Learning First Alliance

Strengthening public schools for every child

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John B. King, Jr. has a compelling personal story: Orphaned at age 12, it was public education and his teachers who saw him through a tumultuous period in his life and in turn inspired him to become a teacher, school administrator, and now the nation’s top education official.

Dr. King, who is serving as Acting U.S. Secretary of Education as the Obama administration enters its final year, recently spoke about his ambitious agenda with the Learning First Alliance: He plans to push for student equity and excellence, a better equipped teaching force, and strategies to improve the college completion rates. He also will be responsible for regulations for the newest version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). ...

Barbara Haeffner, director of curriculum and instructional technology at Meriden Public Schools in Meriden, Connecticut, discusses how her district integrates technology into the classroom to prepare more students for higher-level learning.

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Ms. Haeffner works with a team of educators who have integrated technology to build personalized learning experiences, so that students not only learn core content, they can more deeply explore subjects that pique their interests. Students can read or watch videos at their own pace, for instance. ...

My timing has never been the best; I first heard of teachers maintaining a “180 Blog” after I left the classroom to begin my administrative journey. But the allure of a blog where you upload one picture a day from your classroom was too strong, and thus my Admin180 blog was born in the summer of 2013. I was so excited “to be a “blogger” that I actually started posting more than two weeks before the school year started, using negative numbers to describe the days leading up to Day 1. ...

Principal of the Year Focuses on College Prep, Common Core Skills

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In a recent podcast, NASSP's 2016 Principal of the Year Alan Tenreiro discusses how his Rhode Island school built a culture of high expectations for all students.

School Counselor Boosts College Awareness, Acceptance

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LFA interviews 2016 School Counselor of the Year Katherine Pastor on innovative programs that help students at her Flagstaff, Arizona high school see their potential. 

School counselors bear a tremendous responsibility to guide their students to academic and career success and, along the way, nurture their emotional well being. For Katherine Pastor, school counseling is a career that allows her to help hundreds of students at at Arizona’s Flagstaff High School achieve their potential each year.

The American School Counselors Association named Ms. Pastor as the 2016 School Counselor of the Year and is celebrating National School Counseling Week from February 1-5, 2016. Ms. Pastor and other finalists were honored by First Lady Michelle Obama at a White House ceremony on January 29, which can be viewed on YouTube. ...

Last month, after overwhelmingly bipartisan approval in Congress, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the latest iteration of the 50-year-old Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The 15 member organizations of the Learning First Alliance believe that this law is overall a good departure from the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act, and each organization has analyzed the law to determine what it will mean for their constituents. In December we published members' statements on passage of the law, we've now compiled some of the new resources and commentaries. ...

The National Education Association (NEA) is guided by the mantra “A Great Public School for Every Student,” while NEA Healthy Futures is committed to “Improving Schools, Improving Lives.” Each motto offers the vision of a society where all students have equal access and opportunity to lead successful lives. Unfortunately, the fact remains; the journey to achieving this success is mired by pitfalls and potholes that have permeated this society for far too long.

As a result, access and opportunity for all remains a mirage of hopes and dreams for many students; especially, for students of color. Why is this? Why in the 21st century are we still having the same conversations we have had in 18th, 19th, and 20th century? What is the stumbling block denying the “American Dream” for so many students? Two words—Institutional Racism. ...

Privacy is often a contentious issue that raises deeply held fears. Concerns around privacy have been rising in the U.S. since the revelations of electronic monitoring by the National Security Agency, the hack of Target credit cards and shuttering of the education data platform inBloom. 

Privacy debates often are divisive, putting superintendents and other educators on the defensive. Parents believe too much data is collected about their children, that it’s left unsecured, and it’s inappropriately used by companies for commercial gain.

Trust is at the heart of this privacy debate. As author Stephen Covey said, “Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”

Shared Guidance

The best example of the evolving context around the privacy of student data is a recently released set of student privacy principles.  ...

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.” ...

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