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Congress is in session; the President delivers the State of the Union address; and education groups convene in DC to showcase excellence, visit policymakers, and advocate for 21st century skills.  Over the past several weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to attend meetings here in the nation’s capital that spotlight strategies for strengthening our public schools and celebrate those that are successful in supporting student achievement.  It’s clear that there’s not only lots of work to be done, but that many dedicated citizens are working to improve the lives of all our children.  It’s also clear to me that the work is complicated and the challenges varied and localized. ...

By Cheryl Williams, Executive Director at Learning First Alliance

The following post appeared on January 31, 2013, as the final LFA entry in the Transforming Learning Blog on Education Week. For the past year, LFA members have contributed postings to the EdWeek blog on a regular basis. Those wise commentaries are archived at Education Week and can be accessed here. This entry also describes the messaging campaign that LFA launched in January and will be featuring on this site and in other venues in the months ahead.

Over the past year, member organizations in the Learning First Alliance (LFA) have shared their perspectives and expertise on the work their members and stakeholders have led in support of public education throughout their careers. If you’ve had the opportunity to read some or all of these postings, you’ll know that public education professionals are tireless in their work to meet the needs of their students and that no silver bullet exists to “fix” what doesn’t work in public schools. With this, the final Transforming Learning post, we reiterate what we know to be true as professional educators and ...

We have access to a lot of good sound research and information in today’s information age. Education practitioners, those working in schools and districts, are ultimately responsible for overseeing system-wide changes, but they rarely have time to sift through data and evidence to identify sound research that might offer guidance for their respective district or school. Therefore, those higher up in district administration are more likely to be the ones assessing available research and working to support struggling schools. Taking action on sound research requires strong networks and strong communication among system professionals to move the evidence and information down to the school level. Ultimately, even if the research is good, it does not guarantee change. The system must be prepared to implement the necessary steps to produce changes in student performance. In fact, research suggests that an emphasis on the technical aspects of improvements leads us to overlook the relational component to system-wide change. ...

obriena's picture

Top Posts of 2012

As we look ahead to what we hope to accomplish in education in 2013, it behooves us to also reflect on 2012. We reelected a president whose administration is committed to the issue (but whose policies we do not always agree with) and has granted many states waivers to key aspects of the nation’s top education law, No Child Left Behind. We moved closer to a vision in which students in Mississippi learn to the same high standards as those in Montana and Massachusetts as we worked to implement the Common Core. States and districts across the nation navigated new terrain in teacher evaluation and tenure. Educators continued exploring how to best take advantage of new learning technologies – flipping classrooms, starting one-to-one iPad initiatives, preparing for a shift to online assessments and more.  

With all that happened in 2012, what garnered the most attention from you, our readers? Here are our top five posts of 2012 (as indicated by our trusty Google Analytics tracking system). Enjoy!

5. Rethinking Principal Evaluation. Principals are second only to teachers among the in-school influences on student success. Yet we don’t hear much about how to measure their performance – and the little research that exists on the issue suggests that current evaluation systems are far from adequate.

4. Can Arts Education Help Close the Achievement Gap? Research suggests that arts education can help narrow the achievement gap that exists between low-income students and their more advantaged peers. But ...

The power of collaboration seems, at times, to be the best kept secret in education reform. Despite district variance, efforts to increase student achievement levels often see higher levels of success when all stakeholders work together. Studyville School District (the name has been changed to preserve anonymity) is just one such example. It is a story of collaboration and compromise in which stakeholders came together to design and implement a more effective teacher evaluation system. We live in an era where evaluation and accountability dominate the national education conversation and where student outcomes are being tied to merit pay and teacher performance. It is imperative, given the high-stakes nature of evaluation, that such systems are put in place with fidelity and the buy-in of all actors. ...

Derryn Moten's picture

Raising the Bar

Editor's Note: Our guest blogger today is Derryn Moten. Derryn is a Professor of Humanities and Co-President of the Faculty-Staff Alliance at Alabama State University. He serves on the AFT* Teacher Preparation Task Force, which recently released a report entitled “Raising the Bar: Aligning and Elevating Teacher Preparation and the Teaching Profession.” Here, he shares his thoughts on why this report is so important.

