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July 1, 2008
Vol. 65
No. 10

Introduction

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This year's collection of outstanding EL articles have several themes in common. They address two of ASCD's major initiatives: furthering 21st century learning skills and meeting whole child needs. Indeed these initiatives are two sides of a coin, with the Partnership for 21st Century Skills emphasizing the need for students and educators to change, thrive, and excel in a competitive world and the Whole Child Initiative reminding us that all our students need to be challenged, supported, engaged, safe, and healthy. The articles selected here push the envelope in the current climate of schooling. They urge educators to take bold chances and innovate in an ever-changing environment as well as protect and cherish the traditional goals of true education.

Teachers as Leaders

Judging by the number of blog entries on the topic and the number of back issues sold, one of our most popular issues this year was our September issue. Yet, when we began researching this topic, our editors feared that "teacher leadership" was more dream than reality. Susan Moore Johnson and Morgaen L. Donaldson interviewed "second-stage teachers" to find out why it is so difficult for professionals to share their expertise. Their article is about overcoming the obstacles: the compartmentalized school structure, the —al status given teacher leaders, and the culture of schools that discourages teachers from stepping forward. The benefits of supporting teacher/leaders are many, these authors tell us, including improving the instructional practice of all and stemming the loss of promising teachers.

Early Interventions at Every Age

Carol S. Dweck's article, with its basis in neuroscience and psychology, suggests we should reexamine an instructional strategy that most teachers practice: giving praise. The problem is, though, that praise for "being smart" does little to make a student transform his or her basic capacity to learn. Praise for intelligence puts students in a "fixed mind-set," Dweck notes, where students feel that, if they reach too high and fail, they let themselves and others down. Praise for effort, however, ignites students' intelligence and causes it to grow. In the face of failure, students with "growth mind-sets" escalate their efforts. It may be counterintuitive, but the combination of challenging and supporting students is the winning one.

Making Math Count

In our November issue, many of our authors discuss how important it is to make mathematics more meaningful to students. Math educator Marilyn Burns looks closely at how students think, especially those students who struggle when it comes to math. Her intent is to forever root out the "yours is not to question why, just invert and multiply" approach to math and to teach skills in the context of deeper understanding. The Association of Educational Publishers (AEP) recognized her article as an outstanding "how-to feature."

Informative Assessment

The entire December/January issue, which explored many kinds of assessment, won a Silver Award from the Society of National Association Publications for Single-Theme Issue. The article chosen here, by Robert J. Sternberg, asks the question: How might assessment better reflect the kinds of skills that matter—not just in school, but also in life beyond school? His research led to the design of assessments that not only aid guidance counselors but also improve college admissions practices. His article was recognized by AEP for excellence in the category of Learned Article.

Teaching Students to Think

Whether you are a traditionalist or a progressive, no doubt you agree that cultivating skillful thinking is one of the most vital aims of schooling yet one of the most difficult to teach. In our February issue, Nel Noddings argues that any subject can promote critical thinking if it is taught in intellectually challenging ways. By acknowledging this, we can help students develop an appreciation for the wide range of essential work that must be done in a complex society.

Reaching the Reluctant Learner

Kieran Egan and Gillian Judson are not the first educators to note that students are anything but reluctant to learn about their own interests, whether it be their own music, games, or social media. They describe ways to help students tap into the emotion, the intrigue, and the story-telling that engage students' imaginations and prompt them to find meaning in many more subjects than they previously deemed exciting.

Poverty and Learning

In April, the EL editors put together an issue that delved into the ways poverty affects learning. Richard Rothstein writes a thoughtful piece here that asks "Whose Problem Is Poverty?" He make an eloquent plea for the social and economic reforms that together with school reforms can enhance the well-being and improve the achievement of all students. An international concern, poverty wreaks havoc on learning. Educators, with their special insight into children, must speak up and actively call for changes, Rothstein says.

Reshaping High Schools

We ended our publishing year with a look at another distressing situation: the fact that so many students are dropping out of high school before graduating. We are at a tipping point, former Governor Bob Wise, notes. It is time to address the overlapping civil rights goals of equity and excellence. Many of the articles in this issue spell out how schools are doing this.
Martin Luther King Jr. once said "Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education." This volume of The Best of EL 2007–2008 will remind you of the complex, multifaceted job of educating students. It is a challenge, but if we concentrate on just one aim, we will not succeed.
All the best to you readers this summer as you gear up to meet next year's challenges. See you online—and, in September, back in print.
—Marge Scherer

Marge Scherer has contributed to Educational Leadership.

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Best of Educational Leadership 2007–2008
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