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By Sharon P. Robinson, President and CEO, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE)

This week, the White House announced a new push to protect students’ digital privacy, as ever-expanding data collection efforts heighten concerns from parents and advocacy groups about appropriate uses of the data. Institutions of higher education share the administration’s priority of protecting elementary and secondary students and upholding diligent safety and privacy practices in preparing teachers for the classroom. Ultimately, safeguarding student data is everyone’s business. ...

By Maria Ferguson, Washington View Columnist, Kappan magazine (PDK International) and Executive Director, Center on Education Policy at George Washington University

Education research is a hot topic in Washington. I’m not talking “House of Cards” or “Scandal” hot but hot for education types who have been waiting a long time for Congress to take up any piece of education law. While other broad education legislation continues to await reauthorization, Congress has managed to make progress on behalf of education research. The Educational Sciences Research Act (ESRA) may not win a name recognition contest, but it is an important part of the nation’s education agenda nonetheless. The fact that a bipartisan bill to reauthorize ESRA (the Strengthening Education Through Research Act or SETRA) is making its way through the House and the Senate is not only a sign of hope that things can get done (whether they are done well is a topic for another column), it is also an acknowledgement that education research is not something any of us should take for granted.

My organization, the Center on Education Policy (CEP), has both hosted and participated in many conversations about the role research plays in education policy and practice. Focusing tightly on education policy while being housed within a university, we are acutely aware that policy makers view research through a completely different lens than education researchers. Policy makers tend to lead with policy and then look to research to validate their decision making. While this may not seem to be the best way to address education issues, we must be aware that the political nature of education — especially at the federal level — almost demands this kind of leap-before-you-look approach ...

Nearly a year ago the fourteen member organizations of the Learning First Alliance (LFA) issued a rare but important statement of our collective belief that Common Core State Standards (CCSS) have the potential to transform teaching and learning and provide all children with the knowledge and skills necessary for success in the global community. Included in that statement of belief was a clear signal that the “what” of CCSS was on track but the “how” of moving towards full implementation at the local and classroom level was moving too quickly with insufficient time, support and resources to ensure that the goal of the collaboratively created common standards could or would be met in the way envisioned by the leaders who initiated this ground-breaking project.

What we also knew was that some states and districts were mapping out implementation strategies that showed promise and yielded initial results in changed pedagogy and classroom culture that have the potential to result in measureable results on a host of evaluation instruments being designed to assess student progress. So, over the past year we’ve reached out to successful practitioners, asked them to share their experiences and wisdom, and collected stories of promising progress with implementation of the huge change in practice and process to meet the new, higher, common standards.

This week we issued a white paper describing some of the things we learned over the past year ...

With the news that the U.S. is now going to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba, I’ve become hopeful that other things might change for the better, including in the world of K-12 education, in the year ahead. To put this thinking in context: I was part of a People to People delegation to Cuba the first week of September this year and came away fully convinced that the only way life would improve for both Cubans and Americans was to lift the embargo (still to be done) and open up travel and exchanges between the two countries (with last week’s announcement, this will begin immediately).

In the same vein, I’d like to start anew in 2015 to build bridges between those of us who have spent our professional lives in a variety of positions in public education (mine began with four years teaching English language arts with middle and high school students) and those who loudly proclaim themselves “reformers” out to shake up the status quo and push out change resisters so “innovation” can happen.  Let’s begin by talking to and about each other in a more careful way—for example: ...

This piece was co-authored with Melissa Cropper, president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers. It first appeared in the Toledo Blade. View the original here.

Many lawmakers and political activists appear determined to perpetuate an endless debate over Ohio’s New Learning Standards, our version of the Common Core state standards. But teachers and school leaders across the state have been working hard to carry out the higher standards for student learning that we committed to years ago.

Teachers are already seeing benefits for students.

“They’re not doing as many paper-and-pencil activities and seat activities,” says Amy Whaley, a fifth-grade teacher in Toledo. “We’re up out of our seats. We’re doing projects. We’re encouraging students to talk and to share, because of the speaking and language standards that are involved.”

Like Ms. Whaley, teachers across Ohio are participating in and leading professional development, and creating new lessons designed to help students build a deep understanding of critical concepts in math and reading. Yet the challenge of introducing a new and higher set of standards, even as teachers dedicate time and energy to doing so, is significant. ...

We talk a lot about transforming teacher preparation to meet the changing demands of both today’s P-12 students and the education workforce. Often these discussions revolve around alternative certification programs, but to make a large-scale impact, we have to consider how the institutions of higher education that train nearly 90% of incoming teachers should respond to the challenges that new teachers and P-12 schools and districts face. 

