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The Public School Insights Blog

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

What do students need to know and do to be able to thrive in the 21st century? This is the question that P21 has been working in concert with business, education leaders, and policymakers to answer over the last 10 years. Turns out, the skills that students need to succeed in college and workplace – a.k.a. to be college & career ready – are the same ones they need to be 21st century citizens.

Just as the world of work has changed, with the advent of technology and globalization, so has the nature of citizenship. The challenges of being a responsible, effective citizen are more diverse, nuanced and complex than they have been before. Because of this, our understanding of what it means to be a citizen in the 21st century needs to be expanded. Public schools have always played an important part of shaping tomorrow's citizens and safeguarding the ideals of our democracy. That responsibility is just as vital today. In fact, as we discuss standards, assessments and teaching practices, we can't forget that our educators also carry with them the responsibility to impart to students what it means to be a citizen of this nation, this world and online. ...

By Dan Brown, Executive Director, Future Educators Association (part of the PDK International Family of Associations)

Fresh out of New York University film school in 2003 and with only a whirlwind summer of training, it was pretty clear to me that I wasn’t safe to practice as a new teacher. Still, the New York City Teaching Fellows gave me hiring papers. Fueled by excitement and inspiration, I took a job teaching 26 4th graders in the Bronx that fall. Although I knew virtually zero about effective teaching, I plunged ahead armed with wits and worksheets.

My rookie year in Class 4-217 at P.S. 85 was, of course, a fiasco – lost learning time that those students can’t get back. Visitors to our class would have seen student fights, unceasing chatter and a stressed-out teacher resorting to survival mode and lowered expectations.

I should have had to wait until I could demonstrate a baseline of competency. The practice of heaping everything on underprepared rookies – like my 22-year-old self – needs to stop. In this trial-by-fire culture, everyone loses: students and parents get stuck with low-skilled teachers, new teachers struggle and run for the door, and our education system remains locked in a state of churn.

The lack of a clear, high bar for what new teachers should know and be able to do on day one also has lowered expectations and respect for the teaching profession. ...

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

Common Core State Standards and the first iPad were released. Together, these changed the name of the game in U.S. education.

The Common Core assessments were designed to be taken online, requiring students to be comfortable with using and navigating digital resources. The tablet offered an affordable alternative to computer labs and carts — one that was portable enough for students to use throughout their school day and at home.

Reviewing the current body of research, ISTE found that 1:1 programs were already showing educational gains for students in special education as well as improved reading and writing skills in certain student populations, piquing the attention of decision makers. ...

By Jim Hull, Senior Policy Analyst, National School Boards Association’s Center for Public Education (CPE)

Last month’s Vergara decision, where a California judge ruled the state’s teacher tenure law was unconstitutional, sent shock waves across the education world. Debates simmered over what the decision would mean for teacher tenure in other states. The big question being asked: Is this the beginning of the end of tenure for teacher’s nationwide?

Time will only tell but it is unlikely teacher tenure will be going away on a mass scale anytime soon. That’s because California has long had some of the most lenient tenure requirements in the country. It was this low bar for obtaining tenure that the judge cited in his decision, which found the state’s teacher tenure laws deprived students of their right to an education under the state constitution and violated their civil rights. Even so, this low bar for tenure may still have passed constitutional mustard if they weren’t so closely tied to key personnel decisions such as determining which teachers could be laid off and the ability to dismiss ineffective teachers, which the plaintiffs’ claimed disproportionately impacted disadvantaged students.

If this decision had happened five years ago I would have predicted a larger ripple effect. However, as our Trends in Teacher Evaluations report found, a number of states have already made the changes to their laws ...

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

Once upon a time, we were challenged to find useful data about education. Not much information was collected, and it was largely inaccessible. In recent years, as public demands for greater transparency and evidence-based accountability have generated an information frenzy, we still face this challenge—but not because data are scant. Now they are overabundant, often difficult to decipher, or of unreliable quality. In this new environment, we must prepare teachers and other education leaders to be not only data literate, but also advocates for effective data use by others.

Researchers and education leaders must take responsibility for helping PK-12 practitioners and other decision makers interpret the data being generated by districts, states, think tanks, research and policy organizations, schools themselves, and a multitude of other sources—often with set agendas that taint the evidence. Too often, unscrupulous data collection and usage leads to antagonistic distractions, bad press, and worse policy decisions ...

