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04/08/2014

Voices Representing More than 10 Million Teachers, Administrators, Parents and Community Leaders Call On States To Hold Off on High-Stakes Consequences

Washington, D.C. – April 8, 2014 The Learning First Alliance today called on policy makers to allow more time for the formal implementation of Common Core State Standards (CCSS), particularly the high-stakes consequences tied to CCSS testing, to ensure the required instructional alignment and supports necessary for meaningful college- and career-ready standards.

“Rushing to make high-stakes decisions such as student advancement or graduation, teacher evaluation, school performance designation or state funding awards based on assessments of the standards before they have been fully and properly implemented is unwise,” the LFA statement said.

“We continue to see growing opposition to the standards as officials move too quickly to use aligned assessments in high-stakes accountability decisions. Such actions have the potential to undermine the standards themselves – and thus our opportunity to improve education for all students. We must take the necessary time to ensure we succeed in this endeavor,” it continued.

The Learning First Alliance is a partnership of leading education organizations representing more than 10 million members dedicated to improving student learning in America's public schools. Its member organizations include: American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), AASA: The School Superintendents Association, American Federation of Teachers (AFT), American School Counselor Association (ASCA), International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), Learning Forward, National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), National Education Association (NEA), National PTA, National School Boards Association (NSBA), National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA), Parents for Public Schools and Phi Delta Kappa International.

“The more than 10 million teachers, principals, superintendents, school board members, parents and community leaders are clear. We must take action now to allow more time for the implementation of college- and career-ready standards. It is the only way we can ensure we get this right,” LFA Executive Director Cheryl Scott Williams said. “Despite good intentions, educators and other voices represented by LFA have been largely left out of decisions around the implementation process, and decision makers have largely avoided issues of curriculum and instruction to date.”

“We call on policy makers in those states where implementation is clearly struggling to heed the voices of the more than 10 million closest to these standards and allow the time necessary to do this right,” Williams said. “We must take the time to look to those states where implementation is going well, learn from their experiences and ensure all children have access to the college- and career-ready learning they need and deserve.”

To help facilitate the identification and sharing of best and promising practice on CCSS implementation, LFA announced that it has constructed a new website to serve as a home for implementation success stories, providing it as a guide to help policy makers and educators construct a timeline and execution plan based on what is necessary to implement the standards in classrooms and communities across the nation.

“Right now, too many states, districts and schools simply are not prepared to make high-stakes decisions such as student advancement or graduation, teacher evaluation, school performance designation or state funding awards based on assessments of the standards before they have been fully and properly implemented,” Williams said. “We should look to the states, districts and classrooms that are making progress, despite challenging circumstances.”

She noted states like California, Delaware, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky and Massachusetts offer particular promise as models of successful CCSS implementation. 

As states and districts focus on these important issues, LFA made clear holding off on formal implementation should not turn back the focus on accountability at all levels of the learning process.

“We urge a continued commitment to accountability. We recommend that states and districts continue to hold educators and schools to a high standard as determined by the components of their accountability systems that are not solely based on standardized tests, including other evidence of student learning, peer evaluations, school climate data and more,” the LFA statement said.

View the complete release here.

01/13/2014

Parents for Public Schools’ executive director to serve on Alliance’s board as it continues its work for the advancement of public education

Washington, D.C. – January 13, 2014 – The Learning First Alliance (LFA), a partnership of leading education organizations representing more than 10 million parents, educators and policymakers, welcomes Parents for Public Schools (PPS) as a new member to the Alliance. A national non-profit organization that promotes and strengthens public schools by engaging, educating and mobilizing parents, PPS will join LFA’s other member organizations in collectively working to advance public education nationwide.

“Through their community-based chapters, engagement programs, and leadership and empowerment training, Parents for Public Schools works diligently to increase parental engagement in the many facets of children’s public education,” said Cheryl S. Williams, executive director of the Learning First Alliance. “We welcome this organization to our Alliance and look forward to ongoing collaboration with them as we work to improve public education.”

PPS has local chapters throughout the country that work to elevate the role of parents in public schools from passive consumers to active participants. The organization helps accomplish its mission through strategies and programs that educate, engage and mobilize parents. Through its ongoing work, PPS’ parents help raise standards, solve problems and advocate for their community.

PPS’ executive director, Anne W. Foster, will also join the LFA Board of Directors. Prior to joining PPS in 2009, Foster served as a three-term elected school board member for the Richardson Independent School District in Texas, including seven years as board president.

Foster was the first executive director of Raise Your Hand Texas, graduated from Leadership Texas and Leadership Texas Association of School Boards, and received the Outstanding Communicator Award by the National School Public Relations Association. A former realtor, Foster also founded Realtors Supporting Richardson Schools and served as a commentator on public education for KERA public radio in Dallas.

