Learning First Alliance

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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. ...

Ask new high school graduates what their plans are and chances are very good they will say college. Once a sign of privilege, going to college is now seen as almost a rite of passage. And little wonder. By 2020, two-thirds of all jobs will require education beyond high school. But what about the small proportion of grads who, for whatever reason, say "enough" to school? What does the future hold for them? And what difference, if any, does high school make in their ability to be productive, self-supporting adults?

We recently published a study at the Center for Public Education that examines these questions based on the experiences of the graduating class of 2004. The analysis, The Path Least Taken II: Preparing non-college goers for success, is by Jim Hull and is the second in a series of reports that take a close look at the 12 percent of high school graduates who had not enrolled in college by age 26. ...

Written by Jim Bellanca, P21 Senior Fellow and co-editor of Becoming Self-Directed Learners.

Ephie was facing her first solo outside the school walls. It was her senior capstone project. It wasn’t her first official learning experience “out there”.  In her two years in the Global Studies School, she had completed internships, researched in the local library, traveled to the city for another project and taken a course at the local community college. This was the first time she would have to move round on her own.

As more schools adopt new ways of learning that include outside the walls study, internships and other formats, questions arise. What value? Who benefits? Who pays?  Who is responsible for what?  The best answer to all is “the student” at least when it comes to a self-directed capstone project. Such a project as Ephie’s is there to test her mettle as a self-directed learner. As a capstone, it is a final exam.  ...

How have the Common Core State Standards impacted higher education and teacher training? Dorie Combs, a professor in the School of Clinical Educator Preparation at Eastern Kentucky University, recently spoke to the Learning First Alliance about how higher education institutions in Kentucky are using the CCSS to prepare new teachers.

Combs described the process that brought together higher education and K-12 practitioners to analyze the standards and figure out how they could be successfully integrated into teacher training in her state. That collaboration, while sometimes messy, was key to ensuring everyone saw the benefit of the standards and could weave the standards into their specific curricula, she said.

Combs said the higher education community saw much potential in the standards, particularly to help connect higher education with the high school curriculum. ...

With more than 81 percent of students graduating within four years of entering high school, the Class of 2013 achieved the highest on-time graduation rate in U.S. history, according to the 2015 Building a Grad Nation report. After graduation rates languished in the low 70s for nearly four decades, rates have accelerated dramatically over the past decade.  According to the report, if this rate of improvement continues the national graduation rate will reach 90 percent by 2020, a goal of the authors of Grad Nation.

While attainment gaps remain, the gap is narrowing between traditionally disadvantaged students and their more advantaged peers. This is particularly true for Hispanics, the fastest growing group of students in our nation’s schools, whose graduation rate increased from 71 percent to 75 percent between 2011 and 2013. Black students made significant gains during this period as well, improving their graduation rate from 67 percent to 71 percent. Despite these gains the graduation rates for black and Hispanic students are still significantly lower than those of white students (87 percent). ...

New research on student achievement under the Common Core State Standards shows that students exposed to the standards made faster progress than those who had not been exposed to CCSS—a promising sign that the standards will improve student learning.

The study was conducted by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Researchers analyzed three cohorts of students in Kentucky, which was the first state to adopt the standards in 2010 and began implementation the next year. Kentucky requires its 11th graders to take the ACT test, which provided data for three cohorts of students in both high-poverty and low-poverty schools. ...

By Alex Sczesnak, Algebra 1 Teacher, Math Department Chair, and UFT Chapter Leader at Metropolitan High School in the South Bronx* 

Hello, and greetings from New York! March—infamously “the longest month” for students and teachers—roared right along, blustery and wet as ever. Last year at this time, the big question on every Algebra 1 teacher’s mind was “what will the test look like?” Here we are, a year later, and the course is feeling a little more lamb-like, as we now have the experience to better translate the expectations of the CCSS into the lessons, problem sets, and classroom assessments that make the standards come to life. This has been a boon for teachers everywhere; most would agree that these standards are far more focused and coherent than anything we’ve implemented previously, leading to curricula that make math meaningful for students in ways that were not previously possible.

That doesn’t mean all teachers are singing the praises of the Common Core just yet, however. One of the most common complaints I hear from Algebra 1 teachers is ...

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. ...

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