Articles from July, 2006

You could be among the best

We told you about the calling for applicants for a national network of 100 District Leaders for Civic Engagement and Service-Learning back in June (can you remember that far back?). Sponsored by the Education Commission of the States National Center for Learning and Citizenship, in conjunction with NSBA and the American Association of School Administrators.

Hot diggity dog, the application is now available online, so consider this your second (albeit, possibly not your last) opportunity to round out the best and brightest in your school district. Forty-four slots have already been filled, so for a lucky 56, there’s still a chance to receive this distinguished honor. For more information about the program, visit the ECS site.

Erin Walsh|July 31st, 2006|Categories: NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards|

A place to call home for homeless students

Student achievement is always a hot issue, but for homeless students, reading, writing and arithmetic are not the biggest worries they have. For the more than 100,000 high school students who are estimated to be homeless in the U.S., having a place to sleep or a hot meal is much more pressing than the science fair project. And now a suburb in Missouri is taking a good, hard look at the problem and confronting it head on.

CNN.com is reporting that the Maplewood-Richmond Heights district has purchased a house that will serve as a group home for homeless students. “The public school district sponsoring it is possibly the first in the country to take on such a project.” It will be staffed with pastors in training and an area hospital will provide a therapist. “Critics argue that while the school district’s plan is admirable, it steps out of bounds by mixing public schools and religion.”

Brian Q. Newcomb, a pastor in Maplewood, disagrees, “This is not about building up our church or preaching to students. This is about a service opportunity and responding to a real need.” In addition to the pastors, organizers are hoping for donations for electric bills and from restaurants and grocery stores for meals.

Erin Walsh|July 31st, 2006|Categories: NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Student Achievement|

An interesting twist on school board politics

BoardBuzz isn’t sure what to make of this item from Newsday that popped up on NSBA’s Newsstand last week.

In the community of Lawrence (N.Y.), where a large portion of the population are Orthodox Jews whose children attend private schools, private school voters, weary of paying taxes to support public schools, have recently elected two new members to the seven-member board. The board is now controlled by the Orthodox Jewish majority. A previous article in Newsday indicates “As [Orthodox Jews] numbers have grown, enrollment in the public schools has dropped, along with support for the public school budget, which has been rejected every year since 2003. The district is now in its third straight year on a contingency budget and is about to sell an elementary school for $27.5 million that was shut down due to dwindling enrollment.” Ah, but the story doesn’t end there. No sir.

Last week, Fu-Yang Tang, mother of three public school students, filed a petition with the State Department of Education seeking to oust three of the four members because they “have been derelict in their duty.” Tang’s attorney, Elizabeth Meyerson said, “Each one of these grievances has merit. This kind of conduct is simply inappropriate for a trustee of a public school district, in Lawrence or anywhere in the state.”

One of the board members in question, Michael Hattan responded, calling the charges “garbage, frivilous, and truly bizarre.” He went on to say, “It’s a concoction on the part of a fringe element of the community to overturn the results of a popular election … because we now control the majority of the board.”

BoardBuzz is definitely intrigued by this story and as the plot thickens, will continue to provide updates.

Erin Walsh|July 28th, 2006|Categories: NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards|

AP Calculus, brought to you by Verizon

Cash-strapped schools are no laughing matter. But this article in USA Today did make BoardBuzz smile, a little. In these days of corporate sponsorship, where the U.S. Olympic team is backed by McDonald’s and arenas around the country are financed by gigantic corporations, shouldn’t schools be a safe haven, free from commercial intrusions?

Seems that Sheboygan South High School in Wisconsin has turned to corporate sponsors to finance its field house. The article also notes that “Kitchens at two high schools here will soon be called the Kohler Credit Union kitchens, thanks to a $45,000 donation. The cafeterias are up for grabs for $300,000.” (Quick! Someone ring Purina Puppy Chow!)

Wisconsin is not alone, either. “In Newburyport, Mass., the high school offers naming rights to the principal’s office for $10,000, the auditorium for $100,000 and English classrooms for $5,000 each, according to its foundation’s website.”

Do we kiss John F. Kennedy High School goodbye and say hello to High School sponsored in part by ExxonMobil? What are your thoughts?

Erin Walsh|July 28th, 2006|Categories: Educational Finance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

eDocs Store grand opening!

NSBA’s Council of School Attorneys is pleased to provide immediate access to documents previously unavailable to members and the general public through its newest web enhancement, the eDocs Store.

Check out the featured items, browse documents by topic, or do a keyword search. It’s easy! Just select the document you want, create your account, enter your payment information, and the PDF document will be immediately available for download and printing.

Erin Walsh|July 27th, 2006|Categories: NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Law|

Public schools’ new best friend: Sir Charles

After being chosen NBA MVP, amassing more than 20,000 points, and winning Olympic gold, what more could the world possibly hold for Charles Barkley? One only has to scratch one’s head and think for a second to realize that the political arena could be the next stop for this outspoken character.

At NSBA‘s Southern Region Meeting in San Destin, Fla., this week, Barkley told the 900 school board members in attendance, “Alabama, that’s my home. I’m thinking about running for governor; they need the help. If it wasn’t for Arkansas and Mississippi, we’d be dead last in everything. I think we can do better.”

He went on to say, “I’m serious. I’ve got to get people to realize that the government is full of it. Republicans and Democrats want to argue over stuff that’s not important, like gay marriage or the war in Iraq or illegal immigration. They push those issues because they play well on TV and because they deceive people. When I run–if I run–we’re going to talk about real issues like improving our schools, cleaning up our neighborhoods of drugs and crime and making Alabama a better place for all people.”

