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Articles from March, 2006

Racing to reform high schools

Write down this phrase: Traditional metrics. Whatever it means, we are at least reasonably sure that schools today need to move beyond them. Now. Among the groups leading that discussion is The Partnership for 21st Century Skills. That organization has a new report out that confronts the challenges for high schools in a new millenium.

“High schools must be designed, organized and managed with a relentless focus on the results that matter in the 21st century—in addition to the traditional metrics of attendance, graduation and college matriculation rates—or they risk missing the mark,” said John Wilson, chair, Partnership for 21st Century Skills and executive director of the National Education Association. “Traditional metrics are important, but they are no longer sufficient indicators of student preparedness.”

Twenty leading advocacy groups, companies, and education organizations—including NSBA—joined in the report. More info here. The report itself is here (pdf).

Ken Kay, president of the Partnership for 21st Century Schools, will speak at NSBA’s annual conference in Chicago on April 8. His topic will be the important leadership role school boards can play. Details here.

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

Voucher activists to NCLB: We just can’t quit ya’

Advocacy groups that support taxpayer-financed vouchers are taking a new tack: Using requirements from No Child Left Behind to force governments to pay private school tuition, USA Today reports.

In a move that could preview future battles, a pair of advocacy groups plan to file complaints today in two urban Southern California school districts, arguing that vouchers are needed to force districts to meet requirements for quality education.

The USA Today piece points to a number of problems some school districts are having satisfying NCLB-mandated supplemental services. The mechanism for holding school districts accountable for this stuff seems murky at times. And too many school districts have dragged their feet in some areas, we admit. So voucher activists have jumped all over this, agitating for more charter schools—often a good idea—but then also more voucher availability. Those two are often conflated under the catch-all term “choice.” These tactics should be reason enough for public school districts to get their act together on NCLB. And it should be enough to inspire a serious updating of the law to deflect this type of obvious politicizing.

Erin Walsh|March 24th, 2006|Categories: Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Privatization, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Owning our public schools

Intriguing new book out by David Mathews titled “Reclaiming Public Education by Reclaiming Public Democracy.” The book asks: Do Americans feel they “own” their public schools? Does it matter if they don’t? If so, does that hold back school reform? How do we get back that sense of ownership?

The book’s Web site links to several related articles, including this one in School Board News headlined “It’s time to address the human factor in education reform.”

The author of that piece is Jean Johnson of Public Agenda. She writes: “I believe that engaging broader swaths of the public — and doing it in more human, tangible ways — can yield positive results. We’ve seen it work in cities like Rockford, Ill.; and San Jose, Calif.; and statewide in places like Nebraska.” Public Agenda’s community engagement project is called Education Insights. Info here (pdf).

Erin Walsh|March 23rd, 2006|Categories: Privatization, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Access to national crime data common sense

The House recently passed a bill, Children’s Safety and Violent Crime Reduction Act, that would give the nation’s 15,000 school districts access to the national criminal database maintained by the FBI when conducting background checks of job candidates.

This article in Ed Week noted that currently school officials in 21 states do not have access to the national data and primarily rely on state data. NSBA senior attorney Naomi Gittins pointed out that the House bill makes sense because teachers and staff move across state lines, and when districts are restricted “to only using their state crime databases, they may be missing a lot of information.”

Now, let’s hope the Senate acts quickly on the bill.

Erin Walsh|March 23rd, 2006|Categories: School Security, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Wanted: Bloggers for NSBA’s annual conference

If you’re planning to attend NSBA‘s Annual Conference in Chicago in a couple of weeks and want to share your insights with a larger audience, why not consider becoming an official conference blogger? You will have 24-hour access to the blog to post your reactions to speakers, sessions, and the conference in general. Plus you’ll get a really cool ribbon to wear. To sign up to be part of the conference blog team, contact Barbara Hunter at

And stay tuned for the official annual conference blog site to launch tomorrow.

