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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. ...

The Learning First Alliance’s Get It Right: Common Sense on the Common Core campaign shares success stories and resources with educators, parents and community leaders across the country to help them better understand and implement the Common Core State Standards in their local schools. LFA Executive Director Cheryl Scott Williams recently spoke with Discovery Education about the purpose of the Get It Right campaign and how LFA took on Common Core as an initiative.

“Get It Right is our way of saying we believe a strong public education system works toward high standards for all children,” she told Discovery Education Senior Vice President Scott Kinney during the interview. “It’s a complicated business educating all children to high standards. ‘Get It Right’ says let’s step back, let’s give our professionals time to learn, to develop new approaches, collaborate, have the resources and support to get it right, and implement Common Core with fidelity.” ...

Montel WilliamsRadio and TV personality Montel Williams is promoting the good work of public education through the National School Boards Association’s “Stand Up 4 Public Schools” campaign. And he wants all educators to join him to “stand up, step up, and speak up for public schools.”

Williams recently energized an audience of thousands of school board members and other educators at NSBA’s 75th annual conference in Nashville. He also is featured in new Stand Up 4 Public Schools digital ads as a spokesman for the national campaign.

Sporting a bright red “Stand Up 4 Public Schools” badge, Williams delivered – “shot gunned,” as he put it – his assertion that school board members must spread the word about issues such as how U.S. public schools graduated a record 82 percent of high school seniors last year, including more than 140,000 minorities. ...

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 Anita Merina, National Education Association (NEA)

More than 45 million participants are expected to join the National Education Association’s 18th annual Read Across America Day celebration this year on Monday, March 2.  Here’s a rundown on activities taking place and ways you can help us spread the word about the nation’s largest reading event. Visit readacrossamerica.org to share your events and see what’s happening around the country and you’ll find free downloadable materials and activities at www.nea.org/readacross.

Cat-a-Van Reading Tour 2015:  NEA’s RAA Cat-A-Van hits the road this year from March 2 through March 6 and will visit California, Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana.  Visit www.nea.org/readacross for more information and a list of cities and participating schools. ...

By Amber Chandler, American Federation of Teachers member and 7th and 8th grade English Language Arts Teacher at Frontier Middle School in Hamburg, NY

Teaching is my calling. I can’t give directions without teaching them to you. Sometimes, depending on your learning style, I will draw you a map on a napkin. Other times, I might get you to Google Maps and have Siri talk you through it. Occasionally, I’ll give you only the landmarks—“Go past the 7-11, until you see a Tim Horton’s on the right. It is directly across from there.” There are teachers who teach a subject, and teachers who teach children, and it is that difference that we must all consider as Education (with a capital “E”) under fire.

Policy makers and bureaucrats are attempting to convince the world, who are incidentally probably laughing at how backwards we are approaching this manufactured education crisis, that the woes of society should be squarely on my back. For those of you who might say that I am making taking this personally, let me remind you that it is my performance that is being questioned. Please. Pay attention. I am trying to teach your children ...

By Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director, National School Boards Association (NSBA)

Last week was National School Choice Week, self-described as "an unprecedented opportunity to shine a spotlight on the need for effective education options for all children."

Ironically, "opportunity" for America's schoolchildren is what National School Choice Week places at risk. The further irony is "choice" can mean public tax dollars siphoned away from community schools to subsidize for-profit ventures. Vouchers, tuition tax credits and charter schools not governed by local school boards create a secondary, profit-driven system of education that strains limited resources and risks re-segregating schools, economically and socially, by admitting only certain, top-performing students.

Our nation's grassroots democracy was founded on the principle that all children, regardless of ZIP code, deserve access to a world-class education. Nine out of 10 school-age children today are enrolled in public schools, which are their gateway to the future. Choice absent accountability can hurt vulnerable students when the choice turns out to be a bad one ...

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

People often say, “Numbers don’t lie,” when they paint a negative picture of the U.S. education system in international comparisons. But numbers also “tell the truth” when you look at some other startling international indicators that compare factors of social stress and economic equity of U.S. students and families with eight other major countries studied in the report, School Performance in Context: The Iceberg Effect.

Jointly published by the Horace Mann League of the U.S.A. and the National Superintendents Roundtable, this research report gives school leaders new insight to better explain the big picture of international comparisons. For the full report, a summary, and an electronic news release, go to http://www.hmleague.org/ or http://www.superintendentsforum.org/. NSPRA’s main mission is to build more support for education and is helping both organizations tell this story so that policymakers can better understand where our community support is most needed.

International assessment results are generally presented as scores, ratings or rankings, creating what might be called a scoreboard mentality. But thoughtful private and public leaders know instinctively that a range of social, economic and cultural conditions affect those numbers. For example, a country with the highest average GDP per person might also have an extraordinarily high level of economic inequity and social stresses that have profound implications for students and their achievement in school ...

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. ...

In 2014, the Learning First Alliance conducted a number of interviews with leading education professionals. Many of these individuals are considered exemplar leaders in our coalition membership. The five listed below are the most viewed of the interviews that we conducted in 2014 and include a PDK Emerging Leader, a former President from AASA: The Superintendents’ Association and the National PTA President. While all but one of our top interviews this year focus on Common Core, we conduct interviews on a broad range of topics, highlighting leadership and best practices in public education.

We would like to thank our members for helping us connect with these individuals, and we thank all of our interviewees for taking time to share their insights and knowledge with our audience.

Happy New Year!

5. California Teachers Talk: Jesús Gutiérrez, Jr on the Common Core

As part of our Get It Right campaign on Common Core implementation, we are pleased to highlight the perspective of Jesús Gutiérrez, Jr, who is in his 10th year as an educator and was a 2013 Los Angeles County Teacher of the Year. Gutiérrez began his career ...

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