Articles from June, 2006

Crackdown on bullies in state legislation

With incidents of bullying at schools and on school buses popping up on the news daily, some states are starting to take action. Michigan Governor Jennifer M. Granholm urged the state legislature in March to put into place a policy that would protect Michigan children from harassment or bullying at school. Read the Governor’s news release here.

Just yesterday the Detroit Examiner reported that two boys in Michigan were charged with assalt for the May 12 beating of 10-year-old Chester Gala as he rode the school bus. The entire incident was caught on the bus’s surveillance cameras.

According to the Governor’s release,

“Intimidation and fear have no place in our schools,” said Granholm. “To give our kids the world class education they need, we need to make sure all schools are safe.”

Research in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that one out of every three students in grades 6 through 10 have been involved in a bullying incident. While some school districts in Michigan have established strong anti-bullying policies to address the issue, these bills will ensure that policies are in place in every school across the state.

The new tough, effective, anti-bullying policies will include teacher training programs, procedures for reporting acts of bullying, procedures for response when acts of bullying are identified, age-appropriate consequences for persons who violate the policies, and procedures for prompt investigation of reports of violations and complaints.

Other states considering anti-bullying legislation include Alaska, Florida, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Wyoming. Nearly 20 other states have passed anti-bullying legislation.

Erin Walsh|June 22nd, 2006|Categories: Wellness, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Check out today’s online discussion on high school grad rates

Last call for our online discussion today on high school graduation rates with guest expert Patte Barth, director of the Center for Public Education. Beginning at 12 noon ET/11 a.m. CT, Barth will be answering your questions about the confusing data that have been published around grad rates. Check out the Center’s new report just posted yesterday that begins to sort out this issue.

Click here to read the archived discussion.

Erin Walsh|June 22nd, 2006|Categories: Student Achievement, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

More math please, says majority of adults

Are American engineers, scientists, and mathematicians as elusive as truthful politicians and Tom Cruise’s new baby? A new poll from the Educational Testing Service would lead us to believe so. According to the poll

Fifty-five percent of adults believe the public schools are coming up short or falling behind in teaching the basics, such as math, science, and writing.

Nearly half (47 percent) believe gifted students are not being challenged enough to make the most of their talents and are not ready to compete against the best-educated scientists and engineers in the global economy.

A majority of public high school students (73 percent), teachers (54 percent) and administrators (56 percent) believe schools are doing well enough in giving students who want to go into the work force the training and skills they need to get and then succeed in a job. A majority of adults (58 percent), college faculty (65 percent), and opinion leaders (59 percent) believe just the opposite.

A majority (70 percent) believe our nation’s schools are coming up short on engaging students and preventing students from dropping out of school.

ETS noted in its release that the Protecting America’s Competitive Edge (PACE) Act, backed by Senators Alexander, Domenici, Bingaman, and Mikulski is aimed at strengthening “our nation’s education system by improving teacher training in math and science, recruiting more math and science teachers, and providing opportunities for math and science experts to fill our nation’s schools and improve the curriculum, and classroom experience for schoolchildren. Better schools, better universities, more research, more math and science–it all means better jobs,” Senator Lamar Alexander explained.

Um, at least one person might beg to disagree. At the recent Education Writers Association conference in New Orleans, NY Times columnist Richard Rothstein explained his review of labor statistics on which he bases his belief that simply adding more science and math graduates is not going to change the labor market. His point? While indeed, the fastest growing sector of the economy is related to jobs needing math and science skills, it is a very small sector. What happens then to the increased numbers of grads looking for work in math and science careers? They may end up in retail sales, which Rothstein points out, is still one of the biggest sectors of the U.S. economy, and is projected to remain that way in the next decade.

And in another angle to this story, BoardBuzz previously examined Gerald Bracey‘s editorial where he debunked the myth that America is producing far fewer engineers than its Asian counterparts.

