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Blog Posts By Cheryl S. Williams

Today, the Learning First Alliance - a partnership of leading education organizations dedicated to improving student learning in America's public schools - called on policy makers to allow more time for the formal implementation of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) to ensure the required instructional alignment and supports necessary for meaningful college- and career-ready standards, prior to tying high-stakes consequences to CCSS testing.

To help facilitate the identification and sharing of best and promising practice on CCSS implementation, we also announced a new website that will serve as a home for implementation success stories. These stories can serve as a guide to help policy makers and educators construct a timeline and execution plan based on what is necessary to implement the standards in classrooms and communities across the nation. ...

My work with and for public education leaders seems to focus on two conflicting messages and points of view. On the one hand, the relentless onslaught of criticism for the work that the educators represented in the Learning First Alliance (LFA) membership are involved in every day can become demoralizing. However, those often ill-informed attacks are balanced by the talented education leaders whose work is showcased regularly at meetings and presentations I’m lucky enough to attend. One such example of good news to spread about practitioner-led work underway in our organizations was the recent report by the National Center for Literacy Education (NCLE) entitled Remodeling Literacy Learning Together: Paths to Standards Implementation

The NCLE, a coalition of 30 professional education associations, policy organizations and foundations who work to support schools in elevating literacy learning, conducted a national survey of educators of all roles, grade levels, and subject areas to find out where we stand as a nation in-

  • Opportunities educators have had to learn about new literacy standards
  • Kinds of professional learning that are effective in supporting teachers as they implement change
  • Approaches of schools and districts to transitioning to
    ...

For many, if not most of the years I’ve worked as an advocate for the appropriate and effective use of technology in schooling, the discussion has been focused on “why”—or as those of a certain age would say: I got a good education without technology, why do we need it in schools now? (Never mind that the definition of “it” was never thoroughly addressed either.)

However, at the meeting hosted last week at Discovery Education, future@now 2014, “why” was not even on the agenda. Thankfully, and refreshingly, the gathering and its speakers focused on how to manage change within a school and district to ensure that all stakeholders are involved in planning and implementing the change that a school experience supported with technology requires. As many of us have been saying for years and affirmed by the current public education leadership on the faculty of future@now, planning should not be about devices, but about educational goals and establishment of a school culture to support change, risk-taking and introduction of tools to support those goals.

The meeting led off with a discussion of the process needed for planning for school transformation supported with technology. Dr. Dallas Dance, the impressive, young superintendent from Baltimore County Public Schools, emphasized the importance of process, leadership and ...

In the past week I’ve attended two meetings devoted to the subject of protecting student privacy in a digital learning world. The question from one of the speakers that stayed with me after both meetings were adjourned is, “How much attention are school administrators paying to this issue?”   

Certainly, the education leaders who participated in both programs – Terry Grier, superintendent of the Houston ISD; Jeff Mao, Technology Director at the Maine State Department of Education; Rich Contartesi, Assistant Superintendent for Technology Services, Loudoun County Public Schools (VA); and Jim Siegl, Technology Architect for Fairfax County Public Schools (VA) – are paying plenty of attention to the issue and providing important leadership in their respective districts and state. However, the general message conveyed is that many, if not most, school leaders are both unaware of and uneducated about the issues that could balloon into a major setback for teaching and learning in a digital world if not carefully and appropriately ...

As someone who has advocated for the appropriate use of new and emerging technologies for teaching, learning, and district operations in America’s public schools for more than 25 years, the 2014 Digital Learning Day celebration gives me much to reflect on. In many ways the classroom practices and district operations being showcased engender optimism for the lens they offer into how far we’ve come in enlarging the pool of innovative educators leading exciting learning experiences for their students.  But in other ways, the issues, challenges, barriers, and conversation have remained the same for more than two decades.  A few examples— ...

As the year draws to a close and the fate of the carefully crafted Common Core State Standards (CCSS) seems tenuous while ill-informed policymakers at both ends of the political spectrum air their complaints, I’m reminded of what really matters to ensure student success in our public schools: great teaching and committed professionals.

