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Earlier this month the Learning First Alliance (LFA) hosted our annual Leadership Council meeting for LFA member organizations’ executive directors, senior staff, and elected leadership.  This year’s meeting brought 100 education leaders together under the theme Setting a Bold Agenda for Collaborative Leadership in Public Education, and working groups were charged with outlining the focus for the LFA coalition’s work in the coming months. With background information provided by Warren Simmons, executive director of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University; Saul Rubinstein, Associate Professor, School of Management & Labor Relations at Rutgers University; and Linda Darling-Hammond, Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education at Stanford University and 2013 recipient of the LFA Education Visionary Award, attendees outlined two major action items for our collective efforts.

The first day’s small group discussions centered on developing a common vocabulary and message approach that emphasizes the success that public schools have achieved individually and collectively throughout our country’s history.  Attendees were reminded that critics of public schools, who call themselves “reformers”, have a simple, straightforward message about public education that ...

By Marla Ucelli-Kashyap, Assistant to the President for Educational Issues, American Federation of Teachers (AFT)

Last month, AFT president, Randi Weingarten called for a moratorium on the stakes associated with Common Core-aligned assessments. Let me be clear, the AFT has long been a supporter of higher common standards and expectations for all students, regardless of ZIP code.

From the outset, we've maintained that the standards themselves would only be as good as the system that supports them: aligned curricula and classroom resources (including state-of-the-art online tools); meaningful, sustained professional development; time for teachers and other staff to adapt to the new standards; aligned and timely assessments that support college and career readiness and inform instruction; and participation of family and community stakeholders in the awareness-building, advocacy and support needed for the standards to truly change teaching and ...

By Gail Connelly, Executive Director of the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP)

Communications scholar Marshall McLuhan once said, "We don't know who discovered water, but we know it wasn't the fish." Water shapes a fish's existence so profoundly — and, swimming right in the middle of it, the fish can't grasp how water impacts them. In education, a school's "water" is its culture, that complicated combination of shared values, norms, beliefs, and expectations. It manifests in actions as simple as the way a principal recognizes staff accomplishments, and as complex as the processes staff members use to mediate conflict or the ideas that shape student motivation.

School culture is hard to characterize and cultivate, but it's arguably the defining factor in school change. Shifting culture could prove to be the trickiest — but most essential — piece of today's most pressing education challenge: implementing the Common Core State Standards.

Schools in most states across the country spent the last school year dipping a toe into the Common Core, learning about the new benchmarks, mapping curricula to uncover gaps in learning, and reshuffling schedules to facilitate discussion of the standards. But if last year, for many districts, involved wading in the shallow end of the pool, this year schools will need to fully dive ...

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 ...

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