ESSA Explained: Our Take, and a Helpful Video

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was signed into law in December 2015, and will be fully implemented in schools in the 2017-2018 school year. We all know that ESSA is in, and NCLB is out, but where can we turn to really make sense of this legislation? A few days ago, Education Week put together this short video that breaks ESSA down in a manageable and practical Q&A form. (It's under 4 minutes long!)

This post on edupulse looks closely at a number of key evaluation and assessment factors that will be impacted by ESSA—from measuring high school achievement, to conducting teacher evaluations or thinking about low-performing schools.

Also, check out Four Things Educators Should Know About ESSAthis discussion of the legislation ("from a somewhat practical standpoint") from Scholastic's Director of Goverment Relations.

Have you found any helpful ESSA "explainers?" Let us know!

The 7 Habits of Highly Impactful Librarians

During my 15-year tenure at both Library Journal and School Library Journal, I had the good fortune to meet the most dynamic and successful librarians in every possible domain, ranging from academe to the corporate world, from municipal government to K–12. During this time, a compelling pattern came to me in sharp relief: All of the most creative and effective librarians that I had ever come across shared the same qualities. When I examined their respective “road maps” to success, they deployed all of the same core principles. 

The masterful use of these key principles yielded a singular and extraordinarily salient outcome: impact. These leaders produced demonstrable impact that they could clearly and compellingly articulate to decision-makers. 

In celebration of National Library Week (April 10–16), below is a round-up of these key principals—the “7 Habits of Highly Impactful Librarians”—with resources and recommendations for librarians to implement these habits themselves.

These seven habits represent effective and proven strategies that are rooted in research and evidence-based practice. They are designed to help librarians revise and improve how they impact learners, and they ensure that school libraries are woven into the instructional fabric of schools. 

Habit #1: Build strong and trusting relationships

Highly impactful librarians know that relationships are critical to secure buy-in from their school administrators. They understand what keeps district administrators up at night, learn the district’s specific strategic goals, and know how their work fits into those goals.

How you can do this:

  • Consistently present district administrators with the variety of ways you and your library can integrate college and career readiness skills, integrate information technology skills into curriculum, and plan and deliver PD, especially technology-based.
  • Collaborate in planning and developing curriculum and assessment

Habit #2: Speak the language of school leadership

Highly impactful librarians know that they must be great at clearly communicating their vision for the library in the context of the district’s learning objectives and strategic plan. District leaders need to understand how their goals for the library support the larger goals of the district.

How you can do this:

  • Know that the majority of school leadership administrators are focused on five key areas. These include: Equitable access for all students, creating a culture of reading, ensuring students are college and career ready, etc.
  • Be aware of what is happening at the district level and be actively involved in the formation and communication of the district’s strategic plan and mission. Try to regularly visit the school’s website, attend BOE meetings, or collaborate with principals on specific goals.

Habit #3: Be the gatekeeper and curator of all digital content

Highly impactful librarians know that they are distinctly qualified to evaluate, curate and distribute digital content that best supports instruction. They must remain at the nexus of digital content, programs and technology and use their media literacy skills to best determine what type of content is most appropriate for students and teachers.

How you can do this:

  • Compose, create and distribute high-quality digital content clusters called Text Sets.
  • Strengthen digital reading stamina by driving students to more Volume Reading versus only Close Reading in order to build knowledge via Text Sets.
  • Establish an awareness of and protocol for determining accuracy and validity of online content.

Habit #4: Be the champion and CEO of independent reading

Highly impactful librarians understand the power of choice in driving reading motivation and ultimately improvement and growth. Research shows that avid readers demonstrate both superior literacy development and wide-ranging knowledge across subjects (Allington, 2012; Hiebert & Reutzel, 2010; Sullivan & Brown, 2013).

How you can do this:

  • Establish a school- or district-wide plan to create and grow an “avid reading culture” in your district.
  • Launch a summer reading initiative that emphasizes choice as well as incentives to drive increased enthusiasm and excitement around reading.
  • Create literacy events that encourage family participation, reinforcing to parents the importance of reading and having books in the home. 

Habit #5: Adopt an evidence-based practice in everything you do

Highly impactful librarians know that data and analysis are indispensable tools that substantiate their work and help obtain buy-in from school- or district-level leadership. By implementing an evidence-based practice, they can evaluate and demonstrate student progress and make a case for allocating necessary funds and resources.

