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By Jim Hull, Senior Policy Analyst, National School Boards Association’s Center for Public Education (CPE)

Minority students have made significant gains over the past four decades in both math and reading, according to the 2012 long-term NAEP results. While most white students made significant gains as well, achievement gaps narrowed considerably since minority students made much larger gains than their white peers. However, large achievement gaps still remain.

Reading Results

9 Year Olds

  • U.S. 9 year old have made significant gains.
    • Since the first year of NAEP in 1971, student achievement in reading has increased significantly from 208 to 221 (13 points, or just over a year’s worth of

AACTE President and CEO Named LFA Board Chair


The Learning First Alliance is pleased to announce that Dr. Sharon Robinson, President and CEO of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) and a lifelong civil rights activist, will serve as our new board chair.

By Ken Kay, CEO, and Valerie Greenhill, Chief Learning Officer, EdLeader21

Between the two of us, we have spent decades working on education and public policy. Ken started the CEO Forum on Education Technology in 1996, and we helped found the Partnership for 21st Century Skills in 2002.

Something happened around 2008. School and district leaders started approaching us, asking whether we could help them implement 21st century education strategies. In most cases, these were our closest professional colleagues who were facing huge challenges in the NCLB era to make learning relevant for their students. We felt a great sense of urgency to shift from our focus on public policy to the real challenges of district and school implementation.

In the summer of 2010, we went around the country and interviewed district superintendents about how we could help them with their 21st century education challenges. Collaborating with them, we came up with the idea of creating a profession learning community (PLC) for education leaders committed to building the 4Cs (critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity) into their K-12 strategies. ...

When District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) gets press coverage, it’s not always glowing news. In recent years, DCPS (a major urban city system with a recent history of controversial reforms) is often associated with topics such as their new teacher evaluation system (IMPACT), charters, or poverty and inequity. But just a few weeks ago, I learned about a truly amazing DCPS program at a Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P-21) event. I listened to two panels – one with embassy representatives and the other with DCPS teachers - talk about a life changing experience that could only happen in a system like DCPS: the Embassy Adoption Program (EAP). ...

By Joellen Killion, Senior Advisor, Learning Forward

Across the nation, new state legislation is weaving together educator evaluation, student assessments, and continuous professional learning for educators. New evaluation systems for educators commonly define levels of effective performance, require preparation for those responsible for conducting the evaluations, and call for support systems for educators' continual professional growth and development. Too often these evaluation systems fail to include the essential policy components to support effective educator professional learning necessary for continuous growth, which reinforces an already deeply embedded practice of inequity in students' opportunity to learn.

Some educators are fortunate enough to work in school systems and states with sound professional learning policies that define effectiveness; hold school systems, third-party providers, and others accountable for effective professional learning practices; and make the necessary resources available for continuous learning. When other educators do not benefit from such policies, students' opportunities to ...

By Nora Howley, Manager of Programs, NEA-Health Information Network

As we head into summer, all of us at NEA Health Information Network want to talk with you about the things that can help make students and schools safer day in and day out.

And talking WITH is the key – by that I mean that educators can use the summer months to collaborate with other educators about the steps they can take to improve school safety.

Begin with the basics: clean air.  We know that educators often deal with unhealthy building conditions, such as mold or poor ventilation.  Identify the top environmental concerns in your school and check resources to help determine the best course of action to address them.

Some school employees risk exposure to blood borne pathogens – for example, from a student with a cut finger or a student who needs an injection.  Cut that risk with tips from the Red Book. ...

By Clement Coulston and Kaitlyn Smith

Clement Coulston and Kaitlyn Smith are members of the Special Olympics Project UNIFY National Youth Activation Committee. They were recently asked to co-author one of the 11 Practice Briefs, focusing on School Climate and Inclusion.

Often times when society thinks of “valuable contributors” to issues, discussions and insights, the first image that appears in their mind is one of a well-educated and experienced adult; very rarely is that intuition one of a young person. Youth are constantly told and often led to believe that they are “the leaders of tomorrow,” but what about today? Youth are the ones in the schools, collaborating with educators, and hold the power to make a change. ...

By Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director, National School Boards Association (NSBA)

No human enterprise is perfect, and we all are capable of improving. That’s especially true when an institution faces continuing challenges and new demands. Such is the case with public education, which has undergone many transformations since it was established -- from its early agrarian roots, through the Industrial Revolution, two world wars, the cold war, and the Technology Revolution.

We often forget that during most of our nation’s history, public schools were expected to provide basic instruction to all students while preparing some to move on to higher education and the professions. This system of sorting worked well when family-supporting jobs in factories and mills were plentiful. Today, lower skill jobs are hard to find, let alone capable of sustaining a middle class existence.

Now, public schools are expected to do something never asked of them before: educate all students to a very high level. This, of course, is a good and necessary development if our nation is to remain competitive in ...

By Mel Riddile, Associate Director of High School Services at the National Association of Secondary Principals (NASSP)

Principal leadership matters--perhaps now more than ever before. As much as the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are changing instructional practice in the classroom, we must acknowledge that student learning under CCSS requires a schoolwide transformation that transcends individual classrooms and requires the dedicated, continual attention of the principal. Consider how these five essential schoolwide conditions for CCSS will fundamentally shift the way principals go about leading schools.

1. A culture of college and career readiness. Culture reflects the mindsets and  expectations of everyone in the school and ultimately drives behavior. A CCSS culture reflects the universal expectation that all students will be prepared for life beyond high school, and it encourages students' capacity to imagine their long-term possibilities. In much the same way that a discipline policy becomes ineffective if only half the teachers enforce it, a culture of high expectations must pervade every meeting, every ...

Updated August 12, 2013

In a country where we expect free WiFi with our coffee, why shouldn't we have it in our schools?”

So asked President Barack Obama last week in announcing ConnectED, his plan for connecting all schools to the digital age. Acknowledging that success – for individual students, communities and the nation as a whole – in the 21st century is being driven by new technologies, the initiative aims to connect 99% of America’s students to high-speed internet within the next five years.

To meet this goal, President Obama is calling on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to “modernize and leverage its existing E-Rate program.” E-rate, created by Congress in 1996 and funded through a surcharge on telephone bills, provides discounts to assist schools and libraries in obtaining communications services, including Internet access. Currently, demand for the program much exceeds money available ...

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