For her leadership in the areas of teacher quality and educational equity and reform, the Learning First Alliance has named Stanford professor and accomplished author Linda Darling-Hammond as our 2013 Education Visionary Award winner.
A recent piece in The Economist reminds us, yet again, that lay journalists are not necessarily contributing to the national discussion of school reform.
The piece describes “a movement that is improving education across America: the rise of ‘charter’ schools”:
These are paid for by state governments and free for the students, open to anyone and, crucially, independent of often badly-run school boards. [Principals] have wide discretion in the hiring and firing of teachers and are free to pay by results as they think fit. Charter schools are a mixed bag, but the best of them are achieving results most board-run schools can only dream of and are heavily oversubscribed.
Ok, several problems here. First, it’s not clear that the charter movement is “improving education across America”—at least not yet. The recent Stanford review of charter school performance nation-wide certainly disappointed charter supporters. The Economist faintly acknowledges this point by calling charters a “mixed bag” but neglects to note that there are still more bad charters than ...
Yesterday, education blogger Kevin Carey sharply rebuked people who peddle simplistic solutions to difficult problems schools face:
All of this would be merely aggravating if this kind of sad excuse for policy debate didn't have a real, detrimental impact on the lives of students. When you tell people that large problems can be solved with simplistic, nominally clever policy solutions, you're implicitly raising a question: "If it's so easy, why haven't we done it already?" That in turns breeds cynicism and mistrust, a jaded worldview in which large social problems are either fundamentally unsolvable or hostage to venal politicians who won't do the right thing even though the answer is so obvious that anyone with a lick of common sense can see it. And once you get there, the temptation is strong to throw up your hands and worry about something else.
Carey is scolding Tom Friedman for advocating the particularly silly idea that states could address the dropout problem by making driver's licenses contingent on high school graduation. But his comments have much broader resonance than that. Many in the national media have made a habit of portraying popular new reform ideas as sure-fire strategies for dramatic school improvement. People skeptical of those reforms must therefore be obstructionists and villains. As I've noted before ...
Christopher Cross was an assistant education secretary in the George H. W. Bush administration. He recently spoke with us about new accountability recommendations the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education campaign released today. Cross joined a committee of other education luminaries to formulate the recommendations, which go well beyond the current system and its predominant reliance on standardized tests.
PUBLIC SCHOOL INSIGHTS: Why do you think we need a new accountability system? What's wrong with the current one?
CROSS: I think there are many problems with the current system. One is that it has certainly not engendered widespread support from the education community. Number two is that it is viewed as being narrow. Third is the question of how the system operates--what the sanctions are, who is held accountable for what and at what level. ...
While the national debate rages over the benefits of early childhood education, an innovative, district-wide early childhood education initiative is bearing fruit in Bremerton, Washington. Since the initiative's founding, the percentage of Bremerton children entering Kindergarten knowing their letters has shot from 4% to over 50%. The percentage of Kindergarteners needing specialized education services has plummeted from 12% to 2%. And the share of first graders reading on grade level has risen from 52% to 73%.
Last week, I spoke with a woman at the center of the program: Linda Sullivan-Dudzic, the district's Director of Special programs. She described some keys to the program's success. The district:
- Aligns existing school and community resources
- Raises the quality of existing preschools rather than creating new ones
- Focuses on literacy and numeracy
- Heeds the research, and
- Holds all providers to high standards of quality
Read extensive highlights from our interview with Sullivan-Dudzic:
PUBLIC SCHOOL INSIGHTS: What are the major goals of Early Childhood Care and Education Group, and what do you believe you've accomplished in striving towards those goals?
SULLIVAN-DUDZIC: We have two goals. [The first is] to increase the number of children entering kindergarten with early literacy skills--and now we've added early math foundation skills. And the second goal is to decrease the number of children, students, with learning disabilities or learning differences associated with reading.
PUBLIC SCHOOL INSIGHTS: And do you feel like you've made headway in reaching your goals?
SULLIVAN-DUDZIC: Yes. In literacy definitely. We're just starting in math. We have decreasing numbers of kids qualifying as learning disabled, and we have increasing numbers of kids entering kindergarten with early reading foundation skills.
