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A Step in Time

When implemented well, expanded learning time (lengthening the school day, school week and/or school year) has led to impressive results in schools around the country. And U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has long called on more schools to embrace the policy, both because he believes that American students spend less time in school than students in the nations we are competing with (though some evidence suggests that might not be the case) and because he believes that the hours between 3pm and 6pm are the peak hours for juvenile crime (which evidence supports).

The Secretary was on hand yesterday at the introduction of the TIME (Time for Innovation Matters in Education) Collaborative, a partnership between the National Center on Time in Learning (NCTL) and the Ford Foundation that will allow participating schools in five states (Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Tennessee) to add 300 hours of instruction and enrichment for all their children. To be a part of the collaborative, states and districts had to agree to use a mix of federal, state and district funding to cover the costs ...

We’ve all heard about summer learning loss. Students lose between one and two months' worth of academic knowledge each summer. Low-income students are particularly sensitive to this phenomenon – some research suggests that more than half of the achievement gap seen in reading between these students and their wealthier peers can be attributed to summer loss.

So across the nation, schools, districts and states are trying to address the issue. One seemingly obvious solution: A move to year-round schooling. Given that the most popular school calendar in the nation is a relic from our agrarian days, when children were needed in the fields at specific times during the year, it certainly makes sense to revisit it. And many schools and communities have adopted a year-round calendar, replacing a long summer break with shorter breaks throughout the year.

But I was interested to read an article out of Grand Rapids, MI, that indicated a possible move in the opposite direction. Because of chronic absences at some district elementary schools that run on a year-round calendar (at one school, 41% of ...

Candidly, and not surprisingly, I’m delighted that Barack Obama was elected to a second term as President of the United States.  As someone whose entire professional career has been devoted to public education and life-long learning, I believe that President Obama’s values and priorities are closer to mine than his opponent’s are.  

Having stated my delight in the President’s re-election, I also want to enumerate my hopes for his administration’s leadership in strengthening and improving public K-12 education over the next four years. I fervently hope that:

  • The President, Secretary of Education, and administration leaders will STOP saying that our public school system is failing.  We all know that there are serious inequities in the current system that need to be addressed and that a collective effort needs to be made to increase the rigor of instruction in many of our schools.  But, most public schools in this country do a good job; indeed, a better job than has ever been done before.
  • The President, Secretary of Education and their spokespersons will STOP saying that the current teaching force is largely recruited from the weakest students in any
  • ...

There are few things as complicated as funding when it comes to our nation’s public schools. But a basic understanding on the part of policy-makers and voters can be a significant contributor to the vitality of public schools and our democratic society. This week, as much of mainstream media zeros in on the Presidential race and key competitive Congressional races, it’s worth remembering that on November 7th, governance will continue with policy decisions and consequences playing out on the local level, especially for education. As we continue our pre-election examination of school finance policies, we focus on the second half of the Center for American Progress (CAP) report, The Stealth Inequities of School Funding: How State and Local School Finance Systems Perpetuate Inequitable Student Spending. ...

Election Day is just around the corner, and as voters go to the polls to cast their ballots, in many states, they vote on more than just candidates. Most voters will have several ballot referendums to vote ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ on, and the consequences of those decisions influence policy. Take as one example the recent vote on gay marriage in the state of North Carolina. It is no different with ballot referendums on public school funding. This fall, five states have some such type of ballot initiative, the largest number in two decades: Arizona, Missouri, South Dakota, Oregon and California. Whether extra revenue is approved or not will have a tremendous effect on each state’s public schools. In this respect, voter turnout and participation is crucial. ...

The October 10, 2012, edition of Education Week features a commentary titled “Public Schools: Glass Half Full or Half Empty?” with both disturbing and hopeful statistics on public education in the United States. The most disturbing part of the article describes the results of a recent Gallup poll showing that public confidence in public K-12 education has fallen to 29 percent – a drop of 29 percentage points from 1973, when Gallup first began including public schools in its survey and public confidence in schools measured 58 percent. The irony in this dismal lack of confidence in such a crucial public institution is that an analysis of performance data on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP—the “nation’s report card”) and high school dropout rates shows that results have actually improved over the past two decades.

NAEP scores for both 4th and 8th graders have been trending upward since the 1970s. Compared with an average scale score of 219 in 1973 for 4th graders, 2008’s average scale score of 243 represents significant progress in math performance. The illustrative graphs included in the Education Week article provide a dramatic visual to illustrate this trend and ...

A new report, Democratic School Turnarounds: Pursuing Equity and Learning from Evidence, suggests that government agencies and policy-makers, including the U.S. Department of Education, should rely more on research to guide their efforts in school reform and turnaround strategies.  The report, authored by Tina Trujillo at the University of California, Berkeley and Michelle Renee of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University, and produced by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at the University of Colorado, Boulder, asserts that research shows that the top-down, punitive reform efforts that are currently in vogue are ineffective and cause more harm than good in turning around troubled schools.

While the current administration’s efforts to improve troubled schools are well-meaning, the reform strategies mandated destabilize schools and exacerbate the problems troubled schools already exhibit of high staff turnover and frequent change in leadership.  The administration’s efforts to turn around 5,000 of the nation’s lowest performing schools through creation of the federal School Improvement Grant program (SIG) channeled increased federal dollars into states and struggling schools under the condition that a narrow choice of ...

With the recent release of the movie Won’t Back Down and the high-profile Chicago teacher union strike, it seems US public education is, once again, getting negative coverage in the mainstream media, with parents pitted against teachers or teachers pitted against administrators.  Committed education professionals, in their advocacy on behalf of our nation’s public schools, continually highlight the importance of collaboration among teachers, administrators, parents and community members when it comes to ensuring high-performing public schools. The belief is that we are all in this endeavor together and we each have an important role to play. One inspiring example of effective parent-teacher engagement can be found in the Academic Parent-Teacher Teams (APTT) model. ...

Few would argue with the notion that public education in America needs to improve to ensure that our country remains prosperous in the coming years. And we should look wherever we can for ideas on how we can increase student achievement for each child in the nation.

One possible source for these ideas: charter schools. Last week, the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution released “Learning from the Successes and Failures of Charter Schools,” in which Roland Fryer discusses his efforts to learn what works in the world of charter schooling and implement it in traditional public schools.

By studying 35 charter schools of varying performance levels in New York City, Fryer and his colleagues identified five practices that are consistently found in higher-achieving schools and that together explain roughly half the difference in effectiveness between charter schools:

  • More human capital (how often schools give teachers feedback on their instructional practice)
  • Data-driven instruction (whether teachers alter instruction to
    ...

The purple shaded area in a Venn diagram of two overlapping circles – one blue and one red – is the sometimes uneasy but always necessary connection between traditional public schools and the business community. The extent to which healthy public-private partnerships develop depends entirely on how those partnerships are ultimately managed by those at the local level.

It’s not surprising that public schools and businesses may have an inherent distrust of each other. After all, their missions are very different; public schools exist to provide every child a quality education and businesses exist to make a profit. But the economic recession is forcing schools to do more with less, which is in turn pushing more districts to look at ways to finance their operations, including by forming partnerships with businesses and other community stakeholders that may not have existed in the past. ...

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