The Learning First Alliance welcomes Thomas J. Gentzel, executive director of the National School Boards Association, as the 2016-17 chair of our Board of Directors
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By Anne Foster, Executive Director, Parents for Public Schools (PPS)
The past few weeks have been graduation season at high schools across America. The Class of 2014 has been unleashed on the world!
As a school board member in Texas for nine years, nothing compared to handing diplomas to our graduates. Their eyes were shining as they crossed that stage, and their bright eyes reflected the efforts of so many to get them to that point – schools, school boards, teachers, the community, parents, and the students themselves!
A few weeks ago, there was good news about graduation rates in America, using data from 2012. Graduation rates have reached 80%, representing a 10% increase from a decade ago. The new graduation rates are now at levels from 40 years ago. Graduation rates are difficult to track, because of things like transfer students, the number of years it takes to graduate, and the various ways data is collected. In 2008, the federal government created a new calculation system which has helped schools report data the same way and gain more consistency.
American public schools have seen progress, and there are good reasons for it. Schools have become more accountable for the numbers of students who graduate. They have worked one-on-one with students in danger of not graduating. Schools with the most challenges have been given additional support. And there has been more of an awareness of the need ...
By Terry Pickeral, Project UNIFY Senior Consultant
Through my work with Special Olympics Project UNIFY, I recently had the privilege of visiting elementary, middle and high schools throughout the nation. I was able to see how they integrate social inclusion and the impact they make on all students. The corresponding Social Inclusion Lessons From the Field report can be found by clicking here.
One of the unique characteristics of Special Olympics Project UNIFY is a focus on creating socially inclusive schools by ensuring all students are encouraged and supported to be “agents of change” where all students are capable of being leaders. All students deserve the opportunity to experience an engaging school and community environment that recognizes their gifts and shares them with others. ...
By Daniel A. Domenech, Executive Director, AASA, The School Superintendents Association
AASA supports charter schools when they are operated by the local school board and managed by the local superintendent. Under certain circumstances, a district-operated charter school could offer students the quality education they perhaps are not receiving under existing conditions.
In 1995, I was the district superintendent for the Western Suffolk Supervisory district on Long Island, NY, a role quite different from that of the local superintendent. The district superintendent reports directly to the state commissioner of education and, in essence, is the commissioner’s regional representative. When the district superintendent for the adjoining Nassau County retired, I was asked by then-New York State Commissioner Thomas Sobol to assume the role of acting district superintendent for Nassau County as well. It was while serving in that capacity that the commissioner directed me to inspect the Roosevelt Union Free School District. ...
To mark the 60th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, National School Boards Association Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel reflected on the impact of the decision and the challenges that public schools still face. The following commentary was originally published by the Huffington Post:
In the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a timeless and transformative message: All students deserve a great public education; separate systems are not equal.
In marking the 60th anniversary of this landmark Supreme Court ruling, it is important to reflect upon the ongoing effect of Brown v. Board of Education on the work of America’s school boards and our nation’s public schools. Enshrining this decision as a historic relic does not serve the nine out of 10 school-age children who attend our nation’s public schools. To protect students’ rights, freedoms and ready access to a high-quality education, we must actively heed the central tenets of the Brown v. Board of Education decision.
The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is particularly concerned about the unintended consequences of privatization through vouchers, charter schools not governed by local school boards, and other means that research indicates are leading to the re-segregation of public schools, mainly in high-poverty urban areas ...
By Otha Thornton, President, National PTA
It started as a whisper. But the injustice taking place in 1954 to African-American school children in Topeka, KS, didn’t stay quiet for long. It took Oliver L. Brown, a welder for the Santa Fe Railroad, to stand up and call out an education system that wasn’t integrated and wasn’t fair. His request was simple: He wanted his 7-year-old daughter Linda to attend a nearby school designated as white-only instead of being bused across town to an all-black Monroe Elementary School. He instead created a movement that reverberated all the way to the Supreme Court and culminated with the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, which declared “separate but equal” education unconstitutional.
PTA was there, immediately taking a stand supporting school integration, a move that cost the association some three-million members. Unfazed, these courageous mothers put pressure on all states to integrate. They called it unification. They were ridiculed for their position, but knew that history would be on their side. A few years later, PTA merged with the National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers Association (who had also taken a lead role in supporting Brown and others fighting across the country for school equality) to ...
