Showing posts from 2015

Supporting our schools is everyone's business - not just for those with kids in school

I'm an involved parent - some might say I'm too involved!

When I first began as a volunteer in my child's school, I was in a partnership mindset and the school was, too. The school principal set that tone and fostered the culture to support it, engaging families and community members in a process that was defined and well-communicated. This isn't the case for all schools.

High quality public education may be the focus of local, state, and national policy, but it's not yet a civil right. There are tremendous disparities in funding, facilities, and instructional resources across our nation's school districts, and this inequity underlies the poor outcomes that the No Child Left Behind law attempts to address.

But, learning happens everywhere: in before-school programs, after-school programs, in school, in pre-kindergarten programs, in community-based programs and faith-based programs. We can think of learning happening across a continuum.

As a result, our schools …

Collaborating with the community in support of your child's education*

There are many ways to engage in a child's education: at home, at school, and in the community. Here are some ideas for collaborating with community organizations in support of children's learning:
Make local agencies and businesses aware of what's happening at your child's school.Help coordinate and participate in events that support community groups.Talk with employers about co-sponsoring parent meetings or parenting workshops on site.Encourage employers to adopt flexible work schedules and time off so that employees might attend school functions.Help organize and/or participate in community career, art, or health fairs.Recruit community members (seniors, business people) to volunteer at school.Serve on local community advisory councils and committees.Work with local authorities and public officials to sponsor community events.Encourage and help facilitate your child's participation in community service.Be a role model; be active in community service yourself or t…

The brain, poverty, and education

In 2006 I attended an Americans for the Arts evening at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. William Safire delivered the Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy. He talked of a three-year study begun by The Dana Foundation to examine whether early arts training by young children can cause changes in the brain that enhance other aspects of cognition. The goal was to find correlation between the two. Safire was chairman of The Dana Foundation at the time. (Results showed plenty of causation but no correlation. Check out the subsequent report about the Learning, Arts, and the Brain (Neuroeducation) Summit).

Anyway, that was when I first heard of The Dana Foundation and their work in neuroeducation. I signed up for their publication, "Brain in the News" - a digest of published studies, articles, commentary, etc. about the brain. (My interest in brain research stems from a college project on the topic involving a halved cauliflower, labeled "Left" and "Righ…

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday - it's four days long and (most times) I'm able to spend it with my children and extended family.

I'm grateful for family.

Coming when it does - at the end of November, long after the audaciousness of leaves, when most have fallen and what remain on branches are crisped and brown, bronze, and russet - it's a reflective time.

I'm grateful for seasonal change.

There's so much that's scary and challenging in the world right now. And, while many parts of the world have been living this reality for too long, more and more people are waking up every day, committing to changing hearts and minds in communities.

For that, I'm grateful.

I'm sharing the Paul Simon youtube here because I've loved "American Tune" since I first heard it and it's something of a Thanksgiving Day classic in our house. His lyrics capture the heart of America - the impact of each individual, hard work, imperfection and compromise, …

Family engagement isn't a checklist

I'm a proud parent of three: two sons, now college grads, and a daughter in high school. I became active in their education at school when our first child entered kindergarten (lo those many years ago...) and it's what keeps me engaged during those long Board of Ed meetings each month.

Back when they were little, the family-school partnership inspired and motivated me to contribute my skills as an artist and musician to further the educational goals of students and the school. I was happy to do things other than fundraise. Besides, it was fun connecting with other families and teachers and staff in the process.

Family engagement isn't a checklist; it's about a school's openness to a relationship with all of its families for student success.

More than 40 years of research shows that students with families actively engaged in their education at school and at home do way better at school and in life - and this holds true regardless of a parent's level of education…

Ideas for partnering with the school to support your child's education

There are many ways to be engaged with a child's education - if you're the adult responsible for the care-giving of a child, you're probably doing some of these things already.