Erin Walsh|June 21st, 2006|Categories: Student Achievement, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

School’s (not) out for summer

BoardBuzz found two interesting editorials yesterday about summer “homework” for students. One, in the New York Times, argued against this growing practice, aimed at keeping students on track during summer vacation. The authors argue that the homework “overburdens our children and sends many back to school burnt out and sick of learning.”

But how much is too much? A summer reading list, 10 book reports, a math packet? Again, the authors cite “one ninth grader we know was assigned a packet of materials on the Holocaust. Another must read a 656-page book on genocide, on top of three chapters of a science textbook followed by a 15-page take-home exam, prepare a 20-slide PowerPoint presentation and complete an English assignment involving three books and essays.” Phew, that hardly leaves time for soccer camp, swim team, and a trip to Disneyland!

On the other hand, an editorial in USA Today contends that while many teachers “will slip a summer reading list into their student’s backpacks,” so that “their brains don’t turn to mush,” what they should really be doing is “encouraging students to practice their math skills.” The author goes on to say that while educators have long lamented the summer break as time that “wreaks havoc on learning,” the havoc is most concentrated in math. “That’s not to say that kids don’t need to work on reading over the summer … they need active encouragement from teachers and parents to stay up on math.”

No matter what your position is on summer homework, encouraging students to pick up a book while lounging by the pool or staying sharp with a few extra math problems while on a car trip to grandma’s seems like a no-brainer to BoardBuzz. Now where’s our copy of War and Peace?

Erin Walsh|June 20th, 2006|Categories: Curriculum, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Ed Week releases new report on grad rates

A new report out this morning, Diplomas Count: An Essential Guide to Graduation Policy and Rates, conducted by the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, estimates that 1.2 million U.S. students, most members of minority groups, will not graduate with their peers. In plain terms, that’s about 30 percent of the class of 2006.

The report, the first in an annual Graduation Project series by Education Week, supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, provides “detailed data on graduation rates for the 2002-03 school year, the most recent data available, for all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and in the nation’s 50 largest school districts.”

Some key findings of the report indicate large racial and gender gaps in graduation rates. According to the report,

About 7 in 10 students graduate from high school with a regular diploma. But about half of American Indian and black students graduate, compared with more than three-quarters of non-Hispanic whites and Asians. The Hispanic graduation rate is 55.6 percent.

Male students are consistently less likely to graduate than females, a pattern that holds true across every racial and ethnic group examined.

The report found that graduation rates vary widely across the nation’s largest districts, from a high of 82.5 percent in Fairfax County, Va., the nation’s 14th largest district, to a low of 21.7 percent in the Detroit Public Schools, the nation’s 11th largest district.

To learn more about how these grad rates were calculated and what they actually mean, log on to the BoardBuzz live discussion on Thursday, June 22, from 12 noon to 1 p.m. ET or submit a question in advance. The guest expert, Patte Barth, director of NSBA’s Center for Public Education, will answer your questions about these and related issues addressed in a new Center for Public Education report.

Erin Walsh|June 20th, 2006|Categories: Student Achievement, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Ain’t too proud to beg

OK, we admit it, we “ain’t too proud to beg” as the song says. So here goes … please, please take a minute to fill out BoardBuzz‘s super quick (and we’re not just saying that–take it and see) online survey. Go ahead, you know you want to. All your friends are doing it. It’ll make you feel good. Insert cliche peer pressure phrase here _____. And just in case your mother asks, “If all your friends took the BoardBuzz online poll, would you do it too?” the answer is yes! And if you take it now, we promise not to ask you again!

