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Volume  4,   Issue 1        January 2018
Newsletter Editor:  Dr. John E. Holmes
This PD Program Pays Teachers to Solve Real-World Problems in Class
Alix Mammon | December 19, 2017 | Edweek
Many teachers dread sitting through lengthy professional development courses that offer few relevant strategies for the day-to-day classroom experience. But one school district is seeking to change that with Rocket Ready—a professional-learning program that pays teachers to pursue their passions and solve real-world problems.
Developed in 2016 by the technology team for the Laguna Beach, Calif., school district, Rocket Ready incorporates microcredentials, technology, and cross-curricular collaboration in one yearlong program. The district designed the program to address a key problem affecting the teaching profession: workplace engagement. A recent Gallup poll found that only 30 percent of teachers in the United States are engaged in their jobs, while 57 percent are "not engaged" and 13 percent are "actively disengaged.”
"We were trying to think of a program that would connect [teachers] together with a purpose," Michael Morrison, the chief technology officer for the school district, said in an interview with Education Week Teacher.
Teachers who choose to participate in the program work through five microcredentials—digital "badges" that focus on proving mastery of a single competency—which each take approximately 15 hours to complete. Each microcredential focuses on a specific skill set of classroom practice, including using technology and engaging students. After producing relevant student work, teachers "level up" to the next microcredential, earning between $500 to $1,000 to spend on their classroom for each badge earned. 
The program culminates with the "World Changer" microcredential, which requires teachers to work with their students and other educators—both within and outside of their schools—to solve a real-world problem and create a video demonstrating their work. In the pilot year of the program, one teacher explored how to use solar power to charge laptops in the classroom, while another helped her art students create an installation out of recycled plastic to raise awareness about plastic pollution in the ocean.
Heather Besecker, a 4th grade teacher at El Morro Elementary School, participated in the program last year and led a "World Changer" project on increasing gratitude in the classroom. She connected with a teacher at Crossover International Academy, a boarding school in Ghana for survivors of child enslavement and sex trafficking.
"We teach California history in 4th grade, so we asked the students in Ghana to come up with a list of questions that they would like to know about California," Besecker said in an interview with Education Week Teacher. "Then my students answered those questions by creating a Google My Map."
Her students used My Maps to "pin" different locations on a map of California, with each pin offering an answer to a question the Crossover students had asked. Besecker also had her students research the culture, history, and geography of Ghana, to help them understand the differences between their homes and where the Crossover students live.
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Open Educational Resources Fill Gap for Underserved Students
Five OER goals for how states can support low-income schools
Lisa Petrides & Barbara Dezmon | June 2017 | EdWeek
During the past decade, the idea of education as a 21st-century civil rights issue has surged. Many of our nation's public schools that serve large numbers of low-income communities frequently face funding challenges that result in inadequate facilities and educational resources. While efforts have been made to address these disparities, one of the cornerstones of a quality education has largely gone overlooked: access to curricula, textbooks, and other instructional and self-directed learning materials that drive rigorous academics.
Less affluent districts often struggle to provide their students with quality, up-to-date materials aligned with today's more demanding state standards. Research in the past few decades has shown that teachers in schools with predominantly minority or poor populations are more likely to consider their teaching materials inadequate. One 2015 report from nonprofit organization The Education Trust found that the highest-poverty public school districts nationwide receive about $1,200 less per student in state and local funding than the lowest-poverty districts.
And in about half of the 100 largest U.S. cities, most African-American and Latino students go to public schools where at least 75 percent of all students are low-income, according to The Atlantic's 2016 analysis of federal data. Without access to quality instructional materials, high standards and high expectations represent an empty promise to students of color and traditionally underserved students.
But there are solutions. Open educational resources, or OER, could begin to help bridge this gap in learning materials for students of color. Last fall, the NAACP issued a resolution advocating that state education agencies encourage and support local school districts in using open resources. The resolution asserts that "teachers and schools must have high-quality academic resources, which has not been the situation for many African-American students."