Learn about school and district policies and practices that affect children.Voice your support or concerns on any issue that will affect your family.Participate in meetings to determine special educational needs and services.Attend workshops on problem-solving, conflict resolution, and public speaking to develop your advocacy skills.Encourage and support children to serve in student leadership positions.Work with teachers and school administrators to develop a parent involvement policy.Learn candidates' position and participate in school committee elections.Participate in petition drives or letter-writing campaigns to Congress on legislation affecting public schools and other child-related issues.Give testimony at public hearings in support of or in opposition to proposed education legislation.Vo…

How do you know if your school is "family friendly" and why does it matter?

How family friendly is your school? How do you know?

Sometimes it's really easy to overlook things that may be unintended barriers to family engagement because seeing them day after day can make them invisible to you. One way to address this is to have a welcoming walk-through of the building. How will families and community members engage with school leaders and staff in the process?

Henderson, Mapp, Johnson, & Davies suggest that even before families enter the school building, they're looking for signs that they will be welcomed:

friendly signs (in all major languages spoken by families at the school) point out the entrance and say that families and visitors are welcome;parking spots for parents and visitors are clearly marked and are near (or at least not very far from) the entrance;school staff and parents greet visitors in a friendly way and ask if they can help;teachers, administrators, and other school staff go outside the building to greet and talk with parents.

Tentative Board Agenda Items for December

Board members received this list of tentative Agenda items for December back in September:
Accountability Determinations (interested in this item, given the Board's support of Margaret McKenna's amendment at the November meeting)Competency Determination (now that there's a new hybrid test in the works)Submit Budget to Secretary of Education (probably other budgetary/fiscal announcements, including an update to the Board about the Foundation Budget Review Commission's final report)Safe & Supportive Schools report
December's Board meeting is planned for Tuesday, 12/15. Board members receive the Agenda and back-up for meeting items about 10 days before.

Charter School Public Hearings

Five charter school hearings have been scheduled within the first 10 days of December - all from 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM:

Springfield: Tuesday 12/1Springfield Public Library/Brightwood Branch, 359 Plainfield Street, SpringfieldBrockton: Thursday, 12/3Massasoit Community College/Conference Center, 770 Crescent Street, BrocktonSturbridge: Monday, 12/7Tantasqua High School Auditorium, 319 Brookfield Road, FiskdaleLynn: Tuesday, 12/8Lynn City Hall/Council Chamber, 3 City Hall Square, 4th Floor, Lynn(rescheduled from 11/23 due to unforeseen circumstances at the Lynn City Hall)Fitchburg: Thursday, 12/10Fitchburg Public Library/Auditorium, 610 Main Street, Fitchburg

Please refer HERE for some of the information about the proposed Commonwealth Charter Schools.

Approval of new charter schools is scheduled for February (including discussion at the special meeting of the Board on Monday evening):

Monday, 2/22/16 - 5:00 PM (location TBD) - last year at DESE
Tuesday, 2/23/16 - 8:30 AM (location TBD) - last …

Schools that Work

When we think of being involved parents* at school, what comes to mind? Is it to volunteer in the classroom? Fundraise for needed items? Attend a program, event, or meeting?

These are only part of what it means to be a modern, engaged parent today. Parents are working, juggling family, extra-curricular activities, and other commitments. Certainly, our students and schools win when parents are meaningfully involved in classrooms and schools. And, while it's true that an engaged parent may be a school volunteer:

he may also be interested in learning how school events actually link to learning, so that he may better support learning at home;or, she may want to participate in decision-making opportunities in the school or in the district;or some may wish to advocate not only for their child and her classroom, but for all of the children in the school, city, or town, by speaking out on school-wide issues before local, state, and/or national elected representatives and policymakers.

Parents as Partners in Shared School Decision Making

I truly believe that when parents are fully respected and engaged as partners with schools, schools do better. When our youngest was in elementary school I served on the school's Site Council for two years (2006-2008), elected through a representative process. Site councils give parents the opportunity to shape school policy by giving them an equal voice in school decision making, along with teachers, principals, and community partners. Serving on the Site Council was an engaging, pragmatic way to partner with the school in students' academic and social-emotional life.

