Learning First Alliance

Strengthening public schools for every child

The Public School Insights Blog

Words are powerful tools and, combined with appropriate action, can be quite effective.

Whether school board members are looking to establish new policy or programs, or to develop a shared vision and commitment to improving achievement for students under their watch, setting clear goals and priorities go a long way in the face of increasing demands and limited resources. What you bring to the boardroom and, in particular, what makes it on to the table sets the stage for change or improvement.

As school board members, we have multiple opportunities to share and gain information. What we bring to the table can vary and be highly influenced by our experiences and perceptions.

In preparing for a recent presentation that focused on elements of effective school board leadership, I was determined to be deliberate in my messaging. I went so far as to write several words down on an index card as prompts: equity, leadership, good governance, and advocacy.

Of course, writing things down and including them as parts of the dialogue is only the beginning. It’s when something becomes an active part of our agenda and is brought into the conversation time and time again that it can move from paper into practice, from vision into reality. ...

On December 10, after many painful years of wrestling with the heavy-handed No Child Left Behind Act and state waivers that were often more prescriptive than the law itself, educators finally got a new federal law governing PK-12 education. Its replacement, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), promises to return power to the states, reduce accountability burdens, and broaden the scope of support for students with the greatest needs. I join my fellow educators around the country in celebrating these improvements.

Nonetheless, there are lemons lurking among the plums in the new ESSA. This law contains more concessions to reformist entrepreneurs and venture philanthropists than many of us would like. For example, one provision in Title II allows states to create charter-like “academies” for preparing teachers and principals for high-need schools—an idea that has been debated for several years and widely opposed by education organizations. Now that it is part of the law, however, we will do well to heed Maya Angelou’s advice: if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. So let’s celebrate the plums and then get busy making lemonade. ...

Have you ever felt lonely, invisible or alone? Now imagine feeling that way every day. Social isolation is a growing epidemic in the United States and within our schools. Too many of our young people suffer silently every day because they feel excluded, left out, or that they don’t belong.

Excessive feelings of social isolation can be associated with violent and suicidal behavior. In fact, one study reports that chronic loneliness increases our risk of an early death by 14 percent. Young people who are isolated can become victims of bullying, violence and depression and as a result, many further pull away from society, struggle with learning and social development and choose to hurt themselves or others.

The good news is that we can do something about this. Together we can create more inclusive and connected classrooms, schools and communities!

Sandy Hook Promise is asking schools across the country to join us February 8-12, 2016 for National Start With Hello Week. ...

The Learning First Alliance has long believed that the Common Core State Standards have the potential to transform teaching and learning and provide all children with knowledge and skills necessary for success in the global community. But we also recognize the importance of implementation – and taking the time to get it right.

That’s why, for more than a year and a half, we’ve been gathering stories from communities and stakeholders who have seen success in the transition to college- and career-ready standards. From them, we hope to learn what exactly “getting it right” means, and to share what’s worked (and what hasn’t) with those who are struggling with the process.

As we reflect on the past year, we share with you the most popular of these stories, as determined by our trusty Google Analytics. Enjoy! ...

Recently, I was honored to present to 350 Utah education support professionals (classified school staff) on bullying prevention. These workers truly are the eyes and ears of the school, but unfortunately are considered the “Rodney Dangerfields” of our schools because “They Don’t Get No Respect.”

It is clear from a 2010 NEA nationwide survey of education support professionals on bullying; we need to change this perception if we ever hope to win the war on bullying.

Even though ESPs have played a crucial role in preventing school shootings and student suicides, we sometimes forget that ESPs are on the front lines when it comes to witnessing bullying and can play a major role in whole-school bullying prevention. We need to make administrators more aware of this and provide ESPs with the resources and training they need NOW!

I believe we can accomplish this by:

First – Understanding the Vital Role ESPs Play in Schools: ...

Collaboration is critical to ensure students are prepared for life after their K-12 education ends, regardless of whether they take part in professional training programs, the military, go on to community college or enter a four-year college or university.

This work begins, of course, at the school level, but widespread success ultimately requires the collaboration of local, state and national organizations working together to help all students reach for higher goals.

Nine such groups have joined forces to form the Council of National School Counseling and College Access Organizations. The council is working to develop tools and resources school counselors and college access professionals can use in helping students transition to life after graduation. ...

You have no doubt heard that Congress passed—and the President signed into law—the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). It is the first iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), currently known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) to reach the President’s desk since December 2001.

ESSA represents a significant improvement over current law. The legislation takes the pendulum of federal overreach and control, and returns it back to state and local education agencies.

ESSA reauthorization was no small feat. The effort started (August 2007) shortly before I did at AASA (July 2008). It plodded along, like the Little Engine That Could, moving forward ever so slowly through Congress, and picked up with a particular vigor early this year. While the politics and momentum seemed against us, the effort persevered. And it is with a happy smile that I can write this post, and detail our advocacy efforts and victories. ...

How do effective teachers create teachable moments in diverse 21st Century classrooms?

Learning to read, write, speak, listen, and count were nice goals for a time that has passed. No more.

Today, the most effective teachers link these basics to a bigger goal necessary for this and future generations. That goal is tied to helping all students make sense of their immediate world, become problem solvers for their most pressing concerns, and improve their quality of life in a global society by taking socially responsive action in their communities. The most effective teachers make these moments come alive especially when their classrooms are filled with children and young adults from varied cultures with diverse social and ethnic backgrounds and who often can benefit from development of skills necessary to conduct deeper learning inquiry.

This "big" goal means the most effective teachers can no longer just adopt textbook-driven curriculum that is written to impart basic skills in isolation and differentiate their instruction merely by handing out different worksheets. Nor is it the best teaching simply done just to make it easier for students to pass test after test. ...

I am an American mongrel. I have no clue when anyone in my family arrived in the United States. Given my blonde hair, pale skin, and blue eyes, I have long assumed that my roots lie in northern Europe. But I really don’t know.

One family history assembled by my late father records ancestors of my mother who lived in the northeast before the Revolutionary War, but that provides no detail about why they came or where they came from. Their last names were Drake and Parker so I assume they came from England. But my father believed that another branch of my mother’s family came from a Slavic country and that the family name was changed to York when they were processed through Ellis Island.

My dad also claimed that he had traced his own lineage on his father’s side to an indentured servant who arrived through the port at Charleston, S.C., in the late 1700s and that his mother’s parents were Cherokee Indians. (But my father was also quite a storyteller, so it’s anybody’s guess about the truth of any of this.) ...

President Obama today signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), bringing in a new era of state and local responsibility and bringing significant changes to the federal role in K-12 education. This legislation is the latest iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the main federal K-12 education law, which has been due for reauthorization for nearly a decade as public schools endured punitive and untenable federal accountability measures.

The 15 organizations that make up the Learning First Alliance (LFA), which collectively represent more than 10 million educators and parents at the ground level, are largely pleased with the new law, which gives states responsibility for annual student testing and much more say in accountability. Representatives from several LFA member organizations attended the law’s signing at the White House.

Below are statements, articles and editorials that articulate the nuanced positions of some of the LFA member organizations: ...

Syndicate content