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We have access to a lot of good sound research and information in today’s information age. Education practitioners, those working in schools and districts, are ultimately responsible for overseeing system-wide changes, but they rarely have time to sift through data and evidence to identify sound research that might offer guidance for their respective district or school. Therefore, those higher up in district administration are more likely to be the ones assessing available research and working to support struggling schools. Taking action on sound research requires strong networks and strong communication among system professionals to move the evidence and information down to the school level. Ultimately, even if the research is good, it does not guarantee change. The system must be prepared to implement the necessary steps to produce changes in student performance. In fact, research suggests that an emphasis on the technical aspects of improvements leads us to overlook the relational component to system-wide change. ...

Editor’s note: This post is from our partners at Special Olympics Project UNIFY. Each week in January, we will feature a new article on a topic related to the social inclusion of youth with intellectual disabilities. Through this effort, we hope to inform the public of the importance of such inclusion as well as offer educators and parents resources to implement it.

 Haylie Bernacki , the newest member of the LFA team,  is currently a student at American University in Washington, DC,  majoring in International Relations (focus on International Development)  with a  minor in Special Education. Haylie’s professional  goal is to work in international education policy, specifically special education.

Haylie presently works at Special Olympics International in the Project UNIFY division. Project UNIFY works directly with students in K-12 to enhance school climate and create school communities of acceptance and inclusion for all students regardless of ability level. She  also serves as  a board member for the National Coalition for Academic Service Learning (NCASL).  NCASL  supports state education agencies and education professionals by providing leadership and resources that lead to the intentional and sustainable use of academic service-learning as an engaging pedagogy in the instructional setting. ...

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A Step in Time

When implemented well, expanded learning time (lengthening the school day, school week and/or school year) has led to impressive results in schools around the country. And U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has long called on more schools to embrace the policy, both because he believes that American students spend less time in school than students in the nations we are competing with (though some evidence suggests that might not be the case) and because he believes that the hours between 3pm and 6pm are the peak hours for juvenile crime (which evidence supports).

The Secretary was on hand yesterday at the introduction of the TIME (Time for Innovation Matters in Education) Collaborative, a partnership between the National Center on Time in Learning (NCTL) and the Ford Foundation that will allow participating schools in five states (Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Tennessee) to add 300 hours of instruction and enrichment for all their children. To be a part of the collaborative, states and districts had to agree to use a mix of federal, state and district funding to cover the costs ...

Each generation has a personality, characteristics and preferences that define their behavior and their views of the world. Millennials, those born between 1980 and 2000, are no different. Their arrival in the professional world has significant implications for the workplace, across sectors but including – and perhaps especially – education.

The October issue of Learning Forward’s JSD features “Boomers and Millennials: Vive La Difference,” an article by Suzette Lovely that examines ways to blend different generational styles in the learning environment. The article poses five suggestions for creating a generationally friendly culture. They pay homage to the distinct differences between generations in the same workplace. What’s more, they aim to foster a more collaborative learning environment, helping ensure that an older, more experienced generation of teachers can pass on their knowledge to a new energetic teaching force. This new generation of professionals, in turn, must feel embraced by their older colleagues and respected for their ideas, innovation and energy. ...

By Nora L. Howley, Manager of Programs, NEA Health Information Network 

The fourth-grade class at Shadyside Elementary is having a birthday party. Selena just ate a cookie brought into the class by parent of one of her classmates.  All of a sudden she notices a rash and gives on her arms. She begins to feel short of breath, so she lets Pam the Paraeducator know that something is wrong  

Next week is Halloween. For many classrooms, it is the first celebration of the year.  But for approximately six million children in the United States who have one or more food allergies, this party could be a life-threatening experience. Is your school ready? 

Food allergies are abnormal immune responses.  In a person with a food allergy, the immune system mistakenly responds to a food as if it were harmful. Sometimes these reactions are life-threatening.  While many foods can trigger an allergic reaction, eight foods are responsible for 90% of reactions. 

