I Cut Out Standardized Test Prep and Focused On Relationships. Student Growth Was the Highest of My Career.

If you’re a teacher, you might know the feeling.  You maintain a frantic pace all year long, trying to shoehorn an impossible amount of the prescribed curriculum into a limited amount of time because ‘it might be on the test.’  You sprinkle multiple choice test taking tips into your lessons to help kids squeeze out a few extra correct answers.…

Teachers Need Emotional Support Too

Increasingly, schools are returning to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in order to better understand how to support students. As anyone who has taken an introductory psychology course knows well, Maslow’s psychological theory is a five-tier model of human needs, depicted as hierarchical levels within a pyramid. From the bottom of the hierarchy upwards, the needs include: physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. The theory is applicable to education in…

Reforming the Teaching Profession

A public school teacher in the United States of America is not a very attractive career. The pay is not acceptable. The training is not sufficient. The professionalism of the career is in the gutter. Schools are underfunded and understaffed. Tenure has destroyed any motivation for improvement and advancement. Leadership and most significant decisions trickle down from state or federal…

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Pension Reform Bill Struck Down By Kentucky Supreme Court

For those following the pension reform debacle in Kentucky, we finally have the verdict: Senate Bill 151, the controversial “sewage” bill that stood to make major changes to public pensions, has been struck down. In a unanimous decision made Thursday, the Kentucky Supreme Court stated that the bill “did not comply with the three-reading requirement,” and thus ruled that the…

This Kentucky Student Is Launching A Sexual Assault Education Campaign, And You Can Help.

A couple weeks ago, my sister Amara Stroud wrote a piece exploring the role that schools play in preventing and addressing sexual assault. After reading and reflecting on her comments, I’ve done some research on my own. I have to say, I’m impressed with what I’ve learned. It turns out that there’s a Kentucky high school student named Celia Ziliak who’s…

We’re Still Here: Kentucky Teachers React to the 2018 Midterm Elections

It’s been a month since the 2018 midterm elections humbled Kentucky’s #RememberInNovember crowd, but with the newly-elected General Assembly beginning their session next month, you may think that Kentucky teachers are still licking their wounds. It couldn’t have been a more personal loss. Angered by a controversial pension overhaul bill and a Governor’s uncanny remarks, many Kentucky teachers thought they…

Poor Curriculum Is a Recipe for Disaster, Here’s How Schools Can Help Teachers Find High-Quality Materials

Lately, I’ve seen a meme that keeps popping up on social media: “Telling a teacher to use a boxed curriculum is like forcing a chef to cook hamburger helper.” I was tempted to like it at first; it seems catchy and does hint at an issue that teachers face regularly: maintaining autonomy and creativity, while using materials that are aligned…

Kentucky’s Proposed Graduation Requirements Strike The Right Balance

If you’ve ever wondered why conversations about improving schools often resort to people talking past each other, there’s a reason: Public K-12 education means different things to different people. On one end, there’s the “college-for-all” mentality, the philosophy of those who argue that the aim of public K-12 education should be to prepare all students for success at a college…

Kentucky’s Midterm Elections: Winners and Losers

It’s been a week since the 2018 midterm elections, but the results are as fresh as ever in the minds of Kentucky teachers. Spurned by Gov. Bevin’s controversial comments and policies, teachers across the Bluegrass protested. At rallies, other teachers and their supporters swore that they would “remember in November.” It looks like they forgot. Of the 51 educators running…

#MeToo Meets Kentucky Schools

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, we’re discovering that sexual assault is a much larger, more widespread issue than we had noticed before. Kentucky schools are not immune. Maybe you saw the breaking news over a Kentucky high school last week. A woman who used to attend the school accused her former teacher of “predatory sexually grooming” of his students,…

Why We Fight

Public education, and more specifically public educators, have increasingly been in the media more this year than in the past several decades. Thousands of teachers in West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Arizona, and North Carolina have held work stoppages, strikes, and rallies at their respective State Capitols over the severe lack of funding for their students, teacher salaries, and teacher (and…

It’s No Wonder Kids Aren’t Learning When Our Schools Are Filled With Myths Like This

As a kid of the early 2000s, I still remember the old-school “Hooked on Phonics” commercials that encouraged children to sound out words phonetically to increase their reading speed and proficiency. Even though my family never bought the program, this was in essence the same approach that my parents and teachers used when I was learning how to read. I…

How to Talk to Your Child About Bullying

This month is National Bullying Prevention Month. As a principal, have a zero-tolerance policy for bullying. I decided to address this issue because parents need to be aware of bullying and the devastating impact it can have on children. HERE ARE A FEW TIPS TO COMBAT BULLYING Have a serious conversation with your child about bullying. Physical bullying increases in elementary school…

Hey Teachers, Answer These 2 Questions And We’ll See Just How High Your Expectations Are

The first question is easy. Do you agree that all teachers should set high expectations for their students? The answer seems obvious. Of course, teachers should set the bar high for the kids they work with every day. It’s the second question that seems to really trip teachers up. Do you honestly believe that all students can meet those expectations?…

Educators & Diversity: How Teachers Can Tackle Implicit Bias & Create More Equitable Learning Environments

Some studies suggest white teachers have lower expectations of students of color, and it has been well documented in Kentucky and across the nation that students of color receive disciplinary remediation from school administration at higher rates, sometimes 3 to 4 times more on average, than their white counterparts. As a white former assistant principal, this statistic really hits me…

Finding Purpose In My Eastern Kentucky Roots

Growing up in Eastern Kentucky, I was often bored with small-town life. I was a rather shy and bookish girl of few words and many thoughts: thoughts about my family, my community, and more than anything, my future. I spent many days studying hard and dreaming about big cities with plenty of room for my most ambitious aspirations. By the…

Wayne Lewis: “Daunting Moment of Truth” For Kentucky Schools

K-PREP scores were released to the public today, and teachers, administrators, and parents across the state are combing through the data to see how their local schools and districts performed. One thing we’ve learned so far is that achievement gaps are still persistent and that overall scores are still flat.  So how well is Kentucky taking that? So far,  reactions have been…

Trying to Build A Great Classroom Culture For All Students? Here Are 5 Things Anyone Can Do.

