Learning First Alliance

Strengthening public schools for every child

The Public School Insights Blog

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

It is not going to happen. ESEA will not be reauthorized any time soon. I have been a skeptic throughout the entire process. ESEA could have been easily reauthorized during the first two years of the Obama administration when the Democrats held a majority in both houses of Congress but that clearly was not a priority. After the 2011 midterm election, the Democrats lost the House and chances for reauthorization diminished. After the 2015 midterm elections, when the Republicans gained control of both legislative chambers, the possibility emerged that the Republicans had the votes to pass bills in both Houses but the threat of a Presidential veto loomed large.

Truth be told, there really are no significant policy issues between the two parties when it comes to education. The reality is that the House and Senate, whether Democrat or Republican, agree on far more than not, and that the grid lock is more aligned with adults and politics than with students and schools. At one time there was a clear delineation between Democrats and Republicans on issues like school choice, vouchers, teacher tenure, and seniority and education reform. Today those lines are blurred, and the differences have become political rather than pedagogical ...

Parent engagement and community engagement have been trending in education lingo for some time, but what do these really mean for school districts? 

Parent engagement strategies are designed to go beyond the required parent-teacher conferences, volunteering, and seminars and events that public schools have used for decades to draw in families and community members. Now, we are happy to see that a few school districts and states are trying to encourage longer-term strategies that are directly tied to student learning, Education Week reports.

These school leaders see that parents who are aware of what’s going on in their child’s school and get involved in working toward academic goals will help their child succeed academically. But it also helps draw needed support for public education from parents and the community. ...

How have the Common Core State Standards impacted higher education and teacher training? Dorie Combs, a professor in the School of Clinical Educator Preparation at Eastern Kentucky University, recently spoke to the Learning First Alliance about how higher education institutions in Kentucky are using the CCSS to prepare new teachers.

Combs described the process that brought together higher education and K-12 practitioners to analyze the standards and figure out how they could be successfully integrated into teacher training in her state. That collaboration, while sometimes messy, was key to ensuring everyone saw the benefit of the standards and could weave the standards into their specific curricula, she said.

Combs said the higher education community saw much potential in the standards, particularly to help connect higher education with the high school curriculum. ...

With more than 81 percent of students graduating within four years of entering high school, the Class of 2013 achieved the highest on-time graduation rate in U.S. history, according to the 2015 Building a Grad Nation report. After graduation rates languished in the low 70s for nearly four decades, rates have accelerated dramatically over the past decade.  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 Hispanics, the fastest growing group of students in our nation’s schools, whose graduation rate increased from 71 percent to 75 percent between 2011 and 2013. Black students made significant gains during this period as well, improving their graduation rate from 67 percent to 71 percent. Despite these gains the graduation rates for black and Hispanic students are still significantly lower than those of white students (87 percent). ...

By Mel Riddile, Ed.D, Associate Director of High School Services, National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP)

Author’s note: This is the second of a two-part post on the challenges faced by principals implementing online testing tied to the Common Core and new college- and career-ready standards. So much has happened in recent weeks that I divided the entry into two parts because one post would not do justice to the topic.

In part 1, I described that with the spring testing season now winding down, principals in a number of states feel as though they are under siege. For some schools, whatever could go wrong has gone wrong.

From my contact with principals in a number of states and my ongoing work with principals in schools in five states, I have learned that online assessments present principals with a number of new and old challenges.

I divided this post into two parts. Part 1 addressed non-technical challenges principals face in implementing the new assessments. This entry will address the technical issues.

Following are eight technical challenges school leaders face in implementing online testing related to the Common Core and new college- and career-ready standards:

The transition from paper-and-pencil to online assessments takes several years before it becomes normal.

We learned from previous experiences with online instruction that it usually took time to work out the technical problems. So, when we began high-stakes, online testing, we expected problems. We prepared for problems, and we learned from the problems ...

By Mel Riddile, Ed.D, Associate Director of High School Services, National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP)

Author’s note: I initially intended that this blog entry would focus only on the technical side of online testing, but so much has happened in recent weeks that I would not do justice to the topic if I ignored the context in which the new, online testing occurs.

With the spring testing season now winding down, principals in a number of states feel as though they are under siege. For some schools, whatever could go wrong has gone wrong.

From my contact with principals in a number of states and my ongoing work with principals in schools in five states, I have learned that online assessments present principals with a number of new and old challenges.

I have divided this post into two parts. Part 1 will address non-technical challenges principals face in implementing the new assessments. Part 2 will address the technical issues.

Following are six non-technical challenges school leaders face in implementing online testing related to the Common Core and new college- and career-ready standards:

The new standards are a decade-long implementation initiative.

Whereas some reformers mistakenly believe that the Common Core and new college- and career-ready standards have already been implemented, I know differently ...

In a recent Get It Right: Common Sense on the Common Core podcast, sixth-grade teacher Tanya Golden spoke about how her district has used Teacher Leaders to develop Common Core-aligned units of study and help school staff the implement these new units.

Golden is a sixth grade teacher at Carver Academy in California’s ABC Unified School District. She feels that having teachers at the table to determine how the district should use Common Core is helpful in figuring out whether something that sounded good in theory could actually work in the classroom.

“That’s where the teacher’s voice is important, for us to let them know, ‘yes this sounds wonderful--but this is what I need as a teacher,’” she said.

In the classroom, Common Core has caused her to look at previously taught lessons in a totally different way. A recent lesson about a book provoked more critical thinking about the storyline and the characters as opposed to reading for comprehension, she said. ...

By Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers (AFT)

Every day, educators are making a difference in children's lives—and they do it despite staggering obstacles. Recently, the AFT collaborated with the Badass Teachers Association to survey educators on how their working conditions affect them, and the results show that the obstacles they face at work are taking more of a toll than ever.

Ninety-six percent of the educators who took our survey say they're physically and emotionally exhausted at the end of the day, and 87 percent say the demands of their job interfere with family life. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

After seeing the results of this survey, I am convinced that we need a scientific study on how work is affecting teachers and school employees' health and well-being. We're asking members to urge the Department of Education to take on this important research. ...

Most of you know us — we’ve been helping meet the health and safety needs of the school communities you work in for 28 years — but you’ve never seen us quite like this! The rumors are true; the National Education Association Health Information Network (NEA HIN) has gotten a makeover!

Launched May 11, 2015 with a fresh look, a stronger focus, and a deeper commitment than ever, NEA Healthy Futures is your go to place for health, safety, and school employee wellness information, resources, and solutions.

You might be wondering why we decided to change — why we decided to say goodbye to the National Education Association Health Information Network? The short answer? After 28 years, it was time. ...

Let’s talk frankly.  Most relationships between the school systems and their communities are dysfunctional - like a bad marriage.  Each has suffered deeply crushed expectations.  If each party were to write a letter to each other trying to save the relationship, letters might read like this:

Dear School:

I am writing this letter to you because I care about you.  I believe every child has to be given access to a quality education--no matter what form--as long as its quality meets the needs of kids and prepares them to be productive citizens.  I’m deeply disappointed in our relationship.  Time and time again you have asked for support and whenever I could, I have provided it whether it was money, mentors, internships, volunteers, speakers and even helping out at school events.  You promised that this is what you needed to be healthy and that kids would benefit.  ...

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