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...about what is working in our public schools.

My work with and for public education leaders seems to focus on two conflicting messages and points of view. On the one hand, the relentless onslaught of criticism for the work that the educators represented in the Learning First Alliance (LFA) membership are involved in every day can become demoralizing. However, those often ill-informed attacks are balanced by the talented education leaders whose work is showcased regularly at meetings and presentations I’m lucky enough to attend. One such example of good news to spread about practitioner-led work underway in our organizations was the recent report by the National Center for Literacy Education (NCLE) entitled Remodeling Literacy Learning Together: Paths to Standards Implementation

The NCLE, a coalition of 30 professional education associations, policy organizations and foundations who work to support schools in elevating literacy learning, conducted a national survey of educators of all roles, grade levels, and subject areas to find out where we stand as a nation in-

  • Opportunities educators have had to learn about new literacy standards
  • Kinds of professional learning that are effective in supporting teachers as they implement change
  • Approaches of schools and districts to transitioning to
    ...

By Marc Shulman, for the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21)

I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and shout, “Go!” It sounds like I am standing in the middle of Qualcomm Stadium and the Chargers just won the Super Bowl. But it’s not cheering I am hearing—it is students helping students. It may be the sweetest thing I have ever heard. I look to my left and I hear a student say, “Tell me the steps you went through to solve that.” I walk to my right and I hear, “Are you sure that’s what the next step is?” I keep walking around and I keep hearing students challenging each other, playing devil’s advocate in math. I think this is actually working!

 I remember when a college professor of mine said something that would change the way I think about everything around me. He quoted Thomas Jefferson by saying, “’There is nothing more unequal than the equal treatment of unequal people.’ An unfortunate practice that still occurs in classrooms today.” The fine line between equitable teaching and fair teaching is danced upon daily.  Treating everyone equally while leveling the playing field is a challenge all teachers face. It may sound like you are doing the right thing if you are giving every student the same options, opportunities or advantages. But is that what they all need? To me, teachers who teach the same thing to everyone and the same way to everyone are creating a learning environment that is not conducive to every student in the room. To teach equitably, one must look to the needs of each individual student.

Our goal as educators should be to veer from an equal learning experience toward an equitable learning experience. Our job is to make sure all students have a fair, and possibly unequal, learning experience. Ensuring that each student has a fair opportunity to succeed means that one student’s path may ...

By Joan Richardson, Editor-in-Chief, Kappan magazine (PDK International)

"Very often a lack of jobs and money is not the cause of poverty, but the symptom. The cause may lie deeper in our failure to give our fellow citizens a fair chance to develop their own capacities."

— President Lyndon Baines Johnson, State of the Union, Jan. 8, 1964

I was still in grade school when President Johnson launched his War on Poverty. In my home, Johnson was a hero, maybe because my parents had both grown up poor and never forgot what deprivation felt like. They saw Johnson as someone who understood what they understood about poverty: Nobody chooses to be poor.

The other hero in my house was my Dad, a larger-than-life figure who had scrabbled his way up to a good middle-class life. He had “developed his own capacities” in large part because he had access to the G.I. Bill, which inspired him to return to high school after dropping out and then go on to college and earn an engineering degree.

One of my favorite childhood memories was watching my dad ring the bell for Salvation Army at Christmas. Dad ran the largest construction company in the area, which meant that he knew most of the movers and shakers in ...

By Brian Lewis, CEO, International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)

It was nearly 20 years ago when E-Rate, the nation’s largest education technology program, was put into place.  At that time, a majority of schools (86 percent) were not connected. Mobile phone use was in its infancy and we all referred to the Internet as the information superhighway.

Fast forward to today. Nearly all schools (95 percent) have some level of connectivity. Half of our nation’s teenagers own a smartphone and three-quarters of all children have access to a mobile device.

Walk into a school today and see if you can spot a blackboard and chalk in use; it’s a rarity. In many schools, modern learning devices – screens, projectors and computing devices – that support digital learning have replaced the blackboard.  We are in the midst of the digital age.

All the technology that surrounds us and supports our students is only as good as the speed of the connectivity available. Without broadband speed, streaming video stalls, online simulations freeze and load times drag on into eternity. The impact on learning can be crippling. Students get annoyed, and teachers get ...

By Daniel A. Domenech, Executive Director, AASA, The School Superintendents Association

When was it that building administrators forgot how to evaluate teachers? At what point did teacher development take a back seat to collecting evidence that might lead to dismissal? Is there really a failure to identify instructionally incompetent teachers that now requires school districts follow an extensive and costly process to comply with state and federal demands?

When critics point to our schools’ less than stellar performance on international tests, rarely do they consider what those leading nations are doing that’s responsible for the results they obtain. The professional development of teachers plays a significant role in their success. None of the leading nations engages in evaluating teachers based on their students’ standardized test performance.

