OPINION: Is this the way to transform struggling rural schools?

Originally posted May 24, 2018 at The Hechinger Report.
When students understand what and why they are learning
While serving as U.S. Secretary of Education in the 1990s and early 2000s, and previously as Governor of South Carolina for eight years, I saw the devastating impact of under-funded and under-resourced rural schools, especially in high-poverty communities.
Unfortunately, at least for some children in the South, those conditions haven’t changed much.
That’s one of the reasons a different approach to teaching and learning caught my attention several years ago. My visit to New Tech High School in Napa County, California, during the 2008-09 academic year was the start of an important journey for me that eventually would have an impact on students in my home state and beyond.
Read the full post at The Hechinger Report.

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Are we EQUIPped to spend billions on (yet) unproven programs?

April 17, 2018
Nathan Arnold
In the 1940s, Russia developed a prototype of a new military advancement called the Antonov A-40. It was an ambitious, seemingly innovative leap forward that would provide battlefield support and overwhelming, agile deployment. It was also, quite literally, a flying tank. For reasons that seem obvious in retrospect—weight and inefficient transportation chief among them—it was not functional in practice and thankfully never produced at wide scale. However, the lessons learned regarding its design ultimately provided beneficial advances to future military developments.
Federal lawmakers would be wise to heed the lesson that all ideas—particularly those with billions of dollars at stake—should not be rushed into wide-scale production. Many of them seem eager to open the $130 billion per year of taxpayer funding to new ways of providing higher education instruction without any assurance that these programs provide quality outcomes to their students. It’s still too early to tell if these innovative models will turn out to be the Antonov A-40 or the (significantly more effective) Chinook helicopter of higher education, but it’s not hard to see the potential […]

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Using ESSA to Improve School Climate and Social and Emotional Development

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which passed in December 2015, laid the groundwork for two significant shifts in education reform in that it (1) shifted significant authority and responsibility for designing key education systems from the federal level to states and districts; and (2) prioritized college and career ready outcomes for all students – allowing for a broader focus than the strictly academic nature of its predecessor, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) – and required that all systems be aligned toward those outcomes.

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Colleges must protect free speech, but not when students feel unsafe

The new academic year is now well upon us with the return of hundreds of thousands of students to college this fall. And it’s a time unlike any in recent memory. The nation’s political divide is stark and conspicuous on campuses across the country where protests centering on issues of race, religion and free speech are rampant.

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The Magic of College and Career Ready Approaches for Greater Equity, and 20 Ways to Advance Them through ESSA

Does the state set a clear “North Star” of the full array of college and career ready knowledge and skills through rigorous standards, goals, and high quality assessments? Does the state have multiple accountability measures, data reporting, and deeper diagnostic review processes that surface fuller college and career ready knowledge and skills, informed by things like performance assessments and portfolios across many subject areas, school climate measures, and accelerated coursework? Do the state’s school improvement strategies and direct student services priorities foster, for each and every student, the full range of college and career readiness and opportunities for them to direct and personalize their own learning?

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Reflecting on What We Know About Diversity in Higher Education and the Consideration of Race in Admissions

The U.S. Supreme Court’s near 40-year history on the consideration of race- and ethnicity in higher education admissions (going all the way back to the landmark Bakke case in 1978) has shaped action by the U.S. Department of Justice and Education for decades–including in federal regulations, policy guidance, and enforcement resolutions (from the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights).

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Making the Most of the Opportunity to Engage

One of the most common criticisms and downfalls of education reforms is that they feel like they are “done to” rather than “created by” the very communities they are intended to support.  Yet, at this very moment, we have a golden opportunity to raise the voices of teachers, leaders, parents, students, and their communities and meaningfully include their priorities in state and local planning for reform through the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

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Want Your ESSA Plan To Ensure Equal Access to Effective Teachers? Targeted Strategies Are Your Best Bet!

Want Your ESSA Plan To Ensure Equal Access to Effective Teachers? Targeted Strategies Are Your Best Bet!
By Sandi Jacobs
One perspective on teacher quality and the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) holds that ESSA marks an end to the federal focus on teacher effectiveness strategies that developed and grew over the last decade. With no explicit requirements in Title II and released from the conditions of their NCLB waivers, this argument holds, states will hastily retreat from new teacher evaluation systems and reforms in other related areas such as teacher preparation, tenure, licensure, and compensation.

Rather than targeted strategies specifically designed to aid recruitment and retention in high-needs districts and schools, the Equity Plans most often speak to “rising tide” approaches intended to increase teacher quality generally in all schools.

But whether or not you believe that federal policy has been the major driver of states’ teacher efforts over the last decade, this point of view undersells a very significant point in ESSA, one that potentially makes teacher quality an even more important topic going forward.  ESSA doesn’t roll back at […]

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What Matters Now: A New Compact for Teaching and Learning

On August 10th, 2016, the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF) released the report What Matters Now: A New Compact for Teaching and Learning.
What Matters Now makes a compelling case for changes to the current education system in order to educate all students well. By documenting systemic issues, such as teacher turnover and a burgeoning student achievement gap, the Commission points out that there is new knowledge and research that supports developing a system that is more flexible, innovative, and customized.
“To prepare our students for the opportunities and challenges of the 21st century, we must design our schools to energize and excite our students regarding the importance of learning. This calls for in-depth, collaborative teaching in healthy, safe, and sustainable schools organized for success – both in terms of architectural design and curricular engagement,” said The Honorable Richard W. Riley, Co-chair of NCTAF and former U.S. Secretary of Education under President Bill Clinton. “Such an environment is essential for our students to learn the necessary academic and so-called 21st-century skills – creativity stimulated by the arts and music, teamwork, […]

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