Our Site Council was comprised of four parents whose children attended the school; each parent served overlapping terms of two years each, with two parents elected each year. Three school staff members were elected by staff. Then, one parent was nominated by members of the council to serve as Co-Chair; the principal served as the other Co-Chair and also appointed one member from the community at large.

We met mo…

Some reflections on the Board's vote for a new statewide test

I don’t know about you, but I’m a little burned out on arguments about statewide assessments. I accept that we need them, but we’re spending way too much time on them just because students from other countries are "out-performing" students in the US on standardized tests.

It bothers me that we've been angsting over these assessments for so long when there are many other areas in need of our attention and dollars. Plus, I’m more interested in the larger educational context that is our vision and our plan for learners. (I'm not going to call it "21st c learning" because, 2015...!)

Across the discussion of “how to do tests in Massachusetts", I’ve observed a tension between what, on the one hand, is essential for child/student well-being and learning and what, on the other hand, strikes us as essential for the future economy. I will argue that until and unless we are dedicated and accountable to child/student well-being, teaching and learning may have littl…

All Eyes on Door #3

We have the commissioner's recommendation on student assessment. We have results from last spring's PARCC test administrations. Now, the Board must balance all of the testimony it has heard and read - and call the question.

But, how might standardized assessments for K-12 be designed to aid learning? What if, instead of keeping with the same high-stakes testing regime that has always been done, we took a different approach (as NH and CA have done) in the design and administration of something that unlocks deeper learning opportunities for students?

NASBE Update to the BESE

As the MA delegate to NASBE's annual conference last month, Chair Sagan has asked me to provide an update to the Board at today's regular Board meeting. I've blogged about some of the sessions I attended during the conference, beginning with the visit to the Halstead Academy; links to those posts may be found in the sidebar at right (they're near the bottom of the page, in "October", and all have "NASBE" in the title; some are embedded links below). At today's meeting I'll be sharing, more or less, from here:

Overall, NASBE put on an impressive conference. Excellent presenters and featured speakers led high quality sessions on key issues before us, including:
Re-thinking the achievement gapESEA reauthorizationStudent data privacyChanging demographics and their impact on education and the workforceTeacher equity plans (what's next, now that they've been filed)Social-emotional learningEngaging students in deeper learningStrengthening st…

What's Behind Door #3? [PARCC::Part II]

We've been reading (for example, HEREHERE, HERE, and HERE, among other places, like HEREHERE, and HERE) that a recommendation is pending from Commissioner Chester to the Board of ESE about how to move forward with statewide assessments in ELA and maths. He's been floating around his idea for a third way since October 19th's Board meeting, sharing his change of view and describing his process for how he will inform the Board of his recommendation. We assume said recommendation will be similar to what we've been reading and hearing about. Time will tell.

At October's meetings, the Board learned that tech upgrades to infrastructure were estimated to be $3.1 million; another $12.3 million estimated for additional technology in schools. Many schools may be ready for computer-based testing but very many more are not at all equipped with equitable, effective digital learning environments.

Acknowledging our tech deficit across the Commonwealth in this regard, I'm c…

NASBE Session :: What Do We Now Know About Preparing School Leaders - and How are We Doing?

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Panel Presenters
Paul Manna, College of William & Mary, Wallace Foundation
Jonathan Supovitz and Bobbi Newman, Consortium for Policy Research in Education, University of Pennsylvania
William "Bill" White, Chair of School Leader Study Group, West Virginia State Board of Education

NASBE: State BOD chose two study groups: one on career readiness & the other took a look at the adequate number of school leaders - - lead to this report, partially funded by Wallace Foundation. At the same time that the study group was working on this, Paul Manna published his report for the Wallace Foundation: Developing Excellent School Principals to Advance Teaching and Learning

Paul Manna
A Tale of Two Reports: The Wallace Foundation's Developing Excellent School Principals to Advance Teaching and Learning: Considerations for State PolicyANDNASBE's: Successful Leaders for Successful Schools: Building and Maintaining a Quality WorkforceThe need for high-quality…

