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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 ...

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 ...

In 1987 I attended my first ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) conference in Philadelphia.  At that time the meeting was called NECC, short for the National Education Computing Conference.  Saturday, I arrived in Philadelphia for my 28th visit to this event that attracts K-12 educators and university researchers from around the world.  As I reflect on both the topics discussed and the nature of the meeting, much has changed and still much has remained the same. 

In sessions, innovative education leaders continue to emphasize that the technology should not be the focus of our conversations, rather the instruments that enable us to lead and participate in more dynamic, inclusive learning spaces and activities.  The emphasis continues to be on meeting each student where he/she is, personalizing the learning activities, and ensuring that the approach is student-centered, not teacher-dictated ...

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

Professional advocacy organizations support their members by helping them advance a collective voice. By articulating a field’s consensus positions, associations empower their members to speak clearly about what they know, identify priorities, invest their energy strategically, and communicate confidently with internal and external audiences.

These unified understandings, which we adjust as research and best practices evolve, help us fulfill our obligation to correct misinformation and to respond to critics—a frequent need in the field of educator preparation. More importantly, though, they provide a foundation for action by the profession and help us recognize areas of need. In educator preparation, we’ve instituted a variety of reforms in recent years that have prompted us to develop new resources to increase our capacity, assess our progress, and inform our knowledge base.

First and foremost, we needed a common measure to allow us to document candidates’ abilities after they completed their preparation program. Without a valid and reliable performance assessment, the field was unable to commonly identify what teacher candidates could actually do ...

By Stephanie Hirsh, Executive Director, Learning Forward

When I was a local school board member, parents frequently asked for my advice on how to ensure their child got a particular teacher in a school. I knew how the game would be played after I reminded them this wasn't the role of the school board: They would write the principal with their requests for the next year. The principal would respond to assure the parents that no matter which classroom their child was assigned to, he or she would have a great year.

However, in some cases, the principal knew that wasn't entirely accurate. Some teachers were stronger than others in his or her school, and there was no mechanism to give all students access to the best ...

By Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers (AFT)

Every day, educators are making a difference in children's lives—and they do it despite staggering obstacles. Recently, the AFT collaborated with the Badass Teachers Association to survey educators on how their working conditions affect them, and the results show that the obstacles they face at work are taking more of a toll than ever.

Ninety-six percent of the educators who took our survey say they're physically and emotionally exhausted at the end of the day, and 87 percent say the demands of their job interfere with family life. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

After seeing the results of this survey, I am convinced that we need a scientific study on how work is affecting teachers and school employees' health and well-being. We're asking members to urge the Department of Education to take on this important research. ...

By Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers (AFT)

As president of one of the leading public sector unions in this country, I see firsthand and hear stories every day about workers who make a difference in their communities and in people’s lives—healing the sick, unlocking a child's mind or improving a family's life. That is who our members are: all 1.6 million.

Yet, too often, these workers face a barrage of scurrilous attacks denigrating them and the work they do—from sources that simply wish to eliminate these essential public services and silence those who do the work.

That's why Teacher Appreciation Week, National Nurses Week and Public Service Recognition Week—all being celebrated this week in May—are more than simply a Hallmark card moment. These events offer an opportunity. They offer a moment we can join together to talk about the teachers, nurses and other public service workers who have changed our lives in small and big ways. Today, we can say thank you. ...

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

Today is one of my favorite days of the year: National Teacher Day. For those of us who work year round to set teachers up for success, it’s a special treat to spotlight their work to do the same for students.

How do great teachers set students up for success?

Just last week, we celebrated 2015 National Teacher of the Year Shanna Peeples and the state teachers of the year, whose profiles are brimming with inspiring stories of student-centered teaching. Peeples, who teaches high school English in Amarillo, Texas, described the critical importance of building confidence and of getting to know each student’s individual context and interests. “Every student has greatness in them, and it is the work of the teacher to help them discover it,” she said ...

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