The Public School Insights Blog
By William Bushaw, Executive Director, PDK International
Being a policy maker is a tough balancing act of both leading and listening. Get too far ahead of the public, and they won’t follow; listen too much and you may not make necessary progress. We see some of that tension in this year’s findings of the 45th annual PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools.
Results of the poll come in a time of turmoil in the American education franchise. Recent major reform efforts, such as the Common Core State Standards and the new, more challenging student assessments that accompany the standards, face an uncertain future as the poll lays bare a significant rift between policy makers and American citizens and parents.
The Common Core State Standards are the result of an initiative launched in June 2009 as a bipartisan partnership between the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. It is a significant education initiative with the potential to dramatically change instruction in U.S. classrooms, but most Americans don’t know about it, and ...
By Brian Quinn, Manager of Youth Education & Unified Sports® for Special Olympics North America Project UNIFY
Take a quick moment to think back to your high school experience. I did this recently, reflecting on the upcoming school year, and it brought up some telling thoughts. Look away from this article and think for a moment about what you remember. If you are anything like me, your first thoughts were about specific experiences (positive or negative) and the people who influenced us. Not so much about tests, papers and homework.
A vivid memory that stays with me is when I got to play one-on-one basketball with Kenny, a student who had an intellectual disability. He happened to have an adapted physical education session which would sometimes take place adjacent to my general education PE class. As a freshman and sophomore, I had a difficult time socializing and was not excited about school. My grades were below average, and I lacked connectivity to my large school environment. In hindsight, I was a classic case in underachieving. ...
By Helen Soule, Executive Director, Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21)
Dana Elementary School is surrounded by apple orchards in the rural community of Hendersonville, North Carolina. Many of the families work in agriculture, and eighty percent of the students attending Dana qualify for free or reduced lunch. “Having those demographics has never stopped us from wanting to have high expectations for our students,” says Principal Kelly Schofield. “And we really just have always felt…that if any students in the state can do it, then so can ours, and we can achieve. Our goal has always been to find the framework, find the curriculum, find the instructional strategies that work for our population of students.”
For Schofield and her colleagues, the skills, content and teaching strategies outlined in the Framework for 21st Century Learning are essential to their shared success. “It’s the way we live in school everyday,” she says. “It is our culture; it’s how we talk, it’s how we act.” For students like Tom Walter, this framework translates into collaborative, project-based learning enhanced by technology—like a recent social studies class in which he built a documentary film project on immigration with a team of his fellow fifth graders. For teachers ...
By Daniel A. Domenech, Executive Director, AASA: The School Superintendents Association
A new school year is about to start. For the past five years, school systems have suffered the worst economic decline since the Great Depression and, to add insult to injury, the effects of sequestration this year will add to the economic malaise.
Nevertheless, public education in America is the best that it has ever been. How can that be, you say? Media accounts abound as to how our schools are failing with privatization, vouchers, charter schools and choice offered as our only salvation. Not true.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, the number of students attending schools considered “dropout factories” has declined by 41 percent since 2002. The number of dropout factories has declined by 29 percent since 2007. A total of 1.1 million fewer students are attending such schools. Today, the dropout rate, which has been declining steadily since 1972, is the lowest it has ever been. Conversely, high school completion rates have been trending up, and ...
By Joseph Bishop, Director of the National Opportunity to Learn Campaign and Executive Director of Opportunity Action
Last week, New York education officials released scores from the first Common Core-aligned standardized state tests. Student scores showed a dramatic drop in performance from previous years. Statewide, just 31.1 percent of students tested proficient in English Language Arts, and 31 percent tested proficient in math.
We can’t be surprised by the results, as New York leaders and many state decision-makers across the country have failed to recognize that new standards alone won’t drive students to succeed. Standards must be matched with common core supports for students, parents, teachers and principals. The challenge the National Opportunity to Learn Campaign is trying to address with organizations like the Alliance for Quality Education and A+New York is about more than closing the achievement gap on state tests. We’re working to rectify the ever-present opportunity gap that ...
I recently attended an information-rich meeting sponsored by the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA), at which Dylan Wiliam, Emeritus Professor of Educational Assessment at the University of London, addressed the topic of Teacher Expertise: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How We Can Get More of It. The results of Dr. Wiliam’s research are fascinating and important as we work collectively towards improving our public education system. The first thing that came to mind after listening to his talk was the old humorous adage, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, Practice, Practice.”