PUBLIC SCHOOL INSIGHTS: So you have all kinds of community partners?
SULLIVAN-DUDZIC: Sure. I started 29 years ago with Head Start, as a ...
Editor’s note: We wondered what ideas accomplished teachers might have about good ways to invest stimulus funds. Answering our call, members of the Teacher Leaders Network to give us their straight-from-the-classroom perspectives. The ideas, of course, are their own and do not necessarily represent those of LFA or its member organizations. In the first of four teacher contributions, Ariel Sacks offers her thoughts:
This June will complete my fifth year of teaching at a high-need public middle school in New York City. At age 30, I’ve developed skills as a teacher and a leader, and I’m looking to advance my career. But the only way, it seems, to move up in the field of education is to leave my students and move out of the classroom.
This year, startling numbers of my colleagues across the city with three, four or five years of experience will leave teaching. They aren’t leaving because they feel ineffective or because ...
In less than 5 short years, "Teachers TV" has grown from an idea harbored by a British Schools Minister into a popular and influential British television channel devoted solely to education. Now, there are efforts afoot to help something similar take root in American soil.
We recently spoke with Andrew Bethell, Teachers TV's CEO and creative director. Bethell described the accomplishments of the television channel, which has broadcast thousands of often riveting mini-documentaries about what's happening in British schools.
The documentaries offer authentic accounts of successful practice and real-life struggles to improve. They also feature broad education reform strategies--without ever losing sight of those strategies' impact on actual schools and students. As Bethell is careful to point out, Teachers TV focuses on more than just teachers: It highlights the work of ...
The National Staff Development Council (NSDC) just released a report reviewing the the status of teacher professional development in the United States. Their conclusion: We're making incremental progress in teacher induction and mentoring programs, but we lag woefully behind other nations in providing the kinds of professional development that improve student learning.
Surveys of teachers reveal that disjointed, one-time, "drive-by" professional development workshops remain the norm for large majorities of American teachers. This, despite strong research demonstrating the benefits of intensive, on-going professional development that is tied closely to teacher practice, focuses on student learning, supports school improvement priorities and forges strong working relationships among teachers. NSDC's findings could have profound implications for how schools allocate teachers' time and structure the school day.
The report describes the striking differences between teacher professional development practices here and abroad. NSDC's press release sums up these differences:
The United States is far behind [other nations] in providing public school teachers with opportunities to ...
The National Staff Development Council (NSDC) is inviting schools to apply for membership in the Learning School Alliance, "a network of 100 model schools committed to professional development practices that promote student achievement. The educators from these 100 schools will support one another in applying the principles and standards of professional development grounded in NSDC’s definition of professional learning, its standards for staff development, and its principles for professional learning identified in The Learning Educator: A New Era for Professional Learning."
"Participants will learn together in their own schools, with other schools through webinars and facilitated conversations, and at convenings hosted by NSDC. They will share openly their goals, their progress--and over time--their results."
You can learn more about the Learning School Alliance here. ...
The Great Expectations School, Dan Brown's harrowing and touching memoir of his first year teaching at an elementary school in the Bronx, has won high praise from heavy hitters in education, including Susan Fuhrman, Randi Weingarten, Deborah Meier and Diane Ravitch.
Dan recently took the time to speak with me about the lessons of his experience teaching low-income children who could be by turns loving, enraged, vulnerable, brazen, curious and deeply disaffected. He shared his thoughts on the support new teachers need to function in this environment, specific strategies for serving children in poverty, and policy implications of day-to-day challenges in urban schools.
Hear five minutes of highlights from Dan's account of his first year:
Or, listen to about four and a half minutes of highlights from his discussion of education policy:
In a story that has received remarkably little media attention so far, eight urban public schools in Connecticut are participating in an experiment to give teachers, parents and communities greater autonomy over curriculum, governance and budgets. The Connecticut Alliance for CommPACT Schools is helping these formerly struggling schools reorganize.
Among the hallmarks of this effort: ...
A VISION FOR GREAT SCHOOLS
On this website, educators, parents and policymakers from coast to coast are sharing what's already working in public schools--and sparking a national conversation about how to make it work for children in every school. Join the conversation!