The Learning First Alliance welcomes Thomas J. Gentzel, executive director of the National School Boards Association, as the 2016-17 chair of our Board of Directors
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Sometimes, you know you have to get involved because you can make a difference. That’s why Sara Brown, a health room assistant at Bordeaux Elementary School in Shelton, Washington, got involved in fighting student hunger. With more than 70 percent of her students’ families classified as low-income or homeless, hunger was a real issue in her school.
“We know that hundreds of children come to school without eating breakfast, and skipping breakfast can make kids feel tired, restless, and irritable,” said Sara. “This can lead to moodiness, changes in energy levels, and low retention.”
So, Sara and her fellow educators took action. With the help of her school’s community and staff members, Bordeaux Elementary School is working closely together with families to end student hunger. One of their great ideas to alleviate the issue is their school’s share bin.
“Our share bin is simple. If you have a piece of fruit or other food in your lunch that you didn’t eat or touch, you place it in the share box. This food is still good to eat and can easily be given to a student who is still hungry,” said Sara. ...
Dr. Summer Stephens believes that educators are only beginning to understand the power of assessments and data to improve teaching and learning. And, as superintendent of Westin County School District #7 in Upton, Wyo., she sees that the Common Core State Standards are beginning to transform not only what is being taught but also the way her students are learning.
She recently spoke with the Learning First Alliance for its “Get It Right: Common Sense on the Common Core” national campaign. As part of the campaign, LFA is profiling educators across the country to learn about their experience with the Common Core.
“One of the strengths that we've noted in our students with the new standards is the push for them to really be in charge of their own learning, which is what we know you need as an individual in the world to be a productive citizen and excel in your world of work, or if you go on to college, that you have to be able to own your learning,” Dr. Stephens said. “We're really trying to take advantage of the approach with the standards to develop that independence for our kids." ...
Joplin, Missouri, is a town in transition. After it was ravaged by a tornado three years ago, leaders have worked to rebuild the core of the town and its school district. Many of the 10,000 students’ families are struggling with poverty and economic hardships, and Superintendent Dr. C.J. Huff has been charged with not only managing the district’s rebuilding but also the implementation of the Common Core State Standards.
District officials saw the Common Core as an opportunity to bring relevant experiences for a global economy to Joplin schools, and they were concerned that student achievement had plateaued. With the town’s rebuilding, Dr. Huff worked hard to engage the community, including parents, social service agencies, and the business and faith communities, in conversations about its schools and improving student achievement.
Not surprisingly, residents of this conservative area were skeptical of the Common Core, seeing it as an unnecessary federal interference. Yet Joplin school officials have successfully implemented the standards without backlash and even persuaded some of their critics to embrace the standards. ...
It's a key component to student success. Yet many school leaders struggle to help their parents understand the importance of their involvement in their child’s schooling, particularly those in low-income and immigrant communities.
Veteran education writer and advocate Alan Richard is convinced that most parents care deeply about their children’s educational experiences. But how much time and effort they can put towards helping their children and helping improve their schools varies widely. Richard recently wrote about one project in the Mississippi Delta, one of this country's most rural and impoverished areas, that is producing exceptional results, thanks to the efforts of Parents for Public Schools.
Parents for Public Schools’ newly revamped Parent Engagement Program, or PEP, is bringing together parents and residents of typically underserved communities to not just volunteer at schools but to take an active role in setting the course to improve schools and the greater community. ...
We talk a lot about transforming teacher preparation to meet the changing demands of both today’s P-12 students and the education workforce. Often these discussions revolve around alternative certification programs, but to make a large-scale impact, we have to consider how the institutions of higher education that train nearly 90% of incoming teachers should respond to the challenges that new teachers and P-12 schools and districts face.
Fortunately, there are a number of models from which we can learn, institutions of higher education working in innovative ways to ensure that teachers enter the classroom prepared to be successful. The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education’s (AACTE) The Innovation Exchange highlights many such programs, including Georgia State University’s Network for Enhancing Teacher Quality (NET-Q) program.
