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It’s been a few weeks since I attended Edcamp at the U.S. Department of Education (ED) in Washington, DC, which has given me time to soak in the experience. Over 750 Edcamp events have been held around the world, and this is the second to be held at ED.
Being one of the 100 selected educators to attend Edcamp US DoEd out of 800 who entered the lottery to attend, was not only one of the highlights of my professional career, but it also afforded me the priceless opportunity to explore our nation’s capital. Having met several attendees in the Twitterverse and other digital spaces, I eagerly anticipated the face-to-face, sit-down connections, conversations and collaborations that awaited me.
The event itself—hosted at ED headquarters—was monumental, in my mind. Here we were, in a federal building, greeted by welcoming ED staff, convening to discuss, brainstorm, share and learn about issues pressing us all in education nationwide.
Sandwiched between a sincere welcome from ED staffers and a final heartfelt thank you from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, were far too many sessions (all attendee-created, mind you) from which to choose.
Luckily, for digital tools like Twitter (#EdcampUSA), Periscope (Twitter’s live-streaming app) and Google Docs, collaborative notes were shared so that learning could take place far beyond the one-day time frame of Edcamp. Although each session I attended was rich with conversation and ideas, some of the most value-laden connections took place in the hotel lobby, during lunch, and social gatherings outside of the day itself. It was during those “extra innings” of Edcamp US DoEd that I discovered my most impactful connections.
As an educator of over 25 years, my biggest takeaways from Edcamp US DoEd were numerous and far-reaching; however, one that still has me thinking (and acting) include the powerful connections made. I arrived to a room full of strangers, and I left with a plethora of additions to my PLN and yes, those I would consider friends.
Secondly, as an Edcamp attendee (as opposed to Edcamp planner) I witnessed firsthand the power of learner voice. As my fellow Wisconsinite attendee, Tammy Lind, stated, “It’s incredible what happens when we take time to listen to each other!” That sticks with me. What if we took time to truly listen to our teachers? What if we took time to truly listen to our students?
Lastly, the takeaway that will likely impact me the most was the mind-numbing potential of leveraging the Edcamp model of professional learning on students, when you put 100 (or whatever number) educators in a room for a day of focused, intentional and purposeful learning.
No telling what can happen when we intentionally and purposefully unite for one basic thing: Doing Better. For Kids. I eagerly await the ripple effect as I continue my look back into the Edcamp US DoEd reflection pool.
Kaye Henrickson is an Instructional Services Director for Digital Learning at CESA #4 in West Salem, WI. She serves 26 school districts in West Central Wisconsin.
We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. For some strange reason, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be – this is the interrelated structure of reality. -Martin Luther King, Jr.
A primary key to strong partnerships is examining and truly understanding what it is like to function in a role different than one’s own where expectations and priorities may differ. Recently, at the Institution for Educational Learning’s (IEL’s) National Family and Community Engagement Conference, The U.S. Department of Education Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships (ED CBNFP) created the space for such an opportunity where CBOs, families, and educators gathered to understand how to 1) become more sympathetic and empathetic regarding another’s needs, requests, and concerns in the educational sphere and 2) foster an atmosphere more conducive to initiating and maintaining long lasting relationships and partnerships that benefit students and promote high academic success.
The workshop entitled, Together for Tomorrow: Connecting the Dots, included education advocates and employees from various backgrounds who demonstrated how educational improvement is everyone’s responsibility – including students, principals, teachers, school staff, families, CBOs and volunteers. The workshop provided its attendees a) specific examples of where communities and schools have connected the dots and b) general guidelines for successful partnerships.
Dr. William Truesdale, Principal of Taylor Elementary School in Chicago, spoke about his role in integrating families into the school to participate in advancing the school’s mission. He mentioned how he framed the engagement around six fundamental human needs as expressed by Steven Covey and Tony Robbins. Ms. Jamillah Rashad, Elev8 Director who serves as a community liaison and parent/student advocate for the Marquette School of Excellence, voiced how the power of one-on-one relationships can strengthen efforts in raising school achievement. As an example of how these relationships work, Ms. Rashad directed the audience to engage in a brief conversation with someone with whom they were not familiar as a demonstration of the role and importance relationship building plays in helping schools and students thrive. Becoming a Man (BAM), an organization which currently serves over 2,400 young males in 20 schools in the Chicago area in an effort to “develop social-cognitive skills strongly correlated with reductions in violent and anti-social behavior” in “at-risk male students,” also presented in the workshop. Led by Youth Counselor, Zachary Strother, who expounded upon how BAM’s six core values positively impacted its students, four BAM youth expressed how the organization has helped to improve their success in the classroom and changed their lives for the better.
