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Learning First Alliance Outlines How to Successfully Implement Common Core Standards to Benefit Students and Families

January 12, 2015 – Washington, DC - The Learning First Alliance (LFA), a partnership of leading education organizations representing more than 10 million parents, educators and policymakers, released a white paper today with key lessons from the field on Common Core implementation: Getting Common Core Right: What We’ve Learned.

“There is more to successful Common Core implementation than simply added time,” said Cheryl Scott Williams, LFA’s Executive Director. “It takes leadership, courage and on the ground support to ensure effective implementation is happening in urban, suburban and rural communities throughout the country.”

Getting Common Core Right: What We’ve Learned details examples from the field and promotes best practices from large states to small districts. In California, state leaders have used a multi-stage process to phase-in the standards and connect them to teacher evaluations. In Toledo, Ohio, significant efforts have been made to involve practitioners in the process to understand the professional development supports necessary for success.

“Common Core standards are essential to helping all our kids achieve at a high-level regardless of where they live,” said Williams. “Over the past year, we have reached out to successful practitioners and stakeholders, asking them to share their experiences and wisdom through the Get It Right Campaign so others can learn from these experiences.”

Lessons learned from those in the field provide an important blueprint on how to take advantage of extra implementation time and make the best use of instructional materials, high-quality professional development and stakeholder engagement to the benefit of children, families, educators and the community at-large.

View the complete release here.


Dr. Catherine Cushinberry brings extensive experience working with nonprofit organizations that support children to new role at LFA

Washington, D.C. – November 24, 2014 – The Learning First Alliance (LFA), a partnership of leading education organizations representing more than 10 million parents, educators and policymakers, has welcomed  Dr. Catherine Cushinberry, executive director of Parents for Public Schools (PPS), as its newest board member. Passionate about her organization’s commitment to strengthening public education through the engagement, education and mobilization of parents, Dr. Cushinberry joined Parents for Public Schools in October 2014.

“With her extensive background leading organizations that support children, Dr. Cushinberry will be a great asset as an LFA board member,” said Cheryl S. Williams, executive director of the Learning First Alliance. “She, along with our entire board and their respective organizations, are vital to LFA’s ongoing work to promote the success of our nation’s public schools.”

Prior to joining PPS, Dr. Cushinberry was the director of research for Girls Inc. where she was responsible for program evaluation, measurable outcomes, and secondary data research and analysis. Prior to her role with Girls Inc., she served as executive director of a local Boys and Girls Club and was responsible for managing multiple sites, opening a teen center, and leading fundraising, staff development, marketing, and grant writing efforts. Dr. Cushinberry has also worked with nonprofits such as 4-H, United Way, Cheers to the Designated Driver, and grassroots organizations such as Camp PROMISE and Justice by Uniting in Creative Energy (J.U.I.C.E.).

In 2004, Dr. Cushinberry began a consulting business in Los Angeles, CA, where she provided services to nonprofit and for-profit organizations in the areas of organizational development and change, evaluation, and staff development and training.

Dr. Cushinberry serves as adjunct faculty at Union University (TN), Marian University (IN), and Indiana University (IN) and teaches undergraduate and master’s courses in research methods and family studies. She has also taught at California State University, Los Angeles and the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Dr. Cushinberry received her B.S. degree from Murray State University and M.A. from the University of Memphis, both in communication. In 2004, she received her Ph.D. in Human Development and Family Studies from the University of Missouri-Columbia.  

View the complete release here.


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.