The Public School Insights Blog
By Marla Ucelli-Kashyap, Assistant to the President for Educational Issues, American Federation of Teachers (AFT)
Last month, AFT president, Randi Weingarten called for a moratorium on the stakes associated with Common Core-aligned assessments. Let me be clear, the AFT has long been a supporter of higher common standards and expectations for all students, regardless of ZIP code.
From the outset, we've maintained that the standards themselves would only be as good as the system that supports them: aligned curricula and classroom resources (including state-of-the-art online tools); meaningful, sustained professional development; time for teachers and other staff to adapt to the new standards; aligned and timely assessments that support college and career readiness and inform instruction; and participation of family and community stakeholders in the awareness-building, advocacy and support needed for the standards to truly change teaching and ...
By Debbie Silver, Ed.D.
Studies on motivation theory have taught us that the most effective feedback for any learner is that which actually helps a student get better. Value judgments and labels (both affirming and negative) do nothing to help the learner long term and are often counterproductive. Overwhelmingly research argues that learners acquire improved self-efficacy and make greater achievement gains when their adult advocates focus feedback on things the student can control rather than on their innate talent, skills, or other externally controlled factors.
As a middle grades teacher it was hard for me to consider that my perpetual cheerleader style of teaching with a barrage of compliments was not the best method. However, I finally decided to modify my feedback practices to more closely align with what I came to believe would provide the best long-term outcome for students. Part of the problem for me in altering my praise reflex is that I had developed the habit of making a pronouncement about everything kids did. In my well-intentioned effort to show the students I was paying attention, I felt the need to make a judgment statement about every aspect of their progress (e.g., “Looking good!” “I like that!” “That is great!” “You’re so smart!”). I think this is true for a lot of us perpetual affirmers at the middle level because we know how important it is to connect ...
In the 1980s, educators and policymakers swarmed across Germany to examine its two-tier education system that separated college-bound students from vocational ed students, all in an effort to boost the national economy. In the 1990s, Japan and its unique lesson study model attracted American attention.
Along came the 2000s, and Finland has the starring role. A country that once didn't warrant much attention, Finland has zipped to the top in international measures of education, and American educators in particular want to know its secret.
"It was a surprise to us that we were so high on the PISA in 2000," said Leo Pahkin, councellor of education at the Finnish National Board of Education who spoke to a group of American educators visiting Finland last fall in a trip sponsored by PDK International. "We knew we had good readers, but maths and science, that was a surprise to us." ...
While we live in a market-driven economy, where winning and wealth accumulation are desired outcomes, education advocates on all sides of the political aisle currently assert that public schools are failing our children, especially minorities and low-income students. Education is a common good; it is the stepping-stone through which students can make something better of their futures. Therefore, we should not be setting up a system to create winners and losers. ...
By Sharon P. Robinson, Ed.D., President and CEO of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE)
AACTE's recent report The Changing Teacher Preparation Profession: A Report From AACTE's Professional Education Data System (PEDS) tells of the rapidly shifting work of preparing U.S. teachers. The report finds the academic prowess of college students entering teacher preparation is strong, with programs attracting students with GPAs that exceed minimum entry requirements. We also see that preservice programs are designing alternative routes to licensure, integrating technology to meet the needs of distance learners, and working to incorporate capstone performance assessments such as edTPA.
The report's findings also indicate that more work is needed to make extended clinical experiences a central component of preparation. Although virtually all programs incorporate supervised field experiences, only 5 percent have a full-year residency program. One-year residency programs are required for eligibility for the Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) Grant Program and they are championed in recent reports, such as those from NCATE's Blue Ribbon Panel and the National Research Council, as well as in AACTE's PEDS report. Further, we know that candidates who engage more regularly in actual classroom activities are more likely to remain in the profession and have a more positive impact on student learning than ...
By Richard L. Valenta, Ed.D., Board Member for the American Association of School Personnel Administrators (AASPA) and Director of Personnel Services for Birdville ISD
Several researchers have affirmed the importance of both the engagement of people at work (for example, see several meta-analyses and surveys done by scholars at and/or for Gallup) and the impact of talented teachers on meaningful school outcomes, specifically student achievement. Based on this research, it is appropriate to acknowledge the importance of creating great schools for educators to work and be engaged in. Likewise, it is paramount that students are taught by talented teachers who are effective in providing instruction that significantly and consistently affects achievement gains.
In a 2006 book, Gary Gordon proclaimed a need to ensure that teachers in this country work in environments that promote their engagement in order to fully tap students' potentials. Teacher engagement refers to the individual teacher's involvement in and enthusiasm for teaching students in schools and reflects how well teachers are known and how often they get to do what they do best. Gordon also expressed the importance of valuing ...
