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

By Sherri Wilson, Senior Manager, Family and Community Engagement, National PTA

It's impossible to overestimate the role that parents can play in their children's education. In addition to being their children's first teachers, parents are also their children's teachers year after year. While a student moves from classroom to classroom, parents and families stay the same. In fact, nobody else knows my children and the struggles they face from year to year better than I do.

That consistency is one reason why parents are so vital to their children's education. More importantly, it's the reason parents must work to maintain a learning environment at home over the summer and during extended breaks. Research proves that the home-school partnership plays a critical role in student academic achievement. As Anne Henderson and Karen Mapp noted in "A New Wave of Evidence," when families are involved in their children's learning, children earn better grades, enroll in higher-level programs, have higher graduation rates and ...

By Andrea Cahn and Betty Edwards

When you see me, I want you to see that we are alike.
When you see me, I want you to see that I get nervous sometimes.
When you see me, I want you to see a happy dancer.
When you see me, I want you to see a football player.
When you see me, I want you to see someone who tries to be a good friend.

The statements above are from It’s Our School, Too, a play reflecting poignant quotes and perceptions of students who for far too long have felt excluded from the fabric of the school—those with intellectual disabilities. Written by Suzy Messerole and Aamera Siddiqui and commissioned by Special Olympics Project UNIFY®, It’s Our School, Too! is based upon interviews with youth from the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area and members of Special Olympics Project Unify Youth Activation Committee. The play provides insight into the world of students with intellectual disabilities and the varying opportunities they have to be an integral part of the school.

Identified as a significant civil rights issue, social inclusion speaks to the needs of all youth to learn and live within an environment that recognizes their strengths and ...

Earlier this month the Learning First Alliance (LFA) hosted our annual Leadership Council meeting for LFA member organizations’ executive directors, senior staff, and elected leadership.  This year’s meeting brought 100 education leaders together under the theme Setting a Bold Agenda for Collaborative Leadership in Public Education, and working groups were charged with outlining the focus for the LFA coalition’s work in the coming months. With background information provided by Warren Simmons, executive director of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University; Saul Rubinstein, Associate Professor, School of Management & Labor Relations at Rutgers University; and Linda Darling-Hammond, Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education at Stanford University and 2013 recipient of the LFA Education Visionary Award, attendees outlined two major action items for our collective efforts.

The first day’s small group discussions centered on developing a common vocabulary and message approach that emphasizes the success that public schools have achieved individually and collectively throughout our country’s history.  Attendees were reminded that critics of public schools, who call themselves “reformers”, have a simple, straightforward message about public education that ...

By Joellen Killion, Senior Advisor, Learning Forward

Establishing more time for collaborative professional learning is only a first step. Using the time effectively and efficiently is also essential. Four simple processes can focus the interactions that occur in teams and connect what team members learn with student learning.

Establish a clear purpose for each meeting. At the beginning of each session or at the end of the previous session, team members commit to a clear purpose for the meeting that specifies the learning goals for educators and the outcomes they expect for students when their learning goals are implemented. Establishing a purpose also means being clear about what the non-purpose of the session will be. This trick of non-purpose is a powerful tool for maintaining a laser-like focus on the identified purpose and ...

By Marla Ucelli-Kashyap, Assistant to the President for Educational Issues, American Federation of Teachers (AFT)

Last month, AFT president, Randi Weingarten called for a moratorium on the stakes associated with Common Core-aligned assessments. Let me be clear, the AFT has long been a supporter of higher common standards and expectations for all students, regardless of ZIP code.

From the outset, we've maintained that the standards themselves would only be as good as the system that supports them: aligned curricula and classroom resources (including state-of-the-art online tools); meaningful, sustained professional development; time for teachers and other staff to adapt to the new standards; aligned and timely assessments that support college and career readiness and inform instruction; and participation of family and community stakeholders in the awareness-building, advocacy and support needed for the standards to truly change teaching and ...