How you can do this:

  • Leverage prevailing research (such as School Libraries Work!) that correlates strong and effective school library programs to an improvement in reading scores among students.
  • Analyze your program and determine what it needs, as well as the desired objective.
  • Determine the evidence that will resonate with your desired audience, and connect to your objective.
  • Collect, analyze and synthesize data to act as evidence.
  • Package and deliver the data as the core of your message.

(Reference: Say It with Data: A Concise Guide to Making Your Case and Getting Results by Priscille Dando, ALA Editions 2014)

Habit #6: Be a teacher-librarian with a constructivist approach based on inquiry

Highly impactful librarians tie reading to research to strengthen achievement.Research is the search for answers, and this inquiry-based approach allows students to test and re-test their hypotheses. By infusing inquiry into daily practice and instruction, students can hone their ability to respond to questions with evidence.

How you can do this:

  • Model and teach good research skills, which support the inquiry process.
  • Use reading, read-alouds, and primary sources as a “springboard to research.”
  • Curiosity, wonder, questioning and the goal to “dig deeper” all play a vital role in fostering inquiry.

Habit #7: Be the orchestrator of your school or district’s makerspace initiative

Highly impactful librarians know that the growing trend of makerspaces perfectly blends a constructivist approach to inquiry with problem-based learning and literacy—all core competencies for the dynamic school librarian. Librarians have an unprecedented opportunity to tie together literacy, inquiry and STEM by housing their makerspaces in the school library. Data shows that makerspaces have a positive impact on student engagement through hands-on learning.

How you can do this:

  • Find a program from which you can glean ideas for your makerspace.
  • Check out The Disruption Department to learn more about how one district is evolving its makerspace initiative through the Design Thinking Process, which helps educators and students assess their “maker activity.” 

Are you a librarian? In the comments, share some of your best strategies for success!

Five Things I Learned from edu@scholastic Bloggers

At the end of this week, after almost three years of editing, writing and caring for this blog, I'll be handing the keys over to a new editor, Julia Graeper.

Julia will undoubtedly make this an even more robust source of information and inspiration for educators and education leaders. Still, it's humbling to look back through the archives and revisit the fascinating contributions from the educators, school administrators and researchers who write in this space.

Here are five things I learned from edu@scholastic bloggers that will stick with me.

1) Reading is not just about getting the words. Lois Bridges, a master of language and the science of literacy, taught me that reading is far more complicated and nuanced than simply adding up the sum of all the words in a sentence and computing a meaning.

Simply put: language is redundant. The information in every sentence is signaled in more ways than one. Indeed, language circles back on itself, creating cohesive chains of meaning that readers can follow across a text, picking up clues, not unlike Hansel and Gretel following breadcrumbs through the dark woods."

2) Language and play develop in tandem. Lesley Koplow of the Bank Street College of Education explained to our writer Suzanne McCabe how play is an essential part of learning for young children.

You can’t feed language without feeding play. That doesn’t work, especially when children are stressed by life experiences. They need play to integrate and make sense of their experiences the way adults do. Adults talk about a frightening event so that they can make sense of it. Kids need to play about what happened so that they can make sense of it."

3) Read alouds aren't just joyful - they're essential. Almost universally, students and teachers of young children love read alouds. Yes, these experiences build bonds and help children begin to find joy in books. But read alouds are also an essential part of learning to read, writes master teacher Maria Walther.

If we want children to integrate meaning and ideas across texts, they have to have experiences hearing a lot of texts. They need a rich textual lineage—a wealth of reading experiences from which to draw. We are setting ourselves up for failure if we put forth all these grand ideas of voluminous independent complex text reading, but then don’t offer students voluminous, joyful read aloud experiences each and every day.

4) Games can make us smarter. My interview with journalist and author Greg Toppo helped me understand how the game-playing experience is very often a powerful learning experience.

Like school, a good game is a designed experience that ideally takes the learner by the hand and guides him through each of the steps to learning the material. People like James Paul Gee and Kurt Squire would say that’s why games are so much fun – not because of the shooting and explosions, but because we naturally love to learn."

5) Professionals persevere despite bumps in the road. An inspiring post from Kristina Holzweiss, the 2015 School Library Journal School Librarian of the Year, reinforced this valuable lesson. Just seven years ago, her school position was cut to part time, leading to a low point in her life. Yet her dedication to her professional mission and desire to make a difference in children's lives pushed her on and helped her accomplish so much.