While he said he hopes to get his 17-year-old daughter out of high school and into college first, Barkley seems earnest in his ambition. “I really believe I was put on Earth to do more than play basketball and stockpile money,” he said. “I really want to help people improve their lives, and what’s left is for me to decide how best to do that.” Read more about this story here.

Erin Walsh|July 27th, 2006|Categories: NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards|

Test scores hit home, literally

Testing, testing, testing. Sometimes it seems like that’s all we ever hear. That and the housing bubble always seem to be hot topics these days. Who’da thunk the two might actually be related?

Sure, everyone knows that prospective home buyers frequently check out the school district into which they will be moving, but a new study out of Ohio State University last week indicates a correlation between proficiency test scores and home values.

“The study of Ohio school districts showed that an increase of about 20 percentage points in the proficiency test ‘pass rate’ increased house values in a district about 7 percent, even after taking into account other factors that impact house values.” Time to call a Realtor!

Donald Haurin, the study’s co-author noted, “If parents and residents are paying attention to test outcomes, and not a value-added approach, that means school boards need to pay attention to outcomes too. But focusing on test scores may not be the best way to achieve the goal of educating the students to the best of their abilities.”

BoardBuzz also found this article in the Saratoga (CA) News from 2001, which notes that high test scores are part of what affects home values in higher-priced regions like Saratoga. Realtor Nina Yamaguchi pointed out, “Even within a district you can see the difference in the value of homes. If one school has better test scores and is more desirable than another, the housing prices will reflect that value.”

Erin Walsh|July 26th, 2006|Categories: NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Student Achievement|

Here’s a life preserver for surfing the net

BoardBuzz found this interesting tidbit in the North Country Gazette about a new Web site aimed at keeping Florida‘s kids safe on the internet. Using information from a new poll about parents’ perceptions of their childrens’ safety, the site, which was unveiled last Wednesday, “contains such tips as not keeping a computer in a child’s bedroom where it’s hard to monitor, to monitor children’s email, online journal or personal page and to never give out identifying or personal information or post children’s photographs on public websites.”

The statewide poll conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research, indicated that

49% of parents (whose children use the Internet) allow their children to surf the Internet when they’re not home

14% of parents (whose children have access to a home computer) report the computer is in the child’s bedroom, the one place experts warn most against placing a computer

47% of parents incorrectly believe a child is more likely to be abducted by someone the child does not know, when in fact experts continue to warn that children are most likely to be abducted by persons already familiar to them

53% of parents said they are familiar with the chatroom codes their children might encounter, yet only 15% of those knew that the commonly used chat room code “A/S/L” stands for “Age/Sex/Location”

Supported by local, corporate and goverment sponsors, including the Florida School Boards Association, the Web site contains information, tips, and local resources for parents in Florida. Although BoardBuzz found the site informative and useful, not just for Floridians, but for any parent interested in keeping their children safe. We especially liked the Chat Room Dictionary page which TILII, translating all those word/symbol concoctions that are all the rage on the net. Now we’re SETE.

Erin Walsh|July 26th, 2006|Categories: NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Security|

ED takes off the gloves

From testing to teacher quality to school choice, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) has shifted from being flexible to heavy-handed in enforcing states’ compliance with the No Child Left Behind Act. This New York Times article reports that most states failed to meet NCLB’s major deadlines on standards and assessments as well as on highly qualified teachers. See this BoardBuzz item. ED has threatened states with substantial financial penalties for noncompliance.

What’s more, states said they have sensed an attitude change in ED, shifting from a partnership approach with states to a “mean-spirited, arbitrary and heavy-handed way,” Douglas Christensen, Nebraska’s education commissioner, told the NYT. Another relationship gone sour: Arizona sued ED in early July over testing flexibility for students with limited English proficiency. See this item.

Many other states such as Delaware and California are confused and frustrated about ED’s abrupt change in tone. These feelings are largely results of ED’s piecemeal attempt to fix the law by cutting deals with states. Now a comprehensive overhaul of the law should be in order. See this bill in Congress and BoardBuzz’s commentary.

Erin Walsh|July 25th, 2006|Categories: Elementary and Secondary Education Act, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Ed tech on the chopping block?

Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to fund Enhancing Education Technology (EETT) Grants at $272 million–the same allocation as FY 2006. The pending House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill (as voted out of committee on June 13), however, provides zero funding for the program.

What’s up? Congress originally included EETT as a core provision in NCLB in recognition of technology’s importance in addressing the law’s central goals and requirements and improving student achievement. Education technology plays an integral role in addressing math, science, and other educational gaps that lie at the heart of efforts to upgrade America’s competitiveness.

Funded at close to $700 million in FY 2004, the program has been decimated in recent years. However, federal leadership and investment are needed to enable our educational system to adopt modern methods and means–technology and e-learning–to remain not only effective, but even relevant, in a 21st century marked by innovation, technology, and globalization. As NSBA executive director Anne Bryant commented in February, “No matter if the world is flat or round, the United States must invest in the education of our children in order to produce global leaders. Schools are often the only place that our neediest children get access to technologically advanced learning. This is no time to cut funding for education technology.”

Both the House and Senate bills must still go to their respective floors for a vote, however, action is not anticipated on the controversial bills until after the November election. How politically convenient is that? If a disparity in the amount of funding remains after passage of the bills, a final appropriation for the program will be decided in conference.

NSBA is part of a coalition of nearly 30 education groups and high-tech companies, called the Mission Critical Campaign, that is urging Congress to restore EETT funding to at least its 2005 level of $496 million. Check out eSchoolNews coverage here.

Erin Walsh|July 24th, 2006|Categories: Educational Technology, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|
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