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The Public School Insights Blog

By Stephanie Hirsh, Executive Director, Learning Forward

During a recent trip to the grocery store, the cashier told me that the city had instituted a five-cent charge for plastic bags. I immediately purchased three reusable bags to carry home my groceries and will always have those bags with me.

As I walked to the car, I thought about what had just happened. For years, I had watched while others brought their reusable grocery bags to the checkout lane. I thought it was a great idea, but I never took the step to change my habits. I knew why I should change my habits, but hadn't made the change -- it just wasn't important enough to me. And then, in the blink of an eye, I changed a behavior.  

It's not that I can't afford the five cents. It was the principle. But what was the principle? That I wouldn't pay for something that before had been free? That I heard the city's message about reducing waste? Or that I already knew it was the right thing and now had the motivation to change? ...

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

It’s an insidious message embedded in the American psyche: Those who can’t, teach. For years, report after report has banged the drum for raising admission standards into teacher preparation programs, citing international comparisons and championing cost-prohibitive recruitment policies.

In reality, the talent pool now entering teacher preparation programs is rich. Our programs are, in fact, attracting their share of high achievers—defined by any number of criteria.

One popular (if unreliable) measure of academic ability, SAT and ACT scores, has been trending upward among novice teachers in public schools. A recent study out of Stanford University finds that new teachers in 2008 had a wide range of SAT results, evenly spanning the bottom, middle, and top third of scores. This distribution reflects a change from scores reported in 1993 and 2000, when very few new teachers came from the top third. A similar study looked at new teachers in New York State and found a significant increase in teachers from the top third of SAT scores from 1999 to 2010.

Academic ability alone, of course, does not make anyone a good teacher, nor is it meaningfully reflected in SAT scores ...

Maryland PTA President Ray Leone shares his perspective on building parent understanding and support of the Common Core by engaging families and communities at the local level through public forums and open lines of communication.

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Following is an edited transcript:

LFA: Welcome to Get It Right: Common Sense on the Common Core, a podcast series from The Learning First Alliance.  Across the nation we've embraced the possibility of college and career-ready standards and their potential to transform teaching and learning.  In community after community we see the potential these standards offer to help all children gain the knowledge and skills they need for success in the global community. ...

By Joan Richardson, Editor-in-Chief, Kappan magazine (PDK International)

I’ve always preferred having blinds or curtains covering the windows in my home — at least the windows that face the street or my neighbors. I don’t want just anybody peeking into my house.

But the windows of my home office are only partly covered, allowing light to stream in and brighten the room and to let me look out to watch cardinals perch in nearby trees.

And, because I live in a three-story house, I have a few windows up high that aren’t covered at all, which allows me to look out over the evergreens and maple trees without any worry about nosy neighbors peering into my private space.

I’m guessing that most folks are like me — picking and choosing the times and places where we value our privacy and the times and places where we’re willing to open up a little because of the benefit we’ll gain by being a little less protective ...

By Brian Lewis, CEO, International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)

When it comes to meeting the needs of students, educators have aspirational goals. They passionately maintain a positive vision for what each student can become. Educators and school leaders know one size does not fit all. As such, many of them have a number of different learning and teaching strategies to reach every child. The same cannot typically be said for the delivery of professional learning for educators.

As Congress takes steps to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (more recently referred to as No Child Left Behind), the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) is calling upon leaders to include the Enhancing Education Through Technology Act of 2015 (EETT15) in the final bill.

When it comes to professional learning for educators, the approach too often adheres to the “sage-on-the-stage” method. Educators are expected to sit through one-time workshops or lengthened faculty meetings for passive professional development ...

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

Editor’s note: This post was compiled from a series written during Domenech’s participation in the 2015 Lifetouch Memory Mission in Constanza, Dominican Republic.

Building a School in the Mountains of the Dominican Republic

For several years, Lifetouch, one of AASA’s major corporate sponsors, has organized Memory Missions. These are opportunities for people to travel to areas in need of assistance in underdeveloped countries.

