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And Why Aren’t We More Ashamed?

The Southern Education Foundation (SEF) recently released a report entitled A New Majority:  Low Income Students in the South and the Nation that reveals low income children are a majority of students in 17 states, primarily in the South and West. Across the nation low income students are a near majority at 48 percent. A separate report Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card analyses the education funding systems in these states and reveals that serious funding inequities continue to exist years after court cases across the nation have required states to reform their funding systems to alleviate such discrepancies.

Among the findings uncovered in the two reports include the following: ...

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

Many Americans believe public schools are failing our students. Public officials, the media, and investors seeking to cash in on the billions of dollars supporting education by privatizing schools often reinforce this opinion. This opinion is wrong.

Substantial evidence illustrates public schools are doing better than ever. The dropout rate is at an all-time low. Conversely, the high school graduation rate is the highest it’s been in decades.

Unfortunately, we have dysfunctional schools where students’ needs are going unmet. These schools are capturing the public eye, causing observers to ask, “How could they exist in the richest and most powerful country in the world?” The predominant populations attending these schools are children of poverty, and in most cases, ethnic minorities. This isn’t an educational problem. It’s a problem within our society.

Driven by the economy, the achievement gap casts its ugly shadow long before students ever come to school. Compared to all industrialized nations, we live in a society with the highest percentage of children in poverty. Our society refuses to acknowledge that poverty is, by far, the single-biggest factor in determining student achievement. We operate in a society that funds its educational system in the most inequitable way, allowing wealth—or lack of it—to determine ...

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

Growing up in Louisville during the civil rights era, with activist parents who believed in the inherent connection between education and equality, I understood early on that a quality education can increase opportunities and improve outcomes for all children. I recall the civil rights hymn, "Woke up this morning with my mind – stayed on freedom," which inspired so many and captured the urgency of addressing the injustice minorities faced in America at that time. Today, educational equity continues to be in the forefront of my mind.

August marked the 50th anniversary of two major milestones in this country's pursuit of justice – the March on Washington, when Martin Luther King, Jr. stirred the soul of the country with his "I Have a Dream" benediction, and James Meredith's graduation from the University of Mississippi as the history-making student who integrated that state's flagship institution. We should all celebrate these victories. For teacher educators in particular, in honoring the memory of these achievements, we will find inspiration to redouble our commitment to our unique social justice imperative – to prepare all future educators to improve the opportunities for all ...

Special Olympics youth and athlete leaders were recently featured in a new book called Stand Up! 75 Young Activists Who Rock the World and How You Can Too! from John Schlimm. You can read all about the full book here, but we also wanted to share some of the Special Olympics stories featured in the book. Stay tuned over the next few weeks to read these inspiring stories of youth changing the world through Special Olympics. And if you’re interested, you can purchase Stand Up! online.

Our first amazing story comes from youth leaders Danielle Liebl and Kaitlyn Smith… a story of true friendship! This is just a small preview, so make sure to check out the book for the full story.

The summer of 2010 is a summer that will always be remembered by the both of us. It was a summer of growth, new beginnings and cherished memories, but most importantly, it was the summer our lives intersected for the first time. That summer, Special Olympics hosted the 2010 National Youth Activation Summit in Omaha, Nebraska, which both of us attended.

Danielle was an intern while Kaitlyn participated as a Unified Partner with her friend Kathleen. We briefly met at the summit when Danielle went up to Kaitlyn’s Partner, Kathleen, to wish her a happy birthday. Little did we know that we had each just met a lifelong friend. Later that year, Kaitlyn joined Special Olympics’ National Youth Activation Committee, in which Danielle was already a member. At our first meeting in Washington, D.C., we instantly bonded over our uncontrollable laughter, similar sarcasm and sense of humor.

Our friendship was growing, and our friendship meant the world to the both of us. The comfort to be ourselves when we were around each other was proof that we were perfect friends. We never felt compelled to try to ...

By Gail Connelly, Executive Director, National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP)

Early childhood education may be the single most important part of a successful learner’s P-12 experience. Because of that, early learning is an essential focus for elementary school leaders.

Nationwide, more than one out of every three third-grade students is still unable to read at grade level. Later, students drop out of high school at roughly the same rates as those who were struggling to read in elementary school. These are important reminders to elementary (and middle) school principals about how early the patterns of future success or failure are formed in the students they work with every single day.

NAESP understands the significance of early childhood education and the need to support a seamless continuum of learning for children coming from high-quality early childhood learning settings to the early grades, or from “age three to grade three.” Building an aligned P-3 system is a national and state priority. Investment in early childhood education systems and practices are essential to ensure that all children have a chance to learn on equal footing— especially those from low-income or disadvantaged backgrounds, who are at risk of ...

By Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers (AFT)

As the school year starts, I keep thinking about how teachers never really get a break. Despite the myth about “summers off,” I was with several thousand educators this July – not at the beach, but at TEACH, the AFT’s largest gathering of educators focused on their professional practice and growth. Teachers spent long days learning from fellow educators and other experts about concrete ways to improve teaching and learning. Many teachers told me how they were spending the rest of their summer: writing curriculum aligned to the new, challenging Common Core State Standards; taking classes, because teachers are lifelong learners; and working with students – in enrichment camps and programs to stem summer learning loss. So much for the dog days of summer.

And our conferees did much more. We also committed to reclaim the promise – the promise of public education. Not as it is today or as it was in the past, but as what public education can be to fulfill our collective obligation to help all children succeed.

Yet even amidst this dedication and inspiration there is a great frustration. The promise of a great public education for all children is under pressure not only from out-of-touch legislators, but from economic and societal factors outside school that ...

“A person has truly become a PTA member when his circle of concern stretches
beyond his own child to include all children.” – Unknown

By Stella Y. Edwards*, Chairman, National PTA Legislative Committee

October is upon us. At National PTA, that means it is the Month of the Urban Child. This month’s campaign gives emphases to our education advocacy work as it relates to reaching communities where they are: in urban areas. National PTA comprises millions of families, students, teachers, administrators, and business and community leaders devoted to the educational success of children and the promotion of family involvement in schools. While PTA members may be in agreement with the PTA mission overall, urban areas have a uniqueness that warrants a focus on the effectiveness of our education advocacy work in those areas.

The beauty of the urban area is that it is as diverse as its citizens. This diversity, a broad range of backgrounds, religious beliefs, education values, and ethnicities, are unique characteristics that breathe life into the fast-pace, energetic, and close living style of the city!

I’ve had the pleasure of organizing in urban, rural and suburban areas.  Regardless of the location in which the organizing work was conducted, the key aspect of my experience has been the importance of relationship building.  First, you must build a relationship, develop trust, and address the community’s issue (not yours). Then you can begin to take action. You must first show a community that you care about them, you respect them, you will not judge them, and you ...

The call to expand learning time to ensure that American students remain competitive with their international peers has become quite popular. While the rationale is perhaps a bit misguided (some evidence suggests that our students already experience as much instructional time as their peers, and other research confirms that teachers in the United States spend more time on instruction than teachers in other nations do), there are certainly reasons to focus on the issue, not least of which is the summer learning loss that disproportionately impacts our nation’s most disadvantaged youth.

But as those in the education community know, it is not necessarily the idea of extending learning time that is appealing – it is the idea of expanding learning opportunities. Partly in response to federal accountability measures, curriculum in many schools – particularly those serving predominantly disadvantaged students – has narrowed to focus on reading and math at the expense of the arts, physical education, civics and other subjects. In addition, the budget cuts of the Great Recession caused schools to further pull back in areas like art, sports and extracurricular activities – and, as a recent survey points out, the sequester has had an impact as well.

Yet in all these cuts, wealthier students are less likely to be impacted than their lower-income peers, in large part because their parents ensure they are exposed to enrichment opportunities either at school (perhaps paid for by fundraising efforts) or in ...

By Haylie Bernacki, Specialist of Unified Sports School and College Growth, Special Olympics North America Project UNIFY 

For years, a main initiative within Special Olympics Project UNIFY schools and State Programs has been the expansion of Unified Sports, which combines individuals with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team. It was inspired by a simple principle: training together and playing together is a quick path to friendship and understanding. Project UNIFY State Program staff are expanding relationships with state interscholastic associations to increase the credibility, reach, and depth of Unified Sports throughout school districts across the country. The hope is that every child will be able to play on a school sports team, regardless of their ability level. ...

By Elaine Weiss, National Coordinator, Broader, Bolder Approach to Education, and Noelle Ellerson, Associate Executive Director, Policy & Advocacy, AASA, The School Superintendents Association

Since the 1983 release of A Nation at Risk, policymakers have asserted that US students are falling behind their international peers, with dire consequences if we do not improve. The result has been three decades of increasingly high-stakes "standards-and-accountability" reforms, which rely on rigorous academic standards and test-based evaluation systems to hold schools and teachers accountable for student progress. As a comprehensive 2011 National Academy of Sciences report found, there is no evidence that this strategy has produced any meaningful improvement. Moreover, a series of recent reports suggests that we have been misinterpreting A Nation at Risk. Our education system is not so much falling behind as it is pulling apart, and the past decade of heightened accountability measures has likely further widened the gaps.

The Equity and Excellence Commission's February report, For Each and Every Child, points to poverty and inequities as core hurdles to U.S. educational improvement. It focuses on the long-neglected issues of school funding equity and state school finance systems, and its core recommendations include more equitable school finance, access to preschool, and comprehensive student supports. Soon after that report's publication, the Council on Foreign Relations released the newest report in its Renewing America Scorecard series. Its findings echo those of the Equity and Excellence Commission: "The real scourge of the U.S. education system -- and its greatest competitive weakness -- is the deep and growing achievement gap between socioeconomic groups that ...

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