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Nearly a year ago the fourteen member organizations of the Learning First Alliance (LFA) issued a rare but important statement of our collective belief that Common Core State Standards (CCSS) have the potential to transform teaching and learning and provide all children with the knowledge and skills necessary for success in the global community. Included in that statement of belief was a clear signal that the “what” of CCSS was on track but the “how” of moving towards full implementation at the local and classroom level was moving too quickly with insufficient time, support and resources to ensure that the goal of the collaboratively created common standards could or would be met in the way envisioned by the leaders who initiated this ground-breaking project.

What we also knew was that some states and districts were mapping out implementation strategies that showed promise and yielded initial results in changed pedagogy and classroom culture that have the potential to result in measureable results on a host of evaluation instruments being designed to assess student progress. So, over the past year we’ve reached out to successful practitioners, asked them to share their experiences and wisdom, and collected stories of promising progress with implementation of the huge change in practice and process to meet the new, higher, common standards.

This week we issued a white paper describing some of the things we learned over the past year ...

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

The 2014-15 AASA International Seminar, under the auspices of the People to People Ambassador Program, took us to Australia and New Zealand. Both countries have a reputation for quality education, and the participants, including AASA President David Pennington and Past President Amy Sichel, were eager to experience whether the hype was deserved.

The Australian government provides funding for all of its schools, be they public or private. We visited with Judith Poole, headmistress of the Abbotsleigh School, an independent Anglican girls’ school serving 1,400 students preschool to grade 12. Poole comes from New Jersey, but she traveled to Australia 18 years ago with her husband, and they remained. Today she runs what is undoubtedly one of the best schools in the country. ...

By Helen Soulé, Ph.D, Executive Director, Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21)

The class of 2031—these are the students who are in Kindergarten this year! If the past decade is any indication, these post-secondary graduates will face a very different world than we can imagine. Our challenge—help them get ready!

Now Is The Hour

Now more than ever, the traditional factory model approach to education practiced over the last 50 years in which students are "widgets" to which "parts" (content) are added by the workers (teachers) as they move along an assembly line and emerge identical to each other will not prepare our students for post-secondary education, work or life. In order to be successful, all students need both broad and deep content knowledge plus the 21st century's 4Cs, life and career skills and a global perspective. Learning must be engaging, connected to the real world, collaborative and personalized. Policymakers, district and school leaders and teachers must embrace new roles as facilitators, collaborators, leaders, lifelong-learners and project managers.

The Most Recent Research

For the last decade, P21 has advocated that 21st century learning requires large-scale transformation of our educational systems, including reimagining teaching, learning and structure. New models are emerging with promising results. Research just released by the American Institute for Research (AIR) ...

In reflecting on our work over the past year, we at the Learning First Alliance are particularly proud of our efforts to learn what it will take to get Common Core right. We highlighted perspectives on the issue from a number of state and local leaders in podcasts and written interviews, engaged with the public in a series of Twitter Town Halls on issues related to implementation, released commentary in local markets, and celebrated progress in our efforts to delay tying high-stakes consequences to standardized assessments aligned with the standards.

But education in 2014 wasn’t just about Common Core. In December alone, major events transpired: the U.S. Department of Education released proposed federal regulations for teacher preparation programs (open for comment until February 2), and the FCC approved a major increase in funding for the E-rate program, a decision will greatly expand schools' and libraries' access to high-speed internet.

We covered these items and much, much more on our blog this year. Of all that we posted, what caught the attention of you, our readers? Here are our top posts of 2014, as determined by Google Analytics. Enjoy!

  1. Three Ways to Build Trust for Professional Learning – In our top post of 2014, Learning Forward Senior Fellow Hayes Mizell argues that a lack of trust is at the core of many educators’ cynicism about and resistance to professional learning, and he offers three ways that leaders responsible for organizing professional learning can build it.
  2. Brain Research: Three Principles for the 21st Century Classroom – Brain research has given us some solid principles in the past decade
  3. ...

This piece was co-authored with Melissa Cropper, president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers. It first appeared in the Toledo Blade. View the original here.

Many lawmakers and political activists appear determined to perpetuate an endless debate over Ohio’s New Learning Standards, our version of the Common Core state standards. But teachers and school leaders across the state have been working hard to carry out the higher standards for student learning that we committed to years ago.

Teachers are already seeing benefits for students.

“They’re not doing as many paper-and-pencil activities and seat activities,” says Amy Whaley, a fifth-grade teacher in Toledo. “We’re up out of our seats. We’re doing projects. We’re encouraging students to talk and to share, because of the speaking and language standards that are involved.”

Like Ms. Whaley, teachers across Ohio are participating in and leading professional development, and creating new lessons designed to help students build a deep understanding of critical concepts in math and reading. Yet the challenge of introducing a new and higher set of standards, even as teachers dedicate time and energy to doing so, is significant. ...

By Julie Underwood, Chair, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) Board of Directors and Dean, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Public education lost one of its most powerful voices on Saturday, November 29, when John Goodlad passed away.

He had worked in educational institutions at all levels, teaching in a one-room school in Canada, as dean of the Graduate school of Education at UCLA, and as founder of the Center for Education Renewal and the Institute for Educational Inquiry.