For four years, the Memory Mission has focused on helping the mountain community of Constanza build a school. AASA members and staff have participated in all of them. This year, I am joined by David Pennington, the president of AASA, and Noelle Ellerson, AASA’s associate executive director, policy and advocacy. We are laying down bricks to help finish the school. It is intense manual labor but the work is being done side by side with superintendents, principals, teachers and PTA members—all taking part in the Memory Mission.

The reward comes from seeing the joy in the eyes of the students and the gratefulness on the part of parents as they see the school being constructed for them. It is instant gratification for all. That’s something that educators don’t get much of these days ...

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

When she said, “My husband has set a goal that America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world,” the audience erupted in applause. Her husband is President Barack Obama, so “she” is, of course, First Lady Michelle Obama. She was speaking in the East Room of the White House at a ceremony honoring the 2015 School Counselor of the Year, Cory Notestine, of Alamosa High School in Alamosa, CO, and the award finalists and semifinalists.

The American School Counselor Association and other organizations have been working with Mrs. Obama for more than a year to develop her Reach Higher initiative to help students compete their education beyond high school. “The more that I learned about our school counselors, the more I realized that often America’s school counselors are truly the deciding factor in whether our young people attend college or not,” she said.

She reiterated a fact that educators know well, that post-secondary education is essential for good jobs with good wages. But she also described a bigger impact ...

By Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director, National School Boards Association (NSBA)

Last week was National School Choice Week, self-described as "an unprecedented opportunity to shine a spotlight on the need for effective education options for all children."

Ironically, "opportunity" for America's schoolchildren is what National School Choice Week places at risk. The further irony is "choice" can mean public tax dollars siphoned away from community schools to subsidize for-profit ventures. Vouchers, tuition tax credits and charter schools not governed by local school boards create a secondary, profit-driven system of education that strains limited resources and risks re-segregating schools, economically and socially, by admitting only certain, top-performing students.

Our nation's grassroots democracy was founded on the principle that all children, regardless of ZIP code, deserve access to a world-class education. Nine out of 10 school-age children today are enrolled in public schools, which are their gateway to the future. Choice absent accountability can hurt vulnerable students when the choice turns out to be a bad one ...

The business community has been a proponent of the Common Core State Standards Initiative from the beginning. Recognizing the need for high standards that prepare America's students to compete in a global community and the potential benefits of the standards for both the workforce and the economy, companies (and individual CEOs) continue to voice their support for the Common Core as the standards have faced political pushback, testifying in state legislatures, writing op-eds and more.

As those of us in the education community continue the hard work of Common Core implementation while at the same time trying to build public support for the effort, we should ask ourselves: Are we using all the resources at our disposal? Are we working effectively with the business community in support of a common goal?

To explore this issue, on January 29, we at the Learning First Alliance teamed up with the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) to host #CCSSBiz, a Twitter Town Hall on Common Core and the business community ...

By Rich Bagin, APR, Executive Director, National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA)

People often say, “Numbers don’t lie,” when they paint a negative picture of the U.S. education system in international comparisons. But numbers also “tell the truth” when you look at some other startling international indicators that compare factors of social stress and economic equity of U.S. students and families with eight other major countries studied in the report, School Performance in Context: The Iceberg Effect.

Jointly published by the Horace Mann League of the U.S.A. and the National Superintendents Roundtable, this research report gives school leaders new insight to better explain the big picture of international comparisons. For the full report, a summary, and an electronic news release, go to http://www.hmleague.org/ or http://www.superintendentsforum.org/. NSPRA’s main mission is to build more support for education and is helping both organizations tell this story so that policymakers can better understand where our community support is most needed.

International assessment results are generally presented as scores, ratings or rankings, creating what might be called a scoreboard mentality. But thoughtful private and public leaders know instinctively that a range of social, economic and cultural conditions affect those numbers. For example, a country with the highest average GDP per person might also have an extraordinarily high level of economic inequity and social stresses that have profound implications for students and their achievement in school ...

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