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By Frederick Brown, Deputy Executive Director, Learning Forward

It’s a dilemma many of us in the field of professional learning face. Our colleagues in schools and districts often frame their challenges in the following ways:

  • Our students’ literacy scores are below district and state averages.
  • We need to implement Common Core or our state’s new student standards.
  • Our student discipline is out of control.
  • My principal is about to be removed because the district feels she is ineffective.

As educators grapple with these types of issues, often they don’t see them as professional learning challenges. Instead, they are categorized in other ways that often lead schools and districts down paths that can be costly as well as ineffective. For example, consider the issue of low student test scores in a particular content area. Often, the curriculum and instruction department is tasked with finding a new set of instructional materials that offer more promise in helping students achieve at higher levels. This solution is based on the assumption that the test score problem comes from ineffective materials ...

The PTA at Eden Central (in Eden, New York) has taken an active role in reaching out to parents with information and resources regarding the Common Core State Standards. Their work has included a parent information night, parent academies and an instruction evening, all aimed at dispelling myths and providing useful contextual information around the formation of the standards and their classroom application. For these efforts, the Eden Central PTA received the National PTA's 2014 Phoebe Apperson Hearst Outstanding Family-School Partnership Award – the highest honor presented by the association. They have also been honored with the 2014-2016 National PTA School of Excellence designation for achievements in family engagement. ...

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

I thought I had died and gone to education heaven. Principal Carolyn Marino greeted me as we were getting off the bus in front of her school by asking me why in the world we were visiting a school in total disarray because of major construction.

“Uh oh,” I thought. “Did somebody make a scheduling error?”

The fear was compounded when we saw a barefoot woman functioning as a crossing guard who turned out to be the assistant principal.

Nevertheless, we followed Carolyn into the school to discover one of the most wonderful learning environments we had ever seen.

Westmere is a K-6 elementary school that is multi-aged and ability grouped with team teaching. In New Zealand, youngsters start school at the age of five—exactly at the age of five, on their birthday, regardless of when the birthday falls ...

By Jodie Pozo-Olano, Chief Communications Officer, International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)

When we talk about change, we often use idioms such as “Rome wasn’t built in a day” or, my personal favorite, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” The point we are trying to make is that change, while challenging, takes time and requires training.

In no situation is this more apparent than when schools are working to transform education through effective technology integration. Successful change requires time and professional learning opportunities for all stakeholders.

Unfortunately, the one thing educators don’t have enough of is time.

What they do have is access to smart young minds with curious souls that, when motivated and inspired, have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. They are also tech savvy, and they are thrilled to connect and interact in new and interesting ways using a wide range of apps and devices. The educators charged with teaching today’s learners must have access to professional learning opportunities to help them better leverage their students’ enthusiasm for technology so that they can improve learning and achievement ...

October is National Principals Month, an annual opportunity to recognize the importance of school leaders and their role in supporting student learning, as evidenced by years of empirical research. Maximum levels of student learning are reached in optimal school conditions, many of which are the purview of school leaders. Strong leadership is an essential component in creating great public schools.

In an era where public schools are frequently under attack, recognizing outstanding leadership and the value of public school leaders is important as a way to remind the American public and policy makers that investing in human capacity is essential for building strong successful schools. Research indicates that leadership is second only to classroom teachers in terms of in-school factors impacting student learning, strong leadership is important for guiding sustainable school turnaround efforts and leadership matters even more for schools and communities facing challenging circumstances ...

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

According to Fortune magazine, women make up less than 5 percent of the chief executive officers working in Fortune 500 companies.

Only about 25 percent of our school districts are led by females.

Recognizing that we’re at a time when the emergence of outstanding women leaders has strengthened public education, we were pleased to co-host, along with our California state affiliate, the Association of California School Administrators, the third annual Women in School Leadership Forum.

The two-day event, held in Rohnert Park, CA, earlier this month, gathered nearly 200 women leaders. It was a pleasure to attend the sessions and speak to aspiring women leaders in education. The forum illustrated that more work needs to be done to bring more women into leadership positions, particularly given the challenges facing public education today. ...

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

“I've come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It's my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child's life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or dehumanized.”

—    Haim Ginott, Teacher and Child (Macmillan, 1972), p. 15

I had expected to write this blog about Haim Ginott’s conception of who has the power in schools to set what he calls “the weather” in classrooms and schools. But, as I read Greg Patterson’s interview with four African-American educators in the October issue of Kappan, one phrase pulled me up short: How does it feel to be a problem?

The comment came from Richard J. Reddick, assistant professor of education at the University of Texas at Austin, who was quoting W.E.B. DuBois from The Souls of Black Folks (1903). ...

The Learning First Alliance's Get It Right campaign spotlights states and communities working hard to get Common Core implementation right. Recently, we did a deeper dive into California's efforts to roll out the standards and are featuring educators' experiences with the process.

As part of this effort, we are pleased to highlight the perspective of Jesús Gutiérrez, Jr, who is in his 10th year as an educator. Gutiérrez began his career in the Los Angeles Unified School District at John Muir Middle School, where he taught English Language Development to 6th, 7th and 8th graders. He has worked in the Baldwin Park Unified School District for the last nine years, the first eight of which he taught English Language Development and Guided Studies to 9th–12th graders at Baldwin Park High School. He currently teaches 6th grade at Tracy Elementary School.

Gutiérrez is an accomplished educator who in 2013 was honored as Teacher of the Year for his school (for the second time), district and Los Angeles County. He was also a finalist for 2014 California Teacher of the Year.

Q. When did you first learn about the Common Core State Standards?  

Gutiérrez: The first time I learned about the Common Core standards was three years ago.

Q. How were the standards introduced to your school and district?   

Gutiérrez: The standards were introduced to my school site at a general common meeting time. The principal introduced the term “Common Core” and gave a brief overview of the new standards. He then proceeded to pass out a book ...

At the national level, we often talk about the political debate surrounding the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). But while that debate rages on, schools across the country are doing the hard work of implementation. And, while you might not know it from the tone of the conversation, it’s “going well,” according to over two-thirds (68%) of teachers participating in a recent survey. Also encouraging: 79% of teachers feel “very” or “somewhat” prepared to teach under the standards.

So how exactly is the Common Core impacting teaching and learning? On October 2, we at the Learning First Alliance hosted #CCSSteach, a Twitter Town Hall on teaching in a Common Core world, to find out. The event provided a forum for educators impacted by CCSS to share how they are acclimating to the standards.  

A few key themes emerged from this conversation. Overall, participants (including teachers, principals, district leaders and representatives of national organizations) indicated ...

For nearly three decades I’ve been an advocate for technology’s appropriate (and changing) use in teaching and learning, and during that time I’ve attended more meetings on “integrating” and  “scaling up” technology’s use in schools and classrooms than I can count on. As one might imagine, I’ve become somewhat cynical about the conversation since the themes and challenges remain the same. But despite my cynicism, I came away with some new language to use when discussing school improvement and the use of technology to support it after attending the EdTech Summit, Empowering Educators to Enhance Student Learning in the Digital Era, hosted by the Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands, the LEAD Commission and Common Sense Media earlier this week.

First, and most importantly, the conversation was centered on teaching and learning and on building the human capacity to make change ...

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