So, why am I telling you all this? Hopefully, you will be inspired to tell your story—how you make a difference in your students’ lives. Advocacy for your position as a certified school librarian takes place the second you put a book into a child’s hands, but it shouldn’t end there."

Here's to a long life of learning!

Inside the Minds of Top Teacher-Librarians

April is School Library Month and we are kicking it off with the 2016 School Library Journal School Librarian of the Year Award! This third-annual award honors K–12 library professionals for outstanding achievement and the exemplary use of 21st-century tools and services to engage children and teens toward fostering multiple literacies. 

Over the past two years, we have had the privilege of recognizing passionate, creative library leaders, including 2015 School Librarian of the Year Kristina Holzweiss of Bay Shore Middle School on Long Island, NY, and 2014 winner Michelle Colte of Hale Kula Elementary School in Wahiawa, HI. Whether they are making global connections through social media, elevating learning through play, creating a need-based school library, or implementing maker-spaces, these librarians push boundaries to elevate student learning and inspire their peers. 

In honor of School Library Month, we've put together a round-up of blog posts from some top teacher-librarians—School Librarian of the Year Award winners and finalists. (Be sure to click each author's name to follow on Twitter!) 

My Story: From a Job Cut to Becoming School Librarian of the Year
By Kristina Holzweiss 
Kristina Holzweiss began her education career as a 7th grade English teacher in her hometown. After a long journey, including a job-cut, Kristina eventually found her “happily ever after” as the Bay Shore Middle School librarian in Bay Shore, NY. In 2015, she was named School Librarian of the Year! Her goal: To inspire other librarians to tell their stories—how they make a difference in students’ lives.

School Librarians Open a World of Possible for Students
By Sally Smollar
2015 School Librarian of the Year Award finalist Sally Smollar of Plumosa School of the Arts in Delray Beach, FL explores the power of connecting people to stories, information and opportunities. School librarians have the opportunity to touch the lives of students and open a world of possible, even in the most unexpected ways.

Embracing Change: Creating a Need-Based School Library is Not One-Size-Fits-All
By Lakisha Brinson
Lakisha Brinson is currently a school librarian at Amqui Elementary School in Nashville, TN and was named a School Librarian of the Year Award finalist in 2015. She describes her journey implementing three different approaches to developing a learning hub within three different schools throughout her career as a teacher-librarian.

How I elevate learning through play
By Michelle Colte
2014 School Librarian of the Year Michelle Colte of Hale Kula Elementary School in Wahiawa, HI asks, “How can I, as an elementary school librarian, foster opportunities for playful discovery and exploration? How can I incorporate hands-on learning, driven by students’ own curiosity?” To answer this, she has adopted a new mindset and looked to museums and other libraries for inspiration.

School librarians helping to facilitate global connections
By Colleen Graves 
Twenty-first century librarians are tech savvy and dynamic—they can help teachers make global connections by connecting with authors, other classrooms and curricular experts or mentors. 2014 School Librarian of the Year Award Finalist Colleen Graves of Lamar Middle School in Flower Mound, TX discusses tips and tools for librarians expand their networks and transform learning.

One school librarian's goal for the year: Empower student voice
By Andy Plemmons
Andy Plemmons of David C. Barrow Elementary School in Athens, GA had one goal in mind when he was named School Librarian of the Year Award Finalist in 201: to empower student voice. Here he examines the powerful moments in the library that allow students to raise their voices in authentic ways and connect with global experiences.


Interested in submitting a nomination for the 2016 School Librarian of the Year Award? Visit the School Library Journal website here. (Nominations close May 20, 2016.)


Thank you to Brittany Sullivan for writing this post.

Summer Is Right Around the Corner. Is Your School Ready?

You’ve likely seen the research and read the reports about academic summer slide and how this contributes to the achievement gap. Coming from a principal who works in a Title I school, I’ll tell you this: It absolutely does. It also contributes to our country’s growing equity gap.

As the current principal of Forrest Elementary School in Hampton City Schools (VA), I knew I needed to look at what was happening with our students over the summer. In review of our end-of-year and beginning-of-year reading data, our students showed clear signs of reading backslide, from anywhere between 1 to 2 months based upon the DRA assessment. I knew I had to plan something to support our students this summer.

