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By Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director, National School Boards Association (NSBA)

Who should govern America's public schools? Should public education be led by the president and Congress? State authorities? Or should local school boards -- with access to the local context and community -- be responsible for the quality of public education?

According to the 46th Annual PDK/Gallup Poll of Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools, 56 percent of the adults surveyed say that local school boards should have the greatest influence in deciding what is taught in the public schools. Only 15 percent -- less than 1/7 of adult respondents -- support federal government assumption of this role.

This year's PDK/Gallup poll elicited Americans' opinions on a wide array of education topics, including Common Core State Standards, student standardized testing, international comparisons, school choice, and school governance issues.

Despite active debate among lawmakers, policymakers, and education leaders, the public's attitudes on federal involvement are clear: ...

This piece was co-authored with Dean Vogel, President of the California Teachers Association. It first appeared in the Sacramento Bee. View the original here.

The new school year brings one of the biggest transitions our state’s elementary and secondary education system has ever experienced. As students settle into new classrooms, our teachers are adjusting their instruction to help students meet expectations of the new Common Core state standards. It’s our job – as parents, business leaders, students, community members and educators – to look beyond both the hype and hysteria to ensure that students benefit from thoughtful, locally driven implementation.

Part of the challenge we’re facing is a lack of clear information about what the standards are and aren’t. They emphasize critical thinking, problem solving and inquiry-based learning – what students need to thrive in college and in today’s global economy. Far from prescribing what should be taught or how, the new standards outline what students should know while giving teachers the flexibility to decide how to help each student get there. Under Common Core, there are actually fewer standards, allowing teachers to slow down and students to explore each topic in depth. ...

A week ago, U. S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, issued a Back to School message in his Department of Education blog, Homeroom, that made news because it announced that states will have the opportunity to request a delay in when test results matter for teacher evaluation in their compliance efforts with No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Certainly, this was a welcome announcement, and the Learning First Alliance (LFA) issued a statement later that same day in support of the Secretary’s announced flexibility.

However, the aspect of the announcement that was most heartening to me wasn’t the new flexibility offered, but the tone of the message and the respect communicated for the educators on the ground doing the work. Too often in the past, messages from the Department of Education have led with doom and gloom and the assertion that America’s K-12 public education system is “failing” and that the professionals working in the system are not among the academically skilled in the workforce and “come from the bottom third of their class”. This year’s Back to School blog was “a message of celebration and thanks” for the educators who have worked tirelessly over the past years with the results that America’s students have posted some unprecedented achievements ...

By Nora Carr, APR, President of the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) and Chief of Staff for Guilford County Schools (NC)

Like sports teams, school districts have seasons. If high school graduation represents our Super Bowl, then August is our pre-season, and the first day of school is our season opener. Make it count.

For public schools, this is an annual gift. Unlike other businesses, we get to hit the reset button once a year. Every new school year represents a fresh start. Kids are excited. Parents are even more excited. Retail businesses are primed with special sales. And the news media wants to shine a big spotlight on schools.

Take the PR Advantage to the Max

In terms of PR heaven, it doesn’t get any better than this. So, let’s take full advantage of the PR opportunities in front of us. Here’s how: ...

By Anne Foster, Executive Director, Parents for Public Schools (PPS)

This is the 46th year for the annual PDK/Gallup Poll, a survey that wants to know what the public thinks about their public schools. As usual, there is a lot to absorb from the responses to the questions, and the answers raise more questions that must be answered. Because the poll revisits questions asked in previous years, it is a window to changing opinions about public schools. This year’s poll suggests that Americans aren’t sure they like the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) or even that the federal government should be involved in public schools. Everyone interested in improving public schools, and especially those who consider themselves “reformers”, should pay close attention to this poll – because public education is not something that is “done” to people. The people speaking are the people who own and pay for public schools and whose children are being educated in them. What they think and what they want matter.

Among the 33% of Americans who favor CCSS, they do so because these standards will help children learn what they need to know regardless of their zip code. Common Core was initiated as a way to bring consistently high standards to public schools across the country and to make sure that the quality of a student’s education does not depend on zip code or state ...

Today, in response to the U.S. Department of Education announcement that states may delay tying teacher evaluation to standardized assessments, the Learning First Alliance (LFA), a partnership of leading education organizations representing more than 10 million parents, educators and policymakers, released the following statement:

“The Learning First Alliance supports the U.S. Department of Education’s decision to allow states to delay tying teacher evaluation to standardized assessments aligned to new standards, including the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

LFA has long recognized the potential of the CCSS to transform teaching and learning and provide all children with knowledge and skills necessary for success in the global community; we have also long advocated for a transition period that respects the time that good implementation requires prior to attaching high-stakes decisions to aligned assessments. Today’s decision is a good step in the right direction. ...

Today, the first results of the 2014 PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools were released.* The overall conclusion: Americans aren’t convinced that federal involvement will improve public education.

The report is called Try It Again, Uncle Sam, but some of the topline findings suggest that Get Out of the Way, Uncle Sam may better reflect the public’s views on the federal role in education – as the report notes, a majority of Americans do not support public education initiatives they believe were created or promoted by federal policymakers. Consider:

  • 56% of Americans say local school boards should have the greatest influence in deciding what is taught in the public schools
  • 60% of Americans who are aware of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) oppose having teachers in their community use them to guide what they teach
    ...

By Anne Foster, Executive Director, Parents for Public Schools (PPS)

There is something almost magical about the beginning of a new school year. It is always full of hope and new possibilities. When my children were in elementary school, the school posted class lists a few days before school started. The lists were on the front window of the school. My husband and I would excitedly shepherd our two sons to see who their teacher and classmates would be that year. It was an anticipated and exciting moment for our family, because so many of our hopes for our children resided in their education. Our excitement transferred to them, and they couldn’t wait for that moment each year.

It’s time again for school bells to ring and backpacks to be stuffed. Schools across America are opening their doors again this month. Teachers are gearing up ...

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

The older I get, the more I realize how much my early experiences have shaped and continue to shape my life.

How different would my life be if my dad had not decided to complete high school after military service in World War II? How different would my life have been if he had not gone on to college after that? If he had not pulled himself up into the middle class, where would I be today?

Those wonders were answered, at least in part, by a groundbreaking study done by Johns Hopkins University sociologist Karl Alexander. In his new book, The Long Shadow: Family Background, Disadvantaged Urban Youth, and the Transition to Adulthood (Russell Sage Foundation, 2014), Alexander concludes that a child’s fate is largely determined by the family they’re born into.

“A family's resources and the doors they open cast a long shadow over children's life trajectories," he said in an interview published by the university.

In 1982, Alexander and colleagues Doris Entwisle and Linda Olson began tracking 790 Baltimore 1st graders and followed them until they turned 28 or 29 years old ...

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

Throughout the past year, AASA was deeply involved in the confluence of efforts related to the modernization of the E-Rate program. Created in 1996, the program is administered by the Federal Communications Commission and helps schools and libraries afford their teleconnectivity (Internet).

As the role of connectivity and technology within schools and classrooms changed over the last 18 years, it was time to update the E-Rate program, from one about simple connectivity to one that focuses on adequate connectivity, including broadband and WiFi.

Even before modernization efforts began in earnest a year ago, I was nominated to the Universal Services Administrative Company (which oversees administration of the E-Rate program, among others) to represent the voice of schools and libraries. While this position is apolitical and separate from AASA’s advocacy, it is an excellent vantage point for highlighting the functionality of E-Rate, from application and processing to awardees and distribution. ...

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