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By Carol François, Director of Learning, Learning Forward

When I was a classroom teacher, it seemed right around March and April, students' minds began wandering to visions of blissful summer vacations. Spring Break exacerbated the problem since the week off fueled their desire to be rid of school for a more extended period of time, free of schoolbooks and teachers' dirty looks as the children's rhyme taunted.

Little did my students know we teachers also longed for summer almost as much as they did. Having a few weeks of unscheduled time to refresh, renew, and reinvigorate ourselves was considered a welcome treat. Little did we teachers, as well as our students, realize our coveted summer vacation unintentionally might be creating a serious problem. We now know that long summer breaks without opportunities for learning and cognitive growth contribute to significant learning loss.

In research cited by the National Summer Learning Association, "All young people experience learning losses when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer. Research spanning 100 years shows that students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do on the same tests at the beginning of the summer." But that's not all. The association also notes that, "Children lose more than academic knowledge over the summer. Most children — particularly children at ...

By Joan Richardson, Editor-in-Chief, Kappan magazine (PDK International)

I learned one of my first lessons about teacher leadership the hard way. It started with a call from a very angry principal one morning when I was a newspaper reporter in Detroit. He berated me about how badly my front-page story that day had damaged teacher morale in his school. Teachers, one after the other, had come into his office in tears after reading what I had written about one of their colleagues. “How could you do this?” he asked.

My crime? I had written a glowing report about a science teacher at his middle school who had become one of the first teachers in the country to earn certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

I was stunned. I telephoned the PR person for the National Board and sputtered out a description of the call. She wasn’t at all surprised. “Welcome to my life,” she laughed. In quick order, she taught me this code ...

By Sharon P. Robinson, President and Chief Executive Officer, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE)

The teaching profession is well known for losing almost 50% of its novices in the first 5 years. This churn is concentrated in high-need schools, which have a hard time attracting teachers in the first place. Not only does this “revolving door” phenomenon increase the chance that students with the greatest educational needs will be taught by an inexperienced teacher, but it is also financially costly in recruitment, staffing, and induction burdens.

Why can’t we find a better way to staff high-need schools? If we could reduce the churn of novice teachers, even by 30%, how might that positively impact student achievement—and reallocate the financial savings for learning needs?

These questions are hardly new, but it is high time they are addressed. We cannot still be asking the same questions 20 years from now.

Of course, educator preparation programs cannot address these critical issues alone, but AACTE members are eager to collaborate across the professional community to get started. Not only do we have a moral imperative to improve students’ experience in schools, but our graduates also deserve to work in supportive environments that are ...

By Stephanie Hirsh, Executive Director, Learning Forward

Last month I wrote a blog describing the shifts in practice needed in professional learning to improve educator practice and student results. This month, I would like for you to consider shifts in professional learning policies at the state and system level.  

While the first step for many states is adopting more rigorous content and performance standards for students and educators, the key to fully implementing these standards lies in transformed professional learning. Without high-quality professional learning, adopting standards becomes an empty promise. ...

My work with and for public education leaders seems to focus on two conflicting messages and points of view. On the one hand, the relentless onslaught of criticism for the work that the educators represented in the Learning First Alliance (LFA) membership are involved in every day can become demoralizing. However, those often ill-informed attacks are balanced by the talented education leaders whose work is showcased regularly at meetings and presentations I’m lucky enough to attend. One such example of good news to spread about practitioner-led work underway in our organizations was the recent report by the National Center for Literacy Education (NCLE) entitled Remodeling Literacy Learning Together: Paths to Standards Implementation

The NCLE, a coalition of 30 professional education associations, policy organizations and foundations who work to support schools in elevating literacy learning, conducted a national survey of educators of all roles, grade levels, and subject areas to find out where we stand as a nation in-

  • Opportunities educators have had to learn about new literacy standards
  • Kinds of professional learning that are effective in supporting teachers as they implement change
  • Approaches of schools and districts to transitioning to
    ...