Erin Walsh|March 22nd, 2006|Categories: Educational Technology, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Supreme Court rehears employee speech case

Yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments for the second time in a case in which NSBA filed an amicus brief. Here’s what BoardBuzz said when the brief was filed in Garcetti v. Ceballos, a non-K-12 case with potentially big implications for schools. NSBA’s Legal Clips summary of coverage of the last round of arguments is here. And here’s CNN’s account of yesterday’s arguments.

The Court doesn’t usually ask for a second round, so speculation is that there weren’t five votes for deciding the case one way or another once Justice Sandra Day O’Connor retired. So far this is the only case heard when she still was on the Court that was scheduled for reargument once Justice Samuel Alito was confirmed. This means all eyes are on Alito, who has authored some key decisions on both free speech and employment.

Erin Walsh|March 22nd, 2006|Categories: School Law, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

School districts hunt for affordable housing for teachers

Skyrocketing home prices have made it difficult for teachers to come to Florida, a state where teacher salaries are $6,000 below the national average. School district leaders say they are struggling to attract teachers, even as they try to meet restrictions on class sizes that voters approved four years ago.

“It’s not just in the coastal areas,” where housing costs have jumped the highest, Jack Lamb, president of the Florida School Boards Association, tells AP. “It’s in any area that’s experiencing growth.”

But at least some help may be on the way. Teachers, firefighters, and other workers struggling to find affordable housing in high-cost areas like Florida’s Manatee County could get a boost from the state under a bill moving through the Legislature.

The bill, which has three more scheduled committee stops, would provide incentives for public-private partnerships to find and maintain affordable housing for targeted individuals and areas across the state, reports the Bradenton Herald. Cities, counties, and school districts in high-cost areas could partner with the private sector to keep housing costs down. The Florida School Boards Association supports the measure. Counties eligible for housing assistance are those where the median sale price of a single-family home is above the statewide average.

In Palm Beach County, Fla., local commissioners just yesterday approved a plan to force builders to construct less expensive homes in new developments. “The builders are going to hate it. The Realtors are going to hate it. Too bad,” a county commissioner is quoted in the Palm Beach Post. “We’ve got to do what’s right for the county and that’s to diversify these units.” The paper reports that the plan will result in only about 5,000 affordable houses being built, far less than is needed in the pricey county.

Erin Walsh|March 22nd, 2006|Categories: Educational Finance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Wanted: Board president for big challenge

“Skilled micromanagers need not apply,” reads the Washington Post editorial describing the challenges for the District of Columbia school district in its search for a school board president.

Neither should those possessing dictatorial tendencies, little tolerance for public discourse or a disdain for transparency. A keen interest in producing a world-class school system that sets high academic standards and is led by highly qualified principals and certified teachers is, however, a must. … The overarching mission of the school board, led by the president, is to foster a system that ensures that the District’s children will have the knowledge and skills to compete effectively with their counterparts across the nation.

There is zero explanation, however, of just what “foster” means. The Post is seeking input from readers on not only who should lead the board, but just what qualities he or she should possess. Click the comment link here and send us your thoughts. What are the most important qualities for such a position in such a challenging school district?

Erin Walsh|March 21st, 2006|Categories: School Boards, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

It’s fair-ly easy to spotlight your ed tech programs

Each year, NSBA‘s Technology Leadership Network hosts a fair at the annual T+L Conference. The Education Excellence Fair is an opportunity to showcase what’s happening with your district’s education technology programs. Think “science fair” only with 40 booths that illustrate exemplary applications of technology in the work of K-12 schools and more than 1,000 attendees who are interested in learning what works.

Make plans now to be part of T+L’s 20th anniversary celebration in Dallas on November 8, 2006, for the Excellence Fair. There is no fair entry fee beyond the conference registration fee. Hurry! The fair submission deadline is April 22. Submit your proposal here.

Erin Walsh|March 20th, 2006|Categories: Educational Technology, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

NCAA tournament fans: Recognize this guy?

Dan Bonner, a broadcaster for CBS Sports who is busy these days providing color commentary coverage of the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament, is a candidate for his local school board in Staunton, Va. Here is more bio info on Bonner. Very fun post about all this here.

Erin Walsh|March 20th, 2006|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|
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