Learning First Alliance

Strengthening public schools for every child

The Public School Insights Blog

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: ...

Matthew Miller, professor at the Woodring College of Education at Western Washington University; Jessica Cohen, associate professor of mathematics education at Western Washington University; and Charisse Berner, Director of Teaching and Learning for the Bellingham Public Schools in Bellingham, Washington share how their professional development partnership has helped teachers effectively implement math curricula based on the Common Core State Standards and contributed to a learner-focused culture of continuous improvement.

Download as MP3 ...

It’s sad but true: In October, a veteran teacher in Florida resigned because the conditions under which she was required to work did not support best practice. Despite her love of teaching and her “highly effective” ratings in evaluations, Wendy Bradshaw was trapped in an untenable position because she was required to deploy practices that were developmentally inappropriate for her young students.

Based on her extensive training in human growth and development, this highly credentialed professional with bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees would not persist in activities that she knew to be harmful to her students. “Developmentally appropriate practice is the bedrock upon which early childhood education best practices are based, and has decades of empirical support behind it,” she writes in her resignation letter. “However, the new reforms not only disregard this research, they are actively forcing teachers to engage in practices which are not only ineffective but actively harmful to child development and the learning process.” ...

As I contemplate leaving the executive director position at the Learning First Alliance (LFA) after five years, I am reminded that while certainly public education has improved for many of American’s children over those years, the pace of change and improvement is slow and not nearly where we collectively and individually as education professionals and conscientious U.S. citizens would want it to be. And, it’s clear that in addition to education professionals who have devoted their careers to supporting the growth of young people, the crowd of those focused on public education has swollen to include business leaders; philanthropic organizations large and small; and national and local policymakers whose knowledge of schooling doesn’t extend beyond their own experiences as students.  ...

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