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By Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers (AFT)

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been seeing teachers posting pictures of their classrooms on Facebook, saying, “My classroom’s ready!” That takes me right back to my childhood, helping my mom prepare her classroom for the students in the waning days of August.

My mom taught second and third grade at Valley Cottage Elementary School. And I remember her ritual of using the days before Labor Day to ready her classroom for her students.

Of course, preparing the classroom — even back then — meant spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars out of her own pocket on supplies — just as her colleagues did and teachers do today.

When I was a kid, we were lucky to have a laundry room that housed the washer and dryer, of course, but also served as my mom’s office, filled with all the supplies she bought for her class. It was a treasure trove of books and paper and pens. ...

By Kevin Scott, Director of Member Engagement, ASCD

Last month, I wrote about the possibility of the final weeks of school being a spring board for the rest of the school year. I basically asked this question: “What if the bulk of the school year had the energy and excitement for students that we (parents and teachers) see once the state tests are over?” As the final weeks of summer wind down, I’m already thinking about what I, as a parent, want the 2015–16 school year to look like for my sons. And since everyone seems to be interested in lists, I created a list of my top five “wants.” 

1. Reduce Anxiety and Stress: Last year, my 6th grader struggled with reading and math. As a former teacher—and a former math struggler—I had to put my growth mindset hat away as my son and I tried to get to the root of the problem. We found a tutor who helps him and connects well with his learning style. When my parents had to do the same for me a couple of decades ago, it was a mismatch because the tutor and I didn’t gel. The connection between my son and his tutor, however, ultimately dissolved the argument about the value of math in general. It was almost cool for him to get some extra help. Having a tutor that my son respects and enjoys working with has greatly reduced the stress level in my house. In general, I want us all to be a little less stressed and take the actions to insure that happens ...

When and where do new teachers learn about the bullies? 

When three-year-old munchkins, barely out of training pants, are already showing their muscle through inappropriate and aggressive behavior, it's time to pay attention. In 2005, Yale professor Walter Gilliam shocked anyone listening when he said that 3 year-olds were being expelled at three times the rate of children in kindergarten through grade 12. Over three million elementary and secondary school students are suspended a year, and 28% of middle and high school students report being bullied at school. This statistic worries us, especially when we know that novice teachers, be they pre-K or 12, have little or no preparation to deal with this phenomenon.

Expulsion is just a quick fix that is neither a means to an end nor an end in itself. Nothing gets solved and the opportunity to alter that challenging, aggressive behavior is lost. The scared children remain. Learning is impaired when children are scared. ...

Let’s talk frankly.  Most relationships between the school systems and their communities are dysfunctional - like a bad marriage.  Each has suffered deeply crushed expectations.  If each party were to write a letter to each other trying to save the relationship, letters might read like this:

Dear School:

I am writing this letter to you because I care about you.  I believe every child has to be given access to a quality education--no matter what form--as long as its quality meets the needs of kids and prepares them to be productive citizens.  I’m deeply disappointed in our relationship.  Time and time again you have asked for support and whenever I could, I have provided it whether it was money, mentors, internships, volunteers, speakers and even helping out at school events.  You promised that this is what you needed to be healthy and that kids would benefit.  ...

By Heather Naviasky, Program Associate, Coalition for Community Schools

Twice in the last several months, schools have received attention because of their strong academic performance. But in telling their stories, the Education Trust (in the case of Menlo Park Elementary a "dispelling the myth school" in Portland, OR) and the Washington Post (in the case of Carlin Springs Elementary in Arlington, VA) focused only on academic improvements, overlooking the role of educators and their community partners in ensuring that low-income children also have the opportunities and supports they need to thrive. Last month we at the Coalition for Community Schools expanded on the success of Menlo Park Elementary; this month, we dive deeper into Carlin Springs.

On January 10, 2015, the Washington Post highlighted how Carlin Springs Elementary was raising test scores. It focused on how "teaching to the test" and test prep created double digit test score gains for the school. Once again, while they zoomed in on one area of achievement, the Post did not capture other dimensions of the school’s improvement strategy ...

By Teri Dary, Anderson Williams and Terry Pickeral, Special Olympics Project UNIFY Consultants

The problem with public education is that there isn’t enough tension. The other problem with public education is that there’s too much tension. And, perhaps the biggest problem is that both of these are correct, and we don’t distinguish between creative tension and destructive tension. 

Without distinguishing between the two, we cannot intentionally build structures and relationships that create the systems our students need: systems of shared leadership, strategic risk-taking and mutual responsibility. Systems of creative tension. Instead, we more commonly build top-down structures that generate destructive tension and bottom-up structures to avoid, relieve, or push back against them. ...

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

I’ve always preferred having blinds or curtains covering the windows in my home — at least the windows that face the street or my neighbors. I don’t want just anybody peeking into my house.

But the windows of my home office are only partly covered, allowing light to stream in and brighten the room and to let me look out to watch cardinals perch in nearby trees.

And, because I live in a three-story house, I have a few windows up high that aren’t covered at all, which allows me to look out over the evergreens and maple trees without any worry about nosy neighbors peering into my private space.

I’m guessing that most folks are like me — picking and choosing the times and places where we value our privacy and the times and places where we’re willing to open up a little because of the benefit we’ll gain by being a little less protective ...

By Kwok-Sze Wong, Ed.D., Executive Director, American School Counselor Association (ASCA) 

When she said, “My husband has set a goal that America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world,” the audience erupted in applause. Her husband is President Barack Obama, so “she” is, of course, First Lady Michelle Obama. She was speaking in the East Room of the White House at a ceremony honoring the 2015 School Counselor of the Year, Cory Notestine, of Alamosa High School in Alamosa, CO, and the award finalists and semifinalists.

The American School Counselor Association and other organizations have been working with Mrs. Obama for more than a year to develop her Reach Higher initiative to help students compete their education beyond high school. “The more that I learned about our school counselors, the more I realized that often America’s school counselors are truly the deciding factor in whether our young people attend college or not,” she said.

She reiterated a fact that educators know well, that post-secondary education is essential for good jobs with good wages. But she also described a bigger impact ...

Cory Notestine is the American School Counselor Association's (ASCA) 2015 School Counselor of the Year. He worked in Guilford County Schools (NC) at T. Wingate Andrews High School before moving to Colorado, where he currently serves as a counselor at Alamosa High School. Notestine's efforts have resulted in higher college going rates and increased opportunities for students to partake in community college and university courses while still in high school.

Notestine was kind enough to take time to discuss his work and the school counseling program at Alamosa High School in greater depth. He highlighted the importance of the ASCA National Model in guiding the creation of the school's comprehensive counseling program, one that both holds counselors accountable and shows the impact of their work for the students they serve. Notestine also presented his priorities for the next year, when he will be serving as a national spokesman for his profession and his colleagues nationwide.
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By Sharon P. Robinson, President and CEO, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE)

This week, the White House announced a new push to protect students’ digital privacy, as ever-expanding data collection efforts heighten concerns from parents and advocacy groups about appropriate uses of the data. Institutions of higher education share the administration’s priority of protecting elementary and secondary students and upholding diligent safety and privacy practices in preparing teachers for the classroom. Ultimately, safeguarding student data is everyone’s business. ...

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