Learning First Alliance

Strengthening public schools for every child

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President Obama today signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), bringing in a new era of state and local responsibility and bringing significant changes to the federal role in K-12 education. This legislation is the latest iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the main federal K-12 education law, which has been due for reauthorization for nearly a decade as public schools endured punitive and untenable federal accountability measures.

The 15 organizations that make up the Learning First Alliance (LFA), which collectively represent more than 10 million educators and parents at the ground level, are largely pleased with the new law, which gives states responsibility for annual student testing and much more say in accountability. Representatives from several LFA member organizations attended the law’s signing at the White House.

Below are statements, articles and editorials that articulate the nuanced positions of some of the LFA member organizations: ...

Archived webinar: Early Learning and Common Core


On Dec. 1, LFA, NAEYC and NAESP hosted a webinar examining how high standards like Common Core are impacting our youngest learners. Check out the archive to learn more.

Matthew Miller, professor at the Woodring College of Education at Western Washington University; Jessica Cohen, associate professor of mathematics education at Western Washington University; and Charisse Berner, Director of Teaching and Learning for the Bellingham Public Schools in Bellingham, Washington share how their professional development partnership has helped teachers effectively implement math curricula based on the Common Core State Standards and contributed to a learner-focused culture of continuous improvement.

Download as MP3 ...

It’s sad but true: In October, a veteran teacher in Florida resigned because the conditions under which she was required to work did not support best practice. Despite her love of teaching and her “highly effective” ratings in evaluations, Wendy Bradshaw was trapped in an untenable position because she was required to deploy practices that were developmentally inappropriate for her young students.

Based on her extensive training in human growth and development, this highly credentialed professional with bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees would not persist in activities that she knew to be harmful to her students. “Developmentally appropriate practice is the bedrock upon which early childhood education best practices are based, and has decades of empirical support behind it,” she writes in her resignation letter. “However, the new reforms not only disregard this research, they are actively forcing teachers to engage in practices which are not only ineffective but actively harmful to child development and the learning process.” ...

As I contemplate leaving the executive director position at the Learning First Alliance (LFA) after five years, I am reminded that while certainly public education has improved for many of American’s children over those years, the pace of change and improvement is slow and not nearly where we collectively and individually as education professionals and conscientious U.S. citizens would want it to be. And, it’s clear that in addition to education professionals who have devoted their careers to supporting the growth of young people, the crowd of those focused on public education has swollen to include business leaders; philanthropic organizations large and small; and national and local policymakers whose knowledge of schooling doesn’t extend beyond their own experiences as students.  ...

Tests. Homework. Sports. Volunteering. School clubs. A social life. Family interactions. What do all these things have in common? They are potential sources of stress for students, especially for older ones.

Even if the activity is something that a student loves, it can still cause stress. Is there enough time for it? Are they doing it well? Are they losing sleep from too many activities in a day or from lying awake at night, worrying?

Students may exhibit stress by acting angry, moody or irritable, showing negative changes in behavior, feeling sick a lot, and acting out in certain settings. Stress takes a toll on a person’s health, and students are no exception. What’s worse, chronic stress can make a student feel stuck and overwhelmed, which can impact their ability to learn and thrive at school.

So what can be done? We've pulled together these resources to help students cope with stress through mindfulness and meditation. ...

By Keith Krueger, CEO, CoSN

This month, CoSN (the Consortium for School Networking) – in partnership with AASA, The School Superintendents Association, and MDR – unveiled the results of our annual survey that laid out the state of connectivity in schools across the U.S. There is lots of data for both pessimists and optimists among us.

Without question, there are some major challenges that are holding many school systems back from having a robust education network with broadband and WiFi capacity. Score one point for the pessimists.

And, there are also some encouraging signs that we are on the right track to reaching the President Obama’s ConnectEd vision of broadband and WiFi in 99 percent of classrooms over the next four years. Score half a point for the optimists. ...

How do effective teachers ready students for tomorrow's careers?

Student agency is about having student's voice and a choice in their own decision-making processes for what and how they are learning. It's about students developing the confidence and self-assuredness to assert their voices or thoughts and to advocate for their choices and ideas. It's about taking ownership of their learning in all situations-in school and in life. It's about developing the thinking behaviors that provide the substance to their ideas and the skills to express those ideas throughout our democratic society.

Nine behaviors--solving problems, managing one's self, adapting to change, conceptualizing, analyzing, communicating engaging, reflecting, collaborating-- are among those cited as key. (PARCC, 2009). These nine provide the skills that lead to the sense of efficacy students have when they have a solid level of college and career readiness. ...

Debbie Tidwell, past president of the Ohio PTA, and Sue Grodek, first grade teacher in the Brooklyn City School District in Brooklyn, Ohio, discuss the importance of parent communication and engagement in effective Common Core implementation.

Download as MP3 ...

In the fast-changing field of school technology, Keith Krueger is considered a preeminent and steadfast expert, having led the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) for more than two decades. This year, Tech & Learning magazine selected him as one of the “big 10” most influential people in education technology. Back in 2008 he was selected by eSchool News as one of 10 people who had a profound impact on educational technology in that decade.

Most recently, Keith has undertaken a work-study project on digital equity at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, examining the disparities in access to digital technologies and how those disparities impact students’ learning, their ability to succeed, and their parents’ engagement.  In an interview with the Learning First Alliance, he shares some of his findings and best practices.

LFA: You currently serve as CEO of CoSN, which recently joined the Learning First Alliance. What would you like us to know about your organization and your priorities? ...

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