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By Otha Thornton, President, National PTA

Recently, Education Week published an article on the rise of family engagement as a priority for schools and districts across the country. The article spotlights states and districts in which family engagement initiatives are part of long-term, integrated and high-impact strategies to bolster student achievement. It is an important piece to help underscore the critical role family engagement and family-school partnerships play in children’s learning and growth. The article also is timely considering the pending reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act/No Child Left Behind (ESEA/NCLB) and National PTA’s work to include stronger family engagement provisions in the bill ...

Parent engagement and community engagement have been trending in education lingo for some time, but what do these really mean for school districts? 

Parent engagement strategies are designed to go beyond the required parent-teacher conferences, volunteering, and seminars and events that public schools have used for decades to draw in families and community members. Now, we are happy to see that a few school districts and states are trying to encourage longer-term strategies that are directly tied to student learning, Education Week reports.

These school leaders see that parents who are aware of what’s going on in their child’s school and get involved in working toward academic goals will help their child succeed academically. But it also helps draw needed support for public education from parents and the community. ...

Let’s talk frankly.  Most relationships between the school systems and their communities are dysfunctional - like a bad marriage.  Each has suffered deeply crushed expectations.  If each party were to write a letter to each other trying to save the relationship, letters might read like this:

Dear School:

I am writing this letter to you because I care about you.  I believe every child has to be given access to a quality education--no matter what form--as long as its quality meets the needs of kids and prepares them to be productive citizens.  I’m deeply disappointed in our relationship.  Time and time again you have asked for support and whenever I could, I have provided it whether it was money, mentors, internships, volunteers, speakers and even helping out at school events.  You promised that this is what you needed to be healthy and that kids would benefit.  ...

Community partnerships -- are we really better when we work together? 

To Collaborate (verb) – to work one with another; 
to cooperate.

Imagine yourself as a homeless high school student in your town or neighborhood. You need a place to sleep, but before that you want a quiet place to do math homework. Or stand in the shoes (probably with holes in them) of a homeless parent with three toddlers. You do want them to get to school every day…at two different buildings…but first you want to feed them. Where do these folks go? Where do they start?

In all too many cases, homeless parents and students and other high need families with basic, basic needs are confused about what they need and how to get help. They are further confused by the many, many different doors they can enter. In some, the many doors lead to silos of help that confuse even more. Do I go into the school? Do I go to that office or this one?

Guidelines to help ...

As California’s ABC Unified School District begins weaving the Common Core State Standards into its classroom curriculum, high school teacher Richard Saldana says the district has learned that cooperation and coordination among all staff is key to helping the standards meet their potential.

The school district regularly brings together teachers, principals and other staff to discuss implementation, then they use those sessions to speak with a unified voice to stakeholders such as the school board and parents.

“We do our best to bring as many stakeholders together as we can, starting with the teachers in the district,” says Saldana, who is the social studies chair at Artesia High School and a member of the district’s executive committee thatguides CCSS implementation. “And we believe that's essential because the teachers are the ones that are using the curriculum with the students.”

Saldana and other teachers quickly noticed that the new standards are much more rigorous, but he feels that once implementation takes hold, the CCSS will ultimately improve his students’ learning. ...

By Carolyn Sykora, Senior Director of Standards, International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)

Growth is a key attribute of the contemporary world. According to Our World in Data, in just 100 years — from 1900 to 2000 — the world population increased from 1.5 billion to 6.1 billion. That’s a rate three times greater than the growth that occurred during the entire previous history of humankind.

Technology is ushering in a similar magnitude of change in new knowledge. NPR recently reported that by some estimates, the entire body of medical knowledge doubles every three to four years. And medicine is by no means the only industry on this trajectory.

So how do we prepare students in a world that’s changing so rapidly and where knowledge evolves at an overwhelming pace? As K-12 educators, where do we start? ...

By Summer Stephens, Superintendent, Weston County School District No. 7 (Upton, WY), and 2014-15 PDK International Emerging Leader

Tonight, my husband remarked on something he read on a Facebook post about the Common Core when my daughter was explaining her math homework. She blurted out, “It isn’t Common Core. It is practice!” 

“How apropos,” I said to myself. This perspective is exactly what I needed to support my theory that the undercurrent and the overt propaganda flooding social media about the Common Core really has nothing to do with students. My 10-year-old 5th grader loves math, learns a great deal from her teacher’s instruction and from the materials the school uses to convey the 5th-grade math concepts. She sees her day-to-day work in school as practicing, demonstrating what she has learned, and accepting new challenges in her subjects. She doesn’t see negativity, injustice, or conspiracy.  The fuss and confusion often lie with those who don’t spend their days in schools, unlike the children and teaching and support staff who are learning and growing in many, many ways. ...

By Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers (AFT)

As president of one of the leading public sector unions in this country, I see firsthand and hear stories every day about workers who make a difference in their communities and in people’s lives—healing the sick, unlocking a child's mind or improving a family's life. That is who our members are: all 1.6 million.

Yet, too often, these workers face a barrage of scurrilous attacks denigrating them and the work they do—from sources that simply wish to eliminate these essential public services and silence those who do the work.

That's why Teacher Appreciation Week, National Nurses Week and Public Service Recognition Week—all being celebrated this week in May—are more than simply a Hallmark card moment. These events offer an opportunity. They offer a moment we can join together to talk about the teachers, nurses and other public service workers who have changed our lives in small and big ways. Today, we can say thank you. ...

Joplin, Missouri, is a town in transition. After it was ravaged by a tornado three years ago, leaders have worked to rebuild the core of the town and its school district. Many of the 10,000 students’ families are struggling with poverty and economic hardships, and Superintendent Dr. C.J. Huff has been charged with not only managing the district’s rebuilding but also the implementation of the Common Core State Standards.

District officials saw the Common Core as an opportunity to bring relevant experiences for a global economy to Joplin schools, and they were concerned that student achievement had plateaued. With the town’s rebuilding, Dr. Huff worked hard to engage the community, including parents, social service agencies, and the business and faith communities, in conversations about its schools and improving student achievement.

Not surprisingly, residents of this conservative area were skeptical of the Common Core, seeing it as an unnecessary federal interference. Yet Joplin school officials have successfully implemented the standards without backlash and even persuaded some of their critics to embrace the standards. ...

Maryland PTA President Ray Leone recently spoke with the Learning First Alliance as part of the “Get It Right: Common Sense on Common Core” campaign. Leone shared his experience on building parent understanding and support of the Common Core by engaging Maryland families and communities at the local level through public forums and open lines of communication to answer their questions and address concerns as the standards were being formulated.

Following is an edited transcript of his conversation with Kris Kurtenbach, founding partner of Collaborative Communications Group in Washington. LFA is also offering a podcast of this conversation.

MS. KURTENBACH: Welcome to Get It Right: Commonsense on the Common Core, a podcast series from The Learning First Alliance.  Across the nation we've embraced the possibility of college and career-ready standards and their potential to transform teaching and learning.  In community after community we see the potential these standards offer to help all children gain the knowledge and skills they need for success in the global community. ...

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