Learning First Alliance

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The National PTA named Laura Bay as its president in July, and she has pledged to focus on whole child initiatives and expanding the PTA’s platform to deliver more relevant programs to local schools.  Ms. Bay is the mother of three adopted children and lives in Poulsbo, Wash.

In addition to her personal involvement in education and PTA, Ms. Bay works for the Bremerton School District as a coordinator for assessment and instruction, and prior to this position, was a teacher in the district.

Ms. Bay recently spoke with the Learning First Alliance about her experience and plans for the national organization.

LFA: I see that you have three children and also work as an assessment coordinator in the Bremerton, Wash., school district. Could you please tell us a little about your background and why you decided to get involved in the PTA? ...

By Joshua P. Starr, Chief Executive Officer, PDK International

This year’s PDK/Gallup Poll on the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools marks a shift in both the poll and PDK International. As I assume leadership of the organization, I will build on PDK’s legacy while embracing opportunities to keep the organization at the center of the dialogue about how to ensure that every child in every classroom in America has in front of her or him the most qualified and professional teachers.

Realizing this goal requires comprehensive analysis, honest debate, and a willingness to look at old assumptions with new perspectives. And it requires the kind of trustworthy, independent data about public values that the PDK/Gallup poll provides. The data enable policy makers, leaders, educators, families, and communities to understand the issues before designing and implementing solutions. Toward that end, PDK International will, for the first time, convene thought leaders throughout the year to explore survey results, engage in deep dialogue about the issues, and develop a common understanding of their complexity. We hope our leaders and those who help them craft policy will recognize that the successful solutions we seek can only be the offspring of well-defined data and deeply understood problems. ...

By Mary Cathryn Ricker, Executive Vice-President, American Federation of Teachers (AFT)

When I was elected president of the St. Paul Federation of Teachers (SPFT) in 2005, I thought my own story might help transform the relationship between teachers and administrators as well as improve the image of teachers in the community. I was a veteran middle school English teacher, and I’d been honored for my work. And I had been active in the SPFT as a political and community volunteer as well as the union’s professional representative on local and state committees.

I had also spent enough time in my classroom and in the city to know—and be bothered by—the dominant story told about public school teachers and our union by the mass media, a number of Minnesota legislators, and in many local communities. On a local TV station’s evening news show, a Minnesota Republican state senator, Richard Day, had even declared, “We all know Minneapolis and St. Paul schools suck.” In too many conversations, I got accused of failure unless I quickly told people about the awards I had won for creating a model English/language arts classroom and running a program for my colleagues on how to improve writing in middle schools. If local citizens, especially parents, could learn about our talent, our dedication, and our ideas, I was convinced their perceptions would change ...

Eighty-eight percent of respondents surveyed by the Kentucky Department of Education gave their state's standards – which are based on the Common Core State Standards – a thumbs up. And of the approximately 12 percent of respondents who indicated they would like to see some sort of change in one or more of the standards, the majority wanted to see one or more of the standards moved to a different grade level.

This data was collected through the Kentucky Core Academic Standards (KCAS) Challenge, which aimed to both increase awareness and understanding of the Kentucky Core Academic Standards in English/language arts and mathematics and to solicit actionable feedback on the standards as part of the department's regular review of the state's academic standards. ...

By Rich Bagin, APR, Executive Director, National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA)

Most people outside of our profession do not fully grasp how busy school leaders are during the summer. Whether it is preparing your facilities for the new year, juggling last-minute staffing changes, upgrading tech applications, getting instructional materials and furniture where they belong, or planning professional development of all sorts for your instructional staff, you’ve got your hands full.

But for many school leaders, early summer is a good time for a bit of retrospection. And, take it from the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA), summer can be good time to assess what went well and what went wrong in communication and engagement during the past school year.

  • So just how did the roll-out of your brand of Common Core go with your system?
  • And how then are you going to approach releasing the first round of assessments this upcoming year?
  • Are you ready for increasing requests to opt-out of testing? ...

Parent engagement and community engagement have been trending in education lingo for some time, but what do these really mean for school districts? 

Parent engagement strategies are designed to go beyond the required parent-teacher conferences, volunteering, and seminars and events that public schools have used for decades to draw in families and community members. Now, we are happy to see that a few school districts and states are trying to encourage longer-term strategies that are directly tied to student learning, Education Week reports.

These school leaders see that parents who are aware of what’s going on in their child’s school and get involved in working toward academic goals will help their child succeed academically. But it also helps draw needed support for public education from parents and the community. ...

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.  ...

As California’s ABC Unified School District begins weaving the Common Core State Standards into its classroom curriculum, high school teacher Richard Saldana says the district has learned that cooperation and coordination among all staff is key to helping the standards meet their potential.

The school district regularly brings together teachers, principals and other staff to discuss implementation, then they use those sessions to speak with a unified voice to stakeholders such as the school board and parents.

“We do our best to bring as many stakeholders together as we can, starting with the teachers in the district,” says Saldana, who is the social studies chair at Artesia High School and a member of the district’s executive committee thatguides CCSS implementation. “And we believe that's essential because the teachers are the ones that are using the curriculum with the students.”

Saldana and other teachers quickly noticed that the new standards are much more rigorous, but he feels that once implementation takes hold, the CCSS will ultimately improve his students’ learning. ...

By Melanie Zinn, Owner, Director and Lead Teacher of a Licensed Home Child Care Program in Vermont*

Editor’s note: This post is part of a series of blog posts on the early childhood education work force that the American Federation of Teachers is running in honor of Worthy Wage Day, celebrated this year on Friday, May 1. View the other posts in the series here.

We attribute many stereotypes to “those in need”: jobless, maybe homeless, lazy, struggling, etc. I would be surprised if a tidy-looking, professional person was the image that popped into your head at the mention of this phrase. However, the reality of many early educators is just that: In need. I am one of those in need, and I never thought I’d be able to actually admit it.

What could we possibly be in need of, you might ask? The picture of an educator can also be so stereotypical! A woman, right? And one in professional attire, who only has to work like 6 hours a day, who doesn’t even have the children in their classroom the entire time due to library and gym, etc., who has summers off and let’s face it, doesn’t really deserve to earn as much a doctor or lawyer or engineer, right? Oh, so wrong! ...

Joplin, Missouri, is a town in transition. After it was ravaged by a tornado three years ago, leaders have worked to rebuild the core of the town and its school district. Many of the 10,000 students’ families are struggling with poverty and economic hardships, and Superintendent Dr. C.J. Huff has been charged with not only managing the district’s rebuilding but also the implementation of the Common Core State Standards.

District officials saw the Common Core as an opportunity to bring relevant experiences for a global economy to Joplin schools, and they were concerned that student achievement had plateaued. With the town’s rebuilding, Dr. Huff worked hard to engage the community, including parents, social service agencies, and the business and faith communities, in conversations about its schools and improving student achievement.

Not surprisingly, residents of this conservative area were skeptical of the Common Core, seeing it as an unnecessary federal interference. Yet Joplin school officials have successfully implemented the standards without backlash and even persuaded some of their critics to embrace the standards. ...

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