NASBE Luncheon Keynote :: Brilliant - The Science of How We Get Smarter

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Annie Murphy Paul, Author of the forthcoming book Brilliant: The Science of How We Get Smarter
on twitter @anniemurphypaul

engaging presentation, posits intelligence can be acquired findings suggest that our schools can impart not just knowledge and skills but intelligence itself to studentsthinks of intelligence as a "reservoir and a pipeline"says we don't know how to measure the depth or capacity of someone's intelligence reservoirwe're focusing too much on increasing the capacity of the reservoir instead of the pipelineintelligence is sensitive to its "setting", so pay attention to the environmentinstead of talking about the "achievement gap" > > understand "cognitively congenial settings"the ability to shape one's own setting, in the way that works best for learning > > a key 21st c skillcompanies can also enhance the brainpower of the workers they already employ when they focus on the set…

NASBE Session :: Career Readiness for All Students

The Second C: Paving the Path of Career Readiness for All Students
Thursday, October 22, 2015

Panel Presenters
James Hull, Center for Public Education, National School Boards Association (NSBA)

Andrea Zimmerman, National Association of State Director of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc)

Malbert Smith III, Ph.D., President & Co-founder, MetaMetrics

Bill MathisPh.D. Managing Director, National Education Policy Center at University of Colorado, Boulder, Member of Vermont State Board of Education

Mireya Reith, Chair of NASBE Career Study Group, Vice Chair and Member of Arkansas State Board of Education

Robert Hull, Moderator, Director of Center for College Career, and Civic Readiness ("the first c, the second c, and the other c"), NASBE

Robert Hull: NASBE Board of Directors chooses one or 2 topics to take a deep dive into for the year - come back and share - - research. Report of the NASBE Career Study Group is the result of the work on "career readiness".


NASBE Breakfast Keynote :: Disruptive Demographics :: Thursday, October 22, 2015

Keynote Speaker: Dr. James H. Johnson Jr., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Asks: How do we properly educate needs of diverse students?

Unprecedented, disruptive demographics around us present incredible challenges and opportunities

Finds 6 disruptive themes from 2010 census:
The South Rises...AgainThe Browning of AmericaMarrying Out is "In"The Silver Tsunami is About to HitThe End of MenCooling Water from Grandma's Well...and Grandpa's too!The South Continues to Rise...Again...
we are a mobile societyour migration trends are immigration drivenmovement is happening in 4 states in the South: 71% of 14M people going to Texas, Florida, Georgia, North CarolinaThe Browning of America
immigration driven1921-1961 most people migrating came from Europe1961-1988 most people migrating came from Asia1987-1998 migration from Europe fundamentally disappearsmigration and immigration are age-selectedmore young people are coming to US - having children at higher rates and &qu…

NASBE15 Pre-Conference :: Student Data Privacy :: Wednesday, October 21, 2015 :: 1:00 PM*

Pre-test: Can you identify what the following acronyms stand for?

Presenters State Law and Policy Trends:
Rachel Anderson, Senior Associate, Policy and Advocacy, Data Quality Campaign Amelia Vance, Director of Education Data & Technology, NASBE

Common Pitfalls of Contracting with Education Technology Providers:
Michael Hawes, Statistical Privacy Advisor, US Department of Education

Security 101:
Jim Siegl, Technology Architect, Fairfax County Public Schools

Overcoming Policy Hurdles to Help Kids Succeed:
Elizabeth Laird, Lousiana Deartment of Education

Federal Data Privacy Legislation Panel:
Reg Leichty, Moderator, Founding Partner, Foresight Law + Policy
Jon Bernstein, President, Bernstein Strategy Group
Paige Kowalski, Vice-President of Policy and Advocacy, Data Quality Campaign
Kobie Pruitt, Education Policy Manager, The Future of Privacy Forum
Mark Schneiderman, Vice President for Government Affairs, School Messenger
Elana Zeide, Privacy Research Fellow, NYU…