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October is National Principals Month, an annual opportunity to recognize the importance of school leaders and their role in supporting student learning, as evidenced by years of empirical research. Maximum levels of student learning are reached in optimal school conditions, many of which are the purview of school leaders. Strong leadership is an essential component in creating great public schools.

In an era where public schools are frequently under attack, recognizing outstanding leadership and the value of public school leaders is important as a way to remind the American public and policy makers that investing in human capacity is essential for building strong successful schools. Research indicates that leadership is second only to classroom teachers in terms of in-school factors impacting student learning, strong leadership is important for guiding sustainable school turnaround efforts and leadership matters even more for schools and communities facing challenging circumstances ...

By Daniel A. Domenech, Executive Director, AASA, The School Superintendents Association

According to Fortune magazine, women make up less than 5 percent of the chief executive officers working in Fortune 500 companies.

Only about 25 percent of our school districts are led by females.

Recognizing that we’re at a time when the emergence of outstanding women leaders has strengthened public education, we were pleased to co-host, along with our California state affiliate, the Association of California School Administrators, the third annual Women in School Leadership Forum.

The two-day event, held in Rohnert Park, CA, earlier this month, gathered nearly 200 women leaders. It was a pleasure to attend the sessions and speak to aspiring women leaders in education. The forum illustrated that more work needs to be done to bring more women into leadership positions, particularly given the challenges facing public education today. ...

By Helen Soulé, Executive Director, Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21)

In countless schools across the US, a new year brings new students. It also brings “wonder” tools, applications and processes. For many educators, this deluge of technology threatens to drown them in an ocean of confusion and frustration. They face hard choices, not only about which tools to purchase, but how to integrate these tools into classroom instruction in a 21st century information and media rich curriculum.

Today, savvy educators realize that technology must be more than an electronic teacher with paperless worksheets. They recognize the transformative power of technology. But transforming instruction to take full advantage of digital power requires significant risk-taking, support and new skill development. Students and teachers must acquire not only the media, information and technology skills, but also the 4Cs (communication, critical thinking, creativity and innovation and collaboration) in order to be able to build a quality 21st century learning environment. ...

At the national level, we often talk about the political debate surrounding the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). But while that debate rages on, schools across the country are doing the hard work of implementation. And, while you might not know it from the tone of the conversation, it’s “going well,” according to over two-thirds (68%) of teachers participating in a recent survey. Also encouraging: 79% of teachers feel “very” or “somewhat” prepared to teach under the standards.

So how exactly is the Common Core impacting teaching and learning? On October 2, we at the Learning First Alliance hosted #CCSSteach, a Twitter Town Hall on teaching in a Common Core world, to find out. The event provided a forum for educators impacted by CCSS to share how they are acclimating to the standards.  

A few key themes emerged from this conversation. Overall, participants (including teachers, principals, district leaders and representatives of national organizations) indicated ...

For nearly three decades I’ve been an advocate for technology’s appropriate (and changing) use in teaching and learning, and during that time I’ve attended more meetings on “integrating” and  “scaling up” technology’s use in schools and classrooms than I can count on. As one might imagine, I’ve become somewhat cynical about the conversation since the themes and challenges remain the same. But despite my cynicism, I came away with some new language to use when discussing school improvement and the use of technology to support it after attending the EdTech Summit, Empowering Educators to Enhance Student Learning in the Digital Era, hosted by the Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands, the LEAD Commission and Common Sense Media earlier this week.

First, and most importantly, the conversation was centered on teaching and learning and on building the human capacity to make change ...

The Learning First Alliance's Get It Right campaign spotlights states and communities working hard to get Common Core implementation right. Recently, we did a deeper dive into California's efforts to roll out the standards and are featuring educators' experiences with the process.

As part of this effort, we are pleased to highlight the perspective of Kathy Harris, a teacher in the Piner-Olivet Union School District (where she is currently a Common Core State Standards Implementation Coach with a focus on English Language Arts) for 28 years. From 1998 to 2009 she served as the Regional Director of the California Reading and Literature Project at Sonoma State University. She has done extensive study in the areas of reading, reading readiness, assessment, English language development, school reform, school leadership and professional development. She has also engaged in many field experiences with both teachers and principals, working to improve student achievement through effective professional development, technical assistance and school reform. 

