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Part of my job as executive director of the Learning First Alliance (LFA) is to attend meetings here in Washington, DC, where new K-12 education reports or projects are released or introduced to policymakers, educators, parents, and interested stakeholders.  Over the past week I attended two such meetings, which provided a stark contrast to approaches used by education leaders and researchers in addressing changes that could benefit both the US public education system and the students it serves.

The Center for American Progress (CAP) released a report authored by Allan Odden titled Getting the Best People into the Toughest Jobs: Changes in Talent Management in Education.  The underlying assumption on which this report’s recommendations are based is that the current workforce in public education is not very talented, should be held accountable for their poor performance, and removed from classrooms and schools.  Indeed, Odden points out what we know is true:  the effectiveness of the teacher and ...

Ask practitioners and administrations on the ground in the education system about state education agencies (SEAs), and you may encounter skepticism. SEAs need not be considered antiquated bodies, as they are the heart of leadership in a state’s education system. SEAs monitor compliance and accountability, but they also provide support for policy design and implementation. These entities are well positioned to use high quality research in policy and practice, but there is variation in efficacy and capacity for doing so among states; an understanding of how SEAs use research provides useful insights when it comes to best practices. ...

New technologies are dramatically changing how people learn. Unfortunately, many schools are moving far too slowly to adopt them, with classrooms today organized in much the same way they were in the 1950s. We in public education must do a better job incorporating new technologies into teaching and learning to prepare students for success in the changing world that awaits them.

But what does it look like when schools step into the digital age? And what can school leaders do to ensure students are learning in new ways?

We recently had the opportunity to hear about these issues from an expert, Ryan Imbriale, Principal of Patapsco High School and Center for the Arts in Baltimore, one of NASSP’s 2013 Digital Principals and a PDK 2013 Emerging Leader. In an e-mail interview, he shared his thoughts on how school leaders can promote digital learning and the challenges they face in doing so, as well as specific examples of what it looks like in his building.

Public School Insights (PSI): Before we discuss your school in particular, I want to ask a couple overarching questions. You were recently named one of NASSP’s 2013 Digital Principals. What exactly is a “digital principal”?

Imbriale: Well, a digital principal is actually real – it’s not some sort of virtual person.  That’s been the running joke at my school since my staff found out I won the award.  The award is designed to recognize principals who exhibit bold, creative leadership with new technologies.

PSI: In general, what is the role of a school leader in digital learning?

Imbriale: The school leader must be willing to fostering an environment of innovation, exploration, experimentation, and trial and error.  When a school’s culture is student-centered and driven by a collaborative spirit it’s really amazing what can be accomplished.  But I will also say that the leader must also be a user.  It’s impossible to get buy-in if you are not modeling effective use.  I try hard to continually model my own personal and professional use of technology, whether it’s social media or flipping professional development.

PSI: Now tell me about your school. What is your vision for it?

Imbriale: My vision for Patapsco High School and Center for the Arts is to provide students with quality comprehensive educational experiences that enable them to develop the productive habits of life-long learners.  Our students will be able to think critically and creatively, learn independently and in collaboration with others, value ethical behavior, and develop skills needed to function in a technologically changing and ...

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. ...

obriena's picture

Top Posts of 2012

As we look ahead to what we hope to accomplish in education in 2013, it behooves us to also reflect on 2012. We reelected a president whose administration is committed to the issue (but whose policies we do not always agree with) and has granted many states waivers to key aspects of the nation’s top education law, No Child Left Behind. We moved closer to a vision in which students in Mississippi learn to the same high standards as those in Montana and Massachusetts as we worked to implement the Common Core. States and districts across the nation navigated new terrain in teacher evaluation and tenure. Educators continued exploring how to best take advantage of new learning technologies – flipping classrooms, starting one-to-one iPad initiatives, preparing for a shift to online assessments and more.  

With all that happened in 2012, what garnered the most attention from you, our readers? Here are our top five posts of 2012 (as indicated by our trusty Google Analytics tracking system). Enjoy!

5. Rethinking Principal Evaluation. Principals are second only to teachers among the in-school influences on student success. Yet we don’t hear much about how to measure their performance – and the little research that exists on the issue suggests that current evaluation systems are far from adequate.

4. Can Arts Education Help Close the Achievement Gap? Research suggests that arts education can help narrow the achievement gap that exists between low-income students and their more advantaged peers. But ...

The power of collaboration seems, at times, to be the best kept secret in education reform. Despite district variance, efforts to increase student achievement levels often see higher levels of success when all stakeholders work together. Studyville School District (the name has been changed to preserve anonymity) is just one such example. It is a story of collaboration and compromise in which stakeholders came together to design and implement a more effective teacher evaluation system. We live in an era where evaluation and accountability dominate the national education conversation and where student outcomes are being tied to merit pay and teacher performance. It is imperative, given the high-stakes nature of evaluation, that such systems are put in place with fidelity and the buy-in of all actors. ...

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Raising the Bar

Editor's Note: Our guest blogger today is Derryn Moten. Derryn is a Professor of Humanities and Co-President of the Faculty-Staff Alliance at Alabama State University. He serves on the AFT* Teacher Preparation Task Force, which recently released a report entitled “Raising the Bar: Aligning and Elevating Teacher Preparation and the Teaching Profession.” Here, he shares his thoughts on why this report is so important.

What will it take to ensure that all new teachers are prepared to teach a diverse student body in the rapidly-changing 21st Century?  I teach at a historically black university with the oldest state-supported college of education in the nation, so I’m very interested in having an open dialogue about how to answer this question. Those of us who collaborated on the AFT’s recent report, Raising the Bar, are all striving to answer that question, too.

Our work on this report was guided by two assumptions. First, if teacher preparation matters, then assessing student teacher performance throughout their matriculation in teacher training programs matters. Likewise, to paraphrase AFT President Weingarten, teacher preparation standards should be done by us rather than done to us. Our schools of education have graduated many wonderful teachers, whose service to the nation’s students is of immeasurable value. But in order to help the next generation of teachers reach their fullest potential in their work with students, we must make sure our teacher preparation programs are of consistently high quality, and we as educators must reclaim ownership of ...

Tarsi Dunlop's picture

Born in Another Time

If you are ever curious about the nuances and challenges of local policy-making and governance, look no further than the U.S public education system. When you consider the statistics and actors – nearly 14,000 school districts, 95,000 principals and more than 90,000 school board members – it is no wonder that public schools see higher levels of success when local leaders come together to collaborate and develop solutions.

The National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) represents the state boards of education that govern and design education policy at the state level. These bodies set the tone, agenda, and overall vision for their state. One area in which their leadership is urgently needed: education technology. To that end, NASBE recently commissioned a study group, whose core composition consisted of 18-20 state board members, that produced Born in Another Time: Ensuring Educational Technology Meets the Needs of Students Today – and Tomorrow.  This report puts forth a vision for education technology in our nation’s public schools, along with key recommendations on how to get there. In essence, it takes a big, bold vision for 21st century learners and ...

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. ...

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. ...

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