Learning First Alliance

Strengthening public schools for every child

Connected Community

Blog Entries

February is National School-Based Health Care Awareness Month, so I wanted to discuss school-based health centers (SBHCs) as beneficial models for communities nation-wide. The National Assembly on School-Based Health Care explains that SBHCs are comprised of partnerships between schools and local health care organizations to deliver health care (physical and mental) to students on a school campus. Currently, schools with SBHCs predominantly serve low-income students who historically experience health care disparities (although even schools with different student demographics could benefit from the SBHC model.) And while SBHCs serve the student and faculty population at the school where they are housed, many also open their doors to students from other schools, as well as to other members of the community. SBHCs can be funded from both government (local, state, and federal) and private groups, depending on the model each community develops. Currently, there are more than 1,900 SBHCs in 48 states and territories.

There are many compelling benefits to SBHCs. Besides providing care for populations that otherwise might not receive it, research indicates they increase school attendance and academic performance, decrease school drop-out rates, and ...

I was anxious to read the December/January issue of the Phi Delta Kappan because the cover promised a focus on how we can use technology to improve teaching and learning, a field I’ve been immersed in for some time. But once I delved into the issue, while the technology articles were interesting and represented a variety of viewpoints, I was really excited to see the article on the Kalamazoo Promise. Full disclosure here: my good friend and colleague, Jim Bosco, professor emeritus in the Education Department at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, had told me about this project several years ago as it was kicking off. The article details the progress of a project that promised a fully paid college education for any Kalamazoo public school student who graduated with an academic record strong enough to be selected for admission to a state-supported institution of higher education. Jim was excited about the project and his enthusiasm was infectious. Here was a community that focused first on the outcome they wanted….every student proceeding to post-secondary education….not how the school district was going to ensure students took advantage of the “carrot.” ...

Community support for schools is a crucial issue, especially in light of the current negativity toward public schools by the media, and severe funding limits on the national, state, and local level. It is timely then that during a recent meeting, members of the Learning First Alliance heard from Jamie Vollmer—head of Vollmer, Inc., a public education advocacy firm—who discussed ideas from his most recent book, Schools Cannot Do It Alone: Building Public Support for America’s Public Schools. He focused on the idea of local level community engagement for building school support.

Clearly educators face many challenges and have to work under numerous limitations (money, time, and demographic realities of schools, among others). But Vollmer argues there is a largely unexploited factor that can work to schools’ advantages: the malleability of local communities to accepting area educators as legitimate forces for good.

He asserts that by effectively targeting community members and informing them on how it is in their own self-interest to have good public schools, educators can gain the community support that is so vital to school issues.

To do so, Vollmer proposes that educators reach out using two tracks: a formal track that focuses on community groups, and an informal one that takes place through every day interactions. The formal track should take place “on the communities’ turf and ...

Isn't it incumbent upon those who hold the public trust--and I include both educators and political leaders in this group--to speak with discretion and a commitment to peace?

So wrote Nancy Flanagan yesterday over at Teacher in a Strange Land, in musings on the weekend tragedy that left six dead and several – including Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords – wounded.

I doubt anyone would disagree. But I would add another party to her list of those who hold the public trust and need to be more careful in how they use it – the media. These days media can mean so many things. Here, I would include, along with newspaper and television reporters, those in the “new media” – those who blog, tweet, and post thoughts on Facebook about the state of the world.

In the past, this blog has called on the media to take a more measured approach to reporting on issues of education policy. Some education reporting has become quite polarizing, creating false dichotomies that hide the shades of gray inherent in any debate of substance. It has contributed to ...

Education Week recently wrote about a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on student mobility in this country, done at the request of Senators Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Christopher Dodd (D-Connecticut) to help lawmakers prepare for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The report found that about 13 percent of children change schools four or more times before enrolling in high school, and that 11.5 percent of schools had high rates of mobility (meaning that more than 10 percent of students left by the end of the school year). As is almost always the case when considering education statistics, this mobility is not spread evenly throughout the student population. It disproportionally impacts students who are poor, African-American and from families that do not own their home. Schools serving a mobile population also have larger percentages of students who are low-income, have limited English proficiency and receive special education services.

The report also reviewed evidence on the effect of mobility on student achievement. Not surprisingly, it is negative. Students who change schools frequently have lower standardized test scores than less mobile peers, and they tend to drop out of high school at a higher rate.

