Learning First Alliance

Strengthening public schools for every child

Sandy Boyd, chief operating officer at Achieve, discusses the organization's research around the "honesty gap" – comparing state test results to NAEP scores. Achieve's analysis has revealed gaps in student proficiency levels. This is important, she says, because many parents feel their children are subjected to too many tests but yet they do not have accurate information about student performance from those tests.

"We think it's really important that states be as honest as possible about how students are actually performing," she said. "Our hope, too, is that states will get better about improving how they communicate this information to parents and to schools and to teachers so that test results can be meaningful and that people understand what those test results actually mean." ...

Your data has just been kidnapped and you will have to pay a ransom to get it back. This is the modern day “Stick-em up” and it is more common than you think.

Ransomware is becoming the crime of choice for cybercriminals to extort money from corporations, as well as individuals. It is not about stealing your data and sharing it with the world. It is not about privacy. On the contrary, your data is still residing on your system. It is about locking you out of your own system and data until you pay a ransom, and there is nothing you can do about it. It sounds unreal, but it is true. ...

By all insider accounts, the Student Success and Academic Enrichment Grants program (SSAEG) – Title IV, Part A of the newly enacted Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) – is House Education & The Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline’s baby. SSAEG is a large flexible block grant that emerged in the House version of what ultimately became ESSA’s final bill. Under ESSA, SSAEG funds travel from the U.S. Department of Education to states, and then from states to school districts, via Title I formula. SSAEG allows districts to spend their allocations on everything from computers to school counselors to foreign language programs. The program’s only requirements are that districts receiving more than $30,000 in funding conduct needs assessments and spend 20 percent of their dollars on health and safety programs, 20 percent on well-rounded education programs, and at least some of the remaining 60 percent of funding on technology. The only caveat for districts receiving any SSAEG dollars is that they cannot spend more than 15 percent of their funds on technology devices, equipment and software. ...

As performance assessment of teacher candidates becomes more widespread and as more video evidence is collected in classrooms, we have to make sure that everyone involved with these videos—and other artifacts assembled for assessment purposes—understands how they may and may not be used. I’m pleased to report that a broad base of educators, convened by AACTE to bring various stakeholders’ perspectives to the discussion, is making promising strides to help safeguard the personal information of both teacher candidates and the students in their classes.

I wrote about the importance of this topic last year (see “Safeguarding Student Data Is Everyone’s Business”), celebrating the White House’s call for heightened attention to protecting students’ digital privacy. The whole education field must engage in this campaign, and AACTE takes its role seriously. Since last fall, we have been convening an Information Privacy Task Force to develop principles regarding the secure and ethical use of classroom video and associated materials collected in performance assessments of newly prepared teachers. ...

Rhea-Claire Richard and Bailey Debardelen, fourth-grade teachers at S.J. Montgomery Elementary School in Lafayette Parish, La., share how the Common Core has encouraged deeper learning in their classrooms. Both teachers began their careers about four years ago, when the state switched to the Common Core, and both appreciate the in-depth learning the standards have brought to their classrooms.

For example, Ms. Richard notes that the previous English/language arts standards might have asked students to identify a main character in a story. "Now, I may ask my students, 'How do the actions of the main character affect the plot of the story?'" she said. "They’re going so much deeper. They’re having to look at the author’s craft, how the author wrote what they did and why they chose the words they used." 

Should political forces in the state force teachers to revert back to lower-level standards, these teachers say they will still continue to teach Common Core's higher-level concepts because they have seen the advantages for their students. Listen to the podcast, or read the transcript below for more information. ...

Did a relationship ever sour so quickly as the Common Core and public opinion? Back in 2010 when the college- and career-ready standards were shiny and new, leaders from business and higher education as well as a certain U.S. Secretary of Education praised their rigor, coherence and attention to critical thinking. Within a year, 45 governors and D.C. had rushed to adopt them as their own – a move a majority of teachers and parents viewed favorably.

Then, implementation happened. Many teachers felt rushed to produce results. Parents couldn’t understand their child’s homework. Their anxiety fed chatter on talk radio and social media that did the incredible. It united anti-corporate progressives and anti-government tea partiers in opposition to the new standards and the assessments that go with them. States once on board with the program began to bail in face of angry constituents. ...

With the arrival of spring comes assessment season for students, families and educators across the country. When my girls were in grade school, I remember dedicating time to helping them be confident and ready to take state tests. I also remember some feelings of anxiety before the tests, but at the same time, the importance of the assessments in helping my children’s teachers and school better support their success through data-driven planning and decision-making.

During testing season last year, reports emerged that a large number of students were opted out of state assessments. While polls have indicated a majority of parents do not support the concept of opt-out, the movement has vocal supporters and it is expected that even more attention will be paid to student participation in assessments. ...

How can debate support the goal of any 21st Century classroom?

In 1997, a shy, fearful young student walked into my 10th grade English class with her head down and no eyes on her future. She had been removed from four previous schools due both to her own behavior and fluctuating circumstances at home. It did not take long for her to begin this same detrimental path at her new school and in my classroom.

After a brief in-class debate exercise using the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, I noticed a slight spark of interest. On a hunch, I asked this student to join us for debate practice after school. Fast forwarding at lightening speed, this young lady went on to place third at the state debate tournament her senior year, graduate in the top 5 percent of her class, and obtain her Ph.D in Education. Like so many students, she found through speech and debate a vehicle to unlock the 21st Century skills and motivation necessary to become a lifelong learner. ...

How many times do we hear teachers and administrators say, “Because it works,” when asked why they use classroom discipline techniques that manipulate, embarrass, use excessive force, or attack a student’s dignity? The “because it works” argument has justified techniques like writing student names on the board with smiley or happy faces, clipping (moving clothespins up or down on a public chart, depending on student behavior), making students give public apologies, or publicly humiliating students in the classroom. ...

LFA's Board of Directors chose veteran education advocate Richard M. Long to be the organization's new executive director.

Long has spent the past four decades working in education policy, most recently as an independent consultant. He was the Government Relations Director for the International Reading Association for 37 years, while concurrently serving as Executive Director/Government Relations Director for the National Title I Association from 1995 to 2014.

“We are thrilled that Richard will bring his expertise as a nationally known advocate, writer and commentator to the Learning First Alliance, particularly as the federal government begins its regulatory process for the Every Student Succeeds Act,” said Stephanie Hirsh, LFA Board Chair and Executive Director of Learning Forward.

Under Long’s leadership, LFA will focus on the implementation of ESSA, while continuing work on college- and career-ready standards through its “Get It Right” campaign. ...

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