Articles from December, 2006

Happy Holidays

BoardBuzz wishes you and your family a wonderful holiday week! We’ll return on January 2.

Erin Walsh|December 25th, 2006|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Judge hands a victory to Los Angeles school board

Yesterday, a Superior Court judge gave Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa a beatdown in his attempt to take over the Los Angeles school system by throwing out legislation she deemed as unconstitutional. According to an LA Times report, the judge said the law, which would have taken effect January 1, “violated multiple provisions of the state Constitution and the Los Angeles City Charter.”

Apparently, that’s not stopping Villaraigosa or his pals, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state Assembly Speaker Fabian NuÃ?±ez, as they pledge to continue the fight for mayoral control. But Scott Plotkin, head of the California School Boards Association (CSBA), is cheering as he tells the LA Times:

“The constitutional protection of the public schools and their separation from other municipal authorities is what was embedded in the Constitution and approved by the people decades ago, and it was worth fighting for. We’re deeply grateful for the judge’s decision because there are a number of mayors who were looking at this very carefully and thinking, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to take over the school district.'”

Read CSBA’s analysis of the judge’s decision here , which also includes a link to the complete text of the decision. Read previous BoardBuzz coverage here and here.

Erin Walsh|December 22nd, 2006|Categories: School Boards, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Sharing their success

Attention school board members: Looking for a way to make sure news about your schools, including the successes, gets into the hands of your community and business leaders? Check out this partnership news between a California district and its chamber of commerce.

Erin Walsh|December 22nd, 2006|Categories: School Boards, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

UPDATE: Pledge event nets more coverage

The St. Petersburg Times has more on NSBA’s press event at which U.S. Representative-Elect Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) became the latest member of Congress to sign the Pledge to America’s Schoolchildren. Don’t let the Times’ web link fool you. The Pledge recap is there, but the editors think you might first want to read about the woman who drove a moped into a drain!

Erin Walsh|December 22nd, 2006|Categories: Educational Legislation, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

A lump of coal in their stockings…

…that’s what a bevy of pro-voucher groups and lawmakers should receive based on their latest antics.

Up first, the group that calls itself “All Children Matter” is in hot water over allegedly illegal PAC donations used to attack Wisconsin lawmakers in the recent elections. The state Elections Board will address the complaint next month. The pro-voucher group, the brainchild of Michigan multi-millionaires Dick and Betsy DeVos, started not long after Michigan voters rejected DeVos’s 2000 voucher proposal. Since then, the group has backed pro-voucher candidates for statehouse races across the country, attempting to get other states to do what their own state’s voters rejected.

One of those states is South Carolina, where the folly of trying to manufacture a grassroots movement in support of tuition tax credits continues to hit some bumps along the way. Great insider report from a local school board member in this month’s Rural Policy Matters from The Rural School and Community Trust. Gotta love the membership ID bit. That’s one way to bolster your membership numbers quickly.

Finally, Santa may want to skip the homes of several Ohio lawmakers after the Legislature, in the waning moments of what was essentially a lame-duck session before a new anti-voucher governor is sworn in, expanded the state’s fledgling school voucher program. The Toledo Blade’s lead notes the curious move given current low enrollment:

With three-quarters of Ohio’s 14,000 school vouchers left unused in the program’s inaugural year, lawmakers yesterday again expanded the pool of students eligible to apply.

The change makes students at more schools eligible to receive a voucher. More coverage from the Columbus Dispatch here. The expansion comes despite low interest, at least in this first year of the program, and no actual academic evidence from this or Cleveland’s voucher program suggesting it raises student achievement. Imagine medical decisions being made with such scant research. But hey, it’s only kids’ educations and millions in taxpayer money at stake, so the “we don’t need no stinking evidence” approach wins out. Go figure.

Erin Walsh|December 21st, 2006|Categories: Privatization, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Pledge to America’s Schoolchildren campaign makes big splash in Florida

Kudos to U.S. Representative-Elect Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) for becoming the latest to ink his name on the Pledge to America’s Schoolchildren, NSBA’s campaign encouraging members of Congress to commit to five fundamental goals in support of public schools. Bilirakis signed the Pledge this morning at a press event in Pinellas County, Florida, alongside local school board member and NSBA President Jane Gallucci.

