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Tarsi Dunlop's picture

Born in Another Time

If you are ever curious about the nuances and challenges of local policy-making and governance, look no further than the U.S public education system. When you consider the statistics and actors – nearly 14,000 school districts, 95,000 principals and more than 90,000 school board members – it is no wonder that public schools see higher levels of success when local leaders come together to collaborate and develop solutions.

The National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) represents the state boards of education that govern and design education policy at the state level. These bodies set the tone, agenda, and overall vision for their state. One area in which their leadership is urgently needed: education technology. To that end, NASBE recently commissioned a study group, whose core composition consisted of 18-20 state board members, that produced Born in Another Time: Ensuring Educational Technology Meets the Needs of Students Today – and Tomorrow.  This report puts forth a vision for education technology in our nation’s public schools, along with key recommendations on how to get there. In essence, it takes a big, bold vision for 21st century learners and ...

Tarsi Dunlop's picture

Voices From the Field

Education reform debates increasingly belong to a relatively small number of very loud voices. Hundreds of thousands of other voices get lost in the din. They belong to students and teachers, and their vision for our nation’s high schools varies dramatically from the content in mainstream education reform discussions.

The College Board recently released a supplement to Phi Delta Kappan that highlights key thoughts from students and teachers on both school reform and student engagement.  The results are worth summarizing and repeating mostly because the takeaways are remarkably uniform with regard to recommendations and advice for education reformers. The main message is that we need a long-term commitment to a well-rounded, multi-pronged approach to school improvement. ...

While a college education is acknowledged to be the pathway into the middle class, getting into the higher education system requires an understanding of the application process. For many first generation college students, especially those who are from low-income families, the process is daunting with an overwhelming amount of information and countless choices. My own experience, with significant support from my high-school guidance counselor and an involved parent who did the financial aid forms, was stressful and at times confusing, and not everyone has the type of support I had. ...

Editor’s Note: Our guest blogger today is Ann Meier Baker. She is President and CEO of Chorus America, the advocacy, research, and leadership development organization that advances the choral music field.  Her 25-year career has included several leadership positions in the arts and in education.

Students composing songs about chaos theory, tessellations, and the Fibonacci Sequence is just the beginning.

March is Music In our Schools Month and this annual celebration is a wonderful opportunity for people to sing (pun intended) the praises of outstanding school music programs that are an important part of a comprehensive and competitive education. Today, while there is an enormous amount of compelling evidence about the value of these opportunities for young people, the reality is that school music programs are being cut at an alarming rate, leaving some of us wondering if it’s more appropriate to sing a dirge this month, rather than a song in celebration.

For example, in national research commissioned for Chorus America’s Chorus Impact Study, more than one in four educators surveyed said there is no choral program in their school  and, of the educators who said that their school has no choir program today, 31 percent said their school used to have such a program. And yet these same educators also agree that choir participation helps make students better team players, develops stronger social skills, leads to better emotional expression and management, improves overall academic performance, and helps instill self-discipline. These are the very skills and strengths students will need as they come of age in the 21st century—as a society, we cannot afford to ...

I appreciate research and data, particularly when results offer evidence on successful initiatives and best practices. Every now and then, I crave some anecdotal evidence, voices with stories from individuals whose journeys are often reduced to graphs, averages and groups of statistical significance. Kappan Magazine features a diverse series of articles for February, Black History Month, on educating black male students (black and Latino males in one case). The commentary is a reminder that thoughtful questions produce thoughtful answers and conclusions. How might we constructively acknowledge that there are differences between many black male youth and their more privileged peers? What should we expect of teachers and schools with regards to the education of black male students? And, how do resulting answers or conclusions affect various recommendations, initiatives and debates in education policy more broadly? ...

Sunday’s New York Times Magazine (September 18, 2011), featured a cover story entitled “The Character Test”, suggesting that our kids’ success, and happiness, may depend less on perfect performance than on learning how to deal with failure.  The two schools profiled were Riverdale, one of New York City’s most prestigious private schools, and KIPP Infinity Middle School, a member of the KIPP network of public charter schools in New York City.  The common factor in each of these schools is a headmaster or charter school superintendent whose leadership is focused on providing an educational experience for the students he serves that encompasses more than academic rigor and achievement.  Their strategies are based on the work of Martin Seligman, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, whose scholarly publication, Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification, documents 24 character strengths common to all cultures and eras.  The importance of these strengths does not come from their relationship to any system of ethics or moral laws but from their practical benefit:  cultivating these strengths represent a reliable path to “the good life,” a life that is not just happy but also meaningful and fulfilling. ...