Where did I start?

I started with my data and shared it with the district leadership team. I did this to see if I could get a green light for even creating a proposal for their approval for summer 2016. I shared with leadership the research on summer backslide and I shared Forrest’s data so they could see this was a need for our community. When I got the green light I started to create a presentation to share with my leadership team. This led into all the other areas that you have to focus on to have a successful summer enrichment program.


With my leadership team we had to look at the data and come up with our rationale-our WHY. Why did Forrest ES need to provide programming during the summer and why did we need to provide students access to text over the summer. I had to ensure the staff understood and believed in the work that we needed to do. Programs are going to work best with what I refer to as the “coalition of the willing.” Those who understand the why, have the ability and the willingness to fully participate. I had to get the pulse on whether the staff would be willing to support this type of programming. So I brought the data to the leadership team, which includes the grade level chair from every grade, reading specialists, the math interventionist, the school counselor, and family engagement specialists. I knew I had the needed cross-section to get a good feel if this would work at Forrest for this summer.

Once I had the buy-in of the leadership team we had to think about the WHO. Would we focus on certain grade levels this summer? Would we focus on all grade levels? How many students should be included? How many students in each classroom? We decided because we already had a program for the rising first grade students that we would focus on rising 2nd-4th grade students. Rising kindergarteners and rising first graders were going to have opportunities over the summer to engage with their families around literacy using a different program – our Scholastic Literacy Events program. They were also receiving books through this program to ensure they have access to text over the summer. Knowing this allowed us to make the decision to focus on rising 2nd-4th grade students. This year, we will provide texts for 5th grade students to help curb summer backslide and those who qualify for the district’s summer school will attend summer school because it prepares them specifically for middle school. 

The WHERE might seem easy, but it’s not. Think about your school at the end of the year. The teachers’ complete close-out procedures. They box up everything, stack chairs and desks, cover all shelves and other materials, and shut down all technology. They have personal materials that they keep in their rooms. So, you have to really look and decide on the availability of classrooms early on in the process so that you’re not undoing work that teachers did straightening up their rooms. There are a lot of questions that might need to be answered related to location:

  • Are you keeping your library open? Are you keeping your computer room open?
  • Are you keeping your family engagement room open? 
  • What is going to be the access to space in your building while ensuring cleaning can be completed to start the school year?
  • Have you worked with the district custodial department to discuss this program and how it will impact cleaning of the building? 
  • Have you talked to food services if you are going to provide food for students? 
  • Have you discussed transportation with the transportation department? 

After deciding why, who and where, we had to think about the timeframe of the summer programming and access -- the WHEN. We had to decide when to start and end the program. For example, the staff said we need to stop the program at least two weeks prior to pre-service week for a few reasons. 1) The building needed to be cleaned and ready to go for the upcoming school year. 2) Teachers needed a break before coming back for the year and to prepare themselves for the school year. 3) Students needed time on their own to practice at home. So we decided to end three weeks prior to the pre-service week and provide fun reading and activities for the three weeks prior to school starting. They would have one week without specific resources. They will always have books to read or re-read.  They will have math games and resources they can replay.

Before we could fully lock in the WHEN, we also had to decided on the WHAT. What was the program going to feel like, sound like, look like? How was this program going to be different from tradition summer school? How were we going to frame this for students so they felt like they were chosen for something that was really awesome. Also, we knew we needed to work not just on the mind but also the heart. We needed to ensure the program includes academics as well as social and emotional intelligence. We wanted to focus on building strong character while having fun with reading and math.  The staff was great because they said we know all kids cannot come to the school and participate in the program, but can’t we provide books for all students to read over the summer? My answer was yes and there are models that have shown that providing access to text with ongoing contact via phone or mail will work for students.

We have found a program called LitCamp that can help us with the literacy and character part of the program. We have found a program called MathKidz that can help us with math. Both programs are designed around enrichment and fun. However, we still had to plan for the materials needed in the classroom and outside of the classroom in students’ homes. For example, for the literacy program to be effective, students needed to have access to a classroom reading library. Teachers need access to additional read alouds and the library. Teachers needed access to additional math manipulatives to ensure all students had the math games at home along with at school.

The team created a proposal to our district leadership. We created a PowerPoint that included the why, who, where, when, and what.  We created a budget sheet that included all costs including staffing, transportation, food, materials for at school, materials for at home, and enrichment activity costs.

