July 15, 2008

School Specialty’s SPARK Physical Education Program Chosen to Help North Carolina Students Get Healthy

GREENVILLE, Wis., July 15, 2008 (PRIME NEWSWIRE) -- School Specialty (Nasdaq:SCHS), a leading education company providing supplemental learning products to the preK-12 market, today announced its Sports, Play and Active Recreation for Kids (SPARK(tm)) curriculum product line has been chosen to support a new statewide preventative health effort to reach children and early adolescents in North Carolina.

The North Carolina Alliance for Athletics, Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (NCAAHPERD) obtained a four-year grant from The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust to implement the In-School Prevention of Obesity and Disease Initiative across the state, with additional support from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation to purchase necessary equipment to implement the program.

"We are impressed with SPARK's tested and proven success in delivering increased physical activity in students, fitness achievement, academic achievement, sport skills development and enjoyment of physical activity, to name a few of the benefits of this curriculum," said Ron Morrow, executive director, NCAAHPERD.

A NCAAHPERD pilot program trained more than 280 physical education teachers in using the SPARK curriculum. Simultaneously, NCAAHPERD representatives began working with the physical education departments of 16 university education programs to include preparation for teaching the SPARK curriculum with their students. Over the next four years, new physical education teachers will graduate fully prepared to implement the program in their first year of teaching.

"SPARK's primary mission is to provide research-based programs to counter childhood obesity," said Paul Rosengard, Executive Director of School Specialty's SPARK Programs. "We're thrilled that our program's proven ability to help children become engaged in physical activity, health and wellness so clearly matches the goals of North Carolina's In-School Prevention of Obesity and Disease initiative.

"Together we're focused on supporting certified physical educators in helping today's children become healthy and active, attend school, do better academically, and instill habits for these children to become healthy, active adults," said Rosengard.

Traditional physical education classes provide only 17.8 minutes of moderate physical activity per student each week. As a result of North Carolina teachers using the SPARK curriculum, students have increased their level of moderate to vigorous physical activity to 40.2 minutes per student per week.

Teachers participating in School Specialty's SPARK training are making a difference in their students' lives. "This program gives teachers the tools to provide better daily physical education for their students," said Lisa Queen, MA, NBCT, Physical Education Teacher, Troutman Middle School, Troutman, NC. "The SPARK curriculum provides teachers with sequential lessons that will help improve both fitness and skill levels of our students and is designed to encourage maximum participation during class time. Active participation and practice are the means for improving students' fitness, skills, and enjoyment." Queen has received training through the initiative on implementing the SPARK curriculum in her physical education classes.

"Currently all of our physical education teachers in elementary and middle school have been trained in the SPARK curriculum. As a result of this training and implementation of the curriculum, we have started to make progress in getting our students to participate in more physical activity," said Wanda Greene, Director of Middle School Education, Union County Public Schools, Matthews, NC.

Students like the program, too. "The SPARK program is a great program because the games are lots of fun and I like them," said Ceila Brown, a 6th grader, Troutman Middle School.

Research data confirm that childhood obesity has more than tripled nationally from 1975 to 2004.

The SPARK curriculum is a research-based program developed by San Diego State University and offered exclusively by School Specialty's Sportime business unit. The program combines healthy lifestyle messaging and take-home materials with physical activity exercises that ensure all students are able to participate successfully. SPARK has over 45 publications in peer-reviewed journals that show SPARK improves student activity levels, fitness, sport skills, enjoyment of physical education, and academic achievement. Teachers improve quantity and quality of instruction, and the effects of SPARK, once implemented, are sustainable over time.

About The SPARK Programs

SPARK is a research-based organization that creates, implements, and evaluates programs that promote lifelong wellness. The SPARK Programs consist of Early Childhood, K-12 Physical Education, After School, and Coordinated School Health. Each SPARK program provides curriculum, teacher training, follow up support and consultation, and content matched equipment sets through their exclusive corporate sponsor, School Specialty's Sportime business line. For more information on SPARK, visit www.sparkpe.org; or email: [email protected]; or call 1-800-sparkpe.

About School Specialty

School Specialty 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. For more information about School Specialty, visit www.schoolspecialty.com.

About the North Carolina Alliance for Athletics, Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (NCAAHPERD)

NCAAHPERD is a 501 (c) (3) not-for-profit organization of Athletics, Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance professionals whose mission is "To provide advocacy, professional development, and unity for health, physical education, recreation, dance, and athletics professionals and students in order to enhance and promote the health of North Carolinians." For more information about NCAAHPERD, visit www.ncaahperd.org.

                                 FACT SHEET    Background:  * Research confirms that nationwide, childhood obesity more than    tripled between 1975 and 2004.    * The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and the    North Carolina Department of Instruction have confirmed a continued    escalation of childhood obesity in the state.    * A 2007 study entitled Economic Cost of Unhealthy Lifestyles in    North Carolina cites four important risk factors among adults that    "contribute to the annual loss of $24.1 billion in public and    private money."     * Lack of physical activity     * Excess weight     * Type II diabetes     * Inadequate fruit and vegetable consumption    In 2007, this annual loss was greater than the entire annual budget    for the state of North Carolina, which was approximately $17    billion.    * For the first time in more than 100 years, the life expectancy for    American children is declining due to the increase in overweight    and obesity.    * Four scientists of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention    predict that nearly one-third of individuals born in 2000 will    develop diabetes in their lifetime.    The SPARK Curriculum:    * The SPARK curriculum was developed by School Specialty    (Nasdaq:SCHS), which provides supplemental learning products to the    preK-12 market.    * The SPARK curriculum has shown tested and proven success in    delivering increased physical activity and fitness activity among    students.     * Schools using the SPARK curriculum implemented by physical    education teachers trained by NCAAHPERD report related benefits to    students, including improved academic achievement, sports skills    development and enjoyment of physical activity.    Implementation of the ISPOD Initiative:  * The program will continue to operate in the eight NC counties that    participated in the pilot program: Bertie, Duplin, Durham, Robeson,    Chatham, Union, Iredell, and Jackson.  * Plans call for expanding the program to 25 new counties per year.  * At this time, participation is voluntary on the part of each school    system. However, because of the positive outcomes experienced    during the pilot program, other school systems began expressing    interest before the expansion was announced.  * The initiative has the support of Kymm Ballard, Director of    Physical Education at the NC Department of Public Instruction and    Dr. June Atkinson, NC State Superintendent of Public Instruction.  * The program can be initiated without any cost to the school system.    The grant awarded by the Trust covers teacher training and    substitute pay on training days, software, manuals, and equipment.    A supplemental grant of $126,000 from the Blue Cross Blue Shield    Foundation will also support equipment needed for the project.    The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust:  * The mission of the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust is to improve    the quality of life and quality of health for the financially needy    of North Carolina. Within its Health Care Division, the Trust seeks    to support prevention and promote wellness by providing services    that bring about change before unhealthy conditions occur or are    diagnosed.    * Based on free and reduced lunch records, 57% of K-8 students who    will benefit from this program meet the criteria for funding to    "financially needy of North Carolina" as stated in the mandate    governing the Trust.  

This news release was distributed by PrimeNewswire, www.primenewswire.com

 CONTACT:  School Specialty           Ryan Schissler, SPARK Programs             619-293-7990, ext. 211           Mark Fleming, Director, Communications & Investor Relations             920-882-5646