Join the conversation

...about what is working in our public schools.

Connected Community

Blog Entries

Change is hard – something that those in the education community may know better than most. Whether it is changing a school culture, a child’s life prospects, policymakers’ thoughts on accountability, or voters’ minds on a bond referendum, educators are constantly on the lookout for evidence that they are succeeding as change agents. Sometimes that evidence seems scarce, particularly at a national level, as policymakers push education in ways we don’t always like and rhetoric indicates that we are to blame for a great number of society’s problems.

So as I read through the results of the 44th annual Phi Delta Kappa (PDK)/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools, I was on the lookout for evidence that we are succeeding in changing the conversation around public schools in this nation. And I was pleased to see that (while not always in the direction I personally would advocate) American’s views on public education are evolving.

The Biggest Problem Facing Schools

The first question asked on the poll each year is an open-ended one: What do you think are the biggest problems that the public schools of your community must ...

Remember the Super Committee? Formally known as the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, it was a bipartisan congressional committee established by the Budget Control Act of 2011 tasked with identifying $1.2 trillion in federal budgetary savings (through spending cuts, revenue increases and program reforms) over ten years.

If you remember the Super Committee, you also remember that it failed. And the consequence of that failure is looming on the horizon: Sequestration.

Sequestration refers to the across-the-board budget cuts of approximately nine percent that are scheduled to take effect on January 2, 2013. It is a blunt instrument, applying budget cuts to all discretionary spending programs, from defense to education and medical research to housing, regardless of program effectiveness or return on investment.

The most widely discussed aspect of sequestration is cuts to defense spending. Almost immediately after the Super Committee failed, talks began among some lawmakers as to how sequestration could be reformed to ...

Public systems are inherently complex because they involve multiple levels of government and numerous actors. Such systems, funded with taxpayer dollars, engage the concept of public good. Collective dollars contribute to a framework from which the broader citizenry benefits. The U.S public education system exemplifies complexity, from diverse funding streams to policy-making at the federal, state and local levels to the daily functioning of schools and classroom teaching. As such, public education is often at the heart of a greater debate over the role of government and the concept of public good. ...

As with many developments in public education, when you hear about a “public private partnership”, you would do well to ask a few follow-up questions. For example, you might wonder about the true business interests – given that many entities are profit-driven. If the company has a foundation arm providing grants, what are their metrics pushing for schools or districts to demonstrate? To what extent does the business respect education experts and maintain a respectful distance from policy decisions?  Are these programs operating in traditional public schools and are they successfully expanding? Do these programs support equity? In an era where tax dollars are scarce and public schools are struggling under the challenges of tightening budgets, it is tempting to cite examples of cross community collaboration as a possible solution to school funding issues. However, not all partnerships are the same when you compare quality, mission or implementation, and continued questioning is essential. ...

McDowell County Public Schools have been in the news a lot recently and for good reason. They are part of an exciting partnership that brings together public and private partners to revitalize the rural West Virginia community in which they are located.

McDowell faces an uphill battle, especially where statistics are concerned. Once a vibrant coal mining community with more than 120,000 people, McDowell experienced a mass exodus and decline after the industry collapsed in the early 1960s. Today, the county has around 22,000 residents with a median household income of $22,000. For the past decade, McDowell County has ranked last in the state in education, over 40% of students don’t live with their biological parents and 72% of students live in households without gainful employment. Roads are in a poor state of repair, making transportation difficult, many homes lack running water and medical care is hard to find. Significant problems for schools come with these realities – property taxes generate low revenue to fund schools, teachers are hard to recruit and keep, and resources of all kinds are scarce. ...

Earlier this week the State Education Technology Directors Association (SETDA) released its latest report, The Broadband Imperative: Recommendations to Address K-12 Education Infrastructure Needs, at an event featuring presentations by a panel that included two state leaders from Maine and West Virginia along with a district administrator from New Jersey.  Once again, we were reminded of the opportunities that are opened up for students and teachers (and those administrators that lead districts and schools) when robust connections and ubiquitous communications devices are available for teaching and learning.  However, having more years of experience than I like to admit in advocating for the appropriate use of technology to support personalized learning opportunities and teaching effectiveness, I was struck with the realization that this meeting and its recommendations, while important, were not new.   ...

Studies show that the physical and mental health of students is inextricably linked to their academic success. Fourteen percent of students in school have asthma that impacts their daily living. One third of teen girls will become pregnant before age nineteen, and many of them will not complete high school successfully. Eleven percent of families are food insecure—their children do not get enough to eat and they may come to school hungry.

That is precisely why schools can and should create the conditions for optimal learning, including the basics of health services, from healthy meals to physical activity to health education that teaches life-long skills.

“Our members work with students every day whose health and school conditions impede their ability to learn. That’s why NEA members are taking the lead to advocate for school and learning conditions that result in a higher level of student engagement and fewer absences” said National Education Association (NEA) President Dennis Van Roekel at Health in Mind,  hosted by ...

Chronic absenteeism is often thought of as a middle and high school issue. As children become responsible for getting themselves to school, those who are disengaged stop showing up.

But did you know that nationally, one in ten kindergarten and first grade students miss the equivalent of a month of school each year? In some districts, it is more than one in four. Why don’t we talk more about these shocking statistics?

Perhaps because we don’t know them. I had no idea that chronic absenteeism (when a child misses 10% or more of the school year) in the early grades was so common until a session last week at the Coalition for Community Schools’ 2012 National Forum, when Hedy Chang, director of Attendance Works, and representatives from school districts across the nation helped illuminate the scope of the problem.

I doubt I am alone in my ignorance on this issue. When data in Multnomah County (Oregon) showed that 20% of K-3 students are chronically absent – 28% of kindergarteners – stakeholders in both the schools and the community were shocked. ...

It seems the one thing we can all agree on when discussing how to improve public schooling for all our children is that we need data to guide our approach to personalizing teaching and learning in the classroom, so that we can ensure student success and support teacher effectiveness.  Yet we persist in ignoring data that points to root causes that hamper the most talented school leaders in their work with children. 

At a recent meeting on Capitol Hill, researcher Sean Reardon from the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE) shared data showing the only developed country in the world with a larger percentage of children living in poverty than the United States is Mexico.  So the US is #2 in the developed world in children living in poverty (22 percent of our children live in poverty).  Dr. Reardon also ...

When we think of health the first thing that often comes to mind is our physical health. Whether it is obesity or asthma, diabetes or dental problems, or injuries of any kind, physical health seems more visible or more pressing. But mental health is just as important. Like physical health, mental health challenges can range from minor to major, but regardless they are important to address and take care of. 

Research gathered by the American School Counselor Association indicates that 20% of students are in need of mental health services, though only 20% of those students receive them. Disadvantaged students are at greater risk for mental health needs, yet ...

Syndicate content