Lots of media coverage, including Tampa’s FOX13 News. Watch Gallucci “interview” Bilirakis here.

More updates to follow on the press event.

Thanks also to Representative Bill Young (R-FL), another Floridian to recently sign the Pledge, which now has more than 60 members signed on.

School board members should continue talking to their representative and senators, encouraging them to sign the Pledge. Find out how here or here.

And track the campaign’s progress anytime at our website.

Erin Walsh|December 20th, 2006|Categories: Educational Legislation, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Tony Carnevale champions public education

“Tough Choices or Tough Times” is rearing its head again. BoardBuzz told you about the report from the National Center on Education and the Economy last week, here and here, and, as we suspected, the discussion is still raging. It was the cover story in Time magazine, for one thing, and it was covered here by U.S. News & World Report and has prompted editorials in the Boston Globe, Dallas Morning News and the New York Sun, as well as this op-ed in the Charleston Daily Mail.

Skills Commission member, Tony Carnevale has written a letter (via: Eduwonk) critical of the report, which defends school boards, school districts, teachers and unions. In short, Carnevale points out

I see no recognition, quantitative or qualitative, of what’s lost by setting aside these mass institutions embedded in local communities. The unions and school boards are steeped in democratic process. The school districts are the repository of administrative practice and the teachers bring the core professional knowledge and values that guide teaching and learning.

The American mass public school system is the unique historical amalgam of these forces. I don’t see how the narrow experience and offerings of a nascent education contracting industry substitutes for the current mix of democratic process, administrative practice and professional knowledge and values that these institution bring to the table. I see no evidence that the capabilities of the education contracting industry are up to the task at hand.

He goes on to compare the notion of “contract schools” as proposed in the report to charter schools. Carnevale vigorously defends teachers as well.

My other difficulty with this report is the common theme of bashing public school teachers. I owe too much to public school teachers not to object to their mistreatment. There are repeated references to the poor quality of American public school teachers, with no data offered as support.

According to the report, “We generally recruit teachers from among the least able high school students who go to college” (p.22). Teachers are “those who entered college with the lowest measured ability.” Apparently our current teachers don’t read a lot or well or write well, are uncomfortable with ideas and are not creative. In the future, the report says, we will need better teachers: “We will have to have teachers who write well, who read a lot and well and who are themselves good at mathematical reasoning. And we will need teachers who are very comfortable with ideas” (p.69). “When we invested hundreds of millions in curriculums that captured the key ideas in the disciplines, we failed to attract the teachers who were well enough educated — (not trained, educated) to teach it well” (p.71). Please.

You can read the entire letter here. BoardBuzz wants to hear what you have to say—leave a comment on this hot topic.

Erin Walsh|December 20th, 2006|Categories: Educational Legislation, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

A how-to for the 21st century

Time Magazine, yes, the same people who brought us ourselves as the “Person of the Year”, recently came out with an article touting “How to bring our schools out of the 20th Century.” BoardBuzz will forgive them for their cop-out of naming us (although we were flattered and are considering adding it to our resume) as Person of the Year, because the article offers some really interesting suggestions for updating the modern school.

The article criticizes the “big public conversation the nation is not having about education, the one that will ultimately determine not merely whether some fraction of our children get ‘left behind’ but also whether an entire generation of kids will fail to make the grade in the global economy because they can’t think their way through abstract problems, work in teams, distinguish good information from bad or speak a language other than English,” and goes on to criticize the competency required by NCLB as “the meager minimum.”

Fine. And the article actually offers solutions for what needs to change, including: making students into “global citizens,” learning a foreign language and foreign history; interdisciplinary learning and “thinking outside the box”; being able to process and digest the sources that are coming at them from all directions–this is the information age, after all; and becoming students with high EQs (that’s emotional intelligence) as well as high IQs.

