Learning First Alliance

Strengthening public schools for every child

Engaging Environments

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Summer break is often seen as an idyllic time for teachers, parents and students to take vacations, have fun, and forget about the stress of school.

But for the growing number of students living in poverty, summer vacations can be a significant setback to their learning, researchers say.

“Summer learning loss is a significant contributor to the achievement gap,” says Nancy Levesque, executive director of the National Summer Learning Association. “Every summer, low-income youth lose two to three months in reading achievement while their higher-income peers make slight gains."

According to NSLA, these losses accrue each year, and by fifth grade, cumulative years of summer learning loss in reading and math skills can leave low-income students 2.5 to three years behind their peers. Further, disadvantaged students may also deal with food insecurities and safety issues when they are out of school. ...

Of all the impassioned debate we’ve witnessed in this presidential campaign, there has been remarkably little said about a policy issue critical to America’s future: public education. When the candidates have talked about education, they have primarily focused on higher education, which is provided through colleges and universities. Our presidential candidates have largely been silent about their views on and plans to enhance K-12 public education. This is worrisome. Does the lack of focus suggest the candidates don’t consider K-12 education as important as addressing terrorism, immigration, the economy? Do they fail to recognize that our schools play a powerful role in overcoming these and other challenges facing our nation?

Too much of the public discourse has focused on the negative, encouraging division and animosity rather than engendering a spirited but positive dialog about the way forward for our country. ...

Celebrate your assistant principals’ successes during National Assistant Principals Week, April 11–15! This week recognizes the contributions of assistant principals to the success of students, teachers, parents, and school communities across the United States.

While the roles and responsibilities may depend on the individual school settings, assistant principals are essential to establishing a positive learning environment that ensures each student and adult is known and valued. ...

How many times do we hear teachers and administrators say, “Because it works,” when asked why they use classroom discipline techniques that manipulate, embarrass, use excessive force, or attack a student’s dignity? The “because it works” argument has justified techniques like writing student names on the board with smiley or happy faces, clipping (moving clothespins up or down on a public chart, depending on student behavior), making students give public apologies, or publicly humiliating students in the classroom. ...

February 17 is Digital Learning Day, and the Consortium for School Networking is excited to also announce the launch of a new Digital Equity Action Toolkit for district leaders.

Introduced through CoSN’s new Digital Equity Action Agenda leadership initiative, the toolkit provides school system leaders with thoughtful strategies to address and narrow the “homework gap” in their communities.

Ensuring equitable access to technology inside and outside the classroom is the civil rights issue of today. Alarmingly, many lower-income families cannot stay connected to complete homework assignments, and parents are unable to track their child’s academic performance. School leaders must work with their communities to ensure digital equity and enable all students to benefit from learning that is increasingly delivered digitally. ...

School counselors bear a tremendous responsibility to guide their students to academic and career success and, along the way, nurture their emotional well being. For Katherine Pastor, school counseling is a career that allows her to help hundreds of students at at Arizona’s Flagstaff High School achieve their potential each year.

The American School Counselors Association named Ms. Pastor as the 2016 School Counselor of the Year and is celebrating National School Counseling Week from February 1-5, 2016. Ms. Pastor and other finalists were honored by First Lady Michelle Obama at a White House ceremony on January 29, which can be viewed on YouTube. ...

Recently, I was honored to present to 350 Utah education support professionals (classified school staff) on bullying prevention. These workers truly are the eyes and ears of the school, but unfortunately are considered the “Rodney Dangerfields” of our schools because “They Don’t Get No Respect.”

It is clear from a 2010 NEA nationwide survey of education support professionals on bullying; we need to change this perception if we ever hope to win the war on bullying.

Even though ESPs have played a crucial role in preventing school shootings and student suicides, we sometimes forget that ESPs are on the front lines when it comes to witnessing bullying and can play a major role in whole-school bullying prevention. We need to make administrators more aware of this and provide ESPs with the resources and training they need NOW!

I believe we can accomplish this by:

First – Understanding the Vital Role ESPs Play in Schools: ...

We recently celebrated National Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 to Oct. 15), an important time to recognize the contributions made and significant presence of Hispanics and Latinos in the United States.

National PTA also used the month to raise awareness of the unique challenges Hispanic and Latino children and families face and elevate support for them in schools and communities.

Twenty-five percent of students today are Hispanic, and Hispanic children and youth are the fastest-growing population in America—the U.S. Census Bureau projects that the Hispanic school-age population will increase by 166% by 2050. Hispanic and Latino students are an important part of our nation’s future, and it is essential to support their learning and development and ensure they have the opportunity to reach their full potential.

A key component to helping Hispanic and Latino children succeed is families who are engaged in their child's education and armed with tools and resources to support them at home.

We know Hispanic and Latino parents want the best for their children and want to be engaged, but there are cultural and language barriers that make it challenging. ...

In today’s competitive and political atmosphere, school leaders often ask us about strategies and tactics to build trust and confidence in our schools — let alone how to enhance the reputation of public education.

We always offer solutions on a number of fronts, but we also ask leaders to think about all the touch points that are automatically built into the school year  —  those times when parents, teachers, and principals all interact with one another. Those face-to-face episodes often begin making or breaking the confidence that your critical audience of parents has in your schools.

Parent Conferences Give You a Time to Shine

Traditional open houses and parent conferences are now in full swing in many communities. Those of you who are parents or who have a bit of experience meeting with parents know how these events can serve as a great starting point to build confidence in your school and your teachers. ...

On your marks . . . get set . . . TEACH!

I want you to think about those words. If you were in an interview, or perhaps planning your perfect lesson, how would you do it? What tools do you have in your utility belt that you can pull out at a moment's notice when you are faced with a difficult teaching situation? What strategies would you use? What if you were asked at the very last minute to provide a comprehensive, dynamic, user-driven learning session? Could you do it?

If you are reading this post, I’m sure you can. If you are reading this post, you already have the tools, you already have the knowledge, and you already have the ability to think outside of the box and beyond the walls of your classroom. How do I know this? Because this blog post isn’t found in your classroom. It’s a resource that you had to know about, or perhaps it was a link that you found on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest. This blog post—and, in fact, the very website you are reading right now—is a resource you didn’t know you needed, until the time arrived that you needed it. ...

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