National PTA President Otha Thornton discusses why his organization supports the Common Core, dispelling myths and sharing resources to help parents learn more and support successful implementation of the standards.
Last week, the National Institute for Early Education Research released its annual report on the state of preschool. Among what we learned: Enrollment in state-funded pre-kindergarten programs has grown more than 70 percent over the past decade. But despite trends in growth, total state funds for pre-k were $30 million less in 2010 than the previous year – and would have been close to $50 million greater were it not for stimulus funds. Per-child spending fell an average of $114 last year.
The growth in enrollment makes complete sense. After all, research continues to show the benefits (both academic and economic) of pre-k education. But especially given those benefits, the decline in state funding is quite worrisome. Unfortunately, it is not unexpected – and given the current economic crisis in many states, I could be forgiven for assuming that state capacity to maintain and expand pre-k programs will shrink in the coming years.
That pessimism is one reason I was pleased to see the announcement earlier this week that several national education organizations (including several Learning First Alliance members) are joining forces specifically to support high-quality pre-kindergarten. As a sign of their ...
Editor's note: Our guest blogger today is Melissa Whipple, a District Resource Teacher for the San Diego Unified School District. In her current role, she coaches school staff to help them understand the value of family and community engagement and how to leverage it to boost student performance. She also serves as an Adjunct Professor at USD, teaching a master’s course demystifying Family, School, and Community Partnerships.
I have been teaching in many capacities since 1975, and it seems to me that most educational leaders want to skip to immediate implementation of educational changes or reforms without first building relationships.
They seem to be in such a hurry to prove themselves as change agents or visionary leaders or reformers, they fail to understand that taking time to build consensus and positive relationships with others is just as important (if not more so) as the content of their proposed reforms. John Wooden once said, "It is what we learn after we know it all that matters." I couldn't agree more.
Unfortunately, many educational leaders tend to lead with their mouths (telling others what is going to be done and how) rather than leading with their ears (listening to other points of view and figuring out how best to work in ways that develop a sense of shared responsibility for student success) and proceeding accordingly. It seems the message is, "Just do what we say. Don't worry, we have done all the thinking for you and we have all of the answers. Remember, it is our way or the highway." This doesn't go over well.
In my district, we have had a revolving door of superintendents and their imported administrative teams (we have had four complete turnovers in the last 10 years) who seemed qualified and also personally charming, and yet they each failed to understand that ...
All of us can agree that the United States needs to carefully examine our efforts in STEM education (science, technology, engineering and math) with an eye towards improving rigor, expanding reach and ensuring that more of our students are both interested and proficient in these subjects. Certainly, from an economic health and employment standpoint, we should all be concerned with raising the bar on STEM standards while nurturing the effectiveness of the professionals who teach these subjects. However, agreeing on the “what” that needs to be done is always easier than agreement on the “how” to get the job done. ...
It’s been more than a week since the U.S. Department of Education sponsored International Summit on the Teaching Profession took place in New York City. For those of us who were observers, the conversation was valuable but the extended time spent sitting and listening challenged our ability to absorb all that was being exchanged. However, a few themes kept resurfacing:
- In countries with high performing students as measured by the PISA tests, the teaching profession is held in high esteem and attracts the strongest students to its preparation programs.
- Conversely, those same countries support a highly selective process for identifying potential teachers and
Editor's note: Our guest blogger today is Earl C. Rickman III, president of the National School Boards Association (an LFA member) and president of the Board of Education of Mount Clemens Community School District in Michigan.
The recent Conference on Labor-Management Collaboration in Denver showed that when school boards, administrators, and teachers work as a team to improve student achievement, we can greatly strengthen the quality of education we provide to our students and our communities.
I was part of the 12-person delegation of school board leaders from NSBA and state school boards associations participating in the event. I was proud to also represent Michigan’s Mount Clemens Community School District Board of Education, where I serve as board president. My school district was one of the 150 school districts from across the country that participated in the conference.
This first-of-its-kind conference, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, brought national and local school leaders to hear from other superintendents, school boards, and teacher leaders who are working together to redefine the labor-management relationship in their communities, and it highlighted the successes some districts have achieved and ...