One of the most important takeaways from the workshop was that parents and extended family members can serve as bridge builders between schools and community groups. They often serve as leaders or members of CBO’s that can partner with schools. The session allowed both its participants and audience members to leave with a greater confidence in their own ability to encourage and support school, family, and CBO partnerships that support student success.
Eddie Martin is a special assistant in the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships
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The demands of the real world have changed – and with them, the educational needs of our young people.
This week, the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives will make important decisions that will have real impact on our children’s learning—and whether high expectations and equal opportunity for all groups of students will translate into action, or just a talking point.
As families everywhere recognize, success in today’s world is no longer just about what you know. It’s about what you can do with what you know—it’s about creativity, critical thinking, and teamwork to develop new solutions to new problems. Success for our nation depends on providing every student in this country with the opportunity to learn at high levels—and on an expectation that, when schools or vulnerable groups of students fall behind, leaders will take action.
Low-income children now make up the majority of our nation’s public school students. Leaving them behind is no longer just a moral failing, it’s also an unmitigated disaster for America’s ability to compete in the global economy.
We join with numerous other civil rights, education and business groups in urging Congress to make a critical choice for our children—whether or not to roll back important federal protections for vulnerable students. It’s a deliberate choice for excellence and equity–to insist that all children deserve a world-class education, no matter their background, family’s income, zip code, or skin color.
Both the Senate and the House are debating whether or not to gut the most important tool the federal government has to ensure that all students have a fair shot, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind. The law today doesn’t serve states, educators or students well, and it’s time to fix what’s broken.
But as that change happens, Congress faces a choice that has profound moral and economic consequences. Congress must not compromise the nation’s vital interest in protecting our most vulnerable, ensuring that all students have the opportunity to reach their full potential, and providing educators and schools with the support and resources that they need to do their vitally important work.
For decades, this law has provided funds and set guidelines to help ensure that factors such as poverty, race, disability, and language don’t limit the education that a child receives. And it has aimed to protect students who are most in need of additional supports so that they, their families, and their teachers have the same prospects and access to resources as their more advantaged peers.
There are many praiseworthy aspects of the bill that the Senate will consider this week, but if ESEA is to live up to its legacy as a civil rights law, both the Senate and House bills must do much more to ensure accountability for the lowest-performing five percent of schools, schools where groups of students are not meeting academic goals, and those where too many students are not graduating.
All parents and communities should be guaranteed that if schools are not sufficiently supporting students to graduate from high school ready for college and career, states, districts, and educators will implement interventions that correct course. They should be guaranteed that there will be additional resources and supports in those schools, with especially comprehensive supports in the lowest performing schools.
Without those guarantees, high expectations could become a matter of lip service rather than a reason for action—with dangerous consequences for individuals and our society.
We applaud the leadership of Senator Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP); Senator Patty Murray, the Committee’s senior Democrat; and the other members of the HELP committee for the important steps that they’ve taken to advance a bipartisan proposal to reauthorize ESEA. But we urge them and their colleagues, as they begin to debate the bill this week, to make critically needed improvements.
Every school in every city and town across the country should be a hub for success. This is the essential step we must take for the reality of America to live up to the promise that is America.
In this country, education always has been a bipartisan cause—and it must continue to be. Unfortunately, the version of ESEA reauthorization that the House of Representatives is considering this week is a bill that has been written with virtually no bipartisan input, and would represent a major step backwards for our nation and its children.
At a time when our public schools are more diverse than ever before and our nation’s welfare depends to an unprecedented degree on developing the potential of every student in America, we must demand an education law that provides meaningful accountability and upholds principles of equity and excellence for all students. We urge Congress to pass a law that does just that.
Arne Duncan is U.S. Secretary of Education, Marc Morial is President and CEO of the National Urban League, and Wade Henderson is the President and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
Summer break is an exciting time for students to go on vacation, spend time with their families, and get involved in sports and enrichment activities. The summer is also a great time for students to experience new and stimulating opportunities to learn.
Often times the former overshadows the latter, but when families engage in summer reading together they are able to create new memories, meaningful conversations, shared adventures and experiences to cherish while also making an impact on their child’s learning.
Studies show that reading daily during summer break is the most important activity to prevent summer learning loss, especially for younger children. Children who have parents that read to them five to seven nights a week do exceptionally better in school and are more likely to read for fun throughout the rest of their school careers. Even if children are able to read on their own, reading as a family has a positive effect on their knowledge of social and cognitive skills.
Throughout the summer many organizations are encouraging students and their families to participate in summer reading. Here at the U.S. Department of Education we are holding Let’s Read! Let’s Move! events around Washington, D.C., to increase awareness about the critical importance of summer learning, nutrition and physical activity.
