Learning First Alliance

Strengthening public schools for every child


Alexandria, Va. – July 19, 2016 – The Learning First Alliance today released, “Working Together for Student Success: A Back-to-School Communications Toolkit,” a resource to help educators communicate with their parents and communities.

LFA is a coalition of 14 national education groups that collectively represent more than 10 million educators and parents.

The toolkit contains advice for helping local school leaders and other educators publicize and explain their successes in implementing college- and career-ready standards. The document is designed to help shore up support for public education across the country by showcasing innovative and effective programs in schools as well as the myriad of school staff members who help students on their paths to graduation.

“We are proud to offer a toolkit that will help school leaders and other educators strategize back-to-school communications,” said Richard M. Long, executive director of the Learning First Alliance. “We know that there are many good programs and examples of schools preparing students for post-graduation success, and we hope this guide gives superintendents, principals, PTA leaders and other educators ideas and inspiration to show the good work that is happening in their schools.”

The toolkit is designed to be a starting point for communications, with sample communications and ideas to help show school success. Access the guide online at: http://www.learningfirst.org/backtoschooltoolkit

View the complete release here.


Alexandria, Va.  July 5, 2016 – Thomas J. Gentzel, executive director of the National School Boards Association, is the new 2016-17 chair of the board of directors for the Learning First Alliance (LFA), a partnership of 14 leading national education organizations.

The organization also named JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, as its 2016-17 Secretary-Treasurer. Stephanie Hirsh, executive director of Learning Forward, is now the immediate past president.

Gentzel brings more than three decades experience in education policy and advocacy. Prior to joining NSBA as its executive director in 2012, he was a key figure at the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, serving as its executive director for 11 years after working as chief lobbyist for more than 20 years. He also was an officer at the National School Public Relations Association and a member of Pennsylvania State University’s Outreach Advisory Board.

“Tom Gentzel’s deep knowledge of education and the policymaking process is a valued asset as the Learning First Alliance is turning its attention to the Every Student Succeeds Act and other federal actions,” said LFA Executive Director Richard M. Long. “I look forward to working with Tom and LFA’s new leadership team in the coming year.”

LFA has been a facilitator of leading education organizations since it was incorporated in 1996, and the alliance continues to cultivate relationships that advance best practices in public education. In coming months, LFA will be focusing on implementing college- and career-ready standards, ESSA and its requirements for educator engagement in the policymaking process, as well as the election transitions in Congress and the White House.

“This is an important time for the Learning First Alliance to bring together its members to build on our successes in public education and use our collective strengths to improve student learning,” said Gentzel. “I am honored to be leading the Learning First Alliance in its 20th year of service as we work with new leaders in Washington.”

View the complete release here.


Alexandria, VA –  June 21, 2016 –  For the first time, the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) recognizes the expertise that educators can bring to the policymaking process and calls for collaboration by practitioners and policymakers – but it gives few details on how those groups should work together. To facilitate that process, Learning First Alliance (LFA) today proposes principles to guide stakeholder engagement.

ESSA requires states and localities to bring together educators, parents, and other leaders to determine policies and practices under the new law.

“We appreciate that lawmakers have recognized the shared and overlapping responsibilities of education decision making,” said Stephanie Hirsh, executive director of Learning Forward and chair of the Learning First Alliance. “ESSA creates a process to integrate the expertise and firsthand experiences teachers, principals and other school staff can bring to policymaking. Ultimately, this collaboration will bring more stability to our education systems as it ensures the expertise of those who have the greatest stakes in our public schools have a hand in developing policies and practices.”

ESSA gives little guidance on how the process should take place, so further steps are needed to ensure that the right people are at the table and the process works as the lawmakers intended, Hirsh said.

Among the principles proposed, LFA is requesting that the consultative process:

  • Be a discussion process that includes goal-setting and development of principles aimed at defining and executing policy, not just information sharing;
  • Be sustained, with stakeholder participation in discussions at the decision-making, implementation, and evaluation stages;
  • Include participants who have a stake in the law and represent groups or individuals who will hold their representatives accountable;
  • Be initiated or reinitiated by a participant if the process stalls;
  • Be transparent and open to the public

The principles are intended for the states and districts that have not yet started the consultative process or are in the beginning stages, or those who are undertaking the work in a manner inconsistent with the intention of the law.

Download the principles here.

View the complete release here.


Alexandria, V.A. – February 18, 2016 – Veteran education advocate Richard M. Long will be the Executive Director of the Learning First Alliance (LFA), the coalition of 15 national education organizations representing more than 10 million parents, educators and policymakers, its Board of Directors announced today.

Long has spent the past four decades working in education policy, most recently as an independent consultant. He was the Government Relations Director for the International Reading Association for 37 years, while concurrently serving as Executive Director/Government Relations Director for the National Title I Association from 1995 to 2014.

“We are thrilled that Richard will bring his expertise as a nationally known advocate, writer and commentator to the Learning First Alliance, particularly as the federal government begins its regulatory process for the Every Student Succeeds Act,” said Stephanie Hirsh, LFA Board Chair and Executive Director of Learning Forward.

Under Long’s leadership, LFA will focus on the implementation of ESSA, while continuing work on college- and career-ready standards through its “Get It Right” campaign.

“I look forward to working as a part of Learning First Alliance’s continued advocacy for public education and higher-level learning,” Long said. “The members of LFA want to ensure that the Every Student Succeeds Act will work for all students, and they are committed to the consultative process that will bring local and state educators’ expertise into the ESSA implementation.”

Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director of the National School Boards Association and chair of LFA’s executive search committee, noted that LFA has been a facilitator of leading education organizations for two decades. “Richard Long’s extensive experience in Washington and education policy will ensure the Learning First Alliance continues to cultivate relationships that advance best practices in public education.” 

View the complete release here.