Learning First Alliance

Strengthening public schools for every child

Professional Collaboration

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According to the 2015 National Survey on College and Career-Ready Literacy Standards and Collaborative Professional Learning, 91 percent of teachers surveyed report working on standards implementation during collaborative time with colleagues, with 77 percent rating it valuable or extremely valuable in supporting their transition to new literacy standards. 

And 73 percent of teachers who report having regular time to collaborate feel better prepared to implement the standards. Yet more than 80 percent of teachers report having fewer than two hours a week to collaborate.

If we agree with the simple supposition that time and collaborative learning experiences are key to successful implementation, then how do we ensure that more teachers have what they need?

Research has confirmed many times that leadership is second only to teaching in influencing student achievement. In my view, when our goals include equity and excellence, leadership may be even more important.  ...

On your marks . . . get set . . . TEACH!

I want you to think about those words. If you were in an interview, or perhaps planning your perfect lesson, how would you do it? What tools do you have in your utility belt that you can pull out at a moment's notice when you are faced with a difficult teaching situation? What strategies would you use? What if you were asked at the very last minute to provide a comprehensive, dynamic, user-driven learning session? Could you do it?

If you are reading this post, I’m sure you can. If you are reading this post, you already have the tools, you already have the knowledge, and you already have the ability to think outside of the box and beyond the walls of your classroom. How do I know this? Because this blog post isn’t found in your classroom. It’s a resource that you had to know about, or perhaps it was a link that you found on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest. This blog post—and, in fact, the very website you are reading right now—is a resource you didn’t know you needed, until the time arrived that you needed it. ...

As part of its Get It Right: Common Sense on the Common Core national campaign, the Learning First Alliance recently interviewed administrators and education leaders to  highlight perspectives on the implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in Kansas. As one of the first states to adopt the CCSS, Kansas reached full implementation of the standards in the 2013-2014 school year. Kansas educators have praised the standards—known in Kansas as the Kansas College and Career Ready Standards—for setting rigorous performance expectations for all students and thereby improving teaching and learning in the state.

Across Kansas, districts have used a number of effective strategies to ensure that CCSS implementation has been successful. In particular, administrators have focused on building district cultures that place real value on the new standards and which treat the standards as a permanent improvement to teaching and learning, as opposed to a temporary reform. ...

AASA, The School Superintendents Association, continues to celebrate its 150th anniversary. We were founded by a small group of seven superintendents that came together knowing that like-minded education leaders needed an advocacy voice at the national level.

This was at a time when our nation was reeling from the end of the Civil War. A key element of our mission of what was first called the National Association of School Superintendents was equity. There were vast differences in the way our children were being educated.

Today, a century-and-a-half later, equity continues to be a major challenge in America. That’s why I am very pleased that AASA is partnering with Howard University and the University of Southern California in an effort to confront this challenge head on by working to develop urban leaders for our schools. ...

By Sharon P. Robinson, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), and Joe A. Hairston, Howard University

As the first cohort of leaders embarks on their course of study with the new AASA Urban Superintendents Academy at Howard University and the University of Southern California, we are thrilled to see this promising work come to life. Urban districts desperately need forward-thinking leaders, particularly those from underrepresented demographic groups, prepared to be barrier-busting champions for every student in their care.

Following an intensive kick-off conference later this month, participants in the Academy—predominantly from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups—will spend the academic year undertaking internships in the field, focusing on problems of practice under the guidance of experienced mentors, and taking graduate courses at the university before completing culminating projects ...

By Jasper Fox, Sr., Middle School Science Teacher and ASCD Emerging Leader, class of 2015

Despite major inroads in improving graduation rates across the country, there remains much work to be done. Nowhere is this truer than our nation’s urban areas. Recent findings outlined in ASCD’s national whole child snapshot indicate that there are major discrepancies in graduation rates between different groups of students who attend our nation’s high schools. There are major structural changes that need to be addressed to improve the educational experience for students in these schools in order for them to leave high school ready for their lives and careers. Taking it back to basics is important. Creating a supportive experience and paying attention to details such as attendance and credit requirements means focusing on each student and asking, “How can we get every child to complete their K–12 education?” ...

By Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers

Teaching is our heart. Our students are our soul. And the union is our spine.

I heard that sentiment over and over again last week during the American Federation of Teachers' biennial TEACH conference, one of the largest professional development conferences for educators in the nation. That's right, a conference on teaching and learning, sponsored by the union.

The conference included sessions on a wide range of topics, as well as a daylong summit with an organization called EdSurge, where educators had the opportunity to give feedback on classroom technology products, and a town hall meeting with the AFT's three officers, where members could ask or share anything.

Two-thousand educators descended on Washington, D.C., to learn from experts and one another, and once there, the theme was resounding: The voices of educators matter ...

The Common Core has affected how all education professionals approach their work. We recently spoke with two leading school counselors—Dan Peabody and Cory Notestine—about how the implementation of the Common Core has impacted their work and the ways in which they are collaborating with colleagues during the transition to the new standards.

Dan Peabody (shown at right) is a counselor at Patapsco Middle School in Howard County, Maryland. Mr. Peabody was recognized as the Maryland State 2015 Middle School Counselor of the Year and recently elected to the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) Board of Directors.

Cory Notestine (shown below) is a counselor at Alamosa High School in Alamosa, Colorado, and was named as the 2015 School Counselor of the Year by the American School Counselor Association.

Q: What do you see as the primary role of a school counselor in 2015?  ...

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

As another ambitious teacher preparation innovation captures national attention, I invite you to join me in taking stock of how widespread creative change has become in this field. The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently announced the launch of their brand-new research laboratory and graduate program to prepare teachers and school leaders. The educator preparation field, already rife with innovation, welcomes the new Woodrow Wilson Academy of Teaching and Learning as the latest partner in a robust entrepreneurial environment.

While I do not embrace the negative rhetoric that accompanied the new program’s announcement, I am keenly interested in the work. In fact, the Academy’s goals are quite aligned with those being addressed by many other educator preparation providers and organizations. Foundation President Arthur Levine and his partners at MIT will find themselves in good company as they pursue their particular reform interests and share their findings.

Like any other field preparing professionals, educator preparation continually develops its knowledge base, adjusts to changes in policy demands and market conditions, seeks evidence of its impact, and collaborates with practitioners in schools—all in the interest of continuous improvement. The spirit of innovation pervades all that we do ...

By Stephanie Hirsh, Executive Director, Learning Forward

When I was a local school board member, parents frequently asked for my advice on how to ensure their child got a particular teacher in a school. I knew how the game would be played after I reminded them this wasn't the role of the school board: They would write the principal with their requests for the next year. The principal would respond to assure the parents that no matter which classroom their child was assigned to, he or she would have a great year.

However, in some cases, the principal knew that wasn't entirely accurate. Some teachers were stronger than others in his or her school, and there was no mechanism to give all students access to the best ...

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