 1st Grade. We offer classes for kids all the way up to 8th Grade, when they are ready to use the skills they've learned in the real world.

What types of Coding courses are available?

Currently, we are offering 3 types of Coding courses. Students can take all courses appropriate for their age level before graduating to the next step, or they can focus on a single platform. These are the platforms we currently offer:

  • Scratch – Fun, colorful, and user-friendly. Coding in Scratch is perfect for beginning learners of any age. Our Scratch courses incorporate animation and sound to teach students coding fundamentals, how computer logic functions, and how to create working code. Scratch is an excellent introduction to coding, full of engaging content kids love to interact with.
  • Python – A coding language used by many developers, Python class teaches students how to write and debug code as well as create their own interactive programs. Emphasizing logic, critical thinking, and creativity, Python courses challenge students to develop and execute programs similar to those used in the real world. These courses provide valuable skills for students with a casual interest in coding, as well as give a solid foundation for students who want to pursue developing and programing as a hobby or career.
  • Web Development – These days, everyone has a website. Websites are the digital storefronts through which we interact with the online world. Best Brains Web Development courses cover all aspects of web page creation, from user experience to interface design to coding functionality. Students also learn the components to make a compelling website people love to visit. Graduates of our web development courses will be able to build a professional looking website for their own use, whether to promote their creative endeavors, host their resume and accomplishments for college applications, or be the face of their start-up company selling goods or services.

Is it safe to let our kids online?

Internet safety is a huge concern for us, and teaching internet safety is an integral component of our Coding programs. Students are well informed about proper internet usage, potential dangers and hazards of being online, and how to protect themselves and their identities. Plus, they are under supervision from our instructors during class time to ensure proper conduct. Best Brains students who take our Coding courses are not just more computer literate than their peers, they're more computer savvy, too!

Will my Best Brains location offer Coding classes?

Coding is a brand-new class for us, and while we'd like every center to be involved, the program might not be available right away. Contact your local center to get more information about when Coding will be available in your area!

If you're ready to get started with Coding, you can enroll in our Online Coding courses now.

Can my child's friends also take Coding with Best Brains?

Does your child have friends that don't currently attend classes with Best Brains but might be interested in Coding? They're welcome to join! Just like any of our optional programs, Coding is available to anyone who meets the requirements. And remember, any child you refer to us earns you a $25 credit towards your next month's tuition.


The Results of our 2020 End of Year Survey

Jan-11, 2021

A woman sitting in a board room meeting with all participants masked

Now that 2020 has come to a close, we have the opportunity to look back and reflect on our accomplishments for this year. We have had much to celebrate in 2020. We opened over a dozen new locations across the US and Canada. We added online features for the safety and convenience of our parents. We created new programs, and put hundreds of hours into projects that you'll be hearing more about in the coming months.

But beyond this, we wanted to know how much we've accomplished according to you, our Best Brains families. So, we sent out a survey, asking for your opinions regarding our performance. But more importantly, we also wanted to gauge the effectiveness of our program, and how beneficial Best Brains has been to the academic success of your children.

The response to our 2020 Year End Survey was overwhelming. We were thrilled by the number of responses we got, and are already planning more ways for us to engage directly with Best Brains families in the future.

Your responses to our questions were also humbling. We received so much feedback, from positive praise to constructive criticism, and it has provided a way forward for us, with many new goals to achieve as we move into 2021.

First of all, we wanted to learn how effective our program is for you. To our delight, 96% of you reported improvement on your child's report cards, almost universal agreement that Best Brains is working for your kids. What an achievement this is! This is validation for the quality of our curriculum, the effectiveness of our teachers, and the dedication of our students to use these tools to improve.

Next, we looked at the value of Best Brains beyond homework and test scores. Does their involvement in Best Brains improve all aspects of a child's academic life? You confirmed that it does. Over 90% of you reported increased participation and confidence in class. This shows us that our students are more active and engaged in their education, thanks to the support they get from us.

We also asked you to tell us what skills have improved in your child since starting class with us. The number 1 answer was better understanding. As you know, this is what we strive for. We don't just want our students to know the answer to the question. We want them to know why they know it, and how they know it. Having a well-rounded understanding of academic concepts builds a foundation to learn any topic, and deepened understanding increases the amount a child is able to learn.

So, with all this success, is there any room for improvement? Of course there is! Our philosophy is "Be Your Best," which means we strive every day to be better than we were the day before. So, how can we improve our product to bring even more value to you.

We were happy to see at the level of interest you demonstrated in some of our additional programs. As you may know, beyond the Math, English, Abacus, and GK programs we provide at every location, we have a number of additional programs available like Public Speaking, Creative Writing, and Coding. In 2021, we will be looking for ways to make these programs more widely available and more accessible to our entire customer base.

Another aspect we will improve in 2021 is the level of communication and feedback you receive. As much as we have tried to replicate the experience of the Best Brains classroom online for our students, what we have not been able to provide is the same level of familiarity that comes from visiting a location every week. Our staff is not gathered in one place for you to have quick check ins or sit-down meetings. The communication methods we do have are not in wide use or standardized across all centers. This is an area of immediate improvement for us. Remember, you can request homework help for your child for free every week, and call or email your local center whenever you have a question or would like to schedule a meeting. Our role going forward will be to be more proactive with our communication, and provide regular feedback on your child's academic progress.

So, what do you have to say about Best Brains, in your own words?

"Great teachers with a lot of patience."

"Best Brains truly works!"

"I started seeing significant changes in my daughter's learning."

"We love Best Brains. Our child has shown significant improvement in her studies. Keep up the great work!"

"My son has improved spelling and grammar...since he started his English class at Best Brains."

"I appreciate all the teachers and staff for their effort and time."

"I am so happy that our daughter is attending Best Brains!"

Thank you all again for your kind words and honest impressions of the Best Brains experience. Together, we will make 2021 even more successful for the students we teach!