Learning First Alliance

Strengthening public schools for every child


Blog Entries

Common Core has transformed teaching and learning in many classrooms, but one of the biggest challenges is explaining how it all works to parents and guardians—and then teaching them how to help their children at home. The Learning First Alliance recently spoke with Audra McPhillips, a mathematics specialist and pre-K-12 instructional coach for the West Warwick, Rhode Island district, as part of its Get It Right: Common Sense on the Common Core campaign.

What’s different about this interview is that she was questioned by Alicia Proulx, a parent and teacher in the school district, who asked about new strategies for teaching mathematics and the process for building those strategies.

A key difference in teaching to Common Core standards is that a subject is explored more deeply, and rather than taking a test and moving onto the next subject, teachers tie that knowledge to the next subject. For instance, Ms. McPhillips noted that multiplication is taught using arrays and the area model, which can help students better understand fractions and algebra in later grades. ...

“One more time.”

These are the most dreaded words when you’re trying to get a rambunctious two year old to go to sleep—and it’s already 10:30 p.m. The big stack of board books had toppled. The Dreamland CD was finishing its last lullaby. Mom needed to do some work before bed.

But my son wouldn’t give it up—he just wanted to read the same books over and over: “Good Night Little Pookie” and the whole series of Sandra Boynton’s board books, “Trains” by Byron Barton, the classic “Big Joe’s Trailer Truck,” and anything about trucks, trains, or transportation.

Eventually, he began memorizing the rhymes and recognizing sight words. We moved on to longer books but I came back to several of his favorites to help him spell and sound out familiar words and phrases. Those late nights eventually paid off. By age 4 he was reading… his preK teacher didn’t believe me until she spelled out a word to another teacher and he announced it to the class. When he entered kindergarten his initial reading assessment score was already higher than the minimum to complete the grade.

As the National PTA kicks off its Family Reading Challenge this summer, consider these statistics: ...

Donna Staten, an elementary art teacher in Round Rock, Texas, has earned the title "Pinterest Queen" because she has shared thousands of lessons and amassed nearly 100,000 followers on the social media site Pinterest. Staten, who also serves on an advisory committee for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, says Pinterest has recharged her 30-year teaching career. She recently spoke about her strategies for using Pinterest and other social media in an e-mail interview.

LFA: How did you get started on Pinterest? How long have you been “pinning,” and how much time does it take you each day or each week to share projects and lesson plans?

I remember exactly when I started pinning. It was a rainy, dreary Saturday morning in January, 2012. I had heard of Pinterest, but mostly in reference to recipes, shoes, hair styles, etc. I had not heard of anyone using it for educational purposes ...

grieving boyDealing with a death is never easy, but for young children and teens, it can bring a range of emotional experiences that will undoubtedly impact learning.

The vast majority of children will lose a close family member or friend by the time they are 16, and one in 20 will lose a parent. But while a 2012 survey by the New York Life Foundation and American Federation of Teachers (AFT) found that 92 percent of teachers believe grief is a serious problem that deserves more attention in schools, 93 percent of teachers had never received any form of bereavement training and only 3 percent of school districts offer any such training. ...

By Heather Naviasky, Program Associate, Coalition for Community Schools

Twice in the last several months, schools have received attention because of their strong academic performance. But in telling their stories, the Education Trust (in the case of Menlo Park Elementary a "dispelling the myth school" in Portland, OR) and the Washington Post (in the case of Carlin Springs Elementary in Arlington, VA) focused only on academic improvements, overlooking the role of educators and their community partners in ensuring that low-income children also have the opportunities and supports they need to thrive. Last month we at the Coalition for Community Schools expanded on the success of Menlo Park Elementary; this month, we dive deeper into Carlin Springs.

On January 10, 2015, the Washington Post highlighted how Carlin Springs Elementary was raising test scores. It focused on how "teaching to the test" and test prep created double digit test score gains for the school. Once again, while they zoomed in on one area of achievement, the Post did not capture other dimensions of the school’s improvement strategy ...

Deanna Martindale is a 2014 PDK Emerging Leader and principal at Hebron Elementary School in Ohio. She has spent nineteen years in education, teaching sixth grade, serving as a professional development coach, and helping plan one of the first K-12 STEM programs in her state.

She recently took some time to share her thoughts on STEM learning, engaging curriculum, preparing students for college-and-career, and connecting with parents, students and staff in support of student achievement.

Public School Insights (PSI): Thank you so much for taking the time to share your insights with us here at Learning First Alliance. First, would you share some of your professional background with us?   

This is my 19th year in education and my fourth year as an elementary principal. I have taught sixth grade, all subjects, and served as an instructional coach, working on assessment design and inquiry based teaching.  I also spent time as a professional development coordinator with the Teaching and Learning Collaborative, working some with COSI Columbus to develop an Inquiry Learning for Schools summer program for teachers. I conducted professional development around the state to help roll out Ohio’s new science standards and best instructional practices, and I was a STEM coordinator for Reynoldsburg schools, where I worked with a design team of teachers and administrators to plan one of the first K-12 STEM programs in the state ...

By Terry Pickeral, Project UNIFY Senior Education Consultant

I recently co-facilitated a webinar sponsored by the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) titled Social Inclusion: An Opportunity for Principal Leadership.

My co-facilitators included Steven Bebee, principal Cactus Shadows High School (AZ), Bill Schreiber, principal Granite Falls Middle School (NC) and Barbara Oswald, Special Olympics South Carolina.

It was a privilege to share and learn from these local and national leaders on how principals lead their schools to integrate and sustain social inclusion.

While US schools understand physical inclusion (ensuring all students have equitable access to facilities, services and activities) and academic inclusion (engaging diverse students in the teaching-learning process of the general education classroom) there is less familiarity with social inclusion ...

Students that drop out of school may vanish from the school system, but they do not disappear from society. They will reappear in court or prison, in the unemployment numbers that are released each month or as part of a welfare or poverty statistic. And students with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD) are more likely to drop out of school, as they face additional barriers to academic success. Fortunately, it is possible to reconnect with this population, with programs that show particular success when it comes to re-engaging these dropouts sharing key characteristics. The most recent issue of PDK International’s Kappan Magazine features an article, “Re-engaging School Dropouts with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders”, which is targeted at these students, though it offers advice that could help reengage all dropouts. ...

Looking back on 2014, the Learning First Alliance is pleased to bring you the five most viewed success stories* from the more than 190 stories housed on our site. Criteria for inclusion on the site is relatively straightforward – the story must show that a school, district or state identified a challenge, addressed it and produced positive results through their efforts. These results are measured in a variety of ways, from increased graduation rates or decreased dropout rates to improved standardized test scores or positive outcomes in student health and behavior. Other indicators may highlight parent engagement, improved classroom performance or new innovative practices that foster student engagement. Many stories also highlight the collaboration among education leaders. We would like to extend our thanks to all the organizations that allowed us to cross-post their features in this past year.

We wish you happy reading and a Happy New Year!

5. Using Incentives to Motivate Students ...

Tarsi Dunlop's picture

STEM for All Kids

STEM is far more nuanced than the acronym suggests. At an early December NCTET-sponsored event at Discovery Education headquarters, the focus was on the importance of STEM in teaching and learning.

Science, technology, engineering and math aren’t just for individuals who already excel in the subjects; STEM can be for all students in all classes. And it really isn’t about excelling in key subjects, but a mindset that can be infused across a curriculum. In school, STEM helps students see what they can be, what they can do, and what problems they can solve. You can’t be what you can’t see, and STEM learning is a logical connection to the real world opportunities students can pursue in their future careers.  ...

Syndicate content