Learning First Alliance

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Standards that Matter

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By Lisa Abel-Palmieri, International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Blogger

Girls want to change the world.

Eighty-eight percent say they want to make a difference with their lives, and 90 percent express a desire to help people, according to the Girl Scouts’ “Generation STEM” research. Girls have traditionally achieved this goal through people-oriented careers rather than through applying technology and scientific expertise to change the way things are done.

However, if more girls learn that STEM careers open up new avenues to help and serve, more girls will choose STEM.

Maker education allows girls to experience in a fun, tangible way how they can apply STEM skills to solve real problems — all while developing dexterity, learning about ideation and practicing teamwork. By giving girls the opportunity to make and tinker, we also help them develop their creative confidence so they persevere in pursuing STEM majors and careers. The “Generation STEM” report found that 92 percent of girls who engage with STEM subjects believe that they are smart enough to ...

By Gerard J. Puccio and Julia Figliotti, for the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21)

Proving Creativity Is an Essential Skill

Organizations everywhere are shouting from the rooftops. They are calling for innovation and imagination in our schools and demanding innovation and imagination in the workplace. The essence of it all: creativity is finally being recognized as a must-have, 21st century work skill.

At the International Center for Studies in Creativity (ICSC), we believe it is more than just a work skill. Creativity is a necessity at the workplace, in a home environment and everywhere in between. To cope with the ever-present change in our modern world, creativity has become an essential life skill for all.

Resistance Remains

However, in spite of the clarion call for creativity, there is still some resistance to the view that creativity is a skill that can be developed. In our opinion, there are two major impediments to the integration of creativity into businesses, education and society. The first obstacle is probably the most obvious: while many business leaders tout the importance of creativity in their employees, our educational systems seem to be leaning in the opposite ...

By James C. Kaufman, for the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21)

“As we all know, true creativity comes from simple formulas and the memorization of data”

- Eric Hoffman and Gary Rudoren, Comedy by the Numbers

I am a creativity researcher. It is both a boon and annoyance to study something that is of (some) interest to the general public. One common reaction from skeptics is that it is impossible (and, perhaps, foolhardy if not a bit deluded) to measure creativity.

I have my ready-made answer. It usually involves the fact that we have many well-established, commonly-used creativity tests that have been around for more than 60 years. But the secret is that there is more truth than I would like to admit in this criticism. Creativity measurement is creativity’s Achilles heel.

Consider what assessment means in some common constructs.

  • Intelligence and personality tests have a major impact on our lives. Personality tests are standard components of job applications. Those who score low on emotional stability or conscientiousness will probably not get a follow-up phone call. Further, many people have internalized basic (if outdated) labels for themselves, taking social media tests to see if they are an INTJ or if their Star Wars personality is Yoda or ...

Technology can be a powerful tool for change, but in the excitement of doing something new, important planning aspects may fall by the wayside. In order to support long-term success and systemic change, technological integration benefits from piloting, community buy-in, visionary and consistent leadership, and a diligence to build on successes over time.  Vail School District in Vail, Arizona exemplifies these attributes, and the district staff is proud of the collaborative culture they’ve created. As they put it, they do the hard work of getting along, and they’ve established a strong foundation for their relentless pursuit of innovative practices that support student achievement and learning in the 21st century.  ...

By Joanna Schimizzi, American Federation of Teachers member and National Board Certified Biology teacher at Butler High School in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools

Those who can’t do… teach??? Undoubtedly, teachers would disagree with this, but sometimes it can feel like what we teach is pretty far from the actual practice of our content areas. Is what I’m teaching actually helping my students become scientists?

Since implementing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in my classroom 2012, I’ve gradually changed what my high school science students read and how they engage with the concepts these texts present to them. After only two years, the feedback I receive from my former students is very encouraging. Now university students, the first group says they feel more prepared for college-level classes and more committed to pursuing science careers. Kayla McGuire, a sophomore at the University of North Carolina, says, “All we do at college is read papers and discuss them the next day. While I didn’t try my hardest in your class, it was the class that prepared me the most.”

For me, the huge lever was incorporating primary source academic papers into my classes. While I might not be “doing” the experiments in these papers, I can help my students build knowledge using the direct findings. I had tried to do this before, but with much simpler articles from ...

As states and districts across the country address the challenges inherent in the shift to new standards, superintendents play a critical role in facilitating the implementation of the Common Core State Standards. Implementation of the standards, with accompanying assessments, presents districts with competing demands and numerous decisions as they consider their technology capability for the new online assessments, necessary changes in instruction and curriculum, how to handle evaluations and data reporting, and the concerns and worries from parents and community members. As district leaders, superintendents take center stage as champions for kids and student learning, and their buy-in is essential for the success of any initiative at the district level. As such, their feedback and critiques on any effort are also invaluable. As part of our continuing series of interviews on Common Core, we're thrilled to highlight the perspectives of long-time education leader, Dr. Benny Gooden.

