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The Public School Insights Blog

In October, we at the Learning First Alliance (LFA) hosted #CCSSteach, a Twitter Town Hall on “Teaching in a Common Core World,” which provided a forum for teachers, administrators and education leaders impacted by the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) to share their stories about using Common Core in the classroom and how students are adapting to new CCSS-aligned curriculum.

During that discussion it became clear that technology is playing a large role in Common Core implementation. While at the national level, some equate technology and the Common Core only in the sense that progress against these standards is to be measured online, those in field see something bigger. In many communities, technology is playing a major role in how students interact with the standards in the classroom (and at home) and in how educators connect, learn, collaborate and plan on behalf of their students.

To gain insight as to what technology is working best when it comes to implementation and to learn where additional supports are needed, on November 19 we teamed up with the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) to host #CCSStech, a Twitter Town Hall on “Ed Tech in a Common Core World."

A few key themes emerged from this conversation. Overall, participants (including teachers, technology directors and representatives of national organizations, among others) indicated that: ...

By Annelise Cohon, NEA Health Information Network

Since 2010, the Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom have been ensuring more learning-ready students thanks to an innovative school breakfast model.

We’ve all heard the saying, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” However, how many of us forget to make breakfast a priority and walk out the door without eating anything? I’ll admit I’m guilty of not following my own advice and occasionally missing breakfast. However, for many adults and children missing breakfast can negatively impact their entire day. It has also been well-documented that for students, missing breakfast consistently over time can lead to poorer health outcomes and learning issues. Students who miss breakfast perform lower on standardized tests, are not able to concentrate as well, and are more likely to make frequent trips to the school nurse, missing valuable class time. ...

By Tom Ledcke, Special Education Teacher, Roosevelt High School in Seattle, Washington

The challenge of inclusion for students with disabilities has been an ongoing conversation in education. For students in my high school, inclusion has primarily meant physical inclusion only -- students with disabilities attended general education classes with typical peers. However, during lunch and after school they were usually alone and isolated from the usual social experiences that their typical peers enjoyed. My students practiced social fluency skills like eye contact and small talk in the classroom, but they never had the chance to put these skills into action by making true friendships. Participating in team sports or landing a part in the school play was only a dream. While I don't think it was ever out of malice or hatred, ignorance towards the students with intellectual disabilities ensured my students were left out of things and never integrated into the fabric of our school community -- and like any other student who feels isolated or alone, my students could feel that they were "outsiders." ...

In this episode, National PTA President Otha Thornton shares efforts undertaken at the local, state and national levels to ensure parents have an understanding of the Common Core— what it is, how it came about and how it will help children graduate college and career ready.

Download as MP3 ...

By Frederick Brown, Deputy Executive Director, Learning Forward

It’s a dilemma many of us in the field of professional learning face. Our colleagues in schools and districts often frame their challenges in the following ways:

  • Our students’ literacy scores are below district and state averages.
  • We need to implement Common Core or our state’s new student standards.
  • Our student discipline is out of control.
  • My principal is about to be removed because the district feels she is ineffective.

As educators grapple with these types of issues, often they don’t see them as professional learning challenges. Instead, they are categorized in other ways that often lead schools and districts down paths that can be costly as well as ineffective. For example, consider the issue of low student test scores in a particular content area. Often, the curriculum and instruction department is tasked with finding a new set of instructional materials that offer more promise in helping students achieve at higher levels. This solution is based on the assumption that the test score problem comes from ineffective materials ...

By National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia and National PTA President Otha Thornton

American Education Week (AEW) is celebrated each year during the last full week before Thanksgiving. This year, AEW is being celebrated November 16-22. Founded by the National Education Association (NEA) and The American Legion in 1921, with the U.S. Department of Education joining in 1922, AEW was created in response to 25 percent of World War I draftees being illiterate and nine percent deemed physically unfit to serve their country.

In its resolution, NEA called for “an educational week... observed in all communities annually for the purpose of informing the public of the accomplishments and needs of the public schools and to secure the cooperation and support of the public in meeting those needs."

Today, American Education Week is co-sponsored by National PTA and 11 other national education organizations. The theme for this year’s celebration is Great Public Schools: A Basic Right and Our Responsibility ...

By Matthew L. Evans, Advocacy Coordinator, and Jessica Seitz, Policy Analyst, National PTA

With the 2014 Midterm Elections now behind us, the impact of the results and how they will affect PTA-related policy issues must be examined. With most of the election results now in (some still pending), Republicans will now control both Houses of Congress.

By adding up to 40 new Members to the House of Representatives (gaining at least 13), Republicans will have at least 246 seats, its largest majority since World War II. In the Senate, Republicans added 10 new members (picking up 7) and will take over the majority with at least 52 members. With new leadership set to take over in January, changes are on the horizon. Specifically, in the Senate, many Republicans who served as Committee ranking members are poised to become Chairs of their respective committees. In the House, while Republicans have retained leadership, key committee assignments are likely to change. New members arrived in Washington last week for their orientation ...

Earlier this year, the Learning First Alliance launched a collaborative initiative to highlight best practices in Common Core implementation, Get it Right: Common Sense on Common Core. This campaign takes a multi-pronged approach to using new media to raise awareness of the benefits of the standards, celebrate where implementation is going well and advocate for the supports necessary to ensure that all students in Common Core states have access to instruction that lives up to the promise of the standards.

As part of this campaign, online engagement activities, such as Twitter Town Halls, involve wider audiences in important conversations around issues related to the standards, including what to do with extra time to support implementation, changes in teaching and learning that are the result of the standards, education technology concerns and more.  ...

By Jim Bellanca, for the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21)

Driving Question: What happens when evidence challenges “yes buts” about deeper learning?

My 9th grade English teacher always insisted that I define the key term when introducing a new topic. A driving question dictates the same.  Plus, every time I see a blog post or magazine article about “Deeper Learning,” the first question I’m asked is what that key term means. More often than not, I am asked for examples to clarify the term. On the other hand, I hear “yes… but” that the term “deeper learning” is “old hat” or “everybody does that.” Thus, I thought it might be a good idea to layout the definition, some examples and describe its ingredients before responding to the key “yes, buts…”

Definitions and Descriptions

As I understand it, Deeper Learning is an umbrella term that describes what happens when teachers challenge students to explore, investigate, solve problems, or inquire about topics that they need to understand in depth and in life. Teachers who desire deeper learning results create deeper learning not as an occasional strategy that is nice for some, but as their fundamental approach that is necessarily good for all ...

By Joan Richardson, Editor-in-Chief, Kappan magazine (PDK International)

Charles Herndon has scoured the fields and the Lake Erie shore along Ohio’s Kelleys Island for most of his 60 years, seeking boulders that carry a story that he can reveal. Stone sculptures litter the outdoor gallery at his home, and dozens more occupy pedestals and floor space in a more traditional albeit cluttered indoor gallery. Touching is allowed as long as visitors remove their shoes to avoid introducing dirt and other particles that might damage his art.

Herndon’s favorite sculpture is one he’s named So Far, No Farther. Glaciers and tugs of the earth and water pushed this piece of gabbro rock so far and no farther, and then Herndon applied his tools and took it, again, so far and no farther. He fell in love with the stone so much that he kept track of how long he worked on it: 333 hours, nearly all of it using simple hand tools and abrasives ...

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