Articles from May, 2007

Summer days, driftin’ away

BoardBuzz will be enjoying a few days off this week while we fire up the grill, grab a glass o’ lemonade, and dangle our toes in the pool. In the meantime, we invite you to browse our archives while we’re away. Look for us tanned, well rested, and ready to write on June 4.

Erin Walsh|May 29th, 2007|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Virtual graduation

Little Johnny’s graduating in Houston, but Grandma is in Denver. How will she ever be able to see this momentous occasion? With new technology, it’s a piece of cake.

It didn’t take much of an investment — just an inexpensive cable, a borrowed video camera and some free software — for Aldine [Texas] to join the growing ranks of school districts that allow friends and family to watch graduation ceremonies from the comfort of their own homes.

“Gradcasts,” as some techies call them, allow viewers to watch live streaming video of the ceremonies without the nightmares of parking, uncomfortable stadium seats and long restroom lines. The Web-based technology is catching on among some school districts who say it costs next to nothing to offer the extra service to students’ families. Some districts have even started webcasting sporting events and pre-kindergarten graduations. School plays and open houses aren’t far behind.

Now there’s no need for long-distance loved ones to miss a minute of the fun. Read more about it here.

Erin Walsh|May 25th, 2007|Categories: Educational Technology, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

NCLB newsflash

South Carolina Superintendent Jim Ray is taking the state’s message about No Child Left Behind to the media this week. Ray, who is the superintendent of Spartanburg School District 3 was asked to fill in by State Superintendent of Education Jim Rex, who was travelling.

Ray, who shares the same feelings as Rex about NCLB, will appear on CBS Evening News next week.

“I have a great deal of experience with accountability systems, and I am in a position to defend our high standards,” Ray said as he prepared for the CBS interview at the entrance of Cowpens Elementary. “I guess (Rex) felt like I would not be afraid to say my peace.”

Wallace’s story will focus on the discrepancies in proficiency standards under No Child Left Behind, and how scores from state standardized tests are typically much higher for most states than their scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The NAEP is widely considered the only fair comparison to measure standardized student scores from state to state.

And because the standard of proficiency is so high in South Carolina, and that bar increases every year, it appears that schools aren’t improving.

Ray said the high-punitive, but low-rewarding NCLB system causes teachers to quickly get burnt out and dispirited.

“South Carolina has chosen to implement rigorous standards, and we’re catching both sides of a double-edged sword,” he said.

“In South Carolina, we’re not interested in lowering our standards. We’re interested in the feds stopping and taking a look at this and realizing that we need to create a uniform standard of proficiency across the country.”

Check your local listings for broadcast information.

Erin Walsh|May 25th, 2007|Categories: Elementary and Secondary Education Act, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

From street kid to neat kid

D.J. Graffee made BoardBuzz‘s day today, with this story about how he went from being a tough street kid to the elementary student of the year in the Decatur City Schools in Alabama. The article says:

For much of his life, he was a cocky kid who didn’t need any adults to look after him or tell him what to do. He was always in and out of schools in his small town outside of Jackson, Miss. He spent a lot of times out on the streets.

At one point, he slept in a trash bin to stay warm.

With his mother in jail and nobody to look after him, D.J.’s cousin took him in. With her efforts and those of the school district, he’s flourishing.

After continued support from his family and his teachers, Graffree’s attitude slowly began to turn. Instead of garnering attention through acts of disrespect, he began to get noticed for positive things.

He won an anti-smoking poster contest at school, began tutoring kindergarten students, and started raising his hand in class.

His teachers cannot say enough good things about the turnaround in D.J.

Administrators and teachers at Somerville Road agree. In a letter they drafted to the administrators who chose the student of the year, they wrote “As we write this in early April, we are tempted to check his (D.J.’s) fingerprints to make sure we’re talking about the same kid. And we are, and we have begun to see D.J. not for what he was, but for who he is becoming. And that is a delight.”

