Learning First Alliance

Strengthening public schools for every child

21st Century Skills

Blog Entries

Following is a series of blogs by Dan Domenech, executive director of AASA, the School Superintendents Association, as he travels with AASA's president and other U.S. education representatives through Austria to learn about that country's education system.

St. Polten, Austria – In Austria, children attend “Primary” schools for grades one through four. At the end of the fourth grade, when children are 10 years of age, a determination is made as to whether children will move on to the “Gymnasium,” an academic program, or a vocational school where they will learn a trade. Approximately one third of the students pursue the academic route, while the rest pursue vocational courses. This is typical of most European countries we have visited.

We were greeted at the St. Polten Gymnasium by Director Sylvia Klimek who runs the five-12 school. The lower grade (5-8) students take five classes, while the older grade (9-12) students take eight classes. The older students can opt to be in one of four tracks: languages, art, science or sports. ...

When “A Nation at Risk” was published more than 32 years ago, it sparked impassioned calls for reform to our irreparably broken education system. Like most sparks and passions, education reform eventually flickered away in a disappointing puff of smoke, leaving the education system no better, and in some ways worse, than it was before the report. Since then, we’ve seen a succession of education movements designed to finally fix the system. Standards-based education. Dropout prevention. School-to-work. Whole language. New math. Education reform has become a jumble of clichés. The only constant is change. But the more things change, the more they remain the same, and if you don’t like the education system, stick around, it’ll change in a few years.

No wonder experienced teachers, administrators and even parents are wary of the next new thing. They know it will come and go without making a real impact. So, why is it so hard to change a system that everyone agrees needs to be changed? After all, many of our current educational structures were already in place at the turn of the last century. Do we rely on anything else on a daily basis that hasn’t changed significantly for more than 100 years? ...

This post is part of a series on digital equity from Keith Krueger, CEO of the Consortium for School Networking. Read Keith's introduction to the series here.

In this post, I will highlight data on the scope of the digital equity problem in the United States.

In the political world, digital equity has been framed as “closing the homework gap.” In other words, as education becomes increasingly digital, we must ask ourselves: do all students have the at-home tools they need to complete their assignments?

How big is the problem?

In 2009, the Federal Communications Commission’s broadband task force reported that about 65 percent of students used the Internet at home to complete their homework, a statistic that has likely increased given the growing trends of digital learning. Approximately 70 percent of teachers assign homework that requires access to broadband. ...

Being an innovator in education is much like being a freshwater fish dumped into the ocean. Some fish are stronger than others. But, eventually, they all succumb to the salinity of the salt water and die. As an educator, trying to make a difference in kids' lives, it is not enough to have the right intention or try to do the right thing — just like it is not enough to be a good, strong and healthy freshwater fish trying to survive in saltwater. Dumping more freshwater fish in the ocean won't solve anything either. The equally important work is for the community to create a container (policies, legislation) and ecosystem (school culture) that is perfectly suited for the freshwater fish educator to thrive. Just like the fish can't create its own container or freshwater, as innovators, you must define precisely the ecosystem you need to thrive so others can help create it.

 An Urgent Need ...

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. ...

By Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers (AFT)

As we fight our way back from the recession, it's clear that our economy isn't working for everyone. Too many are out of work or have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet. Too many don't have the skills they need for the jobs available in their communities. Too many get the skills they need only to be saddled with crippling debt or faced with unaffordable housing. For too many, the American dream is out of reach. Meanwhile, the rich get richer and government grows increasingly gridlocked as money drives politics.

As a union, the American Federation of Teachers takes on these issues. Indeed, our members and those we serve count on us to fight back. So, yes, we confront corporations like Pearson in front of their shareholders for business policies that lead to gagging teachers and spying on children. We protest for-profit colleges like Corinthian that leave students with a worthless degree and a load of debt. And we call out hedge fund managers who denounce teachers' pensions as they profit from teacher pension funds ...

By Kwok-Sze Wong, Ed.D., Executive Director, American School Counselor Association (ASCA)

The conflict of man against machine has been a common theme in literature almost as long as there have been machines. This concept seems more popular than ever, especially in this summer’s blockbuster movies such as the “Terminator” series, the “Mad Max” series, “Ex Machina,” “The Avengers: Age of Ultron,” and last year’s “Transcendence” and the “Transformer” series.

This idea has also existed as an organizational theory for decades. In their 1961 book, “The Management of Organization,” British theorists Tom Burns and G.M. Stalker developed the concept of mechanistic and organic organizations.

Mechanistic organizations have a highly complex and formal structure governed by a system of rules and procedures tightly controlled by a centralized hierarchy of authority. This sounds like the typical school district. Unfortunately, Burns and Stalker suggested this structure works best in stable and predictable environments. That doesn’t describe the typical school district at all ...

Educational technology is generally considered an asset for schools. But correctly integrating technology into a classroom curriculum and using digital devices to help students to learn in meaningful ways is a skill that continues to evolve--and challenge educators.

Megan Kinsey, Principal at Ridge Middle School in Mentor, Ohio, co-founded a research project at her school to help support both teachers and students as they use educational technology. The Catalyst project allows her and other educators to observe new technologies and instructional strategies as they are being used in a classroom. For this project and her commitment to lifelong learning, Ms. Kinsey recently was named a “20 to Watch” educator by the National School Boards Association. ...

David Adkisson, President and CEO of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, recently discussed his organization’s support of the Common Core State Standards and politics in the state with the Learning First Alliance. The conversation was part of LFA’s “Get It Right: Common Sense on the Common Core” campaign that for the past year has interviewed educators and researchers who are committed to the Common Core State Standards and are working to ensure the proper implementation of the standards. These interviews, which are now available as transcripts as well as podcasts, show how schools are making progress toward the new standards and improving students’ learning.

In his conversation, Adkisson discusses:

  • The drive to create higher standards for Kentucky students and why the state needs a better educated workforce;
  • Why the Common Core appeals to the business community even though it’s often seen as conservative

One year ago, the Learning First Alliance began a series of interviewing educators and researchers who are committed to the Common Core State Standards and are working to ensure the proper implementation of the standards. These interviews are part of the “Get It Right—Common Sense on the Common Core” podcasts that highlight schools making progress toward the new standards and improving students’ learning. LFA is now offering transcripts of many of these sessions in its website, including a recent segment with Vicki Phillips, Director of Education, College Ready at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

In the conversation, Phillips discussed a range of topics, including: ...

Syndicate content