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The Public School Insights Blog

By Rich Bagin, APR, Executive Director, National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA)

The Education Writers Association (EWA) recently released the results of a survey of 190 journalist members of EWA entitled Mediated Access. The coverage of that study made communication professionals – they call them PIOs (a term less frequently used by NSPRA members these days) – look like obstacles rather than facilitators. One headline read, Education Reporters Slam Public Information Officers in Survey.

But if you step back and analyze the report itself, I think it represents a realistic snapshot of the mixed-bag of media relationships today. Possibly, another case of headline writers not reading the full report.

Indeed, this “slamming” survey notes that the relationships between journalists and communication professionals were fairly positive nearly 75% of the time. The exception was for a small number of instances in which reporters were not given interviews on their time schedule or were refused interviews at all. In these cases, the districts were described as practicing censorship.

Another critical finding was that the public is not getting all the information it needs because of barriers imposed by schools. About 76% of reporters agreed with that ...

By Jodi Alligood, American Federation of Teachers member and middle school science teacher and AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) coordinator at New Smyrna Beach Middle School in Volusia County, FL

Productive struggle. These are the two words that come to mind when thinking of my experiences with the Common Core in my classroom. And I am not just thinking of the students. If you are anything like me, your desks are straightened between periods, your stapler and tape dispenser have a home (and they are lined -up) and your students know that you don’t “do chaos.”  So, for me learning to let go of the reins and embrace the organized chaos that accompanies inquiry-based and problem-solving type learning was a struggle. Seeing what happened when I let the students inquire, speak to each other and bounce ideas around, and “steal” from other groups, I realized that my productive struggle had been worth it.

As far as the students go, their version of productive struggle was much different than mine. After all, if being social and chaotic was the goal for middle schoolers, my job would be much easier.  The students’ struggle came from the assignment of rigorous tasks and complex readings; and in understanding how to transfer what they learned in a given lesson to other tasks and even assessments. I can remember spending almost a full period on one short paragraph while reading about endothermic and exothermic reactions in science class. We spent time highlighting, underlining, making connections ...

By Anne Foster, Executive Director, Parents for Public Schools (PPS)

I hear a lot these days about how standardized, high-stakes testing has killed creativity and innovation in the classrooms of America. I can understand why so many people think this is true, because when tests are omnipresent, there is a huge amount of time spent in preparation, and this leaves less time for other ways of teaching. The right place for testing and the right amount of testing are relevant topics for parents today, and their voices should be heard in this debate.

But I continue to believe that there are wonderful teachers all over the country who still find ways to help their students learn in creative and innovative ways. I found one such teacher this week at Moss Haven Elementary School in Dallas, Texas, part of the Richardson Independent School District. Her name is Kim Aman, and she’s a special education teacher who created a farm and a chicken coop at the school. Moss Haven Elementary School promotes good nutrition and exercise and has partnered with the United Way and the Cooper Clinic in Dallas. Their efforts are really ...

By Kwok-Sze Wong, Ed.D., Executive Director, American School Counselor Association (ASCA)

Like most parents, my wife, Beverly, and I asked our son Tyler to call regularly when he went away to college. A few weeks into his first semester, Tyler started talking effusively about his classes and social life, topics he never discussed with us when he was in high school. We soon realized something amazing, almost miraculous, had happened. Tyler was excited about learning again. He told us the college structure was what he had wanted in high school. He was finally able to control his own education. He chose his own classes and his own schedule. He no longer had to sit through classes that held no interest or purpose for him.

We had another realization; Tyler didn’t do adolescence well. Tyler was generally happy in elementary school, but sometime in middle school, he became the dreaded teenager. For the next four years, he longed to fast-forward to the next stage of his life. Tyler was 13 going on 21.

In their book Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, Chip and Dan Heath suggest that change can only occur when someone behaves differently. But what happens when change happens to a person and not because of that person? As adults we constantly contend with unexpected and sometimes unwanted change. Circumstances require ...

Principal Whitney Meissner has worked in public education for a total of 22 years as a math/English teacher, an assistant principal and middle/high school principal for the past 11 years. Her observations and insights reflect the experience gleaned from her decades of experience. In an e-interview, Principal Meissner outlines her own experience in a teacher preparation program, shares her thoughts for supporting new teachers as well as components of good evaluation systems. As an instructional leader, she offers thoughts on the Common Core State Standards and the challenges and benefits associated with them. Finally, she reflects on her own continued learning and growth as a professional.

Principal Meissner has completed the University of Washington Center for Educational Leaderhship training as well as the Association of Washington School Principals Evaluation Training (2013-2014). In 2008, she was a Phi Delta Kappa (PDK) International Emerging Leader and in 2009 she received the 2009 PDK Dissertation Award of Merit. In 2012-2013, she served as the President of the Association of Washington Middle Level Principals (AWMLP). She is an active community volunteer where her newest role is serving as a Zumbathon (c) Coordinator to benefit those affected by the Oso/Darrington Landslide. She received her Ed.D. from Seattle Pacific University in 2008.

Public School Insights (PSI): Thank you so much for taking time to share your insights and wisdom gleaned from your many years in different positions in the education field. We are delighted that we can share your expertise with our readers and the wider community.

First, starting at the beginning, you've spent the past 22 years in education. What inspired you to go into teaching? Were you always interested in school administration as a part of your career?

Meissner: I think I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. I used to play school in the summer with the neighborhood kids. My mom, aunt, and grandfather were/are teachers. I don’t know if I can point to one specific thing that inspired me; it was more like a ...

