Focus on Teachers
Challenges like low college-readiness rates and academic performance that lags behind much of the developed world weren’t created overnight. We can’t solve them overnight, either. It’s not that simple. Real school improvement requires a comprehensive plan focused on what matters most, and the willingness to stick with it over the long run.
M. Night Shyamalan Got Schooled
Director M. Night Shyamalan recommends five basic tenets to close the achievement gap: start with good teachers; allow principals to be educators; be serious about data-driven instruction; implement small schools; and allot more time for learning.
Best Practices for Raising Student Achievement
When leveraged, the practice of limiting goals, establishing important routines, developing a balanced assessment approach, using multiple measures to inform improvement, and empowering teachers and developing leaders can lead to a highly effective system and produce high student achievement in districts and schools.
Feeding Hungry Students
Students who eat school breakfast do better in school. How do we close the school breakfast gap? It takes rethinking how breakfast is served. Moving breakfast out of the cafeteria and making it part of the school day ensures more low-income students can start the day with a healthy meal.
Social and Emotional Cures for the Disengaged
Nearly five million children suffer from mental illness that interferes with their success. These students need what any disengaged child requires to refocus on learning: a healthy school environment – one where children feel safe, enjoy a positive relationship with adults and peers, and have access to the instructional supports necessary to keep up academically.
An estimated 5.8 million to 6.7 million young people are not in school or training and are not employed. They need “a second shift of adults” in their lives, people who are invested enough in their futures to call them or reach out in other ways.
In Praise of Recess
There is no known research suggesting that elimination or reduction of recess supports improved student learning or improves student behavior. Recess, we know, is an essential component of the elementary school day. School leaders should be proactive in ensuring well-maintained, safe, age-appropriate outdoor environments.
The New Vo-Tech
Across the nation, districts are working to reinvent vocational education and occupational training opportunities. These programs are taking vo-tech into the 21st century, with an increasingly sophisticated and academically rigorous curriculum that’s rooted in providing students with real-world experiences and a serious exploration of career opportunities.
How to Avoid Cultural Dissonance in Schools
As a principal, I hoped I could help others embrace the changes in our community and in our classrooms. Administrators who find themselves in a similar situation should: Create cultural awareness; understand students’ experiences and realities; provide a positive school community; be a positive role model; and, set high expectations.
Beyond Academics: Giving Students a Chance to Succeed
Teach the students, not the curriculum. That’s a maxim that great teachers – and great schools and school districts – live by. It means that, if the material is not getting through to the students – if it is not meeting them where they are – the whole educational enterprise has failed.
Inclusive Gifted Programs
Educational staff and districts have unwittingly developed systems in which some minority students are consistently overrepresented and others underrepresented in the gifted/highly capable populations. This institutional bias has existed for as long as statistics have been kept on this area. One step in solving the problem is easy to achieve.
Testing and Common Core
The goal of the Common Core assessments, as with the curricula itself, is to devise a richer, more thoughtful approach to K-12 learning, one that is – in the words of the Common Core developers – “fewer, clearer, higher.” But while the aim is simplicity, the tasks involved in meeting that goal are exceedingly complex.
The Backlash Against Common Core
“Fewer. Higher. Clearer.” Those are the types of academic standards the Common Core State Standards Initiative has promised. Finally, the U.S. will have, if not a national curriculum, a common set of state-endorsed standards and assessments to prepare students for college and 21st century careers. At least, that’s the plan.
Special Education and ELLs
Good teams working with good data make good decisions that lead to good school districts. But what happens when the numbers don’t add up, and the percentages you expect to see don’t match what is showing up in your data? Disproportionality especially has an effect on how English Language Learners qualify for special education services.
Are Field Trips Disappearing?
Field trips can spark curiosity and help students make connections to concepts they study. In some cases, it may be the first time students have been to these places. Thirty percent of superintendents surveyed in 2012 had already nixed field trips, and 43 percent indicated they would do so next year.
School Readiness for All
Before children ever enter formal school, achievement gaps have already formed. Teachers play a continuous, losing game of catch up with disadvantaged children and often short-changes children on the higher end of the academic spectrum. Some districts have begun investing in evidence-based prekindergarten programs as a way to bridge the gap.
Elementary School Early Learning
With the continued focus on testing and assessment and the advent of the Common Core State Standards, it is critical not to lose sight of how children learn and what we are measuring about their learning. Research suggests that teachers’ effectiveness in the early grades depends largely upon teacher-child relationships and interactions.
The Importance of Civics Education
With the vast majority of states signing on to Common Core standards in essential subjects – in order to better prepare graduates for college and the workforce – proponents of civic learning are saying a third pillar of a strong educational foundation needs to be added, which prepares students for citizenship.
Higher Education Partners Benefit Schools
School systems in rural Virginia work with each other and higher education institutions to overcome their isolation and lack of resources. School leaders could find great value in forming similar partnerships with other districts and with colleges and universities. We recommend harnessing the energy of such collaboration.
The Long-Term Benefits of Early Learning
The societal return on investment in early childhood education for disadvantaged children could be anywhere from $3 to $16 for every dollar invested. So the U.S. is now providing quality preschool to a majority of its low-income children and the quality continues to improve, right? Wrong on both counts.
Professional Development That Works
If a school board truly wishes to boost academic achievement, it must support professional development. The latest research says that staff training must be “down and dirty” – very practical for the classroom, including sustained coaching and support for teachers and administrators as they seek to master what they’ve learned.
Doing Science Right
Students need the scientific building blocks. But students can gain a richer understanding and appreciation of science if schools move beyond the boundaries of the science classroom to conduct hands-on research. Byram Hills High School in Armonk, N.Y., achieves this with a program that can be replicated in any district.
Common Core Technology
Creating the Common Core State Standards was one thing. Building the computing capacity to implement them the way the consortia would like is a more complex matter. Ed-tech companies have an equally complex task in creating software that aligns with the assessments and provides highly adaptive computerized tasks based on them.
Showing Up for School
Findings from a Georgia Department of Education study confirm that missing just a few days of school, whether the absences are excused or not, can reduce a student’s chances for academic success. Increasing students’ attendance by five days could represent the most efficient intervention aimed at increasing student proficiency rates.
Education Vital Signs: Helping Students Learn
Education Vital Signs collection of reports on Helping Students Learn.