Write for Education Update

Education Update is the official member newsletter of ASCD, reaching nearly 115,000 members. The newsletter focuses on trends in K–12 education, instructional and leadership practices, and new research that informs learning and teaching. Education Update also covers important association news and events.

Education Update seeks original articles from education practitioners. If you successfully overcame a challenge or applied a new strategy to improve learning and leading in your school or district, share your story with us (600–800 words). Describe the challenge, the factors involved, the specific steps you took to resolve it, and your results. The best articles are written in a compelling, narrative tone and will draw on your personal experiences.

Please keep in mind that we are seeking submissions that are accessible to educators working within a variety of contexts.


Upgrade Your Teaching: Understanding by Design Meets Neuroscience

Brain Teaching

How can educators leverage neuroscience research about how the human brain learns? How can we use this information to improve curriculum, instruction, and assessment so our students achieve deep learning and understanding in all subject areas? Upgrade Your Teaching: Understanding by Design Meets Neuroscience answers these questions by merging insights from neuroscience with Understanding by Design®(UbD®), the framework used by thousands of educators to craft units of instruction and authentic assessments that emphasize understanding rather than recall.

Readers will learn

  • How the brain processes incoming information and determines what is (or is not) retained as long-term memory;
  • How brain science reveals factors that influence student motivation and willingness to put forth effort;
  • How to fully engage all students through relevance and achievable challenge;
  • How key components of UbD, including backward designessential questions, and transfer tasks, are supported by research in neuroscience;
  • Why specific kinds of teaching and assessment strategies are effective in helping students gain the knowledge, skills, and deep understanding they need to succeed in school and beyond; and
  • How to create a brain-friendly classroom climate that supports lasting learning.

Authors Jay McTighe and Judy Willis translate research findings into practical information for everyday use in schools, at all grade levels and in all subject areas. With their guidance, educators at all levels can learn how to design and implement units that empower teachers and students alike to capitalize on the brain’s tremendous capacity for learning.


Getting Back to Blogging

Five years is a pretty long break and I wondered whether it’d be better to reinvent, retitle, rebrand… or what. I decided to just return.

Also I owe those who’ve been here before an apology for the extended hiatus and lapse of authenticity leading up to my departure. The good news is that I’ve still been generating original content, just not posting it here. Over the coming weeks and months I intend to fix that and share more than I ever have before.

I needed time to figure out what I really wanted to say and that took some serious soul searching.

What brought me back to believing I should or even could effectively blog was reading a post titled “The benefits of trasparency are bigger than you can imagine which is why transparency feels so hard,” written by the blogger who initially inspired me to blog in the first place. blog.penelopetrunk.com

Avoid the Danger of Complacency

Complacency is dangerous no matter what type of school you send your children to.

Private school, public school, homeschool… there’s nothing inherently wrong with any of them, and whatever works best for your family works. Every family is different.

Public school parents and educators are rarely complacent. Neither are home school families. Both understand the statement, “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.”

Private schools, especially Christian private schools, seem to promise a level of growth that may be tempting to take for granted. It can be easy to be complacent, thinking that the Christian education school provides will equip and encourage students to develop their own authentic sincere faith. There are three aspects of complacency parents need to be aware of when considering this model of education for their child(ren):

  1. Private Christian School Isn’t an Impenetrable Bubble
  2. …But it’s still a Bubble (How will they learn to survive outside the bubble?)
  3. Students still need space to make their faith their own (When & how will their faith be tested?)


Regardless of your school choice, how have you observed and/or resisted complacency?

Quiz: What kind of educator are you?



My motto: “How can I help?”

Favorite food: Comfort foods

“You enjoy helping others, and nothing makes you happier than seeing your students reach their potential and learn about their world. You sometimes have a hard time saying “no” and have been known to overcommit yourself to various committees and activities.

You’ve usually got a good handle on the climate in your school or classroom, and you dislike conflict—if they’re not happy, you’re not happy. Others confide in you and seek your advice, and students you taught several years ago sometimes stop by your classroom (or stop you in the grocery store) for big hugs.

At home you’re usually hosting family and friends on a regular basis or organizing neighborhood or team events. Just remember to take care of yourself, too!”

