Voices for Change

Last week I had the privilege of witnessing a culture of peace.

There was a message delivered with urgency for global education at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. The meeting was called “Conversation with UN Secretary-General António Guterres, Malala Yousafzai and Young People about Girls’ Education.”

Yousafzai, who was appointed as the youngest UN Messenger of Peace, emphasized that education is a basic right that every child should have.

She believes that the youth are changemakers and therefore should believe in themselves.

Guterres agreed with Yousafzai that the voices of girls are important and should be heard. When asked what advice she would give to her younger self, she simply stated, “Believe in yourself. Believe in your ideas.”

As a woman and educator, I see the need for girls to build confidence in their abilities and skills as students and community members.” This is where we, as teachers, must step in and solidify the connection between education and opportunity. Guterres reminded us all to carry into the future the same passion for learning that we have now.

He continued on to say, “So many of us are afraid to speak up.”

We have the job of helping the youth build a voice.

There are instances when girls mute their thoughts because they are too intimidated to stand out.

However, now is the time to transform those thoughts into words and give them life through speech.

Join the movement for change.

“I decided to speak up.” -Malala Yousafzai

Happy Teaching,
Clairetza Felix

Clairetza Felix is a senior at St. Francis College, with a major in Childhood Education and a concentration in English. Currently, she serves as the Co-Event Coordinator for the Xi Rho Chapter of Kappa Delta Pi. As an aspiring Literacy Specialist, she chose to become a UN Youth Representative to offer a unique approach to education.

Tell Congress to Fund Education Leadership!

This spring, Congress will be making critical decisions about President Trump’s budget request to cut education spending by 13%.

The School Leader Recruitment and Support Program (SLRSP), the only federal program that specifically focuses on strengthening leadership in our high-need schools, is at risk.

With the emphasis on increasing student achievement, turning around failing schools, and producing college and career-ready graduates, successful school leaders are especially important.

Education leadership and leadership development, including teacher leaders and building/district leaders, have been part of Kappa Delta Pi for more than 105 years. While teacher leadership plays a critical role in improving student learning outcomes and enhancing the professional growth of teachers, schools also must have quality principal leadership.

According to the National Association of Secondary School Principals, principal leadership is second only to classroom instruction among all school-related factors that contribute to what students learn at school. Even more significant is the finding that quality principal leadership is particularly important to high-poverty schools.

The issue of quality school leadership connects with KDP’s mission in other critical ways too.

KDP has a rich legacy of working to support and retain thousands of talented new teachers who enter classrooms every year, especially those teaching in high-poverty urban and rural schools. Any teacher retention effort must include effective school leaders, because leadership is among the most important factors in a teacher’s decision to stay in a school or in the profession.

Studies have shown that improvements in school leadership were strongly related to reductions in teacher turnover. While teacher attrition has always had negative consequences on student academic achievement, school finances, and school culture, it is particularly problematic given the increasing teacher shortages across the country.

As part of an organization committed to equity and quality education for ALL students, we must advocate for adequate education funding, including the School Leadership Recruitment and Support Program for high-needs schools.

To that end, KDP, together with 29 other organizations, signed onto a joint letter.

As professionals, we can use our voices to educate members of Congress about the importance of education funding overall as well as for critical programs such as SLRSP. You, too, can sign the letter by following the link above.

We must remember: Teachers change the future!

Every Student Succeeds Act: Early Childhood Education

This is part of a series of blog posts by the KDP Public Policy Committee that examine the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA), a law that outlines the federal government’s role in education. The purpose of the series is to educate KDP members about this important law and its impact on their work as educators.

The ESSA Act requires documentation of “the strategies that the school will be implementing to address school needs, including a description of how such strategies will . . . address the needs of all children in the school, but particularly the needs of those at risk of not meeting the challenging State academic standards, through activities which may include . . . strategies for assisting preschool children in the transition from early childhood education programs to local elementary school programs” (pp. 68–69).

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” –Benjamin Franklin

The Every Student Succeeds Act reaffirms the country’s commitment to young learners. Although some research indicates that the kindergarten readiness achievement gap is lessening between children from low- and high-income families, the importance of preparing preschoolers for kindergarten remains a top priority for teachers and parents across the nation. ESSA acknowledges the need for high-quality preschool programs, outlines funding allotments and guidelines, and highlights the benefit of a smooth transition for preschoolers into kindergarten. Read more about the Early Learning Initiatives here.

According to ESSA Section 1114, if Title I funds are used to support preschool programs, then the school district plans must include a description of how the funding is used, specifically addressing how the district supports the transition from preschool to kindergarten. Also, the preschool program and/or services must comply with the performance standards laid out in the Head Start Act.

