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While nationally we may be in the midst of an economic recovery, a new survey from the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) offers the latest evidence that the good news has not yet fully trickled down to state and local budgets – the budgets from which most education funding is drawn.

Nearly three-quarters – 71.2% – of respondents (school administrators from 48 states) report a cut in state/local revenues between the 2010 and 2011 school years, and more than half anticipate a decrease between the 2011 and 2012 school years and the 2012 and 2013 school years. More than three-quarters – 81.4% – describe their district as inadequately funded.

What does this mean for students?

  • Larger classes – 40.3% of respondents increased class size in the 2010 school year, 54% did so in 2011, and 57.2% anticipate doing so in 2012
  • Difficulty getting to school – 22.9% cut bus transportation routes and

In this year’s Metlife Survey of the American Teacher there’s good news and there’s bad news.

In the good news column, parent engagement has increased in the past 25 years, though it still remains a challenge for many schools.  The bad news exposed that teachers are less satisfied with their careers and that in the past two years there has been a significant decline in teachers’ satisfaction with their profession.  In one of the most dramatic findings of the report, teacher satisfaction has decreased by 15 points since the survey measured job satisfaction two years ago.  It has now reached the lowest level of job satisfaction seen in the survey series in more than two decades.

This troubling news should be a wakeup call for all of us, especially since in addition to the low morale problem, the number of teachers who indicated they will be leaving their jobs for both retirement and other fields has markedly ...

Editor’s Note: Our guest blogger today is Susan Hildreth. Susan serves as the director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a position to which President Obama appointed her in January 2011.

Museums and libraries are an essential component of any vision of the future of learning. Helping these institutions to create engaging and empowering learning experiences is one of the primary goals of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

The classic field trip to a museum is still a valuable tool for elementary school teachers. But the relationship museums and libraries now have with schools is much more collaborative than that of host and guest for an occasional visit. ...

obriena's picture

What Was the Lorax?

And why was it there?
And why was it lifted and taken somewhere…?

Back in 1971, Dr. Seuss brought us the Lorax, a small orange creature who speaks for the trees (“for the trees have no tongues”). The Lorax goes up against the greedy Once-ler, who cuts down all the Truffula  trees in his rush to make a product he believes that everyone must have – Thneeds ("It's a shirt. It's a sock. It's a glove. It's a hat."). As a result of the damage to the environment that his production brings, the Lorax and the other inhabitants of the community (Swomee-Swans, Brown Bar-ba- loots, and Humming-Fishes) must leave.

The story is told by the remorseful Once-ler to a young boy curious as to why the world is the way it is. At the end, the Once-ler reveals that he has saved one last Truffula seed and gives it to the boy so that he can create a new forest.

Today, March 2, The Lorax serves as the centerpiece of the National Education Association’s 15th Read Across America campaign.* I am so pleased that The Lorax is the highlight of the day. On a personal level, it is one of my favorite Seuss books. And on an educational level, in addition to promoting the literacy skills the day intends to celebrate, it can also help students develop some of the other skills they will need to be successful in the global community – a favorite theme of politicians and ...

Editor’s Note: Our guest blogger today is Michael Ragan, Vice President of the Washington Education Association and Chair of the Washington Learning First Alliance.

January 5th, 2012, was a momentous day for public education in Washington State.  That was the day the Washington Supreme Court unanimously upheld the McCleary trial court’s decision that the State is not fulfilling its constitutional duty to amply fund public education.

Article IX, section 1 of our constitution states that “It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders…”  Without dissent, the Supreme Court declared in the written opinion that paramount duty means this mandate is the State’s first and highest priority, before any other; that ample provision means considerably more than adequate; that all children means no child is excluded; and that education means the basic knowledge and skills needed to compete in today’s economy and meaningfully participate in our democracy.  The high court also completely rejected all of the State’s excuses, even the State’s claim that a financial crisis can justify education funding cuts. The State did not dispute any of the trial court findings on the importance of education to ...

