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On a webinar yesterday hosted by the National Education Association’s (NEA) Priority Schools Campaign, Anne Henderson* offered a hopeful vision for the future of family and community engagement in public education. She predicted that the time is coming where schools really understand that engaging families and communities is a core strategy for school improvement. It will no longer be considered an extra, something to address after we’ve taken care of academic issues. In other words, it will be an integral piece of the puzzle.

Research from the past thirty years certainly supports this vision. And so do countless individual stories. On that same webinar, representatives from Oklahoma’s Putnam City West High School shared how family and community engagement lead to academic gains at their school.

Putnam City West serves a rapidly changing student population. In 2004, 10% of the student body was Hispanic. This year, 25% is. Thirteen percent of students are ...

As a member of the Millennial Generation, I couldn’t help but notice “The New Generation Gap in Schools,” an article in the March issue of the American School Board Journal, published by the National School Boards Association (NSBA) that asserts Millennials are arriving in schools – as parents – and that the public education community can prevent a new generation gap by earning our support.  I certainly agree.

The article’s generation profile says we are more diverse, racially tolerant, less conservative and less likely to have served in the military than the generations before us. We tend to be more liberal, socially and politically which may lead us to support public schools philosophically and theoretically, but does not automatically guarantee we will send our children to traditional public schools. ...

We’ve never needed safe play spaces in our communities more than we do now. Nearly a third of kids and adolescents in America – and two-thirds of adults – are overweight or obese. Many are urged to get more exercise but can’t follow this advice very easily where they live.  

Schools, of course, have all kinds of exercise facilities – gyms, soccer fields, tracks, basketball courts, playgrounds, even swimming pools. But when school lets out, these spaces are often locked to students and the rest of the neighborhood. 

Administrators have reasons for keeping these spaces closed after hours. They’re concerned about security. They’re afraid of getting sued if someone gets hurt. They ...

Editor’s Note: Our guest blogger today is Lillian Kellogg. She is Vice President of Client Services for Education Networks of America (ENA), overseeing marketing as well as strategic national association partnerships. She has dedicated her career to education and technology and has more than 25 years of experience in working with school districts and libraries in the field of educational technology. Among her many accomplishments, she currently serves as the Board Chair for the Partnership of 21st Century Skills (P21).

While we are firmly within the second decade of the 21st century, it is apparent that so much more needs to be done to help each student truly comprehend what they need to know and do to be successful in the years ahead. This call to action is every bit as important today as it was when we first started the conversation on 21st Century Skills, but it has changed. Early on the notion of 21st Century Skills was aspirational; today it is an alarm bell.

Work and life in the 21st century continue to change at lightning speed (see the Iowa- Did You Know? Video) and today 21st Century Skills matter more and for many more students now than ...

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. ...

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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 ...

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