By Lisa Abel-Palmieri, International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Blogger
Girls want to change the world.
Eighty-eight percent say they want to make a difference with their lives, and 90 percent express a desire to help people, according to the Girl Scouts’ “Generation STEM” research. Girls have traditionally achieved this goal through people-oriented careers rather than through applying technology and scientific expertise to change the way things are done.
However, if more girls learn that STEM careers open up new avenues to help and serve, more girls will choose STEM.
Maker education allows girls to experience in a fun, tangible way how they can apply STEM skills to solve real problems — all while developing dexterity, learning about ideation and practicing teamwork. By giving girls the opportunity to make and tinker, we also help them develop their creative confidence so they persevere in pursuing STEM majors and careers. The “Generation STEM” report found that 92 percent of girls who engage with STEM subjects believe that they are smart enough to ...
By Jim Hull, Senior Policy Analyst, National School Boards Association’s Center for Public Education (CPE)
With 80 percent of students graduating within four-years of entering high school, the Class of 2012 achieved the highest on-time graduation rate in U.S. history according to the 2014 Building a Grad Nation report. After graduation rates languished in the low 70s for nearly four decades, rates have accelerated dramatically since 2006, improving by eight percentage points in just six years. According to the report, if this rate of improvement continues the national graduation rate will reach 90 percent by 2020, a goal of the authors of Grad Nation.
While attainment gaps remain, the gap is narrowing between traditionally disadvantaged students and their more advantaged peers. This is particularly true for the fastest growing group of students in our nation’s schools, Hispanics, whose graduation rate jumped from 61 percent to 76 percent between 2006 and ...
By Gail Connelly, Executive Director, National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP)
Educators may continue to argue about the best methods to measure student performance. But most of us agree that achievement gaps resulting from race and socioeconomic status are a moral imperative that educators have a responsibility to address.
We know that principals play a key role in closing achievement gaps. Research over the past 30 years shows that strong school leadership is second only to teaching among school influences on student success and is most significant in schools with the greatest need.
As the role of the principal expands, and becomes more and more complex, it may help to keep a focus on four key things that principals can do to improve learning conditions for students and create a school culture that helps close the gap:
1. Hire effective teachers. Here’s why Finland sits at the top of international rankings: It trains and supports teachers better than we do in the United States. For one, teacher education in Finland is a five-year, university-based program, with emphasis on ...
By Rebecca Ralston, Manager of Youth Leadership
On Tuesday, March 25, Special Olympics Project UNIFY staff, along with youth leaders and educators from across the country, presented to the Department of Education on the power and growth of Project UNIFY over the last year. Special Olympics athlete and youth leader Kabir Robinson from Special Olympics Washington joined Delaware youth leader Connor Moore and educators Erin Trzcinski and Tom Ledcke, from Delaware and Washington, respectively, to share their personal experiences with Project UNIFY.
Kabir’s impactful remarks are below, and you can watch the entire presentation here.
Hi everyone. My name is Kabir Robinson. I live in Seattle, Washington. I am a member of the National Youth Activation Committee. I have been involved with Special Olympics for 3 to 4 years. I joined because I just want to be treated equally and be happy. I also want to be a better leader in sports. ...
By Daniel A. Domenech, Executive Director, AASA, The School Superintendents Association
I have good news and bad news regarding the President’s FY15 Budget proposal. First of all the budget adheres to the agreement reached by Congress this past December which restores most, but not all, of the Sequester cuts. The President’s budget actually goes $56 billion past the Bipartisan Budget Act, an increase that is included as a separate proposal and split evenly between defense and non-defense spending, to be funded through a combination of spending cuts and closed tax loopholes.
There is a continued emphasis on funding pre-school programs for four-year-olds and that is good, knowing what we know about pre-school funding being the investment with the best return in education. Unfortunately this request will run into problems in Congress, as will most of the budget, as there will be partisan squabbling over whether existing pre-school programs like Headstart have been successful. Fortunately many states have come to appreciate the value of investing in pre-school programs and governors are taking the lead to ...