IFL Recommends 5/3

This week’s recommendation comes from:

Glenn Nolly posing in front of a field

Glenn Nolly

IFL Leadership Fellow

Glenn says, “This article is a reminder that when we think an issue has been settled, we have to continue to monitor and be vigilant. It seems unbelievable that there is still the need to strive for rights that should be bestowed at birth.”

50 years ago sex equality seemed destined for the Constitution. What happened?

Elizabeth Blair

“The Supreme Court’s rule that race should generally be ignored has actually prevented policies that could help to reduce the racial gap. The ERA, as currently written, could cause the Supreme Court to treat sex the same way, with a kind of ‘sex-blindness’ prohibiting policies that are intentionally designed to open up opportunities for women.” – Kim Forde-Mazrui, director of the Center for the Study of Race and Law at the University of Virginia,

The Equal Rights Amendment was passed by Congress in 1972 but was never added to the U.S. Constitution. The amendment—Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex—is significant. Read on to learn more reasons why its passage is important and why some oppose it.

Superintendent’s Student Cabinet a Success  

Interviewed by Michael Telek

Institute for Learning

The research is out there. Countless studies have confirmed to us an obvious truth, student achievement and engagement increases when students have more ownership of their school.

It’s a radical idea, perhaps even an intimidating one, to hand over the authority that’s been in control of the school system for so long. However, by amplifying student voice, you are aiding these growing minds by providing meaningful experiences that will support lifelong learning.

Take a look at our partners Syracuse City Schools. 

At the helm is Superintendent Jaime Alicea. He is riding off to retirement at the end of the school year after dedicating his entire 39-year career to the district. Alicea got his start in the classroom as an elementary teaching assistant in 1983, working his way up to superintendent in 2016. Once given the responsibility of supporting and supervising Syracuse’s 19 schools, he introduced the Superintendent’s Student Cabinet.

“[Alicea] is amazing in the fact that he is building what he’s doing here in the district on student voice,” said Tara Jennings, Assistant Executive Director of Secondary School. “He takes the time to meet with all stakeholders.” 

Along with the Student Cabinet, there is also the Superintendent’s Parent Council plus a Superintendent’s Teacher Advisory Council. The student cabinet consists of students from each of the five high schools. They meet with the Superintendent and district chiefs (Chief of Food Service, Chief of Transportation, Chief Operations Officer, etc.) throughout the year to discuss and learn about the initiatives and programs in the district.

It’s a win-win for everyone. Students get answers to their pressing questions, leadership gains valuable insight and input from the students they serve, and the two-sides are building bonds and connections. 

“We all want students to be successful, but we’re not going to guess and assume how a student can be successful without hearing from them first,” said Jennings. “If nobody asks you, (‘Hey did you like what we placed in your building?’ ‘Do you like the structure of the day?’ ‘Do you like the teacher support that exists?’) those different things, it’s not going to help in terms of students’ success and setting them up to be productive members of the community.”

Graduation rates at Syracuse are on the rise, reaching a new record high last year. 77% of students of the class of 2021 earned a high school diploma after four years, compared to 71% for the class of 2020, and 65% for the class of 2019.  

These results are drawing the attention of education experts, including Syracuse University’s professor of mathematics education Joanna Masingila, also a former dean at the university. She told WAER, the school district’s focus on professional development and student problem solving is likely the right formula to lasting academic benefits.

“The information about the graduation rate among English language learners…that was phenomenal that it rose nearly 20% from the previous year. So, that shows to me that there is a systematic and sustained effort in really providing support to teachers and professional development and with everybody working for student success,” said Masingila. 

For teachers looking to engage in this kind of work, Jennings’ biggest piece of advice is to make sure the student cabinet reflects the student body. It should not just be the top of the class, it should be anybody interested in making their voice heard. By inviting these change-makers, leadership must not only actively listen, but also offer explanations as to why or why not the change is possible. 

“If you don’t follow through, it’s not going to be taken seriously. That’s one of the things that I really admire about the superintendent. When he does hear something from students, there’s some action that always follows. I don’t think you can find a student in this district who would say, after speaking with the superintendent and asking for something, that there wasn’t a follow through,” said Jennings.

IFL Recommends 4/26

This week’s recommendation comes from:

Michael Telek seated in front of bushes and trees

Michael Telek

IFL Video and Marketing Manager

Michael says, “We don’t need to remind everyone about the above and beyond effort teachers put in daily. They pour out their hearts, and far too often their wallets, to give students the education they deserve. While teachers get a $250 tax deduction, which was set in 2002, our teachers are well past due for a boost. Or why not just provide them with the supplies they need?”

