Learning First Alliance

Strengthening public schools for every child

The Public School Insights Blog

Rhea-Claire Richard and Bailey Debardelen, fourth-grade teachers at S.J. Montgomery Elementary School in Lafayette Parish, La., share how the Common Core has encouraged deeper learning in their classrooms. Both teachers began their careers about four years ago, when the state switched to the Common Core, and both appreciate the in-depth learning the standards have brought to their classrooms.

For example, Ms. Richard notes that the previous English/language arts standards might have asked students to identify a main character in a story. "Now, I may ask my students, 'How do the actions of the main character affect the plot of the story?'" she said. "They’re going so much deeper. They’re having to look at the author’s craft, how the author wrote what they did and why they chose the words they used." 

Should political forces in the state force teachers to revert back to lower-level standards, these teachers say they will still continue to teach Common Core's higher-level concepts because they have seen the advantages for their students. Listen to the podcast, or read the transcript below for more information. ...

Did a relationship ever sour so quickly as the Common Core and public opinion? Back in 2010 when the college- and career-ready standards were shiny and new, leaders from business and higher education as well as a certain U.S. Secretary of Education praised their rigor, coherence and attention to critical thinking. Within a year, 45 governors and D.C. had rushed to adopt them as their own – a move a majority of teachers and parents viewed favorably.

Then, implementation happened. Many teachers felt rushed to produce results. Parents couldn’t understand their child’s homework. Their anxiety fed chatter on talk radio and social media that did the incredible. It united anti-corporate progressives and anti-government tea partiers in opposition to the new standards and the assessments that go with them. States once on board with the program began to bail in face of angry constituents. ...

With the arrival of spring comes assessment season for students, families and educators across the country. When my girls were in grade school, I remember dedicating time to helping them be confident and ready to take state tests. I also remember some feelings of anxiety before the tests, but at the same time, the importance of the assessments in helping my children’s teachers and school better support their success through data-driven planning and decision-making.

During testing season last year, reports emerged that a large number of students were opted out of state assessments. While polls have indicated a majority of parents do not support the concept of opt-out, the movement has vocal supporters and it is expected that even more attention will be paid to student participation in assessments. ...

How can debate support the goal of any 21st Century classroom?

In 1997, a shy, fearful young student walked into my 10th grade English class with her head down and no eyes on her future. She had been removed from four previous schools due both to her own behavior and fluctuating circumstances at home. It did not take long for her to begin this same detrimental path at her new school and in my classroom.

After a brief in-class debate exercise using the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, I noticed a slight spark of interest. On a hunch, I asked this student to join us for debate practice after school. Fast forwarding at lightening speed, this young lady went on to place third at the state debate tournament her senior year, graduate in the top 5 percent of her class, and obtain her Ph.D in Education. Like so many students, she found through speech and debate a vehicle to unlock the 21st Century skills and motivation necessary to become a lifelong learner. ...

How many times do we hear teachers and administrators say, “Because it works,” when asked why they use classroom discipline techniques that manipulate, embarrass, use excessive force, or attack a student’s dignity? The “because it works” argument has justified techniques like writing student names on the board with smiley or happy faces, clipping (moving clothespins up or down on a public chart, depending on student behavior), making students give public apologies, or publicly humiliating students in the classroom. ...

LFA's Board of Directors chose veteran education advocate Richard M. Long to be the organization's new executive director.

Long has spent the past four decades working in education policy, most recently as an independent consultant. He was the Government Relations Director for the International Reading Association for 37 years, while concurrently serving as Executive Director/Government Relations Director for the National Title I Association from 1995 to 2014.

“We are thrilled that Richard will bring his expertise as a nationally known advocate, writer and commentator to the Learning First Alliance, particularly as the federal government begins its regulatory process for the Every Student Succeeds Act,” said Stephanie Hirsh, LFA Board Chair and Executive Director of Learning Forward.

Under Long’s leadership, LFA will focus on the implementation of ESSA, while continuing work on college- and career-ready standards through its “Get It Right” campaign. ...

At every school and in every community there are children who feel like they have no friends and quietly suffer through each day – especially at lunchtime, recess and other moments where friends gather together.

Start With Hello, one of the many prevention programs started by the Sandy Hook Promise, helps students develop the social-emotional skills they need to reach out to and include those who may be dealing with chronic social isolation, and work to create a culture of inclusion and connectedness within their school or youth organization.

Social isolation is the overwhelming feeling of being left out, lonely, or treated like you are invisible. It is a growing epidemic in the United States and within our schools. Excessive feelings of isolation can be associated with violent and suicidal behavior. In fact, one study reports that chronic loneliness increases our risk of an early death by 14 percent. Furthermore, young people who are isolated can become victims of bullying, violence and/or depression. As a result, many further pull away from society, struggle with learning and social development and/or choose to hurt themselves or others. ...

February 17 is Digital Learning Day, and the Consortium for School Networking is excited to also announce the launch of a new Digital Equity Action Toolkit for district leaders.

Introduced through CoSN’s new Digital Equity Action Agenda leadership initiative, the toolkit provides school system leaders with thoughtful strategies to address and narrow the “homework gap” in their communities.

Ensuring equitable access to technology inside and outside the classroom is the civil rights issue of today. Alarmingly, many lower-income families cannot stay connected to complete homework assignments, and parents are unable to track their child’s academic performance. School leaders must work with their communities to ensure digital equity and enable all students to benefit from learning that is increasingly delivered digitally. ...

Have you tried walking around with just one eye open? It’s tough: Your field of vision is limited; your balance suffers; you lack depth perception. Our brains need a variety of signals to bring the world into focus—and of course, this holds true not only for eyesight, but for our comprehension of just about everything.

Educator preparation is no exception. To help us meet the demands of professional practice, we form partnerships that span varying perspectives. One-dimensional views issued from the academy are as unhelpful as those emanating from the state house. But we find meaning and make progress on the tough questions when we tackle them from many angles at once, embracing complexity as an element that is essential to moving forward.

AACTE’s upcoming Annual Meeting—a convening primarily for teacher educators—will bring in these key viewpoints with significant participation from the world of practice and beyond. Beginning with preconference events and running through sessions large and small, this conference will provoke new insights on problems of practice through multidimensional views. ...

This is an exciting time for AASA, The School Superintendents Association. It’s also an exciting time for school system leadership and public education.

Hundreds of superintendents are convening this week in Phoenix, Ariz., for the National Conference on Education where AASA’s 2016 National Superintendent of the Year will be announced.

I couldn’t be prouder of our finalists. I had the opportunity to meet them during our press conference at the National Press Club in mid-January. In my view, we have four winners. I know it will be a difficult choice for our panel of judges.

One thing among others that impresses me about our finalists—they all have tremendous passion for what they do. Here is what they shared with us about being a superintendent:

Pamela MoranAlbemarle County (Va.) Public Schools: “Nothing is more important than the profession of education. We need to keep elevating that message. Being a superintendent has an incredible responsibility—to see that all kids get the best learning opportunities available.” ...

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