A recent article in the Kappan, a publication of Phi Delta Kappa International, a member organization of the Learning First Alliance (LFA), chronicles the efforts of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to create and support passage of “model legislation” for states that advocates increasing what they refer to as “choice” and “scholarships” (read vouchers) in public schooling.  Authors Julie Underwood and Julie F. Mead, both on faculty at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, make a strong case that ALEC is behind the recent legislative efforts in Midwestern states to strip public employees of their bargaining rights and modify school funding provisions to allow greater shares of public funds to go to for-profit education provider; companies specifically mentioned are K-12 and Connections Academy.

I have a long-held belief that market forces as they relate to access to quality education have no place in American public schooling, and I believe that as long as we fund our public schools primarily with local tax dollars, local communities should have a strong say in how those school are operated.  However, I do think there’s a role for the for-profit community in designing and ...

Last week I had the privilege of celebrating the work of the 2012 School Counselor of the Year, Nicole Pfleger, at an elegant gala event held at Union Station and sponsored by the American School Counselor Association (ASCA).  Nicole is a school counselor at Nickajack Elementary in Georgia’s Cobb County Public Schools and a reminder of how important individual excellence, leadership and enthusiasm are to the success of our students, schools, and districts.  Nicole is an impressive young woman with a talent for problem solving in the best interests of the students with whom she works.  At Nickajack Elementary she works to create an environment where students are respectful, responsible, and able to work cooperatively with others.  She established a school program called Rachel’s Challenge that focuses on creating a culture of compassion through acts of kindness and service projects.  This school wide program includes a curriculum, class meetings, service projects, student recognition and a Kindness and Compassion Club.

Pfleger has developed a close working relationship with a community homeless shelter for women and children where some of her students live, helping ...

On January 14 and 15, "CNN Presents" aired coverage of Dr. Sanjay Gupta's visit to Southern Middle School in Reading, Pennsylvania. The episode looked at districts in several states, but Reading stood out as a district in dire straits. The video footage from Reading showed mold and mildew, leaking buildings, and rain pouring into a classroom.

The poor indoor environmental quality of this school and many more around the country has a devastating impact on the health and performance of the student and staff who study and work in these buildings every day. Poor indoor environmental quality is linked to asthma, respiratory illness, headaches, and other short and long term health problems. Asthma alone is one of the leading causes of absenteeism in the United States, causing many children to miss school or be tardy each day.

While schools in all communities are in need of some repair, as with many concerns in public education, it is students who live in low-income and minority communities who often suffer the most from ...

The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library. Materials are added at the rate of 10,000 per day and the Copyright Office has a card catalogue with more than45 million card entries. It contains 838 miles of bookshelves and holds a collection of more than 147 million items. The Library is open to the public and its resources are available on-site in Washington D.C to anyone older than 16 with government issued identification. The American Memory Project – an effort to digitalize a large portion of the Library’s collection – has more than  9 million items available electronically, for free, to anyone with access to the internet. ...

Yesterday I wrote about Mark Schneider’s belief that to significantly raise student achievement in this nation, we need to “shock” the system. Today, I learned about a partnership aiming to do just that in a rural West Virginia district.

West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, State Board of Education Vice President Gayle Manchin and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) have announced Reconnecting McDowell, a public-private partnership with more than 40 partners aimed at enhancing educational opportunity for children in McDowell County, a district that has ranked lowest in the state in academic performance for most of the past decade. 

As a community, McDowell County faces a number of challenges in addition to a low-performing educational system. According to the Washington Post, while historically the area has produced the most coal in the state, with the collapse of the coal and steel industries in the 1960s, the unemployment rate has risen dramatically. Nearly 80% of children in the school district live in poverty; 72% live in a household without gainful employment. The area has a high incarceration rate. It also has a large number of residents struggling with addition, and it leads the nation in ...

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