We are going to measure the success of the program by utilizing our end-of-year data and comparing to our start-of-year data.  Every program that funding is spent on needs an accountability measure. This helps in guiding decisions for adjustments that need to be made to the program, continued budget, and support for expansion so all children can gain access.

Is this summer slide happening at your school? Is there a need in your community to provide this for your students?  Where might you start? If summer academic slide is present, it is contributing to both you academic achievement gap and your equity gap. How can you address this for your students?

How a Classroom of 1st Graders Became Published Poets

I made a confession to Kwame Alexander, that when he originally asked me to share my thoughts on his work-in-progress titled, “Page-to-Stage”, I was secretly worried. How was I going to tell the Newbery winner that no one was going to buy this book? We (the teachers) had all had enough years of trying to get our students excited about poems, gluing them in journals, never to be looked at again. I had given up on poetry in the classroom and my colleagues had too. But still, (he’s a Newbery winner!) I agreed to read it.

He had me at the preface. Kwame was talking to me. I could hear his voice. He was sitting next to me, helping me through, holding my hand, as I confronted the painful subject of poetry. His approach was relaxed, yet bursting with information, and surprisingly, it was applicable to me. Page-to-Stage was about understanding the purpose of poetry, the power of poetry. Page-to-Stage would turn my first graders into poets. This I had to try.

I borrowed and adapted some of Kwame’s ideas to use with my students. I began my first impromptu poetry workshop with a Shel Silverstein poem. Then we dove right into a whole class List Poem titled, “Poetry Can.” This same poem ended up IN the Page-to-Stage book. It took very little prompting before everyone was calling out ideas in this spontaneous, free-flowing activity. It was beautiful. In case you didn’t know, “Poetry can give us energy.”

For days my students wrote their own list poems, and not because I made them. They were pleading to write them. So like any smart teacher would, I took advantage of their enthusiasm and introduced more styles of poetry. Nine kinds of poems and a few weeks later, I was implementing the entire program. We were on our way to publishing our own book! “Poetry can give us new ideas.”

Page-to-Stage suggests breaking your students into teams such as Editing and Marketing. I was sure I’d have to warn Kwame on this one. Six and seven-year-olds would never comprehend the duties of these jobs; much less remember the complicated team names. I was wrong. As I began meeting with each team, every member showed up ready to work. Editorial was looking through quotes to choose an epigraph, Proofreading was finding my typos, Production was interviewing everyone to write up bios, Marketing was planning the book launch party (maybe even over planning!), and Design was carefully choosing the perfect layout for our book. When we weren’t meeting, they were begging to meet. They did all the work and as one student later told Kwame, I “just did all the typing.” It’s the truth. “Poetry can make you smarter.”

As a writer myself, it has always been my favorite subject to teach. For years, my students have been allowed to think outside of the box, have original thoughts, self-publish stapled paper books, and share their work. They leave my room confident, practiced, writers. Knowing this, made it hard to admit that it wasn’t until Page-to-Stage that I realized something had been missing. Poetry.

Now, I designate time almost every day for poetry. When it happens, a change comes over my class. I can see it in their faces. Boys start using phrases such as, “my heart was crying” and “I was like a goldfish breathing underwater.” Deep thinkers write haikus, and my students struggling with the English language, dictate poems that could make you cry.

Page-to-Stage taught us the reason for poetry, the rules for poetry. But Kwame showed us how to bend and even break them. I’d seen the program work with middle and high school students. I couldn’t believe how effective it was with my young ones, like it was written for them. Kwame’s lessons allowed my students to be themselves while reinventing themselves. I offer writing options, and they choose poetry. I offer time on the iPad, and instead of clicking on an interactive app, they write poems. I hear them give feedback to each other such as, “That really feels like a poem.” My first graders truly get it. “Poetry can teach us stuff.”

We did publish a book. The students chose the title “Finding the Truth, Feeling Your Heart – Our Journey Through Poems.” The day of our book launch party, I sat them down and we talked about the impact this book was going to have on the world. Lots of people were going to read our book. “You are going to be famous,” I told them. “You are published writers now.” One student was quick to ask, “Don’t you mean poets? We are poets now.” Then everyone cheered at the prospect of being famous and more importantly, eating as many cookies as they wanted at the book launch party. “Poetry can change the world.”