Vertical Alignment and Collaboration

Vertical alignment is an idea that most educators are familiar with: First-grade teachers share expectations with kindergarten teachers, second-grade teachers discuss what students should know by August with first-grade teachers, and so on. ESSA requires communication and collaboration between preschool programs and the school district. The focus on improving kindergarten readiness and supporting the preschool to kindergarten transition is a key point of the legislation. The idea is multi-faceted and holds many potential benefits, including:

  • Identifying and minimizing gaps in student learning by increasing communication between preschool and kindergarten teachers.
  • Increasing parent involvement and advocacy for their child by helping them to understand the transition.
  • Supporting students’ academic, emotional, and social needs as they transition.

Kindergarten Transition

The transition into kindergarten can be a tough one for children, parents, and sometimes teachers. Students enter kindergarten with so many varied experiences—some have been in daycare and preschool their whole life, and some have never been separated from a parent or family member. Many enter with knowledge of the alphabet and numbers, but there are also children who have never had any instruction or exposure to academic subjects. Regardless of background experiences, even simply learning to line up and sit down when asked can be a struggle.

Here are some ways to support the transition for students into kindergarten:

  • Connect preschool families with free book programs (like Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library Program or visit Reading Rockets for more options) to engage kids with books.
  • Set up transition meetings with the preschool and kindergarten teachers, and support staff like counselors and nurses, to answer questions and establish expectations for families.
  • Establish a way for student preschool records to precede the student, giving the kindergarten teacher a running start at knowing academic (and sometimes social) needs before the school year begins.
  • Provide training for preschool teachers, kindergarten teachers, and support personnel on social and emotional needs specific to this transition.
  • Arrange kindergarten “play dates” over the summer for incoming kindergarteners and families to meet teachers, administration, support staff, and other kindergarteners.
  • Partner with local businesses and foundations to put together summer learning kits with crayons, paper, books, and other school supplies for the incoming kindergarteners to use over the summer.
  • Write and distribute a Tips for Families packet with helpful hints for parents and family members as they support their child through this transition.

Call to Action

Join this week’s ESSA discussion on KDP Global about these questions:

  • What do you or your district staff do to support the preschool to kindergarten transition?
  • In your experience, what are other potential benefits of supporting this transition?

Resources

Bassok, D., Finch, J. E., Lee, R., Reardon, S. F., & Waldfogel, J. (2016). Socioeconomic gaps in early childhood experiences: 1998 to 2010. AERA Open, 2(3), 1–22.

Reardon, S. F., & Portilla, X. A. (2016). Recent trends in income, racial, and ethnic school readiness gaps at kindergarten entry. AERA Open, 2(3), 1–18.

Ridzi, F., Sylvia, M., Qiao, X., & Craig, J. (2017). The Imagination Library Program and kindergarten readiness: Evaluating the impact of monthly book distribution. Journal of Applied Social Science, 11(1), 11–24.

Dr. Caroline Courter, NBCT, is a Curriculum Specialist at Age of Learning, Inc. and an adjunct faculty member in the Watson College of Education at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She is a member of the Kappa Delta Pi Policy Committee.

 

Igniting My Passion for the Teaching Profession

During her senior year in high school, my daughter was in honors chemistry, and all she did was worksheets.

When she shared this with me, I was shocked and retorted, “But you’re in honors chemistry! All you do is worksheets? Really?” So I called the chemistry teacher, who informed me, “Yes, all we do is worksheets. You just don’t understand; you’re not a teacher!” Right then and there I said to myself, “No I am not, but I can fix that!”

So I decided to go back to college in 1992 after my only child graduated from high school.

I attended what was then Valencia Community College, graduating with honors in the spring of 1994. In the fall of 1994 I started at the University of Central Florida and was inducted into the Omicron Lambda Chapter of Kappa Delta Pi.

Becoming a member of KDP truly changed my life in ways I could never have imagined and has helped me to become a better person and a better educator.

My association with Dr. Marcella Kysilka, a former International President of KDP and the Omicron Lambda Chapter Counselor, continued to fuel and grow my knowledge of pedagogy and my passion for teaching. Upon graduating cum laude in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics education, I obtained my temporary teaching certificate. After interviewing at three different high schools in my area, I was called by all of them offering me a teaching position.

I could have taught at any of the three schools. Yet I thoughtfully chose to teach at the inner-city school. Believing in the mission of KDP and the vision “Quality Learning for All” drove me to do everything within my power to inspire and motivate my students and to help them to learn and grow as individuals.

I used dice to teach probability. Kids showed up to my class that had never come before because they wanted to learn about dice. That’s OK. They also learned about probability and working with percentages and fractions along the way.

My students were project engineers for a few days, having to create boomerangs from cardboard after examining various sample models. They determined the slopes of the flanges and then created and decorated their boomerangs, which I called “sloperangs.” The looks on their faces when we went outside and tried out their prototypes were priceless. The sloperangs really worked!