The use of OER in K-12 education has been growing for more than a decade.While the resources have often been used as supplemental learning material, they also include a broad range of high-quality, freely available or openly licensed materials that deepen the learning program—from complete curricula and textbooks to lesson plans. They are also produced by thousands of organizations and individuals—from NASA and museums to school districts, and individual educators themselves. And they often include curricula and course guidelines that states and districts can use to ensure that teachers have the best tools available to improve their instruction at scale.
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Connect with NAEA!
Connect with your regional director today 

NAEA Board
Dr. Pam Bruening
Kathleen Chronister
Vice President
Pat Conner
Dr. Ja'net Bishop
Kay Davenport
Past President
Jacqueline Whitt, Dr. John E. Holmes, Dr. Ed Lowther, Denise Riley, Richard Thompson, and Dr. Amy Schlessman
Board Members

Upcoming Conferences and Events
24th Annual Conference on Alternative Education
2018 At-Risk Youth National FORUM
  • February 18-21, 2018
  • Myrtle Beach, SC
Alternative Education Conference
  • May 30- June 1, 2018
  • Orange Beach, AL
2018 Reaching the Wounded Student Conference
  • June 24-27, 2018
  • Orlando, FL
19th Annual AAAE Conference on Alternative Education
  • July 8-10, 2018
  • Rogers, AR
2018 National Dropout Prevention Network Conference
  • October 28-31, 2018
  • Columbus, OH
NAEA Twitter Chat

#NAEACHAT Monthly Twitter Chats - (30 Minute) 

WHO : All Stakeholders in the field of Alternative / Non-Traditional Education
WHAT : A monthly Twitter Chat focused on NAEA's Exemplary Practices
WHERE : On Social Media - Twitter
WHEN : The last Tuesday of each month / 9:00 PM EST / 30 Minute Chat
WHY : To build capacity and awareness
HOW : Twitter
Follow @NAEA_Hope on Twitter and join in using #NAEACHAT
Newsletter Submissions
Have an article you'd like us to include in the NAEA newsletter? Submit an article to Dr. John E. Holmes, Editor at
using “NAEA News” in the subject line. 
Read a previous issue here
The American Youth Policy Forum and Civic Enterprises
This policy brief aims to address four key opportunities states have both within and outside of ESSA to better understand and ultimately improve alternative education:
I. Definition: What is alternative education?
II. Accountability System: What structures can states put into place to ensure alternative settings are appropriately held accountable?
III. Accountability Measures: What measures can states consider that accurately reflect the quality of alternative settings?
IV. Continuous Improvement: How can states use accountability for alternative settings as a tool for continuous improvement?
Click here or the above image to read full brief.
24th Annual Conference on Alternative Education
Annotated Bibliography of Alternative Education Research
Dr. Amy Schlessman, NAEA Board Member
You’ve read it.  You’ve incorporated it in your best practice and/or advocacy.  Now, you can share it!
Your National Alternative Education Association has instituted an Annotated Bibliography of Alternative Education Research.  I’ve submitted a few examples including Raywid’s seminal work on alternative education, Job for the Future’s piece on “Reinventing Alternative Education”, and National Dropout Prevention’s meta-analysis, to get us started.
Your colleagues want your contributions.  There is a simple to use template provided to submit works that you have found particularly useful.  You’ll notice that the format is not quite standard APA because it has been designed to be practitioner-friendly.  NAEA members tend to most interested in the title and the What, How, Why of the work:
  • What A description of the work and its findings
  • How The methodology or some key terms like quantitative, qualitative, policy research
  • Why The big picture – a rationale about why the work is important-valuable
NAEA looks forward to your submissions, so that alternative education research is accessible to NAEA members and all Alt Ed advocates.  As you see, you will be recognized on a nationally available website for your contribution.
New Resource Hub on Alternative Education
AYPF is pleased to announce the launch of our new Alternative Education Resource Hub
You can access our new resource page by clicking on the following link: The resource page features three new AYPF publications:
• Measuring Success: Accountability for Alternative Education (Policy Brief)
• Innovations in Accountability Measures: Three Case Studies for Alternative Education
• Trends from the Field: Lessons Learned about Alternative Education (Issue Brief)
Arkansas Spurns Warehousing of Floundering Students — 
Heather Vogell | Dec 2017 | ProPublica
In much of the country, alternative schools are neglected, underfunded and stigmatized. But one of the poorest states is spending big on them.
