Learning First Alliance

Strengthening public schools for every child

The Public School Insights Blog

High-performing nations set themselves on a course of steady, long-term improvement, which includes consistent practices for recruiting, preparing, and supporting teachers — that is among the big takeaways from state legislators who participated in a year-long study of education outside the United States.

The study was convened by the National Conference of State Legislatures to explore how education functions in countries that are high performers on the PISA assessment. The 22 legislators all serve on their states’ legislative education committees. (I talked with two of them as part of Kappan’s work preparing our November 2015 issue on what the United States can learn from other countries.)

What they’ve learned so far has surprised them.

Indiana State Rep. Bob Behning, a Republican from Indianapolis, and Arkansas State Sen. Joyce Elliott, a Democrat from Little Rock, came to the exploration with different experiences and political ideas, but they sound a lot alike when they describe what they learned from studying Shanghai, Finland, Singapore, Ontario, and more. ...

Giving parents and students the ability to choose their school is promoted by supporters as the key to improving American education overall. On the surface, the idea has great appeal. Who, after all, opposes having choices?

Indeed, both Republican and Democratic policymakers have embraced school choice in various forms that range from opening up alternatives within the public school system to providing taxpayer dollars to students to take to private schools. But for all the rhetoric, does school choice live up to its supporters’ claims?

NSBA’s Center for Public Education seeks to find an answer in this at-a-glance overview of school choice in all its permutations: ...

As the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and their kindred iterations continue to gain traction in schools around the country, staff development efforts have been bringing in-service educators up to speed, and colleges of education have been adjusting their curricula to ensure that the field’s newest professionals are also ready for the new standards. Nowhere has this shift seen greater success than in Kentucky, which was the first state to adopt and implement CCSS. A recent AACTE webinar sponsored by the Learning First Alliance’s “Get It Right” campaign highlighted the remarkable progress made by institutions in the state. ...

According to the 2015 National Survey on College and Career-Ready Literacy Standards and Collaborative Professional Learning, 91 percent of teachers surveyed report working on standards implementation during collaborative time with colleagues, with 77 percent rating it valuable or extremely valuable in supporting their transition to new literacy standards. 

And 73 percent of teachers who report having regular time to collaborate feel better prepared to implement the standards. Yet more than 80 percent of teachers report having fewer than two hours a week to collaborate.

If we agree with the simple supposition that time and collaborative learning experiences are key to successful implementation, then how do we ensure that more teachers have what they need?

Research has confirmed many times that leadership is second only to teaching in influencing student achievement. In my view, when our goals include equity and excellence, leadership may be even more important.  ...

Dr. Nate Jensen, a member of the research team at the Northwest Evaluation Association, discusses the value of assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards and the misconceptions that accompanied the implementation of new assessments in some states. Jensen explains how comparisons of student scores on the old and new assessments can distort the real picture of student learning under the Common Core State Standards.

Download as MP3

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 today’s competitive and political atmosphere, school leaders often ask us about strategies and tactics to build trust and confidence in our schools — let alone how to enhance the reputation of public education.

We always offer solutions on a number of fronts, but we also ask leaders to think about all the touch points that are automatically built into the school year  —  those times when parents, teachers, and principals all interact with one another. Those face-to-face episodes often begin making or breaking the confidence that your critical audience of parents has in your schools.

Parent Conferences Give You a Time to Shine

Traditional open houses and parent conferences are now in full swing in many communities. Those of you who are parents or who have a bit of experience meeting with parents know how these events can serve as a great starting point to build confidence in your school and your teachers. ...

Bullying means many different things to different people, but one thing is certain: bullying hurts, and it can impact any student. Did you know the latest data shows that 24 percent of female students and 19 percent of male students report being bullied at school?

1. What is bullying?

Bullying is “systematically and chronically inflicting physical hurt and/or psychological distress on another. Bullying can be physical, verbal or social. Bullying is not just child’s play, but a frightening experience many students face every day,” once every seven minutes. ...

On your marks . . . get set . . . TEACH!

I want you to think about those words. If you were in an interview, or perhaps planning your perfect lesson, how would you do it? What tools do you have in your utility belt that you can pull out at a moment's notice when you are faced with a difficult teaching situation? What strategies would you use? What if you were asked at the very last minute to provide a comprehensive, dynamic, user-driven learning session? Could you do it?

If you are reading this post, I’m sure you can. If you are reading this post, you already have the tools, you already have the knowledge, and you already have the ability to think outside of the box and beyond the walls of your classroom. How do I know this? Because this blog post isn’t found in your classroom. It’s a resource that you had to know about, or perhaps it was a link that you found on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest. This blog post—and, in fact, the very website you are reading right now—is a resource you didn’t know you needed, until the time arrived that you needed it. ...

Following is a series of blogs by Dan Domenech, executive director of AASA, the School Superintendents Association, as he travels with AASA's president and other U.S. education representatives through Austria to learn about that country's education system.

St. Polten, Austria – In Austria, children attend “Primary” schools for grades one through four. At the end of the fourth grade, when children are 10 years of age, a determination is made as to whether children will move on to the “Gymnasium,” an academic program, or a vocational school where they will learn a trade. Approximately one third of the students pursue the academic route, while the rest pursue vocational courses. This is typical of most European countries we have visited.

We were greeted at the St. Polten Gymnasium by Director Sylvia Klimek who runs the five-12 school. The lower grade (5-8) students take five classes, while the older grade (9-12) students take eight classes. The older students can opt to be in one of four tracks: languages, art, science or sports. ...

When “A Nation at Risk” was published more than 32 years ago, it sparked impassioned calls for reform to our irreparably broken education system. Like most sparks and passions, education reform eventually flickered away in a disappointing puff of smoke, leaving the education system no better, and in some ways worse, than it was before the report. Since then, we’ve seen a succession of education movements designed to finally fix the system. Standards-based education. Dropout prevention. School-to-work. Whole language. New math. Education reform has become a jumble of clichés. The only constant is change. But the more things change, the more they remain the same, and if you don’t like the education system, stick around, it’ll change in a few years.

No wonder experienced teachers, administrators and even parents are wary of the next new thing. They know it will come and go without making a real impact. So, why is it so hard to change a system that everyone agrees needs to be changed? After all, many of our current educational structures were already in place at the turn of the last century. Do we rely on anything else on a daily basis that hasn’t changed significantly for more than 100 years? ...

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