Learning First Alliance

Strengthening public schools for every child

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What if I do more than share grades with parents?

I recently met with two parents and their son. It was a conference to discuss how he was doing in class and what they could do at home to help. If that kind of interpersonal communication is the "Gold Standard" of analog communications, we have to concede it's not the only way we can communicate with families, nor is it the most sustainable. But let's start with the conference and the tools for opening communication. Then on to other options.

Unlike years past, my year-round calendar does not allocate minimum days for conferencing anymore. My single conferences lasted one hour and fifteen minutes after school. To replicate this for my class of 28 students would require 35 hours. Quality communication? Yes. Replicable on a frequent basis? No.

While the recent conference was enlightening for the parents, student, and myself, I came away with two big wonderings: ...

February 17 is Digital Learning Day, and the Consortium for School Networking is excited to also announce the launch of a new Digital Equity Action Toolkit for district leaders.

Introduced through CoSN’s new Digital Equity Action Agenda leadership initiative, the toolkit provides school system leaders with thoughtful strategies to address and narrow the “homework gap” in their communities.

Ensuring equitable access to technology inside and outside the classroom is the civil rights issue of today. Alarmingly, many lower-income families cannot stay connected to complete homework assignments, and parents are unable to track their child’s academic performance. School leaders must work with their communities to ensure digital equity and enable all students to benefit from learning that is increasingly delivered digitally. ...

Written by Jim Bellanca, P21 Senior Fellow and co-editor of Becoming Self-Directed Learners.

Ephie was facing her first solo outside the school walls. It was her senior capstone project. It wasn’t her first official learning experience “out there”.  In her two years in the Global Studies School, she had completed internships, researched in the local library, traveled to the city for another project and taken a course at the local community college. This was the first time she would have to move round on her own.

As more schools adopt new ways of learning that include outside the walls study, internships and other formats, questions arise. What value? Who benefits? Who pays?  Who is responsible for what?  The best answer to all is “the student” at least when it comes to a self-directed capstone project. Such a project as Ephie’s is there to test her mettle as a self-directed learner. As a capstone, it is a final exam.  ...

Deanna Martindale is a 2014 PDK Emerging Leader and principal at Hebron Elementary School in Ohio. She has spent nineteen years in education, teaching sixth grade, serving as a professional development coach, and helping plan one of the first K-12 STEM programs in her state.

She recently took some time to share her thoughts on STEM learning, engaging curriculum, preparing students for college-and-career, and connecting with parents, students and staff in support of student achievement.

Public School Insights (PSI): Thank you so much for taking the time to share your insights with us here at Learning First Alliance. First, would you share some of your professional background with us?   

This is my 19th year in education and my fourth year as an elementary principal. I have taught sixth grade, all subjects, and served as an instructional coach, working on assessment design and inquiry based teaching.  I also spent time as a professional development coordinator with the Teaching and Learning Collaborative, working some with COSI Columbus to develop an Inquiry Learning for Schools summer program for teachers. I conducted professional development around the state to help roll out Ohio’s new science standards and best instructional practices, and I was a STEM coordinator for Reynoldsburg schools, where I worked with a design team of teachers and administrators to plan one of the first K-12 STEM programs in the state ...

Students that drop out of school may vanish from the school system, but they do not disappear from society. They will reappear in court or prison, in the unemployment numbers that are released each month or as part of a welfare or poverty statistic. And students with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD) are more likely to drop out of school, as they face additional barriers to academic success. Fortunately, it is possible to reconnect with this population, with programs that show particular success when it comes to re-engaging these dropouts sharing key characteristics. The most recent issue of PDK International’s Kappan Magazine features an article, “Re-engaging School Dropouts with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders”, which is targeted at these students, though it offers advice that could help reengage all dropouts. ...

A December report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) – the independent, nonpartisan agency that works for Congress and investigates how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars – reiterates what we at the Learning First Alliance have been saying for well over a year: We need to provide the time and support necessary for teachers, administrators, parents and communities to get Common Core right.

Of course, when it comes to new college- and career-ready standards, it is not only the Common Core State Standards that require time to implement. The report found that all states (whether they adopted the Common Core or not) are using the same strategies – professional development, new curriculum and communications strategies – in implementation. They are also facing the same challenges. And while none of the GAO’s findings are surprising to either educators in the field or their policy advocates, hopefully their report brings these issues to the attention of a new audience ...

By Tatyana Warrick, Communications Manager, Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21)

As of today, there are 40 schools across the country recognized by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) as 21st Century Learning Exemplars. Each school is a unique microcosm, working in tangent with district and state leadership, universities, community organizations, businesses, students, and teachers to create a community of learning to prepare kids for the challenges of life, college, and career.

For these schools, and hundreds more, being a “21st century learning exemplar” is more than a slogan, or a mission statement – it is embedded in the school's learning culture. This is where the 4Cs – Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking and Creativity – come to life and create meaningful learning experiences for both students and educators.

In 2013, P21 launched the Exemplar Program to share what 21st century learning looks, sounds and feels like, and where it is happening. We were honored to add 15 additional schools in 2014 to this cadre of exemplary, transformative learning and to share their stories of 21st century learning in practice ...

Tarsi Dunlop's picture

STEM for All Kids

STEM is far more nuanced than the acronym suggests. At an early December NCTET-sponsored event at Discovery Education headquarters, the focus was on the importance of STEM in teaching and learning.

Science, technology, engineering and math aren’t just for individuals who already excel in the subjects; STEM can be for all students in all classes. And it really isn’t about excelling in key subjects, but a mindset that can be infused across a curriculum. In school, STEM helps students see what they can be, what they can do, and what problems they can solve. You can’t be what you can’t see, and STEM learning is a logical connection to the real world opportunities students can pursue in their future careers.  ...

Common Core implementation brings more rigorous standards, new assessments, increased online technical demands and significant shifts in curriculum and instruction. Why, then, should we also ask educators and schools to prioritize social-emotional learning skills?

Preparing students for 21st century success means ensuring they are “College-, Career-, and Contribution-Ready,” as outlined in Social-emotional skills can boost Common Core Implementation, a piece by Maurice Elias in the November 2014 issue of PDK’s Kappan magazine. After all, we want our students to be productive citizens, contributing members in their workplace and family units, and prepared to embrace the diverse global community upon graduation. ...

By Jim Bellanca, for the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21)

What happens when evidence challenges “yes buts” about deeper learning?

My 9th grade English teacher always insisted that I define the key term when introducing a new topic. A driving question dictates the same.  Plus, every time I see a blog post or magazine article about “Deeper Learning,” the first question I’m asked is what that key term means. More often than not, I am asked for examples to clarify the term. On the other hand, I hear “yes… but” that the term “deeper learning” is “old hat” or “everybody does that.” Thus, I thought it might be a good idea to layout the definition, some examples and describe its ingredients before responding to the key “yes, buts…”

Definitions and Descriptions

As I understand it, Deeper Learning is an umbrella term that describes what happens when teachers challenge students to explore, investigate, solve problems, or inquire about topics that they need to understand in depth and in life. Teachers who desire deeper learning results create deeper learning not as an occasional strategy that is nice for some, but as their fundamental approach that is necessarily good for all ...

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