Articles from April, 2007

Game On: Utah officials certify signatures, voucher law to be put to a vote

Congratulations to Utah’s public school advocates, including the Utah School Boards Association, for making Utah history by securing more than enough signatures to put the state’s new voucher program on the ballot for a public vote. State officials announced more than 124,000 verified signatures today. The governor reportedly will set the referendum election to coincide with the state’s presidential primary in February 2008.

Detailed info from Utahns for Public Schools here. Coverage from the Deseret Morning News here and Salt Lake Tribune here.

And since nothing in the controversial world of vouchers is ever easy, check out this column from a Utah state senator about the confusion over the state’s originally passed voucher law, the second law that offered amendments, and how state officials should view the public’s vote.

BoardBuzz background on the petition drive here.

Erin Walsh|April 30th, 2007|Categories: NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Privatization|

Something to talk about

Our friends at Education Week hosted an interesting chat earlier today on high-stakes testing and its effects on students. Sharon L. Nichols and David C. Berliner, co-authors of a new book called Collateral Damage: How High-Stakes Testing Corrupts America’s Schools, answered a number of questions that BoardBuzz thinks are on many minds as this year’s testing season enters high gear.

One fourth grade special ed teacher laments “the pressure to test these students with grade level tests and without modifications. I feel that the negative impact on self worth is huge when they are told that guessing answers is more important (this is what students must do when they are reading 2 years below grade level and can’t read the lengthy passages that are part of the elementary tests).”

Responds Nichols: “We suspect special education students’ sense of motivation, self esteem, and confidence are being seriously harmed by high-stakes tests. It simply makes no sense to put these kids in this position. One reason is that the test ends up not being valid–doesn’t represent what they know or don’t know well at all. But, as you point, out, this has serious consequences for the dispositions and attitudes of our students.”

Nichols later clarifies the book’s stance on testing: “We argue that we are not anti testing. Standardized tests–when they are constructed well and have appropriate validity and reliability–are incredibly valuable for providing information about students and the nature of the curricula that is being taught. But, it is only when stakes are attached to them, that tests become questionable.”

To read more, check out the Ed Week archives here (free registration required).

Erin Walsh|April 30th, 2007|Categories: Elementary and Secondary Education Act, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Big bucks for Ed in ’08

Yesterday the multibillion dollar duo of Eli Broad and Bill Gates teamed up to create the Strong American Schools campaign through the work of their respective Eli and Edythe Broad and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations. Together they pledged to spend $60 million. That’s right. You heard BoardBuzz right — $60 MILLION over the next 18 months for the sole purpose of making education the hot topic among the presidential wannabes. The campaign will feature TV and radio spots in key battleground states to push three major education themes 1) American Education Standards 2) Providing Effective Teachers in Every Classroom and 3) Giving Students More Time and Support for Learning.

BoardBuzz certainly agrees with the billion dollar moguls that education must once again take its place atop the national policy agenda. Whether school board members will rally around their priorities remains to be seen.

For now, though, we want to point out some issues with some of the ways they characterize the problem on the campaign’s website www.edin08.com. Beyond the bold claim that “Today’s students are losing out,” the site reports state-by-state data as well as some nationwide measures. Since BoardBuzz is not so good with numbers we had our friends at The Center for Public Education take a look at the data and provide their thoughts.

The Center could not track down where all the data came from, (Is it too much to ask for sources??), but they did find the numbers were fairly consistent with other measures of similar indicators. However, the Center wanted to remind Bill and Eli to read their guide to high school graduation rates. If they had, they would have known that just because a student doesn’t graduate from high school in four years with a regular diploma doesn’t mean he or she is necessarily a dropout. The student may have graduated in five years, graduated with a certificate of completion/attendance or even earned a GED. Instead of the 25 percent or 1.1 million students the site claims dropout each year, the number is likely more in line with the 10 percent or approximately 500,000 dropouts per year reported by the Department of Education. BoardBuzz is well aware that 500,000 dropouts are still way too many but exaggerating the problem doesn’t help to solve it. However, the Center also offers guidance on things that do help in its drop out prevention research review.

So here’s a qualified BoardBuzz shout out to Bill and Eli for attempting to put education on the campaign map. And remember to watch your numbers.