And there are innovative schools and teachers who are tackling these tasks head on. For example, a second grade class as John Stanford International School in Seattle challenges students to name how many ways you can combine nickels dimes and pennies to get 20 cents. All students at the school take some classes in either Japanese or Spanish. “Stanford international shows what’s possible for a public elementary school, although it has the rare advantage of support from corporations like Nintendo and Starbucks, which contribute to its $1.7 million-a-year budget.”

Farmington High School in Michigan has an engineering-technology department that “functions like an engineering firm, with teachers as project managers, a Ford Motor Co. engineer as a consultant and students working in teams. The principles of calculus, physics, chemistry, and engineering are taught through activities,” and results in kids who “learn to apply academic principles to the real world, think strategically, and solve problems.”

It sounds like we can all take a lesson from these innovative programs. Do you know of a 21st century program? Leave a comment and tell us about it.

Erin Walsh|December 19th, 2006|Categories: Curriculum, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

UPDATE: Tough choices

Yesterday, BoardBuzz told you about the new report from the National Center on Education and the Economy, “Tough Choices or Tough Times.”

Today The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, and The Arkansas Times blog have picked up the story, quoting NSBA’s Executive Director, Anne L. Bryant.

In the Post, Bryant noted that “hiring contractors to run the schools would create ‘a huge new set of enterprises that we have no evidence will work.’ Moreover, it would negate the administrative economies of scale provided by a central office and ‘add a great deal of costs to a school,’ she said. ‘We’ve seen that to an extent with charter schools.'”

The CSM reported:

Anne Bryant, executive director of the National School Boards Association, says she applauds the goals and some recommendations, but worries that the financial aspects don’t add up. Decentralized school districts would weaken the system, Dr. Bryant says.

“It’s a groundbreaking report, but how much ground can you afford to break before you start rattling what’s really working in order to fix what is not?” she asks. “There’s a leap of faith here in about 10 different areas.”

And the Arkansas blog quoted the Post’s piece, which has sparked some spirited remarks on their site, including this one from commenter Archaeopteryx, “It’s time to turn our most precious resource—our children—over to the lowest bidder. It’s time to entrust the future of our country to the same people who gave us New Coke, clear Pepsi, Three-Mile Island, global warming, and Bhopal. It’s time for us to give over our educational system to people whose motivation is not love of children or respect for knowledge, but instead is worship of the almighty dollar and the ability to see that what’s important isn’t tomorrow or next year or the next decade, but the bottom line this year, this quarter, right now.”

What’s your opinion? Weigh in with your comments on the subject.

Erin Walsh|December 15th, 2006|Categories: School Boards, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

New report from business proposes new K-12 system

Providing high quality, universal early childhood education, targeting more dollars to disadvantaged students, and increasing teacher salaries are among the more agreeable recommendations in a report being released today that will surely stir the pot of conversation about how to improve our schools. Tough Choices or Tough Times “covers a wide swath of territory and asks readers to assume a great leap of faith in adopting its recommendations,” said NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant in reaction to the report.

The National Center on Education and the Economy’s report also recommends, ahem, the wholesale dismantling of school board governance and district operations, and replacing it with autonomous schools that are run by independent contracting firms owned by teachers. The primary role of central offices would be to write performance contracts with the operators of these schools, monitor their operations, and find better providers if they do not perform well.

The report also recommends a new testing scheme that will determine whether 16-year-olds can be sent to a two-year community college or technical school with hopes of transferring into a four-year state college. Students who score high can stay in high school to prepare for a second exam that will admit entrance into a selective college or university.

There is a recognition by the authors that schools need to move toward teaching and testing around creativity, innovation, facility with the use of ideas and abstractions, and the ability to function as a team. Tom Friedman reviewed the recommendations in his New York Times column noting, “Economics is not like war. It can be a win-win. But the ones who flourish most will be those who develop the best broad-based education system, to have the most doing and designing the most things we can’t even imagine today.”

Read more NSBA reaction here, commentary by the Christian Science Monitor here and early coverage by Education Week here.

What’s your take on these recommendations? Let us know by sending a comment.

Erin Walsh|December 14th, 2006|Categories: School Boards, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|
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