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The Public School Insights Blog

This month, the first year of PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) and Smarter Balanced assessment began. Both are aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and designed to measure student academic progress. This month, the media has also been full of stories of parents who are “opting out” of their child’s participation in the assessments. While none of us who have worked in the public education sphere for years believe that testing should be the focus of our work with students (and certainly it makes perfect sense to re-evaluate on a regular basis the time and energy expended on assessment) the hysteria around this assessment season seems overblown and misplaced.

This parental concern does give us a chance to stop and consider what’s most important in our developing children’s lives. As the adults in the room, we need to remember that a test, any test, has major limitations and serves as a snapshot in time of what the test taker knows and is able to communicate ...

In this interview, Felicia Cumings Smith reflects on the importance of coalition building and professional development in Kentucky’s systemic Common Core implementation process. Smith is former associate commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Education, and is currently the director of Kentucky Rising at the National Center on Education and the Economy.

Download as MP3 ...

By Teri Dary, Anderson Williams and Terry Pickeral, Special Olympics Project UNIFY Consultants 

In our February 18 blog, we clarified the distinction between creative tension and destructive tension as they relate to our relationships and our work in schools. And, our example was focused on the relationships among adults in a school.

In this blog, we focus on what creative tension means specifically for the relationship between young people and adults in our schools. For starters, we cannot develop real creative tension unless we change the way we see young people and their role in education.

What would happen if we decided our students were our partners in education, rather than mere recipients of it? What if we believed they had something to teach us? To teach each other? What if our goals were shared goals and our accountability collective? What if education were intergenerational work?

How would this change the relationships between students and adults in a school? ...

Tarsi Dunlop's picture

Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter: it’s a statement known around the world. And, because they matter, the system constructs that govern those lives also matter. Public education, both as a system and as a product of local communities, has an important role to play in improving the long-term outcomes for minority populations and low-income citizens. Earlier this year, the Schott Foundation published the fifth edition of its 50-state report on Black males and public education. Black Lives Matter provides clear evidence of the opportunity gap that young black men face in America today – and highlights what happens when we fail to close that gap.

Consider school suspensions. Zero tolerance policies and the presence of police officers in schools are pushing students out for minor infractions. In addition to lost learning time, such practices also contribute to the likelihood that a student will drop out of school and continue down a path that includes a greater probability of unemployment, reliance on social-welfare programs and potential imprisonment.  Suspensions push students towards the juvenile and criminal justice systems, a reality that is now termed the school-to-prison pipeline ...

By Gail Connelly, Executive Director, National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP)

All too often, the life story of the struggling reader, especially the child from disadvantaged circumstances, is a heartbreaking one.

Often not identified as at-risk until third-grade high stakes testing, stigmatized by classroom pull-out programs, given one-size-fits-all remediation, and faced with the possibility of retention, the struggling reader must then continually play catch-up in all subject areas as reading becomes increasingly central to learning. ...

By Dr. Joseph Bishop, for the Partnership for 21st Century Skills

What does equity have to do with accountability?

Many teachers and principals are likely feeling stressed as they think about how to make up for lost instructional time in the wake of an uptick of winter storms like Juno. This isn't the case for students in Hamilton, Michigan. In fact, a little more cold and a little more ice might be a good thing for their math and science projects. As part of the STREAM (Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Arts and Math) program at Hamilton Middle School just outside of Grand Rapids, students are developing the fastest sleds they can make, using cardboard and duct tape. Students are doing more than playing in the snow, seeing how learning can be fun in the right conditions. One student said it best, "It's cool because no one else in school has ever gotten to learn like we are."

But under the current accountability system, often lurking behind the classroom choices are inevitable questions about the ‘what if.’ Like, will an innovative project-based lesson similar to testing sled designs have consequences for student preparation for tests or test responses? Instead, educators should be thinking about more important things, like finding the best creative way to make sure a lesson sticks like fresh snow. And far too often, No Child Left Behind and many state accountability plans have looked too quickly at test results, and not addressed the unequal conditions that are making it hard for communities to deliver enriching public school experiences. ...

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

Adam Ross has decided to frontload his adult life with experience rather than education. He expects to eventually enroll in a four-year college, probably earning an engineering degree. But first he’s going to work a few years for the company that has offered to pay his community college tuition in exchange for his agreement to work for them for two years after earning an associate’s degree.

“Nobody will hire you after college unless you have experience so I’m going to get my experience first and then go to college,’’ said the savvy 17-year-old high school senior.

Ross can manage this because he elected to enroll in the Engineering & Emerging Technologies (EET) program, one of nine career clusters offered by the Oakland Schools Technical Campus in suburban Detroit, MI. He spends half of every school day at OSTC’s campus in Pontiac where he’s earning high school credits, college credits, and professional certifications that he can immediately take into the workplace ...

By Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers (AFT)

A high-quality public education can build much-needed skills and knowledge. It can help children reach their God-given potential. It can stabilize communities and democracies. It can strengthen economies. It can combat the kind of fear and despair that evolves into hatred.

On my recent visit to Israel, the West Bank and Auschwitz, I was reminded how public education, by bringing children together—regardless of race, religion or creed—can promote pluralism. 

Public education can also provide the safe harbors our children need, especially in tough times. In December in Ferguson, MO, I saw how public schools gave kids the space they needed to process what was happening in their community, while instilling hope ...

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

It’s been a little over a week since the conclusion of our National Conference on Education in San Diego. Based on positive news clips that keep coming in plus conversations about the conference through social media among our members, I’m pleased to see there is no sign of a let up in the positive momentum generated by AASA’s 150th anniversary celebration.

My time spent with superintendents during our meeting gave me perspective which supports our work as the premier organization for public school system leaders—enough to make our founding fathers proud.

For generations, AASA has been bringing together some of the sharpest minds in education at our conferences. And today, we’re working harder than ever on behalf of our superintendents in an effort to help them thrive on the job—and create enriching and robust programs that will lead to cutting-edge learning opportunities for the students they serve ...

As part of the Get It Right campaign, LFA recently published a report called Getting Common Core Right: What We've Learned. The piece highlights three key lessons, gleaned from interviews with state and local officials and frontline practitioners, on what it will take to get Common Core right.

We’ve also compiled the resources that LFA member organizations have produced to help support and guide implementation of the standards. But we recognize that there are a number of other organizations that are creating great resources to aid your work in supporting the Common Core. The resources listed below are broken down into several categories. Please comment if you have other great materials you think we should add to the list. ...

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