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Standards that Matter

Blog Entries

Public Comment Period February 15–March 29

By James G. Cibulka, president, Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation

Education reform over the past decades has ushered in changes in standards, assessment, curriculum, and teacher evaluation.  Most recently, the focus has turned to teachers and their professional preparation; research has shown that teachers are the most significant in-school influence on student achievement. While education reform is often politicized, the opposing sides share considerable common ground. In the end, those vested in the topic of education reform agree that every student deserves the best teachers and education possible.

The Council for the Accreditation of Education Preparation (CAEP)[i] takes up its responsibilities as the new national accreditor of educator preparation providers at a time of high interest in P-12 student performance and in the capabilities of the education workforce. In this context, accreditation must be a strong lever in shaping educator preparation, assuring the public of the rigor of educator preparation programs.  ...

Deeper learning will ensure students possess transferable knowledge, or the ability to use their knowledge and skills to solve problems and navigate new situations. As a 21st century skill set, it should be a core element of the public education academic experience.  A recent report from the National Research Council, Education for Life and Work: Developing Transferable Knowledge and Skills in the 21st Century argues that when facilitated through teaching and learning of academic subjects, this approach to learning pushes students beyond rote memorization of facts and procedure, and prepares them to succeed in work and life. This opportunity ensures that we are teaching and assessing the skillsets that we want our students to acquire as a majority of states work to implement the Common Core State Standards. Emphasizing deeper learning will require several shifts, in teaching methods, curricula, and assessments much like the shifts that are necessary to ensure success for Common Core. ...

The power of collaboration seems, at times, to be the best kept secret in education reform. Despite district variance, efforts to increase student achievement levels often see higher levels of success when all stakeholders work together. Studyville School District (the name has been changed to preserve anonymity) is just one such example. It is a story of collaboration and compromise in which stakeholders came together to design and implement a more effective teacher evaluation system. We live in an era where evaluation and accountability dominate the national education conversation and where student outcomes are being tied to merit pay and teacher performance. It is imperative, given the high-stakes nature of evaluation, that such systems are put in place with fidelity and the buy-in of all actors. ...

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
  • ...

Leadership matters. Principals set the tone of a school and can inspire students and teachers alike to reach new heights. They are second only to teachers among the in-school influences on student success.

Yet we don’t hear much about how to measure a principal’s performance. And the little research that exists on principal evaluation suggests that current systems do not accurately judge performance, do not provide information that is useful for professional growth, and often aren’t even used.

The federal government has begun to take note, making changes to principal evaluations a condition of Race to the Top funds, School Improvement Grants, and waivers to some of the requirements of No Child Left Behind. Unfortunately, they are often requiring that the evaluations be based in significant part on student performance on standardized assessments. As we all know, test scores represent a very narrow definition of ...

By Tim Magner, Executive Director, Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21)

Despite many education experts, business leaders, and higher education professionals joining the bandwagon to implement and highlight 21st century skills and helping define the now 10-year old 21st century skills movement, there’s been an important missing element: Research in the arena of 21st century skills to date has been scarce. With the release of the National Research Council's report Education for Life and Work: Developing Transferable Knowledge and Skills in the 21st Century, we now have additional confirmation to support both the abundant opinion research and anecdotal evidence we have used over the years to advocate the importance and value of an education that includes both knowledge and skills. 

P21 commends the National Research Council (NRC) and the sponsors of the report for producing the most comprehensive research-based articulation of the case for 21st Century skills to date. The caliber and breadth of the research community brought together on this effort speaks to not only its importance in the future of our education system, but to the impact these findings will have across the K-12 education spectrum.  This report represents a historic validation of what the 21st century skills education community has worked hard to ...

Editor's Note: This post first appeared on the Partnership for 21st Century Skills’ blog in July 2012. Reposted with permission.

As both a former classroom teacher and long-time nonprofit executive, I'm well aware of the importance of creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication (the Four C's) to success in both the classroom and the workplace. So I've been a strong supporter of imbedding the acquisition of those skills into formal education even before the inception of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) and the creation of the impressive tools that have resulted from the P21 work. Also, I've been impressed with the thoughtful (and collaborative) work that's gone into the creation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for mathematics and English language arts that pull together the wisdom of practitioners and researchers in the education field to establish goals and benchmarks for what students should know and be able to do in order to be successful in the 21st century world of work and citizenship. And, all sixteen member organizations in the Learning First Alliance share that commitment to providing rigor and relevance to all of the students we serve.

With that in mind, I've been mystified by some of the resistance to implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), which to date have been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia, based on two complaints: (1) that the CCSS are a "top down" over reach of the Federal government and (2) that the adoption of these standards and the common assessments that are being developed to measure student progress will lead teachers to "teach to the test", thus ...

There’s a saying: When you have a hammer, everything suddenly becomes a nail. It is not surprising that student surveys, as a tool analogous to the hammer, are suddenly viewed through the lens of usefulness when applied to teacher evaluations.

Student surveys provide valuable feedback for teachers that contribute to professional development and can result in improved classroom practices. Over the years, the classroom-level cycle of feedback and adjustment can produce improved student performance results. It already happens in some places; imagine the possible impact if such a process were adopted system-wide. But when it comes to teacher evaluations, implementation is – as always - fraught with unforeseen consequences. The errors of the policy-making community, when in a rush, are plentiful, and in this instance, threaten to undermine the already established usefulness of student feedback when it comes to developing highly effective teachers. ...

According to the recently released 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, more than one in five high school students reported taking a prescription drug without a doctor’s prescription. 

Whether it is intentional abuse (taking a medicine without a prescription, in a way other than as prescribed, or for the experience of feelings elicited) or misuse (unknowingly or mistakenly taking a prescription drug in a way other than intended or directed), the consequences can be serious, even life-threatening.

Many students erroneously believe that prescription medicines are “safer” than illegal street drugs. Teens who abuse prescription drugs report that it is relatively easy for them to get the drugs from friends or relatives Adults might not understand some of the risks associated with the misuse and abuse of prescription drugs (for example, using an antibiotic prescribed for one child’s sore throat for another child’s). 

Antibiotics and other medicines can save lives, and the proper use of prescription drugs is an important life-skill. School health education programs can help build the skills and the knowledge that young people need to make healthier choices.  It is especially important to reach students before ...

obriena's picture

What Was the Lorax?

And why was it there?
And why was it lifted and taken somewhere…?

Back in 1971, Dr. Seuss brought us the Lorax, a small orange creature who speaks for the trees (“for the trees have no tongues”). The Lorax goes up against the greedy Once-ler, who cuts down all the Truffula  trees in his rush to make a product he believes that everyone must have – Thneeds ("It's a shirt. It's a sock. It's a glove. It's a hat."). As a result of the damage to the environment that his production brings, the Lorax and the other inhabitants of the community (Swomee-Swans, Brown Bar-ba- loots, and Humming-Fishes) must leave.

The story is told by the remorseful Once-ler to a young boy curious as to why the world is the way it is. At the end, the Once-ler reveals that he has saved one last Truffula seed and gives it to the boy so that he can create a new forest.

Today, March 2, The Lorax serves as the centerpiece of the National Education Association’s 15th Read Across America campaign.* I am so pleased that The Lorax is the highlight of the day. On a personal level, it is one of my favorite Seuss books. And on an educational level, in addition to promoting the literacy skills the day intends to celebrate, it can also help students develop some of the other skills they will need to be successful in the global community – a favorite theme of politicians and ...

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