I just got back from an amazing professional learning session delivered by Kentucky State University’s Dr. Roger Cleveland. In the session, he had us do an equity activity that absolutely made my jaw drop. Here’s how it worked. We were each given five index cards and were instructed to write different labels that identify ourselves, like race, faith, sexual orientation,…

Kentucky Supreme Court Will Hear Pension Case Today

This story is in progress. Photo by Scott Beale, CC-Licensed. Bevin vs. Beshear? Pension reform vs. teachers? UK vs. UofL? (Just kidding. We know who wins that last one.) Today, the showdown that Kentucky teachers have been waiting for is going down in Frankfort. Kentucky’s Supreme Court will hear the overturned pension reform bill that made headlines earlier this spring, posing…

Photo by Carl Heyerdahl on Unsplash

A More Perfect Teacher

Benjamin D. Alvord is a history teacher at Clarke N. Johnsen in Tooele County School District. He has committed to a life in education after working for a decade in the corporate world and now has been teaching for 8 years. Find him @misteralvord. An original version of this piece appeared on Curio Learning. I teach 8th Grade U.S. history, a…

Rural schools need equity too.

Rural Schools Need Equity Too

I just got home from a convening with the rest of the Kentucky State Teacher Fellows, where we had some long, tough conversations on equity in our schools. We’re preparing for later this fall, when schools across the Bluegrass are going to witness a major data collection blast from education groups and teacher leaders. The reason is simple: Kentucky is…

Betsy DeVos Is Failing Public Education

Betsy DeVos is nothing if not controversial. Traditionalists oppose her staunch support of school choice; reformers are skeptical of her inability to defend it. For once, thought leaders from each side of these sparring factions agree on something — Betsy DeVos is fundamentally unqualified to lead the U.S. Department of Education. During her confirmation hearing, DeVos botched a softball question…

Education Reform Isn’t A 4-Letter Word

If you didn’t know any better, you might think there’s a civil war brewing right now in school systems across the country. It’s called education reform. Education reformers typically support things like school choice and accountability for public schools. Reformers are passionate about closing achievement gaps and building better public schools, but don’t necessarily believe that the conventional methods of…

Personalized Diplomas Would Keep Education From Becoming An Effort Grade

In light of graduation scandals and state policy changes happening across the country, there’s a burning question right now among education circles: What does a high school diploma even mean anymore? Ideally, a high school diploma should suggest to universities, technical and community colleges, or employers that the graduate has been successfully prepared to transition to the next stage of…

Kentucky Drops Master’s Degree Requirement

Earlier today, a waiver that removes Master’s degree requirements from Kentucky teachers was approved by the Education Professional Standards Board (EPSB). This is the first major action of the newly-consolidated EPSB, which was formerly an independent board. Per Interim Commissioner of Education Wayne Lewis’ recommendation earlier this month, the EPSB was placed under the oversight of the Kentucky Department of…

Standards Can Help Fix Students’ Broken Moral Compass

A recent piece in The Atlantic, Students’ Broken Moral Compasses, describes a teacher’s attempt to help his students develop good character and learn morality and ethics. However, his arguments against the Common Core State Standards are unfounded. High academic standards free teachers and students from skill-and-drill sessions that deaden curiosity, and give students the opportunity to think independently, analyze reading…

The Power of Community

This past December my wife and I faced the most difficult challenge of our lives.  We were very fortunate to become parents to a set of beautiful twin girls, but their time spent with us was limited to only a brief moment.  In that moment, despite the outpouring of love and support from friends and family, I struggled to focus…

In Rural Areas, Education Means More

What’s white and red and would have been worth thousands in the 18th century? Yep, a Coke can. As it turns out, pure aluminum used to be one of the most prized metals in the world. Aluminum was once so valuable, in fact, that the government of France used to display Fort Knox-style bars of aluminum next to the French…

#KYEdUpdate: Hal Heiner, JCPS Takeover, and EPSB Overhaul

While teachers and students across the Commonwealth are holding on tight to their final days of summer, the action in Frankfort and beyond just keeps coming. The Kentucky Board of Education has a new chairman, but he’s no first-timer in Frankfort. Interim Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis has a deal for Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS), one of the largest districts in the…

Student Voice Matters

This past January, Rachel Belin and representatives of the Prichard Committee’s Student Voice Team came to educate my students on student voice. In one of the activities that they did with my class, my students were all lined up in the front of the room. Rachel explained she would ask them a “yes” or “no” question and then they would…

Labels Are For Products, Not Students

I can remember sitting down with my team of teachers at the end of the school year, filling out a form that included all of the students’ names, academic abilities, behavior issues, etc. This list would be passed to the next team of teachers that taught these students the upcoming year. We included which students should be with which teachers……