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By Matthew L. Evans, Advocacy Coordinator, and Jessica Seitz, Policy Analyst, National PTA

With the 2014 Midterm Elections now behind us, the impact of the results and how they will affect PTA-related policy issues must be examined. With most of the election results now in (some still pending), Republicans will now control both Houses of Congress.

By adding up to 40 new Members to the House of Representatives (gaining at least 13), Republicans will have at least 246 seats, its largest majority since World War II. In the Senate, Republicans added 10 new members (picking up 7) and will take over the majority with at least 52 members. With new leadership set to take over in January, changes are on the horizon. Specifically, in the Senate, many Republicans who served as Committee ranking members are poised to become Chairs of their respective committees. In the House, while Republicans have retained leadership, key committee assignments are likely to change. New members arrived in Washington last week for their orientation ...

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 Sharon P. Robinson, President and CEO, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE)

Each year, our nation’s PK-12 schools rely on colleges of teacher education to prepare thousands of new teachers. Between 2010 and 2019, the number of students enrolled in public elementary and secondary schools is expected to grow from 55 to 58 million. Already, schools in high-need urban and rural areas struggle to recruit and retain enough qualified teachers, and many districts do not have sufficient special education or STEM specialists to serve student needs. Amidst these growing needs, however, enrollment in teacher preparation programs nationwide is falling, and data from AACTE’s 800 member institutions show reductions over the last decade in both undergraduate and graduate programs. What’s at the root of this worrisome decline, and how can we start to turn the tide?

It’s likely that the recent recession has contributed to the problem. Per-pupil spending is down in many states, and hundreds of thousands of jobs have been cut since 2008—trends that would be hard to miss for students with even a passing interest in or connection to the field. Indeed, local teaching jobs have declined by about 20% since the federal stimulus program came to a close ...

By Nita Rudy, Director of Programs, Parents for Public Schools (PPS)

In 1997 the Mississippi Legislature created a funding formula to ensure that children received a fair and equitable education no matter their zip code. The Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) is a law that provides the formula designed to ensure an adequate education for every Mississippi child. It was passed over a governor’s veto and seemed to indicate the legislators’ commitment to public education. Since its inception MAEP has been fully funded twice.

These MAEP funds are used to pay teachers and district employees’ salaries, health and retirement benefits; buy textbooks and instructional materials; and pay basic operational expenses. MAEP was to provide an adequate education – not an excellent education, yet legislators have expected schools to do more with less. New College and Career Ready State Standards have been implemented requiring additional professional development. Schools are being graded with a new accountability system. Teachers are undergoing a new evaluation system. There is a new Third Grade Reading Gate, which means that under law students not reading on grade level by the end of third grade will be retained. Building maintenance has been postponed ...

By Diane Staehr Fenner, President, DSF Consulting, LLC and former teacher and assessor of English Language Learners in Fairfax County Public Schools, VA

As you prepare for a new school year, I’d like to share with you a rich multimedia project that was recently added to Colorín Colorado. The Common Core in Poughkeepsie, NY highlights authentic ways six ESL teachers worked with middle and high school English Language Learners (ELLs) to implement Common Core-aligned lessons.

In this project, the teachers designed lesson plans with the support of ELL expert Dr. Diane August and David Pook, one of the authors of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in English Language Arts. Those lessons were then filmed with the teachers’ ELLs, and the resulting classroom videos showcase the kinds of innovative strategies the teachers used in the lessons to make the CCSS more accessible for ELLs ...

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. ...

Danielle Liebl, a former Special Olympics Project UNIFY National Youth Activation Committee Member from Minnesota, recently established her own non-profit - DIFFERbilities Experience. An extraordinary individual, Danielle has dedicated her life to make a difference for people with intellectual and cognitive disabilities.

The following blog post was written by Danielle for the DIFFERbilities Experience Blog and shared here with permission.

At the age of six years old, I can recall my mom and dad asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I always responded, “An orthopedic surgeon at Gillette.” You may be wondering how on earth does a six year old know what an orthopedic surgeon is? When you have cerebral palsy, not only do you see a lot of doctors, you also become very familiar with their titles. At the age of six, my primary doctor was an orthopedic surgeon and I thought he was the coolest! This dream of being an orthopedic surgeon lasted until sophomore year in high school, when biology class was required and I found out it is not my cup of tea. I believe my parents let out a huge sigh of relief when they realized there would be no lawsuits in the future. They always feared that I would have a spasm and accidentally put someone’s femur bone in their rib cage.

Although I realized that a career as a surgeon may not be for me, I still knew I wanted to help people with intellectual and cognitive disabilities. I decided instead of forcing myself to like biology, I should focus on something I was passionate. In high school I was very involved in Special Olympics. Through this tremendous organization, I was able to find my voice, my confidence and my passion. No longer was I the girl with cerebral palsy; instead, I was a respected human being ...

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 ...

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

The older I get, the more I realize how much my early experiences have shaped and continue to shape my life.

How different would my life be if my dad had not decided to complete high school after military service in World War II? How different would my life have been if he had not gone on to college after that? If he had not pulled himself up into the middle class, where would I be today?

Those wonders were answered, at least in part, by a groundbreaking study done by Johns Hopkins University sociologist Karl Alexander. In his new book, The Long Shadow: Family Background, Disadvantaged Urban Youth, and the Transition to Adulthood (Russell Sage Foundation, 2014), Alexander concludes that a child’s fate is largely determined by the family they’re born into.

“A family's resources and the doors they open cast a long shadow over children's life trajectories," he said in an interview published by the university.

In 1982, Alexander and colleagues Doris Entwisle and Linda Olson began tracking 790 Baltimore 1st graders and followed them until they turned 28 or 29 years old ...

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