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Earlier this month, the Learning First Alliance participated in a day-long tour of three traditional public schools in the District of Columbia (DCPS), our nation’s capital and “home town.” The tour was hosted by DCPS and sponsored by Discovery Education, and it included stops at three campuses where teachers are using digital resources to meet the individual needs of the students in their classrooms. The day was worthwhile, instructional and (most importantly) uplifting as we observed excellence in teaching and learning in traditional urban public schools.

Those of us who have worked in public education for years know that there is much good work happening in public schools; however, most of that work doesn’t get attention, and the prevailing messages that “public education is failing” or “public education is not good enough” are, in addition to being inaccurate, also dispiriting. ...

By Jenn Kauffman, NEA Health Information Network

"She's blue!"

I was three-years-old, and my mother had minutes before given me a walnut to snack on as I rode in the backseat during a family road trip. I was suddenly quiet - unusually so for a talkative toddler - and when she turned around, she realized I had stopped breathing.

I was experiencing anaphylaxis - a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. My reaction had been triggered by a tree nut food allergy - one of the 8 most common food allergy triggers in the U.S.

Food allergies can be a scary event not only for the estimated 15 million Americans like me who have a food allergy, but also for family, educators, co-workers and friends who witness an allergic reaction. Awareness, education and prevention can literally save a life.  The National Education Association Health Information Network produced "The Food Allergy Book" in English and in Spanish to help school staff and families be prepared in the case of ...

We know that effective communication is critical in public education, both for building support for public schools and for ensuring the successful implementation of education initiatives, such as the Common Core State Standards. But what does a good K-12 communication strategy look like?

Missouri’s Nixa Public Schools, a suburban K-12 system serving 6,000 students in 11 schools, provides one example. Communication has been a key aspect of the district’s strategic plan for well over a decade, and Nixa has developed a transparent, high-functioning communications program that is two-way in design. For this work, the district was named the 2014 recipient of the Leadership Through Communication Award, with Superintendent Stephen Kleinsmith and Director of Communication Zac Rantz recognized for their exemplary leadership in the field. The district was commended for building a culture where there is a common language between internal and external stakeholders; creating an environment in which information can be shared in a variety of ways; providing the community the opportunity to offer input which is listened to and acted upon; and more.

In a recent e-mail interview, Rantz took the time to discuss the district’s program and give advice to those looking to strengthen their communications strategy.  

Public School Insights (PSI): What is the district’s general philosophy on communication?

Rantz: Inform early. Inform often. Inform through multiple channels.

PSI: What are the key components of your communication program?

Rantz: We structure our communication channels into two main sections: internal and external ...

By Stephanie Hirsh, Executive Director, Learning Forward

We know quite a bit about the strategies that help educators improve and develop expertise over time. Over the long term, we have gathered evidence from research and the field about professional learning that led to changed practices for teachers and better results for students.

For example, numerous researchers have established the value of learning communities, and each week we hear about more districts creating time for learning communities to meet during the work day. We know from more than a decade of research sponsored by The Wallace Foundation and others that principals who act as instructional leaders (with all that entails) have a greater impact on advancing students and teachers. Both research and the field emphasize repeatedly the importance of collaboration and the value of peer learning. And while the research isn't clear on the impact of coaching, examples in the field lead us to believe in its usefulness. ...

By Otha Thornton, President, National PTA

It started as a whisper. But the injustice taking place in 1954 to African-American school children in Topeka, KS, didn’t stay quiet for long. It took Oliver L. Brown, a welder for the Santa Fe Railroad, to stand up and call out an education system that wasn’t integrated and wasn’t fair. His request was simple: He wanted his 7-year-old daughter Linda to attend a nearby school designated as white-only instead of being bused across town to an all-black Monroe Elementary School. He instead created a movement that reverberated all the way to the Supreme Court and culminated with the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, which declared “separate but equal” education unconstitutional.

PTA was there, immediately taking a stand supporting school integration, a move that cost the association some three-million members. Unfazed, these courageous mothers put pressure on all states to integrate. They called it unification. They were ridiculed for their position, but knew that history would be on their side. A few years later, PTA merged with the National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers Association (who had also taken a lead role in supporting Brown and others fighting across the country for school equality) to ...

For his decades of work towards, and advocacy for, the advancement of public education in North Carolina and across the nation, the Learning First Alliance honors Governor James B. Hunt with its 2014 Education Visionary Award.

Considered by many to be the nation’s first “education governor,” Hunt served an historic four terms as governor of North Carolina, from 1977-1985 and 1993-2001. Under his leadership, North Carolina public schools improved test scores more than any other state in the 1990s, according to the Rand Corporation.  

Hunt has also been at the forefront of national education reform, particularly in the areas of early childhood development and the improvement of the quality of teaching. Among his many successes in education, his Smart Start program received the prestigious Innovations in American Government Award from ...

Governor James B. Hunt Named 2014 LFA Education Visionary

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For his commitment to improving education in North Carolina - where he became known as the nation's first "education governor" - and across the nation, the Learning First Alliance honors Gov. James B. Hunt as our 2014 Education Visionary.

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

I’m sitting here trying to convince myself to go to class. Class begins in two hours, and I am not ready. I have not studied. I have not finished the homework. Actually, I’m not even certain what homework I was supposed to do. I’m worried that the teacher will call on me and that I won’t be ready. I don’t want to be embarrassed. Again.

Maybe I’ll just skip class. Maybe I’ll drop the course.

Not being the best student in class is new territory for me. I have always excelled in class, and I expected to excel in this one as well. How wrong I was!

When I decided to go to Haiti this winter (see my article on p. 76 of the May 2014 Kappan) and learned I would lead a PDK trip to Amsterdam and Paris next fall, the time seemed right to brush up on my French. With ...

By Lisa Abel-Palmieri, International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Blogger

Girls want to change the world.

Eighty-eight percent say they want to make a difference with their lives, and 90 percent express a desire to help people, according to the Girl Scouts’ “Generation STEM” research. Girls have traditionally achieved this goal through people-oriented careers rather than through applying technology and scientific expertise to change the way things are done.

However, if more girls learn that STEM careers open up new avenues to help and serve, more girls will choose STEM.

Maker education allows girls to experience in a fun, tangible way how they can apply STEM skills to solve real problems — all while developing dexterity, learning about ideation and practicing teamwork. By giving girls the opportunity to make and tinker, we also help them develop their creative confidence so they persevere in pursuing STEM majors and careers. The “Generation STEM” report found that 92 percent of girls who engage with STEM subjects believe that they are smart enough to ...

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

Last month the FCC closed its comment period for its most recent Public Notice, soliciting responses for the FCC’s proposed changes to the E-Rate program. As a former school superintendent and in my current role with AASA, an organization that has advocated for the E-Rate program since its inception, and as a member of the USAC board, the entity that administers the E-Rate program, I have strongly supported the E-Rate program for the critical role it has played in the rapid and dramatic expansion of school and library connectivity, forever changing the face of students’ classroom experiences.

The current E-Rate policy environment is an unprecedented confluence of events: An FCC Chairman committed to modernizing the E-Rate program, an FCC Commissioner deeply passionate about E-Rate, the momentum of the President’s ConnectEd proposal, the announcement of $2 billion in found funding for the E-Rate program, and the ever-increasing demand for connectivity in the nation’s schools and libraries. Program policy isn’t made in a silo, though, and there are external pressures that stand to shape the final E-Rate changes as much as the voice of program ...

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