According to teachers interviewed for the report, some of the challenges that schools face in educating this population include differences in ...

obriena's picture

Moving Beyond the Blame Game

Media coverage of the recent Associated Press-Stanford University Education Poll has tended to focus on one thing: Blame. Just look at these headlines:

While the media and some policymakers have recently tended to blame teachers for the problems that ail American public schools, this poll finds that the public doesn’t buy it. Instead, the poll shows that just 35% of respondents believe that teachers deserve a great deal or a lot of the blame for the problems facing this country’s public schools. In fact, the public believes that teachers are least deserving of the blame for these problems. Check out how all the stakeholders fared:

  • Local School Administrators – 53% (of respondents believe they deserve a great deal or a lot of the blame for the problems facing this country’s schools)
  • State Education Officials – 65%
  • Federal Education Officials – 59%
  • Teachers – 35%
  • Teachers Unions – 45%
  • Parents – 68%
  • The Students Themselves – 46%

Okay. So teachers are not to blame. It is good to hear (and what many of us already knew), but now what? Educators certainly cannot just ...

Yesterday morning, guest blogger Noelle Ellerson talked about AASA’s new decennial study of the American superintendent. Yesterday afternoon, I went to the study’s release over at the National Press Club. And I was enthralled, which (I’ll be honest) I was not exactly expecting.

But I learned a TON. I could spew statistics at you like no one’s business. For example, in 2010:

  • 24.1% of superintendents were female
  • 94% were White (not Hispanic or Latino) – just 2% were Black or African-American and just 2% were Hispanic or Latino
  • 5.2% were 40 years old or younger; 47.7% were 56 years old or older
  • 96.6% of superintendents are very satisfied with their career choice, though just 50.7% intend to be a superintendent in 2015
  • The top reason for leaving a prior superintendency: Assuming a new challenge (30.3%). The next? School board conflict (15.3%)

I could talk to you about the marriage rate of superintendents, why they feel they were hired, what their biggest professional development needs are. But as one of the discussants at this meeting, Edgar Hatrick (Superintendent of Virginia’s Loudoun County Public Schools and President of AASA) asked, What does this mean for America’s children? How can this ...

Editor’s note: Our guest blogger today is Noelle Ellerson. She is the Assistant Director, Policy Analysis & Advocacy for the American Association of School Administrators (AASA, a member of the Learning First Alliance). Her efforts are focused on both policy and advocacy. She handles research/analysis supporting AASA’s advocacy work for public education, including AASA policy-related surveys and research to help school administrators better understand federal policy and inform federal education policy decisions. She also represents AASA's advocacy priorities on Capitol Hill, including funding and appropriations, ESEA, child nutrition, rural, and charters/vouchers, among others.

Today, AASA is releasing The American School Superintendent: 2010 Decennial Study. It is, as our Executive Director described in his Executive Perspective column in The School Administrator, a must-read report for every superintendent, aspiring system leader and those involved in their training. The press release and media conference being held for today’s release will give an overview of the rich content detailing the ever-changing faces of America’s public school administrators. It gauges everything from race, gender, and political positions to board relations, tenure trends, and educational preparation.

I’ll let the press release and conference, however, detail the summaries and sound bites. I want to delve more into the process that is the 2010 Decennial Study. Starting in April of 2009, under the guidance of lead authors Ted Kowalski and Bob McCord, AASA embarked on its once-per-decade study looking at how the state of the superintendency has—or has not—changed over the last ten years. While the goals behind this study mirrored those of earlier iterations (namely, reflecting today’s superintendents), there were many changes in the first decennial study of ...

obriena's picture

The Vital Equation

Last Friday, teacher Heather Wolpert-Gawron embarked on what she called a “webquest of sorts,” simultaneously posting three articles that address three key components of the “vital equation” she believes must exist in order for a student achieve.

Family + Student + School + Policymakers/Voters = Student Success

At the Huffington Post, she offers the top ten things she believes family/home life must contribute to this equation. Among them: getting a student to school on time, fed on something other than Snickers, having received the proper medical care. And communicating with the school, being accessible and being honest with what the student has a tendency to do socially/academically/behaviorally.

On her Edutopia blog, she shares her top ten suggestions for the responsibilities that students must own in order to achieve. They include: being their own advocates, asking lots of questions and communicating struggles to teachers. She also suggests surrounding themselves with other students who can help, and dressing for success.

And at TweenTeacher, she proposes ten responsibilities of teachers to avoid student failure. Among them: being experts at content and communicating that content. Being a ...

obriena's picture

On Monday, Add Your Voice

One theme of this blog over the past several months has been concern that the conversation on public education does not reflect that the reality of most public schools. It reflects the spin of mainstream and talk show media, political figures and business celebrities. Educator and parent voices are often left out of conversations on the state – and future – of our nation’s schools.

Others share this concern. That is why this coming Monday, November 22 has been declared a national Day of Blogging for Real Education Reform. It is a grassroots effort to bring together educators (including parents) to offer their ideas on how to improve America’s public schools.

On that day, give thanks for educational successes, share your ideas for real reform or describe an educational community that makes a difference for contemporary learners.

Other potential topics include:

  • Can we fire our way to success? Some educational reformers view the inability to easily fire teachers and principals as a substantial barrier to ...
Syndicate content