All Ideas Are Welcome

In a quick and funny 15 words, Roland Martin, the host and managing editor of News One Now, both explained and dismissed a long-simmering tension between educators and non-educators. Sitting on a panel at SXSWedu in Austin, Martin was debating the intersection of politics and education through the lens of the 2016 presidential election.

When one of his followers on Twitter sent the newsman a tweet saying that panel-mate journalist Jonathan Alter wasn’t qualified to talk about education because he wasn’t an educator, Martin exploded. “This idea that just because you’re in education, no one else can talk about education” is wrong, he said. As someone who is raising six nieces and constantly hiring people for his various TV and radio shows, Martin said of course he is both interested in education and qualified to comment on it. The same goes for Alter, he added.

In short, that was my experience during my initial visit to SXSWedu last month. There were plenty of people, in and “out” of education, talking about education. I’m fully on Martin’s side on this issue, I think the more discourse the better.

I know why this split in opinions exists though. The idea that business people can drop into an education debate and in five minutes pretend they’ve solved all the problems can be an infuriating experience. But to sit with AltSchool founder and CEO Max Ventilla and discuss his school’s mission for 45 minutes was an education in itself. Think what you want of the new, very expensive, private schools he has created in Silicon Valley and Brooklyn. But to say he doesn’t have a right to experiment with a small school that tries hard to personalize learning for each student because his background is in technology, is to miss the mark by a mile.

In fact, think back more than 100 years ago when John Dewey quit education after two years as a high school teacher. He succeeded in psychology and philosophy, but our public school system is richer because he took the knowledge from those two fields and brought it back to education. Many of his beliefs, including the student as active learner, remain tenets of education today. Chances are that Martin, Ventilla, or one of the hundreds of other speakers at SXSWedu will never attain Dewey’s influence, of course, but why would we want to silence them before we hear their ideas?

Five Questions with Scholastic Education's Chief Academic Officer

Earlier this week, Scholastic Education announced that Michael Haggen would be the organization's new Chief Academic Officer. Michael has more than 20 years of academic experience, having served as a teacher, principal, chief academic officer and direct report to superintendents in three school districts.

Prior to joining Scholastic, he served as Deputy Superintendent in the East Baton Rouge Parish School System, driving significant change that included leading efforts which ultimately yielded increases in academic performance. In St. Louis Public Schools, he developed and implemented a turnaround model for 11 schools, which led to that system's first provisional accreditation in more than a decade. As Deputy Superintendent of New Orleans’ Recovery School District, Michael led the system-wide organization of an integrated learning supports program, designed to remove barriers to learning for students, including those returning home post-Hurricane Katrina. He also managed the district’s family and community engagement and extended day programs, as well as volunteer and donation initiatives.

Look for posts written by Michael here in the future!

1) What does Scholastic Education’s CAO do?

MH: My job is to ensure that Scholastic Education supports educators to the best of its ability and helps them improve student learning and instruction. We have a focus on instructional materials for literacy achievement, professional learning for teacher effectiveness, family and community engagement initiatives, and consulting services designed to strengthen integrated systems of learning supports – so my role is to act as a guide and lead advisor.

2) What’s your story behind how and why you became a teacher?

MH: As a small enterprise development agent with the United States Peace Corps I taught numeracy to Senagalese nationals in small villages. I got my degree in finance and economics, but teaching became a personal mission and calling to model for other inner city students that we could use education to accomplish our dreams and succeed despite the obstacles in front of us.

3) You’ve worn so many hats as an educator – from teacher to principal to deputy superintendent and beyond. What challenge are you most proud of overcoming?

MH: It was a great challenge teaching in Detroit in the mid-90s, especially while getting my masters in education. I’m most proud of being honored as a highly effective teacher in Detroit by my students.  My students taught me how to teach, how to listen to their language and to the strengths they brought to the classroom.

4) You were the deputy superintendent of the Recovery School District in New Orleans in the years after Katrina. How did that time shape you as a professional?