By Daniel A. Domenech, Executive Director, AASA, The School Superintendents Association

When was it that building administrators forgot how to evaluate teachers? At what point did teacher development take a back seat to collecting evidence that might lead to dismissal? Is there really a failure to identify instructionally incompetent teachers that now requires school districts follow an extensive and costly process to comply with state and federal demands?

When critics point to our schools’ less than stellar performance on international tests, rarely do they consider what those leading nations are doing that’s responsible for the results they obtain. The professional development of teachers plays a significant role in their success. None of the leading nations engages in evaluating teachers based on their students’ standardized test performance.

I never encountered a school administrator opposed to evaluating teaching performance. Most principals I worked with could easily differentiate between their talented and their weak performers in the classroom.

During my early years as a superintendent on Long Island, when I was still teaching education research courses at the graduate level, I asked my principals to rank order their teaching staff from least to most competent. I then correlated their rankings with the end-of- year evaluation reports they had done for their staff and found a strong correlation between ...

For many, if not most of the years I’ve worked as an advocate for the appropriate and effective use of technology in schooling, the discussion has been focused on “why”—or as those of a certain age would say: I got a good education without technology, why do we need it in schools now? (Never mind that the definition of “it” was never thoroughly addressed either.)

However, at the meeting hosted last week at Discovery Education, future@now 2014, “why” was not even on the agenda. Thankfully, and refreshingly, the gathering and its speakers focused on how to manage change within a school and district to ensure that all stakeholders are involved in planning and implementing the change that a school experience supported with technology requires. As many of us have been saying for years and affirmed by the current public education leadership on the faculty of future@now, planning should not be about devices, but about educational goals and establishment of a school culture to support change, risk-taking and introduction of tools to support those goals.

The meeting led off with a discussion of the process needed for planning for school transformation supported with technology. Dr. Dallas Dance, the impressive, young superintendent from Baltimore County Public Schools, emphasized the importance of process, leadership and ...

By Hank Rubin, Co-Founder, Institute for Collaborative Leadership*

Nearly every facet of education demands effective collaboration. 

If we adopt the time-tested definition that "A collaboration is a purposeful relationship in which all parties strategically choose to cooperate in order to achieve shared or overlapping objectives" (first published in Collaboration Skills for Educators and Nonprofit Leaders,1998), then everything from teaching and learning, curricular planning, building management, parental engagement, school-community/school-business partnerships, board leadership, policy development, and school reform rises and falls on the capacity of education professionals to build and manage successful collaborative relationships. 

One would expect that, as educators, we would understand collaboration deeply. But, as we look at the collaborations we need to lead schools, build curricula, strengthen instructional teams, engage parents and community, develop policy, transform failing schools, and build public support for successful schools, overwhelming evidence suggests: not so much!

You and I know people who are born with attributes that appear to make collaboration easy; like the teacher born with such a talent for empathy that students seem to connect with almost preternatural ease. But folks aren't born with the set of skills, the knowledge and strategic sensibilities, or the habits and intentional behaviors needed for ...

By Stephanie Hirsh, Executive Director, Learning Forward

A few weeks ago I had the honor of presenting to many leaders at the U. S. Department of Education who agreed that professional learning can and must be improved. They also agreed that it is essential to promote, support and sustain the changes we need to see made in schools. But what are those changes? Just as we identify shifts for student learning called for by the Common Core, what are the required shifts that need to accompany them for professional learning?           

In planning professional learning that leads to changed educator practices and improved student results, there are five shifts that must occur. These changes in practices will occur in schools and school systems that align planning, implementation, and evaluation with ...

School discipline policies often promote a zero tolerance approach that disproportionately, and negatively, affects minority children. Pushing students out of the building for behavioral infractions is not the answer; instead, policies should prioritize programs and actions that create safe environments for students to learn and thrive. Zero tolerance is easy, but it is not a real solution because it actually funnels many students towards the cracks, letting them fall through with little ability to pull them back. Yet many schools lack comprehensive alternative courses of action. Schools and states need to revise their approach to school discipline if they truly wish to leave no child behind. ...

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