Register now for this May 20 COSA audio conference. School board attorneys are at the hub of negotiating superintendent retirements, buy-outs, hiring, etc. Join other attorneys in a discussion of these issues, plus new ideas, strategies, and ethical considerations. Read more about this and other 2004 audio conferences.
School Board News Today, an online publication of NSBA, provides timely and relevant stories and analysis from NSBA and other news outlets to school board members, administrators, and all others interested in K-12 education.
Articles from April, 2004
The Alexandria, Va. school board voted to stand behind superintendent Rebecca Perry a week after she was arrested for drunk driving. The vote was 7-1. “Ms. Perry’s decision to drink and drive was a serious lapse in judgment. Serious consequences should follow,” board Chairman Mark O. Wilkoff said, as quoted by the Washington Post. “At the same time, it is also clear that she has been a tremendous asset” to the city’s schools. “The board placed several conditions on her continued employment — including shortening her contract by a year, to end in June 2005, and requiring her to enroll in an alcohol counseling program,” the Post reports. “But her contract, worth $168,000 a year, can be renewed.” The police reports says a school board member was riding with the superintendent when she was arrested. A Post columnist says Perry should go. What would you have done if you had been on the Alexandria board? Let us know.
Minnesota state officials are leveling some tough charges against a popular program for getting physical fitness equipment into schools. The Star Tribune reports that the Minnesota Commerce Department has ordered the nonprofit National School Fitness Foundation (NSFF) and the for-profit School Fitness Systems to show cause why they should not be required to cease and desist in their dealings with Minnesota schools. Schools buy equipment from the for-profit and then get donations from the foundation to cover the costs. Sounds great, but Minnesota officials seem to believe the program operates more or less like a pyramid scheme: that almost all the foundation’s funds come from proceeds from the new schools that have just purchased equipment. NSFF denies this and says it’s confident the matter will be cleared up. For details and additional information from Minnesota and the Council of School Attorneys, see this item in yesterday’s issue of NSBA’s Legal Clips.
Did you miss us? Owing to some server difficulties, yesterday’s BoardBuzz wasn’t posted until late in the afternoon. But be sure to check out the latest incident of accountability schizophrenia: Some students having trouble passing public school exit exams are finding it easier to get their diplomas from private school—by mail. And read about a little-known and ironic legacy of Brown v. Board of Education.
USA Today reports today on a little-known legacy of the Brown v. Board of Education desegregation decision in 1954: the vast removal from the workplace of thousands of black teachers and educators. “In 1954, about 82,000 black teachers were responsible for teaching 2 million black children,” the paper reports. “In the 11 years immediately following Brown, more than 38,000 black teachers and administrators in 17 Southern and border states lost their jobs.” The piece points out numbers from various states that show the reluctance or refusal of desegregated school districts to hire black educators in the years following the decision.
American School Board Journal’s special edition on the 50th anniversary of the Brown decision is available online here. Featured are interviews with Richard Riley, Walter Cronkite, John Hope Franklin, and others, as well as pieces by Juan Williams, Phillip Boyle, and ASBJ editors on topics such as the roots of school desegregation in Summerton, S.C.; the politics of Brown; and the new diversity.
Maybe this is what school critics mean when they refer to the “dumbing down” of American education. Education Week has run a fascinating story about Florida public school students “enrolling” in a Maine private school to receive a high school diploma after being denied one because they failed the Florida exit exam. According to the article, by submitting an academic transcript to the North Atlantic Regional Schools and paying a $255 tuition fee, students can receive a Maine high school diploma—even if they have never set foot in the state.
Here’s how the private school describes itself on its web site: “Students who have earned the necessary 17-1/2 high school credits (from whatever sources), are eligible to graduate from a real Maine high school with a real high school diploma! No residency required. NO EXIT EXAMS required in Maine.” (Editor’s Note: That’s their emphasis, not ours).
Many of the Florida students taking this route are recent Haitian immigrants, who have completed the necessary coursework in Florida public schools and passed the math portion of the state’s exit exam but failed the reading test. They have college ambitions but know they won’t be admitted to a four-year school without a high school diploma. “College is the way to your dreams. If you can’t go to college, you can’t reach that goal,” Suze Barthelemy told Education Week. The Miami resident did not receive a Florida high school diploma because she failed the reading exam, but after getting a diploma in the mail from the Maine school (by sending her transcript and a check), she is studying nursing at a two-year college with plans to go on to a four-year school.
The founder of the Maine school, which is accredited by the National Private Schools Association, says it serves about 2,000 students and has been receiving more inquiries of late from high school students in several states who are worried about their state’s exit exams. All of which raises crucial questions that parents, college admissions offices, employers, and lawmakers ought to be asking: 1) What exactly is the value of a high school diploma today? 2) Are diplomas from different states and schools being fairly judged? 3) Is a diploma from a public school in a state with an exit exam more impressive than a diploma from a private school where students do not have to pass the exam? And if the answer to that third question is No, then why have exit exams in the first place? For whose benefit are these exams created: the students, or politicians who want to appear they are “getting tough” and “doing something” to improve education?
Speaking of politicians, the Florida Department of Education tells Education Week they are suspect about the alternative route to a diploma the Maine private school is providing. “The concern is, ‘Well, what are students getting for this diploma?’” DOE spokeswoman Frances Marine said. “It’s really unfortunate that schools would take [students'] money and offer them credentials that are essentially worthless.”
