Learning First Alliance

Strengthening public schools for every child

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.

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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? ...

We recently celebrated National Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 to Oct. 15), an important time to recognize the contributions made and significant presence of Hispanics and Latinos in the United States.

National PTA also used the month to raise awareness of the unique challenges Hispanic and Latino children and families face and elevate support for them in schools and communities.

Twenty-five percent of students today are Hispanic, and Hispanic children and youth are the fastest-growing population in America—the U.S. Census Bureau projects that the Hispanic school-age population will increase by 166% by 2050. Hispanic and Latino students are an important part of our nation’s future, and it is essential to support their learning and development and ensure they have the opportunity to reach their full potential.

A key component to helping Hispanic and Latino children succeed is families who are engaged in their child's education and armed with tools and resources to support them at home.

We know Hispanic and Latino parents want the best for their children and want to be engaged, but there are cultural and language barriers that make it challenging. ...

A set of nine laudable principles to advance the teaching profession undergird an ambitious campaign organized by the Center for American Progress (CAP) that launches today. The new initiative, TeachStrong, targets improvements at every stage of the educator pipeline, from recruitment and preparation through licensure and career pathways, calling for a much-needed shift in focus in education policy away from test-and-punish accountability and toward strengthening the teaching profession.

TeachStrong attempts to elicit a common tune from the cacophony of voices across the education sector—from AACTE and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards to the National Council on Teacher Quality and Teach for America—with a “Path to Modernizing and Elevating Teaching” comprising nine goals: ...

High-performing nations set themselves on a course of steady, long-term improvement, which includes consistent practices for recruiting, preparing, and supporting teachers — that is among the big takeaways from state legislators who participated in a year-long study of education outside the United States.

The study was convened by the National Conference of State Legislatures to explore how education functions in countries that are high performers on the PISA assessment. The 22 legislators all serve on their states’ legislative education committees. (I talked with two of them as part of Kappan’s work preparing our November 2015 issue on what the United States can learn from other countries.)

What they’ve learned so far has surprised them.

Indiana State Rep. Bob Behning, a Republican from Indianapolis, and Arkansas State Sen. Joyce Elliott, a Democrat from Little Rock, came to the exploration with different experiences and political ideas, but they sound a lot alike when they describe what they learned from studying Shanghai, Finland, Singapore, Ontario, and more. ...

Giving parents and students the ability to choose their school is promoted by supporters as the key to improving American education overall. On the surface, the idea has great appeal. Who, after all, opposes having choices?

Indeed, both Republican and Democratic policymakers have embraced school choice in various forms that range from opening up alternatives within the public school system to providing taxpayer dollars to students to take to private schools. But for all the rhetoric, does school choice live up to its supporters’ claims?

NSBA’s Center for Public Education seeks to find an answer in this at-a-glance overview of school choice in all its permutations: ...

As the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and their kindred iterations continue to gain traction in schools around the country, staff development efforts have been bringing in-service educators up to speed, and colleges of education have been adjusting their curricula to ensure that the field’s newest professionals are also ready for the new standards. Nowhere has this shift seen greater success than in Kentucky, which was the first state to adopt and implement CCSS. A recent AACTE webinar sponsored by the Learning First Alliance’s “Get It Right” campaign highlighted the remarkable progress made by institutions in the state. ...

According to the 2015 National Survey on College and Career-Ready Literacy Standards and Collaborative Professional Learning, 91 percent of teachers surveyed report working on standards implementation during collaborative time with colleagues, with 77 percent rating it valuable or extremely valuable in supporting their transition to new literacy standards. 

And 73 percent of teachers who report having regular time to collaborate feel better prepared to implement the standards. Yet more than 80 percent of teachers report having fewer than two hours a week to collaborate.

If we agree with the simple supposition that time and collaborative learning experiences are key to successful implementation, then how do we ensure that more teachers have what they need?

Research has confirmed many times that leadership is second only to teaching in influencing student achievement. In my view, when our goals include equity and excellence, leadership may be even more important.  ...

Dr. Nate Jensen, a member of the research team at the Northwest Evaluation Association, discusses the value of assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards and the misconceptions that accompanied the implementation of new assessments in some states. Jensen explains how comparisons of student scores on the old and new assessments can distort the real picture of student learning under the Common Core State Standards.

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Following is an edited transcript:

LFA:  Welcome to "Get it Right: Common Sense on the Common Core," a podcast series from the Learning First Alliance.

Across the nation, we've embraced the possibility of college and career-ready standards and their potential to transform teaching and learning.  ...

In today’s competitive and political atmosphere, school leaders often ask us about strategies and tactics to build trust and confidence in our schools — let alone how to enhance the reputation of public education.

We always offer solutions on a number of fronts, but we also ask leaders to think about all the touch points that are automatically built into the school year  —  those times when parents, teachers, and principals all interact with one another. Those face-to-face episodes often begin making or breaking the confidence that your critical audience of parents has in your schools.

Parent Conferences Give You a Time to Shine

Traditional open houses and parent conferences are now in full swing in many communities. Those of you who are parents or who have a bit of experience meeting with parents know how these events can serve as a great starting point to build confidence in your school and your teachers. ...

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