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The Public School Insights Blog

By Carolyn Sykora, Senior Director of Standards, International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)

Growth is a key attribute of the contemporary world. According to Our World in Data, in just 100 years — from 1900 to 2000 — the world population increased from 1.5 billion to 6.1 billion. That’s a rate three times greater than the growth that occurred during the entire previous history of humankind.

Technology is ushering in a similar magnitude of change in new knowledge. NPR recently reported that by some estimates, the entire body of medical knowledge doubles every three to four years. And medicine is by no means the only industry on this trajectory.

So how do we prepare students in a world that’s changing so rapidly and where knowledge evolves at an overwhelming pace? As K-12 educators, where do we start? ...

By Summer Stephens, Superintendent, Weston County School District No. 7 (Upton, WY), and 2014-15 PDK International Emerging Leader

Tonight, my husband remarked on something he read on a Facebook post about the Common Core when my daughter was explaining her math homework. She blurted out, “It isn’t Common Core. It is practice!” 

“How apropos,” I said to myself. This perspective is exactly what I needed to support my theory that the undercurrent and the overt propaganda flooding social media about the Common Core really has nothing to do with students. My 10-year-old 5th grader loves math, learns a great deal from her teacher’s instruction and from the materials the school uses to convey the 5th-grade math concepts. She sees her day-to-day work in school as practicing, demonstrating what she has learned, and accepting new challenges in her subjects. She doesn’t see negativity, injustice, or conspiracy.  The fuss and confusion often lie with those who don’t spend their days in schools, unlike the children and teaching and support staff who are learning and growing in many, many ways. ...

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

As president of one of the leading public sector unions in this country, I see firsthand and hear stories every day about workers who make a difference in their communities and in people’s lives—healing the sick, unlocking a child's mind or improving a family's life. That is who our members are: all 1.6 million.

Yet, too often, these workers face a barrage of scurrilous attacks denigrating them and the work they do—from sources that simply wish to eliminate these essential public services and silence those who do the work.

That's why Teacher Appreciation Week, National Nurses Week and Public Service Recognition Week—all being celebrated this week in May—are more than simply a Hallmark card moment. These events offer an opportunity. They offer a moment we can join together to talk about the teachers, nurses and other public service workers who have changed our lives in small and big ways. Today, we can say thank you. ...

The following summary was published by the National School Boards Association’s Center for Public Education.

The research is clear: if children cannot read proficiently by the end of third grade, they face daunting hurdles to success in school and beyond. Third grade marks a pivot point in reading. In fourth grade, students begin encountering a wider variety of texts. By then, able readers have learned to extract and analyze new information and expand their vocabularies by reading.

But struggling readers rarely catch up with their peers academically and are four times more likely to drop out of high school, lowering their earning power as adults and possibly costing society in welfare and other supports.  ...

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

Today is one of my favorite days of the year: National Teacher Day. For those of us who work year round to set teachers up for success, it’s a special treat to spotlight their work to do the same for students.

How do great teachers set students up for success?

Just last week, we celebrated 2015 National Teacher of the Year Shanna Peeples and the state teachers of the year, whose profiles are brimming with inspiring stories of student-centered teaching. Peeples, who teaches high school English in Amarillo, Texas, described the critical importance of building confidence and of getting to know each student’s individual context and interests. “Every student has greatness in them, and it is the work of the teacher to help them discover it,” she said ...

In our March 2015 blog, we focused on what creative tension means in the context of relationships between young people and adults in our schools. We outlined core principles and assumptions that are critical for this work, and discussed how the roles for young people and adults shift in the creative tension model.

This blog presents a series of real-world examples that demonstrate the use of a creative tension in carrying out intergenerational work within the school context. There are a few key ideas to keep an eye on. First, each example shows youth and adults working toward shared goals, with young people being viewed as meaningful contributors and partners in the process. Second, supporting their shared goals, you will see how personal goals and aspirations align with and support their collective work. Finally, each values the other’s experiences, perceptions, skills, beliefs, and ideas and understands that they are critical to achieving personal and shared goals. ...

Know of an exceptional educator who deserves recognition? It’s time to nominate him or her for a Bammy Award.

The Bammies seek to honor all types of educators who are making a difference in public education and the lives of schoolchildren—and that can be a superintendent or teacher, principal or custodian, or even a researcher, education writer, and parent.

The program is hosted by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, an independent policy and research center. The Academy nominates and chooses individuals for the Bammy Awards, it allows those in the education field and the general public to nominate and vote on individuals for the Educators Voice Awards.

“The Awards aim to recognize the collaborative nature of education, to encourage respect in and across the various domains, to raise the profile and voices of the many undervalued and unrecognized people who are making a difference in the field and to elevate educators, education and the value of life-long learning in the public eye,” according to the program description. ...

For the past eighteen months the Learning First Alliance (LFA) has been gathering stories from the field showcasing state, district, school, and community leaders who are working together to implement new higher, college and career ready standards well.  In January we released a white paper, Getting Common Core Right: What We’ve Learned that shared local stories and summarized our learning. It highlighted the importance of three key factors in successful Common Core implementation:

  • The need to engage a broad community, including teachers, parents, school boards and community leaders—from the very beginning of implementation efforts
  • The importance of separating the standards from the assessments, helping all stakeholders understand what they mean and how they apply to the classroom
  • The necessity of taking the time to get it right, realizing that implementation is a multi-year process that requires real attention to instructional materials, lessons, high-quality professional development and community engagement.

LFA believes to its core – and demonstrates on a daily basis – that collaborative leadership is essential for the success of public schooling. ...

By Melanie Zinn, Owner, Director and Lead Teacher of a Licensed Home Child Care Program in Vermont*

Editor’s note: This post is part of a series of blog posts on the early childhood education work force that the American Federation of Teachers is running in honor of Worthy Wage Day, celebrated this year on Friday, May 1. View the other posts in the series here.

We attribute many stereotypes to “those in need”: jobless, maybe homeless, lazy, struggling, etc. I would be surprised if a tidy-looking, professional person was the image that popped into your head at the mention of this phrase. However, the reality of many early educators is just that: In need. I am one of those in need, and I never thought I’d be able to actually admit it.

What could we possibly be in need of, you might ask? The picture of an educator can also be so stereotypical! A woman, right? And one in professional attire, who only has to work like 6 hours a day, who doesn’t even have the children in their classroom the entire time due to library and gym, etc., who has summers off and let’s face it, doesn’t really deserve to earn as much a doctor or lawyer or engineer, right? Oh, so wrong! ...

By Kwok-Sze Wong, Ed.D., Executive Director, American School Counselor Association (ASCA)

As a University of Florida graduate, I was happy to see Tim Tebow get another chance to play in the National Football League, this time with the Philadelphia Eagles. I don’t understand why the football world is so disparaging of him. At UF, Tebow led the school to two national championships and won a Heisman trophy as the best player in college football. Since he entered the NFL, the main criticism is that he has a low percentage of completed passes.

In 2011, Tebow was named the Denver Broncos’ starting quarterback when the team had won only one game and lost four. He turned the abysmal season around, leading the team to its first division championship, and first appearance in the playoffs, in six years. But he only completed 46.5 percent his passes, so the Broncos brought in superstar Peyton Manning, and after standing on the sidelines with two other teams, Tebow has been out of the NFL for two years. He completed less than half of his passes when elite quarterbacks complete of about two-thirds of their passes. Seriously, what difference should that make? When Tebow’s given a chance to play, his team wins. Isn’t that what’s really important? ...

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