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The Public School Insights Blog

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

Once upon a time, we were challenged to find useful data about education. Not much information was collected, and it was largely inaccessible. In recent years, as public demands for greater transparency and evidence-based accountability have generated an information frenzy, we still face this challenge—but not because data are scant. Now they are overabundant, often difficult to decipher, or of unreliable quality. In this new environment, we must prepare teachers and other education leaders to be not only data literate, but also advocates for effective data use by others.

Researchers and education leaders must take responsibility for helping PK-12 practitioners and other decision makers interpret the data being generated by districts, states, think tanks, research and policy organizations, schools themselves, and a multitude of other sources—often with set agendas that taint the evidence. Too often, unscrupulous data collection and usage leads to antagonistic distractions, bad press, and worse policy decisions ...

By Casey Carlson, American Federation of Teachers member and resource specialist at Soquel High School in Santa Cruz City Schools (CA)

Editor's note: This month, a judge in California handed down a ruling that pits teachers against their students, claiming that due process rights for teachers – often called tenure – negatively affect disadvantaged students. The American Federation of Teachers asked educators to offer their perspectives on what due process rights mean to them and how those rights impact their work in the classroom. The following post is one teacher’s response.

What Due Process Means to Me

As a special educator, I have often had to disagree with, or act in opposition to, directions of my administrators in order to stand up for the rights of students with disabilities.

When I was a young teacher in Oakland, I was part of a program that moved students with more severe disabilities from a segregated campus to a junior high school. At first, we were not included in school activities like assemblies, and my students were not integrated in PE or music. I had to stand up for their right to be included ...

As a child, I was told never to say that I was bored. Being bored meant I wasn't able to find something interesting or engaging to do, which was not acceptable. “The world is big and full of opportunities, do something!”, as my mother would say.

Boredom, as highlighted in the May issue of the Kappan, a PDK International publication, "is a mismatch between wanting intellectual arousal but being unable to engage in a satisfying activity."  The above description of boredom, from the article "Neuroscience Reveals That Boredom Hurts," suggests that students who seem to willfully defy urgings to focus on school assignments and work may simply be experiencing an involuntary brain reaction. ...

By NEA and NEA HIN staff

Summer is officially here, and most schools across the nation have marked the end of another academic year.

For many kids, the coming of summer signals little more than a seasonal shift from one set of scheduled, adult-supervised lessons and activities to another.

But the more time children spend in these structured, parent-guided activities, the worse their ability to work productively towards self-directed goals.

Unscheduled, unsupervised playtime is one of the most valuable educational opportunities we give our children. It is fertile ground; the place where children strengthen social bonds, build emotional maturity, develop cognitive skills, and shore up their physical health. ...

By Anne Foster, Executive Director, Parents for Public Schools (PPS)

The past few weeks have been graduation season at high schools across America. The Class of 2014 has been unleashed on the world!  

As a school board member in Texas for nine years, nothing compared to handing diplomas to our graduates. Their eyes were shining as they crossed that stage, and their bright eyes reflected the efforts of so many to get them to that point – schools, school boards, teachers, the community, parents, and the students themselves!

A few weeks ago, there was good news about graduation rates in America, using data from 2012. Graduation rates have reached 80%, representing a 10% increase from a decade ago. The new graduation rates are now at levels from 40 years ago. Graduation rates are difficult to track, because of things like transfer students, the number of years it takes to graduate, and the various ways data is collected.  In 2008, the federal government created a new calculation system which has helped schools report data the same way and gain more consistency.

 American public schools have seen progress, and there are good reasons for it. Schools have become more accountable for the numbers of students who graduate. They have worked one-on-one with students in danger of not graduating. Schools with the most challenges have been given additional support. And there has been more of an awareness of the need ...

Mark White is the incoming President of the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP). He began his career as a principal 25 years ago, after serving as a classroom teacher for six years, and he is eminently qualified to share best practices and recommendations as a long-serving building leader. Mr. White has been the principal of Hintgen Elementary School in La Crosse, Wisconsin, since 1990. He has served as President of the Association of Wisconsin School Administrators and held a variety of positions with NAESP, including State Representative and Federal Relations Coordinator. He is in his third year on the NAESP Board of Directors, representing Iowa, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

Principal White was kind enough to share key insights and advice on a diverse array of topics, including supporting new teachers, creating a safe school climate, the need for elementary principals to have background in early childhood development, and implementation of the Common Core State Standards. In his comments, he exemplifies a respect for teachers, appreciation for the critical role parental support plays in a child’s education, and the need to communicate with the local community. LFA is deeply appreciative for Principal White’s contribution to our interview series.