Erin Walsh|April 26th, 2007|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

The shot heard ’round the world

BoardBuzz is agog. Yes, you heard it, agog. How else can we react to Newt Gingrich’s remark promoting more guns on campus? In the wake of increasing incidents of gun violence at schools across the country from Columbine to Red Lake to Virginia Tech, it is amazing that some people insist guns belong on campus and apparently in the classroom. The United Kingdom’s online newspaper Guardian Unlimited (yes, this one was heard the world over, folks) quotes our former House Speaker as saying, “In states where people have been allowed to have concealed weapons, in Mississippi and Kentucky, there have been incidents of this kind of a killer who was stopped because in fact, people who are law-abiding, people who are rational and people who are responsible had the ability to stop them.” And, he said it on national TV! Right on This Week with George Stephanopoulos!

And Gingrich isn’t the first to espouse vigilante justice. Back in March, BoardBuzz got wind of this story of Nevada State Senator Bob Beers’ proposed legislation that would put guns in the hands of “trained teachers” in order to prevent violence at schools. Yeah, that’ll work.

And, so, BoardBuzz wonders how anyone can still believe that the availability of more guns, especially on school campuses anywhere, decreases rather than increases violence involving those very implements. Espousing the kind of vigilantism that Mr. Gingrich seems to be suggesting is contrary to the very notion of a civilized society in which the public square (or school campus) is secured by the rule of law and our value in civil order rather than the holsters on our hips.

Erin Walsh|April 25th, 2007|Categories: NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Security|

A night to remember

It sounds like a page out of 1964. But this article from CNN.com details how students at Turner County (Georgia) High School attended the first ever integrated prom this past weekend. The school, located south of Atlanta, has always held two separate proms, one for black students and one for white students. No more. The senior class voted to have just one prom this year, a move that was wholeheartedly supported by the school’s principal, Chad Stone.

“It’s been a dream of all of ours,” Senior Class President James Hall said.

“We didn’t want to put emphasis on integrated blacks and whites coming together. We just wanted to put emphasis on this was our first school prom,” Principal Chad Stone said.

The theme of the first official prom: Breakaway.

“It was fitting already because we are breaking away from the past traditions here in Turner County School,” Hall said.

Another tradition that ended this year — having two separate homecoming queens.

“You pick the homecoming queen for their personalities and being a role model,” explained Roshunda Pierce, 16, as she waited to get her nails done for prom.

In the past, two queens were chosen — one white, one black.

Interestingly, the “white prom” was still held.

Nichole Royal, 18, said black students could have gone to the prom, but didn’t.

“I guess they feel like they’re not welcome,” she said.

Nichols said while her parents were in support of the integrated prom, some of her friends weren’t allowed to go.

“If they’re not coming tonight it’s because either they had to work and they couldn’t get out of it or because their parents are still having an issue because they grew up in south Georgia,” she said.

There were mixed feelings about the integrated prom, including some in the community who called it “fake” because it didn’t necessarily mean that the white and black students were all on board, especially in light of the white prom continuing to take place. But Superintendent Ray Jordan summed it up best, “If I could write this story it would be a story of celebration of students making a difference for themselves and for future students. I believe they wanted to leave their mark, and I certainly believe they’ve done that.”

Erin Walsh|April 24th, 2007|Categories: NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Student Achievement|

BoardBuzz returns with heavy heart

We’re back from our road trip to San Francisco for the NSBA Annual Conference where we shared four days of learning and networking with 14,000 of our closest friends. By all accounts, it was one of the best ever. For the conference 411, check out our on-site blog here.

However, BoardBuzz was deeply saddened by the horrific tragedy at Virginia Tech last Monday and thousands of conference attendees observed a moment of silence in honor of those who lost their lives. Clearly, Virginia Tech is the watershed moment for higher education institutions to rethink and redraft their security plans to better protect and communicate with their students and faculty. And it may mean that they review their applicant screening process as suggested by one Washington Post columnist here.

Just as the Columbine tragedy sent an unnerving wakeup call to K-12 systems across the country, this event will have the same reverberating effects for our higher ed colleagues. Sadly, we learned valuable lessons from the events that unfolded at Columbine High School and since then, our public schools are much better prepared to handle such a possibility.

