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July 1, 2010
Vol. 67
No. 10

Introduction

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As the publishing year ends, these eight articles in The Best of EL 2009–2010 highlight the concerns of educators this past year. I imagine that the typical reader—you, perhaps—could add a few dozen more concerns to the list. It has been a year of escalating challenge for schools. And with some pundits predicting that the next 10 years will produce more school change than the past 100 years have, more challenges are certainly ahead. We hope that these articles, written by educators for educators, will help you examine the range of possibilities and clarify your thinking about issues that matter. Our aim for Educational Leadership is to help you improve our schools and, ultimately, ready our kids to meet their own challenges.

Do What, When?

The 21st Century Learning Initiative aims to educate young people to acquire and use information, solve problems, work together, and be innovative leaders. These are not easy skills to learn, as our writers tell us. Wary of wholeheartedly endorsing a movement that might direct schools away from their paramount concerns— better curriculum, better teaching, and better testing—authors Andrew Rotherham and Daniel Willingham eye 21st century rhetoric skeptically. Still, although they assert that such skills as critical thinking and global awareness are not new, they also acknowledge that "what's actually new is the extent to which changes in our economy and the world mean that collective and individual success depends on having such skills." One of the most-clicked articles on our awardwinning ASCD website, the article provokes thinking. We are proud to say this entire issue received an Association-Trends Gold Award for Excellence.

My Kingdom for a Leader

From deflated budgets to divisive culture wars, from oppressive mandates to insiders' politics, it's tough to be a school leader. In this issue, leaders describe how to not just survive but thrive.Thomas Hatch here speaks of the need to act as spokesperson, negotiator, and champion of the school's interests. Among his prescriptions: distribute the work, scan and seed the environment, and cultivate a network of allies inside and outside your school.

E Pluribus Unum

A recent tweeter proposes that educators rise up and burn all the bubble tests. Although frustration with testing mania is high, we will not soon be doing away with standardized tests. Our challenge, then, is to make testing serve teaching rather than the other way around. In this issue, authors propose ways to select and create assessments that give stable estimates of students' achievement and provide feedback that improves teaching practice. Here, William Schmidt and Leland Cogan address the first step: establishing challenging and clear content standards that guide classroom instruction and learning. Their article is an AEP finalist in the category of Learned Article. Our cover has also been recognized with a 2010 American In-House Design Award.

Health: The First Basic

Statistics show that a renewed emphasis on promoting a healthy school environment is overdue. Unhealthy foods are still widely available, and curriculum narrowing has scaled back opportunities for physical activity. Underscoring the importance of teaching the whole child, our authors discuss a range of essential human needs that affect learning, for example, nutrition, sleep, and emotional health. Here, Matthew D. Selekman talks about harmful stress as he provides insight into adolescents' self-harming behaviors.

Do You Know Where Your Kids Are?

"Know your students" sounds like common sense, but it is also a principle of cognitive science. In this issue, authors discuss how teachers convince students that learning is worth the effort: They begin by sizing up students' needs and concerns. Authors also elaborate on how to orchestrate differentiated instruction. Here, Robyn Jackson describes how to discover the "currencies" students value and use them to give students access to the curriculum.

Bring Back the Books

With a large percentage of students reading below grade level and many more falling out of the reading habit, a continuing emphasis on reading is essential. Although most schools now teach foundational phonics and comprehension strategies, fewer find time in the day for students to read on their own or allow them to choose their own books. Here, Thomas Newkirk makes the case for slow reading, a productive alternative to scanning and skimming.

Racing to Where?

Our issue on "Reimagining Schools" reviews a dozen new reforms—from entrepreneurial schools to personalized learning, expanded learning time to national standards, open-source education to early college experience. The largest infusion of federal dollars into education behooves all leaders to embrace innovation. Mike Rose reminds us to keep our bearings as we choose worthy reforms.

To Fire or Support?

What does it mean for the nation's schoolchildren when massive layoffs decimate the teaching force? In this issue, we talk back to those who claim the way to improve education is to fire bad teachers. Yes, some school systems should do a better job of removing inadequate teachers, but isn't it more important to address the complex factors that support effective teaching? Morgaen Donaldson here shows how high-quality feedback not only motivates teachers but also improves teaching practice. This ends our lineup for The Best of EL 2009–2010. Be sure to log in as a member to read all the articles on www.ascd.org/el.
<ATTRIB>—Marge Scherer</ATTRIB>

Marge Scherer has contributed to Educational Leadership.

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