Learning First Alliance

Strengthening public schools for every child

The Public School Insights Blog

Today, President Obama, the Department of Education, and the Department of Health and Human Services are hosting a Conference on Bullying Prevention. The conference will have student, parent, and teacher attendees, and it will discuss bullying in communities across the country.

Bullying is clearly a major problem in many schools and districts, and LFA members have a sizable collection of helpful materials explaining various issues pertinent to bullying, providing instruction on identifying and dealing with bullying, and considering other issues like bully legislation and bullying implications on school violence.

Below is a sample of some of these materials:

For an overview on bullying:

According to the National Endowment for the Arts and data from Chorus America, choral singing is the most popular form of participation in the performing arts; however, opportunities to participate in a school choir are declining. The arts are getting slashed from many schools as we become myopically focused on reading and math in this budget-crunched time.

To help schools avoid this fate for programs in their communities, earlier this week, Chorus America released a free advocacy guide schools can use in making a case for choral arts programs. From a pragmatic standpoint, as the American economy increasingly becomes more service-oriented, and creativity-driven, it makes sense to emphasize the arts in schools. From a motivating standpoint, courses and programs that actively engage students and offer some bonafide entertainment make school a lot more pleasurable for students, and provide them with something to look forward to. A Chorus Impact Study reported that 90% of educators believe choral singing can keep some students engaged in school who might otherwise lose interest and/or drop out.

Arts integration in schools is not a pie in the sky dream: arts used to be a much bigger focus in American schools. Dana Gioia, former Chairman of ...

Edweek recently featured a story on two cases coming before the Supreme Court next month that deal with proper protocols of police and school officials in questioning students. School officials are concerned that the court’s decision could put them in an untenable gatekeeping position between police and students. Thus, the National School Boards Association—an LFA member—has filed a court brief outlining concerns with the issues the case brings up that implicate administrators.

The first case—Camreta v. Greene—deals with an incident in 2003 when a state child protective services caseworker and a deputy sheriff in Oregon interviewed a 9-year-old girl at school about suspected sexual abuse by her father. The mother claims that after denying abuse for two hours the girl finally told investigators what they wanted to hear (though charges against the father were later dismissed), and that the interrogation violated the girl’s Fourth Amendment right to freedom from unreasonable seizure. A lower court ruled in favor of ...

Editor's note: Our guest blogger today is Earl C. Rickman III, president of the National School Boards Association (an LFA member) and president of the Board of Education of Mount Clemens Community School District in Michigan.

The recent Conference on Labor-Management Collaboration in Denver showed that when school boards, administrators, and teachers work as a team to improve student achievement, we can greatly strengthen the quality of education we provide to our students and our communities.

I was part of the 12-person delegation of school board leaders from NSBA and state school boards associations participating in the event. I was proud to also represent Michigan’s Mount Clemens Community School District Board of Education, where I serve as board president. My school district was one of the 150 school districts from across the country that participated in the conference.

This first-of-its-kind conference, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, brought national and local school leaders to hear from other superintendents, school boards, and teacher leaders who are working together to redefine the labor-management relationship in their communities, and it highlighted the successes some districts have achieved and ...

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

On March 2, 1904, Theodor Seuss Geisel was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. He would become an accomplished writer and illustrator, publishing articles in popular periodicals such as The Saturday Evening Post, Life and Vanity Fair. He gained a national reputation in advertising. During the World War II era, he first drew political cartoons for a left-leaning publication and then posters for the Treasury Department and the War Production Board. With his first wife, he wrote Design for Death, a study of Japanese culture that won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 1947.

But Geisel is best known for his children’s books, penned under the pseudonym “Dr. Seuss.” His first children’s book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, was published in 1937. His last, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, was published in 1990, just a year before his death.

The most famous of his books is (arguably) The Cat in the Hat, published in 1957. I am sure you are familiar with the story. But you may not know just how it came about.

Back in 1954, Life magazine published an article entitled "Why Do Students Bog Down on First R? A Local Committee Sheds Light on a National Problem: Reading." That article was quite critical of ...

Technology has redefined how we work, play and communicate at work and at home.  For those of us involved in advocating for technology’s appropriate role and substantial impact on public K-12 schooling, the redefinition has been slower than we would have liked.  The Learning First Alliance (LFA) hopes to accelerate more widespread understanding and implementation of technology for both instruction and information management by expanding our coalition to include, effective March 1, 2011, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE).   ISTE represents more than 20,000 educators, 80 affiliate member groups, 89 countries, and 65 education technology corporations in their efforts to advance excellence in learning and teaching through innovative and effective uses of technology.

