Articles from July, 2004

2004 TLN Salute Districts selected

Each year during the T+L2 conference we recognize three school districts for important technology achievements. Members of the Technology Leadership Network submit proposals to be considered for this national recognition and are honored for their leadership during the General Sessions at the conference.

These districts are excellent examples of the good things that can happen when technology efforts are well executed. Collaboration and teamwork, continuous improvement, and the seamless integration of technology across the curriculum as a resource for all students, including those in special education, are some of the highlights from this year’s honorees.

The following districts will be honored in Denver:

And in case rubbing elbows with the best and the brightest in the country on education technology isn’t enough motivation, register for T+L2 by Aug. 31 and your name will be automatically entered to win one free roundtrip coach class airline ticket from anywhere in the United States to Denver. See you there.

Erin Walsh|July 30th, 2004|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

New book series on NCLB points to innovation

No, it’s not funding assistance, but the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement is publishing a book series entitled “Innovations in Education” that highlights how school districts around the country have put the tenets of the No Child Left Behind Act successfully to work. The series can provide ideas for innovative educational practices and creative ways for schools to meet the opportunities and challenges of the law. Three remaining books will be published in the fall of 2004. They will feature case studies, strategies, and techniques to develop “Successful Magnet Schools” (available in September), “Alternative Routes to Teacher Certification” (available in October), and “Alternative Routes to School Leadership” (available in November). The books are free. For information, see the Office of Innovation and Improvement’s website, here.

You can always find district best practices at NSBA.org, too. Click here for more details. Or look to NSBA’s publications on the Key Work of School Boards, a framework for systems thinking and action for school governance to address student achievement as well as the challenges of No Child Left Behind.

Erin Walsh|July 30th, 2004|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Mourning two former NSBA leaders

The NSBA family recently lost two of our own. Hiroshi Yamashita, 79, served as president of NSBA from 1979-80 and was former chairman of the Hawai’i Board of Education. In addition to his tenure as NSBA president, he served in other national capacities when, in 1980, then-President Jimmy Carter appointed him to the Intergovernmental Advisory Council on Education, a task force that recommended national initiatives in schooling. Yamashita served on his state board of education for 16 years. Read more about his life in the Honolulu Advertiser here.

We also are saddened to note the recent death of Nellie Weil, NSBA president from 1986-87. Weil was 76. She served for 18 years as a member of the Montgomery County (Ala.) Board of Education, was president of the Alabama Association of School Boards and became the first Alabamian elected NSBA president. “She was an outstanding board member because she really knew education, and that’s something that has been recognized and appreciated all the way up to the national level,” said longtime Montgomery board member Herman Harris. Read more about Weil’s life in the Montgomery Advertiser here.

Both presidents served children, their communities, and their states for many years. Our condolences to their families and friends.

Erin Walsh|July 29th, 2004|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

‘Time to push back’

If it is time for Congress once again to begin dancing around re-authorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Act, that must mean it is time for plenty of local school board members to shift into heavily fed-up mode. And with good reason.

“Disabilities act-mandated increases in spending on special education, when weighed against stagnant or diminishing K-12 budgets, serve to take funding away from regular instruction,” writes Dean Livelybrooks, a physics instructor at the University of Oregon, a local school board member and a board member of the Oregon School Boards Association. “The result is either larger class sizes or fewer class options for non-special education students. Further evidence of this shift can be found in school district policies: The Crow-Applegate-Lorane School District policy handbook has more than 50 pages devoted to special education, while just three cover policy regarding talented and gifted students.

“It’s time for Oregon to push back harder against underfunded, federal, education mandates. These mandates attempt to set federal education priorities above those of states, while forcing states to pay the lion’s share of the costs.”

What are some of the challenges you see concerning IDEA? Let us know. And make your voice heard. Urge Congress to finish its reauthorization of IDEA. Read our update here and take action here.

And in the “oh-by-the-way” department: Buried in a piece about school choice from The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C. is this quote from Paul Krohne, executive director of the South Carolina School Boards Association: “The (public school) system is working. The improvements are coming. They’ll never come as fast as people would like. But the answer is not to abandon public schools.” In 1999, the first year the Palmetto Achievement Challenge Test was administered, a little more than half of the state’s fourth- through eighth-graders scored “basic” or better in math, The State reports. Last school year, more than 70 percent did.

