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The Public School Insights Blog

Nearly a year ago the fourteen member organizations of the Learning First Alliance (LFA) issued a rare but important statement of our collective belief that Common Core State Standards (CCSS) have the potential to transform teaching and learning and provide all children with the knowledge and skills necessary for success in the global community. Included in that statement of belief was a clear signal that the “what” of CCSS was on track but the “how” of moving towards full implementation at the local and classroom level was moving too quickly with insufficient time, support and resources to ensure that the goal of the collaboratively created common standards could or would be met in the way envisioned by the leaders who initiated this ground-breaking project.

What we also knew was that some states and districts were mapping out implementation strategies that showed promise and yielded initial results in changed pedagogy and classroom culture that have the potential to result in measureable results on a host of evaluation instruments being designed to assess student progress. So, over the past year we’ve reached out to successful practitioners, asked them to share their experiences and wisdom, and collected stories of promising progress with implementation of the huge change in practice and process to meet the new, higher, common standards.

This week we issued a white paper describing some of the things we learned over the past year ...

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

The 2014-15 AASA International Seminar, under the auspices of the People to People Ambassador Program, took us to Australia and New Zealand. Both countries have a reputation for quality education, and the participants, including AASA President David Pennington and Past President Amy Sichel, were eager to experience whether the hype was deserved.

The Australian government provides funding for all of its schools, be they public or private. We visited with Judith Poole, headmistress of the Abbotsleigh School, an independent Anglican girls’ school serving 1,400 students preschool to grade 12. Poole comes from New Jersey, but she traveled to Australia 18 years ago with her husband, and they remained. Today she runs what is undoubtedly one of the best schools in the country. ...

By Helen Soulé, Ph.D, Executive Director, Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21)

The class of 2031—these are the students who are in Kindergarten this year! If the past decade is any indication, these post-secondary graduates will face a very different world than we can imagine. Our challenge—help them get ready!

Now Is The Hour

Now more than ever, the traditional factory model approach to education practiced over the last 50 years in which students are "widgets" to which "parts" (content) are added by the workers (teachers) as they move along an assembly line and emerge identical to each other will not prepare our students for post-secondary education, work or life. In order to be successful, all students need both broad and deep content knowledge plus the 21st century's 4Cs, life and career skills and a global perspective. Learning must be engaging, connected to the real world, collaborative and personalized. Policymakers, district and school leaders and teachers must embrace new roles as facilitators, collaborators, leaders, lifelong-learners and project managers.

The Most Recent Research

For the last decade, P21 has advocated that 21st century learning requires large-scale transformation of our educational systems, including reimagining teaching, learning and structure. New models are emerging with promising results. Research just released by the American Institute for Research (AIR) ...

A December report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) – the independent, nonpartisan agency that works for Congress and investigates how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars – reiterates what we at the Learning First Alliance have been saying for well over a year: We need to provide the time and support necessary for teachers, administrators, parents and communities to get Common Core right.

Of course, when it comes to new college- and career-ready standards, it is not only the Common Core State Standards that require time to implement. The report found that all states (whether they adopted the Common Core or not) are using the same strategies – professional development, new curriculum and communications strategies – in implementation. They are also facing the same challenges. And while none of the GAO’s findings are surprising to either educators in the field or their policy advocates, hopefully their report brings these issues to the attention of a new audience ...

By Tatyana Warrick, Communications Manager, Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21)

As of today, there are 40 schools across the country recognized by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) as 21st Century Learning Exemplars. Each school is a unique microcosm, working in tangent with district and state leadership, universities, community organizations, businesses, students, and teachers to create a community of learning to prepare kids for the challenges of life, college, and career.

For these schools, and hundreds more, being a “21st century learning exemplar” is more than a slogan, or a mission statement – it is embedded in the school's learning culture. This is where the 4Cs – Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking and Creativity – come to life and create meaningful learning experiences for both students and educators.

In 2013, P21 launched the Exemplar Program to share what 21st century learning looks, sounds and feels like, and where it is happening. We were honored to add 15 additional schools in 2014 to this cadre of exemplary, transformative learning and to share their stories of 21st century learning in practice ...

