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Chronic absenteeism is often thought of as a middle and high school issue. As children become responsible for getting themselves to school, those who are disengaged stop showing up.

But did you know that nationally, one in ten kindergarten and first grade students miss the equivalent of a month of school each year? In some districts, it is more than one in four. Why don’t we talk more about these shocking statistics?

Perhaps because we don’t know them. I had no idea that chronic absenteeism (when a child misses 10% or more of the school year) in the early grades was so common until a session last week at the Coalition for Community Schools’ 2012 National Forum, when Hedy Chang, director of Attendance Works, and representatives from school districts across the nation helped illuminate the scope of the problem.

I doubt I am alone in my ignorance on this issue. When data in Multnomah County (Oregon) showed that 20% of K-3 students are chronically absent – 28% of kindergarteners – stakeholders in both the schools and the community were shocked. ...

A new study out of Kansas is adding to the pile of evidence that early childhood education not only has academic benefits for children (particularly disadvantaged youth), but economic benefits for society.

America’s Edge, a national nonprofit organization of business leaders whose members “work to strengthen businesses and the economy through proven investments in children,” has released a new report finding that in the short-term, for every $1 invested in early-learning programs in the state, a total of $1.68 is generated in spending. Early childhood education outperforms retail trade ($1.65), transportation ($1.63), construction ($1.59), wholesale trade ($1.51), and manufacturing ($1.46).

And remember, these are short-term benefits. Many other studies have documented the longer-term economic benefits of investing in early learning. Consider:

  • An evaluation of Chicago Public Schools' federally funded Child Parent Centers (CPCs) finding that for every dollar invested in the preschool program, nearly $11 is projected to return to society over participants' lifetimes—the equivalent of an 18 percent annual return.
  • A study showing that Georgia’s lottery-funded pre-kindergarten program was estimated to save the state $212.9 million over
  • ...

obriena's picture

Everyday Heroes

Recently we have been hearing - from some politicians, the media and certain “ed reformers” - that teachers are one of the problems facing education today. While the importance of good teachers is often acknowledged, (sometimes unintentionally and sometimes intentionally) the current education workforce is portrayed as lazy, entitled, indifferent and the guardian of the status quo.

This rhetoric corresponds to the lowest teacher job satisfaction in decades, as evidenced by the MetLife Foundation’s recent Survey of the American Teacher. Last summer, I wrote about the mood at the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) annual conference. I titled the post, America’s Premiere Teachers: Demoralized, Infantilized, and Fearful?

Teachers certainly have a right to be demoralized, given not only the rhetoric surrounding them but the conditions in which they are working, which are acknowledged to be stressful and which may further deteriorate, as the effects of the economic recession continue to work their way through our education funding systems.

So it’s more important than ever that we celebrate teachers. One way in which you can help: Vote for an AFT Everyday Hero. The American Federation of Teachers has sifted through hundreds of ...

Recently, I’ve been reminded of the wealth of publicly supported educational resources outside the classroom that offer rich learning opportunities for students of all ages.  I’ve also mulled over how formal public schooling can take advantage of some of the resources and experiences to which I’ve been exposed.  Certainly, I’ve been involved for many years in advocating for the appropriate and effective use of new and emerging technologies to meet our teaching and learning needs in the public classroom.  But I’m reminded that nothing can change the ‘being there’ and there are ways that the technology can help us ‘be there’ as learners and also explore primary sources in ways not possible before.

My first reminder of the riches available to all of us was in January when the Learning First Alliance Board of Directors met at the Library of Congress in the elegant Jefferson Room.  In addition to hearing from the Librarian of Congress, we also learned from the Library’s education staff about the extensive work that’s been done providing access to the digitized version of primary sources and the educational enhancements that have been applied to these sources…i.e. you can now see the original version of the Declaration of Independence that Jefferson wrote along with the edits, identified by their author, and see which edits appeared in the final version and ...

On a webinar yesterday hosted by the National Education Association’s (NEA) Priority Schools Campaign, Anne Henderson* offered a hopeful vision for the future of family and community engagement in public education. She predicted that the time is coming where schools really understand that engaging families and communities is a core strategy for school improvement. It will no longer be considered an extra, something to address after we’ve taken care of academic issues. In other words, it will be an integral piece of the puzzle.

Research from the past thirty years certainly supports this vision. And so do countless individual stories. On that same webinar, representatives from Oklahoma’s Putnam City West High School shared how family and community engagement lead to academic gains at their school.

Putnam City West serves a rapidly changing student population. In 2004, 10% of the student body was Hispanic. This year, 25% is. Thirteen percent of students are ...

As a member of the Millennial Generation, I couldn’t help but notice “The New Generation Gap in Schools,” an article in the March issue of the American School Board Journal, published by the National School Boards Association (NSBA) that asserts Millennials are arriving in schools – as parents – and that the public education community can prevent a new generation gap by earning our support.  I certainly agree.

The article’s generation profile says we are more diverse, racially tolerant, less conservative and less likely to have served in the military than the generations before us. We tend to be more liberal, socially and politically which may lead us to support public schools philosophically and theoretically, but does not automatically guarantee we will send our children to traditional public schools. ...

Editor’s Note: Our guest blogger today is Susan Hildreth. Susan serves as the director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a position to which President Obama appointed her in January 2011.

Museums and libraries are an essential component of any vision of the future of learning. Helping these institutions to create engaging and empowering learning experiences is one of the primary goals of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

The classic field trip to a museum is still a valuable tool for elementary school teachers. But the relationship museums and libraries now have with schools is much more collaborative than that of host and guest for an occasional visit. ...

Yesterday I wrote about Mark Schneider’s belief that to significantly raise student achievement in this nation, we need to “shock” the system. Today, I learned about a partnership aiming to do just that in a rural West Virginia district.

West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, State Board of Education Vice President Gayle Manchin and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) have announced Reconnecting McDowell, a public-private partnership with more than 40 partners aimed at enhancing educational opportunity for children in McDowell County, a district that has ranked lowest in the state in academic performance for most of the past decade. 

As a community, McDowell County faces a number of challenges in addition to a low-performing educational system. According to the Washington Post, while historically the area has produced the most coal in the state, with the collapse of the coal and steel industries in the 1960s, the unemployment rate has risen dramatically. Nearly 80% of children in the school district live in poverty; 72% live in a household without gainful employment. The area has a high incarceration rate. It also has a large number of residents struggling with addition, and it leads the nation in ...

As part of American Education Week, today is Parents Day, spotlighting the importance of parental involvement in education. Schools across the country invite parents into the classroom to experience firsthand what a day is like for their child.

Of course, schools shouldn’t wait until Parents Day to engage families in their child’s education. Research has shown that family engagement in, or support of, learning leads to better grades, more positive attitudes towards school, better attendance, higher graduation rates and greater likelihood of enrolling in postsecondary education.

A new report from the National Education Association's Priority Schools Campaign reviews this research and profiles 16 family and community engagement initiatives from across the country that have shown success in engaging families and/or community organizations in improving student outcomes. From these programs, it ...

I may be able to afford my connection costs, but staying plugged-in is not cheap; a comparison of Comcast and Verizon shows prices between $69.99 and $100.00 a month, before taxes, for varying internet and cable packages.  For low-income families, prioritizing access comes after purchasing food, making loan payments, buying clothes and filling up the car with gas. Yet in the digital age, it’s becoming evident that children without basic technological skills will be at a disadvantage in the workforce and society. ...

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