To get Common Core implementation right, educators must be truly engaged in the effort. Teachers are on the front line, charged with ensuring that our nation's students are prepared to be successful in the global community in which we live. But in debates over the standards, they are often overlooked in two very important ways: As advocates, and as practitioners with valuable expertise who need time and resources to align their work with the vision of college and career readiness for all that the Common Core embodies.

To help elevate the voice of teachers on this issue, as part of our continuing series of interviews on the standards, we are thrilled to highlight the perspective of Diane Siekmann, a National Board Certified Teacher at a Title I elementary school in Phoenix, Arizona. She has experience teaching first and third grade, including six years in a self-contained ELL classroom. And in addition to her current responsibilities as a third grade teacher, she is working with the National Education Association's Master Teacher Project with Better Lesson, an effort to highlight and share the best teaching practices around the Common Core.

In a recent email interview, Siekmann shares her thoughts on teaching under new college and career ready standards and the supports needed to get it right. What I found most encouraging: The changes she has seen in students under these new, higher standards. To quote: "The most exciting thing about the Common Core is witnessing the critical thinking by students. Their knowledge and skills are so visible, and they really enjoy explaining their thought process. The students have become great problem solvers with analytical skills that I have not experienced previously with my students. They truly enjoy the challenges placed before them....”

The complete interview is below.

Public School Insights (PSI): As you’ve transitioned to working under new college and career ready standards, how has your teaching changed?

Siekmann: The biggest change has been on the amount of reflection that takes place for my practice. As teachers we save and hold on to resources, worksheets, and “stuff” from year to year. This year with the change to the new college and career ready standards, I have changed by rethinking everything that is being presented in my classroom. Most of the resources I saved have now been replaced with new lessons and new approaches to teaching the standards. I’m always thinking about ...

By Jenn Kauffman, NEA Health Information Network

For middle school and high school communities, May can often bring anxiety and stress in the form of year-end testing and senior projects.

Stress isn't just limited to adults. A survey by the American Psychological Association found that teens experience stress, too - and their stress levels rival that of adults.

Even positive events can be stressful. And while stress can help people achieve peak performance - too much stress can impair performance and be harmful to health. ...

Today’s post comes from European PTA President Kris Garst. She has lived overseas on for a total of five and a half years and is currently living in Grafenwoehr, Germany, with her husband and three sons. She has been involved with the PTA in Europe since her oldest child started kindergarten. Kris’s post seeks to bring an understanding of the challenges and successes of military students and families, as well as why it is important to support PTA efforts towards military families both overseas and in the states.

“Wait, there’s a PTA in EUROPE???” 

During trips to National PTA events over the last few years, I’ve run into lots of people who are shocked to find out that PTA reaches as far as Europe!  In fact, the European Congress of the National Parent Teacher Association has been advocating for the children in DoDEA (Department of Defense Education Activity) schools on U.S. military installations throughout Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands, Bahrain and Turkey since 1958.  We proudly serve the families of military members, government civilians, government contractors, and others who fall under the umbrella of the U.S. Department of Defense throughout the European theater.

One Voice for the Military Child

As many of you already know, April is the Month of the Military Child, an opportunity to celebrate the amazing kids whose resilience and ability to adapt to the many changes of military life serve as an inspiration to us all.  Through deployments, frequent moves, and separation from friends and family, they support their families and each other as they, along with their military parents, serve our nation.  Over the past 56 years, the European PTA has been a strong voice for military children and families.  We’ve advocated for important change in DoDEA schools, such as the presence of school nurses in every school, regardless of size, and the opportunity for our students to receive healthy, hot meals via the ...

By Carol François, Director of Learning, Learning Forward

When I was a classroom teacher, it seemed right around March and April, students' minds began wandering to visions of blissful summer vacations. Spring Break exacerbated the problem since the week off fueled their desire to be rid of school for a more extended period of time, free of schoolbooks and teachers' dirty looks as the children's rhyme taunted.

Little did my students know we teachers also longed for summer almost as much as they did. Having a few weeks of unscheduled time to refresh, renew, and reinvigorate ourselves was considered a welcome treat. Little did we teachers, as well as our students, realize our coveted summer vacation unintentionally might be creating a serious problem. We now know that long summer breaks without opportunities for learning and cognitive growth contribute to significant learning loss.

In research cited by the National Summer Learning Association, "All young people experience learning losses when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer. Research spanning 100 years shows that students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do on the same tests at the beginning of the summer." But that's not all. The association also notes that, "Children lose more than academic knowledge over the summer. Most children — particularly children at ...

By Rebecca Ralston, Manager of Youth Leadership

On Tuesday, March 25, Special Olympics Project UNIFY staff, along with youth leaders and educators from across the country, presented to the Department of Education on the power and growth of Project UNIFY over the last year. Special Olympics athlete and youth leader Kabir Robinson from Special Olympics Washington joined Delaware youth leader Connor Moore and educators Erin Trzcinski and Tom Ledcke, from Delaware and Washington, respectively, to share their personal experiences with Project UNIFY.

Kabir’s impactful remarks are below, and you can watch the entire presentation here.

Introductory Remarks

Hi everyone. My name is Kabir Robinson. I live in Seattle, Washington. I am a member of the National Youth Activation Committee. I have been involved with Special Olympics for 3 to 4 years. I joined because I just want to be treated equally and be happy. I also want to be a better leader in sports. ...

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