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By Daniel A. Domenech, Executive Director, American Association of School Administrators (AASA)

In July, the Children's Defense Fund (CDF) held its first national conference in nearly a decade to remind educators and community leaders of the dire circumstances faced by some of our nation's students. The conference challenged all leaders to “pursue justice for children with urgency and persistence.”

Although the challenges public education faces -- fiscally, economically, politically, and socially -- are complex, there are discrete solutions that we can leverage right now to transform learning.

  • Too many of our children are uninsured and, thus, lack access to healthcare.
  • Too many of our children lack access to nutritious foods.
  • Too many of our children are not college-ready.

Research has demonstrated clearly that health and learning are linked (see Charles Basch’s Healthier Students are Better Learners for incredible detail on the subject). Furthermore, we know that these issues are more acute in our most vulnerable populations: students living in low-income, urban, rural, or ...

By Steve Berlin, Senior Communications Manager of the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE)

The American education system — inasmuch as it's actually a system — is not failing. For readers stunned by a phrase not often seen in print these days, I repeat: The U.S. education system is not failing. I know that's not a popular position these days, but it is the right one. There are indeed problems that need addressing, but there is significant cognitive dissonance in how the public views K-12 education.

So, why do I say our schools as a whole are succeeding? Well, why not start with what is meant by "failing?" The term is a relic that defines education policy and growth as all-or-nothing propositions. It can be easily traced to 1983's A Nation at Risk, which made "failing schools" a part of the American vernacular. But it was truly burned into headlines and our collective consciousness with the 2001 iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, better known as No Child Left Behind — a law that uses all stick and no carrot as inducements for improvement, usually with the "failing" schools and districts that were struggling in the first place.

Worse, NCLB pointed to 2014 as the deadline for 100 percent proficiency. If schools, districts and states can't meet that deadline, well, they have failed. Doesn't matter that people are working hard to draft new policies and legislation, and devising new and ...

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Rules of Engagement

We all know of school improvement initiatives that failed when they should have succeeded. Technology initiatives, new evaluation systems, even changes to the school calendar – these are ideas that research suggests should improve student outcomes, but for some reason, in some contexts, they don't.

One reason that many education initiatives struggle to succeed is stakeholder resistance – or stakeholder apathy. When education leaders do not take the time to create a trusting culture that supports a vision of excellence and improvement, their reform efforts are at a severe disadvantage, if not doomed. As Bill Milliken, founder and vice chairman of Communities in Schools said, “It’s relationships, not programs, that change children.”

I recently had the opportunity to attend the National Association of Secondary School Principals' (NASSP) 2013 Ignite Conference. There, I had the chance to learn from a number of education leaders who have created cultures that led to true change in ...

By Dennis Van Roekel, President of the National Education Association

It starts early. When we are maybe age three or four or five. When we are young and impressionable. Someone close to us opens a book and reads to us about animals that talk, ghosts that live in haunted castles or pirates in search of buried treasure.

And we are hooked. We can't wait for someone to read us another story that causes our imaginations to run wild. If you've ever shared a book with a child, you know the joy and excitement this small act can bring. It's almost comical how some children want to hear the same story over and over and over — they are so spellbound by it.

Research shows that children who are read to at home have a higher success rate in school and frequently develop stronger reading skills. Reading is the foundation of education.

Unfortunately, too many children have no one to read to them. The National Center for Education Statistics tells us that almost 50 percent of children ages three to five do not get read to on a daily basis. This is staggering.

We at the National Education Association (NEA) are working to change this. We offer a number of resources to help educators improve reading instruction and to help parents develop reading skills in their children. And each year we host Read Across America, an initiative that celebrates reading and literacy and encourages more adults to ...

By Annelise Cohon and Lisa Sharma Creighton, NEA Health Information Network

"Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day," that’s the March National Nutrition Month 2013 theme. In celebration of the observance we’d like to share three ways you can work to promote good nutrition at your school by increasing access to school breakfast, ensuring all food sold in school is healthy, and encouraging nutrition education and physical activity at school.

