Learning First Alliance

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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.

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. ...

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

The class of 2031—these are the students who are in Kindergarten this year! If the past decade is any indication, these post-secondary graduates will face a very different world than we can imagine. Our challenge—help them get ready!

Now Is The Hour

Now more than ever, the traditional factory model approach to education practiced over the last 50 years in which students are "widgets" to which "parts" (content) are added by the workers (teachers) as they move along an assembly line and emerge identical to each other will not prepare our students for post-secondary education, work or life. In order to be successful, all students need both broad and deep content knowledge plus the 21st century's 4Cs, life and career skills and a global perspective. Learning must be engaging, connected to the real world, collaborative and personalized. Policymakers, district and school leaders and teachers must embrace new roles as facilitators, collaborators, leaders, lifelong-learners and project managers.

The Most Recent Research

For the last decade, P21 has advocated that 21st century learning requires large-scale transformation of our educational systems, including reimagining teaching, learning and structure. New models are emerging with promising results. Research just released by the American Institute for Research (AIR) ...

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

Robin Williams’ death by suicide in August could be the best thing that’s happened for mental health awareness in years.

Yes, we lost a comic genius who made us laugh so hard that our bellies ached. But his singular act — and, more to the point, his family’s generosity in acknowledging the truth of his death with the public — focused much needed attention on the anguish of depression and the reality that suicide too often accompanies the darkness that characterizes the disease.

How many times have you known someone or the spouse, child, or sibling of someone who committed suicide? How often have you talked about that event in the hushed tones of embarrassment? How often have the leaders in your schools been directed to avoid being specific about how a student or staff members died when the cause of death was suicide? ...

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

Like most immigrants, my family came to America with very little except the hope for a better life and the determination to achieve it. My parents sacrificed tremendously to ensure their children wouldn’t need to make the same sacrifices. Because my father couldn’t speak English, he couldn’t take an upper management job like he had in China, so he had to take blue-collar jobs. My mother, who couldn’t speak English either, couldn’t work at all. My parents’ income never exceeded the poverty level during the 40 years they lived in America. ...

By Tom Ledcke, Special Education Teacher, Roosevelt High School in Seattle, Washington

The challenge of inclusion for students with disabilities has been an ongoing conversation in education. For students in my high school, inclusion has primarily meant physical inclusion only -- students with disabilities attended general education classes with typical peers. However, during lunch and after school they were usually alone and isolated from the usual social experiences that their typical peers enjoyed. My students practiced social fluency skills like eye contact and small talk in the classroom, but they never had the chance to put these skills into action by making true friendships. Participating in team sports or landing a part in the school play was only a dream. While I don't think it was ever out of malice or hatred, ignorance towards the students with intellectual disabilities ensured my students were left out of things and never integrated into the fabric of our school community -- and like any other student who feels isolated or alone, my students could feel that they were "outsiders." ...

By Libby Nealis, Consultant on Classroom Behavioral Management, NEA HIN

Continuing its commitment to preventing and reducing bullying in our nations’ schools, the National Education Association (NEA) offers a number of resources for educators to promote awareness of bullying behaviors among students and prevent bullying behavior. For example, NEA’s GPS Network includes a Student Bullying group that offers a forum for educators to express concerns and share resources and best practices. This month they featured two webinars

NEA HIN also provides resources on cyberbullying and the prevention and intervention services that can address both the causes and the effect of bullying. This includes positive behavioral supports and social and emotional learning (SEL) programs. These kinds of school-wide programs can also have a tremendous effect on bullying. Much can be achieved simply by teaching students compassion ...

By Otha Thornton, President, National PTA

Technology and the Internet have created countless new opportunities for learning. Students can now read about virtually any subject from anywhere and can connect with people and places around the world. Teachers are harnessing the power of the technology to bring curriculum alive and modify instruction to meet the unique needs of every child. Technology is essential for the development of 21st century skills that will help students thrive in their chosen careers.

Technology is everywhere. We text, tweet, shop, learn, play games, plan family vacations and even worship online. Some of us even use technology to track our 10,000 steps each day, like I did during this past summer’s National PTA convention.

Personally, I love technology. I use it extensively at my job. And on my many travels for National PTA, I often use my phone to arrange for transportation, confirm speaking engagements and stay in touch with our state and local units.

But with new gadgets, social media platforms and apps coming out every day, I, like most families, don’t have the time or tech savvy to stay on top of the latest fad.

That’s where good decision-making skills that apply to any digital environment are helpful. ...

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 ...

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