Harris has provided professional development in English Language Arts (ELA) and English Language Development for K-12 teachers and administrators throughout the state. She was re-appointed to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing in November of 2013 and currently serves as Vice-Chair.

Q: When did you first learn about the Common Core State Standards?

Harris: My experience with the Common Core standards started in November of 2009, when I was teaching third grade. I joined the National Council of Teachers of English review panel. We reviewed the draft standards, collaborated with teachers from many states and gave our feedback ...

By Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, Board Member, International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), and Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Powerful Learning Practice

Millions of educators and others around the world have participated in hundreds of professional development opportunities as part of Connected Educator Month (CEM) the last two years. Originally developed by the U.S. Department of Education and its partners as part of the Connected Educators initiative, Connected Educator Month offers highly distributed, diverse and engaging activities to educators at all levels, with the ultimate goal of getting more educators more connected, spurring collaboration and innovation in the space.

The official kick-off is October 1, but there are many ways that you can get involved today. This year, the U.S. Department of Education is distributing the event's management out to the connected community. Event management groups (American Institutes of Research, Digital Promise, Grunwald Associates and Powerful Learning Practice) are working collectively with the community, and the U.S. Department of Education, to construct a robust program that will get more educators connected ...

By Tracy Crow, Director of Communications, Learning Forward

If school districts relied on Craigslist to build effective learning systems, the search would be simple: "Passionate learner seeks same." While the reality of building learning systems and teams is more complex, the principle is the same--committed learners at every level of a system are the key to improving teaching and learning for students every day.

Passionate learners in today's schools aren't optional. And yet, of the five beliefs that undergird Learning Forward's work, here's the one most likely to make educators do a double-take: All educators have an obligation to improve their practice.

The word obligation gives pause here. Are we willing to say that every educator MUST improve his or her practice? ...

By Joan Richardson, Editor-in-Chief, Kappan magazine (PDK International)

The young woman sitting across from me had just finished eight weeks of student teaching, and she was anxious to have her own elementary school classroom in one of America’s major cities. She gushed with the kind of enthusiasm that you want to see in beginning professionals. All hope and energy and belief.

I can’t wait to talk to her at Thanksgiving.

Eight weeks of student teaching. At the end of the school year. Under the watchful eye of a veteran teacher. Rarely left on her own. Like me, you are probably seeing all kinds of ways her experience can go wrong. And, like me, you have probably had this same conversation dozens, maybe hundreds, of times.

Encounters like these are just one reason why Ron Thorpe’s proposal for a teacher residency modeled after medical residency makes so much sense. (See “Residency: Can it transform teaching the way it did medicine?” from the September issue of the Phi Delta Kappan.) Sending a teacher into a classroom after just a few weeks of fulltime student teaching is tantamount to supporting malpractice. Does the profession believe there is a link between the quality of teaching and the quality of student learning? If so, then we must closely examine all of our practices to ensure that we are doing everything we can to ensure a high quality of teaching in every classroom. ...

This piece was co-authored with Dean Vogel, President of the California Teachers Association. It first appeared in the Sacramento Bee. View the original here.

The new school year brings one of the biggest transitions our state’s elementary and secondary education system has ever experienced. As students settle into new classrooms, our teachers are adjusting their instruction to help students meet expectations of the new Common Core state standards. It’s our job – as parents, business leaders, students, community members and educators – to look beyond both the hype and hysteria to ensure that students benefit from thoughtful, locally driven implementation.

Part of the challenge we’re facing is a lack of clear information about what the standards are and aren’t. They emphasize critical thinking, problem solving and inquiry-based learning – what students need to thrive in college and in today’s global economy. Far from prescribing what should be taught or how, the new standards outline what students should know while giving teachers the flexibility to decide how to help each student get there. Under Common Core, there are actually fewer standards, allowing teachers to slow down and students to explore each topic in depth. ...

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