The Public School Insights Blog
“A person has truly become a PTA member when his circle of concern stretches
beyond his own child to include all children.” – Unknown
By Stella Y. Edwards*, Chairman, National PTA Legislative Committee
October is upon us. At National PTA, that means it is the Month of the Urban Child. This month’s campaign gives emphases to our education advocacy work as it relates to reaching communities where they are: in urban areas. National PTA comprises millions of families, students, teachers, administrators, and business and community leaders devoted to the educational success of children and the promotion of family involvement in schools. While PTA members may be in agreement with the PTA mission overall, urban areas have a uniqueness that warrants a focus on the effectiveness of our education advocacy work in those areas.
The beauty of the urban area is that it is as diverse as its citizens. This diversity, a broad range of backgrounds, religious beliefs, education values, and ethnicities, are unique characteristics that breathe life into the fast-pace, energetic, and close living style of the city!
I’ve had the pleasure of organizing in urban, rural and suburban areas. Regardless of the location in which the organizing work was conducted, the key aspect of my experience has been the importance of relationship building. First, you must build a relationship, develop trust, and address the community’s issue (not yours). Then you can begin to take action. You must first show a community that you care about them, you respect them, you will not judge them, and you ...
*October 2, 2013 Update: Despite the federal government shutdown, the marketplace opened as planned and received more than 1 million visitors in the first day, more than five times the number of users that have been on Medicare.gov at one time. While users encountered system glitches, which were largely anticipated, this is only the first day in a six month open enrollment period, and improvements are expected to be ongoing.
Healthy kids come to school better able to focus on classroom learning. Having access to quality affordable health care will only increase the quality of life for the nation’s youth, their families and the surrounding communities. In a time of economic hardship, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) ensures that millions of Americans who lack insurance now have access to affordable care. State-based health care marketplaces (or exchanges) open today and offer significant opportunities for students, parents, teachers and school communities across the country. The marketplace is a one-stop shop, a site run either by your state or the federal government that allows you to fill out an application and compare health insurance options available in your area. Most Americans will be eligible to participate in the exchange; however, you can opt to remain on your employer’s plan if you already receive coverage. You can learn more about your options, and eligibility, by going to ...
By Kwok-Sze Wong, Ed.D., Executive Director, American School Counselor Association (ASCA)
People often tell me how happy they are that the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) has a business person like me as the executive director. I think it’s time I make a confession I’ve told very few people: I’ve never taken a business class in my life.
Which is not to say I don’t know anything about managing a business or, to be more precise, about managing a nonprofit organization. I started working in association management 25 years ago and worked in the private sector before that. Although all my business training has been through experience, I think it’s been every bit as educational as formal training, and unlike a degree program, it’s been going on for 30 years and counting.
One of the more pleasant byproducts of wandering into the business world is that since my older son, Tyler, started taking business classes in high school, we’ve had some intense but exciting conversations about things like equities vs. fixed-income investments, double-entry accounting and ...
By Kelli Windsor, Communications Manager for State Programs, Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Campaign
As kids head back to school, educators are focused on how to best ensure students succeed in the classroom and in life. New findings from a national survey released by Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign show that breakfast is key to academic success and that rethinking how we serve school breakfast is crucial to enhancing the educational experience for all.
Hunger In Our Schools: Teachers’ Report 2013 surveyed more than 1,200 K-8 teachers and principals nationwide. It finds that three out of four K-8 public school teachers and principals see kids who regularly come to school hungry because they aren’t getting enough to eat at home. Extensive academic research shows that hungry students can’t learn, which is why the school breakfast program is so important. However, of the more than 21 million low-income kids in the U.S. who rely on a free or reduced-price school lunch, only half – about 11 million – currently get a school breakfast even though they qualify.
We can close this gap by creatively rethinking school breakfast. Traditionally schools serve breakfast in the cafeteria before class begins. We’ve learned that moving breakfast ‘after the bell’ can make it easier for ...
By Stephanie Hirsh, Executive Director, Learning Forward
At the beginning of her teaching career, my daughter shared with me that she would never want to be a "staff developer." She told me how people were not happy with the staff development required by the school system. They wanted time to work in their schools and with their colleagues to study their curriculum, plan their lessons, and problem solve around situations facing their school and their students.
What she was expressing was precisely the definition of effective professional learning. That was five years ago and she was in her second week of her first year of teaching. Today, her job is, indeed, staff developer. She serves as a master teacher in a Title 1 elementary school. While the challenges are different and often require additional resources, what her colleagues want for their students is no different than what other educators around the world desire. ...