As Leana Torres began high school, family crises — her estrangement from her father, her stepmother’s terminal cancer — shadowed her through the hallways. She experimented with drugs and got C’s, D’s and F’s in class.
Torres could have become a casualty of her difficult home life — the sort of student school districts may all but write off because circumstances outside the classroom seem to overwhelm teachers’ best efforts. But she didn’t. When her mother and educators enrolled her in a public alternative school in Bentonville, Arkansas, they were opening doors for her, not shutting them.
“My mom actually sent me here as a punishment,” says Torres, who has long dark hair and big brown eyes, “but it’s actually the best thing that’s happened to me.”
At the Gateway Alternative School, Torres found a close-knit community where she could catch up on coursework and lean on adults and other students who understood what it was like to encounter major obstacles as a teenager.
“It’s kind of like a big support system,” says Torres, 17, who graduates this month with A’s and B’s and wants to become a real estate agent. “You go around the corner and there’s somebody to help you.”
Torres’ success is no fluke. It’s exactly the sort of life-changing turnaround that officials in Bentonville, and the state of Arkansas, expect from their alternative schools for at-risk students.
In other states, such schools are often spare and prison-like, offer computer-based courses instead of meaningful interaction with teachers, and provide little counseling. Many students are subjected to harsh discipline and, some allege, even physical abuse.
But in Arkansas, one of the poorest states in the country, educators have taken another path. The state government has encouraged — and helped pay for — a network of local alternative schools with rich academic offerings, social and mental health support, and standards modeled on what research shows works best to reduce bad behavior, poor grades and absenteeism.
Arkansas allocates an extra $4,600 for each alternative school student — on top of the standard state and local expenditure of $6,700 per pupil. For alternative schools to receive the extra stipend, classes can have no greater than a 1:15 teacher-student ratio (and many are smaller). Even students in small schools often can choose from electives and career-vocational classes and participate in clubs and sports. Mental health counseling is generally available.
It’s difficult to calculate a graduation rate for the state’s alternative schools, because they’re mostly grouped for statistical purposes with regular schools, to which nearly a quarter of their students return. Still, their emergence coincided with a decline in Arkansas’ overall dropout rate from 2002 to 2012, a November state report shows. Another indicator of their success: although traditional schools are encouraged to recommend only about 3 percent of their students for alternative schools, nearly 10 percent of all graduates in the state have spent some time in alternative education.
Some states’ approach to alternative education is to “take the least and give them less,” says state Alternative Education Director Lori Lamb. “We don’t do that in Arkansas.” One of the state’s main goals, she adds, is to erase the stigma of attending alternative schools, and change perceptions so students — and taxpayers — see them as an intervention, not punishment.
Denise Riley, an Oklahoma-based education consultant on the board of the National Alternative Education Association, says Arkansas has become a leader in alternative education by constantly evaluating itself and incorporating new research into its practices, providing strong but supportive oversight of school districts, and fostering programs where adults build solid relationships with students.
“They’ve approached it almost like you would if you taught a gifted class,” Riley says.
In certain ways, Arkansas’ philosophy runs counter to the Trump administration’s. The state urges districts to keep alternative schools’ population “substantially similar” to that of regular schools — a goal that aligned with federal guidance under former President Barack Obama. Yet under U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, federal officials are proposing to delay a rule that would discourage schools from over-identifying minority students for special education and segregating them in separate classrooms, or disciplining them disproportionately.
DeVos also favors expanding the roles of charter schools and for-profit education management companies to promote school choice, which she has suggested can lower absenteeism and dropout rates. Though for-profit charter schools specializing in “dropout recovery” abound elsewhere, Lamb says only one charter school chain, a nonprofit, has met Arkansas’ rigorous standards to qualify for alternative education funding.