By Debbie Silver, Ed.D.

Studies on motivation theory have taught us that the most effective feedback for any learner is that which actually helps a student get better. Value judgments and labels (both affirming and negative) do nothing to help the learner long term and are often counterproductive. Overwhelmingly research argues that learners acquire improved self-efficacy and make greater achievement gains when their adult advocates focus feedback on things the student can control rather than on their innate talent, skills, or other externally controlled factors.

As a middle grades teacher it was hard for me to consider that my perpetual cheerleader style of teaching with a barrage of compliments was not the best method. However, I finally decided to modify my feedback practices to more closely align with what I came to believe would provide the best long-term outcome for students. Part of the problem for me in altering my praise reflex is that I had developed the habit of making a pronouncement about everything kids did. In my well-intentioned effort to show the students I was paying attention, I felt the need to make a judgment statement about every aspect of their progress (e.g., “Looking good!” “I like that!” “That is great!” “You’re so smart!”). I think this is true for a lot of us perpetual affirmers at the middle level because we know how important it is to connect ...

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

In the 1980s, educators and policymakers swarmed across Germany to examine its two-tier education system that separated college-bound students from vocational ed students, all in an effort to boost the national economy. In the 1990s, Japan and its unique lesson study model attracted American attention.

Along came the 2000s, and Finland has the starring role. A country that once didn't warrant much attention, Finland has zipped to the top in international measures of education, and American educators in particular want to know its secret.

"It was a surprise to us that we were so high on the PISA in 2000," said Leo Pahkin, councellor of education at the Finnish National Board of Education who spoke to a group of American educators visiting Finland last fall in a trip sponsored by PDK International. "We knew we had good readers, but maths and science, that was a surprise to us." ...

While we live in a market-driven economy, where winning and wealth accumulation are desired outcomes, education advocates on all sides of the political aisle currently assert that public schools are failing our children, especially minorities and low-income students.  Education is a common good; it is the stepping-stone through which students can make something better of their futures. Therefore, we should not be setting up a system to create winners and losers. ...

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

AACTE's recent report The Changing Teacher Preparation Profession: A Report From AACTE's Professional Education Data System (PEDS) tells of the rapidly shifting work of preparing U.S. teachers. The report finds the academic prowess of college students entering teacher preparation is strong, with programs attracting students with GPAs that exceed minimum entry requirements. We also see that preservice programs are designing alternative routes to licensure, integrating technology to meet the needs of distance learners, and working to incorporate capstone performance assessments such as edTPA.

The report's findings also indicate that more work is needed to make extended clinical experiences a central component of preparation. Although virtually all programs incorporate supervised field experiences, only 5 percent have a full-year residency program. One-year residency programs are required for eligibility for the Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) Grant Program and they are championed in recent reports, such as those from NCATE's Blue Ribbon Panel and the National Research Council, as well as in AACTE's PEDS report. Further, we know that candidates who engage more regularly in actual classroom activities are more likely to remain in the profession and have a more positive impact on student learning than ...

By Richard L. Valenta, Ed.D., Board Member for the American Association of School Personnel Administrators (AASPA) and Director of Personnel Services for Birdville ISD

Several researchers have affirmed the importance of both the engagement of people at work (for example, see several meta-analyses and surveys done by scholars at and/or for Gallup) and the impact of talented teachers on meaningful school outcomes, specifically student achievement. Based on this research, it is appropriate to acknowledge the importance of creating great schools for educators to work and be engaged in. Likewise, it is paramount that students are taught by talented teachers who are effective in providing instruction that significantly and consistently affects achievement gains.

In a 2006 book, Gary Gordon proclaimed a need to ensure that teachers in this country work in environments that promote their engagement in order to fully tap students' potentials. Teacher engagement refers to the individual teacher's involvement in and enthusiasm for teaching students in schools and reflects how well teachers are known and how often they get to do what they do best. Gordon also expressed the importance of valuing ...

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