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The Public School Insights Blog

October is National Principals Month, an annual opportunity to recognize the importance of school leaders and their role in supporting student learning, as evidenced by years of empirical research. Maximum levels of student learning are reached in optimal school conditions, many of which are the purview of school leaders. Strong leadership is an essential component in creating great public schools.

In an era where public schools are frequently under attack, recognizing outstanding leadership and the value of public school leaders is important as a way to remind the American public and policy makers that investing in human capacity is essential for building strong successful schools. Research indicates that leadership is second only to classroom teachers in terms of in-school factors impacting student learning, strong leadership is important for guiding sustainable school turnaround efforts and leadership matters even more for schools and communities facing challenging circumstances ...

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

According to Fortune magazine, women make up less than 5 percent of the chief executive officers working in Fortune 500 companies.

Only about 25 percent of our school districts are led by females.

Recognizing that we’re at a time when the emergence of outstanding women leaders has strengthened public education, we were pleased to co-host, along with our California state affiliate, the Association of California School Administrators, the third annual Women in School Leadership Forum.

The two-day event, held in Rohnert Park, CA, earlier this month, gathered nearly 200 women leaders. It was a pleasure to attend the sessions and speak to aspiring women leaders in education. The forum illustrated that more work needs to be done to bring more women into leadership positions, particularly given the challenges facing public education today. ...

Danielle Liebl, a former Special Olympics Project UNIFY National Youth Activation Committee Member from Minnesota, recently established her own non-profit - DIFFERbilities Experience. An extraordinary individual, Danielle has dedicated her life to make a difference for people with intellectual and cognitive disabilities.

The following blog post was written by Danielle for the DIFFERbilities Experience Blog and shared here with permission.

At the age of six years old, I can recall my mom and dad asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I always responded, “An orthopedic surgeon at Gillette.” You may be wondering how on earth does a six year old know what an orthopedic surgeon is? When you have cerebral palsy, not only do you see a lot of doctors, you also become very familiar with their titles. At the age of six, my primary doctor was an orthopedic surgeon and I thought he was the coolest! This dream of being an orthopedic surgeon lasted until sophomore year in high school, when biology class was required and I found out it is not my cup of tea. I believe my parents let out a huge sigh of relief when they realized there would be no lawsuits in the future. They always feared that I would have a spasm and accidentally put someone’s femur bone in their rib cage.

Although I realized that a career as a surgeon may not be for me, I still knew I wanted to help people with intellectual and cognitive disabilities. I decided instead of forcing myself to like biology, I should focus on something I was passionate. In high school I was very involved in Special Olympics. Through this tremendous organization, I was able to find my voice, my confidence and my passion. No longer was I the girl with cerebral palsy; instead, I was a respected human being ...

By Helen Soulé, Executive Director, Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21)

In countless schools across the US, a new year brings new students. It also brings “wonder” tools, applications and processes. For many educators, this deluge of technology threatens to drown them in an ocean of confusion and frustration. They face hard choices, not only about which tools to purchase, but how to integrate these tools into classroom instruction in a 21st century information and media rich curriculum.

Today, savvy educators realize that technology must be more than an electronic teacher with paperless worksheets. They recognize the transformative power of technology. But transforming instruction to take full advantage of digital power requires significant risk-taking, support and new skill development. Students and teachers must acquire not only the media, information and technology skills, but also the 4Cs (communication, critical thinking, creativity and innovation and collaboration) in order to be able to build a quality 21st century learning environment. ...

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

“I've come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It's my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child's life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or dehumanized.”

—    Haim Ginott, Teacher and Child (Macmillan, 1972), p. 15

I had expected to write this blog about Haim Ginott’s conception of who has the power in schools to set what he calls “the weather” in classrooms and schools. But, as I read Greg Patterson’s interview with four African-American educators in the October issue of Kappan, one phrase pulled me up short: How does it feel to be a problem?

The comment came from Richard J. Reddick, assistant professor of education at the University of Texas at Austin, who was quoting W.E.B. DuBois from The Souls of Black Folks (1903). ...