BoardBuzz is delighted to hear stories like D.J.’s, which prove that schools can make a difference in every student’s life, no matter how difficult the circumstances. Congratulations D.J.!

Erin Walsh|May 23rd, 2007|Categories: Student Achievement, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Driven to disruption

BoardBuzz was intrigued by this story out of Seattle which adds fuel to the ongoing debate over student speech versus classroom disruption. We’ve covered the story here, before.

This particular case involves another teacher captured through video magic and posted on MySpace.

It was a sophomoric online video criticizing the hygiene of a teacher that was at issue in U.S. District Court on Monday, when Gregory Requa, a senior at Kentridge High School, asked a judge to order the lifting of his 40-day school suspension for his supposed involvement in producing and posting the video.

Requa’s lawyer, Jeannette Cohen, said the teen didn’t produce the video — taken in an English classroom at Kentridge. But even if he did, his suspension is a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech, she argued in court.

BoardBuzz begs to differ. The issue here is not about free speech, it’s about disruption … hello? What were the students supposed to be doing in class that day? Presumably not videotaping their teacher and speculating about her hygiene habits. One wonders whether the students are at all concerned about the possibility that they may have defamed the teacher.

BoardBuzz would bristle at untrue allegations about our virtual hygiene. All this talk of allegations and lawsuits reminds us of the legal definition of slander: the malicious publication of an untruth. Wethinks this exists here.

Erin Walsh|May 23rd, 2007|Categories: School Law, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

UPDATE: Counsel urges collaborate, not litigate

BoardBuzz told you yesterday about the Supreme Court ruling in Winkelman v. Parma City School District that says parents do not need lawyers to represent their children in special education cases in federal court.

Understandably, the story got a lot of coverage yesterday. Click here to read and listen to National Public Radio’s story, which features NSBA General Counsel Francisco Negrón‘s take on the decision. Negrón noted that school boards are concerned that “parents will see this an open gate to litigate rather than collaborate. That would be a shame because IDEA has always been about collaboration.” Read more from the Associated Press here.

Erin Walsh|May 22nd, 2007|Categories: School Law, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Spellings and Stewart: let the feathers fly

Here’s the video if you missed it.
If you still want some entertainment this evening after the drama of American Idol and Dancing With the Stars passes, why not tune in to what’s sure to be a treat on tonight’s episode of the Daily Show? Our old pal Maggie Spellings (aka the Secretary of Education) will go head to head with Jon Stewart in a, uh, meeting of the minds.

Interestingly, according to this article in USA Today, Spellings has been a tough guest to get on the show.

“She actually is a guest that we’ve been trying to book for a long time,” says executive producer David Javerbaum, who jokes that Spellings’ appearance is “the ultimate admission of defeat for education.”

Producers first asked Spellings last fall about appearing on the show that runs on cable’s Comedy Central. Her spokeswoman, Katherine McLane, says the timing worked out for tonight’s taping because Spellings appears today at a conference in New York.

BoardBuzz will be anxious to see if she says anything of substance, or just maintains the same fingers-in-ears, la-la-la stance she did at NSBA’s FRN Conference earlier this year. The show airs at 11 p.m. ET on Comedy Central.

Erin Walsh|May 22nd, 2007|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

It will be parents’ day in federal court

The Supreme Court ruled today in the case Winkelman v. Parma City School District that parents do not need lawyers to represent their children in special education cases in federal court. See story in the Washington Post.

NSBA along with the Ohio School Boards Association and several administrator organizations, including the American Association of School Administrators, filed a friend-of-the-court brief this spring urging the Court to rule that non-lawyer parents should not be able to proceed in federal court pro se (meaning parents should not represent their child in federal court). In a 7-2 ruling, the court found the IDEA extended substantive rights to parents, which permitted them to bring their own suits in federal court. But, the decision left unanswered many questions, which are sure to befuddle many in the public school community.

