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By Anita Merina, National Education Association (NEA)

More than 45 million participants are expected to join the National Education Association’s 18th annual Read Across America Day celebration this year on Monday, March 2.  Here’s a rundown on activities taking place and ways you can help us spread the word about the nation’s largest reading event. Visit readacrossamerica.org to share your events and see what’s happening around the country and you’ll find free downloadable materials and activities at www.nea.org/readacross.

Cat-a-Van Reading Tour 2015:  NEA’s RAA Cat-A-Van hits the road this year from March 2 through March 6 and will visit California, Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana.  Visit www.nea.org/readacross for more information and a list of cities and participating schools. ...

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

In preparing for the celebration of AASA’s 150th anniversary, I read the copy of “AASA, The Centennial Story,” written by Arthur Rice in 1964, which sits on the bookshelf behind my desk. What a fascinating read. In this column, I draw liberally from the information provided by Rice, a professor of education at Indiana University.

It was on Aug. 15, 1865, in Harrisburg, PA, at a meeting of the National Teachers Association, that a group of superintendents created the National Association of School Superintendents. Earlier that year, the Civil War had come to an end and President Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated. Six months later, in February, the group held its first convention in Washington, D.C. Nine state superintendents and 20 city superintendents attended.

Early Advocacy

It is clear, from the very beginning, advocacy at the national level would be a key mission of the newly formed organization ...

I’ve been reminded over the past weeks of the importance of language in arriving at agreement on what needs to happen for the public education experience to be successful for all our students, regardless of their background and socioeconomic condition. The use of language and its different translations/meaning for different citizen groups was brought home during recent debate over proposed changes in the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) federal education bill that is now before Congress. A few examples:

  • Accountability – From my standpoint, accountability just means assessing the progress of those who have some skin in the game and can influence the outcome of any endeavor. I actually prefer the word responsibility ...

By Teri Dary, Anderson Williams and Terry Pickeral, Special Olympics Project UNIFY Consultants

The problem with public education is that there isn’t enough tension. The other problem with public education is that there’s too much tension. And, perhaps the biggest problem is that both of these are correct, and we don’t distinguish between creative tension and destructive tension. 

Without distinguishing between the two, we cannot intentionally build structures and relationships that create the systems our students need: systems of shared leadership, strategic risk-taking and mutual responsibility. Systems of creative tension. Instead, we more commonly build top-down structures that generate destructive tension and bottom-up structures to avoid, relieve, or push back against them. ...

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

I’ve always preferred having blinds or curtains covering the windows in my home — at least the windows that face the street or my neighbors. I don’t want just anybody peeking into my house.

But the windows of my home office are only partly covered, allowing light to stream in and brighten the room and to let me look out to watch cardinals perch in nearby trees.

And, because I live in a three-story house, I have a few windows up high that aren’t covered at all, which allows me to look out over the evergreens and maple trees without any worry about nosy neighbors peering into my private space.

I’m guessing that most folks are like me — picking and choosing the times and places where we value our privacy and the times and places where we’re willing to open up a little because of the benefit we’ll gain by being a little less protective ...

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

Editor’s note: This post was compiled from a series written during Domenech’s participation in the 2015 Lifetouch Memory Mission in Constanza, Dominican Republic.

Building a School in the Mountains of the Dominican Republic

For several years, Lifetouch, one of AASA’s major corporate sponsors, has organized Memory Missions. These are opportunities for people to travel to areas in need of assistance in underdeveloped countries.

For four years, the Memory Mission has focused on helping the mountain community of Constanza build a school. AASA members and staff have participated in all of them. This year, I am joined by David Pennington, the president of AASA, and Noelle Ellerson, AASA’s associate executive director, policy and advocacy. We are laying down bricks to help finish the school. It is intense manual labor but the work is being done side by side with superintendents, principals, teachers and PTA members—all taking part in the Memory Mission.

The reward comes from seeing the joy in the eyes of the students and the gratefulness on the part of parents as they see the school being constructed for them. It is instant gratification for all. That’s something that educators don’t get much of these days ...

By Kwok-Sze Wong, Ed.D., Executive Director, American School Counselor Association (ASCA) 

When she said, “My husband has set a goal that America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world,” the audience erupted in applause. Her husband is President Barack Obama, so “she” is, of course, First Lady Michelle Obama. She was speaking in the East Room of the White House at a ceremony honoring the 2015 School Counselor of the Year, Cory Notestine, of Alamosa High School in Alamosa, CO, and the award finalists and semifinalists.

The American School Counselor Association and other organizations have been working with Mrs. Obama for more than a year to develop her Reach Higher initiative to help students compete their education beyond high school. “The more that I learned about our school counselors, the more I realized that often America’s school counselors are truly the deciding factor in whether our young people attend college or not,” she said.

She reiterated a fact that educators know well, that post-secondary education is essential for good jobs with good wages. But she also described a bigger impact ...

The business community has been a proponent of the Common Core State Standards Initiative from the beginning. Recognizing the need for high standards that prepare America's students to compete in a global community and the potential benefits of the standards for both the workforce and the economy, companies (and individual CEOs) continue to voice their support for the Common Core as the standards have faced political pushback, testifying in state legislatures, writing op-eds and more.

As those of us in the education community continue the hard work of Common Core implementation while at the same time trying to build public support for the effort, we should ask ourselves: Are we using all the resources at our disposal? Are we working effectively with the business community in support of a common goal?

To explore this issue, on January 29, we at the Learning First Alliance teamed up with the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) to host #CCSSBiz, a Twitter Town Hall on Common Core and the business community ...

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 ...

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