Public School Insights (PSI): You’ve been a principal for 25 years. How have principal needs changed in the past decade or so? And what advice would you give to newer principals who are starting out?

White: The role of the principal has shifted dramatically in the past decade.  The need for a refined set of leadership skills by principals has never been more important.  The expectations by the community, parents, and staff point directly to the principal’s office.  With those high expectations comes great responsibility and resulting possibility.  The education community has never been more open to innovation and creativity on the part of principals.  Along with the openness comes increased expectations and accountability ...

By Terry Pickeral, Project UNIFY Senior Consultant

Through my work with Special Olympics Project UNIFY, I recently had the privilege of visiting elementary, middle and high schools throughout the nation. I was able to see how they integrate social inclusion and the impact they make on all students. The corresponding Social Inclusion Lessons From the Field report can be found by clicking here.

One of the unique characteristics of Special Olympics Project UNIFY is a focus on creating socially inclusive schools by ensuring all students are encouraged and supported to be “agents of change” where all students are capable of being leaders. All students deserve the opportunity to experience an engaging school and community environment that recognizes their gifts and shares them with others. ...

The Learning First Alliance (LFA) is leading a focused campaign advocating for time, support and resources for successful implementation of Common Core State Standards (CCSS). It includes interviews with education leaders from across the country who are sharing how their states and communities are working to Get It Right, the title we’ve given our campaign. Several meetings I attended recently outlined strategies for “getting it right” that showcased research and practice in key areas necessary to “get it right”:  accountability measures, state education agencies’ capabilities and classroom teacher practice.

Last week, the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE) hosted a daylong meeting on Rethinking Accountability: Putting Students and Learning First that looked at accountability from a variety of angles, including accountability for meaningful learning, professional capacity and resources. All three types of accountability point to the requirement for system change that’s built on an evidence-based design and factors in responsibility at a variety of levels – state, district, school, classroom and community. While success happens locally, that success and the responsibility for that success is dependent on adequate resources, a culture of support and a realization that professional capacity is built over time ...

By Joellen Killion, Senior Advisor, Learning Forward

Research supports the value of educator collaboration. A recent report from the Rennie Center confirms that when teachers collaborate, students benefit. Too often, however, professional learning within communities of peers is merely a label.

Professional learning communities (PLCs) are hijacked in multiple ways, usually under the pretense of facilitating or supporting the collaboration. Administrators who dictate the content of collaboration are some of the biggest offenders. Teachers who fail to engage responsibly as professionals with colleagues in collaboration are also offenders. When educators at any level arrive late, break commitments, seek to maintain the status quo, or remain within their comfort zone, they are subverting the core principles of professional learning communities.

Within authentic professional learning communities, members determine their content and process for their continuous improvement. While they may benefit from skillful facilitators who offer processes and protocols, the community commits to learning as a means to improve practice and results. A key distinction exists between a community of professionals who engage in learning for continuous improvement and a gathering of professionals who conduct routine work together ...

By Otha Thornton, President, National PTA

On June 12, I had the honor of bringing the voice of families and child advocates to Capitol Hill and testifying before the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry at a hearing titled, A National Priority: The Importance of Child Nutrition Programs to Our Nation’s Health, Economy and National Security.

Congress passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act in 2010, which directed the U.S. Department of Agriculture to improve the nation’s child nutrition programs. The Act requires that schools make updates to serve healthier food to students during the school day, including in a la carte lines, vending machines and school stores. In exchange, Congress increased the reimbursement rate schools receive for each meal served. The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry currently is considering the reauthorization of child nutrition programs, which is due in 2015.

Strengthening programs that promote healthy school environments and ensuring that all children have access to critical nutritious food options has been a longtime priority for National PTA. It is essential that improvements continue to be made as high quality national nutrition programs are critical to the future of our children ...

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