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The Public School Insights Blog

By Stephanie Hirsh, Executive Director, Learning Forward

We know quite a bit about the strategies that help educators improve and develop expertise over time. Over the long term, we have gathered evidence from research and the field about professional learning that led to changed practices for teachers and better results for students.

For example, numerous researchers have established the value of learning communities, and each week we hear about more districts creating time for learning communities to meet during the work day. We know from more than a decade of research sponsored by The Wallace Foundation and others that principals who act as instructional leaders (with all that entails) have a greater impact on advancing students and teachers. Both research and the field emphasize repeatedly the importance of collaboration and the value of peer learning. And while the research isn't clear on the impact of coaching, examples in the field lead us to believe in its usefulness. ...

By Otha Thornton, President, National PTA

It started as a whisper. But the injustice taking place in 1954 to African-American school children in Topeka, KS, didn’t stay quiet for long. It took Oliver L. Brown, a welder for the Santa Fe Railroad, to stand up and call out an education system that wasn’t integrated and wasn’t fair. His request was simple: He wanted his 7-year-old daughter Linda to attend a nearby school designated as white-only instead of being bused across town to an all-black Monroe Elementary School. He instead created a movement that reverberated all the way to the Supreme Court and culminated with the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, which declared “separate but equal” education unconstitutional.

PTA was there, immediately taking a stand supporting school integration, a move that cost the association some three-million members. Unfazed, these courageous mothers put pressure on all states to integrate. They called it unification. They were ridiculed for their position, but knew that history would be on their side. A few years later, PTA merged with the National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers Association (who had also taken a lead role in supporting Brown and others fighting across the country for school equality) to ...

For his decades of work towards, and advocacy for, the advancement of public education in North Carolina and across the nation, the Learning First Alliance honors Governor James B. Hunt with its 2014 Education Visionary Award.

Considered by many to be the nation’s first “education governor,” Hunt served an historic four terms as governor of North Carolina, from 1977-1985 and 1993-2001. Under his leadership, North Carolina public schools improved test scores more than any other state in the 1990s, according to the Rand Corporation.  

Hunt has also been at the forefront of national education reform, particularly in the areas of early childhood development and the improvement of the quality of teaching. Among his many successes in education, his Smart Start program received the prestigious Innovations in American Government Award from ...

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

I’m sitting here trying to convince myself to go to class. Class begins in two hours, and I am not ready. I have not studied. I have not finished the homework. Actually, I’m not even certain what homework I was supposed to do. I’m worried that the teacher will call on me and that I won’t be ready. I don’t want to be embarrassed. Again.

Maybe I’ll just skip class. Maybe I’ll drop the course.

Not being the best student in class is new territory for me. I have always excelled in class, and I expected to excel in this one as well. How wrong I was!

When I decided to go to Haiti this winter (see my article on p. 76 of the May 2014 Kappan) and learned I would lead a PDK trip to Amsterdam and Paris next fall, the time seemed right to brush up on my French. With ...

By Lisa Abel-Palmieri, International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Blogger

Girls want to change the world.

Eighty-eight percent say they want to make a difference with their lives, and 90 percent express a desire to help people, according to the Girl Scouts’ “Generation STEM” research. Girls have traditionally achieved this goal through people-oriented careers rather than through applying technology and scientific expertise to change the way things are done.

However, if more girls learn that STEM careers open up new avenues to help and serve, more girls will choose STEM.

Maker education allows girls to experience in a fun, tangible way how they can apply STEM skills to solve real problems — all while developing dexterity, learning about ideation and practicing teamwork. By giving girls the opportunity to make and tinker, we also help them develop their creative confidence so they persevere in pursuing STEM majors and careers. The “Generation STEM” report found that 92 percent of girls who engage with STEM subjects believe that they are smart enough to ...