Technology has redefined how we work, play and communicate at work and at home. For those of us involved in advocating for technology’s appropriate role and substantial impact on public K-12 schooling, the redefinition has been slower than we would have liked. The Learning First Alliance (LFA) hopes to accelerate more widespread understanding and implementation of technology for both instruction and information management by expanding our coalition to include, effective March 1, 2011, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). ISTE represents more than 20,000 educators, 80 affiliate member groups, 89 countries, and 65 education technology corporations in their efforts to advance excellence in learning and teaching through innovative and effective uses of technology.
ISTE’s value system aligns nicely with LFA goals and objectives and includes the belief that:
- strategic partnerships and collaboration are essential to realizing a shared vision for education excellence
- organizational excellence focuses on innovation, transparency, and fiscal responsibility
- power resides in a diverse and inclusive global community of members who learn, teach, and lead to advance the field
- global connections and partnerships advance educational excellence, teaching, and leadership for all stakeholders
For too long K-12 education leaders have communicated within silos of ...
Like many education stakeholders, I appreciate President Obama’s budgetary commitment to education (even though he found an inhospitable audience in the House). Despite tough financial times, it’s commendable that he is taking a far-sighted approach to the health of the country by focusing on education. However, with his budget, we’re left facing the same problem we’ve faced over the past couple years - over-emphasis on competitive funding programs like Race for the Top.
Perhaps in examining the issue of competitive funding, we should consider largely philosophical roots of competition ideologies. Libertarianism is the poster-child for competition and privatization, but most would agree that this philosophy breaks down in certain categories: some needs simply are not fulfilled well relying on the private sector, and some of these needs—like education—comprise areas where we simply can’t afford market failings.
Maurice Elias recently blogged on this issue on edutopia. He wrote, “it is difficult for me to understand why we want, need, or should tolerate competition for a public function such as education. We don’t have competition for police and fire services. These are required to be uniformly excellent and equitable. They are not always, but ...
Tomorrow begins a Conference on Labor-Management Collaboration in Denver, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, National School Boards Association, American Association of School Administrators, Council of the Great City Schools, and the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. The conference aims to highlight examples of collaborative approaches that ease friction between administrators and union members, expedite education reforms, and lead to better results for students.
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, and AFT President Randi Weingarten announced plans for the conference in October while celebrating an innovative labor agreement in Hillsborough County, Florida.
In the past several months, there have been numerous negative depictions in the media of teachers and teachers’ unions—including Waiting for “Superman,” some segments of NBC’s Education Nation summit. The messages indicate that
President Barak Obama’s State of the Union address has drawn a mixed response from players in the education community. I imagine all appreciate the president’s focus on education as an important issue, and approve of his connecting it to broader American self-interest with talk of jobs and competitiveness in worldwide markets. Likewise, few would disagree with Obama’s emphasis on long-term investment in education, parental involvement in children's learning, the shared responsibility of schools and their communities, recruiting more science, technology, engineering, and mathematics teachers, and the need to overhaul No Child Left Behind. It’s also refreshing that he pointed out teachers are the most important school-based factor in a child’s success; he emphasized the greater importance of parents (and though research more specifically shows the influence of socio-economic status, these two categories are related). His talk of curbing the reach of the federal government was also encouraging to many, although his actual policy emphases related to Race to the Top and other competitive funding measures seem to counter this rhetoric.
Many are concerned with federal oversight of schools, as well as competitive allocation of funds. In a statement responding to the State of the Union Address, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten discussed the need to protect children from struggling segments of the population. Likewise, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel expressed his continued concern that “competitive grants such as ...
One strategy I’m using to get up-to-speed in my position as the new executive director at the Learning First Alliance (LFA) is to delve into the LFA member publications that land on my desk almost daily. It is true that each publication is a wealth of thoughtful articles that examine the challenges and rewards professional public educators across the nation deal with on a regular basis. I’m reminded that some of my favorite thought-leaders continue to seek new information, explore alternate approaches, and share their observations in ways that remind me that we know a good deal about how to make schooling better, we just lack the will or if not that, the systems thinking approach that could help us do what we know will make us better.
An example of that reality is the article authored by Linda Darling-Hammond, Professor of Education at Stanford University and supporter of teachers par excellent, in the Winter 2010-2011 issue of the American Educator, published by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). Dr. Darling-Hammond’s article “Soaring Systems” looks at three nations’ public education system, each of whom started with very little and purposefully built highly productive and equitable systems in the space of only two to three decades. Before considering what those three countries, Finland, Singapore, and South Korea, did to ...
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