View the complete release here.

12/03/2013

Washington, D.C. – December 3, 2013 – The Learning First Alliance (LFA), a partnership of leading education organizations representing more than 10 million parents, educators and policymakers, releases the following statement:

Today, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released the latest results from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a test of reading literacy, mathematics, and science given every three years to fifteen-year-olds in the United States and approximately seventy countries and economies worldwide.

It is vital that parents, educators, policymakers and other education stakeholders view these results in context. While the ranking of the United States is disappointing and reflects little change in how our nation’s students are performing relative to their peers around the world, this ranking is only one indicator of student achievement. Other measures show significant improvement in the performance of U.S. schools in recent years. The U.S. estimated on-time graduation rate has improved dramatically since 2000 – the first year of PISA. In addition, on the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), U.S. 4th and 8th graders made significant gains in math scores between 1995 and 2011.

We would also like to remind stakeholders that there is valuable information in the PISA report beyond the rankings that we should not ignore, including the results of OECD research on the policies and practices that high-performing nations use in their successful efforts to improve student achievement. From this work, the United States can draw many lessons that can inform our efforts to advance student learning.

According to the OECD, the highest-performing countries combine quality with equity, including by investing in early childhood education and prioritizing links with parents and communities, particularly in disadvantaged schools. In addition, in 2011 the OECD issued “Strong Performances and Successful Reformers in Education: Lessons from PISA for the United States,” which referred to a number of policies and practices that higher-performing nations consistently demonstrate, including that they:

  • Commit to education and the belief that competencies can be learned and therefore all children can achieve, evidenced in part by teacher compensation relative to other professions, the value placed on education credentials, and investment in instructional services
  • Commit to develop a highly skilled workforce, often subsidizing tuition for initial preparation, establishing a common, high standard for entry into the profession and investing in professional learning to support teachers and school leaders
  • View accountability as an important endeavor, often emphasizing “professional accountability” (systems in which teachers feel accountable to fellow teachers and school leaders) as opposed to sole reliance on “administrative accountability” (systems in which administrators use student-achievement test data to reward and punish teachers, schools and districts)
  • Invest resources where they can make the most difference – for example, by devoting equal if not more resources to schools facing socioeconomic challenges (the United States is one of very few OECD countries that does not currently do this)
  • Ensure coherence of policies and practices, aligning policies across the system over a sustained period of time and securing consistency of implementation – for example, announcing a policy only when accompanied by a plan for building the capacity to implement it

There is one notable way in which the United States has moved in the direction of high-performing nations. Such nations typically have established ambitious, focused and coherent standards that are shared across the system and aligned with other components of the education system. Across the U.S., states have taken action to raise performance standards – the adoption by 45 states and the District of Columbia of the Common Core State Standards is a case in point.

To meet the potential of the Common Core and other efforts to implement college and career ready standards, teachers, administrators, parents and communities must continue to work together to align the standards with curriculum, instruction and assessment. This work will take time; however, it is necessary to ensure the standards have a sustained impact on learning outcomes.

In addition, LFA members are committed to working across all sectors of the community to focus U.S. policy and resources on other changes that evidence suggests will result in the advancement of student learning. We will continue to strive for improved student performance, both so that our nation’s international ranking will improve and, more importantly, so that our nation’s children will have the opportunity for successful lives in the global community.

View the complete release here.

09/17/2013

Amundson brings two decades of experience to LFA’s board as Alliance continues its work for the advancement of public education  

Washington, D.C. – September 17, 2013 – The Learning First Alliance (LFA), a partnership of 15 leading education associations with more than 10 million members dedicated to improving student learning in America's public schools, welcomes Kristen Amundson, executive director of the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE), to its board. Amundson brings more than two decades of experience as a policymaker to her recently-appointed position at NASBE, which represents America's state and territorial boards of education, as well as to this position within the LFA.

“Kristen’s wealth of experience and expertise in the education field will be a valuable asset to the LFA board and our organization as a whole,” said Cheryl S. Williams, executive director of the Learning First Alliance. “The LFA is dedicated to the advancement of public education through collaborative leadership initiatives and we look forward to continuing our work to ensure long-term school improvement.”

Prior to joining NASBE in July 2013, Amundson represented the 44th District in the Virginia General Assembly from 1999-2009. During that time, she was a member of Virginia’s P–16 Council and the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB).  Before successfully running for an Assembly seat, Amundson – a former teacher – served for nearly a decade on the Fairfax County, Va., School Board, including two years as its chairwoman.  

Most recently, Amundson was the Senior Vice President for External Affairs at Education Sector, an independent think tank. She writes frequently on education issues and has been published in The Washington Post and the Richmond Times-Dispatch, among others.

View the complete release here.