In 2014, the Learning First Alliance conducted a number of interviews with leading education professionals. Many of these individuals are considered exemplar leaders in our coalition membership. The five listed below are the most viewed of the interviews that we conducted in 2014 and include a PDK Emerging Leader, a former President from AASA: The Superintendents’ Association and the National PTA President. While all but one of our top interviews this year focus on Common Core, we conduct interviews on a broad range of topics, highlighting leadership and best practices in public education.

We would like to thank our members for helping us connect with these individuals, and we thank all of our interviewees for taking time to share their insights and knowledge with our audience.

Happy New Year!

5. California Teachers Talk: Jesús Gutiérrez, Jr on the Common Core

As part of our Get It Right campaign on Common Core implementation, we are pleased to highlight the perspective of Jesús Gutiérrez, Jr, who is in his 10th year as an educator and was a 2013 Los Angeles County Teacher of the Year. Gutiérrez began his career ...

With the news that the U.S. is now going to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba, I’ve become hopeful that other things might change for the better, including in the world of K-12 education, in the year ahead. To put this thinking in context: I was part of a People to People delegation to Cuba the first week of September this year and came away fully convinced that the only way life would improve for both Cubans and Americans was to lift the embargo (still to be done) and open up travel and exchanges between the two countries (with last week’s announcement, this will begin immediately).

In the same vein, I’d like to start anew in 2015 to build bridges between those of us who have spent our professional lives in a variety of positions in public education (mine began with four years teaching English language arts with middle and high school students) and those who loudly proclaim themselves “reformers” out to shake up the status quo and push out change resisters so “innovation” can happen.  Let’s begin by talking to and about each other in a more careful way—for example: ...

Looking back on 2014, the Learning First Alliance is pleased to bring you the five most viewed success stories* from the more than 190 stories housed on our site. Criteria for inclusion on the site is relatively straightforward – the story must show that a school, district or state identified a challenge, addressed it and produced positive results through their efforts. These results are measured in a variety of ways, from increased graduation rates or decreased dropout rates to improved standardized test scores or positive outcomes in student health and behavior. Other indicators may highlight parent engagement, improved classroom performance or new innovative practices that foster student engagement. Many stories also highlight the collaboration among education leaders. We would like to extend our thanks to all the organizations that allowed us to cross-post their features in this past year.

We wish you happy reading and a Happy New Year!

5. Using Incentives to Motivate Students ...

In reflecting on our work over the past year, we at the Learning First Alliance are particularly proud of our efforts to learn what it will take to get Common Core right. We highlighted perspectives on the issue from a number of state and local leaders in podcasts and written interviews, engaged with the public in a series of Twitter Town Halls on issues related to implementation, released commentary in local markets, and celebrated progress in our efforts to delay tying high-stakes consequences to standardized assessments aligned with the standards.

But education in 2014 wasn’t just about Common Core. In December alone, major events transpired: the U.S. Department of Education released proposed federal regulations for teacher preparation programs (open for comment until February 2), and the FCC approved a major increase in funding for the E-rate program, a decision will greatly expand schools' and libraries' access to high-speed internet.

We covered these items and much, much more on our blog this year. Of all that we posted, what caught the attention of you, our readers? Here are our top posts of 2014, as determined by Google Analytics. Enjoy!

  1. Three Ways to Build Trust for Professional Learning – In our top post of 2014, Learning Forward Senior Fellow Hayes Mizell argues that a lack of trust is at the core of many educators’ cynicism about and resistance to professional learning, and he offers three ways that leaders responsible for organizing professional learning can build it.
  2. Brain Research: Three Principles for the 21st Century Classroom – Brain research has given us some solid principles in the past decade
  3. ...

Tarsi Dunlop's picture

STEM for All Kids

STEM is far more nuanced than the acronym suggests. At an early December NCTET-sponsored event at Discovery Education headquarters, the focus was on the importance of STEM in teaching and learning.

Science, technology, engineering and math aren’t just for individuals who already excel in the subjects; STEM can be for all students in all classes. And it really isn’t about excelling in key subjects, but a mindset that can be infused across a curriculum. In school, STEM helps students see what they can be, what they can do, and what problems they can solve. You can’t be what you can’t see, and STEM learning is a logical connection to the real world opportunities students can pursue in their future careers.  ...

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