So what should school leaders and staff do to be prepared for food allergy reactions? 

First, managing and preventing food allergies requires a team approach.  It involves all school staff, parents/guardians, health care providers, and students themselves.  It involves ...

Toppenish High School, in south central Washington State, is a rural high-poverty school with 99% of students qualifying for free and reduced lunch and a 95% minority student body. The community’s economy rests primarily on agriculture and tourism, two sectors suffering from the recent downturn.

Schools with such profiles in such communities are often ones that grapple with inadequate funding, find student groups struggling on standardized tests and have lower graduation and college-going rates. But proving that great school leadership is a key component of beating such odds, Principal Trevor Greene has set high goals and invested in key improvement strategies that are showing amazing results for Toppenish High School. He was recently recognized as MetLife/NASSP’s 2013 National High School Principal of the Year. ...

It seems everyone has an opinion about the teacher strike currently taking place in Chicago.  I do too, but it’s not about who’s to blame.  There’s plenty of that to go around.  What I do know is that regardless of how this strike ends, nobody will have won—

  • Students will have missed valuable learning time
  • Teachers and their union will be vilified for selfishness
  • The mayor and school board’s judgment will be suspect
  • Parents will be disappointed and frazzled with child care challenges
  • The President’s “reform” agenda will be questioned
  • The citizens of Chicago will be embarrassed and dismayed for their city

While I have followed the events as they’ve unfolded in Chicago between the mayor, the school board he appointed, and the teachers’ union, the facts I’m able to glean from public sources only raise questions in my mind as to what’s really going on.  I do know that Chicago Public Schools (CPS) are under-resourced and that ...

As teachers prepare lessons and materials for the fast-approaching 2013 school year, it is an opportune time to highlight the value of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) as a tool for the nation’s educators. Learning Forward explains PLCs as:  “Learning communities [consisting of education professionals that] convene regularly and frequently during the workday to engage in collaborative professional learning to strengthen their practice and increase student results.” PLCs are not a new phenomenon, but they are gaining increased attention as the national conversation around education focuses on improving teacher quality through effective professional development. ...

A couple months ago, I wrote about a new assessment designed to address one of the ever-present challenges in teacher preparation: How do you ensure that those entering the classroom can teach effectively starting their first day as the teacher of record?

Now called the edTPA (formerly the Teacher Performance Assessment (TPA)), the assessment was developed by Stanford University in collaboration with teachers and teacher educators (higher education involvement was coordinated by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education) to set a new standard for determining teacher readiness. It requires teacher candidates demonstrate the skills necessary to meet the daily challenges of classroom teaching, including but not limited to:

  • Planning around student learning standards
  • Designing instruction for students based on their specific needs
  • Teaching a series of lessons and adapting them to

Last week The New Teacher Project (TNTP) released a report entitled The Irreplaceables-Understanding the Real Retention Crisis in America’s Urban Schools which continues the theme espoused in their previous report The Widget Effect, that public school districts treat all teachers the same and hold them to low expectations, particularly in urban districts, with disastrous results for students.  To be clear, neither I nor any of my colleagues in the Learning First Alliance (LFA) believe that low expectations for teacher performance should be tolerated nor do we believe that current practices and policies should be perpetuated if they contribute to supporting mediocrity in the classroom.  However, we do believe that most teachers who are appropriately supported by strong instructional leadership and collaborative school culture can improve their practice in a way that benefits the students they serve. 

Without digging into the data used to identify those teachers labeled “irreplaceable” and those labeled “struggling” in the report or the variables that exist within the districts and schools surveyed, I find the remedies to retaining the “irreplaceables” less than new or eye-opening.  The report’s findings essentially said that teachers whose students achieved well (i.e. irreplaceables) in well managed schools stayed in their jobs longer….big surprise.  The key supports provided by ...

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