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

What will it take to build a better teacher? That’s the question that was recently discussed in a PBS NewsHour report featuring Elizabeth Green, co-founder and CEO of Chalkbeat and author of the new book, Building a Better Teacher.

In her book, Green explores the qualities and experiences that impact a teacher’s effectiveness in the classroom, underscoring one of the most important factors in performance: their preparation. She emphasizes that effective teaching requires not only intellect, but also a strong set of skills developed through rigorous instruction and clinical experience. Green’s book pierces through the complexities surrounding program quality to ask fundamental questions about how teachers become great and how schools of education can best support that process.

AACTE, with its more than 800 member institutions, recognizes the value of equipping teacher candidates with the tools they need to be successful in the classroom. And we appreciate the spotlight Green is shining on the cutting-edge developments in the field of teacher preparation. She highlights several programs at AACTE member institutions as model examples ...

The Learning First Alliance's Get It Right campaign spotlights states and communities working hard to get Common Core implementation right. Recently, we did a deeper dive into California's efforts to roll out the standards and are featuring educators' experiences with the process.

As part of this effort, we are pleased to highlight the perspective of Jesús Gutiérrez, Jr, who is in his 10th year as an educator. Gutiérrez began his career in the Los Angeles Unified School District at John Muir Middle School, where he taught English Language Development to 6th, 7th and 8th graders. He has worked in the Baldwin Park Unified School District for the last nine years, the first eight of which he taught English Language Development and Guided Studies to 9th–12th graders at Baldwin Park High School. He currently teaches 6th grade at Tracy Elementary School.

Gutiérrez is an accomplished educator who in 2013 was honored as Teacher of the Year for his school (for the second time), district and Los Angeles County. He was also a finalist for 2014 California Teacher of the Year.

Q. When did you first learn about the Common Core State Standards?  

Gutiérrez: The first time I learned about the Common Core standards was three years ago.

Q. How were the standards introduced to your school and district?   

Gutiérrez: The standards were introduced to my school site at a general common meeting time. The principal introduced the term “Common Core” and gave a brief overview of the new standards. He then proceeded to pass out a book ...

At the national level, we often talk about the political debate surrounding the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). But while that debate rages on, schools across the country are doing the hard work of implementation. And, while you might not know it from the tone of the conversation, it’s “going well,” according to over two-thirds (68%) of teachers participating in a recent survey. Also encouraging: 79% of teachers feel “very” or “somewhat” prepared to teach under the standards.

So how exactly is the Common Core impacting teaching and learning? On October 2, we at the Learning First Alliance hosted #CCSSteach, a Twitter Town Hall on teaching in a Common Core world, to find out. The event provided a forum for educators impacted by CCSS to share how they are acclimating to the standards.  

A few key themes emerged from this conversation. Overall, participants (including teachers, principals, district leaders and representatives of national organizations) indicated ...

For nearly three decades I’ve been an advocate for technology’s appropriate (and changing) use in teaching and learning, and during that time I’ve attended more meetings on “integrating” and  “scaling up” technology’s use in schools and classrooms than I can count on. As one might imagine, I’ve become somewhat cynical about the conversation since the themes and challenges remain the same. But despite my cynicism, I came away with some new language to use when discussing school improvement and the use of technology to support it after attending the EdTech Summit, Empowering Educators to Enhance Student Learning in the Digital Era, hosted by the Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands, the LEAD Commission and Common Sense Media earlier this week.

First, and most importantly, the conversation was centered on teaching and learning and on building the human capacity to make change ...

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

A poll released by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the American Heart Association last month concluded that a majority of parents agree with strong federal nutrition standards for school breakfasts and lunches.

These parents are in favor of sound nutrition for their children. The National School Boards Association (NSBA) agrees with them. All school board members -- and nearly 40 percent are parents of school-age children -- understand the critical importance of student health.

That is why NSBA supports flexibility that would allow communities to feed their students healthy food that also reflects school districts' unique needs, resources, and circumstances. Using sound nutrition as a base and their communities as partners, districts can serve healthy food that students will eat ...

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