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The Public School Insights Blog

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

In preparing for the celebration of AASA’s 150th anniversary, I read the copy of “AASA, The Centennial Story,” written by Arthur Rice in 1964, which sits on the bookshelf behind my desk. What a fascinating read. In this column, I draw liberally from the information provided by Rice, a professor of education at Indiana University.

It was on Aug. 15, 1865, in Harrisburg, PA, at a meeting of the National Teachers Association, that a group of superintendents created the National Association of School Superintendents. Earlier that year, the Civil War had come to an end and President Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated. Six months later, in February, the group held its first convention in Washington, D.C. Nine state superintendents and 20 city superintendents attended.

Early Advocacy

It is clear, from the very beginning, advocacy at the national level would be a key mission of the newly formed organization ...

In this podcast, Kentucky Chamber of Commerce CEO David Adkisson discusses why Kentucky’s business community supports college- and career-ready standards and how they have partnered with schools and community organizations to support thoughtful implementation.

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Following is an edited transcript

Conversation with David Adkisson

David Adkisson, President and CEO of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, recently participated in the Learning First Alliance’s "Get it Right, Common Sense on the Common Core" podcast series.

This series is designed to help those committed to Common Core ensure proper implementation of the new standards. 

LFA:  Tell us, why does the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce support Common Core State Standards.  How did you get to that decision? ...

By Amber Chandler, American Federation of Teachers member and 7th and 8th grade English Language Arts Teacher at Frontier Middle School in Hamburg, NY

Teaching is my calling. I can’t give directions without teaching them to you. Sometimes, depending on your learning style, I will draw you a map on a napkin. Other times, I might get you to Google Maps and have Siri talk you through it. Occasionally, I’ll give you only the landmarks—“Go past the 7-11, until you see a Tim Horton’s on the right. It is directly across from there.” There are teachers who teach a subject, and teachers who teach children, and it is that difference that we must all consider as Education (with a capital “E”) under fire.

Policy makers and bureaucrats are attempting to convince the world, who are incidentally probably laughing at how backwards we are approaching this manufactured education crisis, that the woes of society should be squarely on my back. For those of you who might say that I am making taking this personally, let me remind you that it is my performance that is being questioned. Please. Pay attention. I am trying to teach your children ...

I’ve been reminded over the past weeks of the importance of language in arriving at agreement on what needs to happen for the public education experience to be successful for all our students, regardless of their background and socioeconomic condition. The use of language and its different translations/meaning for different citizen groups was brought home during recent debate over proposed changes in the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) federal education bill that is now before Congress. A few examples:

  • Accountability – From my standpoint, accountability just means assessing the progress of those who have some skin in the game and can influence the outcome of any endeavor. I actually prefer the word responsibility ...

By Lily Eskelsen García, President, National Education Association (NEA), and Otha Thornton, President, National PTA

This piece first appeared in the Washington Post. View the original here.

Public education for every child was an American idea, but it has always been a local and state responsibility. Even when Congress passed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act 50 years ago, the intended federal role was limited but clear: ensuring equal opportunity.

The act provided federal resources for states to level the playing field between schools in wealthy and poor districts. However, its 2002 reauthorization, which became known as No Child Left Behind, took the law off track by mandating that all students hit arbitrary scores on standardized tests instead of ensuring equal opportunities.

No Child Left Behind has failed. Now we have a chance to fix the law by refocusing on the proper federal role: equal opportunity. To do that, we must change the way we think about accountability.

Under No Child Left Behind, accountability has hinged entirely on standardized test scores, a single number that has been used to determine whether students graduate or teachers keep their jobs. The problem is, a single test score is like a blinking "check engine" light on the dashboard. It can tell us something's wrong but not how to fix it ...

Deanna Martindale is a 2014 PDK Emerging Leader and principal at Hebron Elementary School in Ohio. She has spent nineteen years in education, teaching sixth grade, serving as a professional development coach, and helping plan one of the first K-12 STEM programs in her state.

She recently took some time to share her thoughts on STEM learning, engaging curriculum, preparing students for college-and-career, and connecting with parents, students and staff in support of student achievement.

Public School Insights (PSI): Thank you so much for taking the time to share your insights with us here at Learning First Alliance. First, would you share some of your professional background with us?   

This is my 19th year in education and my fourth year as an elementary principal. I have taught sixth grade, all subjects, and served as an instructional coach, working on assessment design and inquiry based teaching.  I also spent time as a professional development coordinator with the Teaching and Learning Collaborative, working some with COSI Columbus to develop an Inquiry Learning for Schools summer program for teachers. I conducted professional development around the state to help roll out Ohio’s new science standards and best instructional practices, and I was a STEM coordinator for Reynoldsburg schools, where I worked with a design team of teachers and administrators to plan one of the first K-12 STEM programs in the state ...

By Teri Dary, Anderson Williams and Terry Pickeral, Special Olympics Project UNIFY Consultants

The problem with public education is that there isn’t enough tension. The other problem with public education is that there’s too much tension. And, perhaps the biggest problem is that both of these are correct, and we don’t distinguish between creative tension and destructive tension. 

Without distinguishing between the two, we cannot intentionally build structures and relationships that create the systems our students need: systems of shared leadership, strategic risk-taking and mutual responsibility. Systems of creative tension. Instead, we more commonly build top-down structures that generate destructive tension and bottom-up structures to avoid, relieve, or push back against them. ...

By Stephanie Hirsh, Executive Director, Learning Forward

During a recent trip to the grocery store, the cashier told me that the city had instituted a five-cent charge for plastic bags. I immediately purchased three reusable bags to carry home my groceries and will always have those bags with me.

As I walked to the car, I thought about what had just happened. For years, I had watched while others brought their reusable grocery bags to the checkout lane. I thought it was a great idea, but I never took the step to change my habits. I knew why I should change my habits, but hadn't made the change -- it just wasn't important enough to me. And then, in the blink of an eye, I changed a behavior.  

It's not that I can't afford the five cents. It was the principle. But what was the principle? That I wouldn't pay for something that before had been free? That I heard the city's message about reducing waste? Or that I already knew it was the right thing and now had the motivation to change? ...

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

It’s an insidious message embedded in the American psyche: Those who can’t, teach. For years, report after report has banged the drum for raising admission standards into teacher preparation programs, citing international comparisons and championing cost-prohibitive recruitment policies.

In reality, the talent pool now entering teacher preparation programs is rich. Our programs are, in fact, attracting their share of high achievers—defined by any number of criteria.

One popular (if unreliable) measure of academic ability, SAT and ACT scores, has been trending upward among novice teachers in public schools. A recent study out of Stanford University finds that new teachers in 2008 had a wide range of SAT results, evenly spanning the bottom, middle, and top third of scores. This distribution reflects a change from scores reported in 1993 and 2000, when very few new teachers came from the top third. A similar study looked at new teachers in New York State and found a significant increase in teachers from the top third of SAT scores from 1999 to 2010.

Academic ability alone, of course, does not make anyone a good teacher, nor is it meaningfully reflected in SAT scores ...

Maryland PTA President Ray Leone shares his perspective on building parent understanding and support of the Common Core by engaging families and communities at the local level through public forums and open lines of communication.

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Following is an edited transcript:

LFA: Welcome to Get It Right: Common Sense on the Common Core, a podcast series from The Learning First Alliance.  Across the nation we've embraced the possibility of college and career-ready standards and their potential to transform teaching and learning.  In community after community we see the potential these standards offer to help all children gain the knowledge and skills they need for success in the global community. ...

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