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The Public School Insights Blog

The Learning First Alliance's Get It Right campaign spotlights states and communities working hard to get Common Core implementation right. Recently, we did a deeper dive into California's efforts to roll out the standards. In the coming weeks, several California teachers will be sharing their experiences with the process.

As part of this effort, we are pleased to highlight the perspective of Kathy Harris, a teacher in the Piner-Olivet Union School District (where she is currently a Common Core State Standards Implementation Coach with a focus on English Language Arts) for 28 years. From 1998 to 2009 she served as the Regional Director of the California Reading and Literature Project at Sonoma State University. She has done extensive study in the areas of reading, reading readiness, assessment, English language development, school reform, school leadership and professional development. She has also engaged in many field experiences with both teachers and principals, working to improve student achievement through effective professional development, technical assistance and school reform. 

Harris has provided professional development in English Language Arts (ELA) and English Language Development for K-12 teachers and administrators throughout the state. She was re-appointed to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing in November of 2013 and currently serves as Vice-Chair.

Q: When did you first learn about the Common Core State Standards?

Harris: My experience with the Common Core standards started in November of 2009, when I was teaching third grade. I joined the National Council of Teachers of English review panel. We reviewed the draft standards, collaborated with teachers from many states and gave our feedback ...

By Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, Board Member, International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), and Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Powerful Learning Practice

Millions of educators and others around the world have participated in hundreds of professional development opportunities as part of Connected Educator Month (CEM) the last two years. Originally developed by the U.S. Department of Education and its partners as part of the Connected Educators initiative, Connected Educator Month offers highly distributed, diverse and engaging activities to educators at all levels, with the ultimate goal of getting more educators more connected, spurring collaboration and innovation in the space.

The official kick-off is October 1, but there are many ways that you can get involved today. This year, the U.S. Department of Education is distributing the event's management out to the connected community. Event management groups (American Institutes of Research, Digital Promise, Grunwald Associates and Powerful Learning Practice) are working collectively with the community, and the U.S. Department of Education, to construct a robust program that will get more educators connected ...

Dr. Barry Bachenheimer is the Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment at Pascack Valley Regional High School District (NJ) and a 2014 NSBA 20 to Watch Education Technology Leader. He has been in education since 1993, serving as a teacher, social studies supervisor, principal and central office administrator. He also served as Director of Instruction in the Caldwell-West School System in Caldwell, NJ, prior to coming to Pascack.

Dr. Bachenheimer values personalized learning, student voice and thoughtful integration of technology in classrooms, and he recently supported Pascack Valley’s efforts in creating a “Virtual Day” to take the place of a snow day in 2014. He was kind enough to take time to share his thoughts on these and other issues, including implementation of the Common Core State Standards.

Public School Insights (PSI): Let’s start with your background. Where were you before you came to the Pascack Valley Regional High School District, and what positions did you hold that contributed to your current work in curriculum, instruction and assessment, as well as with technology? ...

Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond, Professor of Education at Stanford University, Faculty Director of the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education and Chair of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing discusses the benefits of college and career ready standards for improving conditions for both teacher and student learning. Darling-Hammond also speaks to the need for performance assessments that better measure student achievement and growth.

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By Tracy Crow, Director of Communications, Learning Forward

If school districts relied on Craigslist to build effective learning systems, the search would be simple: "Passionate learner seeks same." While the reality of building learning systems and teams is more complex, the principle is the same--committed learners at every level of a system are the key to improving teaching and learning for students every day.

Passionate learners in today's schools aren't optional. And yet, of the five beliefs that undergird Learning Forward's work, here's the one most likely to make educators do a double-take: All educators have an obligation to improve their practice.

The word obligation gives pause here. Are we willing to say that every educator MUST improve his or her practice? ...

By Otha Thornton, President, National PTA

In August, National PTA announced that 170 schools and PTAs from across the country have been recognized as 2014-2016 National PTA Schools of Excellence for building strong, effective family-school partnerships. Research shows that when families and schools work together, student achievement increases, schools improve and communities grow stronger. The efforts of these schools and PTAs to engage and involve families are making a substantial, positive impact on student success and well-being.

National PTA also released a report that summarizes outcomes for the 2014-2016 National PTA Schools of Excellence from their participation in the program. The outcomes, which were determined from family surveys administered at the beginning of the school year and then again at the end of the year, demonstrate improved family-school partnerships. ...

By Dr. Valerie C. Bryan, for the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21)

How can technology infused into the curriculum promote the development of skills and attitudes for lifelong, self-directed learning?

In spite of the emphasis on the word “self”, Malcom Knowles (1975) suggested that self-directed learning often involved others – teacher, mentors and even friends as assistants in the learning process. Today in our digital society, with information doubling every 72 hours in an ongoing information explosion, that form of assistance may involve not only individuals that are close at hand, but individuals from around the globe. With the vast knowledge explosion there is not always a “sage on the stage” to direct the learner, but there are helpers available on the side even when they are across an ocean. ...

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

The young woman sitting across from me had just finished eight weeks of student teaching, and she was anxious to have her own elementary school classroom in one of America’s major cities. She gushed with the kind of enthusiasm that you want to see in beginning professionals. All hope and energy and belief.

I can’t wait to talk to her at Thanksgiving.

Eight weeks of student teaching. At the end of the school year. Under the watchful eye of a veteran teacher. Rarely left on her own. Like me, you are probably seeing all kinds of ways her experience can go wrong. And, like me, you have probably had this same conversation dozens, maybe hundreds, of times.

Encounters like these are just one reason why Ron Thorpe’s proposal for a teacher residency modeled after medical residency makes so much sense. (See “Residency: Can it transform teaching the way it did medicine?” from the September issue of the Phi Delta Kappan.) Sending a teacher into a classroom after just a few weeks of fulltime student teaching is tantamount to supporting malpractice. Does the profession believe there is a link between the quality of teaching and the quality of student learning? If so, then we must closely examine all of our practices to ensure that we are doing everything we can to ensure a high quality of teaching in every classroom. ...

America’s PrepareAthon! prepares your school and students for disasters

By Gwen Camp, Director, FEMA’s Individual and Community Preparedness Division

School bells are ringing across the country as students, faculty and staff begin a new year of learning and educational achievements. Leading up to the first day of school, teachers have prepared their classrooms to receive their students, while parents have devoted time to filling backpacks with school supplies. But preparing students with the tools they need to succeed extends far beyond just notebooks, pens, and paper. Help ensure your students, their families, and your staff are truly prepared for this school year by talking with them about disasters and emergencies that could affect your area and what they can do to be ready. ...

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

Regardless of where you come down on the issue of USDA’s new school meal regulations, it is highly likely that hunger and poverty are felt in your schools. Healthy school breakfasts and lunches are important safeguards against both hunger and childhood obesity.

A new report entitled Health and Academic Achievement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that hunger and nutrition deficiency are associated with lower grades and higher rates of absenteeism. Many educators stress the importance of eating breakfast before a big test. Why not encourage that year-round so that students are better equipped to take on the day every day? ...

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