Organizations such as the National PTA have launched a Family Reading Challenge through July, Book It! Summer Reading Challenge runs through August, and the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge launched in May. These challenges are designed to inspire families to read together. The National PTA is using social media to encourage families across the country to explain in their own voices why reading together is a fun and rewarding family activity, in the summer and throughout the school year. Scholastic is awarding the highest scoring elementary and middle schools the opportunity to meet with authors. With the Book It! challenge young readers will have the opportunity to chat and earn daily rewards.
Many other organizations have an array of summer reading resources to keep kids reading, including Reading Rockets, PBS Kids, Reading is Fundamental, and Common Sense Media, among others. Young readers have many options to choose from when it comes to reading.
Children look up to their parents and often mirror many of their habits later in life. Make reading for fun one of those habits. Take time today to head to a local library or bookstore and find an exciting book to read.
Chareese Ross is Liaison to National Organizations on the National Engagement Team at the U.S. Department of Education
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The field of education requires MANY “tools for the tool-belt.” Whether educators need to learn how to manage a classroom of students or to learn how to engage students more fully, continual learning is simply required! So often today I find teachers who have the heart and desire to impact students; they are just unequipped with the knowledge or skills to fully engage students in rigorous learning. As a leader, it is my number one priority to support teachers, so they don’t drown as educators. It is all comes down simply to systems for support. We call this The Lehigh Way.
How does it work?
Our keys to success at Lehigh Senior High School:
- Empower teacher leaders to model and support other teachers.
- Identify weaknesses and provide learning opportunities.
- Coach and mentor teachers to lead them to success.
- Provide continuous, ongoing professional development.
- Build focused and productive Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) to increase collaboration.
Create Specific Systems:
Our systems at Lehigh Senior High School:
- Common Planning PLCs: All of our teachers of like subject areas have common planning. This means that all algebra one teachers are off the same period. PLCs are much more than teachers’ meetings. Once a week, educators meet to unpack their standards, create common assessments, share and review data and to create engaging lessons. They work off of shared norms, set goals, talk through challenges and make plans to solve them.
- Instructional Leaders: Each department has an instructional coach funded through the Teacher Incentive Fund, TIF Grant. This grant allows us to recruit our most talented teachers to teach half of the time and share their gifts to help other educators the remaining time. These model teachers lead common planning groups to a path of success and spend time in the classroom coaching and supporting teachers with the implementation of good strategies.
- Strategy Walks. Each month the administration and instructional leaders discuss what areas need support based on our classroom visits. We then identify teachers in the building that can model exceptionally well the teaching strategies our teachers need. Then we provide teachers with options to visit classrooms during their planning time and watch the strategies in action. Teachers are empowered to be leaders by seeing a strategy in action with real students, as well as providing support to those teachers needing growth opportunities.
- Targeted Weekly Training. Each week we provide optional training after school on Wednesdays, so that teachers have the opportunity to build upon the “tools in their tool-belt.” During coaching sessions, the administration or instructional leaders may suggest certain opportunities to teachers or teachers may go to engage in learning on their own.
- Apples Program. Our district has a great first-year teacher induction program, called Apples. We meet with our Apples once a month and deliver hands-on professional development. Novice teachers walk out with relevant strategies they can take back to the classroom. They are also provided with an experienced mentor teacher who assists them as they build classroom systems and coaches them during their first year.
- Coaching: The leaders in our building function as coaches. Our top priority is visiting classrooms frequently and having ongoing discussions about teaching and learning. Whether a new or veteran teacher, all teachers need to experience affirmation and opportunities to grow. We coach and build trusting relationships with teachers, offering constructively and meaningful feedback.
- Culture for Learning: We are an AVID National Demonstration School. We frame all of our instructional practices around WICOR: Writing, Inquiry, Collaboration, Organization and Reading. Teachers in our building work hard to develop lessons and focus their development around learning content-specific strategies connecting to these five areas. We open our doors to other educators to come and learn best practices real time in our classrooms, creating a collaborative culture focused on continual learning.
In an ever changing hyper-connected global society, we educators must continue to embrace learning. It is the only way we will be able to prepare ourselves with the skills to meet our student’s ever changing needs. Education is no longer a one-size-fits-all proposition, and students don’t thrive under teachers who stand and deliver. When our teachers need preparation, we as leaders must prepare them. We cannot rely on post-secondary programs, as they are outdated at an ever-increasing rate, unable to keep up with the increasing demands. It is our job as leaders to stay current and support teachers with continuous learning and development. Not too ironic, considering we are educators!
Jackie Corey is the principal of Lehigh Senior High School in Lehigh Acres, Florida.
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