Learning First Alliance

Strengthening public schools for every child

The Public School Insights Blog

Mark Baumgartner, Director of Professional Issues at the Cleveland Teachers Union; Deborah Paden, teacher on assignment for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s Resident Educator Program and the AFT/CTU Innovation Fund; and Sara Baldassar, second grade teacher at Memorial Elementary School, Cleveland Metropolitan School District discuss how the Common Core State Standards promote more rigorous learning. The group worked together to develop teacher-created lesson plans that have been vetted by national experts and are now being used by teachers nationwide.

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It's probably best that our nation's founders are not around to hear the current debate about education policy in the United States. Those who fought and worked so hard to create this new country likely would be badly confused, and probably greatly frustrated, by the language being used today.

Although those early leaders had widely different opinions about the workings of government--the battles between Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton being a great example of the spirited debate that shaped our nation--a core principle made the formation of the United States possible. It was the notion that power not be concentrated in one place, and that decisions over public policy be made at the levels and by the leaders who are in the best position to make them.

In a word: federalism. ...

The Learning First Alliance brought together educators and representatives from national associations for the #CCSSData Twitter Town Hall on September 24, 2015. The chat followed a webinar, “Let’s Talk Data: What Common Core Test Results Tell Us About Teaching and Learning” held two days earlier.

Key themes that emerged from those conversations included:

  • Context is critical in communicating Common Core-aligned assessment data to teachers, parents and students. Assessment reports must be more than just a score. 

  • There are a host of great resources for teachers, parents and students around Common Core assessment data. Unfortunately these resources don’t always make it into the hands of those who need them most.

  • A host of organizations are creating resources and tools to help teachers, parents, and students interpret and use Common-Core data. The National PTA, Be a Learning Hero, the Data Quality Campaign, and the Teaching Channel all provide free resources. 


If there were such thing as a DeLorean that took people back in time, I’d love to use it to give first-year-teacher me a few pointers. Back in 2002, I was hired at my old high school, James Monroe, to teach world geography and given two days to prepare for the start of the school year. I tried my best that year. I got there early and stayed late. I volunteered for clubs and I coached the swim team. I stayed afloat using my prized asset—the geography textbook. I also dug through resources that a retiring teacher left me and stockpiled whatever handouts, tests, or worksheets my mentor teacher had to offer. The result? A disjointed mess that made little sense to me and even less to my students. As an illustration of my ineptitude, I ran into one of my former geography students at a trivia night a few years later while he was an undergrad and I was a graduate student at the same university. As we sat at separate tables, the trivia announcer informed us that the first category of the night was geography. My former student looked at me from across the room with his arms raised and yelled “Carbaugh?!?!” Both our teams lost. So, where had I gone wrong as a teacher? I had a bunch of resources. I knew how to design activities, and I knew how to cover content. ...

As testing data tied to high standards and Common Core State Standards comes to fruition in numerous states, the Learning First Alliance brought together a panel of national, state and local education leaders for a webinar to discuss how to use this new data to improve teaching and learning. The Sept. 22 event was part of LFA’s “Get It Right: Common Sense on the Common Core” national campaign.

The Common Core standards give researchers and educators an unprecedented opportunity to glean rich information and use that data to follow students over time and find ways to improve teaching and learning, said Aimee Guidera, president and CEO of the Washington-based Data Quality Campaign.

“Data needs to be at the beginning of the story, not the end, that’s the part of the conversation we need to reset,” she said.

Ms. Guidera noted numerous issues for educators to build their understanding of data and how it should impact their work: ...

You’re in the midst of returning to school, adjusting to new schedules, learning new names and faces, and gearing up to make an impact. You’re prepared…you’ve got this! But when it comes to school and student safety, you can never be too prepared. 

Here are five ways you can help make this school year a safe and healthy one:

1. Talk about School Bus Safety ...

How do parents know that a license to teach means a person is ready to meet the needs of their child? That’s a good question in a nation where “teacher preparation” still means all things to all people, causing a lot of public doubt.

That’s why my recent visit to Western Washington University in Bellingham was so inspiring. Thanks to a grant from the AFT Innovation Fund, the AFT members at the university’s Woodring College of Education are connecting a series of very important dots in the teaching profession.

Their approach offers a model not just for preparing new teachers, but also for supporting practicing teachers as they mentor novices and work toward achieving certification by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. It’s well aligned with AFT’s 2013 report, “Raising the Bar,” which calls for aligning and elevating teacher preparation, and the profession, through a clinical model. ...

The National PTA named Laura Bay as its president in July, and she has pledged to focus on whole child initiatives and expanding the PTA’s platform to deliver more relevant programs to local schools.  Ms. Bay is the mother of three adopted children and lives in Poulsbo, Wash.

In addition to her personal involvement in education and PTA, Ms. Bay works for the Bremerton School District as a coordinator for assessment and instruction, and prior to this position, was a teacher in the district.

Ms. Bay recently spoke with the Learning First Alliance about her experience and plans for the national organization.

LFA: I see that you have three children and also work as an assessment coordinator in the Bremerton, Wash., school district. Could you please tell us a little about your background and why you decided to get involved in the PTA? ...

AASA, The School Superintendents Association, continues to celebrate its 150th anniversary. We were founded by a small group of seven superintendents that came together knowing that like-minded education leaders needed an advocacy voice at the national level.

This was at a time when our nation was reeling from the end of the Civil War. A key element of our mission of what was first called the National Association of School Superintendents was equity. There were vast differences in the way our children were being educated.

Today, a century-and-a-half later, equity continues to be a major challenge in America. That’s why I am very pleased that AASA is partnering with Howard University and the University of Southern California in an effort to confront this challenge head on by working to develop urban leaders for our schools. ...

Our patchwork teacher recruitment pipeline is insufficient, and the new teacher shortage is headline news.

Only 5 percent of high school students taking the ACT exam said they intended to pursue a career as an educator. Enrollments in teacher preparation programs are down across the nation. Simultaneously, the demand is expanding through increasing retirements and student population, requiring more than 250,000 new hires for K-12 teaching positions each year.

And we’re counting on these million new teachers to be highly skilled, well-prepared professionals. We know that when teachers aren’t adequately prepared and built to last, students—especially the most vulnerable—feel the long-term consequences. ...

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