We made the rate × time = distance formula come to life by measuring off fixed distances in front of the school and running “speed traps”—timing the cars as they passed. Then we went back inside and did the calculations to determine how fast the cars were going in miles per hour.

Was it an easy group of students to teach? No.

Were the challenges with teaching these students small? No.

Was it worth it? YES!

I am grateful for the opportunity I had to be their teacher, and I am grateful for being part of KDP.

My membership in KDP inspired me then and continues to ignite my passion as an educator.

Please consider a gift to Kappa Delta Pi today to celebrate the 106th year since our founding on March 8, 1911. Gifts of $19.11 or more are being matched thanks to the generosity of our Former Presidents. Donate now.

Dr. Peggy Moch is a full professor at Valdosta State University where she teachers Mathematics courses and serves as the Alpha Beta Kappa Chapter Counselor.

Every Student Succeeds Act: Deeper Learning, Personalized Learning

This is part of a series of blog posts by the KDP Public Policy Committee that examine the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA), a law that outlines the federal government’s role in education. The purpose of the series is to educate KDP members about this important law and its impact on their work as educators.

This is the time of year when building principals begin determining their master schedules for the upcoming school year.

Jobs are posted, interviews are conducted, new teachers are hired, and teachers start to put plans in place for the next school year.

Teachers begin reflecting about what adjustments they want to make to set up for a new group of students.

Several days and hours will be spent rearranging classrooms, planning upcoming units, hanging posters and other inspirational items, and putting the final touches on beginning-of-the-school-year activities meant to build relationships and class culture.

Teachers are faced with the challenges of building relationships, teaching standards, and ensuring that the learning needs of each student are met.

Truly understanding the needs of each student is time consuming and requires sufficient and effective professional development opportunities for teachers to build their knowledge and skill set to address these needs.

ESSA and State Standards

ESSA requires states to have academic standards in reading, language arts, mathematics and science that “align with the entrance requirements for credit-bearing coursework in the state’s system of public higher education and with applicable state career and technical education standards.” In addition to these standards, states are required to continue standardized testing.

Teachers are faced with the challenge of teaching the higher-order thinking skills students need to meet the standards. Because each classroom and each school is different, getting to know students and their individual learning needs allows teachers to differentiate their content and lesson activities to help all student receive the education they need to meet or exceed standards. Ensuring each student has the tools needed to be college and career ready requires adequate assistance by teachers, school leaders, districts, and states.

ESSA and Deeper Learning

The energy at the beginning of the school year transforms as teachers start to know and understand their students. The excitement changes from initial anticipation activities to problem-solving tactics enlisting the collective power of teachers to predict, reform, and adjust their teaching practices to address the needs of students in their individual classrooms. The mindset of students also changes as they determine how the content is relevant to them and how they are going to meet the expectations their teachers have of them to be creative and think critically.

ESSA provides support for states and districts to promote deeper learning through several means, including personalized learning opportunities. Deeper learning consists of “the delivery of challenging academic standards to students in innovative ways that allow them to learn, and then apply what they have learned.”

One way to support deeper learning is through personalized learning, which “emphasizes (1) developing trusted and caring relationships between teachers and students; (2) connecting learning to the real world; (3) linking curriculum to students’ interests, strengths, and aspirations; (4) providing students individually targeted instruction, practice, and support where they are struggling; and (5) creating more flexible learning environments.”

The outcome of providing personalized learning to elevate deeper learning is building equity by preparing all students regardless of their race, gender, background, and socioeconomic status with the skills they need to be college and career ready by the time they graduate high school.

The support ESSA provides is through Title I and Title II funds. States can use up to 3% of their Title II funds to support building leaders and principals by “developing high quality professional development programs.” States can use up to 3% of their Title I funds for “direct student services” helping students receive personalized learning services advancing their coursework through a variety of means to prepare them to be college and career ready.

Call to Action

Join this week’s ESSA discussion on KDP Global about these questions:

  1. How are your schools and districts promoting deeper learning through innovative practices?
  2. In what ways can personalized learning opportunities help students grow as learners?

dr-john-helgesonDr. John Helgeson is a Secondary ELA Curriculum Specialist in the Northshore School District in Washington State. He is a member of KDP’s Public Policy Committee.

Every Student Succeeds Act: Homeless Students

This is part of a series of blog posts by the KDP Public Policy Committee that examine the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA), a law that outlines the federal government’s role in education. The purpose of the series is to educate KDP members about this important law and its impact on their work as educators.

During the 2013–2014 school year, the U.S. Department of Education accounted for the enrollment of “more than 1.3 million homeless children and youth in public schools”—a number that has doubled since 2006–2007.

