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School discipline policies often promote a zero tolerance approach that disproportionately, and negatively, affects minority children. Pushing students out of the building for behavioral infractions is not the answer; instead, policies should prioritize programs and actions that create safe environments for students to learn and thrive. Zero tolerance is easy, but it is not a real solution because it actually funnels many students towards the cracks, letting them fall through with little ability to pull them back. Yet many schools lack comprehensive alternative courses of action. Schools and states need to revise their approach to school discipline if they truly wish to leave no child behind. ...

Each month during the 2014 calendar year, the Learning First Alliance will be highlighting our members’ expertise and resources around the implementation of the Common Core State Standards. This month, we spoke to a team of individuals at Learning Forward (formerly the National Staff Development Council) to showcase professional learning and its critical role in helping teachers across the country transition to teaching in new and different ways to meet the new standards.

Professional learning has always been an integral component of strong learning systems, allowing teachers to grow and evolve their methods of instruction in response to student learning. It also allows teachers to use student data to guide their practice. Strong professional learning practices guide the implementation of any standards and changes in classrooms, and in light of the rapid rollout of Common Core, they will, once again, be essential. Learn more about professional learning and how it supports teachers and students alike by reading our conversation with Learning Forward Senior Consultant Joellen Killion. Special thanks to Dale Hair, Victoria Duff and Deborah Childs-Bowen from Learning Forward for their expertise in developing the interview content and structure.

Public Schools Insights (PSI): What does the general public need to know about professional learning and its role in implementing the Common Core State Standards or other learning initiatives?

Joellen Killion: Professional learning is the means for developing and expanding educators’ knowledge, skills, and practices. Because the new content standards increase expectations for students both in terms of depth of content and application of content, educators need to refine their instructional practices to ensure that all students achieve the standards and leave school college and career ready. Any new initiative, such as Common Core, a new evaluation system, or any other reform, depends on the capacity of educators to implement it. Professional learning is the primary strategy available to every school to support continuous educator development. Yet not all ...

By Jamila Goodman, Program Coordinator, NEA Health Information Network

Did you know that adolescents are more likely than young adults to become dependent on prescription medication?  The Office of National Drug Control Policy calls prescription drug abuse “the Nation’s fastest growing drug problem.” The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has classified prescription drug abuse as an epidemic. The problem of prescription drug abuse and misuse is particularly alarming among young people. ...

The National PTA Reflections Program was founded in 1969 by Colorado PTA President Mary Lou Anderson with a simple objective: to encourage students to explore their talents in the arts and deepen their self-expression through those experiences. Eleven years ago, the US Department of Education started a Student Art Exhibit Program, and each year they recognize many of the student Reflection winners as part of the ribbon cutting ceremony celebrating the opening of the art exhibit at the Department headquarters in Washington, DC. This year, the PTA Reflections theme was “Magic in a Moment,” and millions of students from across the United States created works of art in a variety of mediums, including film, music, literature, and photography. These works of art are exquisitely crafted and reflective of the artists’ stage in life and the experiences that inspired their creation. The student voice and perspective speaks to the world through the vibrant range of expression; it’s truly a celebration of the human experience. ...

It’s difficult to imagine life without computers and technology in general - some days my eyes hurt from staring at screens too much. But computer science is much more in-depth than the basic Internet navigation and word processing skills many of us use in our professional lives. Coding, for example, is an important skill for students to master as we move towards the middle of this century in our electronic age, and can develop habits of mind that students can put to use in future STEM professions. Students who learn to code at a young age establish a strong foundation for more advanced classes in high school, better enabling them to pursue degrees in engineering and other technical professions in their post-secondary education. ...

Tarsi Dunlop's picture

Top Success Stories of 2013

Looking back on 2013, the Learning First Alliance is pleased to bring you the five most viewed success stories* from the more than 170 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 Electives to Get Struggling Students More Math

A Michigan district identified struggling students and then offered a math elective to help them reach their fullest potential. By holding them to high standards and ...

By Lisa Sharma Creighton, Senior Program Coordinator, Nutrition, Hunger and Physical Activity, NEA Health Information Network

The holiday season is known for serving up sugary treats like cookies, pies and hot chocolate, but with a little preparation and creativity, schools and parents can ensure that kids also have healthy and tasty options, too. Check out our top tips for intertwining healthy foods and physical activity into this month’s holiday celebrations:

1. Make healthy, holiday-themed snacks
Some of our favorite recipes include:

2. Skip sugary beverages 
Kate Uslan of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation suggests serving fruit-infused water in place of ...

Tarsi Dunlop's picture

A Different Spin on Failure

Dr. Maria Ferguson recently addressed the topic of failure in a column written for the December issue of the Kappan, a PDK publication. In it, she pointed out that many education leaders and policy makers are unwilling to accept that some amount of failure is predictable and that there are lessons to be learned from failure. It reminded me of the saying, if at first you don’t succeed, then try, try again. We set lofty goals in education; Dr. Ferguson highlights the goal of 90% graduation rate under the Clinton administration, with the target date of the year 2000. There was also the objective set out under No Child Left Behind (NCLB), 100% proficiency by 2013-2014.

Our graduation rate is increasing, but we’re well past 2000. NCLB failed to produce the results we desired. Did we really believe our education system was prepared to accomplish those ends within the timeframe we prescribed? If we set ourselves up for failure, it is no wonder that we find ourselves falling short. But then, what do we learn from these repeated failures? ...

By Soeren Palumbo, Co-Founder, SO College and the Spread the Word to End the Word Campaign

Special Olympics Project UNIFY has a transition program called SO College, which aims to bring together college students and individuals with intellectual disabilities to create a campus and community of inclusion and acceptance.

Outlined against a blue-gray November sky in the beating heart of the Southeastern Conference, two teams took to a Tuscaloosa field Saturday. The brass echoes of Yea Alabama faded with the cheers of the crowd, fans and band drawing breath in anticipation.  Before them, crimson red met royal purple in athletic tableau. 

Here, college football is a civic – if not always civil – religion.  “Roll Tide” and “Geaux Tigers” are more than team cheers; they are salutations, exclamations, sometimes even punctuations.  There are no moral victories here.  Athletic competition of young men and women, joined by the collective will of aptly-termed “fan nations,” determine the bragging rights of the coming winter, spring, and summer. ...

By Lisa Sharma Creighton, Senior Program Coordinator, Nutrition, Hunger and Physical Activity, NEA Health Information Network

With Thanksgiving just a couple days away, now is the perfect time to start planning for a healthy and happy holiday. To help you get organized, we rounded up our favorite healthy Thanksgiving tips, like involving kids in cooking nutritious dishes, getting the whole family moving before and after the meal, and more:

Involve kids in cooking the Thanksgiving meal
Parents can bring kids grocery shopping (extra credit: consider using a pedometer to measure steps), and then have them help with easy meal prep, like washing vegetables or measuring dry ingredients. Cooking together can be a great time to reinforce healthy eating habits and show children first-hand how nutritious dishes can be very delicious. Here are a couple of our favorite nutritious holiday recipes: ...

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