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

In 2015, we will be celebrating AASA’s 150th anniversary, and as we arrive at this milestone, we are proud to announce the official launch of the AASA National Superintendent Certification Program. Working with our new partner, The SUPES Academy, we have been hard at work planning a robust experience that will focus on sharpening the skills that successful superintendents acknowledge are needed to thrive on the job, and provide a relevant experience for our members. As I have traveled across the country in planning this program, it has been made clear that the political and economic pressures of the job are exacerbated by growing intrusion into local control and a prevailing attitude that educators do not have the solutions and indeed are part of the problem. Our certificate will help our members strive in these difficult conditions.

The school district is often the biggest “business” in the community it serves, managing the largest budget and supervising the greatest number of employees. Yet the superintendent’s position was created to be the community’s educational leader, not the CEO of ...

By Mel Riddile, Associate Director of High School Services at the National Association of Secondary Principals (NASSP)

Principal leadership matters--perhaps now more than ever before. As much as the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are changing instructional practice in the classroom, we must acknowledge that student learning under CCSS requires a schoolwide transformation that transcends individual classrooms and requires the dedicated, continual attention of the principal. Consider how these five essential schoolwide conditions for CCSS will fundamentally shift the way principals go about leading schools.

1. A culture of college and career readiness. Culture reflects the mindsets and  expectations of everyone in the school and ultimately drives behavior. A CCSS culture reflects the universal expectation that all students will be prepared for life beyond high school, and it encourages students' capacity to imagine their long-term possibilities. In much the same way that a discipline policy becomes ineffective if only half the teachers enforce it, a culture of high expectations must pervade every meeting, every ...

I recently attended an event showcasing state initiatives that focus on the goal of ensuring all third grade students read on grade level – a lofty and perfectly reasonable goal.  The participants in the program included three governors as well as a panel of state superintendents of education.  One of the governors kept mentioning that in her state too much attention has been paid to the adults in the system to the detriment of the students.  Her belief in this root cause of the disappointing literacy rate of her state’s third grade students struck a cord and reminded me of another event hosted by Learning Forward and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) last month. That event, Advancing the Common Core: State Strategies for Transforming Professional Learning, showcased a set of resources to improve teacher practice developed under the leadership of Learning Forward with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Sandler Foundation, and the MetLife Foundation. It included a panel of education leaders at the state and local level who have participated and contributed to the project.

One panel member, Cynthia Cash-Greene, superintendent of the Orangeburg (SC) Consolidated School District #3, was especially impressive, and her message resonated with me.  She said district leaders need to be bold and know what they stand for.  She has focused on ...

By Kwok-Sze Wong, Ed.D., Executive Director of the American School Counselor Association (ASCA)

One of my former classmates, who is now a superintendent of a small school district in Pennsylvania, once told me whenever he hires a new teacher, he starts the interview with the same question: “Do you believe in your students?” It seems like a simple question, one that has an obvious answer for educators. But if we look deep enough, I think we’d find that many adults who work with our children on a daily basis don’t truly believe in them.

Numerous studies have shown that there are wide discrepancies between what students believe and what adults believe. A majority of students believe they’ll graduate from high school and go to college, yet many teachers and parents believe their students will not graduate and will not go to college. And this belief drives their actions. Some of my own children’s teachers have made me want to ...

Earlier this month the Learning First Alliance (LFA) hosted our annual Leadership Council meeting for LFA member organizations’ executive directors, senior staff, and elected leadership.  This year’s meeting brought 100 education leaders together under the theme Setting a Bold Agenda for Collaborative Leadership in Public Education, and working groups were charged with outlining the focus for the LFA coalition’s work in the coming months. With background information provided by Warren Simmons, executive director of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University; Saul Rubinstein, Associate Professor, School of Management & Labor Relations at Rutgers University; and Linda Darling-Hammond, Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education at Stanford University and 2013 recipient of the LFA Education Visionary Award, attendees outlined two major action items for our collective efforts.

The first day’s small group discussions centered on developing a common vocabulary and message approach that emphasizes the success that public schools have achieved individually and collectively throughout our country’s history.  Attendees were reminded that critics of public schools, who call themselves “reformers”, have a simple, straightforward message about public education that ...

By Joellen Killion, Senior Advisor, Learning Forward

Establishing more time for collaborative professional learning is only a first step. Using the time effectively and efficiently is also essential. Four simple processes can focus the interactions that occur in teams and connect what team members learn with student learning.

Establish a clear purpose for each meeting. At the beginning of each session or at the end of the previous session, team members commit to a clear purpose for the meeting that specifies the learning goals for educators and the outcomes they expect for students when their learning goals are implemented. Establishing a purpose also means being clear about what the non-purpose of the session will be. This trick of non-purpose is a powerful tool for maintaining a laser-like focus on the identified purpose and ...

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

In the 1980s, educators and policymakers swarmed across Germany to examine its two-tier education system that separated college-bound students from vocational ed students, all in an effort to boost the national economy. In the 1990s, Japan and its unique lesson study model attracted American attention.

Along came the 2000s, and Finland has the starring role. A country that once didn't warrant much attention, Finland has zipped to the top in international measures of education, and American educators in particular want to know its secret.

"It was a surprise to us that we were so high on the PISA in 2000," said Leo Pahkin, councellor of education at the Finnish National Board of Education who spoke to a group of American educators visiting Finland last fall in a trip sponsored by PDK International. "We knew we had good readers, but maths and science, that was a surprise to us." ...

While we live in a market-driven economy, where winning and wealth accumulation are desired outcomes, education advocates on all sides of the political aisle currently assert that public schools are failing our children, especially minorities and low-income students.  Education is a common good; it is the stepping-stone through which students can make something better of their futures. Therefore, we should not be setting up a system to create winners and losers. ...

By Stephanie Hirsh, Executive Director of Learning Forward

I was at a conference and during a discussion period had the opportunity to dialogue with colleagues — we were seating ourselves according to our interests as indicated by table tents. As I approached the table labeled "teacher evaluation," I cheerfully remarked, "Oh, I can't sit with you. You won't want to talk about professional learning."

Oh no, my colleagues cried — sit with us! That's all we want to talk about. I realized I was holding an assumption that was out of date. When the teacher effectiveness conversation heated up many months ago, the focus swiftly turned to evaluation, without much mention of teacher support or growth.

Fortunately, however, many (though certainly not all) participants in this conversation have moved in the direction of recognizing the importance of teacher support as part of evaluation systems. Advocates for meaningful evaluation systems acknowledge that attending to the development of teacher knowledge and skills is essential on ...

Part of my job as executive director of the Learning First Alliance (LFA) is to attend meetings here in Washington, DC, where new K-12 education reports or projects are released or introduced to policymakers, educators, parents, and interested stakeholders.  Over the past week I attended two such meetings, which provided a stark contrast to approaches used by education leaders and researchers in addressing changes that could benefit both the US public education system and the students it serves.

The Center for American Progress (CAP) released a report authored by Allan Odden titled Getting the Best People into the Toughest Jobs: Changes in Talent Management in Education.  The underlying assumption on which this report’s recommendations are based is that the current workforce in public education is not very talented, should be held accountable for their poor performance, and removed from classrooms and schools.  Indeed, Odden points out what we know is true:  the effectiveness of the teacher and ...

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