Learning First Alliance

Strengthening public schools for every child

The Public School Insights Blog

Passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) late last year has been the cause of much celebration by those of us who believed the fulcrum in education policymaking was badly in need of a reset. For decades, the federal role has grown, coercing state leaders and local school officials to change their practices in order to be eligible for funding from Washington. In the wake of state budget cuts and the recession of 2008, the need for such financial support assumed added urgency. ...

By Adam Ezring, Collaborative for Student Success

Third graders across the country are proving that higher math standards contribute to significant growth.

Results from 2015-2016 test scores show that third graders are making really meaningful gains in math, and the Collaborative for Student Success has put together the infographic, below, to show which states have adopted higher math standards and are seeing an increase in student achievement. We hope you will share this graphic on social media to celebrate the continued success by our third graders: 


Let’s face it—classrooms are very different today than when most of us were in school. Smart boards have replaced chalkboards and projectors. Computers, tablets and smartphones are increasingly being used instead of paper, pencils and books.

Technology and the internet have created countless new opportunities for education. Children like yours and mine can now read about virtually any subject from anywhere and connect with people and places around the world. Teachers are harnessing the power of the technology to bring curriculum alive and personalize instruction to meet the unique needs of every child. Digital learning is essential for the development of skills students need to thrive.

Technology also provides important opportunities for us as families to be more involved in our children’s education as well as for families, teachers and school staff to engage in regular and meaningful communication about student learning.

As the new year gets into full swing, it is important that we as parents are aware of the technology our school uses and how we in turn can use these tools to support our children’s success in the classroom.

Here’s how schools can help:

Be transparent ...

When it comes to violence, suicide and threats, most are known by at least one other individual before the incident takes place. Imagine how much tragedy could be averted if these individuals said something?

Say Something teaches students in grades 6 to 12 how to look for warning signs, signals and threats - especially in social media - from individuals who may want to hurt themselves or others and to Say Something to a trusted adult to get them help. The no-cost program is based on research conducted by Dr. Dewey Cornell and Dr. Reid Meloy, two leading national experts in threat assessment and intervention.

During the week of October 24-28, 2016, schools and youth organizations across the United States will be participating in National Say Something Week. Say Something Week raises awareness and educates students and the community through training, media events, advertising, public proclamations, contests and school awards. Say Something Week reinforces the power young people have to prevent tragedies and Say Something to a trusted adult to protect a friend from hurting them self or others! ...

The United States faces a need for nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs over the next decade, but we may not be able to fill more than half of those jobs, according to new research from Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute

It's not because of a shortage of individuals: about 5.8 million working-age individuals are looking for a job, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in August. We also know that more than half of students who graduated high school in 2014 took the ACT test, but only 26 percent met career and college readiness benchmarks in all four subjects: English, reading, mathematics and science. 

Because of this, 84 percent of manufacturing executives agree the nation is now facing a “skills gap” crisis. ...

Many educators have latched on to social media as a way to share information with colleagues, parents and community members. But becoming truly connected means much greater engagement—using social media to find and share resources, glean advice on tough dilemmas and build professional learning communities with other colleagues around the country.

October is Connected Educators Month, and LFA has queried social media-savvy educators on how they’re using social media professionally and which platforms they find most useful.

“The biggest misnomer I've noticed is that educators think of social media strictly as a tool,” says Brad Gustafson, principal of Greenwood Elementary School in Plymouth, Minn. “I think we need to recognize that social media also creates a space. The space can be a place where dedicated educators come together to collaborate, ask questions, learn new ideas and push each other to do more than any individual could do alone.”   ...

School districts are spending a lot of money and time to determine whether curricular resources are actually aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) or other college- and career-ready standards (CCRS). EdReports.org, an independent nonprofit formed last year, is working with educators across the country to provide a new database for districts to find materials that have been reviewed and meet the criteria for alignment.

The Learning First Alliance (LFA) joined Ed Reports.org to present a webinar on its process for finding and reviewing curricular materials. As CCSS and other CCRS initiatives have been implemented in a “shotgun start,” school officials are finding that selecting curricula is an ongoing problem, said Richard M. Long, executive director of LFA.

The webinar was also designed as a behind-the-scenes look at the complexity of determining whether a material is actually aligned and would be useful. EdReports.org, which is funded by several foundations, ultimately hopes to boost the quality of the materials available, said Executive Director Eric Hirsch. ...

Nearly four decades ago, I encouraged members of Congress to vote for a separate cabinet-level Department of Education.  Those working to establish the department felt that its visibility would improve the public discourse on education and lead to more resources for schools as well as better decisions on policy. 

We have since seen the public debate on education focus on the issues of control, funding and, occasionally, a groundbreaking new initiative or national imperative, such as the current focus on early childhood education.  Our secretaries have brought knowledge from their careers in business, policy think tanks, academia and as state executives.

But with the recent passage of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)—which comes as states, districts and schools are immersed in the implementation of college- and career-ready standards amidst a growing recognition of the significant disparities that exist in education in terms of both inputs and outcomes—there is a need to move public education in a new direction. One key part of that will be rethinking the criteria we use in selecting a Secretary and other high-ranking education officials. ...

What if students planned their own out-of-class work?

I often wonder at the amount of time a teacher can devote to entering zeroes in to a grade book, day after day. Johnny never does his homework. Parents are called. Parents are told he will get detention. He appears day after day, but his homework doesn’t. Just the zeroes.

Yes, this may be an extreme case. But I often think of how much time teachers waste on all of their students worrying about homework grades. Between the total “no-do” kid and those who put their noses to the grindstone finishing their homework no matter how much midnight oil it takes, is the time spent entering their Fs and As and all in between worthwhile?


The Learning First Alliance is joining with EdReports.org and educators at the state and local level for a behind-the-scenes discussion about the importance of aligning instructional materials to college- and career-ready standards. As part of a webinar on Sept. 22, EdReports.org will show how its educator-led reviews are supporting teachers, districts, and states nationwide through its free reviews of instructional materials to support local adoptions and decision-making.

To date, Edreports.org has published over 150 evidence-rich reviews for K-12 math and English/language arts materials in grades 3-8. 

EdReports.org’s executive director Eric Hirsch will be joined by LFA Executive Director Richard M. Long and school leaders to examine this issue from across the education community during the webinar. There will be a question-and-answer session, and participants are encouraged to visit www.edreports.org.

The webinar takes place on Sept. 22 at 4 p.m. EDT. Register today!  ...

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