John was a thoughtful leader for public education. He published more than 30 books and 200 journal articles. His best-known books include these:

A Place Called School (1984)
The Moral Dimensions of Teaching (1990, with Roger Soder and Ken Sirotnik)
In Praise of Education (1997)
Educational Renewal: Better Teachers, Better Schools (1998)

He reminded us that the critical role of education was to build and maintain a free democratic society. As such, we as educators have a responsibility to ensure that all children are embraced in the enterprise of learning and teaching ...

We talk a lot about transforming teacher preparation to meet the changing demands of both today’s P-12 students and the education workforce. Often these discussions revolve around alternative certification programs, but to make a large-scale impact, we have to consider how the institutions of higher education that train nearly 90% of incoming teachers should respond to the challenges that new teachers and P-12 schools and districts face. 

Fortunately, there are a number of models from which we can learn, institutions of higher education working in innovative ways to ensure that teachers enter the classroom prepared to be successful. The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education’s (AACTE) The Innovation Exchange highlights many such programs, including Georgia State University’s Network for Enhancing Teacher Quality (NET-Q) program.

NET-Q is a collection of projects designed to prepare educators for the demands of teaching high-need subjects in high-need schools. To learn more about this impressive initiative, we contacted Dr. Gwendolyn Benson, who serves as the associate dean for school, community and international partnerships in the College of Education at Georgia State University and as the principal investigator for the NET-Q program. She graciously took the time to describe the key features of NET-Q, including its teacher residency program and partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and the impact of the program, which includes higher teacher retention rates, academic gains for P-12 students and richer and truer partnerships with local schools and districts.

Public School Insights (PSI): Critics often claim that educator preparation programs don’t prepare teachers – particularly those who will work in high-needs communities – for the realities they will face in the classroom. But I understand Georgia State University’s College of Education is facing that challenge head on, with the Network for Enhancing Teacher Quality (NET-Q) project. Could you briefly describe the initiative?

Benson: The goal of this project is to increase the quality and number of highly qualified teachers who are committed to high-needs schools, thus positively impacting the achievement of students in these schools. This is accomplished by increasing the recruitment and support of prospective teachers of science, technology, engineering and mathematics; special education; and English language learners, to meet the needs of urban schools in the Metro Atlanta area and nearby rural high-need districts ...

By Gail Connelly, Executive Director, National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP)

In the late 1990s, renowned Cape Town archbishop and social activist Desmond Tutu introduced the South African term ubuntu to a global audience. Roughly translating to, “I am because we are,” it reflects a belief in the importance of interconnectedness among human beings. Doris Candelarie, one of the National Distinguished Principals profiled in the November/December 2014 issue of Principal magazine, shared this concept with us as her chosen inspirational theme for the current school year.

When I heard about this philosophy of ubuntu, it struck a particular chord with me, as it seems to so aptly crystallize both the message and spirit of professional collaboration. After all, this network of human relationships and support across school, district, community, and beyond is the key enabling factor when it comes to successfully serving the students in our charge.

Research backs this up. Studies such as the Wallace Foundation’s 2010 Learning from Leadership confirm a strong connection between high-performing schools and decision-making structures that include input from a range of stakeholders. In particular, the study highlights the key role of teacher leaders, finding direct links between principal - teacher leader collaborations and higher standardized test scores and increased staff trust in principals—all without the loss of a principal’s clout ...

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

A window of opportunity has just opened: Everyone who cares about education in this country has until February 2 to let the U.S. Department of Education know where our priorities lie.

Last week, proposed federal regulations for teacher preparation programs were released for public comment via the Federal Register. In brief, these proposed regulations would require states to rate teacher preparation programs based on problematic measures of their graduates’ performance—and then tie students’ eligibility for federal financial aid to those ratings.

The proposed regulations should be troubling to the education profession. Let me share three reasons why I believe you should not only pay attention, but join me in rallying others to voice their concerns during the public comment period ...

Aaron Bredenkamp currently serves as the dean of students at Westside High School in Omaha, NE, a position he's held for two years. Prior to this role, he worked for five years in a variety of capacities (including mathematics teacher, curriculum developer, technology director and building representative for the local teachers union) at Westside Career Center, an alternative setting. He began his teaching career in Chicago with Teach for America, and he is currently a doctoral candidate with an emphasis on school finance at the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

Mr. Bredenkamp was recently honored as a 2014 PDK Emerging Leader. In 2012, he was named a U.S Department of Education classroom fellow.

He recently took time to offer his insights on issues he cares deeply about, including approaches to school discipline, the importance of providing support to teachers and staff, and the valuable role of personalized learning as a tool for student engagement.

Public School Insights (PSI): First, let’s start with a little of your background. How long have you been dean of students at Westside High School, and where were you before that?

Bredenkamp: This is my second year as the dean of students. Prior to that I taught at Westside’s alternative setting for 5 years. I began my career teaching in alternative education in Chicago, IL, as a part of Teach for America, before returning home to use the skills I learned in TFA to contribute to the community where I was raised.

Public School Insights (PSI): You have a strong commitment to engaging all students. Would you discuss the role of personalized learning in this effort?

Bredenkamp: My commitment to personalized learning began as a teacher in the alternative setting. I quickly learned that students who were previously unsuccessful, and who often had behavioral issues, did not have their educational needs met in the standard academic environment. After I adjusted my own instruction in order to meet their learning needs, behavioral incidents decreased and academic success increased. Quickly these students developed a love of learning. ...

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