BoardBuzz understands the high court was concerned about shutting parents out of their proverbial day in court, but we also wonder whether the interests of justice, let alone students, will truly be served by permitting non-lawyers to litigate complex federal cases with nary a law license in sight. Since special education cases often amount to a battle of the experts, will parents not versed in the nuances of examining witness be able to elicit the kind of information that a court needs to decide what’s in the best interest of a special needs child? And, what about those parents with limited education? Are they at a disadvantage? How far will federal courts go in making sure a non-lawyer parent represents his/her child adequately?

BoardBuzz is not insensitive to the need for parents to advocate zealously for their children. But, while it may seem fair to allow parents his or her day in court, the more important question is, is it fair to the child? We can only hope this does not mean increased demands on our already burdened court system and greater costs to the ever-shrinking school district purse.

Erin Walsh|May 21st, 2007|Categories: School Law, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Ed groups push for joint NCLB changes

School board members, superintendents, principals and teachers may not always agree with each other on issues affecting schools and students, but when it comes to No Child Left Behind, reaching a consensus is not hard to come by.

Six of the nation’s top education groups, including the National School Boards Association, jointly urged Congress to reauthorize NCLB to focus on five major areas of change:

• A redesign of the federal accountability framework to improve public schools rather than abandon them.
• Valid, reliable, unbiased assessment systems that are aligned with state standards.
• Maximum flexibility for states and school districts to address the assessment and learning needs of English language learners and students with disabilities.
• Helpful interventions tailored to the needs of schools and communities rather than the current system of punitive sanctions.
• Determination of the qualifications of principals, teachers, and other education professionals by states and local school districts.

These recommendations are results of educators’ experience with the law over the last five years. They are not aimed at altering the goals of NCLB; in fact they are necessary to preserve those goals. These recommendations will lead to better implementation, adequate funding, targeted resources and interventions — all of which are essential to driving sustainable reform and improving student achievement.

Read the complete statement here and NSBA’s press release here.

Erin Walsh|May 17th, 2007|Categories: Elementary and Secondary Education Act, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

NSBA gives back

NSBA’s Secretary-Treasurer Sonny Savoie poses with
celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse at the event in New
NSBA joined the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau (CCTB), its hotel community, and two other organizations that relocated their conventions to Chicago to present nearly $900,000 to the New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity and the University of New Orleans’ Lester E. Kabacoff School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Administration.

When NSBA relocated its 2006 conference to Chicago, the Chicago hotel community offered to raise money to assist its colleagues in New Orleans affected by the storm as well as to help in the efforts to rebuild the New Orleans tourism industry. The money was raised when the Chicago hotels agreed to set aside a portion of each hotel room night sold from the relocated conventions of NSBA and the two other organizations.

“NSBA remains committed to the national effort to help rebuild and revitalize New Orleans,” said Anne Bryant, NSBA’s executive director. “When the CCTB and hotels offered us this opportunity to relocate our conference as well as to give back to the New Orleans community, we were thrilled. Being able to support the renewal of the city is something we couldn’t pass up.”

Of the $900,000 dollars raised, a total of $447,800 will go to the University to fund 48 four-year scholarships. The check was presented at celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse‘s restaurant, as he has been a constant supporter of the efforts to rebuild New Orleans.

Sonny Savoie, NSBA’s secretary-treasurer, who attended the event, noted, “As a resident of St. Charles Parish, so close to New Orleans, this gift from an organization that I represent to a city that I love, is especially touching. I’m proud that NSBA has made a commitment to the revival of this great city, and I hope that we’ll continue to support New Orleans as it recovers from Hurricane Katrina.”

The remaining balance of $447,800 was also presented to the New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity during a visit to Musicians Village. The funds will be used to build six homes for partner families from the hospitality industry that have been displaced by the storm. Construction on the homes is expected to begin within the next six months.

You can see additional photographs from this event by clicking here. For more of BoardBuzz‘s coverage of Hurricane Katrina, click here, here, here, here, and here.

Erin Walsh|May 17th, 2007|Categories: Crisis Management, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|
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