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The Public School Insights Blog

By Alex Sczesnak, Algebra 1 Teacher, Math Department Chair, and UFT Chapter Leader at Metropolitan High School in the South Bronx* 

Hello, and greetings from New York! March—infamously “the longest month” for students and teachers—roared right along, blustery and wet as ever. Last year at this time, the big question on every Algebra 1 teacher’s mind was “what will the test look like?” Here we are, a year later, and the course is feeling a little more lamb-like, as we now have the experience to better translate the expectations of the CCSS into the lessons, problem sets, and classroom assessments that make the standards come to life. This has been a boon for teachers everywhere; most would agree that these standards are far more focused and coherent than anything we’ve implemented previously, leading to curricula that make math meaningful for students in ways that were not previously possible.

That doesn’t mean all teachers are singing the praises of the Common Core just yet, however. One of the most common complaints I hear from Algebra 1 teachers is ...

Jayne Ellspermann, principal of Westport High School in Ocala, FL, discusses how her school implements the Common Core and drives improvement through a focus on personalized learning and college readiness initiatives. Ellspermann was recently recognized as the National Association of Secondary School Principals’ 2015 National Principal of the Year.

Download as MP3 ...

Who’s for Kids, and Who’s Just Kidding?

By Rich Bagin, APR, Executive Director, National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA)

We recently completed our NSPRA Executive Board meeting and the environmental scanning exercise forced us to ask, “Who elected these legislators, anyway?”

And we all know the answer: We did.

Even if you did not vote in the recent elections, you did elect them by your absence or by your lack of effort to learn more about their stance on public education.

To protect the future of all children everywhere, we ask that you begin paying more attention to your elections. It is time to ask who’s for kids, and who’s just kidding?

NSPRA believes in authentic public engagement and transparency, but it takes the energy and perseverance to see what these candidates really stand for. Yes, it is work, and these candidates count on voter apathy and complacency to pave their way to victory. And some even have “big money folks” behind them ...

It's a key component to student success. Yet many school leaders struggle to help their parents understand the importance of their involvement in their child’s schooling, particularly those in low-income and immigrant communities.

Veteran education writer and advocate Alan Richard is convinced that most parents care deeply about their children’s educational experiences. But how much time and effort they can put towards helping their children and helping improve their schools varies widely. Richard recently wrote about one project in the Mississippi Delta, one of this country's most rural and impoverished areas, that is producing exceptional results, thanks to the efforts of Parents for Public Schools.

Parents for Public Schools’ newly revamped Parent Engagement Program, or PEP, is bringing together parents and residents of typically underserved communities to not just volunteer at schools but to take an active role in setting the course to improve schools and the greater community. ...

grieving boyDealing with a death is never easy, but for young children and teens, it can bring a range of emotional experiences that will undoubtedly impact learning.

The vast majority of children will lose a close family member or friend by the time they are 16, and one in 20 will lose a parent. But while a 2012 survey by the New York Life Foundation and American Federation of Teachers (AFT) found that 92 percent of teachers believe grief is a serious problem that deserves more attention in schools, 93 percent of teachers had never received any form of bereavement training and only 3 percent of school districts offer any such training. ...

By the Team at ISTE Connects, International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)

NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission, which launched March 12, provides an unprecedented opportunity to bring ISTE Standards-ready, hands-on science activities related to the mission to classrooms. 

The MMS mission will study the mystery of how magnetic fields around Earth connect and disconnect, explosively releasing energy via a process called magnetic reconnection. Using four identical spacecraft, the mission will provide the first three-dimensional view of this fundamental process that occurs throughout the universe.

If that explanation already has you Googling a simple translation, don’t worry. ISTE, in collaboration with NASA, has created a host of free resources to help teachers engage students in research and engineering-design activities, seamlessly connecting them to authentic scientific study with real-world significance. ...

This month, the first year of PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) and Smarter Balanced assessment began. Both are aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and designed to measure student academic progress. This month, the media has also been full of stories of parents who are “opting out” of their child’s participation in the assessments. While none of us who have worked in the public education sphere for years believe that testing should be the focus of our work with students (and certainly it makes perfect sense to re-evaluate on a regular basis the time and energy expended on assessment) the hysteria around this assessment season seems overblown and misplaced.

This parental concern does give us a chance to stop and consider what’s most important in our developing children’s lives. As the adults in the room, we need to remember that a test, any test, has major limitations and serves as a snapshot in time of what the test taker knows and is able to communicate ...

In this interview, Felicia Cumings Smith reflects on the importance of coalition building and professional development in Kentucky’s systemic Common Core implementation process. Smith is former associate commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Education, and is currently the director of Kentucky Rising at the National Center on Education and the Economy.

Download as MP3 ...

By Teri Dary, Anderson Williams and Terry Pickeral, Special Olympics Project UNIFY Consultants 

In our February 18 blog, we clarified the distinction between creative tension and destructive tension as they relate to our relationships and our work in schools. And, our example was focused on the relationships among adults in a school.

In this blog, we focus on what creative tension means specifically for the relationship between young people and adults in our schools. For starters, we cannot develop real creative tension unless we change the way we see young people and their role in education.

What would happen if we decided our students were our partners in education, rather than mere recipients of it? What if we believed they had something to teach us? To teach each other? What if our goals were shared goals and our accountability collective? What if education were intergenerational work?

How would this change the relationships between students and adults in a school? ...

Tarsi Dunlop's picture

Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter: it’s a statement known around the world. And, because they matter, the system constructs that govern those lives also matter. Public education, both as a system and as a product of local communities, has an important role to play in improving the long-term outcomes for minority populations and low-income citizens. Earlier this year, the Schott Foundation published the fifth edition of its 50-state report on Black males and public education. Black Lives Matter provides clear evidence of the opportunity gap that young black men face in America today – and highlights what happens when we fail to close that gap.

Consider school suspensions. Zero tolerance policies and the presence of police officers in schools are pushing students out for minor infractions. In addition to lost learning time, such practices also contribute to the likelihood that a student will drop out of school and continue down a path that includes a greater probability of unemployment, reliance on social-welfare programs and potential imprisonment.  Suspensions push students towards the juvenile and criminal justice systems, a reality that is now termed the school-to-prison pipeline ...

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