Learning First Alliance

Strengthening public schools for every child

By Melanie Zinn, Owner, Director and Lead Teacher of a Licensed Home Child Care Program in Vermont*

Editor’s note: This post is part of a series of blog posts on the early childhood education work force that the American Federation of Teachers is running in honor of Worthy Wage Day, celebrated this year on Friday, May 1. View the other posts in the series here.

We attribute many stereotypes to “those in need”: jobless, maybe homeless, lazy, struggling, etc. I would be surprised if a tidy-looking, professional person was the image that popped into your head at the mention of this phrase. However, the reality of many early educators is just that: In need. I am one of those in need, and I never thought I’d be able to actually admit it.

What could we possibly be in need of, you might ask? The picture of an educator can also be so stereotypical! A woman, right? And one in professional attire, who only has to work like 6 hours a day, who doesn’t even have the children in their classroom the entire time due to library and gym, etc., who has summers off and let’s face it, doesn’t really deserve to earn as much a doctor or lawyer or engineer, right? Oh, so wrong! ...

By Kwok-Sze Wong, Ed.D., Executive Director, American School Counselor Association (ASCA)

As a University of Florida graduate, I was happy to see Tim Tebow get another chance to play in the National Football League, this time with the Philadelphia Eagles. I don’t understand why the football world is so disparaging of him. At UF, Tebow led the school to two national championships and won a Heisman trophy as the best player in college football. Since he entered the NFL, the main criticism is that he has a low percentage of completed passes.

In 2011, Tebow was named the Denver Broncos’ starting quarterback when the team had won only one game and lost four. He turned the abysmal season around, leading the team to its first division championship, and first appearance in the playoffs, in six years. But he only completed 46.5 percent his passes, so the Broncos brought in superstar Peyton Manning, and after standing on the sidelines with two other teams, Tebow has been out of the NFL for two years. He completed less than half of his passes when elite quarterbacks complete of about two-thirds of their passes. Seriously, what difference should that make? When Tebow’s given a chance to play, his team wins. Isn’t that what’s really important? ...

Joplin, Missouri, is a town in transition. After it was ravaged by a tornado three years ago, leaders have worked to rebuild the core of the town and its school district. Many of the 10,000 students’ families are struggling with poverty and economic hardships, and Superintendent Dr. C.J. Huff has been charged with not only managing the district’s rebuilding but also the implementation of the Common Core State Standards.

District officials saw the Common Core as an opportunity to bring relevant experiences for a global economy to Joplin schools, and they were concerned that student achievement had plateaued. With the town’s rebuilding, Dr. Huff worked hard to engage the community, including parents, social service agencies, and the business and faith communities, in conversations about its schools and improving student achievement.

Not surprisingly, residents of this conservative area were skeptical of the Common Core, seeing it as an unnecessary federal interference. Yet Joplin school officials have successfully implemented the standards without backlash and even persuaded some of their critics to embrace the standards. ...

Dr. Summer Stephens, superintendent of Weston County School District #7 in Upton, WY, shares her perspective on implementing the Common Core in a small rural district and the role of thoughtful assessments in deeper learning.

Download as MP3 ...

Educational technology is generally considered an asset for schools. But correctly integrating technology into a classroom curriculum and using digital devices to help students to learn in meaningful ways is a skill that continues to evolve--and challenge educators.

Megan Kinsey, Principal at Ridge Middle School in Mentor, Ohio, co-founded a research project at her school to help support both teachers and students as they use educational technology. The Catalyst project allows her and other educators to observe new technologies and instructional strategies as they are being used in a classroom. For this project and her commitment to lifelong learning, Ms. Kinsey recently was named a “20 to Watch” educator by the National School Boards Association. ...

By Jodie Pozo-Olano, Chief Communications Officer, International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)

Last week, the education stars aligned as the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee (HELP) passed, with bi-partisan support, a bill that would reauthorize the nation’s education law of the land – the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Although the path to final passage will surely be filled with lots of twists and turns, the action by the committee last week was a huge positive step forward.

What’s significant about this proposed bill?

Well, for starters, it contains a dedicated digital learning program. Many schools across the country still struggle with adequate connectivity (which has been addressed through additional E-Rate funding), access to devices and digital resources. These same school communities also often lack adequate funding to provide ongoing and varied professional learning opportunities for educators.

I-TECH is a step toward closing this gap ...

By Stephanie Hirsh, Executive Director, Learning Forward

Many states have recertification or relicensure rules that require educators to earn 100 to 200 professional development hours over a specified period of time. In my view, educator relicensure and recertification processes are a missed opportunity when it comes to ensuring that educators have access to the professional learning they want and need to help students succeed. Why? Here are several reasons.

  • Educators see little connection between these requirements and the challenges they face on a daily basis.
  • Educators receive little guidance about the choices or resources to support them in meeting this requirement. As a result, convenience and price heavily influence the decisions educators make.
  • Attendance is often the only criteria for educators to earn credits toward relicensure.

Too few states and districts have systems in place for awarding credit for the professional development educators value most: job-embedded, team-based, and collaborative learning ...

The Learning First Alliance’s Get It Right: Common Sense on the Common Core campaign shares success stories and resources with educators, parents and community leaders across the country to help them better understand and implement the Common Core State Standards in their local schools. LFA Executive Director Cheryl Scott Williams recently spoke with Discovery Education about the purpose of the Get It Right campaign and how LFA took on Common Core as an initiative.

“Get It Right is our way of saying we believe a strong public education system works toward high standards for all children,” she told Discovery Education Senior Vice President Scott Kinney during the interview. “It’s a complicated business educating all children to high standards. ‘Get It Right’ says let’s step back, let’s give our professionals time to learn, to develop new approaches, collaborate, have the resources and support to get it right, and implement Common Core with fidelity.” ...

David Adkisson, President and CEO of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, recently discussed his organization’s support of the Common Core State Standards and politics in the state with the Learning First Alliance. The conversation was part of LFA’s “Get It Right: Common Sense on the Common Core” campaign that for the past year has interviewed educators and researchers who are committed to the Common Core State Standards and are working to ensure the proper implementation of the standards. These interviews, which are now available as transcripts as well as podcasts, show how schools are making progress toward the new standards and improving students’ learning.

In his conversation, Adkisson discusses:

  • The drive to create higher standards for Kentucky students and why the state needs a better educated workforce;
  • Why the Common Core appeals to the business community even though it’s often seen as conservative

New research on student achievement under the Common Core State Standards shows that students exposed to the standards made faster progress than those who had not been exposed to CCSS—a promising sign that the standards will improve student learning.

The study was conducted by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Researchers analyzed three cohorts of students in Kentucky, which was the first state to adopt the standards in 2010 and began implementation the next year. Kentucky requires its 11th graders to take the ACT test, which provided data for three cohorts of students in both high-poverty and low-poverty schools. ...

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