Learning First Alliance

Strengthening public schools for every child

The Public School Insights Blog

School counselors bear a tremendous responsibility to guide their students to academic and career success and, along the way, nurture their emotional well being. For Katherine Pastor, school counseling is a career that allows her to help hundreds of students at at Arizona’s Flagstaff High School achieve their potential each year.

The American School Counselors Association named Ms. Pastor as the 2016 School Counselor of the Year and is celebrating National School Counseling Week from February 1-5, 2016. Ms. Pastor and other finalists were honored by First Lady Michelle Obama at a White House ceremony on January 29, which can be viewed on YouTube. ...

Last month, after overwhelmingly bipartisan approval in Congress, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the latest iteration of the 50-year-old Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The 15 member organizations of the Learning First Alliance believe that this law is overall a good departure from the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act, and each organization has analyzed the law to determine what it will mean for their constituents. In December we published members' statements on passage of the law, we've now compiled some of the new resources and commentaries. ...

The National Education Association (NEA) is guided by the mantra “A Great Public School for Every Student,” while NEA Healthy Futures is committed to “Improving Schools, Improving Lives.” Each motto offers the vision of a society where all students have equal access and opportunity to lead successful lives. Unfortunately, the fact remains; the journey to achieving this success is mired by pitfalls and potholes that have permeated this society for far too long.

As a result, access and opportunity for all remains a mirage of hopes and dreams for many students; especially, for students of color. Why is this? Why in the 21st century are we still having the same conversations we have had in 18th, 19th, and 20th century? What is the stumbling block denying the “American Dream” for so many students? Two words—Institutional Racism. ...

Privacy is often a contentious issue that raises deeply held fears. Concerns around privacy have been rising in the U.S. since the revelations of electronic monitoring by the National Security Agency, the hack of Target credit cards and shuttering of the education data platform inBloom. 

Privacy debates often are divisive, putting superintendents and other educators on the defensive. Parents believe too much data is collected about their children, that it’s left unsecured, and it’s inappropriately used by companies for commercial gain.

Trust is at the heart of this privacy debate. As author Stephen Covey said, “Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”

Shared Guidance

The best example of the evolving context around the privacy of student data is a recently released set of student privacy principles.  ...

When it comes to the recent passage of Every Student Succeeds Act (or ESSA), we can cheer for this big score leading to a victory over some of the lasting remnants of No Child Left Behind legislation. But like the athlete who dances in the end zone too early in the game, we really have a great deal of ground to gain before this game is over.

First, congratulations to many from “both sides of the aisle” who finally made this happen. The new law does rid education leaders of a number of the persistent roadblocks that most of us have been harping about for so many years. And most important, the Act adds more flexibility as well as state and local control to hammer out the details of what it can do for or do to your system.

And Therein Lies the Rub

I have worked in the Washington, D.C., environment for 3 decades. Even though NSPRA primarily works with local school districts and agencies, we know the reaction and the “look” you may have when federal officials greet you saying, “We’re from Washington and we are here to help you.” ...

In this podcast, Alan Tenreiro, recently named the 2016 Principal of the Year by the National Association of Secondary School Principals, discusses Common Core and the multifaceted process of building a culture of high expectations that emphasizes college and career readiness for all students.

Mr. Tenreiro is principal at Cumberland High School in Cumberland, R.I., which has seen increases in its academic achievement, graduation rates, and the number of students moving on to higher education. The high school has increased its Academic Placement offerings and expanded STEM courses to help student gain skills for success after graduation.

Download as MP3 ...

Looking back, 2015 was an incredible year in education. The historic passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is finally shifting the conversation towards student competence beyond test scores, and defines educator professional development in a more sustained and integrated way than ever before, opening doors to a more innovative approach to professional learning.

But who owns 21st century professional learning? The answer unequivocally is that we all own it. Today we are all learners and no matter our role, we must continually grow and model the learning that we want to see in schools. Making 21st century learning a reality for every child requires that educators at all levels learn new ways of thinking and doing. Just as education must be engaging, collaborative, and connected to the real world, so must our professional development. ...

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. ...

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