Learning First Alliance

Strengthening public schools for every child

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Updated 9/20/2011

Last night, President Obama revealed the American Jobs Act, a framework that calls for strategic investments intended to both put Americans back to work and rebuild critical components of the country’s infrastructure.

One clear winner in his proposal is education.  The President calls for $30 billion in new money to ward off teacher layoffs and $30 billion to modernize America’s schools. Administration officials estimate the money could save as many as 280,000 educators’ jobs and pay for makeovers to at least 35,000 public schools.

We at the Learning First Alliance applaud the President’s call to invest in schools and teachers. We support the President’s plan to put teachers back to work and invest in education infrastructure to make schools more efficient and innovative, and we urge Congress to support this plan, which will help improve public education for all children. Read our entire statement here.

What did others in the education community (and LFA network) have to say?  

Dennis Van Roekel, President of the National Education Association: President Obama clearly understands that quality education is the key to our nation’s future. He’s putting America’s unemployed construction workers back on the job to help modernize our aging K-12 schools and community colleges. We are pleased and encouraged that the President continues to demonstrate his commitment to the success of all students by helping to make sure they have  the best possible learning environment—a key element of quality education. Read more...

Anne Bryant, Executive Director of the National School Boards Association: In the face of massive budget shortfalls and education layoffs at school districts across the country, this new funding would provide necessary aid to America's schools. Our school children deserve a quality education and ...

Editor's Note: Our guest blogger today is Patricia D. Gill, Senior Program Associate, National Collaborative on Workforce & Disability for Youth at the Institute for Educational Leadership’s Center for Workforce Development. She directs RAMP (the Ready to Achieve Mentoring Program), a high tech career-focused mentoring program for youth with disabilities involved with or at-risk of becoming involved with the juvenile justice system. Today she reflects on the program, its outcomes, and what has been learned over its first few years.*

As the Ready to Achieve Mentoring Program (RAMP) enters its third year, community partnerships have emerged as an important component to making the program work in all communities.  With support from the Institute for Educational Leadership, the 12 RAMP sites around the country provide career-focused mentoring for youth with disabilities who are at-risk of or currently involved in the juvenile justice system. Unfortunately, as youth with disabilities are highly overrepresented in the juvenile justice system, all youth with disabilities – especially those with learning disabilities or mental health needs – are at-risk of becoming involved in the system. The RAMP programs place special emphasis on engaging youth with disabilities with a history of high truancy rates, low grades, or school discipline incidents.

Through a mix of education, employer, and community partnerships, RAMP sites have succeeded in providing career-focused mentoring to these youth with outstanding results! In the first year, 95% of the youth enrolled in the program engaged in ...

You might assume that people with children would be more informed on education issues than those without. But a recent survey on school communication by the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) suggests otherwise.

More non-parents (65%) than parents (47%) feel very well informed or pretty well informed about the issues impacting education in their local district. 59% of non-parents feel that way about state education issues, compared to just 39% of parents.

While at first glance that seems a bit counterintuitive, survey authors offer several possible reasons for these findings. Perhaps parents are mainly focused on classroom and school-level issues. Maybe they have busier lives, juggling careers with children, and have less time to spend informing themselves. Or perhaps non-parents are simply more concerned with big-picture issues, such as the tax burden and impact of district performance on their property values.

Regardless of who knows more and why, none of those numbers bode particularly well for public education at a time when budgets are strained at both the state and local levels. If citizens are not informed about education issues, they cannot be advocates for ...

David Kirp's picture



Editor's note: Our guest blogger today is David L. Kirp, Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley and author of Kids First: Five Big Ideas for Transforming Children’s Lives and America’s Future (2011).

Schools are just beginning to open their doors, but the education food fights are already underway. I’m not thinking about kids in the cafeteria but adults wielding books and blogs. Amid this tomfoolery among the grownups the critical needs of children are going ignored.

On the one side of the current fight stands the “no excuses” crew, personified by Michelle Rhee, the broom-wielding ex-superintendent of the Washington D.C. schools. To them, and to the producers of “Waiting for Superman,” retrograde unions and bloated bureaucracies are biggest impediments to reform. Turn the schools over to the KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) charter school network, make every teacher as well-pedigreed as those recruited by Teach for America and our education problems will be solved. Diane Ravitch was once a dues-paying member of this group. She switched sides—detailed in her recent book The Death and Life of the Great American School System—and since has been on the warpath, staunchly defending the contributions of teachers unions and the quality of public school teachers. From the outset this fight has been nasty, and with the recent publication of Steven Brill’s Class Warfare it has turned downright vicious. Brill makes a big deal of the fact that Ravitch is earning a bundle by (shock, shock!) being handsomely paid to give speeches to organizations that share her beliefs; Ravitch, saying that Brill has got his facts wrong, is threatening a defamation suit. Oy!

