Learning First Alliance

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The National School Boards Association and the National Association of Secondary School Principals have created an online toolkit for educators as part of a national effort to spur dialogue around the importance of embracing college and career readiness for all students.

The toolkit contains videos, tip sheets, sample surveys and other resources that will first, help educators understand and better explain the move to college and career readiness, then engage the community and successfully implement the standards in schools. The toolkit was created as part of the Learning First Alliance’s Get It Right campaign.

“This is important because we’re living through a time of great change in our country and in our economy,” says NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel in a video introducing the project. Most states have now adopted college- and career-ready standards, including Common Core State Standards, that focus on rigorous course content and critical thinking and problem solving skills for students.

“The standards are in place, now it’s up to local school districts to implement them,” Mr. Gentzel adds. ...

Let’s face it—classrooms are very different today than when most of us were in school. Smart boards have replaced chalkboards and projectors. Computers, tablets and smartphones are increasingly being used instead of paper, pencils and books.

Technology and the internet have created countless new opportunities for education. Children like yours and mine can now read about virtually any subject from anywhere and connect with people and places around the world. Teachers are harnessing the power of the technology to bring curriculum alive and personalize instruction to meet the unique needs of every child. Digital learning is essential for the development of skills students need to thrive.

Technology also provides important opportunities for us as families to be more involved in our children’s education as well as for families, teachers and school staff to engage in regular and meaningful communication about student learning.

As the new year gets into full swing, it is important that we as parents are aware of the technology our school uses and how we in turn can use these tools to support our children’s success in the classroom.

Here’s how schools can help:

Be transparent ...

When it comes to violence, suicide and threats, most are known by at least one other individual before the incident takes place. Imagine how much tragedy could be averted if these individuals said something?

Say Something teaches students in grades 6 to 12 how to look for warning signs, signals and threats - especially in social media - from individuals who may want to hurt themselves or others and to Say Something to a trusted adult to get them help. The no-cost program is based on research conducted by Dr. Dewey Cornell and Dr. Reid Meloy, two leading national experts in threat assessment and intervention.

During the week of October 24-28, 2016, schools and youth organizations across the United States will be participating in National Say Something Week. Say Something Week raises awareness and educates students and the community through training, media events, advertising, public proclamations, contests and school awards. Say Something Week reinforces the power young people have to prevent tragedies and Say Something to a trusted adult to protect a friend from hurting them self or others! ...

The United States faces a need for nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs over the next decade, but we may not be able to fill more than half of those jobs, according to new research from Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute

It's not because of a shortage of individuals: about 5.8 million working-age individuals are looking for a job, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in August. We also know that more than half of students who graduated high school in 2014 took the ACT test, but only 26 percent met career and college readiness benchmarks in all four subjects: English, reading, mathematics and science. 

Because of this, 84 percent of manufacturing executives agree the nation is now facing a “skills gap” crisis. ...

September 8 is International Literacy Day, and 2016 marks the the 50th anniversary of an event designed to promote reading and literacy in U.S. communities and worldwide, and celebrate the work of educators and literacy specialists.  

As part of the events, the International Literacy Association is promoting a service learning kit and a guide to help students learn about other countries.

UNESCO, a sponsor of the event, has released some promising and some concerning date points on the need for greater attention to literacy worldwide.

The good news is that less than 10 percent of students age 15-24 are unable to read and write, compared to 24 percent 50 years ago.

But there are serious discrepancies in gender: the organization notes that, “Although literacy has been high on the development agenda over the past decades, UIS data show that 758 million adults – two-thirds of whom are women – still lack basic reading and writing skills,” according to 2014 data. ...

If all goes well, about this time next year the new ESSA roll out in your state will be beginning. It will reflect your local input to your state’s plan and process. Your staff will be on board as they are fully aware of the new approach and have been given ample time to prepare for implementation. And your students and their families know just what to expect and what is expected of them. 

Or not?

In the past few years, we have witnessed how state assessments and testing are often catalysts for discussions that can lead to bashing public education. In addition to privacy issues in some states and the regionalized opt-out movement in others, state testing will once again become an issue as states are now wrestling with their new approaches to their assessment program mandated by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

Our prediction is that the new assessments will either sink or swim in the court of parent and public opinion depending on whether authentic communication and collaboration are effectively completed with staff, parents, and students. ...

Should public schools’ primary purpose be to prepare students for work and careers, instill citizenship, or teach higher-level academics?

The answer, according to the 2016 Phi Delta Kappa poll on education, is that Americans don’t have a consensus. More precisely, the more than 1,200 respondents surveyed split over the question: 45 percent of American adults said that preparing students academically is the main goal of a public school education, while 25 percent said the main purpose is to prepare students for work and 26 percent said good citizenship.

That was one of several prominent findings in the in the 48th annual poll, which this year was conducted by PDK International and, for the first time, Langer Research Associates of New York. PDK International split with longtime partner Gallup last year, and PDK officials say the new survey partnership allows the organization to look more deeply into trends and opinions that impact public education. ...

LFA’s member organizations and partners have many examples of schools that have adopted innovative practices or have taken risks that have paid off in their students’ academic achievement. As we head back to school, here are five of our favorite success stories from 2016 that we hope will give inspiration and ideas for your work.

District officials in the Tacoma, Wash. district have designed a system of supports to help students transition from prekindergarten through high school, and they work with local universities to ensure their curriculum is aligned and students have access to financial aid. High school graduation rates have dramatically increased under the strategic plan, two Tacoma administrators write in this article for School Administrator magazine. ...

The Learning First Alliance today released, “Working Together for Student Success: A Back-to-School Communications Toolkit,” a resource to help educators communicate with their parents and communities. 

The toolkit contains advice for helping local school leaders and other educators publicize and explain their successes in implementing college- and career-ready standards. The document is designed to help shore up support for public education across the country by showcasing innovative and effective programs in schools as well as the myriad of school staff members who help students on their paths to graduation.

“We are proud to offer a toolkit that will help school leaders and other educators strategize back-to-school communications,” said Richard M. Long, executive director of the Learning First Alliance. “We know that there are many good programs and examples of schools preparing students for post-graduation success, and we hope this guide gives superintendents, principals, PTA leaders and other educators ideas and inspiration to show the good work that is happening in their schools.” ...

Summer vacation is eagerly anticipated by students and teachers – eight weeks of out-of-school time in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS). But it harbors a built-in risk that we call the Summer Slide: Academic ground gained during the school year can be lost without targeted summer learning. ...

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