Story timeFall’s arrival heralds the start of school and classroom teachers are excited to welcome back their students for another year of learning. At the same time, they are faced with the reality that students seem to know less than they did last spring. On average, all students lose ground and begin the year a month behind where they performed in the spring. One study suggests that two-thirds of the achievement gap for low-income students entering ninth grade can be attributed to summer learning loss. The gap is particularly pronounced in reading, where low-income students lose ground, as opposed to high-income students who maintain or gain ground.

The achievement gap is a widely recognized reality in American public education. It is troubling, persistent, and continues to elude remedy. When a potential solution arises, it is difficult to maintain realistic expectations, and that is exactly what must be done when it comes to summer learning programs. We can take heart that evidence from studies to evaluations shows the promise of such programs in reducing the achievement gap that separates low-income and minority youth from their more privileged peers. ...

The United Way has long been committed to both improving education and mobilizing the power of communities. In that vein, they recently released several reports on public feelings about education, and one specifically focuses on the role of volunteer mentors in boosting students’ academic achievement.

In conjunction with publishing these findings on mentorship, the United Way is issuing a national call to action. They are seeking to recruit one million volunteers to act as readers, tutors, and mentors for students over the next three years. So far the United Way’s National Women’s Leadership Council, comprising 50,000 leaders in 120 communities, has pledged to recruit 100,000 volunteers.

Some of the goals of this effort outlined in the reports: ...

As National School Counseling Week draws to a close, it seems fitting to reflect on the state of the profession in our nation.

School counselors are highly trained individuals who help students improve their academic achievement, their personal and social development and their career planning. Their services help students resolve emotional and behavioral issues, often improving the climate of a school. And they help students develop a clearer focus or sense of direction, which can improve student achievement. Research over the past several decades shows the positive impact of school counselors.

But for all the evidence, the work of school counselors can be underappreciated and is rarely acknowledged in discussions of school improvement. And in times of tough budgets, it is often the school counselor (or other support staff) whose role is cut.

As Valerie Strauss pointed out back in January, school counselors in America are expected to help an extremely large number of students. It is recommended that there be one school counselor for every 250 students. In 2008, nationwide there was one counselor for every 457 students – and that was before school budgets were slashed. In California there were 814 students per counselor. In Arizona, Minnesota and Utah there were more than 700 students per ...

Editor’s note: Our guest blogger today is Kwok-Sze Wong. He is the executive director of the American School Counselor Association (ASCA), which represents more than 28,000 school counselors across the nation. ASCA expands the image and influence of professional school counselors through advocacy, leadership, collaboration and systemic change. It also empowers professional school counselors with the knowledge, skills, linkages and resources to promote student success in the school, the home, the community and the world. ASCA is a member of the Learning First Alliance.

Sandy Austin, a school counselor at Green Mountain High School in Lakewood, Colo., has seen her share of crises. As a member of the crisis team that worked with students and parents in Columbine in the wake of the shootings, Sandy knew students couldn’t focus on school until they could deal with their grief from this devastating tragedy. She also saw the strength and compassion students have and how important that compassion can be in helping others heal. To give students a way to help those in need, Sandy formed the BIONIC Team – Believe It Or Not I Care. Students in the group reach out to others to provide support when they experience a death, illness or other hardship in their lives. During the past six years, the BIONIC Team has reached more than 38,000 people, and more than 400 schools worldwide have shown interest in starting similar programs. 

Terry Malterre, a school counselor at Roosevelt High School in Honolulu, and TeShaunda L. Hannor-Walker, Ph.D., the school counselor at Northside Elementary School in Albany, Ga., may be separated by a continent and an ocean, but they are connected by many similarities. They both work at schools with a high percentage of low-income and underserved students. They both noticed that many of their students were failing because of high absenteeism, so they instituted home visit programs to involve families in learning. And they both found that ...

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