Learning First Alliance

Strengthening public schools for every child

Educator Preparation

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Professional learning is extremely important to student learning, and for students to succeed, schools must invest in the adults who teach them.

Learning Forward focuses on professional learning as a vehicle for school improvement, and its Deputy Executive Director Frederick Brown brought examples of principals' strategies to help teachers guide their students to college- and career-readiness in a webinar produced by Learning Forward and the Learning First Alliance on Aug. 18, 2016. A related webinar will be held on Aug. 30, 2016.

In the first webinar, which can be replayed, Brown discussed the importance of teacher efficacy—the collective responsibility by school faculty to reach a desired outcome for student achievement. He also detailed Learning Forward’s backmapping model for professional learning strategies: ...

What did you do this summer?

For many of us in education, summer is a time for reflection on the past and planning for the future. We engage in professional learning, and if we’re lucky, we expand our horizons by visiting new places.

I had the great fortune to do all of these things last month during a fascinating trip to China.

At the invitation of China’s National Center for School Curriculum and Textbook Development, several U.S. education leaders and I participated in the China Teacher Leaders Forum and a series of other meetings with Chinese agency heads, educators and teacher educators, and business and philanthropic representatives.

We were invited to teach, but as often happens in these situations, we ended up learning even more. And the July trip was only the beginning of what I hope will be an extended and mutually beneficial exchange. ...

Learning Forward and the Learning First Alliance are hosting Leading Schools for College and Career Readiness: A Professional Learning Framework for Principals, an interactive webinar that explores the leadership practices behind student success.

Principal Niki Newman-Brown of Prince George’s County (Md.) Public Schools will show how she achieved promising results through promoting professional learning for teachers grounded in data and aligned to rigorous student goals. Until recently, Ms. Newman-Brown was the principal of Mary Harris “Mother” Jones Elementary School; she is now transitioning to a district leadership role. She also participated with her students and teachers in a series of videos from The Wallace Foundation that illuminate effective principal leadership practices. 

Learning Forward’s Deputy Executive Director Frederick Brown also will discuss successful strategies for leading adult learning among school staff to increase college- and career-readiness for students. ...

Learning Forward and the National Commission on Teaching & America’s Future (NCTAF) recently announced the Agents for Learning competition. The competition is designed to engage educator teams in advocating for the best use of federal funding for professional learning under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

The deadline to apply is June 10, and finalist teams will be announced June 21. Those teams will present their proposals at Learning Forward’s Summer Institute on July 21 and 22.

All teachers in the United States, particularly those working in high-needs schools and shortage areas, are encouraged to apply. Teams will be invited to answer questions that specifically address: ...

I had the honor of attending a half-day conference at the White House last month celebrating the Operation Educate the Educators program, a joint initiative of AACTE and the Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC) to better prepare school personnel to meet the needs of military-connected children. ...

What are the first steps on the road to accomplished teaching? Educators Rising is working to find out, and we need your feedback.

Educators Rising—powered by PDK International— is a national network working to help school systems guide young people on the path to teaching starting in high school. Since launching in 2015, students and teachers leaders in 1,200 schools across the country have joined. A recent profile in Education Week notes, “Forty-nine percent of the [14,000] student members are racial and ethnic minorities—a rate that far outpaces the 17-percent minority makeup of the current U.S. teaching profession.

Now Educators Rising — in partnership with the National Education Association — is coordinating an effort to back-map the road to accomplished teaching into the secondary space. The organization is defining what high school students exploring teaching careers must know and be able to do to be on the path to becoming accomplished teachers. ...

It’s axiomatic that experts in a field are better equipped than outsiders to design interventions that will work. Yet in education, we face a constant barrage of external reform efforts that fail to incorporate professional knowledge and expertise—and they just don’t work.

This point is reinforced in recent research out of the National Education Policy Center. In this study, Marilyn Cochran-Smith and her colleagues at Boston College (MA) examine the evidentiary base underlying four national initiatives for teacher preparation program accountability and improvement. They find that only one of the initiatives—the beginning-teacher performance assessment edTPA, designed and managed by the profession—is founded on claims supported by research. With a measure that is valid, scoring that is reliable, and therefore results that are accurate, we have a serious tool for program improvement. ...

Have you tried walking around with just one eye open? It’s tough: Your field of vision is limited; your balance suffers; you lack depth perception. Our brains need a variety of signals to bring the world into focus—and of course, this holds true not only for eyesight, but for our comprehension of just about everything.

Educator preparation is no exception. To help us meet the demands of professional practice, we form partnerships that span varying perspectives. One-dimensional views issued from the academy are as unhelpful as those emanating from the state house. But we find meaning and make progress on the tough questions when we tackle them from many angles at once, embracing complexity as an element that is essential to moving forward.

AACTE’s upcoming Annual Meeting—a convening primarily for teacher educators—will bring in these key viewpoints with significant participation from the world of practice and beyond. Beginning with preconference events and running through sessions large and small, this conference will provoke new insights on problems of practice through multidimensional views. ...

This is an exciting time for AASA, The School Superintendents Association. It’s also an exciting time for school system leadership and public education.

Hundreds of superintendents are convening this week in Phoenix, Ariz., for the National Conference on Education where AASA’s 2016 National Superintendent of the Year will be announced.

I couldn’t be prouder of our finalists. I had the opportunity to meet them during our press conference at the National Press Club in mid-January. In my view, we have four winners. I know it will be a difficult choice for our panel of judges.

One thing among others that impresses me about our finalists—they all have tremendous passion for what they do. Here is what they shared with us about being a superintendent:

Pamela MoranAlbemarle County (Va.) Public Schools: “Nothing is more important than the profession of education. We need to keep elevating that message. Being a superintendent has an incredible responsibility—to see that all kids get the best learning opportunities available.” ...

John B. King, Jr. has a compelling personal story: Orphaned at age 12, it was public education and his teachers who saw him through a tumultuous period in his life and in turn inspired him to become a teacher, school administrator, and now the nation’s top education official.

Dr. King, who is serving as Acting U.S. Secretary of Education as the Obama administration enters its final year, recently spoke about his ambitious agenda with the Learning First Alliance: He plans to push for student equity and excellence, a better equipped teaching force, and strategies to improve the college completion rates. He also will be responsible for regulations for the newest version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). ...

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