Learning First Alliance

Strengthening public schools for every child

The Public School Insights Blog

Of all the impassioned debate we’ve witnessed in this presidential campaign, there has been remarkably little said about a policy issue critical to America’s future: public education. When the candidates have talked about education, they have primarily focused on higher education, which is provided through colleges and universities. Our presidential candidates have largely been silent about their views on and plans to enhance K-12 public education. This is worrisome. Does the lack of focus suggest the candidates don’t consider K-12 education as important as addressing terrorism, immigration, the economy? Do they fail to recognize that our schools play a powerful role in overcoming these and other challenges facing our nation?

Too much of the public discourse has focused on the negative, encouraging division and animosity rather than engendering a spirited but positive dialog about the way forward for our country. ...

As an educator, I love that my professional life revolves around a school calendar, brand new school supplies each year, and the daily promise of children’s hugs. How very gratifying it is to know that what we do has the power to change a child’s trajectory in life! Teachers are in a unique position to accomplish what so few other occupations can: immortality. They live on forever in the stories shared between generations, the unforgettable memories, and the differences they made in their students’ lives. ...

We’re all increasingly using technology and digital devices in daily life. And our education system has shifted to make these technologies a greater part of learning to prepare our students for higher education, careers, and life in the 21st century. But many students from low-income families do not have access to high-quality broadband or current technologies at home, and this is exacerbating the Digital Divide and the related “Homework Gap.” The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) recently found that only 3 percent of teachers in high-poverty schools said that their students had the digital tools necessary to complete homework assignments, compared to 52 percent of teachers in more affluent schools.
 
Several LFA organizations have made this issue a priority and are providing new resources for educators to manage these inequities. ...

Sometimes, you know you have to get involved because you can make a difference. That’s why Sara Brown, a health room assistant at Bordeaux Elementary School in Shelton, Washington, got involved in fighting student hunger. With more than 70 percent of her students’ families classified as low-income or homeless, hunger was a real issue in her school.

“We know that hundreds of children come to school without eating breakfast, and skipping breakfast can make kids feel tired, restless, and irritable,” said Sara. “This can lead to moodiness, changes in energy levels, and low retention.”

So, Sara and her fellow educators took action. With the help of her school’s community and staff members, Bordeaux Elementary School is working closely together with families to end student hunger. One of their great ideas to alleviate the issue is their school’s share bin.

“Our share bin is simple. If you have a piece of fruit or other food in your lunch that you didn’t eat or touch, you place it in the share box. This food is still good to eat and can easily be given to a student who is still hungry,” said Sara. ...

Sometimes, the college and career standards become very real and personal.  This occurred for my wife and me at our son’s recent parent-teacher conference.  Our son is having a good year, thanks in large part to his wonderful teacher.  We reviewed his progress in reading, writing, math, and other subjects.  She was positive and enthusiastic with a good sense of humor.  When the subject of math came up, she highlighted how the students were using new practices like quantitative and abstract reasoning to develop a deeper understanding of key concepts.  She also shared that it had not been easy shifting to some of the new methods but that it had been worth it.  She observed that students were developing a deeper understanding of computational thinking.  She even exhibited the self-confidence of a good teacher by sharing that students often solve problems faster than her as she still uses the rote techniques that were drilled into all of us as students and have become part of our automaticity. ...

Education technology is the single most important condition to support learner-centered education (LCE). A few years into 1:1 implementations across the country, our conversations have shifted towards student data privacy, security, internet safety and digital literacy.  In addition to filtering, blocking, and signing protective agreements, districts are faced with the need to develop thoughtful campaigns to educate users.

Teachers and students use a large number of open source digital resources. In addition to assessing their effectiveness, we need to analyze license agreements and verify their implementation to ensure the protection of our students and their data. But how do we do this without adding yet one more thing in the large list of teacher responsibilities? ...

Could education stakeholders in your state create a unified vision on how to educate every child to fulfill his or her potential? And could that help school leaders lead the conversation on improving public education?

At a session at the National School Boards Association's Annual Conference in Boston this month, panelists discussed those questions. For the past four years, school boards and superintendents in Oklahoma have spearheaded an effort to identify what kind of changes are needed in public education and build consensus on what actions and resources are required to fulfill that vision. They were inspired by similar efforts in Georgia, Missouri, and Texas. ...

What are the first steps on the road to accomplished teaching? Educators Rising is working to find out, and we need your feedback.

Educators Rising—powered by PDK International— is a national network working to help school systems guide young people on the path to teaching starting in high school. Since launching in 2015, students and teachers leaders in 1,200 schools across the country have joined. A recent profile in Education Week notes, “Forty-nine percent of the [14,000] student members are racial and ethnic minorities—a rate that far outpaces the 17-percent minority makeup of the current U.S. teaching profession.

Now Educators Rising — in partnership with the National Education Association — is coordinating an effort to back-map the road to accomplished teaching into the secondary space. The organization is defining what high school students exploring teaching careers must know and be able to do to be on the path to becoming accomplished teachers. ...

The National Institutes of Health is launching a 10-year, multifaceted study on adolescent brain development that could provide important clues to how students learn and grow.

As the largest effort ever undertaken on this topic, the study will include about 10,000 children and will follow 9- and 10-year-olds into early adulthood to look at the impact of both genetics and environmental factors on brain development. The study seeks to set standards for brain development and help doctors identify risk factors that could lead to issues such as depression, substance abuse, lower academic achievement.

By following a large number of children over a long period of time, researchers may see consistent patterns that lead to the achievement gap, said Dr. Gaya Dowling, the NIH project director who presented a webinar today explaining the study to Learning First Alliance member organizations and partners. ...

Celebrate your assistant principals’ successes during National Assistant Principals Week, April 11–15! This week recognizes the contributions of assistant principals to the success of students, teachers, parents, and school communities across the United States.

While the roles and responsibilities may depend on the individual school settings, assistant principals are essential to establishing a positive learning environment that ensures each student and adult is known and valued. ...

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