This was confirmed for me recently when I had the opportunity to be a “student” in DC Public Schools social studies teacher Tanesha Dixon’s demonstration classroom on Capitol Hill, where she and other master educators were staging digital classroom simulations in a meeting sponsored by the National Coalition for Technology in Education and Training (NCTET) to show how new technology tools can be used effectively in the classroom. Certainly the iPads Ms Dixon was using in her classroom provided important support for her lesson, but the real artistry on display was Ms. Dixon’s passion for her subject and creativity in engaging students to incorporate a spirit of inquiry put to use in a wealth of web based resources.

For her demonstration, Ms. Dixon used Discovery Education digital resources, but she acknowledged that the web contains an almost endless supply of rich information, much of it in the public domain and provided by such institutions as the Library of Congress, the ...

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Learning from PISA

The Learning First Alliance (LFA), a partnership of leading education organizations representing more than 10 million parents, educators and policymakers, has released the following statement:

Today, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released the latest results from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a test of reading literacy, mathematics, and science given every three years to fifteen-year-olds in the United States and approximately seventy countries and economies worldwide.

It is vital that parents, educators, policymakers and other education stakeholders view these results in context. While the ranking of the United States is disappointing and reflects little change in how our nation’s students are performing relative to their peers around the world, this ranking is only one indicator of student achievement. Other measures show significant improvement in the performance of U.S. schools in recent years. The U.S. estimated on-time graduation rate has improved dramatically since 2000 – the first year of PISA. In addition, on the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), U.S. 4th and 8th graders made significant gains in math scores between 1995 and 2011.

We would also like to remind stakeholders that there is valuable information in the PISA report beyond the rankings that we should not ignore, including the results of OECD research on the policies and practices that high-performing nations use ...

My Learning First Alliance (LFA) colleagues and I have been giving quite a bit of attention to the impending release of the latest results from the Organisaton for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which tests literacy, math, and science in 15 year-olds every three years. The United States has been humbled by past results that place us somewhere past number 20 in rankings of proficiency. We’re expecting that this year’s results will not show improvement and, as national leadership groups, have been strategizing how to respond on behalf of the educators and stakeholders we represent. 

I’ve been thinking lately that perhaps there are lessons to be learned from international comparisons that we’re missing.  A few random thoughts follow:

  • In the past we, as Americans, were quite convinced that we were superior to others around the globe.  Now we know we’re not.
  • Because we, as a country, have been blessed with abundant natural resources, two friendly neighboring countries, and the security of the protective boundary of two large oceans, we’ve believed that
    ...

And Why Aren’t We More Ashamed?

The Southern Education Foundation (SEF) recently released a report entitled A New Majority:  Low Income Students in the South and the Nation that reveals low income children are a majority of students in 17 states, primarily in the South and West. Across the nation low income students are a near majority at 48 percent. A separate report Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card analyses the education funding systems in these states and reveals that serious funding inequities continue to exist years after court cases across the nation have required states to reform their funding systems to alleviate such discrepancies.

Among the findings uncovered in the two reports include the following: ...

For many years, a big part of my job was to run a large conference showcasing innovative school districts and companies who used technology in appropriate and imaginative ways to meet a variety of learning styles and school district management challenges. The result of all that experience in meeting management is that I’m a harsh critic of conferences, both their management and content. So, after last year’s Education Nation Summit, I was vocal in my observation on its lack of depth in content; fairness in representation of public schools; and awkward timing of panels and interviews with very little acknowledgement of both the complexities of public schooling as well as the promising practices that many public school districts are instituting to reach the needs of an increasingly diverse and challenging student population.

After experiencing this year’s Education Nation Summit, I can say that the quality of the discourse and depth of conversation has improved dramatically.  Audience members are still asked to sit way too long and opportunities for real exchange are limited, though a discussion session with report out was added to the lunch program on day two and provided the chance to meet attendees from a variety of organizations and participate in a real exchange. The context for the entire program helped steer ...