Learning First Alliance

Strengthening public schools for every child

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Blog Entries

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. ...

How do parents know that a license to teach means a person is ready to meet the needs of their child? That’s a good question in a nation where “teacher preparation” still means all things to all people, causing a lot of public doubt.

That’s why my recent visit to Western Washington University in Bellingham was so inspiring. Thanks to a grant from the AFT Innovation Fund, the AFT members at the university’s Woodring College of Education are connecting a series of very important dots in the teaching profession.

Their approach offers a model not just for preparing new teachers, but also for supporting practicing teachers as they mentor novices and work toward achieving certification by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. It’s well aligned with AFT’s 2013 report, “Raising the Bar,” which calls for aligning and elevating teacher preparation, and the profession, through a clinical model. ...

AASA, The School Superintendents Association, continues to celebrate its 150th anniversary. We were founded by a small group of seven superintendents that came together knowing that like-minded education leaders needed an advocacy voice at the national level.

This was at a time when our nation was reeling from the end of the Civil War. A key element of our mission of what was first called the National Association of School Superintendents was equity. There were vast differences in the way our children were being educated.

Today, a century-and-a-half later, equity continues to be a major challenge in America. That’s why I am very pleased that AASA is partnering with Howard University and the University of Southern California in an effort to confront this challenge head on by working to develop urban leaders for our schools. ...

Somehow the precious weeks of summer have quickly gone by and it is almost time for school to start again. The great thing about being an educator in a school setting is that each year you take a break for an extended period of time and then you start fresh again in the fall. Unlike other careers, you get to take time, six to eight weeks, to think about what you liked about the previous year and what you want to do differently in the upcoming school year. Each year I like to find something I could do better. If I expect students to be life-long learners then I, too, need to be one.

I recently read an article that suggested, “assume good intention” in all that you encounter. I thought about my work in the school over the past 10 years and questioned, have I assumed good intention when working with colleagues, administrators and parents? Have I assumed that their efforts and comments were made with good intention in mind? Or did I snap to quick judgment? Unfortunately, I think more times than not, I snapped to quick judgment. ...

By Mary Cathryn Ricker, Executive Vice-President, American Federation of Teachers (AFT)

When I was elected president of the St. Paul Federation of Teachers (SPFT) in 2005, I thought my own story might help transform the relationship between teachers and administrators as well as improve the image of teachers in the community. I was a veteran middle school English teacher, and I’d been honored for my work. And I had been active in the SPFT as a political and community volunteer as well as the union’s professional representative on local and state committees.

I had also spent enough time in my classroom and in the city to know—and be bothered by—the dominant story told about public school teachers and our union by the mass media, a number of Minnesota legislators, and in many local communities. On a local TV station’s evening news show, a Minnesota Republican state senator, Richard Day, had even declared, “We all know Minneapolis and St. Paul schools suck.” In too many conversations, I got accused of failure unless I quickly told people about the awards I had won for creating a model English/language arts classroom and running a program for my colleagues on how to improve writing in middle schools. If local citizens, especially parents, could learn about our talent, our dedication, and our ideas, I was convinced their perceptions would change ...

By Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers

Teaching is our heart. Our students are our soul. And the union is our spine.

I heard that sentiment over and over again last week during the American Federation of Teachers' biennial TEACH conference, one of the largest professional development conferences for educators in the nation. That's right, a conference on teaching and learning, sponsored by the union.

The conference included sessions on a wide range of topics, as well as a daylong summit with an organization called EdSurge, where educators had the opportunity to give feedback on classroom technology products, and a town hall meeting with the AFT's three officers, where members could ask or share anything.

Two-thousand educators descended on Washington, D.C., to learn from experts and one another, and once there, the theme was resounding: The voices of educators matter ...

Updated July 30, 2015

Last week, the United States Senate passed a sweeping rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the nation’s federal K-12 law, providing a rare example of bipartisan governance in an increasingly polarized political climate. An overwhelming majority of the Senate voted for the bill under the leadership of its co-authors, Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.).

This marks the first time since 2001 the Senate has taken such action, and it is an important step in freeing states from the demands of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the current iteration of ESEA that is widely acknowledged to be broken.

If enacted, this legislation – known as the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA) – would significantly roll back the role of the federal government in public education and give states more flexibility in how they provide it. For example, the bill would eliminate the nation’s current accountability system, known as adequate yearly progress, and instead allow states to create their own systems. It would require states to identify low-performing schools, but would not be specific about how many schools states need to target or what interventions should look like ...

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

More than 200 superintendents, including members of AASA’s Executive Committee and Governing Board, gathered in Washington, D.C. earlier this month to take part in this year’s Legislative Advocacy Conference. The Association of School Business Officials International partnered with AASA this year, and a number of school business officials were in attendance, including John Musso, ASBO’s executive director.

Last year’s advocacy conference occurred while the Federal Communications Commission was considering major revisions to the E-Rate program. Our superintendents charged Capitol Hill and met with their congressional representatives as well as FCC commissioners and their staff. That advocacy effort proved very successful as later in the year we saw major changes to the E-Rate program and an unprecedented increase of $1.5 billion to the E-Rate cap ...

By Marge Scherer, Editor in Chief, Educational Leadership

“If you believe that all children can have equal opportunity, get out of your seat and start doing something about it.” These words, spoken by P.S. 55 principal Luis Torres at a recent ASCD symposium on poverty and learning, could be the mantra of all the authors in our summer digital-only edition of Educational Leadership (EL).

Like Torres, many of the authors in this special bonus issue speak from personal experience about how they and their colleagues, no matter the obstacles, are making progress in improving schools from within. The stories express their passion and urgency as they make things happen instead of waiting for more support or resources from the outside world.

This digital-only summer issue of EL is our annual free gift to ASCD members and EL subscribers, and we want to extend this to everyone reading this post ...

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