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The Public School Insights Blog

By Joan Richardson, Editor-in-Chief, Kappan magazine (PDK International)

"Very often a lack of jobs and money is not the cause of poverty, but the symptom. The cause may lie deeper in our failure to give our fellow citizens a fair chance to develop their own capacities."

— President Lyndon Baines Johnson, State of the Union, Jan. 8, 1964

I was still in grade school when President Johnson launched his War on Poverty. In my home, Johnson was a hero, maybe because my parents had both grown up poor and never forgot what deprivation felt like. They saw Johnson as someone who understood what they understood about poverty: Nobody chooses to be poor.

The other hero in my house was my Dad, a larger-than-life figure who had scrabbled his way up to a good middle-class life. He had “developed his own capacities” in large part because he had access to the G.I. Bill, which inspired him to return to high school after dropping out and then go on to college and earn an engineering degree.

One of my favorite childhood memories was watching my dad ring the bell for Salvation Army at Christmas. Dad ran the largest construction company in the area, which meant that he knew most of the movers and shakers in ...

By Brian Lewis, CEO, International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)

It was nearly 20 years ago when E-Rate, the nation’s largest education technology program, was put into place.  At that time, a majority of schools (86 percent) were not connected. Mobile phone use was in its infancy and we all referred to the Internet as the information superhighway.

Fast forward to today. Nearly all schools (95 percent) have some level of connectivity. Half of our nation’s teenagers own a smartphone and three-quarters of all children have access to a mobile device.

Walk into a school today and see if you can spot a blackboard and chalk in use; it’s a rarity. In many schools, modern learning devices – screens, projectors and computing devices – that support digital learning have replaced the blackboard.  We are in the midst of the digital age.

All the technology that surrounds us and supports our students is only as good as the speed of the connectivity available. Without broadband speed, streaming video stalls, online simulations freeze and load times drag on into eternity. The impact on learning can be crippling. Students get annoyed, and teachers get ...

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

When was it that building administrators forgot how to evaluate teachers? At what point did teacher development take a back seat to collecting evidence that might lead to dismissal? Is there really a failure to identify instructionally incompetent teachers that now requires school districts follow an extensive and costly process to comply with state and federal demands?

When critics point to our schools’ less than stellar performance on international tests, rarely do they consider what those leading nations are doing that’s responsible for the results they obtain. The professional development of teachers plays a significant role in their success. None of the leading nations engages in evaluating teachers based on their students’ standardized test performance.

I never encountered a school administrator opposed to evaluating teaching performance. Most principals I worked with could easily differentiate between their talented and their weak performers in the classroom.

During my early years as a superintendent on Long Island, when I was still teaching education research courses at the graduate level, I asked my principals to rank order their teaching staff from least to most competent. I then correlated their rankings with the end-of- year evaluation reports they had done for their staff and found a strong correlation between ...

By Jim Hull, Senior Policy Analyst, National School Boards Association’s Center for Public Education (CPE)

NAEPSecretary Duncan proudly wore number 80 on his jersey at the NBA celebrity All-Star game last month, as well he should’ve. It just so happens the number 80 represents one of the best kept secrets in education: our national on-time graduation rate.

This may come as a shock to many as popular perception tends to be the myth that our public schools are flatlining. But the facts show otherwise, as recent data released by the National Center for Education Statistics show our national on-time graduation rate for our public high schools now stands at 80 percent — an all-time high. It’s quite an accomplishment considering the rate hovered around 71 percent for much of the 1990s.

And keep in mind, the 80 percent graduation rate represents only those students who earned a standard high school diploma within four years of entering high school, so it doesn’t include students who earned a high school equivalency (ex. GED) or ...

By Sharon P. Robinson, Ed.D., President and Chief Executive Officer, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE)

You might expect a 66-year-old to be change averse. But the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), which just held its 66th Annual Meeting with the theme “Taking Charge of Change,” has become a change champion. In fact, innovation is AACTE’s core business and the focus of its day-to-day activities.

At our recent Annual Meeting, we launched an exciting new initiative, the Innovation Exchange, to speed the pace of change in educator preparation. Through this initiative, we will explore critical issues in the education workforce and design strategies that will contribute to their resolution. We also aim to strengthen educator preparation, demonstrate its necessity and effectiveness, and enhance our members’ opportunities to collaborate on key issues.

Activity and programming under the Innovation Exchange will be guided by four interdependent priority areas: (1) Pedagogy, (2) Workforce Development, (3) Capacity Building, and ...