What gets lost amid all this “he said, she said” squabbling are the needs of kids. Little attention is getting paid to what’s important, not only to

Last week WAMU ran a segment on charter school closings in Washington, DC, that bothered me. Not because poorly performing (in terms of academics or finances) charter schools were closed (I firmly believe that low-performing charter schools should close), and not only because of the process by which the schools were closed (too late in the year for students to get into either the DCPS lottery for out of neighborhood schools or the lotteries of many other charters, and with little communication with the families of students attending the schools), but because of some of the language used to talk about the situation, specifically the word “placement.”

As the result of three charter schools closing and two eliminating their high school programs, nearly 750 students needed to find new schools. Several have had a great deal of difficulty in doing so. According to reporter Kavitha Cardoza, about 50% of students were without “placements” just ten days before the start of the school year. 64 of the 128 students impacted by the ...

obriena's picture

The Public Has Spoken!

Today Phi Delta Kappa International (PDK) and Gallup released the results of their 43rd annual poll of the public’s attitudes towards public schools. The poll, a representative survey across all segments of the population of telephone-owning households, makes for a fascinating read.

Something I always find interesting in these polls are the discrepancies. These discrepancies appear both within the poll itself and when comparing the results to broader conversations on education. For example, last year I wrote that the poll showed “[t]he American public is not necessarily having the same conversation as policymakers when it comes to education,” since the poll found that the public did not always agree with the decisions policymakers were making regarding our public schools.

This year, one could argue that the American public is not having the same conversation as the media when it comes to education. 71% of respondents have trust and confidence in the men and women teaching in America’s public schools – and 69% gave the teachers in their communities a grade of A or B. Yet 68% of respondents hear more bad stories than good about teachers in ...

Social media in education is a touchy issue, for some good reasons. In utilizing social media, schools, educators and students take certain risks. Consider the consequences when bullying on sites like Facebook creates a distraction at school – or is conducted on school-owned equipment. And think about the (extremely rare) cases in which a social media site contributes to an inappropriate relationship between a teacher and a student (the state of Missouri is so concerned about this potential it has enacted a law that says contact between these parties must be in the public, not private, sphere – in other words, “teachers can set up public Facebook pages or Twitter accounts but can’t reach out to their students as friends or followers, or vice versa”).

There are educational consequences, too. For example, recent research suggests that middle school, high school and college students who are active on Facebook get lower grades, display more narcissistic tendencies, and are more prone to anxiety and depression than students that aren’t.

So why would we promote the use of social media in education?

Last week I attended the first #140edu event, a conference that allowed stakeholders from students to teachers to company owners share their thoughts on “The State of Education NOW” – specifically, the effects of the real-time web on education. And I heard a number of great reasons why social media should be incorporated into a school culture.

Conference co-host Chris Lehmann (@chrislehmann, for those of you on Twitter), principal of Philadelphia’s Science Leadership Academy, pointed out that social media gives students the power to be “in and of their world,” – for example, the ability to ...

obriena's picture

Krugman @ TEACH

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending the first day of the AFTs' 2011 TEACH (Together Educating America's Children) conference. In addition to inspiring opening remarks by DC Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (who got the crowd fired up – especially her comment that no one could be madder than she is, the representative of the only district in the nation that Congress has mandated have a school voucher program) and AFT President Randi Weingarten, and attending a conference workshop addressing a theme I’ve discussed many times [Changing the Narrative about Public Schools: Lessons from the Field], I got to hear from New York Times columnist Paul Krugman.

Krugman, who is a professor of economics and international affairs, shared his views on the current state of the American economy. If you are familiar with his work, you might know that he is skeptical of the path we are attempting to take out of the economic recession…and even more skeptical of the path that some are proposing we go down (such as lower taxes and increased deregulation).

I was interested to see how Krugman would target his message for a large audience of unionized teachers…and I came away with some ...

The United Way has long been committed to both improving education and mobilizing the power of communities. In that vein, they recently released several reports on public feelings about education, and one specifically focuses on the role of volunteer mentors in boosting students’ academic achievement.

In conjunction with publishing these findings on mentorship, the United Way is issuing a national call to action. They are seeking to recruit one million volunteers to act as readers, tutors, and mentors for students over the next three years. So far the United Way’s National Women’s Leadership Council, comprising 50,000 leaders in 120 communities, has pledged to recruit 100,000 volunteers.

Some of the goals of this effort outlined in the reports: ...

A couple months ago, I wrote about an NPR series on efforts by Chicago city and public schools to mitigate violence and vulnerability among low-income students. Yesterday, Edweek featured an article about a new Chicago city-initiative—spearheaded by Mayor Rahm Emmanuel in a partnership with Comcast—to provide computers and internet services at dramatically-reduced prices for the families of low-income students. The goal is in part to combat the increasing educational achievement gap between students with and without computers – a gap that, if left unaddressed, will only increase and further disadvantage our most vulnerable students. In a press conference announcing the initiative, Emmanuel pointed to a map and showed areas where only 15-45% of households have internet service. ...

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