Erin Walsh|July 29th, 2004|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

A trend we like: Bloggers descend on Boston

There has been much talk and discussion around news media circles this week about all of the bloggers covering the Democratic National Convention. BoardBuzz of course loves the idea of blogs gaining at least a foothold in areas where previously only so-called traditional media held forth. Here is a round-up on what is going on from Filter, a blog published by the Washington Post. Here is an National Public Radio story on the phenomenon. And here is a list of all of the “independent” bloggers accredited to cover the convention. Add to these a large pack of bloggers from newspapers, magazines, and TV networks, (and probably one or two who are blogging but whom are not credentialed) and there is plenty to read out there.

A quick perusal of the independent bloggers reveals a mixed bag. Some of what you learn is less than scintillating. (“They are doing the wave here in the auditorium …”). Others have more to offer, but seem to be writing about themselves and blogging itself as much as exploring much that is newsy or intriguing about the convention or, heaven forefend, important issues, such as education. We also noticed that few if any of the top education blogs are present, though obviously education is not nearly as hot an issue this week as others. Stay tuned.

Erin Walsh|July 28th, 2004|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Sharing good ideas: What Works Clearinghouse launched

The U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences has launched the What Works Clearinghouse website. In addition to gathering studies of the effectiveness of educational interventions, the clearinghouse produces reports with a rating system to try to help readers judge the validity of research findings. It will start out by releasing study reports on middle school math curricula and peer-assisted learning interventions monthly, beginning this month.

Study reports will also be released on other topics starting in the fall, including beginning reading skills for struggling readers (K-3), elementary school math, character education, English language acquisition, adolescent literacy, adult literacy, dropout prevention, and reducing delinquent, disorderly, and violent behavior. The clearinghouse is administered by the Department of Education through a contract to a joint venture of the American Institutes for Research and the Campbell Collaboration.

NSBA recognizes that providing educators tools for exchanging ideas online is an invaluable resource, and that is why our website is home to various best-practices searchable databases. School board members can search and share promising district practices, find quality extended-day learning opportunities, or search for school health policies, articles or training tools. Members of the National Affiliate and National Education Policy Network have access to hundreds of sample school district policies while Technology Leadership Network members can search on a variety of sample variety of education technology initiatives.

Are there ‘best-practices’ online resources you would like to share? Let us know.

Erin Walsh|July 28th, 2004|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Follow-up: A blog challenge to our voucher poll comments

Last week, BoardBuzz commented on a little reported nugget from a new BET / CBS News poll of African-American voters. The poll showed scant support (10 percent) for school vouchers as a way to improve education for African-American students. We noted the similarities of those findings to a national poll NSBA commissioned in 2001. Full details on our poll are available here.

Not all BoardBuzz readers agreed with our take, however. Eduwonk, a smart blog based at the Progressive Policy Institute, thinks we were a bit too sunny in suggesting that the BET poll provides still more evidence that minority support for vouchers is overblown. See their Friday, July 23 posting for details. Eduwonk shares our skepticism of vouchers, but nonetheless suggests that African-Americans may be more open to the idea than survey results show. Parents who want what’s best for their kids now, the argument goes, may not feel they have the luxury of waiting for systemic reforms of underperforming school systems to take hold. Public education advocates, they contend, ignore at their peril the appeal of the “immediacy” of vouchers.

Fair enough. School boards need to demonstrate and demand urgency about turning struggling schools around. But we’ll stick to our contention that it is a myth that minority communities are clamoring for school vouchers. It is a mistake to construe that as unawareness on our part that some polls have shown African-Americans to be less satisfied than the general public with the state of the public schools. Not surprisingly then, they may be more open to the idea or promise of vouchers.

But to paraphrase radio legend Paul Harvey, you get a different picture when you know “the rest of the story.” Probe a little deeper, as the pollsters for BET and CBS News did, and you find African-Americans don’t think vouchers are much of an answer to helping kids. Attach real life consequences to the voucher question, such as the diversion of funds from public schools, and voucher support among African-Americans, as with the rest of the American public, plummets. Stack vouchers alongside alternatives for improving education, and vouchers fall even shorter.