MH: The challenges facing the education system in New Orleans after Katrina were arguably the most intense in the history of education in the United States. The strength, tenacity and deep commitment of New Orleanians to rebuild against all odds and demand what was best for their children inspired me even more deeply to support those children with the highest needs. I knew it was critical that all children had access to quality books, and the ideal of education equity guides me now to meeting with districts and schools across the country to help them expose children to authentic text and teachers to rich educational practices. During my time in New Orleans, I learned from the students and families about the importance of putting learning supports in place and truly engaging families in the education journey. When moving on to St. Louis and Baton Rouge, I knew the importance of bringing the unions, teachers, administrators, families and, most importantly, students to the table. I took pride in spending each day in the classrooms as deputy superintendent, learning from students and teachers and sharing best practices.

5) In your role, you speak with school leaders across the country. What’s keeping them up at night?

MH: Superintendents and school leaders are focusing on building capacity (expertise) with their district and school coaches, teachers and principals around professional learning. Leaders are looking for ways to increase teacher effectiveness and student learning. Supporting English language learners with rich selections of materials and teachers with not only resources, but also the skills to teach them. Our great thought leaders are looking at ways to close the gaps of equity and access for students. When students have access to high quality books and highly effective teaching, the achievement gaps for traditionally low performing sub groups can truly begin to close.

Let's Make Summer Learning Experiences Joyful, Rich and Rewarding

Dear Friends,

These are momentous times. It is more important than ever before that our children become lifelong readers, writers and learners. The world is organized best for those who communicate well, who have the tools to seek out knowledge, who gain comfort from a good read, and who can relate well to others through powerful writing, speaking and listening skills. This summer we need to make the commitment that every child deserves: a summer where he or she can grow into a lifelong reader, writer, speaker and listener.

These are challenging times. Our children may become overwhelmed by the sheer vastness of information in the world and what they are expected to do. Yet they know it matters to read with stamina, fluency and comprehension. They know it matters to write well and to speak and listen in ways that connect them to a community. This summer we need to make the commitment that rigor can mean joy and that joy can mean rigor, and that with beautiful texts and great lessons, every child can become a super reader.

Too often summer school is a really hard place for a child to go, being indoors, feeling cut off from the fun of summer, trying to play “catch-up” or to do work that seems disconnected from the dreams in his or her mind.

We need to create an antidote to this idea of summer school. We need to infuse a powerful sense of joy and fun and learning into every child’s life so that the promise of 365 days of reading, writing, speaking and listening belongs to every child. It is what we should demand. It is what every child deserves.

  1. Life-changing: Every child -- of every reading level -- should have the opportunity to experience the transformation that happens when reading becomes integral to one’s life.
  2. Strength-building: Students need books that enhance the 7 Strengths that are deep within every child. We need to nourish these strengths and values and the social-emotional capacities of every child and their connections to learning, reading and writing. Belonging. Curiosity. Friendship. Kindness. Confidence. Courage. Hope.
  3. Literacy-developing: Summer reading should be carefully built and lovingly created in the spirit of authentic literature -- the great books that mean so much to children and help them discover and develop strong identities as learners while cultivating a deep and everlasting love of reading and writing. A well-structured and meticulously developed summer program should support all teachers in taking children through a literacy journey, a profoundly life-impacting journey.

This summer let’s make the learning experience joyful, rich and rewarding for student and teacher alike. Let’s turn an ordinary summer into an extraordinary one, turning every child into a super reader, super writer, super learner.


Pam Allyn

Student Reporters Get Real World Experience on the Campaign Trail

Last month, the CBS Evening News ran a feature about Scholastic News Kid Reporters on the campaign trail. “There’s no democracy without journalism,” CBS anchor Scott Pelley said.

We are especially proud of the reporting that our young journalists have done during the presidential race. They have gotten stories for their peers about covering the Iowa caucuses, going behind the scenes at a Republican debate, and talking with supporters at a Bernie Sanders rally. They’ve also posed tough questions of journalists.

Our reporters, who are between the ages of 10 and 14, have asked the candidates about issues that matter to kids. Their stories bring an immediacy to the campaign that readers of our news site relish.

Going into the fray at political events, in turn, offers young reporters a chance to cultivate invaluable skills. As Lilian Jochmann and Bobby Sena explain in this Scholastic Reads podcast episode, “Kids on the Campaign Trail,” covering a story takes resourcefulness, confidence, and background knowledge. Our reporters learn to listen carefully—not just to political candidates, but also to voters, journalists, and young people.

Most important, they love what they do. We hope that your students will follow the Scholastic News Kids Press Corps on the campaign trail to stay informed about issues that will shape their future.


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