Learning First Alliance

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Celebrate your assistant principals’ successes during National Assistant Principals Week, April 11–15! This week recognizes the contributions of assistant principals to the success of students, teachers, parents, and school communities across the United States.

While the roles and responsibilities may depend on the individual school settings, assistant principals are essential to establishing a positive learning environment that ensures each student and adult is known and valued. ...

What if I do more than share grades with parents?

I recently met with two parents and their son. It was a conference to discuss how he was doing in class and what they could do at home to help. If that kind of interpersonal communication is the "Gold Standard" of analog communications, we have to concede it's not the only way we can communicate with families, nor is it the most sustainable. But let's start with the conference and the tools for opening communication. Then on to other options.

Unlike years past, my year-round calendar does not allocate minimum days for conferencing anymore. My single conferences lasted one hour and fifteen minutes after school. To replicate this for my class of 28 students would require 35 hours. Quality communication? Yes. Replicable on a frequent basis? No.

While the recent conference was enlightening for the parents, student, and myself, I came away with two big wonderings: ...

Have you ever wished that you had more hours in the day? If you have, you’re certainly not alone. Teachers have a lot to do and only so much time to do it. At the 71st ASCD Annual Conference and Exhibit Show in Atlanta, I will be presenting a session called “Time to Teach: Getting Organized and Working Smarter” (session #1161 on Saturday, April 2, 8:00–9:00 a.m.) To get you started, here are 15 of my favorite tips for saving time!

  1. If you have a large task that you have put off doing, break it down into small tasks that you can accomplish in short periods of time. Then, schedule them on your to-do list. Reward yourself when you have completed each one. ...

As performance assessment of teacher candidates becomes more widespread and as more video evidence is collected in classrooms, we have to make sure that everyone involved with these videos—and other artifacts assembled for assessment purposes—understands how they may and may not be used. I’m pleased to report that a broad base of educators, convened by AACTE to bring various stakeholders’ perspectives to the discussion, is making promising strides to help safeguard the personal information of both teacher candidates and the students in their classes.

I wrote about the importance of this topic last year (see “Safeguarding Student Data Is Everyone’s Business”), celebrating the White House’s call for heightened attention to protecting students’ digital privacy. The whole education field must engage in this campaign, and AACTE takes its role seriously. Since last fall, we have been convening an Information Privacy Task Force to develop principles regarding the secure and ethical use of classroom video and associated materials collected in performance assessments of newly prepared teachers. ...

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. ...

How do effective teachers ready students for tomorrow's careers?

Student agency is about having student's voice and a choice in their own decision-making processes for what and how they are learning. It's about students developing the confidence and self-assuredness to assert their voices or thoughts and to advocate for their choices and ideas. It's about taking ownership of their learning in all situations-in school and in life. It's about developing the thinking behaviors that provide the substance to their ideas and the skills to express those ideas throughout our democratic society.

Nine behaviors--solving problems, managing one's self, adapting to change, conceptualizing, analyzing, communicating engaging, reflecting, collaborating-- are among those cited as key. (PARCC, 2009). These nine provide the skills that lead to the sense of efficacy students have when they have a solid level of college and career readiness. ...

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. ...

What is needed to create sufficient student agency?

Shoichi Uchiyama is a famous, world expert Japanese chef that is obsessed in entomophagy cuisine. In other words, he is an expert on eating bugs. This can include hornet larvae and silkworm pupae to boiled spiders and cockroach soup.

According to some nutritionists, bugs are a high source of protein and nutrients...supposedly good for you! Insect eating is NOT commonplace in Japan and most Japanese would gag by even the thought of it. Imagine the faces of your kids in school opening boxes of different choices of piping hot pizza and toppings included roasted water bugs, caterpillars and adult hornets! I can almost hear the loud protests with crying and screaming from the students. ...

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. ...

If there were such thing as a DeLorean that took people back in time, I’d love to use it to give first-year-teacher me a few pointers. Back in 2002, I was hired at my old high school, James Monroe, to teach world geography and given two days to prepare for the start of the school year. I tried my best that year. I got there early and stayed late. I volunteered for clubs and I coached the swim team. I stayed afloat using my prized asset—the geography textbook. I also dug through resources that a retiring teacher left me and stockpiled whatever handouts, tests, or worksheets my mentor teacher had to offer. The result? A disjointed mess that made little sense to me and even less to my students. As an illustration of my ineptitude, I ran into one of my former geography students at a trivia night a few years later while he was an undergrad and I was a graduate student at the same university. As we sat at separate tables, the trivia announcer informed us that the first category of the night was geography. My former student looked at me from across the room with his arms raised and yelled “Carbaugh?!?!” Both our teams lost. So, where had I gone wrong as a teacher? I had a bunch of resources. I knew how to design activities, and I knew how to cover content. ...

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