Learning First Alliance

Strengthening public schools for every child

High School

Blog Entries

What is the worth of real work experiences for today's students?

What was once a rite of passage in our collective coming of age stories—the summer job—has succumbed under fuller employment and other socio-economic factors which remove these opportunities for young people. With the death knell of summer jobs has gone countless experiences essential to our young peoples' academic and life skills development. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, summer labor for young people (ages 16-24) has declined from a high of 77.5% to 60.0% in 2015.

 "The labor force participation rate for all youth was 60.0 percent in July 2015, little changed from a year earlier. The summer labor force participation rate of youth has held fairly steady since July 2010, after generally trending downward for many years. The summer youth labor force participation rate peaked at 77.5 percent in July 1989." –Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 2016. ...

Join Learning First Alliance Executive Director Richard Long and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute's Michael Petrilli for a video chat about the recent past and near future of college and career ready standards. They will consider the state of Common Core, progress and continuing gaps in student outcomes across the country, assessments and the impact of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) on the playing field for college and career readiness.

Bring your thoughts and questions to this free broadcast; an audience Q&A will be included.  

Wednesday, June 29

3 – 4 p.m. EDT

Subscribe via Blab (http://bit.ly/1rpFSJd) before the event. A Facebook or Twitter account is required  to view this live chat.



Colonial School District straddles the boundary where suburban Wilmington gives way to Delaware’s rural eastern shore. Its one high school, William Penn, serves a racially diverse population, about 40 percent of whom come from low-income families. Penn is a model for getting kids ready for life after graduation. Ninth-graders who enter its doors are asked to choose among 19 “degree programs” — essentially, career tracks ranging from construction to engineering — that will be their focus for the next four years. But there’s one choice they don’t have to make: Whether their “degree” will prepare them for college or the workforce. At William Penn, all graduates will be ready for both.

During a recent visit there, I spoke with a senior in the school’s culinary arts program who exemplifies the Penn way. In addition to his studies in the busy kitchen, which doubles as a student-run catering business, he has six AP courses under his belt along with his industry certification. Elsewhere in the building I saw physics being taught in a wood shop, while in another more traditional classroom, 11th-graders explored issues of race and equality in Kurt Vonnegut’s dystopian story “Harrison Bergeron.” ...

Summer slide refers to a decrease or loss of academic skills over the summer break.  As summer goes by, if students do not actively engage in learning experiences, the progress they had made throughout the school year will not only decrease, it can actually regress.

Avoiding this “summer slide” is easy if strategies are in place to help students stay fresh until the next school year. This is where digital tools and technology can step in and help students be ready for the start of the new school year.

Ways to avoid the slide

There are many digital options for helping students avoid this summer slide.  With the rise of technology, students have access to diverse tools with many options for providing these learning extensions.  Students have choices when given opportunities for practice and this will help them to return to school better prepared.   ...

John-David Bowman, the 2015 Arizona Teacher of the Year, is pleased with his state's move to Common Core and Common Core-aligned assessments. But the amount of testing--particularly tests that are not aligned to state standards, or given at the whim of a school district or teacher, is hurting the potential for using the results to improve teaching and learning, says Mr. Bowman, who teaches International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement history and theory classes at Westwood High School in Mesa, Ariz.

"Assessments are a necessary tool," says Mr. Bowman in the latest Get It Right podcast. "But we're being over-assessed--assessment for the sake of assessment, and not measuring student growth."

Students get to the point where they do not put as much effort into tests and those tests lose value, he adds. He's also seen students--and teachers--stressed because they do not have time to prepare for tests or teach the content and skills that are being assessed. ...

What are the first steps on the road to accomplished teaching? Educators Rising is working to find out, and we need your feedback.

Educators Rising—powered by PDK International— is a national network working to help school systems guide young people on the path to teaching starting in high school. Since launching in 2015, students and teachers leaders in 1,200 schools across the country have joined. A recent profile in Education Week notes, “Forty-nine percent of the [14,000] student members are racial and ethnic minorities—a rate that far outpaces the 17-percent minority makeup of the current U.S. teaching profession.

Now Educators Rising — in partnership with the National Education Association — is coordinating an effort to back-map the road to accomplished teaching into the secondary space. The organization is defining what high school students exploring teaching careers must know and be able to do to be on the path to becoming accomplished teachers. ...

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. ...

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. ...

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 ...

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. ...

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