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

Last month the FCC closed its comment period for its most recent Public Notice, soliciting responses for the FCC’s proposed changes to the E-Rate program. As a former school superintendent and in my current role with AASA, an organization that has advocated for the E-Rate program since its inception, and as a member of the USAC board, the entity that administers the E-Rate program, I have strongly supported the E-Rate program for the critical role it has played in the rapid and dramatic expansion of school and library connectivity, forever changing the face of students’ classroom experiences.

The current E-Rate policy environment is an unprecedented confluence of events: An FCC Chairman committed to modernizing the E-Rate program, an FCC Commissioner deeply passionate about E-Rate, the momentum of the President’s ConnectEd proposal, the announcement of $2 billion in found funding for the E-Rate program, and the ever-increasing demand for connectivity in the nation’s schools and libraries. Program policy isn’t made in a silo, though, and there are external pressures that stand to shape the final E-Rate changes as much as the voice of program ...

By Gerard J. Puccio and Julia Figliotti, for the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21)

Proving Creativity Is an Essential Skill

Organizations everywhere are shouting from the rooftops. They are calling for innovation and imagination in our schools and demanding innovation and imagination in the workplace. The essence of it all: creativity is finally being recognized as a must-have, 21st century work skill.

At the International Center for Studies in Creativity (ICSC), we believe it is more than just a work skill. Creativity is a necessity at the workplace, in a home environment and everywhere in between. To cope with the ever-present change in our modern world, creativity has become an essential life skill for all.

Resistance Remains

However, in spite of the clarion call for creativity, there is still some resistance to the view that creativity is a skill that can be developed. In our opinion, there are two major impediments to the integration of creativity into businesses, education and society. The first obstacle is probably the most obvious: while many business leaders tout the importance of creativity in their employees, our educational systems seem to be leaning in the opposite ...

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

With 80 percent of students graduating within four-years of entering high school, the Class of 2012 achieved the highest on-time graduation rate in U.S. history according to the 2014 Building a Grad Nation report. After graduation rates languished in the low 70s for nearly four decades, rates have accelerated dramatically since 2006, improving by eight percentage points in just six years. According to the report, if this rate of improvement continues the national graduation rate will reach 90 percent by 2020, a goal of the authors of Grad Nation.

While attainment gaps remain, the gap is narrowing between traditionally disadvantaged students and their more advantaged peers. This is particularly true for the fastest growing group of students in our nation’s schools, Hispanics, whose graduation rate jumped from 61 percent to 76 percent between 2006 and ...

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

A new report from the National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY), in partnership with the Center on Great Teachers and Leaders (GTL Center) at American Institutes for Research and five leading national education organizations, including AACTE, was released on April 30. This collaborative approach to research provided an opportunity for teachers and education partners to address the question, “How does the profession support teachers’ development overtime?” The Council of Chief State School Officers hosted a release event featuring a panel discussion by teacher leaders, researchers, and policy makers about the report’s findings

Insights in the report, From Good to Great: Exemplary Teachers Share Perspectives on Increasing Teacher Effectiveness Across the Career Continuum, are based on an exploratory survey of more than 300 national and state teachers of the year. This research identifies valuable professional experiences and supports that were essential to these exemplar teachers’ professional growth and effectiveness throughout various stages of their career. Teachers responded to survey questions relevant to four stages of the teacher career continuum, identified as ...

By Gail Connelly, Executive Director, National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP)

Educators may continue to argue about the best methods to measure student performance. But most of us agree that achievement gaps resulting from race and socioeconomic status are a moral imperative that educators have a responsibility to address.

We know that principals play a key role in closing achievement gaps. Research over the past 30 years shows that strong school leadership is second only to teaching among school influences on student success and is most significant in schools with the greatest need.

As the role of the principal expands, and becomes more and more complex, it may help to keep a focus on four key things that principals can do to improve learning conditions for students and create a school culture that helps close the gap:

1. Hire effective teachers. Here’s why Finland sits at the top of international rankings: It trains and supports teachers better than we do in the United States. For one, teacher education in Finland is a five-year, university-based program, with emphasis on ...

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