To continue to protect and ensure a growing number of homeless children and youth have equitable access to public education and needed services, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) reauthorized the Education for Homeless Children and Youths Program (Title VII-B of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act).

Under ESSA, McKinney-Vento includes a number of new provisions that expand schools’ obligations to homeless children and youth.

Among the many key changes, McKinney-Vento requires state and local levels to improve efforts to identify homeless students, remove barriers to enrollment (e.g., fees, proof of residency, health records), coordinate with other service providers (e.g., law enforcement, shelters), maintain school stability (local organizations must work to keep students in their school of origin), and ensure that homeless children have access to early education. These changes reflect a continued emphasis on state and local requirements “to review and undertake steps to revise laws, regulations, practices or policies that may act as barriers to the identification, enrollment, attendance, or success in school of homeless children and youths.”

Guidance at the State and Local Levels

State and local educational agencies were required to begin the implementation of new provisions in October 2016. To help with these efforts, the U.S. Department of Education published non-regulatory guidance on amendments to McKinney-Vento in July 2016. The purpose of the guidance is to introduce amendments to McKinney-Vento under ESSA and provide recommendations at the state and local levels for addressing new requirements. Key recommendations include how to identify homeless children and youth (e.g., local liaisons can work with shelters to identify preschool-age homeless children), how to remove barriers to enrollment (e.g., providing on-site immunization clinics), and how to remove barriers to attendance and success (e.g., identify transportation point person to make arrangements for students, establish a positive school climate for homeless students). Along with the non-regulatory guidance, the U.S. Department of Education also released A Fact Sheet & Tips for Teachers, Principals, School Leaders, Counselors, and Other School Staff as an additional resource.

Call to Action

The blogs written by the Public Policy Committee are intended to inform KDP members and invite them to act. You are encouraged to participate in a special discussion forum in KDP Global. By sharing your expertise and experiences, others can learn from you. In other words, your participation is a way to advocate for the teaching profession. Please answer this week’s questions:

  1. What questions do you have regarding ESSA and homeless children and youth?
  2. Do you find the U.S. Department of Education’s guidance, fact sheet, and tips helpful?

stich_amyDr. Amy Stich is Assistant Professor in the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations at Northern Illinois University and a member of the Kappa Delta Pi Public Policy Committee.

Helping College Students Navigate Financial Aid: The Dos and Don’ts

 

tichavakundaToday’s blogger is Antar Tichavakunda, doctoral candidate at the University of Southern California and researcher in the Pullias Center for Higher Education. Read his full article, “Perceptions of Financial Aid: Black Students at a Predominantly White Institution,” in The Educational Forum. Part 1 of his blog series can be found here.

The majority of college students, in one way or another, will come in contact with their school’s financial aid office.

Students and their families first become acquainted with financial aid as seniors in high school applying to colleges—meaning it’s important for secondary school educators to be aware of the process students are negotiating. They fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and other documents to better understand how much college attendance will cost them.

Students will consider different types of loans, learn of their eligibility for grants or scholarships, and ultimately decide with their parents what school to attend and how they will fund attendance.

This is no simple task.

Researchers and policy makers cite the complexity of financial aid forms as an obstacle to college attendance.

But the financial aid process does not stop there.

Students who depend on financial aid keep up with deadlines, get tax documents from parents, and renew FAFSA on a yearly basis. As I explore in my article, the yearly financial aid process should not be taken for granted. While the focus of my paper is on Black students’ experiences and perceptions of financial aid at a predominantly White institution of higher education, a few takeaways apply to any student in higher education who depends on financial aid.

Here are some recommendations for high school counselors, financial aid officers, administrators, and anyone concerned with supporting students’ college experiences:

Do:

  • Encourage a proactive approach to financial aid—both for students and for the financial aid office staff. Students should be encouraged to ask questions, and the financial aid office should likewise reach out to students.
  • Encourage in-person interactions—students in my study suggested that going into the financial aid office, in person, was the most efficient mode of communication.
  • Encourage an understanding of web resources—students found the user-friendly, in-depth nature of the school’s financial aid website valuable in their experience with financial aid.

Don’t:

  • Assume financial aid literacy as a given—learning about financial aid is an ongoing process for many students, and all students, particularly those who may be the first in their families to attend college, may have knowledge gaps.
  • Assume that financial aid is only for parents—some students, even though they are still teenagers, are the ones entrusted with filling out their financial aid forms and collecting tax documents from their parents.
  • Assume that students of the same race have similar backgrounds—regardless of race, students have different experiences and upbringings. Even students of similar socioeconomic backgrounds might display different levels of financial aid acumen.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share Antar Tichavakunda’s article with the education community for free through February 28, 2017.