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Professional Opinion

Wendy Robinson is superintendent of the 31,000-student Fort Wayne Community School District in Indiana.

Public school leaders have grown accustomed to the ground shifting beneath their feet. The one constant we could always rely on was this: Come fall, students would be there, waiting. These days, though, even that’s not a given.

L. Rob Furman is principal at South Park Elementary Center in Pennsylvania.

With a windstorm of constant changes in education, are we forgetting some of the basics? I’m not talking about readin’, writin’ and ’rithmetic.

Have we, through the fog of technology and the pressures of highstakes testing, simply forgotten some of the basic concepts that veteran educators once took for granted?

Barbara Blackburn is one of the nation’s foremost authors on student engagement and increasing rigor. Ronald Williamson is a professor of educational leadership at Eastern Michigan University.

Effective professional development is an essential part of every school improvement effort.

Traditionally, the process has included workshops, seminars, courses and conferences. These types of activities have varied in terms of effectiveness and often are quite costly.

Ramy Mahmoud teaches in the Plano ISD and is a part-time senior lecturer at The University of Texas at Dallas.

In my 10 years of teaching the ninth grade, I have struggled with a certain category of students—the low performers. These are the students who walk into class on the first day of school expecting to fail. They know nothing about me, but I represent every adult who has ever failed them in the past.

George Saltsman is an associate research professor in the Center for Doctoral Studies in Global Educational Leadership at Lamar University.

The need to teach technology and “current century” skills (formally known as 21st century skills) is well documented. Establishing these proficiencies in our students is not just critical to the next generation of job-seekers, but to the economic health of the nation overall.

However, as any school administrator who has tried in the past can attest, digital devices—and training teachers to use such tools—require significant investments. Given the academic importance, the effort demands skillful leadership.

Sharie Akinmulero is an English teacher in San Antonio, Texas.

As school districts around the country experiment with various reforms aimed to increase graduation rates and prepare student for college, one such initiative already has established a proven track record of success.

Kate Ford is the area superintendent in Los Angeles for Aspire Public Schools.

Building a strong, empowered community is at the heart of any successful education institution and is transformative in the lives of students, educators and parents.

While teachers and students are key participants in achieving academic success, parents are the glue that holds everything together. Many parents in our communities work multiple jobs, with irregular schedules, making it challenging for even the best-intentioned parents to stay involved with their child’s academics.

Chrys Sweeting is assistant superintendent and Tim Yeomans is superintendent of the Puyallup School District in Washington.

Following a change in leadership in the Puyallup School District during the summer of 2012, we committed to align the work of the district with professional learning for leaders and staff to serve each student.

Working with the board of directors, “Improvement of Instruction, Student Growth and Achievement” became the central focus of the district, supported by three commitments.

John Hattie is an education researcher at the Melbourne Educational Research Institute at the University of Melbourne in Australia.

As an education researcher, I’ve spent more than 15 years conducting nearly 800 meta-analyses of 50,000 studies focused on student learning. The result, which I call Visible Learning, is about understanding the attributes of schooling that truly drive student learning and have a significant impact on achievement.

Clockwise from top left: Kara S. Finnigan, Lesli C. Myers, Kevin McGowan and Shaun Nelms

Although the country is becoming increasingly diverse, our schools remain racially and economically segregated. High poverty schools with large proportions of students of color often have less experienced teachers, more transitory populations and challenges in providing a safe environment.