Today the Learning First Alliance (LFA) and Grunwald Associates, with the support of AT&T, are releasing a report, Living and Learning with Mobile Devices, that documents survey results of parents’ attitudes and perceptions of the value of mobile devices as learning tools for their school-aged children. Not surprisingly, parent perceptions are influenced by the level of personal usage they have with mobile technology and, as parental usage goes up, comfort level with the notion of their children’s use of this technology also increases.
The report is an important reflection of just how far we’ve come in the use of and advocacy for appropriate use of technology in schools and classrooms. As someone who has spent the past 25 years advocating for innovation in teaching and learning supported with technology and expanded connectivity, my view is that we’re at an important crossroads in transforming both the formal and informal learning spaces with new, less expensive, and more powerful technical devices. As the survey found, more than 50 percent of high school students take a cell phone to school with them every day, and 24 percent of those surveyed use those cell phones in ...
By Stephanie Hirsh, Executive Director of Learning Forward
I was at a conference and during a discussion period had the opportunity to dialogue with colleagues — we were seating ourselves according to our interests as indicated by table tents. As I approached the table labeled "teacher evaluation," I cheerfully remarked, "Oh, I can't sit with you. You won't want to talk about professional learning."
Oh no, my colleagues cried — sit with us! That's all we want to talk about. I realized I was holding an assumption that was out of date. When the teacher effectiveness conversation heated up many months ago, the focus swiftly turned to evaluation, without much mention of teacher support or growth.
Fortunately, however, many (though certainly not all) participants in this conversation have moved in the direction of recognizing the importance of teacher support as part of evaluation systems. Advocates for meaningful evaluation systems acknowledge that attending to the development of teacher knowledge and skills is essential on ...
We're over a decade into the 21st-century and schools across the country are working tirelessly to ensure students are prepared for whatever lies ahead. Rapid changes are afoot in demographic shifts and in the continuing development of new technology and social media platforms. These realities are presenting schools with new challenges and opportunities - sometimes in concert.
Dr. Mary Amanda "Mandy" Stewart has taught and researched English learners, and her recent research highlights how social media use and other out-of-school literacies are boosting language acquisition in this population. The winner of this year's PDK International Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award for her work on Latino/a immigrant students and literacy, her findings lead to several questions.
How can schools support the integration of social media in classrooms as an instructional support? How can homework assignments utilize social media? How can principals and districts support wider use of such platforms and other out-of-school literacies to support their English Language Learning population?
We recently had an opportunity to talk with Dr. Stewart about her research and its implications. In an email interview, she provided advice and insights from her perspective as a researcher and practitioner, emphasizing the importance of expanding our definition of 21st-century learning to include bilingualism and biliteracy.
Public School Insights (PSI): Would you mind starting off with a little background on your research and the study? What led you to research this topic, and what questions were you interested in answering?
Stewart: I began my career teaching newcomer adolescents at the International Newcomer Academy, a public school for new immigrants in middle and high school in Fort Worth, Texas. All of my 6th graders were in their first year in the U.S. I saw the great resources my students from Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East brought with them into the class, but also how the effects of NCLB in Texas pushed the students' linguistic and cultural resources out of the academic curriculum. I feared that their linguistic and cultural resources would be ignored, devalued, and underutilized as they went to their home schools.
During my doctoral studies, I became interested of the idea of "whose literacy counts?" Through a pilot study with a 2nd-generation high school student of Mexican origin and reading about other studies of immigrant youth, it became apparent that immigrant students do possess valuable and sophisticated literacies they use out-of-school. However, most schools do not ...
By Nora Howley, Manager of Programs, NEA Health Information Network
School safety is more than just having a plan. It’s a process that needs to involve the whole school community.
LaPorte Community School Corporation is a rural school district in northwest Indiana. It’s also a great example of a district that has brought everyone to the table to help keep kids safe.
I recently joined Donna Nielsen, a bus driver and NEA member, and Glade Montgomery, the superintendent, on a panel led by Roxanne Dove of NEA’s Education Support Professional Quality Department (ESPQ) at the National Forum on School Improvement. We were there to share what LaPorte is doing right and talk about what other districts can do to protect their students. ...
Click here to browse dozens of Public School Insights interviews with extraordinary education advocates, including:
- 2013 Digital Principal Ryan Imbriale
- Best Selling Author Dan Ariely
- Family Engagement Expert Dr. Maria C. Paredes
The views expressed in this website's interviews do not necessarily represent those of the Learning First Alliance or its members.
Excellence is the Standard
At Pierce County High School in rural southeast Georgia, the graduation rate has gone up 31% in seven years. Teachers describe their collaboration as the unifying factor that drives the school’s improvement. Learn more...
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