By Casey Carlson, American Federation of Teachers member and resource specialist at Soquel High School in Santa Cruz City Schools (CA)

Editor's note: This month, a judge in California handed down a ruling that pits teachers against their students, claiming that due process rights for teachers – often called tenure – negatively affect disadvantaged students. The American Federation of Teachers asked educators to offer their perspectives on what due process rights mean to them and how those rights impact their work in the classroom. The following post is one teacher’s response.

What Due Process Means to Me

As a special educator, I have often had to disagree with, or act in opposition to, directions of my administrators in order to stand up for the rights of students with disabilities.

When I was a young teacher in Oakland, I was part of a program that moved students with more severe disabilities from a segregated campus to a junior high school. At first, we were not included in school activities like assemblies, and my students were not integrated in PE or music. I had to stand up for their right to be included ...

As a child, I was told never to say that I was bored. Being bored meant I wasn't able to find something interesting or engaging to do, which was not acceptable. “The world is big and full of opportunities, do something!”, as my mother would say.

Boredom, as highlighted in the May issue of the Kappan, a PDK International publication, "is a mismatch between wanting intellectual arousal but being unable to engage in a satisfying activity."  The above description of boredom, from the article "Neuroscience Reveals That Boredom Hurts," suggests that students who seem to willfully defy urgings to focus on school assignments and work may simply be experiencing an involuntary brain reaction. ...

By NEA and NEA HIN staff

Summer is officially here, and most schools across the nation have marked the end of another academic year.

For many kids, the coming of summer signals little more than a seasonal shift from one set of scheduled, adult-supervised lessons and activities to another.

But the more time children spend in these structured, parent-guided activities, the worse their ability to work productively towards self-directed goals.

Unscheduled, unsupervised playtime is one of the most valuable educational opportunities we give our children. It is fertile ground; the place where children strengthen social bonds, build emotional maturity, develop cognitive skills, and shore up their physical health. ...

By Anne Foster, Executive Director, Parents for Public Schools (PPS)

The past few weeks have been graduation season at high schools across America. The Class of 2014 has been unleashed on the world!  

As a school board member in Texas for nine years, nothing compared to handing diplomas to our graduates. Their eyes were shining as they crossed that stage, and their bright eyes reflected the efforts of so many to get them to that point – schools, school boards, teachers, the community, parents, and the students themselves!

A few weeks ago, there was good news about graduation rates in America, using data from 2012. Graduation rates have reached 80%, representing a 10% increase from a decade ago. The new graduation rates are now at levels from 40 years ago. Graduation rates are difficult to track, because of things like transfer students, the number of years it takes to graduate, and the various ways data is collected.  In 2008, the federal government created a new calculation system which has helped schools report data the same way and gain more consistency.

 American public schools have seen progress, and there are good reasons for it. Schools have become more accountable for the numbers of students who graduate. They have worked one-on-one with students in danger of not graduating. Schools with the most challenges have been given additional support. And there has been more of an awareness of the need ...

Mark White is the incoming President of the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP). He began his career as a principal 25 years ago, after serving as a classroom teacher for six years, and he is eminently qualified to share best practices and recommendations as a long-serving building leader. Mr. White has been the principal of Hintgen Elementary School in La Crosse, Wisconsin, since 1990. He has served as President of the Association of Wisconsin School Administrators and held a variety of positions with NAESP, including State Representative and Federal Relations Coordinator. He is in his third year on the NAESP Board of Directors, representing Iowa, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

Principal White was kind enough to share key insights and advice on a diverse array of topics, including supporting new teachers, creating a safe school climate, the need for elementary principals to have background in early childhood development, and implementation of the Common Core State Standards. In his comments, he exemplifies a respect for teachers, appreciation for the critical role parental support plays in a child’s education, and the need to communicate with the local community. LFA is deeply appreciative for Principal White’s contribution to our interview series.

Public School Insights (PSI): You’ve been a principal for 25 years. How have principal needs changed in the past decade or so? And what advice would you give to newer principals who are starting out?

White: The role of the principal has shifted dramatically in the past decade.  The need for a refined set of leadership skills by principals has never been more important.  The expectations by the community, parents, and staff point directly to the principal’s office.  With those high expectations comes great responsibility and resulting possibility.  The education community has never been more open to innovation and creativity on the part of principals.  Along with the openness comes increased expectations and accountability ...

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