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U.S. Department of Education announcement respects educator voice, provides delay in tying teacher evaluations to standardized assessments.

Washington, D.C. – August 21, 2014 – Today, the Learning First Alliance (LFA), a partnership of leading education organizations representing more than 10 million parents, educators and policymakers, released the following statement:

“The Learning First Alliance supports the U.S. Department of Education’s decision to allow states to delay tying teacher evaluation to standardized assessments aligned to new standards, including the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

LFA has long recognized the potential of the CCSS to transform teaching and learning and provide all children with knowledge and skills necessary for success in the global community; we have also long advocated for a transition period that respects the time that good implementation requires prior to attaching high-stakes decisions to aligned assessments. Today’s decision is a good step in the right direction.

The educators who are working hard every day to implement these standards – to ensure that all students have the opportunity to benefit from a higher bar for achievement, regardless of their zip code or family background – deserve and require our support in their efforts. This time is one key aspect of that support. Now we all – federal, state and local policymakers, educators, parents and other critical partners – must use this time effectively, working together to ensure schools have the curricular materials, technology infrastructure, professional learning, time for collaboration and other resources that are necessary to support student learning under these standards. We should look to those states and communities where implementation is going well and learn from their experiences while recognizing that individual implementation plans and materials will and should reflect the needs and priorities of each state, district and school.

It is also critical that we use this time to ensure that educators on the ground, as well as the parents and students who interact with the standards every day, have a significant voice in implementation, including in how assessment and accountability systems will be structured moving forward.

Today’s announcement indicates that the voices of educators, parents and local policymakers are getting through to the federal government. We must continue to work together to get implementation right.”

View the complete release here.


Francine Lawrence brings wealth of leadership experience to LFA as organization continues its work for the advancement of public education

Washington, D.C. – July 8, 2014 – The Learning First Alliance (LFA), a partnership of leading education organizations representing more than 10 million parents, educators and policymakers, has named Francine Lawrence, the executive vice president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), as the 2014-15 chair of LFA’s Board of Directors. Committed to strengthening public education and supporting the organization’s 1.5 million member educators, Lawrence has served in her current position at the AFT since 2011.

“Throughout her entire career, Francine Lawrence has been a true champion of – and advocate for – educators and the students they serve,” said Cheryl S. Williams, executive director of the Learning First Alliance. “Now, as the chair of LFA’s Board of Directors, Francine will be instrumental in helping our organization further promote the successes of our nation’s public schools and work toward the continual and long-term improvement of our public education system.”

As AFT Executive Vice-President, Lawrence serves as secretary of the AFT Benefit Trust and executive vice president of the AFT Educational Foundation.  She was unanimously elected treasurer of the AFL-CIO Department for Professional Employees and has represented AFT on the LFA’s Board of Directors since 2011. She currently serves as a member of the United Way USA board of trustees. Lawrence serves on the Albert Shanker Institute and AFT Innovation Fund governing boards.

Lawrence served on the AFT executive council as a vice president from 2008 until becoming the union’s executive vice president and was a member of the AFT Teachers program and policy council. She served as the PPC chairperson from 2006 to 2008. She also is the AFT’s chief spokesperson for the Global Campaign for Education, a broad-based coalition dedicated to ensuring access to high-quality basic education in developing nations.

From 1997 to 2011, Lawrence was president of the 3,000-member Toledo (Ohio) Federation of Teachers where she led contract negotiations that focused on what matters most: student achievement. The resulting contract provisions addressed how to attract and retain good teachers, defined expectations for teachers’ subject-matter knowledge and skills, and provided for high-quality, teacher-driven professional development. Lawrence also oversaw the implementation of the Toledo Review and Alternative Compensation System (TRACS), a differentiated compensation system to identify and reward accomplished teachers. TRACS promotes teacher quality while improving the academic performance of students, and provides incentives for excellent teachers to accept assignments at schools identified as high-needs. Lawrence co-chaired the union and district’s Intern Board of Review, which oversees Toledo’s peer assistance and review plan; the Toledo plan serves as an example of a school reform that works.

Lawrence was a member of the Ohio Federation of Teachers executive committee (1988-2011), and she served as vice president of the Northwest Ohio AFL-CIO Council (2008-2011). She was an advisory board member of the Northwest Ohio Center for Labor-Management Cooperation from 1993 to 2011. From 2001 to 2011, she served as a union representative and co-chair (2003-2005) of the Ohio 8, a strategic alliance of superintendents and teachers union presidents from the eight largest urban school districts in Ohio; the coalition’s mission is to improve academic performance and close the achievement gap for urban children throughout the state

Lawrence was an invited participant at the Aspen Institute’s 2007 Summer Workshop, Rethinking Human Capital for K-12 Education, and its 2008 Summer Workshop, Rethinking Human Capital: Designs for Urban School Districts. She also was a member of the Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE) Strategic Management of Human Capital Task Force.

