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By Andrea Cahn and Betty Edwards

When you see me, I want you to see that we are alike.
When you see me, I want you to see that I get nervous sometimes.
When you see me, I want you to see a happy dancer.
When you see me, I want you to see a football player.
When you see me, I want you to see someone who tries to be a good friend.

The statements above are from It’s Our School, Too, a play reflecting poignant quotes and perceptions of students who for far too long have felt excluded from the fabric of the school—those with intellectual disabilities. Written by Suzy Messerole and Aamera Siddiqui and commissioned by Special Olympics Project UNIFY®, It’s Our School, Too! is based upon interviews with youth from the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area and members of Special Olympics Project Unify Youth Activation Committee. The play provides insight into the world of students with intellectual disabilities and the varying opportunities they have to be an integral part of the school.

Identified as a significant civil rights issue, social inclusion speaks to the needs of all youth to learn and live within an environment that recognizes their strengths and ...

By Nora Howley, Manager of Programs, NEA Health Information Network

School safety is more than just having a plan. It’s a process that needs to involve the whole school community.

LaPorte Community School Corporation is a rural school district in northwest Indiana.  It’s also a great example of a district that has brought everyone to the table to help keep kids safe. 

I recently joined Donna Nielsen, a bus driver and NEA member, and Glade Montgomery, the superintendent, on a panel led by Roxanne Dove of NEA’s Education Support Professional Quality Department (ESPQ) at the National Forum on School Improvement. We were there to share what LaPorte is doing right and talk about what other districts can do to protect their students. ...

By Betty Edwards, Chair of the Special Olympics Project UNIFY® National Education Leaders Network

The film “Cipher in the Snow,” a true story written in 1964 by teacher/guidance counselor Jean Mizer, tells the story of an ostracized teenager, Cliff, who has no friends and becomes a withdrawn "cipher" or nonentity. (Cipher is the mathematical notation for zero—something without weight, importance, or value.)

One day, Cliff asks to get off the school bus, collapses, and dies in the snow beside the road. Cliff’s math teacher is asked to write the obituary but realizes that hardly anyone recalls the student. When he tries to get a small group together to attend Cliff’s funeral, he can’t find 10 people who knew the student well enough to feel comfortable going. He vows to never let another student in his class feel unimportant and be unknown.

We wish we could say that this story could not be written today, but that’s not true. Many students in our schools feel insignificant, disengaged, and ...

By Gail Connelly, Executive Director of the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP)

Communications scholar Marshall McLuhan once said, "We don't know who discovered water, but we know it wasn't the fish." Water shapes a fish's existence so profoundly — and, swimming right in the middle of it, the fish can't grasp how water impacts them. In education, a school's "water" is its culture, that complicated combination of shared values, norms, beliefs, and expectations. It manifests in actions as simple as the way a principal recognizes staff accomplishments, and as complex as the processes staff members use to mediate conflict or the ideas that shape student motivation.

School culture is hard to characterize and cultivate, but it's arguably the defining factor in school change. Shifting culture could prove to be the trickiest — but most essential — piece of today's most pressing education challenge: implementing the Common Core State Standards.

Schools in most states across the country spent the last school year dipping a toe into the Common Core, learning about the new benchmarks, mapping curricula to uncover gaps in learning, and reshuffling schedules to facilitate discussion of the standards. But if last year, for many districts, involved wading in the shallow end of the pool, this year schools will need to fully dive ...

The following blog post is from Samantha Huffman and was written in response to a recent article about a special needs student who was bound with duct tape during school.

Samantha is a former National Youth Activation Committee member and current senior, studying Elementary Education at Hanover College. Samantha has been a student leader in Project UNIFY for many years.

I recently went to a conference where a young man with cerebral palsy kept bringing up how we needed to focus on students with disabilities being tied down to chairs or restrained and/or harmed in some other way by educators. I kept thinking to myself how this wasn’t important because this would never be allowed to happen in a school in today’s society. I’m a senior Elementary Education major and never once in my four years of classes have we addressed the idea of restraining students because that’s just plain wrong, isn’t it? Well, apparently I was living in some kind of dream world and this young man at the conference was living in the real world. ...

In the work that the Learning First Alliance (LFA) has undertaken over the past months in gathering data on public attitudes and perceptions of public education, one common assumption among the general public becomes clear:

  • Student success and teacher effectiveness are related to a single quality - caring

So, the public and educators alike believe that if teachers care about their students and the students with whom they work believe their teacher cares about them as individuals, the likelihood of learning taking place is high.  This doesn’t imply that subject level knowledge and pedagogical skill aren’t important, it just states that those two characteristics don’t work effectively if the educator doesn’t care about the students he or she is working with.  ...

A new study that tracks the long-term effects of bullying suggests that intervention efforts are well worth attention and investment.  While some consider bullying to be a rite of passage - it is certainly a common occurrence – the behavior adversely affects student learning and can account for higher rates of absenteeism. Nationally, 160,000 students miss school on a daily basis due to a fear of being bullied or attacked. ...

The Congressionally mandated Equity and Excellence Commission issued its report on a conference call in February that proposed ways to improve public education for all the nation’s children. The report describes a landscape that those of us who have spent our professional lives in public education are well aware of….that students living in affluent, largely white communities receive a truly world-class education while those who attend schools in high poverty neighborhoods are getting an education that more closely approximates schools in developing nations. The report states the obvious, and what we all know: ...

By Dennis Van Roekel, President of the National Education Association

It starts early. When we are maybe age three or four or five. When we are young and impressionable. Someone close to us opens a book and reads to us about animals that talk, ghosts that live in haunted castles or pirates in search of buried treasure.

And we are hooked. We can't wait for someone to read us another story that causes our imaginations to run wild. If you've ever shared a book with a child, you know the joy and excitement this small act can bring. It's almost comical how some children want to hear the same story over and over and over — they are so spellbound by it.

Research shows that children who are read to at home have a higher success rate in school and frequently develop stronger reading skills. Reading is the foundation of education.

Unfortunately, too many children have no one to read to them. The National Center for Education Statistics tells us that almost 50 percent of children ages three to five do not get read to on a daily basis. This is staggering.

We at the National Education Association (NEA) are working to change this. We offer a number of resources to help educators improve reading instruction and to help parents develop reading skills in their children. And each year we host Read Across America, an initiative that celebrates reading and literacy and encourages more adults to ...

The Commission on Equity and Excellence had a Congressional mandate to provide advice to Secretary Duncan on the disparities in meaningful educational opportunities and to recommend ways in which federal policies can address such disparities. They just released a report titled “For Each and Every Child,” after a two year work period. The distinguished members of the panel, with diverse professional backgrounds and different political ideologies, focused on the inequality in our nation’s public school system as the primary driver behind two achievement gaps, the internal domestic gap and the international gap. Their conclusions and recommendations won’t surprise education professionals, but the report serves as a well-timed call to action for the struggles facing African American students, particularly males, during Black History Month. The opportunity gap also exists for a significant number of Hispanic and Native American students. ...

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