Erin Walsh|June 19th, 2006|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Get the straight story on high school grad rates

How many American students are actually graduating from high school? With new reports due out on Tuesday by the National Center for Education Statistics and Education Week, the answer depends on who’s crunching the numbers. Some say 70 percent, others say it’s closer to 83 percent, while the U.S. Census reports that it’s 75 percent. The differences are even greater between what some states report and other analysts calculate, a difference that can be more than 20 percentage points. Find out why the experts disagree and what you can do at the local level to calculate graduation rates that tell the whole story.  Guest expert Patte Barth, director of NSBA‘s Center for Public Education, will answer your questions about these and related issues addressed in a new Center for Public Education report on Thursday, June 22, from 12 noon to 1 p.m. ET.  Post your questions now by clicking here or join us for the live online discussion.

Erin Walsh|June 19th, 2006|Categories: Student Achievement, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

States get serious about suicide

The Washington Post is reporting today that “a growing number of U.S. schools are screening teenagers for suicidal tendencies or signs of mental illness.” Proponents of these screenings say that they could help to reduce the more than 1,700 suicides committed by adolescents each year. One such screening, TeenScreen, which was developed by Columbia University, has already been administered to more than 150,000 children across the country.

New York State will start screening 400,000 children each year, which could potentially save lives. Lives like that of Hilda Anyanwu, a former student in the Bronx, who, in an accompanying article says that the screening she got at her high school when she was 16 changed her life for the better.

Opponents and critics of the screening fear that it could be twisted into a sales-booster for the pharmaceutical industry and that it violates family privacy. The screening is supported by both Republicans and Democrats, including Oregon Senator Gordon Smith, whose own son Garrett committed suicide in 2003. In 2004 President Bush signed the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act, which increased funding for suicide screening.

Erin Walsh|June 16th, 2006|Categories: Wellness, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

NCLB fails its goals, report says

A new report by The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University argues that the No Child Left Behind Act did not help close the achievement gap in reading and math, based on a trend analysis of the National Assessment of Educational Program (NAEP). This New York Times article said the Harvard report predicted that only 24 to 34 percent of students will read at proficiency by 2014, and only 29 to 64 percent will reach math proficiency by then–a far cry from NCLB’s 100 percent proficiency goal.

The Harvard report counters the Bush Administration’s claim that NCLB is helping students achieve and close the achievement gap between affluent white students and disadvantaged minority students.

Perhaps it’s premature to infer any direct relation between NAEP scores and NCLB policy. What’s clear so far is that there is no conclusive evidence that NCLB is contributing to the progress or lack thereof in NAEP scores. The immediate task should be to focus on improving the law itself (see these recommendations) so that it truly helps students make progress and close the achievement gap.

Erin Walsh|June 16th, 2006|Categories: Elementary and Secondary Education Act, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

These are the days to remember, or edit

As the school year draws to a close, it’s time for students to immortalize their memories in that most-sacred of school traditions, the yearbook. And as students thoughts and photographs are commemorated, so too are they scrutinized for political correctness, appropriateness, and offensive content.

BoardBuzz has learned that two high school seniors in Northport, New York caused quite a flap by quoting Hitler’s Mein Kampf in their yearbook quotes. According to an article on, the quotes prompted school officials to apologize. The school’s superintendent said that yearbook’s student staff and its adviser saw the quotations before they were published. The district plans to send a written apology to parents this week, although school officials would not comment on whether they would discipline the two seniors or the yearbook advisor.

In a similar story, The Washington Post reports that Fairfax County, Virginia‘s Langley High School had to cut a one-inch square photograph from all 1,600 of its yearbooks because, as the article puts it, “that was no lighthouse.” The “lighthouse” in question was actually “a photograph of what was clearly a giant phallus made of snow.” The school’s principal, Bill Clendaniel, noticed the photograph and before allowing the yearbooks to be distributed, had school staff cut the offending shot out of each of the books. Diane Miller, co-president of the school’s PTSA agrees with the decision, but admits that the photo was all in good fun. “I think it’s about kids being kids and pushing the limits,” Miller said. “Kids are the same as they were 10 years or 20 years or 30 years ago. They want to get one over on the adults.”

Erin Walsh|June 15th, 2006|Categories: Student Achievement, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|
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