– Inspiring the Best in Students
– Stress-Busting Strategies for Teachers: How do I manage the pressures of teaching?
– Building Teachers’ Capacity for Success: A Collaborative Approach for Coaches and School Leaders

Grade Smarter This Coming School Year

Grading Smarter.jpg

Use this study guide before or after you have read the book, or as you finish each chapter. The study questions provided are not meant to cover all aspects of the book, but, rather, to address specific ideas that might warrant further reflection.

Most of the questions contained in this study guide are ones you can think about on your own, but you might consider pairing with a colleague or forming a study group with others who have read (or are reading) Grading Smarter, Not Harder.



Stop Summer Slide

Tips to Stop Summer Slide

1. Stay in Touch with Students

It doesn’t even have to be on academic terms. Staying in touch with your students can help them in a variety of ways, from learning to continue professional relationships, to offering advice and resources in a pinch, to stabilizing the lives of some students that need it most. [Most students have school assigned email addresses now by 3rd or 4th grade or you have their parents’ email addresses. It’s not too late to reach out if the school year is almost over or you’re already lounging by a pool with your classroom packed up for the summer].

2. Send Them Home With Books and Magazines

On the last day of school, send students home with free books, magazines, or anything you think there might be the slightest chance that they’ll read.

If you’ve got certain students who really, really need to keep their literacy skills fresh — and if you’re worried that they may not accept your gift of free magazines — create individual bundles for students. Personalize them based on content (automotive or sports car magazines, for example), or form (comic books, short stories, etc.).

You can also invite them back to class after other students have left, or even call home to arrange a pickup or drop-off.

3. Meet Students at Their Local Library

Pick one day a month to meet students at a library that’s local to them. Even if you have to pick three or four libraries to get to everyone, if you spend 90 minutes at each, you’re still only talking about one afternoon a month. You can use this time to meet with students from last year, or get to know students from next year’s class.

What should you do? Literary scavenger hunt. Young authors’ meeting. Poetry hour. So many options!

4. Start a Reading Program

Whether it’s a contest, a book exchange, or a team-based competition; whether or not it uses points, has prizes, or is just for pride; whether it’s physical or digital — however you do it, create even a very basic program that will make students feel compelled to read during the summer.

Let them know that their reading is valued, and that it matters outside the classroom.

5. Start a Digital Book Club

Speaking of reading programs and book clubs, digital reading is now more accessible than ever thanks to free eBooks, less expensive eReaders, and more powerful smartphones. Even two- or three-year-old smartphones can handle most current reading apps, such as Kindle’s reader.

You can create a basic blog or Pinterest page, for example, and curate trending books that your students might like, or interesting free eBooks that they may not otherwise consider. Figure out a way to start a digital conversation about a digital book they can read anywhere, and you’re on to something!

6. Encourage Students to Blog

As important as reading is, writing is just as important. While you’d certainly want to limit academic writing in the summer, blogging is incredibly flexible. It can be about any topic using any form with any number of embeddable digital artifacts. It can be about pop culture, music, shopping, friendship, technology, video games — whatever interests the student.

7. Frame Simple Ongoing Projects

Give students ongoing projects — blogs to keep up, businesses to run, art portfolios to maintain, stories to write, community projects to be a part of. Anything will work if it keeps them feeling valued and plugged in.

8. Hand-Pick MOOCs

If you want more than reading and writing, there are hundreds of quality eLearning courses from dozens of credible sources to keep students busy. And while you may be concerned with “letting kids be kids” during the summer, most MOOCs that I’ve seen have, at most, weekly assignments. These could be finished — or modified to be finished — in an hour or two per week.


Please add your ideas to this list in the comments section below.

Plan Professional Development Backward

“…we must plan backward, beginning where we want to end and then working our way back to the processes that will get us there (Guskey, 2001; Hirsh, 2012).”

The best order of steps for professional learning planning:

  1. student learning outcomes
  2. new practices to be implemented
  3. needed organizational support
  4. desired educator knowledge and skills
  5. optimal professional learning activities


Cultivating Teacher Leadership

“Every teacher has leadership potential and should be given opportunities to extend their reach beyond the classroom. The schools and districts that provide their teachers with relevant ways to lead will be well positioned to address challenges, sustain growth, and prepare their students for the leadership opportunities in their future.”