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Our frequently stated goal is for all US students to graduate from high school prepared for college and career. The current emphasis on standards-based education reforms reflects our belief that there are things students should know and be able to do that will help them in that endeavor. While one of the main purposes of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was to better identify and support struggling students, the law ultimately resulted in an overemphasis on high-stakes standardized testing and school performance (though fortunately, some policy leaders are beginning to take steps to reduce the emphasis on testing, particularly as many state transition to new academic standards). Ironically, educators, businesses and parents generally agree that test scores are a poor indicator of future success. ...

By Jill Cook, Assistant Director, American School Counselor Association (ASCA)

American School Counselor Association (ASCA)
American School Counselor Association (ASCA)

School counselors matter. Those of us close to the profession know and recognize the work our nation’s preK–12 school counselors do every day to enrich students’ academic and social/emotional development.

But in recent weeks, as federal officials look for ways to expand college access for all students, the role of the professional school counselor has taken center stage in ways not seen in a half century.

First Lady Michelle Obama spoke at the American School Counselor Association conference this summer in Orlando, praising the work of school counselors as part of her Reach Higher Initiative promoting college enrollment. At the conference, Mrs. Obama announced plans to recognize that work by honoring ASCA’s School Counselor of the Year at the White House. ...

As a child, I was told never to say that I was bored. Being bored meant I wasn't able to find something interesting or engaging to do, which was not acceptable. “The world is big and full of opportunities, do something!”, as my mother would say.

Boredom, as highlighted in the May issue of the Kappan, a PDK International publication, "is a mismatch between wanting intellectual arousal but being unable to engage in a satisfying activity."  The above description of boredom, from the article "Neuroscience Reveals That Boredom Hurts," suggests that students who seem to willfully defy urgings to focus on school assignments and work may simply be experiencing an involuntary brain reaction. ...

Students who fail to graduate – dropouts who perhaps more appropriately should be described as over-age and under-credited – exemplify the significant hurdles that come with the commitment to educate all students. These young individuals have fallen through the cracks, and once they’ve left the school setting, it’s difficult to re-engage them. Yet some efforts to find, support and ultimately prepare these students for future success in the postsecondary environment are showing impressive results. This work is an important reminder that it takes a village – and committed collaboration among key groups of stakeholders – to create a truly comprehensive system. ...

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

Like most parents, my wife, Beverly, and I asked our son Tyler to call regularly when he went away to college. A few weeks into his first semester, Tyler started talking effusively about his classes and social life, topics he never discussed with us when he was in high school. We soon realized something amazing, almost miraculous, had happened. Tyler was excited about learning again. He told us the college structure was what he had wanted in high school. He was finally able to control his own education. He chose his own classes and his own schedule. He no longer had to sit through classes that held no interest or purpose for him.

We had another realization; Tyler didn’t do adolescence well. Tyler was generally happy in elementary school, but sometime in middle school, he became the dreaded teenager. For the next four years, he longed to fast-forward to the next stage of his life. Tyler was 13 going on 21.

In their book Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, Chip and Dan Heath suggest that change can only occur when someone behaves differently. But what happens when change happens to a person and not because of that person? As adults we constantly contend with unexpected and sometimes unwanted change. Circumstances require ...

By Libby Nealis, Behavioral Health Consultant, NEA Health Information Network

, NEA Health Information Network

When suicide is the third leading cause of death among youth as young as 10 through age 19, it is crucial that our school districts have proactive suicide prevention policies in place.

Anytime we lose a young person to suicide is one time too many.  Tragically, most of today’s school shootings end not only in injury and death of innocent students and school staff, but also in the ultimate self-inflicted gun shots and suicide of the perpetrators of these violent events.  Therefore, our efforts to reduce school and community violence and ensure student and staff safety in our schools must also include an understanding of suicide prevention and what is involved in the identification and referral of students at risk of suicide.  ...

NEA strongly encourages members to include suicide prevention, alertness, and intervention and postvention programs in the ongoing professional development and educator preparation programs for teachers, education support professionals, and

Robin Zorn is the American School Counselor Association's 2014 School Counselor of the Year. Ms. Zorn works at Mason Elementary School in Gwinnett County. She's tireless in her efforts to help some of our youngest students gain a strong foundation to build on for the rest of their academic career. By emphasizing both social-emotional well-being and college-and-career readiness, Ms.Zorn and her team at Mason Elementary empower children to dream and plan for their future while providing them the necessary supports to succeed. We're thrilled to highlight Ms.Zorn on our site as a representative for the great work being done by school counselors across the country.

Question: How long have you been a school counselor?

I started in 1994, so this is my 20th year.

Question: At what levels have you worked (elementary school, middle school, high school)?

I did my internship in the middle school, but I have been in elementary the entire 20 years.

Question: What led you to become a school counselor? ...

By Margaret Glick, for the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21)

We are teaching kids to live on a planet we’ve never seen.”  - Mary Catherine Bateson

This quote is as true now as it has ever been, but how are we to do this?  By developing students’ abilities to think critically, creatively and empathically.  How do we manage that?  By embedding three qualities—connection, purpose, and mastery into our classrooms. 

Brain research has given us a few solid principles in the past decade.  One is the concept of plasticity.  Plasticity is the ability the brain has to change with experiences.  Basically, our brain becomes what it does.  This is great news (or bad news, depending on what our brains are doing).  This means teachers can promote patterns of thinking that benefit students, and these patterns can become neural networks that assist whatever kind of thinking you’re after.  Another brain research principle is that emotions impact learning.  When we feel connected and safe in a classroom, a staffroom, or a boardroom, we are able to think in productive ways that might elude us otherwise.  Lastly, we know that when work is viewed as purposeful and relevant, the tracks of learning, inquiry, and motivation are greased. 

So how do we get there in classrooms?  How do we take some of the principles that have surfaced in brain research and apply ...

Tarsi Dunlop's picture

Top Success Stories of 2013

Looking back on 2013, the Learning First Alliance is pleased to bring you the five most viewed success stories* from the more than 170 stories housed on our site. Criteria for inclusion on the site is relatively straightforward – the story must show that a school, district or state identified a challenge, addressed it and produced positive results through their efforts. These results are measured in a variety of ways, from increased graduation rates or decreased dropout rates, to improved standardized test scores or positive outcomes in student health and behavior. Other indicators may highlight parent engagement, improved classroom performance, or new innovative practices that foster student engagement. Many stories also highlight the collaboration among education leaders. We would like to extend our thanks to all the organizations that allowed us to cross-post their features in this past year.

We wish you happy reading and a Happy New Year!

5. Using Electives to Get Struggling Students More Math

A Michigan district identified struggling students and then offered a math elective to help them reach their fullest potential. By holding them to high standards and ...

By Jill Cook, Assistant Director, American School Counselor Association (ASCA)

Robin Zorn believes school counselors can make a difference in students’ lives, and she goes out of her way to prove it.

It’s this belief that informs her work every day at Dr. M.H. Mason Jr. Elementary School in Duluth, GA, and her advocacy work at the district and state level. Her efforts were recognized last week when the American School Counselor Association named her the 2014 School Counselor of the Year.

Robin and the six previous winners of the award exemplify the work school counselors across the country do to increase academic achievement while promoting students’ personal/social development and career needs. Since she became a school counselor in 1999, the profession has undergone a transformation from being reactive to proactive and from ancillary to a critical cog in overall school improvement. 

This transformation is due largely to the ASCA National Model, which was published in 2003 and provides a framework for school counseling programs so they are comprehensive in scope, preventive in design and developmental in ...

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