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The Public School Insights Blog

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 ...

Listen to Dr. C.J. Huff, Superintendent of Missouri's Joplin Schools, discuss the importance of leveraging existing partnerships and school staff to engage in conversations across the community to demystify the Common Core.

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The PTA at Eden Central (in Eden, New York) has taken an active role in reaching out to parents with information and resources regarding the Common Core State Standards. Their work has included a parent information night, parent academies and an instruction evening, all aimed at dispelling myths and providing useful contextual information around the formation of the standards and their classroom application. For these efforts, the Eden Central PTA received the National PTA's 2014 Phoebe Apperson Hearst Outstanding Family-School Partnership Award – the highest honor presented by the association. They have also been honored with the 2014-2016 National PTA School of Excellence designation for achievements in family engagement. ...

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

I thought I had died and gone to education heaven. Principal Carolyn Marino greeted me as we were getting off the bus in front of her school by asking me why in the world we were visiting a school in total disarray because of major construction.

“Uh oh,” I thought. “Did somebody make a scheduling error?”

The fear was compounded when we saw a barefoot woman functioning as a crossing guard who turned out to be the assistant principal.

Nevertheless, we followed Carolyn into the school to discover one of the most wonderful learning environments we had ever seen.

Westmere is a K-6 elementary school that is multi-aged and ability grouped with team teaching. In New Zealand, youngsters start school at the age of five—exactly at the age of five, on their birthday, regardless of when the birthday falls ...

By Jodie Pozo-Olano, Chief Communications Officer, International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)

When we talk about change, we often use idioms such as “Rome wasn’t built in a day” or, my personal favorite, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” The point we are trying to make is that change, while challenging, takes time and requires training.

In no situation is this more apparent than when schools are working to transform education through effective technology integration. Successful change requires time and professional learning opportunities for all stakeholders.

Unfortunately, the one thing educators don’t have enough of is time.

What they do have is access to smart young minds with curious souls that, when motivated and inspired, have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. They are also tech savvy, and they are thrilled to connect and interact in new and interesting ways using a wide range of apps and devices. The educators charged with teaching today’s learners must have access to professional learning opportunities to help them better leverage their students’ enthusiasm for technology so that they can improve learning and achievement ...

By Patte Barth, Director of the Center for Public Education, an initiative of the National School Boards Association (NSBA)

The National School Boards Association’s Center for Public Education is all about the importance of using data and research to craft effective school policy and practice. We also encourage everyone who has an interest in public schools to look at data when gauging their quality. Unfortunately, getting that data isn’t always as straightforward as it could be. Even when found, it’s often presented in long tables, complicated graphs and confusing formats that obscure rather than shed light on school performance. ...

By Sharon P. Robinson, President and CEO, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE)

Each year, our nation’s PK-12 schools rely on colleges of teacher education to prepare thousands of new teachers. Between 2010 and 2019, the number of students enrolled in public elementary and secondary schools is expected to grow from 55 to 58 million. Already, schools in high-need urban and rural areas struggle to recruit and retain enough qualified teachers, and many districts do not have sufficient special education or STEM specialists to serve student needs. Amidst these growing needs, however, enrollment in teacher preparation programs nationwide is falling, and data from AACTE’s 800 member institutions show reductions over the last decade in both undergraduate and graduate programs. What’s at the root of this worrisome decline, and how can we start to turn the tide?

It’s likely that the recent recession has contributed to the problem. Per-pupil spending is down in many states, and hundreds of thousands of jobs have been cut since 2008—trends that would be hard to miss for students with even a passing interest in or connection to the field. Indeed, local teaching jobs have declined by about 20% since the federal stimulus program came to a close ...

Tanya Golden, a sixth grade teacher at Carver Academy in California’s ABC Unified School District, tells us how her district has used Teacher Leaders to develop Common Core-aligned units of study and help school staff with the implementation process of these new units.

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Richard Saldana, Social Studies Department Chair at Artesia High School in California’s ABC Unified School District, explains how the district has unified teachers, administrators, school board leaders and parents in support of college and career-ready standards.

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