NET-Q is a collection of projects designed to prepare educators for the demands of teaching high-need subjects in high-need schools. To learn more about this impressive initiative, we contacted Dr. Gwendolyn Benson, who serves as the associate dean for school, community and international partnerships in the College of Education at Georgia State University and as the principal investigator for the NET-Q program. She graciously took the time to describe the key features of NET-Q, including its teacher residency program and partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and the impact of the program, which includes higher teacher retention rates, academic gains for P-12 students and richer and truer partnerships with local schools and districts.
Public School Insights (PSI): Critics often claim that educator preparation programs don’t prepare teachers – particularly those who will work in high-needs communities – for the realities they will face in the classroom. But I understand Georgia State University’s College of Education is facing that challenge head on, with the Network for Enhancing Teacher Quality (NET-Q) project. Could you briefly describe the initiative?
Benson: The goal of this project is to increase the quality and number of highly qualified teachers who are committed to high-needs schools, thus positively impacting the achievement of students in these schools. This is accomplished by increasing the recruitment and support of prospective teachers of science, technology, engineering and mathematics; special education; and English language learners, to meet the needs of urban schools in the Metro Atlanta area and nearby rural high-need districts ...
Students who fail to graduate – dropouts who perhaps more appropriately should be described as over-age and under-credited – exemplify the significant hurdles that come with the commitment to educate all students. These young individuals have fallen through the cracks, and once they’ve left the school setting, it’s difficult to re-engage them. Yet some efforts to find, support and ultimately prepare these students for future success in the postsecondary environment are showing impressive results. This work is an important reminder that it takes a village – and committed collaboration among key groups of stakeholders – to create a truly comprehensive system. ...
When Daisy Dyer Duerr was named principal of rural Arkansas’ St. Paul High School, the school was struggling. It was also, in her words, “disconnected.” Three years later, the school is achieving academically, and it’s largely low-income student population is being exposed to, and empowered through, experiences previously unknown to them thanks to the power of technology.
For her work at St. Paul, Duerr was named one of NASSP’s 2014 Digital Principals, an award that honors those who exhibit bold, creative leadership in their drive to harness the potential of new technologies to further learning goals.
In a recent e-mail interview, she shared her philosophy on digital learning and discussed St. Paul High School’s transition to a technology-infused school, emphasizing the challenge that bandwidth (or more specifically, a lack of bandwidth) presents to her rural community. The school’s story is both inspirational and instructive, offering guidance on how to incorporate and support new technologies in teaching and learning to best prepare students for life in a rapidly changing world.
Public School Insights: Tell me about St. Paul High School.
Daisy Dyer Duerr: St. Paul High School is an extremely rural, isolated school in Northwestern Arkansas. We serve approximately 125 students in grades 7-12; we are actually a preK-12 campus (with approximately 250 students), and I am the principal of the entire campus. The central office for our school district is 30 minutes from our campus.
Demographically, depending on the year, our socioeconomically disadvantaged rate has ranged from 80-88%. We serve 93% Caucasian, 5% Pacific Islander, and 2% "other" students. Only 10% of our students have internet service in their homes, according to a 2012 survey.
At St. Paul High School, we are a small town school using technology and genuine relationships with students to provide a ...
The Commission on Equity and Excellence had a Congressional mandate to provide advice to Secretary Duncan on the disparities in meaningful educational opportunities and to recommend ways in which federal policies can address such disparities. They just released a report titled “For Each and Every Child,” after a two year work period. The distinguished members of the panel, with diverse professional backgrounds and different political ideologies, focused on the inequality in our nation’s public school system as the primary driver behind two achievement gaps, the internal domestic gap and the international gap. Their conclusions and recommendations won’t surprise education professionals, but the report serves as a well-timed call to action for the struggles facing African American students, particularly males, during Black History Month. The opportunity gap also exists for a significant number of Hispanic and Native American students. ...
There are few things as complicated as funding when it comes to our nation’s public schools. But a basic understanding on the part of policy-makers and voters can be a significant contributor to the vitality of public schools and our democratic society. This week, as much of mainstream media zeros in on the Presidential race and key competitive Congressional races, it’s worth remembering that on November 7th, governance will continue with policy decisions and consequences playing out on the local level, especially for education. As we continue our pre-election examination of school finance policies, we focus on the second half of the Center for American Progress (CAP) report, The Stealth Inequities of School Funding: How State and Local School Finance Systems Perpetuate Inequitable Student Spending. ...