Learning First Alliance

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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 ...

In our March 2015 blog, we focused on what creative tension means in the context of relationships between young people and adults in our schools. We outlined core principles and assumptions that are critical for this work, and discussed how the roles for young people and adults shift in the creative tension model.

This blog presents a series of real-world examples that demonstrate the use of a creative tension in carrying out intergenerational work within the school context. There are a few key ideas to keep an eye on. First, each example shows youth and adults working toward shared goals, with young people being viewed as meaningful contributors and partners in the process. Second, supporting their shared goals, you will see how personal goals and aspirations align with and support their collective work. Finally, each values the other’s experiences, perceptions, skills, beliefs, and ideas and understands that they are critical to achieving personal and shared goals. ...

Know of an exceptional educator who deserves recognition? It’s time to nominate him or her for a Bammy Award.

The Bammies seek to honor all types of educators who are making a difference in public education and the lives of schoolchildren—and that can be a superintendent or teacher, principal or custodian, or even a researcher, education writer, and parent.

The program is hosted by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, an independent policy and research center. The Academy nominates and chooses individuals for the Bammy Awards, it allows those in the education field and the general public to nominate and vote on individuals for the Educators Voice Awards.

“The Awards aim to recognize the collaborative nature of education, to encourage respect in and across the various domains, to raise the profile and voices of the many undervalued and unrecognized people who are making a difference in the field and to elevate educators, education and the value of life-long learning in the public eye,” according to the program description. ...

For the past eighteen months the Learning First Alliance (LFA) has been gathering stories from the field showcasing state, district, school, and community leaders who are working together to implement new higher, college and career ready standards well.  In January we released a white paper, Getting Common Core Right: What We’ve Learned that shared local stories and summarized our learning. It highlighted the importance of three key factors in successful Common Core implementation:

  • The need to engage a broad community, including teachers, parents, school boards and community leaders—from the very beginning of implementation efforts
  • The importance of separating the standards from the assessments, helping all stakeholders understand what they mean and how they apply to the classroom
  • The necessity of taking the time to get it right, realizing that implementation is a multi-year process that requires real attention to instructional materials, lessons, high-quality professional development and community engagement.

LFA believes to its core – and demonstrates on a daily basis – that collaborative leadership is essential for the success of public schooling. ...

By Melanie Zinn, Owner, Director and Lead Teacher of a Licensed Home Child Care Program in Vermont*

Editor’s note: This post is part of a series of blog posts on the early childhood education work force that the American Federation of Teachers is running in honor of Worthy Wage Day, celebrated this year on Friday, May 1. View the other posts in the series here.

We attribute many stereotypes to “those in need”: jobless, maybe homeless, lazy, struggling, etc. I would be surprised if a tidy-looking, professional person was the image that popped into your head at the mention of this phrase. However, the reality of many early educators is just that: In need. I am one of those in need, and I never thought I’d be able to actually admit it.

What could we possibly be in need of, you might ask? The picture of an educator can also be so stereotypical! A woman, right? And one in professional attire, who only has to work like 6 hours a day, who doesn’t even have the children in their classroom the entire time due to library and gym, etc., who has summers off and let’s face it, doesn’t really deserve to earn as much a doctor or lawyer or engineer, right? Oh, so wrong! ...

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