Teachers Spend 3x More On Classroom Expenses Than They’re Able To Deduct

Scott Winstead

Teacher spending on classroom supplies has increased by 25% just since 2015. Meanwhile, their salaries aren’t even keeping up with inflation, and they’re still only allowed to deduct the same amount for expenses they were two decades ago.” – Scott Winstead, site founder of My eLearning World, e-learning evangelist, and education technology expert

Despite many spending their own money to fill their classrooms with supplies and other materials, educators can deduct only $250 on their federal income tax return, an amount that educators often exceed in their personal spending. That deduction is set to increase for 2022, the first time in 20 years, but is it enough?

IFL Recommends 4/19

This week’s recommendation comes from:

Chris Schunn smiling for the camera

Chris Schunn

IFL Research Liaison

Chris says, “I love how this 18-minute podcast shows the ways in which little decisions stack the deck in favor or against students; it also makes us see new aspects of what unique child assets are and what tracking does to kids.”

Singled Out

Michael Barrier

“I cannot get past that sense that they have found their calling, that they are actively in love with the thing they do. Absent that, you can’t be a genius. … Love is not the complete explanation; love is the way in.” – Malcolm Gladwell, author and journalist, on talent being an extraordinay love for something 

The hosts talk about parents projecting where their children may end up based on perceived deficits and advantages at a young age. Malcolm Gladwell goes on to talk about the pitfalls of identifying children as being gifted at a young age, and he explains the “Mathew effect”: a small, initial difference in the performance of any two people will inevitably grow because the person who is a little bit ahead will get so many more advantages that they will end up being far ahead.   

Ptáyela Waúŋspeič’ičhiyapi: Building Cultural Competence and Responsiveness

By Michael Telek

IFL Video & Marketing Manager

Ptáyela Waúŋspeič’ičhiyapi.

In the Lakota language that means “we are learning together”. This creed is inspiring a new academic endeavor from our partners in Todd County.

The southern South Dakota school district is home to 13 schools with a little more than 2,000 students. 95 to 99 percent of those students are Rosebud Sioux Tribe members and other Indigenous nations of North America. With that in mind, Todd County leadership has put a heightened focused on understanding and employing teaching methods and assessment tools that reflect Indigenous learning styles and cultural perspective.

While nearly all students come from an Indigenous background, the same can’t be said for the teachers leading discussions in the classroom. Only a small percentage of teachers are Native Americans; although, many of the district’s paraprofessionals reflect the student population.

“We really want our teachers to know more about Lakota history, culture, ways of being, values,” said Krista Morrison, Director of Curriculum, Instruction, Assessment at Todd County. “We have implemented professional development for all of our teachers to learn from community members and other experts.”

They’re called Oceti Sakowin Essential Understanding, or OSEUs. Think of it like student-centered routines, but it’s the Lakota lifestyle at the heart of all K-12 work. This includes but is not limited to tribal politics, modern issues affecting tribes, and keeping the Lakota language alive. Morrison says the community has been hit hard by COVID. By losing elder members, they are rapidly losing their native speakers.

“When I walk into a school, I want it to be super obvious that we are serving native students. Colors that are in both languages. Numbers that are in both languages, the months are also in Lakota. Pictures of elders and former leaders. It needs to be evident who we are serving and the identity of our students,” said Morrison.

In addition to these efforts, Todd County partners with Rosebud’s Tribal Education department, and other educational leaders in the district. This group has developed the Sicangu Indigenous Principles of Learning (SIPL). The SIPL team includes the facilitator, RunningHorse Livingston, an indigenous learning consultant, and teachers and leaders from Todd County, Rosebud Sioux Tribe Education Department officials, and experts from Sinte Gleska University, the local tribal university in Todd County.

“We are probably the only district, I think we are the only district in the state, who has a policy that requires all teachers to integrate the OSEUs,” said Morrison. “That was a pretty big move on the part of our school board to do that and so that’s a big shift in thinking and the way in which we work.”

In December, Morrison was part of the team who presented their work to integrate Lakota culture at the Lakota Nations Education Conference. For 43 years, the conference has been offering education training to teachers, parents, administrators, and anyone else who serve Native American students.

For Morrison and her fellow presenters, it was important to highlight this work and counter the narrative that Todd County is “the white school.” Removing that label is no easy task. With a largely white staff and a history of boarding schools in community, those traumas cannot simply be ignored.

Morrison believes that maintaining an open line of communication with the community is the best way to acknowledge that pain and show they are working in good faith.

“It’s not just about teaching the culture, but it’s teaching culturally,” said Morrison. “Make it very student centered. Lots more student talk, student choice. That’s a shift that is going to take a while.”