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The Public School Insights Blog

By Jasper Fox, Sr., Middle School Science Teacher and ASCD Emerging Leader, class of 2015

Despite major inroads in improving graduation rates across the country, there remains much work to be done. Nowhere is this truer than our nation’s urban areas. Recent findings outlined in ASCD’s national whole child snapshot indicate that there are major discrepancies in graduation rates between different groups of students who attend our nation’s high schools. There are major structural changes that need to be addressed to improve the educational experience for students in these schools in order for them to leave high school ready for their lives and careers. Taking it back to basics is important. Creating a supportive experience and paying attention to details such as attendance and credit requirements means focusing on each student and asking, “How can we get every child to complete their K–12 education?” ...

What are you reading this summer? If you’re looking for something a little more substantive than the usual summer reading, the Learning First Alliance has some suggestions.

As part of LFA’s Get It Right: Common Sense on the Common Core campaign, we’ve interviewed dozens of practitioners, researchers and policymakers to learn how Common Core is taking hold at the local level. We recently compiled our Top Five list of resources to help explain the standards and using them to improve teaching and learning in local schools.

(And if you haven’t already signed up for our bimonthly Public School Insights e-newsletter and Get It Right update—where this list first appeared--please do so here.) ...

By Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers

Teaching is our heart. Our students are our soul. And the union is our spine.

I heard that sentiment over and over again last week during the American Federation of Teachers' biennial TEACH conference, one of the largest professional development conferences for educators in the nation. That's right, a conference on teaching and learning, sponsored by the union.

The conference included sessions on a wide range of topics, as well as a daylong summit with an organization called EdSurge, where educators had the opportunity to give feedback on classroom technology products, and a town hall meeting with the AFT's three officers, where members could ask or share anything.

Two-thousand educators descended on Washington, D.C., to learn from experts and one another, and once there, the theme was resounding: The voices of educators matter ...

Mud pies. Gardening. Digging for buried treasure. Puddle jumping. Burying a time capsule in the backyard. None of these opportunities should be missed in the span of a young life. There are a thousand ways that dirt is not only good — it’s FANTASTIC. Simply put, dirt is an essential ingredient to a happy childhood.

So if you find that your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, or heck — even yourself are far too clean these daysunplug from your electronic device of choice and go outside and PLAY. It’s good for the body, mind and spirit. (Watch this video from Persil detergent for more inspiration).

And quite frankly, so many children and teens today have no idea what they have been missing. We are raising a very indoor generation, comparatively speaking. So be a little patient with them; it might take them awhile to get the hang of good old fashioned outdoor play and adventure. But they will. It’s in all of us — naturally.

Check out these resources to help get your kiddos or family outside:

Nature Rocks ...

Last week, the United States Senate passed a sweeping rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the nation’s federal K-12 law, providing a rare example of bipartisan governance in an increasingly polarized political climate. An overwhelming majority of the Senate voted for the bill under the leadership of its co-authors, Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.).

This marks the first time since 2001 the Senate has taken such action, and it is an important step in freeing states from the demands of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the current iteration of ESEA that is widely acknowledged to be broken.

If enacted, this legislation – known as the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA) – would significantly roll back the role of the federal government in public education and give states more flexibility in how they provide it. For example, the bill would eliminate the nation’s current accountability system, known as adequate yearly progress, and instead allow states to create their own systems. It would require states to identify low-performing schools, but would not be specific about how many schools states need to target or what interventions should look like ...

As a top official at the National Governors Association, Dane Linn was one of the key developers of the Common Core State Standards. Now Vice President of Education and Workforce for the Business Roundtable, Linn recently spoke with the Learning First Alliance about the development process and the future course for the standards. The interview was part of LFA’s Get it Right: Common Sense on the Common Core campaign.

“The work that we started in the Common Core State Standards had one key objective, and that work was to really help ensure that all students, no matter where they live, whether they live in Shaker Heights, Ohio, downtown Detroit, or in the countryside out in Kansas, that their opportunity to have an equal shot of being successful in college and the workplace was going to be a reality,” he said. 

It will take time for the standards to have an impact on the U.S. workforce and economy, Linn added. But he noted that currently many employers are advertising jobs and receiving applications from people who are not qualified for the work. ...

When and where do new teachers learn about the bullies? 

When three-year-old munchkins, barely out of training pants, are already showing their muscle through inappropriate and aggressive behavior, it's time to pay attention. In 2005, Yale professor Walter Gilliam shocked anyone listening when he said that 3 year-olds were being expelled at three times the rate of children in kindergarten through grade 12. Over three million elementary and secondary school students are suspended a year, and 28% of middle and high school students report being bullied at school. This statistic worries us, especially when we know that novice teachers, be they pre-K or 12, have little or no preparation to deal with this phenomenon.

Expulsion is just a quick fix that is neither a means to an end nor an end in itself. Nothing gets solved and the opportunity to alter that challenging, aggressive behavior is lost. The scared children remain. Learning is impaired when children are scared. ...

By Daniel A. Domenech, Executive Director, AASA, The School Superintendents Association

More than 200 superintendents, including members of AASA’s Executive Committee and Governing Board, gathered in Washington, D.C. earlier this month to take part in this year’s Legislative Advocacy Conference. The Association of School Business Officials International partnered with AASA this year, and a number of school business officials were in attendance, including John Musso, ASBO’s executive director.

Last year’s advocacy conference occurred while the Federal Communications Commission was considering major revisions to the E-Rate program. Our superintendents charged Capitol Hill and met with their congressional representatives as well as FCC commissioners and their staff. That advocacy effort proved very successful as later in the year we saw major changes to the E-Rate program and an unprecedented increase of $1.5 billion to the E-Rate cap ...

The Common Core has affected how all education professionals approach their work. We recently spoke with two leading school counselors—Dan Peabody and Cory Notestine—about how the implementation of the Common Core has impacted their work and the ways in which they are collaborating with colleagues during the transition to the new standards.

Dan Peabody (shown at right) is a counselor at Patapsco Middle School in Howard County, Maryland. Mr. Peabody was recognized as the Maryland State 2015 Middle School Counselor of the Year and recently elected to the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) Board of Directors.

Cory Notestine (shown below) is a counselor at Alamosa High School in Alamosa, Colorado, and was named as the 2015 School Counselor of the Year by the American School Counselor Association.

Q: What do you see as the primary role of a school counselor in 2015?  ...

By Sharon P. Robinson, President and CEO, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE)

As another ambitious teacher preparation innovation captures national attention, I invite you to join me in taking stock of how widespread creative change has become in this field. The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently announced the launch of their brand-new research laboratory and graduate program to prepare teachers and school leaders. The educator preparation field, already rife with innovation, welcomes the new Woodrow Wilson Academy of Teaching and Learning as the latest partner in a robust entrepreneurial environment.

While I do not embrace the negative rhetoric that accompanied the new program’s announcement, I am keenly interested in the work. In fact, the Academy’s goals are quite aligned with those being addressed by many other educator preparation providers and organizations. Foundation President Arthur Levine and his partners at MIT will find themselves in good company as they pursue their particular reform interests and share their findings.

Like any other field preparing professionals, educator preparation continually develops its knowledge base, adjusts to changes in policy demands and market conditions, seeks evidence of its impact, and collaborates with practitioners in schools—all in the interest of continuous improvement. The spirit of innovation pervades all that we do ...

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