ISTE’s value system aligns nicely with LFA goals and objectives and includes the belief that:

  • strategic partnerships and collaboration are essential to realizing a shared vision for education excellence
  • organizational excellence focuses on innovation, transparency, and fiscal responsibility
  • power resides in a diverse and inclusive global community of members who learn, teach, and lead to advance the field
  • global connections and partnerships advance educational excellence, teaching, and leadership for all stakeholders

For too long K-12 education leaders have communicated within silos of ...

Charlotte Williams's picture

Revisiting Rhee

On Monday, Slate featured an excellent article by Richard Kahlenberg that focused on the problems with Michelle Rhee’s credo and his dismay at the continued media endorsement of her efforts. In critiquing Rhee, the article also provides cogent arguments dealing with anti-union fervor (a timely topic in light of current events in states like Wisconsin, Indiana, and Ohio) and how this can serve to push into the background the singly most problematic element the education industry deals with:  disadvantaged prospects and likelihood for achievement among students, stemming from race and income inequalities

 While Kahlenberg acknowledges that Rhee made some significant improvements to DC public schools—such as ensuring that students got textbooks on time and making efficient use of space by closing under-used schools—he asserts that contrary to popular claims, “she didn’t revolutionize education in DC.” ...

obriena's picture

Widening the Talent Gap

Do you know Closing the Talent Gap? It is a McKinsey report released a few months ago that shows that several of the world’s top school systems recruit 100% of their teachers from the top third of their academic cohort. It also shows that in America, just 23% of new teachers come from the top third.

Why do so few top American students choose teaching? McKinsey found that among the 91% of top-third college students who do not plan to go into teaching, “the most important job attributes include prestige and peer group appeal, but compensation is the biggest gap between teaching and their chosen professions.”

While commentary on that report ran long and deep (What does this data mean? Is it fair to compare the US to Singapore/Finland/South Korea? Is high academic performance related to effective teaching? Do we want teachers who are motivated in their jobs largely by compensation?), consensus was that America should be striving to attract the best and the brightest into teaching.

I thought of this report after reading University of Wisconsin-Madison Professor Andrew Reschovsky’s commentary on Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s “budget repair” bill (which, as I am sure we all know by now, would strip many unions – including teachers unions – of the right to collectively bargain on anything other than wages) and the protests that have surrounded the bill. Like many, Reschovsky has a number of concerns with ...

Like many education stakeholders, I appreciate President Obama’s budgetary commitment to education (even though he found an inhospitable audience in the House). Despite tough financial times, it’s commendable that he is taking a far-sighted approach to the health of the country by focusing on education. However, with his budget, we’re left facing the same problem we’ve faced over the past couple years - over-emphasis on competitive funding programs like Race for the Top.

Perhaps in examining the issue of competitive funding, we should consider largely philosophical roots of competition ideologies. Libertarianism is the poster-child for competition and privatization, but most would agree that this philosophy breaks down in certain categories: some needs simply are not fulfilled well relying on the private sector, and some of these needs—like education—comprise areas where we simply can’t afford market failings.

Maurice Elias recently blogged on this issue on edutopia. He wrote, “it is difficult for me to understand why we want, need, or should tolerate competition for a public function such as education. We don’t have competition for police and fire services. These are required to be uniformly excellent and equitable. They are not always, but ...

I have been fairly discouraged reading about the budget situations of states recently. And I am getting even MORE discouraged after learning about some of the tough choices they are making to save money.

One example: Early childhood education programs are being cut across the country.

A recent New Jersey Star-Ledger article talks about a plan by the state’s Senate Republican caucus to cut funding for early childhood education in urban districts, moving from full- to half-day preschools. They claim they don’t have a choice, given the financial situation of the state. And a recent Associated Press article describes Iowa Governor Terry Branstad’s proposal to, for budgetary reasons, scale back the state program that provides pre-school in most of the state’s districts. The Governor does not question the importance of pre-school – but limited state dollars are forcing the issue.

These proposed cuts are quite discouraging for advocates of early childhood education. They should also be discouraging for Americans in general, given the benefit that these programs have for society.

A recent evaluation of the Chicago Public Schools’ federally funded Child Parent Centers (CPCs) found that for every dollar invested in the preschool program, nearly $11 is projected to return to society over participants' lifetimes. That is the equivalent of ...

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