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Articles from March, 2006

Kids who march

Increasingly, students across the country are deciding that their immediate participation is required in the hot political issue of the moment. And that participation requires and empowers them to walk out of class, to the nearest march or demonstration, they believe, sometimes with faculty leading the way. Schools seem powerless or afraid to do anything about it. The liability concerns here alone would seem to make this an important issue for school boards to confront in a serious way.

For instance: Johnny walks out of class to march in today’s demonstration. On his way, he is struck by a car. In fact, that particular scenario was precisely in the minds of some school officials in California this week. Legal Clips summmarizes the L.A. Times: “City of Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton notes that about 500 students walked out onto the busy Harbor Freeway as part of the protest. ‘That’s not free speech, that’s insanity,’ says the chief.”

The discussion around these issues too often seems stuck in confusion mode. Or denial mode. Principals and school district leaders often seem paralyzed. What should school policy look like in this area? And who has the courage to enforce it? Students walked out of class in Northern Virginia every day this week objecting to a U.S. House of Representatives bill on immigration reform. More are planned for today. An example of the confusion, from today’s Washington Post here:

“Some Fairfax students said they had heard students with unexcused absences could face suspension or, for organizers, expulsion. Fairfax schools spokesman Paul Regnier said it was too early to know what the punishments would be.”

Students in Iowa, Tucson, and Houston marched as well. One school district in Texas is promising discipline for students who walked out of school this week to march.

Legal Clips links to this letter (pdf) to parents from Long Beach Unified School District from this week. It is an intriguing read, to say the least. What do you think?

UPDATE: A student at a demonstration today in Northern Virginia was stabbed, the Washington Post reports.

Erin Walsh|March 31st, 2006|Categories: School Boards, School Law, School Security, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

New poll: Floridians don’t like vouchers

If voucher advocates in Florida want voters to approve a constitutional amendment to circumvent the Supreme Court decision that struck down the state’s flagship voucher program, they not only will be battling history, they’ll be fighting against public opinion, based on the results of a new poll by the St. Petersburg Times.

The poll finds that 61 percent of Floridians oppose the state’s flagship voucher program, while just 35 percent support it. The opposition crosses political and racial lines–just as it did with Michigan and California voters during the last major voucher referenda. The St. Petersburg Times poll found 52 percent of Republicans oppose the voucher plan, 67 percent of Democrats oppose it and 68 percent of Independents do as well. Sixty percent of white and Hispanic Floridians oppose the voucher plan, while 65 percent of African-Americans oppose it.

Meantime, the state Legislature continues moving forward a constitutional amendment, though its fate in the Senate is far from determined.

Erin Walsh|March 31st, 2006|Categories: Privatization, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Channeling George Mason

No, not this guy. These guys. That’s what Rep. Michael Castle (R-Del.) is doing in advance of a big budget showdown next week, when he plans to offer an amendment to the FY2007 budget resolution to increase education and health funding by $7 billion. “What were George Mason’s chances of making the Final Four? I think there’s a reasonable chance for change here,” Castle told Roll Call this week. An amendment to increase education and health funding by $7 billion offered by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) failed yesterday on a party-line vote in the House Budget Committee. But the floor fight next week looks to be a different story. Especially if education advocates make their voices heard again like a few weeks ago. More on this ahead.

Erin Walsh|March 30th, 2006|Categories: Educational Legislation, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

NSBA’s new study on urban school climate released today

A majority of urban students say they feel safe at school, that teachers respect students, and they enjoy learning at their school, according to a survey of urban school climate is being released today by NSBA’s Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE).

However, the survey also found that almost one-quarter of urban students report feeling uncertain about their safety. Sixty percent of urban middle school students say that many fights take place at their school and half of all students see other students being bullied at least monthly.

CUBE’s largest-ever research project, Where We Learn, surveyed nearly 32,000 students from 15 urban school districts in 13 states. Students indicated their perceptions in five areas: school safety; bullying; trust, respect and ethos of caring; racial self-concept; and general climate.

“The findings are generally positive in all five categories. Students feel good about themselves, their schools, and their teachers,” said Brian Perkins, the study’s principal investigator, chair of the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Southern Connecticut State University, and CUBE chair. “However, in each category, there are certain findings that raise concerns for teachers, school leaders, and parents.”

“This is a crucial study since research shows that improved school climate contributes to greater student achievement, higher morale, and a better relationship with the community,” said Anne L. Bryant, NSBA executive director. “It is an important starting point for discussion among school board members, teachers and administrators, students and parents, and the community about school climate.”

Check out the report (PDF) here. Watch for the videostream of the news conference to be posted later today.

Erin Walsh|March 30th, 2006|Categories: School Boards, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Announcing BoardBuzz 3.0

Gather ’round, dear readers, to hear the latest techie advance for BoardBuzz. In the blogosphere, categories are defined as subject areas that a blog entry discusses. These categories are more commonly referred to as tags. What is a tag? A tag is a type of metadata used to classify information. It can also improve search results.

You may have noticed our recent addition of categories to BoardBuzz. If not, you can see the entire list on the lefthand navigation. We’ve even added a function that lets you collapse them (the “open” and “close” links). At the bottom of each entry you’ll also notice that the posted line indicates to which category an entry belongs. Clicking on these linked categories will take you to a category page containing entries solely on that topic.