I never encountered a school administrator opposed to evaluating teaching performance. Most principals I worked with could easily differentiate between their talented and their weak performers in the classroom.

During my early years as a superintendent on Long Island, when I was still teaching education research courses at the graduate level, I asked my principals to rank order their teaching staff from least to most competent. I then correlated their rankings with the end-of- year evaluation reports they had done for their staff and found a strong correlation between ...

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

NAEPSecretary Duncan proudly wore number 80 on his jersey at the NBA celebrity All-Star game last month, as well he should’ve. It just so happens the number 80 represents one of the best kept secrets in education: our national on-time graduation rate.

This may come as a shock to many as popular perception tends to be the myth that our public schools are flatlining. But the facts show otherwise, as recent data released by the National Center for Education Statistics show our national on-time graduation rate for our public high schools now stands at 80 percent — an all-time high. It’s quite an accomplishment considering the rate hovered around 71 percent for much of the 1990s.

And keep in mind, the 80 percent graduation rate represents only those students who earned a standard high school diploma within four years of entering high school, so it doesn’t include students who earned a high school equivalency (ex. GED) or ...

By Sharon P. Robinson, Ed.D., President and Chief Executive Officer, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE)

You might expect a 66-year-old to be change averse. But the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), which just held its 66th Annual Meeting with the theme “Taking Charge of Change,” has become a change champion. In fact, innovation is AACTE’s core business and the focus of its day-to-day activities.

At our recent Annual Meeting, we launched an exciting new initiative, the Innovation Exchange, to speed the pace of change in educator preparation. Through this initiative, we will explore critical issues in the education workforce and design strategies that will contribute to their resolution. We also aim to strengthen educator preparation, demonstrate its necessity and effectiveness, and enhance our members’ opportunities to collaborate on key issues.

Activity and programming under the Innovation Exchange will be guided by four interdependent priority areas: (1) Pedagogy, (2) Workforce Development, (3) Capacity Building, and ...

For many, if not most of the years I’ve worked as an advocate for the appropriate and effective use of technology in schooling, the discussion has been focused on “why”—or as those of a certain age would say: I got a good education without technology, why do we need it in schools now? (Never mind that the definition of “it” was never thoroughly addressed either.)

However, at the meeting hosted last week at Discovery Education, future@now 2014, “why” was not even on the agenda. Thankfully, and refreshingly, the gathering and its speakers focused on how to manage change within a school and district to ensure that all stakeholders are involved in planning and implementing the change that a school experience supported with technology requires. As many of us have been saying for years and affirmed by the current public education leadership on the faculty of future@now, planning should not be about devices, but about educational goals and establishment of a school culture to support change, risk-taking and introduction of tools to support those goals.

The meeting led off with a discussion of the process needed for planning for school transformation supported with technology. Dr. Dallas Dance, the impressive, young superintendent from Baltimore County Public Schools, emphasized the importance of process, leadership and ...

By Anne Foster, Executive Director, Parents for Public Schools (PPS)*

While it may not be evident from voting patterns, casting votes for local school board members may have greater impact on a community’s overall quality of life than any other vote cast. Quality public schools bring the things that ensure a high quality of life — strong economic climate, better jobs, civic engagement, more citizens voting and an emphasis on the arts. And quality public schools are tied directly to the performance and effectiveness of their school boards.

All of us should pay more attention to our school boards — to electing them, supporting them and monitoring them. While many people today believe that too much local control has been wrested from local school boards, their role remains critical to the success of the schools they govern.

Voters elect a school board to represent them in the oversight of their schools. That is our system of government, and it’s a good one. School boards then spend the public’s money on educating children, touching the future as no other entity does. School boards set the tone for school districts — for student achievement, continuous improvement and financial management.

Successful school boards are made up of individuals without personal agendas and with a desire that all children have the opportunities that come with great schools. They understand that they are a bridge between the community and its schools, with one foot in ...

In the past week I’ve attended two meetings devoted to the subject of protecting student privacy in a digital learning world. The question from one of the speakers that stayed with me after both meetings were adjourned is, “How much attention are school administrators paying to this issue?”   

Certainly, the education leaders who participated in both programs – Terry Grier, superintendent of the Houston ISD; Jeff Mao, Technology Director at the Maine State Department of Education; Rich Contartesi, Assistant Superintendent for Technology Services, Loudoun County Public Schools (VA); and Jim Siegl, Technology Architect for Fairfax County Public Schools (VA) – are paying plenty of attention to the issue and providing important leadership in their respective districts and state. However, the general message conveyed is that many, if not most, school leaders are both unaware of and uneducated about the issues that could balloon into a major setback for teaching and learning in a digital world if not carefully and appropriately ...

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