But, college campuses are far different than closed public school campuses as noted by Post columnist David Broder: “The buildings, sidewalks and grassy areas on campus are as open to interlopers as their classrooms are to freely expressed ideas. The notion of closing down either the campus or the expression of ideas goes against the grain. It violates the whole spirit of the place.” Read more of his thoughts here.

For an insider’s look at the media coverage of the tragedy, or “the fine line between of covering a story and becoming voyeuristic,” as one put it, click here. But apparently citizen journalists won the day as the New York Times deemed Wikipedia (yes, the online encyclopedia) as the best news site with “a polished, detailed article on the massacre, with more than 140 separate footnotes, as well as sidebars that profiled the shooter and a timeline of the attacks.”

Erin Walsh|April 23rd, 2007|Categories: NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards|

We left our hearts . . .

. . . in San Francisco. BoardBuzz is off to the City by the Bay for NSBA’s Annual Conference. We’ll be back April 23 with our regularly scheduled programming. Until then, please visit our Annual Conference Blog to learn about all the happenings at the conference, and feel just like you’re there!

Erin Walsh|April 13th, 2007|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Join Two Online Discussions on Student Drug Testing and Urban School Climate

BoardBuzz wants to remind you about our online discussions (we told you about them here), which will be taking place during NSBA’s Annual Conference. Be sure to log in on Sunday at Sunday, April 15, at 6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT. when NSBA Staff Attorney Lisa Soronen will discuss student drug testing. The second discussion will take place on Monday, April 16, at 3:30 p.m. ET/12:30 p.m. PT, with Dr. Brian Perkins, who will discuss urban school climate.

You can view Sunday’s discussion (and leave questions) here. Check out Monday’s discussion and ask a question here.

Erin Walsh|April 12th, 2007|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Utah update: And the people shall vote

Utah’s voters will get the opportunity to vote to keep or repeal the state’s newly created universal private school voucher program after public school advocates reportedly were successful in securing enough signatures to put the issue on a public ballot. The Utahns for Public Schools coalition, which includes the Utah School Boards Association, says it collected more than 131,000 signatures, well above the required 92,000. County and state officials will certify the signatures and then Governor Jon Hunstman, Jr. will set a date for the referendum, which reportedly may not occur until the 2008 primary or general election.

Whenever the referendum occurs, it will mark a new chapter in the long-running, highly contentious school voucher debate. While voters have had opportunities to directly weigh in on vouchers in the past, and have overwhelmingly rejected the concept every single time, this will be the first vote on an existing law, though the program is unlikely to be operating yet. And with a smaller population and media markets than the two states with the most recent voucher referenda (California and Michigan), expect the airwaves to be saturated early and often with ads and messaging from both sides, including deep pocketed groups and individuals from outside Utah.

Excellent recap from the Deseret Morning News here, while the Salt Lake Tribune calls the law “misbegotten” and “unpopular”, and gives a look ahead to the pending campaigns. More background here and here.

Erin Walsh|April 10th, 2007|Categories: NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Privatization|

Join Two Online Discussions on Student Drug Testing and Urban School Climate

As more schools move towards random student drug testing, school districts find themselves in an interesting dilemma. What should policies cover in drug testing students? How far can a school go to keep its students safe, yet protect their privacy? Find out to navigate through the quagmire by tuning into NSBA‘s online discussion on the legal implications of student drug testing. The discussion will take place during NSBA’s Annual Conference, Sunday, April 15, at 6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT. NSBA Staff Attorney Lisa Soronen will provide expert information and answer your questions. Plan to join the discussion during the live hour or post your questions now.

Another factor that is critical to the success of our students is school climate. In a recent groundbreaking study, “Where We Teach,” by NSBA’s Council of Urban Boards of Education (see previous BoardBuzz coverage here), teachers and administrators candidly expressed their perceptions on safety, expectations for student success, professional judgment, parent involvement, and bullying. Principal Investigator and CUBE Chair Dr. Brian K. Perkins will share why all schools need to pay attention to school climate and will discuss the study’s most important findings on Monday, April 16, at 3:30 p.m. ET/12:30 p.m. PT. Plan to join the discussion during the live hour or post your questions now.

Erin Walsh|April 9th, 2007|Categories: NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards, Teachers, Wellness|
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