Learning First Alliance

Strengthening public schools for every child

The Public School Insights Blog

Sometimes, the college and career standards become very real and personal.  This occurred for my wife and me at our son’s recent parent-teacher conference.  Our son is having a good year, thanks in large part to his wonderful teacher.  We reviewed his progress in reading, writing, math, and other subjects.  She was positive and enthusiastic with a good sense of humor.  When the subject of math came up, she highlighted how the students were using new practices like quantitative and abstract reasoning to develop a deeper understanding of key concepts.  She also shared that it had not been easy shifting to some of the new methods but that it had been worth it.  She observed that students were developing a deeper understanding of computational thinking.  She even exhibited the self-confidence of a good teacher by sharing that students often solve problems faster than her as she still uses the rote techniques that were drilled into all of us as students and have become part of our automaticity. ...

Education technology is the single most important condition to support learner-centered education (LCE). A few years into 1:1 implementations across the country, our conversations have shifted towards student data privacy, security, internet safety and digital literacy.  In addition to filtering, blocking, and signing protective agreements, districts are faced with the need to develop thoughtful campaigns to educate users.

Teachers and students use a large number of open source digital resources. In addition to assessing their effectiveness, we need to analyze license agreements and verify their implementation to ensure the protection of our students and their data. But how do we do this without adding yet one more thing in the large list of teacher responsibilities? ...

Could education stakeholders in your state create a unified vision on how to educate every child to fulfill his or her potential? And could that help school leaders lead the conversation on improving public education?

At a session at the National School Boards Association's Annual Conference in Boston this month, panelists discussed those questions. For the past four years, school boards and superintendents in Oklahoma have spearheaded an effort to identify what kind of changes are needed in public education and build consensus on what actions and resources are required to fulfill that vision. They were inspired by similar efforts in Georgia, Missouri, and Texas. ...

What are the first steps on the road to accomplished teaching? Educators Rising is working to find out, and we need your feedback.

Educators Rising—powered by PDK International— is a national network working to help school systems guide young people on the path to teaching starting in high school. Since launching in 2015, students and teachers leaders in 1,200 schools across the country have joined. A recent profile in Education Week notes, “Forty-nine percent of the [14,000] student members are racial and ethnic minorities—a rate that far outpaces the 17-percent minority makeup of the current U.S. teaching profession.

Now Educators Rising — in partnership with the National Education Association — is coordinating an effort to back-map the road to accomplished teaching into the secondary space. The organization is defining what high school students exploring teaching careers must know and be able to do to be on the path to becoming accomplished teachers. ...

The National Institutes of Health is launching a 10-year, multifaceted study on adolescent brain development that could provide important clues to how students learn and grow.

As the largest effort ever undertaken on this topic, the study will include about 10,000 children and will follow 9- and 10-year-olds into early adulthood to look at the impact of both genetics and environmental factors on brain development. The study seeks to set standards for brain development and help doctors identify risk factors that could lead to issues such as depression, substance abuse, lower academic achievement.

By following a large number of children over a long period of time, researchers may see consistent patterns that lead to the achievement gap, said Dr. Gaya Dowling, the NIH project director who presented a webinar today explaining the study to Learning First Alliance member organizations and partners. ...

Celebrate your assistant principals’ successes during National Assistant Principals Week, April 11–15! This week recognizes the contributions of assistant principals to the success of students, teachers, parents, and school communities across the United States.

While the roles and responsibilities may depend on the individual school settings, assistant principals are essential to establishing a positive learning environment that ensures each student and adult is known and valued. ...

It’s axiomatic that experts in a field are better equipped than outsiders to design interventions that will work. Yet in education, we face a constant barrage of external reform efforts that fail to incorporate professional knowledge and expertise—and they just don’t work.

This point is reinforced in recent research out of the National Education Policy Center. In this study, Marilyn Cochran-Smith and her colleagues at Boston College (MA) examine the evidentiary base underlying four national initiatives for teacher preparation program accountability and improvement. They find that only one of the initiatives—the beginning-teacher performance assessment edTPA, designed and managed by the profession—is founded on claims supported by research. With a measure that is valid, scoring that is reliable, and therefore results that are accurate, we have a serious tool for program improvement. ...

Learning First Alliance Executive Director Richard M. Long chatted today with Education Talk Radio about the new Elementary and Secondary Education Act and its impact on college- and career-ready standards.

Dr. Long and host Larry Jacobs discussed DC’s move to give states more say in accountability for student achievement as well as the political environment behind Common Core and similar standards.

Dr. Long emphasized that the ability to use higher-level skills, including in literacy and math, is now part of the agenda, and this demand came from the business community, not the federal government. There are many new jobs for well-educated workers, he noted, but students must have the skills that employers need to attain these jobs.

The broadcast, "The New ESSA Law, Politics and Education,"  is archived on Education Talk Radio: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/edutalk/2016/04/06/the-new-essa-law-politics-and-education ...

What if I do more than share grades with parents?

I recently met with two parents and their son. It was a conference to discuss how he was doing in class and what they could do at home to help. If that kind of interpersonal communication is the "Gold Standard" of analog communications, we have to concede it's not the only way we can communicate with families, nor is it the most sustainable. But let's start with the conference and the tools for opening communication. Then on to other options.

Unlike years past, my year-round calendar does not allocate minimum days for conferencing anymore. My single conferences lasted one hour and fifteen minutes after school. To replicate this for my class of 28 students would require 35 hours. Quality communication? Yes. Replicable on a frequent basis? No.

While the recent conference was enlightening for the parents, student, and myself, I came away with two big wonderings: ...

In the early 70s, when I was a young administrator on New York’s Long Island, I was exposed to a program called Individually Guided Education out of the Kettering Foundation. The program focused on individualizing education for students by reorganizing schools and the classroom. During my 27 years as a superintendent I made numerous attempts to personalize learning. I established non-graded, multi-aged grouped environments, year-round schools, competency based assessments, open classrooms (you old enough to remember those?), schools without walls, and just about anything that might break us out of the traditional, assembly line, graded school.

Nothing worked. The decks were stacked against us. Parents of the non-graded students insisted on knowing what grade the student was in, as did the state department of education ...

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