Learning First Alliance

Strengthening public schools for every child

The Public School Insights Blog

LFA’s member organizations and partners have many examples of schools that have adopted innovative practices or have taken risks that have paid off in their students’ academic achievement. As we head back to school, here are five of our favorite success stories from 2016 that we hope will give inspiration and ideas for your work.

District officials in the Tacoma, Wash. district have designed a system of supports to help students transition from prekindergarten through high school, and they work with local universities to ensure their curriculum is aligned and students have access to financial aid. High school graduation rates have dramatically increased under the strategic plan, two Tacoma administrators write in this article for School Administrator magazine. ...

This guest blog was written by teacher Nichole Santangelo for the Partnership for 21st Century Learning. Learn more about Rancho Minerva, a P21 Exemplar School, in this Success Story.

How Can a Middle School Be Structured To Foster New Digital Workplace Skills and Opportunities for 21st Century Careers?

Rancho Minerva Middle School, located 45 miles North of San Diego, is a middle school on the move. It is a school with over 90% of its students living below the poverty line with nearly 3/4ths speaking a primary language other than English. Rancho Minerva has taken an innovative turnaround approach to preparing its students for college and career. ...

What did you do this summer?

For many of us in education, summer is a time for reflection on the past and planning for the future. We engage in professional learning, and if we’re lucky, we expand our horizons by visiting new places.

I had the great fortune to do all of these things last month during a fascinating trip to China.

At the invitation of China’s National Center for School Curriculum and Textbook Development, several U.S. education leaders and I participated in the China Teacher Leaders Forum and a series of other meetings with Chinese agency heads, educators and teacher educators, and business and philanthropic representatives.

We were invited to teach, but as often happens in these situations, we ended up learning even more. And the July trip was only the beginning of what I hope will be an extended and mutually beneficial exchange. ...

Learning Forward and the Learning First Alliance are hosting Leading Schools for College and Career Readiness: A Professional Learning Framework for Principals, an interactive webinar that explores the leadership practices behind student success.

Principal Niki Newman-Brown of Prince George’s County (Md.) Public Schools will show how she achieved promising results through promoting professional learning for teachers grounded in data and aligned to rigorous student goals. Until recently, Ms. Newman-Brown was the principal of Mary Harris “Mother” Jones Elementary School; she is now transitioning to a district leadership role. She also participated with her students and teachers in a series of videos from The Wallace Foundation that illuminate effective principal leadership practices. 

Learning Forward’s Deputy Executive Director Frederick Brown also will discuss successful strategies for leading adult learning among school staff to increase college- and career-readiness for students. ...

Like the tiles in a mosaic, each interesting on its own but collectively presenting a separate image, the current state of public education in America generally does not appear as a complete picture when reading individual news stories or research studies. The challenges facing public schools are many, but together they conspire to threaten this most vital institution if left unaddressed.

At the outset, we need to acknowledge that America is changing – both in terms of its racial and ethnic composition, as well as in its income disparities. A recent report by the Government Accountability Office found that the percentage of schools in which students mostly are Hispanic and black, as well as from low income families, has risen significantly, and frequently is accompanied by fewer resources and educational opportunities.

Poverty is having a particularly profound impact on children. More than 50 percent of students in U.S. public schools today are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, according to the Southern Education Foundation. Although this should be deeply troubling, the prevalence of childhood poverty is hardly discussed by elected officials, and it has been virtually ignored in this year’s political debate. ...

July always marks a special time of year for AASA, The School Superintendents Association. Some of the sharpest minds in public education have gathered in our nation’s capital for our annual legislative advocacy conference.

Dozens of superintendents, the “champions for children” who are the catalysts behind the achievements taking place in our school systems today, joined us this month.

It was only fitting that during AASA’s 150th anniversary year, we saw the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The strong efforts from our members combined with the great work of our policy and advocacy team was a major lever in creating the new legislation. ...

Learning First Alliance Executive Director Richard M. Long chatted about the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and the importance of stakeholder engagement on a recent episode of Education Talk Radio.

ESSA, the latest version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, gives a new voice to practitioners as it largely shifts accountability back to the state level. To guide the process for stakeholder engagement, LFA has released a set of principles for state and local policymakers.

The new statute does not specifically define what stakeholder engagement must entail, but requires the process to be meaningful, Long said.

He also noted that the concept of engagement has evolved to bring in stakeholders to work together and have time to go back and forth with concepts. ...

There is a fast-growing trend with Phishing scams targeting school districts. Perpetrators are using social engineering tactics to trick people into giving up information. They’re researching organizational charts and reporting structures from your district’s website. This provides them with some initial information to start their scam.

One of the common ways a Phishing scam starts is when a spoofed email message is sent. A spoofed email looks like a legitimate email from another employee when in fact it’s not. Most of the time they involve a request from the superintendent, assistant superintendent, or other business official:

Once a reply is made, the perpetrator of the email starts a conversation to try and get a money wire transfer, payroll, W2 or other personal information from the district. ...

The Learning First Alliance today released, “Working Together for Student Success: A Back-to-School Communications Toolkit,” a resource to help educators communicate with their parents and communities. 

The toolkit contains advice for helping local school leaders and other educators publicize and explain their successes in implementing college- and career-ready standards. The document is designed to help shore up support for public education across the country by showcasing innovative and effective programs in schools as well as the myriad of school staff members who help students on their paths to graduation.

“We are proud to offer a toolkit that will help school leaders and other educators strategize back-to-school communications,” said Richard M. Long, executive director of the Learning First Alliance. “We know that there are many good programs and examples of schools preparing students for post-graduation success, and we hope this guide gives superintendents, principals, PTA leaders and other educators ideas and inspiration to show the good work that is happening in their schools.” ...

Learning First Alliance Executive Director Richard M. Long will join Education Talk Radio on Thursday, July 21 to chat about the importance of involving the local stakeholders in the age of the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

LFA released a paper last month that proposes principles for stakeholder engagement for the law, which calls for significantly more input from local school leaders. The new law, the latest version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, requires states and localities to bring together educators, parents, and other leaders to determine policies and practices.

Join the discussion at 9 a.m. EDT with host Larry Jacobs at Education Talk Radio. ...

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