Learning First Alliance

Strengthening public schools for every child

When it comes to the recent passage of Every Student Succeeds Act (or ESSA), we can cheer for this big score leading to a victory over some of the lasting remnants of No Child Left Behind legislation. But like the athlete who dances in the end zone too early in the game, we really have a great deal of ground to gain before this game is over.

First, congratulations to many from “both sides of the aisle” who finally made this happen. The new law does rid education leaders of a number of the persistent roadblocks that most of us have been harping about for so many years. And most important, the Act adds more flexibility as well as state and local control to hammer out the details of what it can do for or do to your system.

And Therein Lies the Rub

I have worked in the Washington, D.C., environment for 3 decades. Even though NSPRA primarily works with local school districts and agencies, we know the reaction and the “look” you may have when federal officials greet you saying, “We’re from Washington and we are here to help you.” ...

In this podcast, Alan Tenreiro, recently named the 2016 Principal of the Year by the National Association of Secondary School Principals, discusses Common Core and the multifaceted process of building a culture of high expectations that emphasizes college and career readiness for all students.

Mr. Tenreiro is principal at Cumberland High School in Cumberland, R.I., which has seen increases in its academic achievement, graduation rates, and the number of students moving on to higher education. The high school has increased its Academic Placement offerings and expanded STEM courses to help student gain skills for success after graduation.

Download as MP3 ...

Looking back, 2015 was an incredible year in education. The historic passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is finally shifting the conversation towards student competence beyond test scores, and defines educator professional development in a more sustained and integrated way than ever before, opening doors to a more innovative approach to professional learning.

But who owns 21st century professional learning? The answer unequivocally is that we all own it. Today we are all learners and no matter our role, we must continually grow and model the learning that we want to see in schools. Making 21st century learning a reality for every child requires that educators at all levels learn new ways of thinking and doing. Just as education must be engaging, collaborative, and connected to the real world, so must our professional development. ...

Words are powerful tools and, combined with appropriate action, can be quite effective.

Whether school board members are looking to establish new policy or programs, or to develop a shared vision and commitment to improving achievement for students under their watch, setting clear goals and priorities go a long way in the face of increasing demands and limited resources. What you bring to the boardroom and, in particular, what makes it on to the table sets the stage for change or improvement.

As school board members, we have multiple opportunities to share and gain information. What we bring to the table can vary and be highly influenced by our experiences and perceptions.

In preparing for a recent presentation that focused on elements of effective school board leadership, I was determined to be deliberate in my messaging. I went so far as to write several words down on an index card as prompts: equity, leadership, good governance, and advocacy.

Of course, writing things down and including them as parts of the dialogue is only the beginning. It’s when something becomes an active part of our agenda and is brought into the conversation time and time again that it can move from paper into practice, from vision into reality. ...

On December 10, after many painful years of wrestling with the heavy-handed No Child Left Behind Act and state waivers that were often more prescriptive than the law itself, educators finally got a new federal law governing PK-12 education. Its replacement, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), promises to return power to the states, reduce accountability burdens, and broaden the scope of support for students with the greatest needs. I join my fellow educators around the country in celebrating these improvements.

Nonetheless, there are lemons lurking among the plums in the new ESSA. This law contains more concessions to reformist entrepreneurs and venture philanthropists than many of us would like. For example, one provision in Title II allows states to create charter-like “academies” for preparing teachers and principals for high-need schools—an idea that has been debated for several years and widely opposed by education organizations. Now that it is part of the law, however, we will do well to heed Maya Angelou’s advice: if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. So let’s celebrate the plums and then get busy making lemonade. ...

Have you ever felt lonely, invisible or alone? Now imagine feeling that way every day. Social isolation is a growing epidemic in the United States and within our schools. Too many of our young people suffer silently every day because they feel excluded, left out, or that they don’t belong.

Excessive feelings of social isolation can be associated with violent and suicidal behavior. In fact, one study reports that chronic loneliness increases our risk of an early death by 14 percent. Young people who are isolated can become victims of bullying, violence and depression and as a result, many further pull away from society, struggle with learning and social development and choose to hurt themselves or others.

The good news is that we can do something about this. Together we can create more inclusive and connected classrooms, schools and communities!

Sandy Hook Promise is asking schools across the country to join us February 8-12, 2016 for National Start With Hello Week. ...

The Learning First Alliance has long believed that the Common Core State Standards have the potential to transform teaching and learning and provide all children with knowledge and skills necessary for success in the global community. But we also recognize the importance of implementation – and taking the time to get it right.

That’s why, for more than a year and a half, we’ve been gathering stories from communities and stakeholders who have seen success in the transition to college- and career-ready standards. From them, we hope to learn what exactly “getting it right” means, and to share what’s worked (and what hasn’t) with those who are struggling with the process.

As we reflect on the past year, we share with you the most popular of these stories, as determined by our trusty Google Analytics. Enjoy! ...

Recently, I was honored to present to 350 Utah education support professionals (classified school staff) on bullying prevention. These workers truly are the eyes and ears of the school, but unfortunately are considered the “Rodney Dangerfields” of our schools because “They Don’t Get No Respect.”

It is clear from a 2010 NEA nationwide survey of education support professionals on bullying; we need to change this perception if we ever hope to win the war on bullying.

Even though ESPs have played a crucial role in preventing school shootings and student suicides, we sometimes forget that ESPs are on the front lines when it comes to witnessing bullying and can play a major role in whole-school bullying prevention. We need to make administrators more aware of this and provide ESPs with the resources and training they need NOW!

I believe we can accomplish this by:

First – Understanding the Vital Role ESPs Play in Schools: ...

Collaboration is critical to ensure students are prepared for life after their K-12 education ends, regardless of whether they take part in professional training programs, the military, go on to community college or enter a four-year college or university.

This work begins, of course, at the school level, but widespread success ultimately requires the collaboration of local, state and national organizations working together to help all students reach for higher goals.

Nine such groups have joined forces to form the Council of National School Counseling and College Access Organizations. The council is working to develop tools and resources school counselors and college access professionals can use in helping students transition to life after graduation. ...

You have no doubt heard that Congress passed—and the President signed into law—the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). It is the first iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), currently known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) to reach the President’s desk since December 2001.

ESSA represents a significant improvement over current law. The legislation takes the pendulum of federal overreach and control, and returns it back to state and local education agencies.

ESSA reauthorization was no small feat. The effort started (August 2007) shortly before I did at AASA (July 2008). It plodded along, like the Little Engine That Could, moving forward ever so slowly through Congress, and picked up with a particular vigor early this year. While the politics and momentum seemed against us, the effort persevered. And it is with a happy smile that I can write this post, and detail our advocacy efforts and victories. ...

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