Fortunately, there are a number of models from which we can learn, institutions of higher education working in innovative ways to ensure that teachers enter the classroom prepared to be successful. The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education’s (AACTE) The Innovation Exchange highlights many such programs, including Georgia State University’s Network for Enhancing Teacher Quality (NET-Q) program.

NET-Q is a collection of projects designed to prepare educators for the demands of teaching high-need subjects in high-need schools. To learn more about this impressive initiative, we contacted Dr. Gwendolyn Benson, who serves as the associate dean for school, community and international partnerships in the College of Education at Georgia State University and as the principal investigator for the NET-Q program. She graciously took the time to describe the key features of NET-Q, including its teacher residency program and partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and the impact of the program, which includes higher teacher retention rates, academic gains for P-12 students and richer and truer partnerships with local schools and districts.

Public School Insights (PSI): Critics often claim that educator preparation programs don’t prepare teachers – particularly those who will work in high-needs communities – for the realities they will face in the classroom. But I understand Georgia State University’s College of Education is facing that challenge head on, with the Network for Enhancing Teacher Quality (NET-Q) project. Could you briefly describe the initiative?

Benson: The goal of this project is to increase the quality and number of highly qualified teachers who are committed to high-needs schools, thus positively impacting the achievement of students in these schools. This is accomplished by increasing the recruitment and support of prospective teachers of science, technology, engineering and mathematics; special education; and English language learners, to meet the needs of urban schools in the Metro Atlanta area and nearby rural high-need districts ...

By Gail Connelly, Executive Director, National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP)

In the late 1990s, renowned Cape Town archbishop and social activist Desmond Tutu introduced the South African term ubuntu to a global audience. Roughly translating to, “I am because we are,” it reflects a belief in the importance of interconnectedness among human beings. Doris Candelarie, one of the National Distinguished Principals profiled in the November/December 2014 issue of Principal magazine, shared this concept with us as her chosen inspirational theme for the current school year.

When I heard about this philosophy of ubuntu, it struck a particular chord with me, as it seems to so aptly crystallize both the message and spirit of professional collaboration. After all, this network of human relationships and support across school, district, community, and beyond is the key enabling factor when it comes to successfully serving the students in our charge.

Research backs this up. Studies such as the Wallace Foundation’s 2010 Learning from Leadership confirm a strong connection between high-performing schools and decision-making structures that include input from a range of stakeholders. In particular, the study highlights the key role of teacher leaders, finding direct links between principal - teacher leader collaborations and higher standardized test scores and increased staff trust in principals—all without the loss of a principal’s clout ...

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

Numerous partnerships have sprouted in recent years between school districts and their local community colleges. Superintendents and college presidents have managed to blur the line that frequently exists between K-12 and higher education. There are many advantages to do this for both institutions, but it is the students who benefit the most.

Last September, under the auspices of AASA and the American Association of Community Colleges, 10 superintendents and 10 community college presidents convened to share the results of their partnerships and consider next steps to broaden their collaboration.

The K-12 goal to get students to be college and career ready is not much of a challenge for the top 40 percent of students. It is the remaining 60 percent who will require some heavy lifting, particularly for minority students and those living in poverty ...

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

Robin Williams’ death by suicide in August could be the best thing that’s happened for mental health awareness in years.

Yes, we lost a comic genius who made us laugh so hard that our bellies ached. But his singular act — and, more to the point, his family’s generosity in acknowledging the truth of his death with the public — focused much needed attention on the anguish of depression and the reality that suicide too often accompanies the darkness that characterizes the disease.

How many times have you known someone or the spouse, child, or sibling of someone who committed suicide? How often have you talked about that event in the hushed tones of embarrassment? How often have the leaders in your schools been directed to avoid being specific about how a student or staff members died when the cause of death was suicide? ...

Earlier this week, I was fortunate to have an invitation to the White House to attend the President Obama’s announcement of the Future Ready Schools Initiative as part of the administration’s ConnectED program. One hundred school superintendents were also in the audience as part of the first-ever Superintendents’ Summit at the White House, which served as the kickoff to the initiative. During the ceremony the superintendents signed a pledge – on their tablets – that proclaimed their commitment to ensuring their districts were Future Ready with broadband connections to the classroom, digital content for their students, devices to support the curriculum materials and professional development for their teachers so they are supported in using technology effectively for teaching and learning activities.

What this part of the administration’s ConnectED initiative recognizes is that leadership counts when change is happening. I couldn’t agree more, and it’s my hope that all the efforts being put forth by the education leaders in the room and across the country, whether a pledge is signed or not, are successful in bringing innovation supported with appropriate technology to every school and every classroom. The elephant in the room is that these sorts of photo op ceremonies and initiatives around bringing technology into public schooling have been taking place for more than twenty years ...

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