In a sense, Arkansas has taken alternative schools back to their roots as child-centered, less competitive and more flexible places for students who struggle to thrive in regular schools. That mission was subverted as schools across the country adopted rigid, “zero-tolerance” disciplinary practices in the 1990s and then faced pressure to boost test scores as a result of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Neglected and underfunded, many alternative schools now offer substandard academics in decrepit buildings or trailers, and serve mainly as warehouses for students with behavior problems or bad test scores. Increasingly, they’re run by private companies that profit by providing bare-bones instruction and billing states for potential dropouts who rarely show up for class.
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When Testing Takes Over 
 Bari Walsh | November 2017 | Harvard Graduate School
Daniel Koretz has spent a career studying educational assessment and testing policy, weighing the consequences of high-stakes accountability tests. In a bracing new book that might be seen as a capstone to that work, Koretz excoriates our current reliance on high-stakes testing as a fraud — an expensive and harmful intervention that does little to improve the practices it purports to measure, instead feeding a vicious cycle of pointless test prep.
The book’s title, The Testing Charade, captures his point; excessive high-stakes testing undermines the goals of instruction and meaningful learning.
For parents, teachers, school leaders, and advocates who want to understand how we got here, the book is an accessible exploration, charting a path toward more sensible assessment practices. We asked Koretz, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, to reflect on how current testing policies touch the lives of parents and teachers — and how they can advocate for change.
From a parent’s point of view, the public conversation around testing can seem quite binary. There’s a pro-rigor and achievement camp, and there’s an anti-testing, opt-out camp. Can you offer a balanced framing of this for parents?  
As I stress in The Testing Charade, standardized tests themselves are not the problem; the problem is the misuse and sometimes outright abuse of testing. Testing done right can be valuable, sometimes irreplaceable. For example, how do we know that the performance gap between African-American and white students is slowly narrowing, or the gap between poor and well-off students has been growing at the same time? Standardized tests.
And standardized tests, designed and used appropriately, can help teachers improve instruction. Indeed, the main use of standardized tests many years ago, when I was in school, was to improve instruction, not to hold teachers accountable.
Ironically, one of the many harms inflicted by excessive high-stakes testing is that it has undermined the main benefits of good standardized testing. In many places, it has led to severe score inflation — gains in scores far larger than real improvements in learning. In some cases, score gains have been three to six times as large as real gains in achievement. These inflated scores don’t provide an honest and useful indication of student performance. And the pressure to raise test scores has become so strong that testing often degrades instruction rather than improving it. Many parents have encountered this — for example, large amounts of teaching time lost to test prep that is boring, or worse.
It’s time to curtail the inappropriate uses of tests, but let’s use tests appropriately when they can help us help kids.
Continue Reading >>> 
Boys Read Better When There Are More Girls in Class, Study Finds
Sarah Sparks | November 2017 | EdWeek
Having more girl classmates may help boys and girls alike boost their reading skills, according to a new study in the Journal of School Effectiveness and School Improvement.
Using data from the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment, a benchmarking test of 15-year-olds in 33 countries, the researchers looked at how school resources and social characteristics affected boys' and girls' reading performance. In each school, the researchers analyzed the concentration of poverty, the percentage of teachers with a college degree, and the proportion of girls to boys. 
On average across countries, students had higher reading scores in low-poverty schools and schools where a majority of teachers had a college degree. But researchers also found girls scored nearly 30 points higher than boys on a 600-point scale, and all students scored better when girls made up at least 60 percent of students in the school
"Boys' poorer reading performance really is a widespread but unfortunately also understudied problem," said Margriet van Hek, the lead study author and a sociologist at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, in a statement. "Our study shows that the issue is reinforced when boys attend schools with a predominantly male student population. Yet schools can help improve this situation by ensuring a balanced gender distribution in their student population."
The findings are likely to add to the debate over single-sex education, as districts including Dallas and Washington, D.C. experiment with single-sex classes and schools
Erin Pahlke, an assistant professor of psychology at Whitman College in Washington, was not part of the Netherlands study but said its results didn't surprise her; prior research has suggested boys are more likely to be focused and better behaved in classes where they are outnumbered by girls.
