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Americans don’t agree on the purpose of public education, but they like their local schools, especially when they believe educators listen to their concerns.
The Bush-Obama era of nationalist education policy essentially ended with the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act. Public education is a state function, and the U.S. Department of Education is supposed to be a regulator, policy maker, and distributor of funds. But from No Child Left Behind through Race to the Top, the past two administrations have stepped beyond their traditional roles to dictate interventions and influence decisions at the local level.
Our 48th annual PDK Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools shows that overall the American public isn’t completely satisfied with the direction set over the past 16 years. The poll results offer some insight that should not only be heeded by the next administration but could be used by the two presidential candidates to align their policies to the interests of their constituents. ...
This guest blog was written by teacher Nichole Santangelo for the Partnership for 21st Century Learning. Learn more about Rancho Minerva, a P21 Exemplar School, in this Success Story.
How Can a Middle School Be Structured To Foster New Digital Workplace Skills and Opportunities for 21st Century Careers?
Rancho Minerva Middle School, located 45 miles North of San Diego, is a middle school on the move. It is a school with over 90% of its students living below the poverty line with nearly 3/4ths speaking a primary language other than English. Rancho Minerva has taken an innovative turnaround approach to preparing its students for college and career. ...
Words are powerful tools and, combined with appropriate action, can be quite effective.
Whether school board members are looking to establish new policy or programs, or to develop a shared vision and commitment to improving achievement for students under their watch, setting clear goals and priorities go a long way in the face of increasing demands and limited resources. What you bring to the boardroom and, in particular, what makes it on to the table sets the stage for change or improvement.
As school board members, we have multiple opportunities to share and gain information. What we bring to the table can vary and be highly influenced by our experiences and perceptions.
In preparing for a recent presentation that focused on elements of effective school board leadership, I was determined to be deliberate in my messaging. I went so far as to write several words down on an index card as prompts: equity, leadership, good governance, and advocacy.
Of course, writing things down and including them as parts of the dialogue is only the beginning. It’s when something becomes an active part of our agenda and is brought into the conversation time and time again that it can move from paper into practice, from vision into reality. ...
It’s sad but true: In October, a veteran teacher in Florida resigned because the conditions under which she was required to work did not support best practice. Despite her love of teaching and her “highly effective” ratings in evaluations, Wendy Bradshaw was trapped in an untenable position because she was required to deploy practices that were developmentally inappropriate for her young students.
Based on her extensive training in human growth and development, this highly credentialed professional with bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees would not persist in activities that she knew to be harmful to her students. “Developmentally appropriate practice is the bedrock upon which early childhood education best practices are based, and has decades of empirical support behind it,” she writes in her resignation letter. “However, the new reforms not only disregard this research, they are actively forcing teachers to engage in practices which are not only ineffective but actively harmful to child development and the learning process.” ...
In today’s competitive and political atmosphere, school leaders often ask us about strategies and tactics to build trust and confidence in our schools — let alone how to enhance the reputation of public education.
We always offer solutions on a number of fronts, but we also ask leaders to think about all the touch points that are automatically built into the school year — those times when parents, teachers, and principals all interact with one another. Those face-to-face episodes often begin making or breaking the confidence that your critical audience of parents has in your schools.
Parent Conferences Give You a Time to Shine
Traditional open houses and parent conferences are now in full swing in many communities. Those of you who are parents or who have a bit of experience meeting with parents know how these events can serve as a great starting point to build confidence in your school and your teachers. ...
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.