Prepping Students for Success in Math

Coming up on Thursday April 30 from 2 to 3pm E.T. is Joe Trahan’s webinar on preparing K-8 students for success in formal algebra. Encouraging the exploration of abstract concepts, at an early age when kids are usually confused on concrete math problems, will help prepare students for abstract thought and academic success in math down the line. The webinar is a great resource for middle school educators as well as elementary educators in math.

Minneapolis Schools

Minneapolis was Minnesota’s largest school district until recently. Plans had been purposed to annex the district into the smaller adjacent suburban districts, but have gone without hearing. What can the state do to help the district? The answer could be in restructuring operations. Focusing on key policy questions like; “What learning options do we offer? How much shall we spend? Who should run those schools and programs? How well are they doing? What happens if they do well or not-well?” would be the core considerations. Allowing the district to redesign their performance-agreement arrangement and allowing for innovation in the classroom based on personalized learning could fuel leaps in progress.


A third-grade teacher in Denver asked her class, all from underprivileged homes, to write her notes about what they wish she understood about their lives. Kyle Schartz wanted to better understand her students who struggle with things like poverty, immigration issues and parents absent from their lives. She posted the often harrowing notes anonymously on Twitter to encourage other teachers to try the same lesson. Most of her students wanted to share their stories with other students which helped them to bond. The lessons comes as a reminder of how poverty and the issues surround it effect children and their performance in schools.


Recess and Unstructured Play

Research points to unstructured playing and exercise as a benefit to students in and out of the classroom, because they are a key part of how kids learn and grow. With his knowledge more school districts are finding alternatives to taking away recess as punishment. It does seem counterproductive to punish overly active children by taking away their time to burn up the excess energy they’re are naturally full of. Free time has long been understood as a as sort of reset button for kids brains helping their cognitive function throughout the rest of the day. A study out of the University of Colorado found that 6 year olds who spent more time in unstructured play showed stronger signs of executive functioning and decision making skills. These sorts of skills are supportive of strong social relationships which can be linked to success in the classroom and beyond.

Next Generation Accountability

Accountability systems provide structure for school support and improvement. States are implementing next generation accountability approaches. Among them are newer additional measures of college and career readiness that consider percentage of high school students who require remediation coursework in college as a gauge, a tighter grip on resource accountability by increasing transparency on how funds are spent to ensure resources are going to students most in need of support and school based quality improvement projects by measuring indicators like attendance data and success rates. Innovation at the state level will fuel future conversations about which accountability systems are best used to improve education and prepare students for college and careers.

Early Childhood Education

The federal government has issued $20 million to the state of Illinois for expanding access to early childhood education. The state board of education is targeting low-income families who often have kids enrolled in underfunded schools. The plan is provide early childhood education for those who are at risk of being part of the achievement gap. Illinois hopes to enroll more than the current one fourth of 4-year-olds in state-funded preschool for low-income families.

Greater Flexibility for Maryland Charters

A Charter school bill is on its way to the House chamber for a vote. Maryland’s Gov. Larry Hogan’s amended charter school bill was received favorably. The new bill is said to create more flexibility for charters and allow for innovation. Amendments in the bill direct chartering authority to the local level rather than the state level.

Hillary Clinton on K-12?

Now that it is official that Hillary Rodham Clinton is running for president, what are her view on education? Her past endeavors hold some clues. Reportedly, during Bush’s 1989 summit on education she was seated next to him and urged the need for early-childhood education. She researched educational opportunities for migrant children in her 20’s and worked with an organization that would later become the Children’s Defense Fund. She has been a fan of after school programs such as the 21st Century Community Learning Center program. She is in favor of charter schools and was against merit pay for teachers based on test scores.

Early Childhood Learning Doesn’t Stop in Kindergarten

Early childhood programs prepare kids with non-academic skills that will help to carry them through school and the rest of their lives. Studies show early childhood learning lasts until age 8. Focusing on developing executive function skills (e.g. self-regulation, perseverance and attention) and social-emotional intelligence can be just as important for success as academic skills. This skills can be lacking in kids who did not attend early childhood programs, or who have been exposed to trauma and stress in early childhood. Early childhood programs focus on things like family engagement and personalized learning to better equip kids for success in and out of the classroom.

Lower Suspension Rates through ALIVE

A school in Connecticut is reimagining disciplinary methods. Rather than insist students leave their troubles behind when they enter the classroom, this school among others are offering therapy for students from troubled family backgrounds or other trauma. Rather than sending students away with suspensions, possibly leaving them with only their toxic home environments, the schools instead find help for students to keep them in the classrooms and achieving. The Animated Learning by Integrating and Validating Experience (ALIVE) is a trauma response program that provides therapists to work with teachers to identify trauma in students. They employ drama therapists who hold master’s degrees in psychology and theater, offering one on one therapy for students. Freshman are required to take a course that uses drama and role play. Over half of U.S. school children experienced traumatic events tied to poverty or family dysfunction, putting them at greater risk for suspensions when they act out as a response to trauma.

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