Dr. Benny L. Gooden is Superintendent of Fort Smith Public Schools in Fort Smith, Arkansas. He has had a distinguished career as a public school administrator and educator, and he served as the President of AASA, The School Superintendent's Association, in 2012-2013. He was kind enough to share some thoughts with Public School Insights on the implementation of the Common Core State standards in a recent email interview. Dr. Gooden acknowledged the challenges facing superintendents and districts while simultaneously addressing the concerns around the standards. They're not perfect, but they are not some evil plot and district leaders have a key role to play in communicating with communities the importance of the standards for our country in the long-term.

Public School Insights (PSI): Thank you so much for taking some time to share your thoughts and perspective on public education and the rollout of the Common Core State Standards. You’ve had a long and distinguished career as an education leader and advocate. From a superintendent’s perspective, what are a few of the most significant changes in the education landscape in the past ten to fifteen years?

Dr. Gooden: Without question the greatest changes during the period have involved a vast expansion of federal influence upon states and local school districts.  While every federal mandate or initiative purports to improve student performance—and to a certain degree many have succeeded—the obsessive reliance upon testing has actually detracted from teaching and ...

By Jim Hull, Senior Policy Analyst, National School Boards Association’s Center for Public Education (CPE)

NAEPSecretary Duncan proudly wore number 80 on his jersey at the NBA celebrity All-Star game last month, as well he should’ve. It just so happens the number 80 represents one of the best kept secrets in education: our national on-time graduation rate.

This may come as a shock to many as popular perception tends to be the myth that our public schools are flatlining. But the facts show otherwise, as recent data released by the National Center for Education Statistics show our national on-time graduation rate for our public high schools now stands at 80 percent — an all-time high. It’s quite an accomplishment considering the rate hovered around 71 percent for much of the 1990s.

And keep in mind, the 80 percent graduation rate represents only those students who earned a standard high school diploma within four years of entering high school, so it doesn’t include students who earned a high school equivalency (ex. GED) or ...

The latest release of international test results has once again stirred the controversy of whether or not American students can successfully compete academically in a global context. Before we condemn our educational system, however, we must first understand exactly what the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) reveals about student performance and whether a fair comparison can be made between American 15-year-olds and those in other countries.

Between 2009 and 2013, the performance of American students on PISA did not change. Overall, U.S. teens were found to be very good at basic tasks, but they fell short when engaging in critical thinking and deeper learning. PISA also shows that even though the United States has slightly closed the achievement gap for poor or disadvantaged children, the U.S. gap is still much larger than in most top-performing countries. (These findings are consistent with previous results on state summative assessments and the National Assessment of Educational Progress.) Further, the PISA analysis suggests that schools should focus more attention on developing students’ analytical skills in concert with state summative assessments. It also speaks to the need for more equitable distribution of ...

Each month during the 2014 calendar year, the Learning First Alliance will be highlighting our members’ expertise and resources around the implementation of the Common Core State Standards. This month, we spoke to a team of individuals at Learning Forward (formerly the National Staff Development Council) to showcase professional learning and its critical role in helping teachers across the country transition to teaching in new and different ways to meet the new standards.

Professional learning has always been an integral component of strong learning systems, allowing teachers to grow and evolve their methods of instruction in response to student learning. It also allows teachers to use student data to guide their practice. Strong professional learning practices guide the implementation of any standards and changes in classrooms, and in light of the rapid rollout of Common Core, they will, once again, be essential. Learn more about professional learning and how it supports teachers and students alike by reading our conversation with Learning Forward Senior Consultant Joellen Killion. Special thanks to Dale Hair, Victoria Duff and Deborah Childs-Bowen from Learning Forward for their expertise in developing the interview content and structure.

Public Schools Insights (PSI): What does the general public need to know about professional learning and its role in implementing the Common Core State Standards or other learning initiatives?

Joellen Killion: Professional learning is the means for developing and expanding educators’ knowledge, skills, and practices. Because the new content standards increase expectations for students both in terms of depth of content and application of content, educators need to refine their instructional practices to ensure that all students achieve the standards and leave school college and career ready. Any new initiative, such as Common Core, a new evaluation system, or any other reform, depends on the capacity of educators to implement it. Professional learning is the primary strategy available to every school to support continuous educator development. Yet not all ...

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Top Posts of 2013

In 2013, we tackled a number of issues here at the Learning First Alliance. For example, in June, our members – representing over 10 million public education stakeholders – came together in calling for a transition period in Common Core implementation, removing high-stakes consequences from new assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards temporarily to allow the time necessary to implement them with fidelity. In August, recognizing the importance of connecting all students to the digital age, they joined forces in urging an increase to the E-Rate funding cap.

And earlier this month, we issued a statement reminding parents, educators, policymakers and other education stakeholders that the results from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) (a test of reading literacy, mathematics and science given every three years to fifteen-year-olds in approximately seventy countries and economies worldwide) must be viewed in context – and that there is a great deal we can learn from ...

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