For her leadership in the areas of teacher quality and educational equity and reform, the Learning First Alliance has named Stanford professor and accomplished author Linda Darling-Hammond as our 2013 Education Visionary Award winner.
Community Based Learning
We're over a decade into the 21st-century and schools across the country are working tirelessly to ensure students are prepared for whatever lies ahead. Rapid changes are afoot in demographic shifts and in the continuing development of new technology and social media platforms. These realities are presenting schools with new challenges and opportunities - sometimes in concert.
Dr. Mary Amanda "Mandy" Stewart has taught and researched English learners, and her recent research highlights how social media use and other out-of-school literacies are boosting language acquisition in this population. The winner of this year's PDK International Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award for her work on Latino/a immigrant students and literacy, her findings lead to several questions.
How can schools support the integration of social media in classrooms as an instructional support? How can homework assignments utilize social media? How can principals and districts support wider use of such platforms and other out-of-school literacies to support their English Language Learning population?
We recently had an opportunity to talk with Dr. Stewart about her research and its implications. In an email interview, she provided advice and insights from her perspective as a researcher and practitioner, emphasizing the importance of expanding our definition of 21st-century learning to include bilingualism and biliteracy.
Public School Insights (PSI): Would you mind starting off with a little background on your research and the study? What led you to research this topic, and what questions were you interested in answering?
Stewart: I began my career teaching newcomer adolescents at the International Newcomer Academy, a public school for new immigrants in middle and high school in Fort Worth, Texas. All of my 6th graders were in their first year in the U.S. I saw the great resources my students from Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East brought with them into the class, but also how the effects of NCLB in Texas pushed the students' linguistic and cultural resources out of the academic curriculum. I feared that their linguistic and cultural resources would be ignored, devalued, and underutilized as they went to their home schools.
During my doctoral studies, I became interested of the idea of "whose literacy counts?" Through a pilot study with a 2nd-generation high school student of Mexican origin and reading about other studies of immigrant youth, it became apparent that immigrant students do possess valuable and sophisticated literacies they use out-of-school. However, most schools do not ...
Recently, I’ve been reminded of the wealth of publicly supported educational resources outside the classroom that offer rich learning opportunities for students of all ages. I’ve also mulled over how formal public schooling can take advantage of some of the resources and experiences to which I’ve been exposed. Certainly, I’ve been involved for many years in advocating for the appropriate and effective use of new and emerging technologies to meet our teaching and learning needs in the public classroom. But I’m reminded that nothing can change the ‘being there’ and there are ways that the technology can help us ‘be there’ as learners and also explore primary sources in ways not possible before.
My first reminder of the riches available to all of us was in January when the Learning First Alliance Board of Directors met at the Library of Congress in the elegant Jefferson Room. In addition to hearing from the Librarian of Congress, we also learned from the Library’s education staff about the extensive work that’s been done providing access to the digitized version of primary sources and the educational enhancements that have been applied to these sources…i.e. you can now see the original version of the Declaration of Independence that Jefferson wrote along with the edits, identified by their author, and see which edits appeared in the final version and ...
Editor’s Note: Our guest blogger today is Susan Hildreth. Susan serves as the director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a position to which President Obama appointed her in January 2011.
Museums and libraries are an essential component of any vision of the future of learning. Helping these institutions to create engaging and empowering learning experiences is one of the primary goals of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).
The classic field trip to a museum is still a valuable tool for elementary school teachers. But the relationship museums and libraries now have with schools is much more collaborative than that of host and guest for an occasional visit. ...
Native American National Heritage Month is a chance to highlight a component of American history that is often overlooked. Native American Heritage Month celebrates those, along with their tribal ancestors, who were here thousands of years before Columbus or Cortes set foot in North America. The unique nature of America’s immigration history results in distinct parameters for discussions on race, ethnicity and heritage and unprecedented diversity. While we all have our individual ancestral heritage, this land – our country – has a complex and rich history that is far older than that of America and the Declaration of Independence. If we still claim, or even think, that this land belongs to us, should we not celebrate its entire history? That journey reveals some uncomfortable moments and brings up challenging discussions; all the more reason to have them. History is not just the past and it should not be left without context and relevance. ...
The United Way has long been committed to both improving education and mobilizing the power of communities. In that vein, they recently released several reports on public feelings about education, and one specifically focuses on the role of volunteer mentors in boosting students’ academic achievement.
In conjunction with publishing these findings on mentorship, the United Way is issuing a national call to action. They are seeking to recruit one million volunteers to act as readers, tutors, and mentors for students over the next three years. So far the United Way’s National Women’s Leadership Council, comprising 50,000 leaders in 120 communities, has pledged to recruit 100,000 volunteers.
Some of the goals of this effort outlined in the reports: ...
When Principal Theresa Mattison came to Carstens Elementary in 1997 “achievement was zero.” Student behavior was a problem. Some staff seemed uncommitted. As parent liaison Abby Phelps puts it, “This school was in the middle of chaos.”
Today Carstens is a beacon of light for the surrounding community. It is one of the top-performing schools in Detroit. In 2009 third graders at this school—where 98% of students are from high poverty homes—outscored the state as a whole on all tested subjects.
How did the school turn itself around? School staff points to the leadership of Dr. Mattison. Dr. Mattison points back to her incredible staff. And everyone recognizes the importance of meeting more than just the academic needs of students.
Members of the Carstens community recently told us the school’s story. In on the conversation were Principal Theresa Mattison, parent liaison Abby Phelps, school social worker Gail Nawrock, and teachers Barbara Haug, Vannessa Jones, Rebecca Kelly and Violet Kiricovski.