For many, if not most of the years I’ve worked as an advocate for the appropriate and effective use of technology in schooling, the discussion has been focused on “why”—or as those of a certain age would say: I got a good education without technology, why do we need it in schools now? (Never mind that the definition of “it” was never thoroughly addressed either.)

However, at the meeting hosted last week at Discovery Education, future@now 2014, “why” was not even on the agenda. Thankfully, and refreshingly, the gathering and its speakers focused on how to manage change within a school and district to ensure that all stakeholders are involved in planning and implementing the change that a school experience supported with technology requires. As many of us have been saying for years and affirmed by the current public education leadership on the faculty of future@now, planning should not be about devices, but about educational goals and establishment of a school culture to support change, risk-taking and introduction of tools to support those goals.

The meeting led off with a discussion of the process needed for planning for school transformation supported with technology. Dr. Dallas Dance, the impressive, young superintendent from Baltimore County Public Schools, emphasized the importance of process, leadership and ...

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

While it may not be evident from voting patterns, casting votes for local school board members may have greater impact on a community’s overall quality of life than any other vote cast. Quality public schools bring the things that ensure a high quality of life — strong economic climate, better jobs, civic engagement, more citizens voting and an emphasis on the arts. And quality public schools are tied directly to the performance and effectiveness of their school boards.

All of us should pay more attention to our school boards — to electing them, supporting them and monitoring them. While many people today believe that too much local control has been wrested from local school boards, their role remains critical to the success of the schools they govern.

Voters elect a school board to represent them in the oversight of their schools. That is our system of government, and it’s a good one. School boards then spend the public’s money on educating children, touching the future as no other entity does. School boards set the tone for school districts — for student achievement, continuous improvement and financial management.

Successful school boards are made up of individuals without personal agendas and with a desire that all children have the opportunities that come with great schools. They understand that they are a bridge between the community and its schools, with one foot in ...

In the past week I’ve attended two meetings devoted to the subject of protecting student privacy in a digital learning world. The question from one of the speakers that stayed with me after both meetings were adjourned is, “How much attention are school administrators paying to this issue?”   

Certainly, the education leaders who participated in both programs – Terry Grier, superintendent of the Houston ISD; Jeff Mao, Technology Director at the Maine State Department of Education; Rich Contartesi, Assistant Superintendent for Technology Services, Loudoun County Public Schools (VA); and Jim Siegl, Technology Architect for Fairfax County Public Schools (VA) – are paying plenty of attention to the issue and providing important leadership in their respective districts and state. However, the general message conveyed is that many, if not most, school leaders are both unaware of and uneducated about the issues that could balloon into a major setback for teaching and learning in a digital world if not carefully and appropriately ...

Robin Zorn is the American School Counselor Association's 2014 School Counselor of the Year. Ms. Zorn works at Mason Elementary School in Gwinnett County. She's tireless in her efforts to help some of our youngest students gain a strong foundation to build on for the rest of their academic career. By emphasizing both social-emotional well-being and college-and-career readiness, Ms.Zorn and her team at Mason Elementary empower children to dream and plan for their future while providing them the necessary supports to succeed. We're thrilled to highlight Ms.Zorn on our site as a representative for the great work being done by school counselors across the country.

Question: How long have you been a school counselor?

I started in 1994, so this is my 20th year.

Question: At what levels have you worked (elementary school, middle school, high school)?

I did my internship in the middle school, but I have been in elementary the entire 20 years.

Question: What led you to become a school counselor? ...

By Libby Nealis, Project Consultant, NEA Health Information Network

The problem of prescription drug misuse and abuse by adults has been growing for years, but its recent increase within the adolescent population is alarming.  According to a 2010 survey, one in four adolescents has abused a prescription medication at some point in their lives, which is up from one in five teens in 2009.

In growing numbers, more adolescents are abusing prescription drugs than they are illegal drugs.  With the exception of marijuana, prescription drugs are the drug of choice among 12-13 year olds.  The prescription drugs that teens most commonly abuse or misuse are painkillers, stimulants (like medications taken for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, ADHD) and depressants (like anti-anxiety medications).  These medications are often easily accessible, sometimes from a parent’s medicine cabinet.  In fact, 64% of teens (age 12-17) who abuse prescription pain relievers say they got them from friends or relatives.

Schools can play an important role in combatting this growing and dangerous trend.  All educators, particularly those who most frequently work with at-risk populations, should be aware of the changing patterns of prescription drug misuse and abuse within ...

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