"One argument is it changes the classroom behavior, and so impacts the amount of on-task time in the classroom," Pahlke said. "That's powerful and important, and a good argument for keeping boys and girls together in a classroom."
Yet she also noted that the findings might be less about gender and more about high achievement; if girls on average outperform boys in reading, than boys in a class of mostly girls are more likely to be surrounded by high-achieving students, which may also change the tenor of the classroom. 
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Black Educators Share Their Thoughts On What Happens When White Women Cry In Schools
 Kelli Seaton | November 2017 | Philly's 7th Ward
In a recent article, Zachary Wright, a high school teacher, wrote, “As a White male teacher, whose goals are to not only teach, but also learn from my students, I need to be aware of, and need to name, the privilege that inevitably blinds me from truly understanding what it means to be Black in America.”
Thank you, Mr. Wright.
Fortunately, there is more and more conversation about social justice in education, and there is certainly emerging discussions about White privilege. Both are significant advances in the work schools are doing to serve children and families better.
There is also another trend.
                                     THE CONTEXT
The language connected to social justice often lives in changing curricula for students and in examining White privilege but then comes to a full stop. To make further progress in the work connected to privilege and to accelerate the gains in social justice, we must also look more closely at the ways in which we actively manage and coach adults and adult interactions in school settings and education organizations.
A great place to start would be the ways in which we manage and engage with middle class White people, more specifically middle class White women working with Black children from lower income backgrounds.
“The White woman’s reality is visible, acknowledged, and legitimized because of her tears, while [the reality for people color] is invisible, overlooked, and pathologized based on the operating ‘standard of humanity.’ ”
Years ago, someone forwarded me a copy of a paper called, When White Women Cry: How White Women’s Tears Oppress Women of Color.  In the paper, the author writes about the “one up/one down” identity, meaning one identity is privileged and the other is oppressed.  “White women can be both helpless without the helplessness being a reflection of all White people and powerful by occupying a position of power as any White person.” In addition the author wrote, “the White woman’s reality is visible, acknowledged, and legitimized because of her tears, while [the reality for people color] is invisible, overlooked, and pathologized based on the operating ‘standard of humanity.’ ”
I remember feeling such relief when I saw this paper because I had been uncertain of how to navigate times when White women cried in schools. Back then, I didn’t have name for what I was experiencing though I knew that perceptions of race had something to do with it. Many of my supervisors had been White and male, and often, once a White woman cried, it seemed as if my managers pushed me to shift the focus from the needs of students and families (or even from staff of color) to the needs of the White woman.
And often I found myself compromising on what seemed best for children and families as a result of these conversations.
Years later, even as we attempt to increase the presence of Black men in education, this same dynamic exists, possibly more often that we would like to think. And why is this topic even important?
The majority of Black and Brown children from lower income environments have White female teachers. If we manage and coach White females and staff in ways that are more aligned with the perspectives of students, we will likely get to student outcomes faster.
It seems rare that we openly discuss how White tears impact leadership practices. As such, leaders can be ill equipped to respond in equitable ways to situations involving a White woman’s tears.
Examining this topic is an opportunity for schools, particularly those with a high percentage of middle class White female staff members serving Black students from lower income backgrounds, to bridge the gap between theory(examining White privilege) and practice (accelerating advancements in social justice with Black children).
To be clear, the issue isn’t that a White woman is crying. The average person has working tear ducts. Crying is not the problem. The problem is how education systems, schools, school leaders, and the managers of school leaders react to White tears and reinforce oppressive beliefs and behaviors, which then undermine the focus on serving children.
In the article Tears and Fears: White Woman and Social Justice, the author wrote, “While participating in a race intensive training, I started crying. A woman of color was providing me with feedback on my racist behavior. …As my tears fell, an African-American man came to my rescue. He is a dear friend and trusted colleague. However, my tears left him in a tough spot, forcing him to make a decision as to whom he should support, me or the woman of color? It was a no win situation for him. He chose me and had to deal with the fallout. But what consequences did I experience? None. Where was my fallout? The people of color were left to sort it out as I watched uncomfortably on the sidelines not sure of what to do”
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