Technorati, a leading blog search engine and index, has made it very easy for bloggers to get their “tagged” blog entries into Technorati’s tag index. Adding categories to our weblog entries automates Technorati’s ability to index BoardBuzz. Thus, people searching Technorati for weblogs having to do with will find BoardBuzz entries because of our school boards category.

Confused? Trust us. It’s all good. And we’re not even going to quiz you.

Erin Walsh|March 30th, 2006|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

NCLB unfair to schools with multiple subgroups

School districts with diverse student populations are disproportionally identified for improvement under the No Child Left Behind Act, according to a new report from the Center on Education Policy.

While only 27 percent of Title I schools nationwide are located in urban school districts, the majority of Title I schools (54 percent) identified for improvement are found in urban school districts, the report found. This outcome does not reflect student performance in those districts. Here’s the reason: Urban school districts must demonstrate adequate yearly progress for multiple student subgroups–different racial ethnic subgroups, students with limited English proficiency and students with disabilities; while some rural and suburban school districts may only need to do so with two subgroups–white and low-income students.

The report concludes that urban districts are unfairly targeted for AYP failure under NCLB because students are counted more than once in multiple subgroups. Thus, the AYP structure must be fixed.

NSBA recommends that students belonging to multiple subgroups should be counted as an equal fraction in each of the subgroups totaling one student. Congress must fix this problem or the law will continue to mask the true performance and progress of diverse schools and districts.

Erin Walsh|March 29th, 2006|Categories: Elementary and Secondary Education Act, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Fix teaching, right now

Superintendents and school boards should, among other things, “resist the pressure to continue paying teachers more money across the board without any meaningful changes in the way those increases are doled out,” reports the Teaching Commission, headed by the former I.B.M. chairman Louis Gerstner Jr. The group also includes Richard Riley, James Hunt, and a cast of luminaries from business and politics.

Other suggestions: Governors and other state leaders should “give more responsibility to schools themselves for who gets hired and fired,” “recast how they approve teacher preparation programs,” and “encourage local innovation in teacher compensation.” And teacher preparation needs “reinvention.” No doubt about that one. Universities are falling down on the job. Highlights of the report here. Read the full report, “Teaching at Risk, Progress and Potholes,” here (pdf).

Erin Walsh|March 29th, 2006|Categories: School Boards, Teachers, Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

House call: Important ed funding vote on tap tomorrow

Fresh off a crucial and overwhelming victory in the Senate two weeks ago, education advocates are turning up the heat again for the next critical funding vote set to occur tomorrow in the House Budget Committee. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) is expected to offer an amendment that will add $7 billion to the Fiscal Year 2007 budget resolution. This is similar to the successful amendment put forward by Senators Arlen Specter (R-Penn.) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) on the Senate floor two weeks ago.

School board members and education advocates with representatives on the House Budget Committee are encouraged to contact them and urge them to support the DeLauro amendment. More background information Download file on why the amendment is important to students and communities.

After tomorrow’s vote, the fight for increased education funding will then move to the House floor, where a prominent congressman is already stepping forward. See Rep. Mike Castle‘s (R-DE) statement today here. Stay tuned.

Erin Walsh|March 28th, 2006|Categories: Educational Legislation, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

States and schools frustrated by testing publisher mistakes

Schools in Illinois are confronting a number of problems and errors from their statewide standardized test provider. Some materials did not arrive at some schools on time, and some tests were miscollated, among other glitches, the St. Louis Post Dispatch reports.

“Currently the country is putting high hopes on reforming education through testing,” said Jack Jennings, president of the Washington-based Center on Education Policy, which labels itself a nonpartisan group that monitors education reform movements. “One result is that it’s putting enormous strain on the testing industry. There are only six major (testing) companies, and they can only expand so fast. That’s why you’re seeing all these mistakes.”

Testing firms want to land then retain big contracts, and politics is playing a role in which company gets those deals in Illinois, it appears. But school districts across the country are frustrated. Incorrect scores led Connecticut officials to fine one publisher. The same publisher reported incorrect scores in Alabama (details here) and has recently lost contracts because of various glitches in Hawaii and Nevada.

“The president is not going to back down on No Child Left Behind,” Jennings told the Post-Dispatch. “That means these testing companies are going to have to improve very quickly, which will probably mean they’ll have to charge the states more.”

Erin Walsh|March 28th, 2006|Categories: Elementary and Secondary Education Act, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

It’s alive! NSBA’s annual conference blog returns

BoardBuzz is pleased to announce that NSBA‘s Annual Conference weblog is now live. We’ve invited multiple contributors who will be in the field capturing news from the conference live. So even if you don’t make it to Chicago, check out the weblog for excellent education blogging. You’ll find ideas, resources, examples, and materials from sessions, workshops, activities, and events for you to both learn from and share with others in your district.

Check out our conference programming here.

And if you’re planning on attending the conference, there’s still time for you to sign up to be an official conference blogger. For details, contact Barbara Hunter here.

Erin Walsh|March 27th, 2006|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|
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