Honestly, we nearly choked on our morning coffee when we read that statement. As BoardBuzz readers know well, this is the very same Florida Department of Education that embraces the state’s multiple voucher programs, for which there is no meaningful public accountability whatsoever. Despite countless voucher scandals in the past year, the Florida Legislature appears stalemated right now over whether to add any semblance of objective oversight to the multimillion-dollar programs. State taxpayers have no way of knowing what kind of academic grounding students attending these schools are receiving. Students who graduate from Florida private schools, including those taking public dollars via vouchers, do not have to pass an exit exam or take the state’s FCAT test by which public schools are judged.
This kind of accountability schizophrenia is not limited to the voucher debate, but it certainly adds a new dimension to an already contentious issue. Add your two cents to this debate by sending BoardBuzz your thoughts.
Speaking of technology and information overload, a study published in the April issue of the journal Pediatrics suggests there’s a link between television viewing by young children and later development of attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
The study found that, in a sampling of 1,300 children, 1-year-olds and 3-year-olds who watched just one hour of TV per day had 10 percent more risk of developing attention problems by age 7 than children who watched no TV. Those who watched three to four hours of TV a day had a 30 to 40 percent greater risk.
One posting to a pediatrics blog sounds a couple of cautionary notes about the study. First, the study didn’t focus on children who were formally diagnosed with ADHD but, rather, asked parents about symptoms: whether their children had trouble concentrating, were easily confused, impulsive, restless, or had trouble with obsessions. Second, part of the data may be backwards: children who already have ADHD may be more attracted to TV more because it’s so stimulating.
One way or another, school boards have reason to hope more parents will turn off the Idiot Box. Aside from possible attention problems, the extended TV viewing by most children surely is a big factor in academic problems and the childhood obesity epidemic, two things it’s popular to blame on the nation’s schools. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which offers parents a Smart Guide to Kid’s TV, recommends that children aged two and under watch no TV at all.
In the better-late-than-never category, we note that last week was national TV-Turnoff Week, an annual event organized by the TV Turnoff Network. Participants were asked to organize group “turnoffs” with their neighbors, co-workers or fellow students. The group says 7 million people participated in 2003. Did your schools do anything to encourage participation this year? Do you have an opinion about whether they should? Do your schools talk to parents about TV viewing? If so, BoardBuzz would like to hear from you.
The National Education Association recently published an informative article that stresses the importance of technology as an integral part of the educational experience, in order to prepare students to succeed in the 21st century. The challenges include providing all students with access to technology, protecting children from inappropriate online content, and equipping students to sort critically through the Internet’s information overload.
A survey of teachers by NetDay, a national, education technology non-profit organization, will help shed light on these challenges. NSBA is a founding partner in NetDay’s Speak Up Day, which mobilizes educational stakeholders to share ideas about technology and education. Through May 7, all school staff members with instructional responsibilities are invited to complete a short survey on their personal and professional use of technology. NetDay will publish the results in a report that will be shared with policy-makers from the White House to the local level. The more participants, the better the information.
NSBA has long been a strong advocate for the wise use of technology in public education. NSBA‘s Institute for the Transfer of Technology to Education (ITTE) and its district membership component, the Technology Leadership Network (TLN), were launched in 1985 by NSBA and its federation of state school boards associations. ITTE advances the shared vision of TLN’s 400 member school districts by empowering education, industry, and policy leaders to improve education processes and student achievement through knowledge and understanding of technology and organizational development. To learn more about getting your district involved, visit ITTE here.
The U.S. Department of Education has added a new area to its Web site that provides links to NCLB policy letters to states and others on various issues that range from public school choice to school lunch programs. The site is designed to help state education agencies, districts, federal program directors and others implement NCLB.
Don’t forget to check out NSBA’s extensive resources on NCLB, including an issue brief and our legislative and regulatory recommendations to improve the law and provide districts more flexibility.
After weeks of inaction the U.S. Senate is signaling it will soon consider the long awaited reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), S. 1248. NSBA has asked school board members for the past month to contact their senators and urge them to bring the bill to the floor for a vote.
Any further delays are likely to spell the end of the measure during this Congress. This would mean that all of the improvements that school districts have fought for in this Congress to make IDEA less litigious and less administratively burdensome would be lost, and the whole process would begin from scratch in a new Congress. Inaction would also jeopardize the Hagel-Harkin amendment that requires mandatory “full” (40 percent) federal funding of IDEA, a promise Congress has broken for an astonishing 28 straight years. NSBA urges support for this desperately needed amendment.
S. 1248 and its House companion, HR 1350, both reflect many suggestions from NSBA. See how you’ve helped make a difference to this point in a comparison of the two bills and NSBA’s recommendations. Now we need to ensure that hard work hasn’t been for naught. The next step is to ensure the Senate brings the bill to the floor for consideration and passes the Hagel-Harkin mandatory funding amendment. Our latest Call to Action provides the template of a letter that can be modified, completed, and submitted in just a few minutes. It also provides a Congressional directory. Senators also can be contacted through the Capitol Hill switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Click here for our previous alert that included specific points in the bill we want the Senate to support. And for complete information on NSBA’s views on IDEA, click here.