What will it take to ensure that all new teachers are prepared to teach a diverse student body in the rapidly-changing 21st Century?  I teach at a historically black university with the oldest state-supported college of education in the nation, so I’m very interested in having an open dialogue about how to answer this question. Those of us who collaborated on the AFT’s recent report, Raising the Bar, are all striving to answer that question, too.

Our work on this report was guided by two assumptions. First, if teacher preparation matters, then assessing student teacher performance throughout their matriculation in teacher training programs matters. Likewise, to paraphrase AFT President Weingarten, teacher preparation standards should be done by us rather than done to us. Our schools of education have graduated many wonderful teachers, whose service to the nation’s students is of immeasurable value. But in order to help the next generation of teachers reach their fullest potential in their work with students, we must make sure our teacher preparation programs are of consistently high quality, and we as educators must reclaim ownership of ...

Tarsi Dunlop's picture

Voices From the Field

Education reform debates increasingly belong to a relatively small number of very loud voices. Hundreds of thousands of other voices get lost in the din. They belong to students and teachers, and their vision for our nation’s high schools varies dramatically from the content in mainstream education reform discussions.

The College Board recently released a supplement to Phi Delta Kappan that highlights key thoughts from students and teachers on both school reform and student engagement.  The results are worth summarizing and repeating mostly because the takeaways are remarkably uniform with regard to recommendations and advice for education reformers. The main message is that we need a long-term commitment to a well-rounded, multi-pronged approach to school improvement. ...

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am delighted with the election results from earlier this month.  Well, I’m delighted with most of the election results.  I’m sorely disappointed that my friend and colleague, Helen F. Morris, lost her position on the Alexandria City (VA) School Board, where she serves as Vice Chairman and has put countless hours into advocating for strong schools and effective teachers for ALL the students in Alexandria, especially children of color and those from disadvantaged homes.  Helen ran for re-election in a field of six for one of three positions in her region.  She was the only incumbent running and the only candidate with a child in the Alexandria City Public Schools.  I have no idea how capable (or not) the other candidates are (I live in Maryland and didn’t study the other candidates’ positions or backgrounds).  What I do know because I worked for years with her on issues around strong public education is that Helen’s position on the school board was a good thing for the children and citizens of Alexandria. ...

Each generation has a personality, characteristics and preferences that define their behavior and their views of the world. Millennials, those born between 1980 and 2000, are no different. Their arrival in the professional world has significant implications for the workplace, across sectors but including – and perhaps especially – education.

The October issue of Learning Forward’s JSD features “Boomers and Millennials: Vive La Difference,” an article by Suzette Lovely that examines ways to blend different generational styles in the learning environment. The article poses five suggestions for creating a generationally friendly culture. They pay homage to the distinct differences between generations in the same workplace. What’s more, they aim to foster a more collaborative learning environment, helping ensure that an older, more experienced generation of teachers can pass on their knowledge to a new energetic teaching force. This new generation of professionals, in turn, must feel embraced by their older colleagues and respected for their ideas, innovation and energy. ...

Candidly, and not surprisingly, I’m delighted that Barack Obama was elected to a second term as President of the United States.  As someone whose entire professional career has been devoted to public education and life-long learning, I believe that President Obama’s values and priorities are closer to mine than his opponent’s are.  

Having stated my delight in the President’s re-election, I also want to enumerate my hopes for his administration’s leadership in strengthening and improving public K-12 education over the next four years. I fervently hope that:

  • The President, Secretary of Education, and administration leaders will STOP saying that our public school system is failing.  We all know that there are serious inequities in the current system that need to be addressed and that a collective effort needs to be made to increase the rigor of instruction in many of our schools.  But, most public schools in this country do a good job; indeed, a better job than has ever been done before.
  • The President, Secretary of Education and their spokespersons will STOP saying that the current teaching force is largely recruited from the weakest students in any
  • ...

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