By Dennis Van Roekel, President, National Education Association, and Billy Shore, Founder and CEO, Share Our Strength
Hunger can be found in every corner of the country, affecting one in five children, and this problem often plays out in the classroom. Hungry children struggle to concentrate in class, visit the school nurse with daily headaches and stomach aches, and may act out because they are hungry.
In fact, problems are so severe that a new study shows that teachers spent $37 a month buying food for hungry students, up from $26 a month in 2012.
Share Our Strength’s annual nationwide poll of K-8 public school staff finds that three out of four teachers and principals reported students regularly coming to school hungry. Half of teachers surveyed say hungry children in their classroom is a serious issue, the highest level measured in the four years of conducting this research. ...
The call to expand learning time to ensure that American students remain competitive with their international peers has become quite popular. While the rationale is perhaps a bit misguided (some evidence suggests that our students already experience as much instructional time as their peers, and other research confirms that teachers in the United States spend more time on instruction than teachers in other nations do), there are certainly reasons to focus on the issue, not least of which is the summer learning loss that disproportionately impacts our nation’s most disadvantaged youth.
But as those in the education community know, it is not necessarily the idea of extending learning time that is appealing – it is the idea of expanding learning opportunities. Partly in response to federal accountability measures, curriculum in many schools – particularly those serving predominantly disadvantaged students – has narrowed to focus on reading and math at the expense of the arts, physical education, civics and other subjects. In addition, the budget cuts of the Great Recession caused schools to further pull back in areas like art, sports and extracurricular activities – and, as a recent survey points out, the sequester has had an impact as well.
Yet in all these cuts, wealthier students are less likely to be impacted than their lower-income peers, in large part because their parents ensure they are exposed to enrichment opportunities either at school (perhaps paid for by fundraising efforts) or in ...
By Haylie Bernacki, Specialist of Unified Sports School and College Growth, Special Olympics North America Project UNIFY
For years, a main initiative within Special Olympics Project UNIFY schools and State Programs has been the expansion of Unified Sports, which combines individuals with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team. It was inspired by a simple principle: training together and playing together is a quick path to friendship and understanding. Project UNIFY State Program staff are expanding relationships with state interscholastic associations to increase the credibility, reach, and depth of Unified Sports throughout school districts across the country. The hope is that every child will be able to play on a school sports team, regardless of their ability level. ...
By William D. Waidelich, Ed.D., Executive Director, Association for Middle Level Education (AMLE)
We have a new addition to our family. Tom is our new son-in-law, and one of his quick observations of our family is that we have trouble making decisions. We cannot decide where to go for dinner or what time to meet. He is constantly asking, “Would someone just make a decision?”
Difficulty making decisions is not uncommon for families, but it can also be troublesome for businesses, schools, and organizations. While decisions about dinner plans are relatively trivial, decision-making for bigger concerns is complex and carries higher stakes.
Whether you are a classroom leader, building leader, school system leader or organizational leader, you have to make decisions on a daily basis that might affect hundreds or thousands of students. Today, districts need to make decisions about closing schools or consolidating, as in Evanston, Illinois. Schools are considering community and business partnerships, as in Reading, Massachusetts. And there are always decisions to be made about students, as in ...
Since the 1983 release of A Nation at Risk, policymakers have asserted that US students are falling behind their international peers, with dire consequences if we do not improve. The result has been three decades of increasingly high-stakes "standards-and-accountability" reforms, which rely on rigorous academic standards and test-based evaluation systems to hold schools and teachers accountable for student progress. As a comprehensive 2011 National Academy of Sciences report found, there is no evidence that this strategy has produced any meaningful improvement. Moreover, a series of recent reports suggests that we have been misinterpreting A Nation at Risk. Our education system is not so much falling behind as it is pulling apart, and the past decade of heightened accountability measures has likely further widened the gaps.
The Equity and Excellence Commission's February report, For Each and Every Child, points to poverty and inequities as core hurdles to U.S. educational improvement. It focuses on the long-neglected issues of school funding equity and state school finance systems, and its core recommendations include more equitable school finance, access to preschool, and comprehensive student supports. Soon after that report's publication, the Council on Foreign Relations released the newest report in its Renewing America Scorecard series. Its findings echo those of the Equity and Excellence Commission: "The real scourge of the U.S. education system -- and its greatest competitive weakness -- is the deep and growing achievement gap between socioeconomic groups that ...
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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