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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 ...

By National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia and National PTA President Otha Thornton

American Education Week (AEW) is celebrated each year during the last full week before Thanksgiving. This year, AEW is being celebrated November 16-22. Founded by the National Education Association (NEA) and The American Legion in 1921, with the U.S. Department of Education joining in 1922, AEW was created in response to 25 percent of World War I draftees being illiterate and nine percent deemed physically unfit to serve their country.

In its resolution, NEA called for “an educational week... observed in all communities annually for the purpose of informing the public of the accomplishments and needs of the public schools and to secure the cooperation and support of the public in meeting those needs."

Today, American Education Week is co-sponsored by National PTA and 11 other national education organizations. The theme for this year’s celebration is Great Public Schools: A Basic Right and Our Responsibility ...

By Matthew L. Evans, Advocacy Coordinator, and Jessica Seitz, Policy Analyst, National PTA

With the 2014 Midterm Elections now behind us, the impact of the results and how they will affect PTA-related policy issues must be examined. With most of the election results now in (some still pending), Republicans will now control both Houses of Congress.

By adding up to 40 new Members to the House of Representatives (gaining at least 13), Republicans will have at least 246 seats, its largest majority since World War II. In the Senate, Republicans added 10 new members (picking up 7) and will take over the majority with at least 52 members. With new leadership set to take over in January, changes are on the horizon. Specifically, in the Senate, many Republicans who served as Committee ranking members are poised to become Chairs of their respective committees. In the House, while Republicans have retained leadership, key committee assignments are likely to change. New members arrived in Washington last week for their orientation ...

The PTA at Eden Central (in Eden, New York) has taken an active role in reaching out to parents with information and resources regarding the Common Core State Standards. Their work has included a parent information night, parent academies and an instruction evening, all aimed at dispelling myths and providing useful contextual information around the formation of the standards and their classroom application. For these efforts, the Eden Central PTA received the National PTA's 2014 Phoebe Apperson Hearst Outstanding Family-School Partnership Award – the highest honor presented by the association. They have also been honored with the 2014-2016 National PTA School of Excellence designation for achievements in family engagement. ...

By Patte Barth, Director of the Center for Public Education, an initiative of the National School Boards Association (NSBA)

The National School Boards Association’s Center for Public Education is all about the importance of using data and research to craft effective school policy and practice. We also encourage everyone who has an interest in public schools to look at data when gauging their quality. Unfortunately, getting that data isn’t always as straightforward as it could be. Even when found, it’s often presented in long tables, complicated graphs and confusing formats that obscure rather than shed light on school performance. ...

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