Learning First Alliance

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Looking back, 2015 was an incredible year in education. The historic passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is finally shifting the conversation towards student competence beyond test scores, and defines educator professional development in a more sustained and integrated way than ever before, opening doors to a more innovative approach to professional learning.

But who owns 21st century professional learning? The answer unequivocally is that we all own it. Today we are all learners and no matter our role, we must continually grow and model the learning that we want to see in schools. Making 21st century learning a reality for every child requires that educators at all levels learn new ways of thinking and doing. Just as education must be engaging, collaborative, and connected to the real world, so must our professional development. ...

In the fast-changing field of school technology, Keith Krueger is considered a preeminent and steadfast expert, having led the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) for more than two decades. This year, Tech & Learning magazine selected him as one of the “big 10” most influential people in education technology. Back in 2008 he was selected by eSchool News as one of 10 people who had a profound impact on educational technology in that decade.

Most recently, Keith has undertaken a work-study project on digital equity at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, examining the disparities in access to digital technologies and how those disparities impact students’ learning, their ability to succeed, and their parents’ engagement.  In an interview with the Learning First Alliance, he shares some of his findings and best practices.

LFA: You currently serve as CEO of CoSN, which recently joined the Learning First Alliance. What would you like us to know about your organization and your priorities? ...

A set of nine laudable principles to advance the teaching profession undergird an ambitious campaign organized by the Center for American Progress (CAP) that launches today. The new initiative, TeachStrong, targets improvements at every stage of the educator pipeline, from recruitment and preparation through licensure and career pathways, calling for a much-needed shift in focus in education policy away from test-and-punish accountability and toward strengthening the teaching profession.

TeachStrong attempts to elicit a common tune from the cacophony of voices across the education sector—from AACTE and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards to the National Council on Teacher Quality and Teach for America—with a “Path to Modernizing and Elevating Teaching” comprising nine goals: ...

High-performing nations set themselves on a course of steady, long-term improvement, which includes consistent practices for recruiting, preparing, and supporting teachers — that is among the big takeaways from state legislators who participated in a year-long study of education outside the United States.

The study was convened by the National Conference of State Legislatures to explore how education functions in countries that are high performers on the PISA assessment. The 22 legislators all serve on their states’ legislative education committees. (I talked with two of them as part of Kappan’s work preparing our November 2015 issue on what the United States can learn from other countries.)

What they’ve learned so far has surprised them.

Indiana State Rep. Bob Behning, a Republican from Indianapolis, and Arkansas State Sen. Joyce Elliott, a Democrat from Little Rock, came to the exploration with different experiences and political ideas, but they sound a lot alike when they describe what they learned from studying Shanghai, Finland, Singapore, Ontario, and more. ...

As the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and their kindred iterations continue to gain traction in schools around the country, staff development efforts have been bringing in-service educators up to speed, and colleges of education have been adjusting their curricula to ensure that the field’s newest professionals are also ready for the new standards. Nowhere has this shift seen greater success than in Kentucky, which was the first state to adopt and implement CCSS. A recent AACTE webinar sponsored by the Learning First Alliance’s “Get It Right” campaign highlighted the remarkable progress made by institutions in the state. ...

By Stephanie J. Hull

In national efforts to improve schools and ensure that every child is on a meaningful path to college and career, many observers have seen classroom teachers as the linchpin of success. Research shows—compellingly—that the single most important in-school factor in student achievement is the teacher standing in the front of the classroom. That is one of the reasons the Woodrow Wilson Foundation has made it a priority to strengthen the pipelines of effective teachers for high-need schools.

The research is equally clear, though, as to the importance of school principals. In fact, principals account for at least 25 percent of a school’s total impact on student achievement, according to research conducted by organizations such as ASCD and the Wallace Foundation. Principals create the necessary conditions for teachers to succeed—the individual support, the technology, the facilities, the interface with parents and policy leaders. ...

Joshua Starr, who took the helm of Phi Delta Kappa International this summer, left a high-profile job as Superintendent of the Montgomery County, Md., schools, where he had focused on accountability and high standards for the fast-growing and increasingly diverse 154,000-student district. While some were surprised that Dr. Starr did not seek another job as superintendent, he is now focusing his work on improving teaching and learning through systemic change at PDK International.

Dr. Starr also has worked as director of accountability for the New York City public schools and as superintendent of the Stamford, Conn., school district. Dr. Starr has a doctorate in education from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, a master’s degree in special education from Brooklyn College, and a bachelor’s degree in English and history from the University of Wisconsin. His three children attend public schools in Montgomery County, and he began his career as a teacher working with adolescents with several emotional disabilities.

Dr. Starr recently spoke with the Learning First Alliance about his experience as a superintendent, the recent PDK/Gallup Annual poll, and his plans for the organization. ...

The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) recently hosted an annual technology summit for the leaders of 10 teacher educator associations that formed a coalition in 2000 around educational technology and educator preparation. This two-day event has witnessed or directly led to some amazing developments over the years, ranging from research to tools to entirely new technologies, as coalition members serve as a unique focus group and visionary working network bridging education and industry. ...

As part of its Get It Right: Common Sense on the Common Core national campaign, the Learning First Alliance recently interviewed administrators and education leaders to highlight perspectives on the implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in Kansas. As one of the first states to adopt the CCSS, Kansas reached full implementation of the standards in the 2013-2014 school year. Kansas educators have praised the standards—known in Kansas as the Kansas College and Career Ready Standards—for setting rigorous performance expectations for all students and thereby improving teaching and learning in the state.

Across Kansas, districts have used a number of effective strategies to ensure that CCSS implementation has been successful. In particular, administrators have focused on building district cultures that place real value on the new standards and which treat the standards as a permanent improvement to teaching and learning, as opposed to a temporary reform. ...

This is the second in a three-part series highlighting perspectives on the implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in Kansas. As one of the first states to adopt the CCSS, Kansas reached full implementation of the standards in the 2013-2014 school year. Kansas educators have praised the standards—known in Kansas as the Kansas College and Career Ready Standards—for setting rigorous performance expectations for all students and thereby improving teaching and learning in the state.

Across Kansas, districts have used a number of effective strategies to ensure that CCSS implementation has been successful. In particular, administrators have focused on building district cultures that place real value on the new standards and which treat the standards as a permanent improvement to teaching and learning, as opposed to a temporary reform. ...

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