Learning First Alliance

Strengthening public schools for every child

The Public School Insights Blog

Colonial School District straddles the boundary where suburban Wilmington gives way to Delaware’s rural eastern shore. Its one high school, William Penn, serves a racially diverse population, about 40 percent of whom come from low-income families. Penn is a model for getting kids ready for life after graduation. Ninth-graders who enter its doors are asked to choose among 19 “degree programs” — essentially, career tracks ranging from construction to engineering — that will be their focus for the next four years. But there’s one choice they don’t have to make: Whether their “degree” will prepare them for college or the workforce. At William Penn, all graduates will be ready for both.

During a recent visit there, I spoke with a senior in the school’s culinary arts program who exemplifies the Penn way. In addition to his studies in the busy kitchen, which doubles as a student-run catering business, he has six AP courses under his belt along with his industry certification. Elsewhere in the building I saw physics being taught in a wood shop, while in another more traditional classroom, 11th-graders explored issues of race and equality in Kurt Vonnegut’s dystopian story “Harrison Bergeron.” ...

For the first time, the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) recognizes the expertise that educators can bring to the policymaking process and calls for collaboration by practitioners and policymakers – but it gives few details on how those groups should work together. To facilitate that process, Learning First Alliance (LFA) today proposes principles to guide stakeholder engagement.

ESSA requires states and localities to bring together educators, parents, and other leaders to determine policies and practices under the new law. ...

Summer slide refers to a decrease or loss of academic skills over the summer break.  As summer goes by, if students do not actively engage in learning experiences, the progress they had made throughout the school year will not only decrease, it can actually regress.

Avoiding this “summer slide” is easy if strategies are in place to help students stay fresh until the next school year. This is where digital tools and technology can step in and help students be ready for the start of the new school year.

Ways to avoid the slide

There are many digital options for helping students avoid this summer slide.  With the rise of technology, students have access to diverse tools with many options for providing these learning extensions.  Students have choices when given opportunities for practice and this will help them to return to school better prepared.   ...

In a presidential election season where speeches, debates and tweets have largely ignored education policy, I've found myself hungry for a conversation about the challenges America’s educational system faces. Last month’s Committee for Education Funding (CEF) Presidential Forum at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., didn't fully satiate me –since not all of the candidates provided surrogates for the event – but it did provide a meaty discussion of critical issues facing education today and tomorrow including the high cost of college education, the cost of providing early education and child care, and the homework gap.

Sure, the debate would have been more colorful if the Trump campaign had provided (as requested) a speaker. And, most certainly, the forum underscored that there was little daylight between Senator Bernie Sanders and Secretary Hillary Clinton on education policy – save how everything gets paid for. Nonetheless, for the first time in this interminable, policy-starved campaign season, the issue of education appeared on the table as something more than an appetizer or a sound bite and, finally, those who care about federal education policy had a chance to dig in. ...

How do you teach college- and career-ready standards to students who are still learning English? One educator explained his tactics in an online conversation with the Learning First Alliance on June 14.

Larry Ferlazzo, a high school teacher, blogger and author of numerous books on topics for teachers, joined LFA Executive Director Richard Long on social media site Blab to give a firsthand look at how Common Core State Standards and the move to higher standards are actually playing out in classrooms in his Sacramento, Calif., high school.  ...

Summer vacation is eagerly anticipated by students and teachers – eight weeks of out-of-school time in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS). But it harbors a built-in risk that we call the Summer Slide: Academic ground gained during the school year can be lost without targeted summer learning. ...

How are the Common Core State Standards impacting English language learners? What do educators and policymakers need to know and do to ensure the needs of this growing population are met? 

On June 14, Larry Ferlazzo, an International Baccalaureate and English and social studies teacher at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento, Calif., and Richard Long, Executive Director of the Learning First Alliance, will discuss these issues in an online chat. The pair will examine the challenges and opportunities that those in the classroom must handle and what policymakers can do to support them.  

Mr. Ferlazzo writes a well-known blog and and has published eight books that give practical advice for teachers who work with English language learners, based on his work with immigrant students in his second career as a teacher. He is co-author of “Navigating the Common Core with English-Language Learners,” released earlier this year. ...

Communication is complex, and tricky these days. And as important to our lives as the air we breathe. Let's look at air for a moment --it is all around us, 24/7, no matter where we are or what we are doing. It is essential for our survival and for our success. In addition air must be of the highest quality - have the right combination of oxygen and hydrogen and little or no pollutants - in order to be most beneficial to us. Polluted air renders us unable to function properly. ...

Learning Forward and the National Commission on Teaching & America’s Future (NCTAF) recently announced the Agents for Learning competition. The competition is designed to engage educator teams in advocating for the best use of federal funding for professional learning under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

The deadline to apply is June 10, and finalist teams will be announced June 21. Those teams will present their proposals at Learning Forward’s Summer Institute on July 21 and 22.

All teachers in the United States, particularly those working in high-needs schools and shortage areas, are encouraged to apply. Teams will be invited to answer questions that specifically address: ...

Summer break is often seen as an idyllic time for teachers, parents and students to take vacations, have fun, and forget about the stress of school.

But for the growing number of students living in poverty, summer vacations can be a significant setback to their learning, researchers say.

“Summer learning loss is a significant contributor to the achievement gap,” says Sarah Pitcock, CEO of the National Summer Learning Association. “Every summer, low-income youth lose two to three months in reading achievement while their higher-income peers make slight gains."

According to NSLA, these losses accrue each year, and by fifth grade, cumulative years of summer learning loss in reading and math skills can leave low-income students two-and-a-half to three years behind their peers. Further, disadvantaged students may also deal with food insecurities and safety issues when they are out of school. ...

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