Public School Insights: How would you describe Carstens Elementary?
Violet Kiricovski: Carstens shares the Comer philosophy. And we all work together. Teamwork really is our strong point.
Rebecca Kelly: The way I would describe Carstens is that it is actually more than a school. I just saw a presentation in which they described it as a “beacon of light.” And the parents, the families, the students and the businesses are all working together.
Abby Phelps: Carstens incorporates a city philosophy. We offer all services. We have it all.
Public School Insights: What kind of a population does the school serve?
Barbara Haug: We serve a deserving population. Statistically, they are considered high poverty—98% of them come from high poverty homes. And our population is about 98% African-American. But we do not think that statistics are something that describes somebody’s potential. It just describes the situation that needs to be considered when you look at the needs of the individual child or the children. What it boils down to is that they are children who deserve a good education.
Public School Insights: What was student achievement like back in the 1990s?
Theresa Mattison: Achievement was zero…We had people who did not care and it was very, very, very hard. But it is not hard anymore, because everyone cares and everyone shares leadership and responsibility.
Abby Phelps: Having been affiliated with Carstens before Dr. Mattison got here, I can tell you that this school was in the middle of chaos. And I am not exaggerating. I have been here since 1989. The capacity of the teachers and their concern ...
Yesterday, we published our conversation with Christopher Cross about the Broader, Bolder Approach (BBA) Campaign’s new accountability recommendations. Today, we’re releasing an interview with another member of BBA’s Accountability Committee: Diane Ravitch, who followed Cross as Assistant Secretary of OERI during the administration of George H.W. Bush.
Like Cross, Ravitch requires no introduction. A long-time supporter of standards-based reform, she has become one of the nation’s most vocal critics of No Child Left Behind. Here are her thoughts on the BBA recommendations:
PUBLIC SCHOOL INSIGHTS: You have argued that "a few tweaks here and a little tinkering there cannot fix" No Child Left Behind. How do BBA's accountability recommendations depart from the NCLB model?
RAVITCH: NCLB is a punitive approach to school improvement. It mandates that test scores must increase or else! If they don't go higher, schools will be sanctioned, and the sanctions will get more onerous with each year that the schools fail to meet their targets. Each year, the targets get higher, and the number of schools that slip over the precipice increases. As schools fail, they are threatened with closure, restructuring, staff firings, or other consequences that may or may not improve the school.
In contrast, BBA suggests accountability that goes far beyond test scores. Test scores matter, but so does student engagement in a broad range of academic subjects, as well as students' health, well-being and civic behavior. Where NCLB is punitive, BBA seeks constructive ways to measure the condition and progress of ...
Editor's Note: Yesterday, Hollywood producer turned Montana educator Peter Rosten sent us the following remarks about his school's innovative filmmaking program:
Greetings from Montana!
A friend of mine, Jan Lombardi, is the education policy advisor for Montana’s Governor, Brian Schweitzer. Recently Jan forwarded me a “Learning First” newsletter and pointed to an article titled “Learning in the Community: Teen Filmmakers Talk About Their Work and Its Impact on Their Lives”.
After reading this inspiring story, I reached out to Claus von Zastrow. Perhaps he’d be interested in a pretty cool media program here in the Bitterroot Valley in rural Western, Montana.
Fatalist and pseudo-scientist Charles Murray believes that IQ is immutable, that efforts to close achievement gaps are wasted, and that programs to level the social and economic playing fields drain life of meaning.
He would do well to examine the achievements of Say Yes to Education, a remarkable program that has dramatically changed the odds for disadvantaged urban students in several U.S. cities:
The Say Yes promise and supports begin when a child enters kindergarten and continue through high school and beyond. The range of services Say Yes offers across its Chapters include everything from after-school and summer programming, mentoring, tutoring, and school-day academic support to family outreach, scholarships, and social work/ psychological services. Additionally, Say Yes partners provide high-quality health care and legal assistance.
Students in Say Yes communities have high school graduation, college-going and college completion rates similar to those of suburban students.
Not that any of this would change Charles Murray's mind. He's a slow learner. ...
Sally Broughton's middle school students have had a greater impact on their rural community than do many people three or four times their age. The Montana Teacher of the Year has helped her language arts and social studies students successfully advocate for policies to improve life in their school and their neighborhoods. In the process, her students at the Monforton School have strengthened their grasp of history, civics, mathematics, research, writing, and public speaking.
Broughton's remarkable achievements have earned her the American Civic Education Award from The Alliance for Representative Democracy. She recently told Public School Insights about the indelible mark her students have left on Bozeman, Montana. They have much to show for their work: public restrooms downtown, a school-wide bicycle helmet policy, a community playground, and a sophisticated early warning system for local residents living near a vulnerable earthen dam. And the list goes on....
President-Elect Obama is urging Americans to devote themselves to civic and community service. Sally Broughton's students in Bozeman can show you how it's done.
Download our full, 16-minute interview here, or read a transcript of interview highlights.
PUBLIC SCHOOL INSIGHTS: I've heard quite a bit about these very, very fascinating projects that you've done and that have actually managed to change public policy in your community. Could you describe how you go about this, and how these projects support broader academic goals?
BROUGHTON: Absolutely. We do something called Project Citizen. During that time, the children find a problem that can be solved by public policy and they investigate it. ...
A VISION FOR GREAT SCHOOLS
On this website, educators, parents and policymakers from coast to coast are sharing what's already working in public schools--and sparking a national conversation about how to make it work for children in every school. Join the conversation!