Eduwonk cites a recent Newsweek poll that did, in fact, show majorities of African-Americans and Hispanics favored vouchers. But as Newsweek contributing editor Ellis Cose pointed out in a letter to the New York Times (Note: It’s the second letter down), a follow-up question revealed this support to be rather thin: “But when, to measure the depth of support for vouchers, we asked, ‘In order to eliminate the barriers to quality education, which of the following options would you prefer: increasing funding for public education or providing parents with a school voucher so they can select a public or private school for their children?,’ 67 percent of African-Americans came down for increased support for public education compared with 31 percent who supported vouchers.”

Observers of this contentious issue also know what a big difference the wording of an isolated question on vouchers can make in suggesting support or opposition. Public Agenda calls it a red flag.

So if opinion polls are not your cup of tea, here is another good way to shed light on this matter: Check out the ballot box. Again, the evidence there backs our claim. Despite significant—and lavishly bankrolled—overtures to African-Americans by voucher advocates, African-Americans overwhelmingly voted against two real-life voucher initiatives (not mere abstract questions) in California and Michigan in 2000.

Bottom line: While underperforming urban schools can cause desperate parents to flirt with vouchers, American voters recognize that vouchers stand to make matters worse by distracting energy and resources from the hard work of turning troubled schools around.

Erin Walsh|July 27th, 2004|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Correcting the record on New York schools

Kudos to New York State School Boards Association Executive Director Tim Kremer for this op-ed in The Post-Standard. With numbers on his side, Kremer refutes several criticisms of public schools made in a previous op-ed by a “think tanker.” Included in the all-too-familiar but tired rhetoric he skewers are assertions about high expenditures and low academic achievement, exorbitant teacher and administrator salaries, and No Child Left Behind “failing” labels. And he ends with a challenge to those with axes to grind about public education: “By all means, let’s have ‘a reasonable debate.’ Let’s start with a ban on loaded rhetoric and out-of-context numbers.” Indeed.

Erin Walsh|July 26th, 2004|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

News media discover the Federal Education Tax

First the Wall Street Journal, and now the Washington Post, have focused some badly needed attention on an issue that BoardBuzz has been pointing out: the Federal Education Tax.

In a broad article on the real net effect of federal tax cuts, the Post focuses on the direct link between inadequate funding of federal mandates and increases in state and local taxes. A key example: the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), and the Title I funding increases promised by Congress and the president. NSBA Director of Federal Programs Dan Fuller notes that this year alone, Title I funding will fall $6.2 billion short of the amounts pledged. And as we’ve pointed out repeatedly, trumpeting overall increases in federal education spending misses the point: while the increases are commendable, the issue is whether they cover the added costs of NCLB mandates or pass them on to local taxpayers.

The article also notes that the gap between the cost of federally mandated special education programs and the federal contribution to cover them will reach $10 billion, a shortfall that is mostly passed on to local property taxpayers. “There is essentially a federal education tax,” Fuller concludes. “It’s disguised as a local property or sales tax increase, but it’s because the federal government is not providing for their mandates.”

Is Congress paying attention? As we’ve reported, proposed funding levels for Title I and IDEA funding in the House appropriations bill don’t look promising. Congress blew it yet again on making its promised 40% IDEA funding commitment mandatory. For that matter, aside from the funding issue, Congress isn’t showing much inclination to move the IDEA reauthorization bill those last five yards and get the job done now so we don’t have to start all over again next Congress. If they aren’t going to pay for their special education mandates, you’d think they at least could fix some of the act’s problems.

Congressional members are at home for recess. It’s an election year. Now’s a good opportunity for them to hear from you about the Federal Education Tax. Once again, it wouldn’t hurt to remind them that Accountability is a Two-way Street.

Erin Walsh|July 26th, 2004|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Follow-Up: Sexual abuse report

As BoardBuzz related, a recent federal report on sexual abuse of students by school employees highlighted some valid issues but led to some alarmist sound bites and headlines. Now some more commentators have focused their attention on the report, with very different reactions. This Newsmax.com piece announces a “scandal of historic proportions” that the writer charges has generated almost no news coverage. By contrast, this column on FoxNews.com offers a blistering take on the report and on the “media-fueled panic” and “politically motivated fear-mongering” that the writer says the report has spawned.

Erin Walsh|July 23rd, 2004|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|
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