(1) Increase access to school breakfast. Research confirms that eating breakfast at school helps children learn. When students are hungry, they struggle academically and are at risk for long-term health issues. In the U.S., 1 in 5 children struggle with hunger according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Below are important resources for teachers, principals and administrators, and parents to increase access to school breakfast and positively impact hunger.

By Cheryl Williams, Executive Director at Learning First Alliance

The following post appeared on January 31, 2013, as the final LFA entry in the Transforming Learning Blog on Education Week. For the past year, LFA members have contributed postings to the EdWeek blog on a regular basis. Those wise commentaries are archived at Education Week and can be accessed here. This entry also describes the messaging campaign that LFA launched in January and will be featuring on this site and in other venues in the months ahead.

Over the past year, member organizations in the Learning First Alliance (LFA) have shared their perspectives and expertise on the work their members and stakeholders have led in support of public education throughout their careers. If you’ve had the opportunity to read some or all of these postings, you’ll know that public education professionals are tireless in their work to meet the needs of their students and that no silver bullet exists to “fix” what doesn’t work in public schools. With this, the final Transforming Learning post, we reiterate what we know to be true as professional educators and ...

We have access to a lot of good sound research and information in today’s information age. Education practitioners, those working in schools and districts, are ultimately responsible for overseeing system-wide changes, but they rarely have time to sift through data and evidence to identify sound research that might offer guidance for their respective district or school. Therefore, those higher up in district administration are more likely to be the ones assessing available research and working to support struggling schools. Taking action on sound research requires strong networks and strong communication among system professionals to move the evidence and information down to the school level. Ultimately, even if the research is good, it does not guarantee change. The system must be prepared to implement the necessary steps to produce changes in student performance. In fact, research suggests that an emphasis on the technical aspects of improvements leads us to overlook the relational component to system-wide change. ...

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A Step in Time

When implemented well, expanded learning time (lengthening the school day, school week and/or school year) has led to impressive results in schools around the country. And U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has long called on more schools to embrace the policy, both because he believes that American students spend less time in school than students in the nations we are competing with (though some evidence suggests that might not be the case) and because he believes that the hours between 3pm and 6pm are the peak hours for juvenile crime (which evidence supports).

The Secretary was on hand yesterday at the introduction of the TIME (Time for Innovation Matters in Education) Collaborative, a partnership between the National Center on Time in Learning (NCTL) and the Ford Foundation that will allow participating schools in five states (Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Tennessee) to add 300 hours of instruction and enrichment for all their children. To be a part of the collaborative, states and districts had to agree to use a mix of federal, state and district funding to cover the costs ...

We’ve all heard about summer learning loss. Students lose between one and two months' worth of academic knowledge each summer. Low-income students are particularly sensitive to this phenomenon – some research suggests that more than half of the achievement gap seen in reading between these students and their wealthier peers can be attributed to summer loss.

So across the nation, schools, districts and states are trying to address the issue. One seemingly obvious solution: A move to year-round schooling. Given that the most popular school calendar in the nation is a relic from our agrarian days, when children were needed in the fields at specific times during the year, it certainly makes sense to revisit it. And many schools and communities have adopted a year-round calendar, replacing a long summer break with shorter breaks throughout the year.

But I was interested to read an article out of Grand Rapids, MI, that indicated a possible move in the opposite direction. Because of chronic absences at some district elementary schools that run on a year-round calendar (at one school, 41% of ...

Candidly, and not surprisingly, I’m delighted that Barack Obama was elected to a second term as President of the United States.  As someone whose entire professional career has been devoted to public education and life-long learning, I believe that President Obama’s values and priorities are closer to mine than his opponent’s are.  

Having stated my delight in the President’s re-election, I also want to enumerate my hopes for his administration’s leadership in strengthening and improving public K-12 education over the next four years. I fervently hope that:

  • The President, Secretary of Education, and administration leaders will STOP saying that our public school system is failing.  We all know that there are serious inequities in the current system that need to be addressed and that a collective effort needs to be made to increase the rigor of instruction in many of our schools.  But, most public schools in this country do a good job; indeed, a better job than has ever been done before.
  • The President, Secretary of Education and their spokespersons will STOP saying that the current teaching force is largely recruited from the weakest students in any
  • ...

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