What Dr. Wiliam’s work has uncovered is that only investing in existing teachers produces enough improvement to result in the changes we need in our education system and that this is not happening systematically in most schools and districts…but that it could be. ...
By William D. Waidelich, Ed.D., Executive Director, Association for Middle Level Education (AMLE)
“I touch the future…I teach!” With these six words, Christa McAuliffe summed up a personal philosophy. McAuliffe, a teacher from Concord, New Hampshire, was one of seven crew members killed in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster January 28, 1986. She believed educators must be willing to take risks and model that risk-taking behavior for students—tomorrow’s leaders—to give them courage to move society beyond our current boundaries.
School doors are beginning to swing open and a new group of eager minds and bodies will be arriving in our classrooms. What will they see? What will they hear? What will be the environment in our classrooms? What risks and risk-taking behaviors will we model for our students?
To set the stage for why I think you should read further I will describe a personal story that shows how, as a father of a new teacher, I am inspired and confident about the future of ...
By Michael A. Resnick, Associate Executive Director for Federal Advocacy and Public Policy, National School Boards Association (NSBA)
In the 12 years since the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) was enacted, we’ve seen firsthand how the federal role in education has expanded substantially, particularly by unilateral decisions made by the U.S. Department of Education to transform the educational delivery system through initiatives such as its waiver program.
Now, we have an opportunity to change this course through the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The National School Boards Association (NSBA) applauds Congress’ overall goal to ensure through legislation that all students are ready for college and careers. NSBA also is pleased to see that Congress is turning its attention to the growth of the federal role, including where it may adversely impact states and local schools.
Within the U.S. House of Representatives, the majority view supports a more bottom-up approach to the federal role. The Senate committee bill supports strong direction from the federal level. The divide between the two approaches is wide and presents Congress with major decisions about how federal education policy will be made for years to come under ESEA and ...
You cannot just “PBIS” a child who happens to be misbehaving or acting out. That simple reality is probably one of the most important facts about Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), also known as school wide positive behavioral supports (SWPBS). It’s defined as a framework for enhancing adoption and implementation of a continuum of evidence-based interventions to achieve academically and behaviorally important outcomes for all students. Through this framework, PBIS seeks to improve school climate, reduce discipline issues and support academic achievement. In mid-July, George Sugai from the Neag School of Education (also Director, Center for Behavioral Education & Research and Co-Director, Center of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) joined out-going Principal Rodney Moore from Stone Hill Middle School in Ashburn (VA) – a school that implemented PBIS – at a U.S Department of Education briefing in Washington D.C. ...
There is precious little research demonstrating the value of school counselors on student achievement, with good reason – it is difficult to demonstrate the impact of counselors on standardized test scores, which have come to define achievement in recent years. But as a result, when it comes to making tough budget decisions, school counselors are not a priority. And that has real consequences for children. As Mindy Willard, an Arizona school counselor named the American School Counselor Association’s (ASCA) 2013 School Counselor of the Year, pointed out in a recent interview:
[T]he biggest challenge school counselors are faced with right now, on all levels, are our ratios. Currently, Arizona is 49th in the nation for counselor to student ratios with a ratio of 1 counselor to 861 students; ASCA recommends a ratio of 1:250! With numbers like this it is virtually impossible for school counselors to meet all of the personal/social, academic and career developmental needs of all the students on their caseloads.
But as we turn to new measures of school quality – such as the production of college and career ready students – there is new space for advocates to research and promote the benefits of school counselors. And an ongoing longitudinal study in ...
Click here to browse dozens of Public School Insights interviews with extraordinary education advocates, including:
- Actress/Mathematician Danica McKellar on girls and math
- Best Selling Author Kenneth C. Davis on engaging with history
- Nurse Practitioner Jennifer Danielson on providing health care at school
The views expressed in this website's interviews do not necessarily represent those of the Learning First Alliance or its members.
Excellence is the Standard
At Pierce County High School in rural southeast Georgia, the graduation rate has gone up 31% in seven years. Teachers describe their collaboration as the unifying factor that drives the school’s improvement. Learn more...
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