Active in her community, Lawrence chaired the United Way of Greater Toledo’s 1990 campaign, and has served on the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board, the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, the Lucas County Mental Health Board, and the Toledo-Lucas County Plan Commission. Lawrence also served on the board of directors for Imagination Station, Toledo’s science center.

She currently serves on the board of advisers of the Lovell Foundation, which funds programs in mental illness, integrative medicine, cultural/spiritual enhancement and philanthropic education.

An experienced educator, Lawrence was a speech-language pathologist in the Toledo Public Schools for many years. She holds a Bachelor of Science in speech and hearing therapy, and a Master of Arts in speech pathology, both from Bowling Green State University.

View the complete release here.


Alliance supports call for increased E-rate funding and equitable distribution of those funds by the FCC

Washington, D.C. – June 30, 2014 – The Learning First Alliance (LFA), a partnership of leading education organizations representing more than 10 million parents, educators and policymakers, supports a recent letter that a group of 13 education organizations collectively sent to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)  about the Commission’s proposed changes to the E-rate Program.

In the letter, the organizations stated concerns about:

  • The sustainability of the E-rate Program in response to learning of the FCC’s intent to implement a five-year $5 billion plan to invest in Priority II Wi-Fi connections.
  • The FCC’s intent to change the existing funding structure for Priority II to a per-pupil formula allocation for schools and a per square-foot formula for libraries.

To address these concerns, the organizations call for:

  • An equitable distribution of E-rate funds based on need and not by a formula that will water down support for all areas.
  • An increase in the E-rate funding cap.

The letter was issued by the AASA: The School Superintendents Association, American Federation of Teachers, Association of Educational Service Agencies, Council of Great City Schools, International Society for Technology in Education, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of Federally Impacted Schools, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Catholic Educational Association, National Education Association, National PTA, National Rural Education Advocacy Coalition, and National Rural Education Association.

“E-rate is critical to supporting school connectivity and ultimately student learning,” said Cheryl S. Williams, executive director of the Learning First Alliance. “The LFA agrees with the concerns posed in this letter regarding the proposed E-rate reforms and supports the call for an increased E-rate funding cap and equitable distribution to ensure the program will be both sustainable and successful.”

View the complete release here.


Gov. Hunt recognized for his decades of work and advocacy for the improvement of public education in North Carolina and across the nation

Washington, D.C. – May 15, 2014 – The Learning First Alliance (LFA), a partnership of leading education organizations representing more than 10 million parents, educators and policymakers, has named Governor James B. Hunt as its 2014 Education Visionary Award winner. For more than 35 years, Gov. Hunt, the former Governor of North Carolina and foundation chair of The Hunt Institute, has been dedicated to – and actively working toward – the improvement of public education from early childhood to higher education.

“Gov. Hunt’s leadership and commitment to improving public education embodies the meaning and merits of the Education Visionary Award,” said Cheryl S. Williams, executive director of the Learning First Alliance. “His decades of service, both in North Carolina and across the nation, have positively impacted countless students and educators, and we commend him for his tireless work.”

Considered by many to be the nation’s first “education governor,” Hunt served an historic four terms as governor of North Carolina, from 1977-1985 and 1993-2001. Under his leadership, North Carolina public schools improved test scores more than any other state in the 1990s, according to the Rand Corporation.  Hunt has also been at the forefront of national education reform and currently chairs the board of The Hunt Institute, which, as part of the University of North Carolina, works with current and emerging political, business, and education leaders on a national level to improve public education.

Hunt has been particularly focused on early childhood development and the improvement of the quality of teaching. Among his many successes in education, his Smart Start program received the prestigious Innovations in American Government Award from the Ford Foundation and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. In 1985, he co-chaired the “Committee of 50,” which led to the Carnegie Forum on Education and the Economy and eventually to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, which he chaired for ten years. He has also provided education leadership as chairman of the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, chair of the National Education Goals Panel, board vice chair of Achieve, Inc., and chairman of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.

Honorees of the Learning First Alliance Education Visionary Award are individuals who exhibit:

  • Exceptional leadership in bringing groups who have a variety of points of view together to work collaboratively
  • Tenacity in focusing on the needs of children from all environmental and economic backgrounds
  • Respect for professional educators and a belief that they too have the best interests of children as the focus of their work
  • A demonstrated belief that public education is the cornerstone of our democratic way of life and should be nurtured for the benefit of every American

Previous recipients of the Education Visionary Award include former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley (2011), founder of the Center on Education Policy Jack Jennings (2012), and Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education at Stanford University Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond (2013).

View the complete release.