Articles from June, 2008

Much ado about D.C. vouchers

Lots happening with the only federally funded private school voucher program. Today a House appropriations subcommittee will vote on the Washington, D.C. appropriations bill that could include an increase to $18 million for the city’s private school voucher program. That program, created as a 5-year pilot program, is set to expire in September and reauthorization of it is unlikely. However, President Bush wants to increase funding for it, while the city’s lone Congressional Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton opposes continuing it. See her column from today’s Washington Post.

Meantime, the latest research on the program, despite the U.S. Department of Education’s attempt to spin it otherwise, again finds no overall differences in academic achievement between students using vouchers and their public school peers in Washington. The full 174-page report can be found here.

As NSBA told Education Week, “The key finding is that there are no statistically significant differences overall in academic achievement between the two groups of students. This is the second straight year in a row with those findings. The alleged rationale for the program was improved student achievement. The voucher program, like others before it, has come up short.”

Despite proponents’ spin, the report’s executive summary does not bury the lead. It’s right there in the first point of the executive summary: “After 2 years, there was no statistically significant difference in test scores in general between students who were offered an OSP scholarship and students who were not offered a scholarship. Overall, those in the treatment and control groups were performing at comparable levels in mathematics and reading.”

Washington Post coverage is here.

NSBA’s letter to the subcommittee is here. And for more on this and other Hill activity this week, check out NSBA’s Advocacy highlights.

Erin Walsh|June 17th, 2008|Categories: Educational Legislation, Privatization, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Checking in with education leaders

For the past couple of months, BoardBuzz has commended the Learning First Alliance for their engaging interviews with education professionals, leaders, and celebrities that help to keep us up-to-date on the most recent education news. Now, we are reliving the excitement as Public School Insights has recently added the transcripts from the interviews we have enjoyed so much.

If you missed them the first time, take a minute and read about these interesting developments that Public School Insights has shared:

Best-selling author Dave Eggers tells us about his plans for a documentary on the professional lives of teachers;

Teacher Simon Hauger describes how he and his students at urban West Philadelphia High School created the world’s first high-performance hybrid car;

World-record breaking polar explorer Will Steger talks about the importance of environmental education

Fitness guru Richard Simmons shares his plan to get physical education into American public schools

Principal Tamala Newsome tells us about her groundbreaking green public school in Portland.

BoardBuzz is happy to enjoy them again and hopes you find the time to check them out and share what you think. Special thanks to the Learning First Alliance for always keeping us informed!

Erin Walsh|June 17th, 2008|Categories: Announcements, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Student leaders leading

Our friends at the National Association of Secondary School Principals and the National Association of Student Councils are gearing up for a big meeting next week. The NASC National Conference will be held in Ft. Worth, for more than 1,000 student leaders.

According to a press release that BoardBuzz received about the event,

Students will participate in community service projects, team-building activities and various workshops to help enhance their abilities to effectively utilize their voices as student leaders.

One of the highlights of this year’s four and a half day conference will be a mass Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) training of the student leaders conducted by local nurses, firemen, EMTs, military personnel and a host of other emergency responders, including staff from the Greater Dallas chapter of the American Heart Association. Proper administration of CPR can help save the life of an individual suffering from cardiac arrest. This training will empower students with the skills that they may one day need to answer such a call to action.

During the event-filled conference, students will also get some political insight from Ken Walsh, one of the country’s top political writers and Young Republicans and Young Democrats from universities in the Greater Dallas/Fort Worth area. Walsh, the chief White House correspondent for U.S. News and World Report, has covered the presidency, presidential campaigns and national politics since 1986. Students will participate in a mock presidential election on Saturday.

Sounds like a great opportunity to us! Are student leaders from your district heading to Texas to participate in the conference? Leave a comment and tell us about it.

Erin Walsh|June 16th, 2008|Categories: Student Achievement, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

What ever happened to “A job well done is its own reward?”

And why does BoardBuzz sound like someone’s mom? This isn’t entirely new– we’ve all gotten some candy or a pizza party at school for work well done or reaching a goal in the classroom, haven’t we? Call BoardBuzz a Grinch, but maybe some places are going too far by rewarding what should be an expectation– that all students do their very best…

According to NPR this morning (and an article we saw as well), “Schools, under pressure to boost student achievement, are offering more frequent, tangible incentives to motivate students. At the KIPP DC KEY Academy in Washington, D.C., students are rewarded on Fridays at the Academy for behaving well, doing their homework or making academic gains. Rewards include “paychecks”, which can be used at the school’s store for genuine items, and wearing jeans on Fridays.

In New York, about 5,500 students can earn money for getting good test scores. The program is open to fourth-graders, who can earn up to $250 a year, and seventh-graders, who can end the year with $500 in the bank. “We’ll soon give out over $1 million to fourth- and seventh-graders this year,” said Roland Fryer, a Harvard University economist leading the experiment. He said he is happy with the results so far.”

Proponents and opponents both, what do you think? Should financial incentives, real or imagined, play a role in the student achievement struggle.?

Erin Walsh|June 16th, 2008|Categories: Governance, Student Achievement, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Taking Learning to New Heights…

From the top of the Space Needle in Seattle, WA you can see a beautiful panorama view of downtown Seattle, Puget Sound, and Mt. Rainer. The clear bird’s eye view allows you a unique peek into the large multi-faceted city.

This year at T+L you will have the same unique opportunity to explore education technology from a new and fresh perspective. NSBA’s Technology Leadership Network brings you smarter connections for 21st century learning at this year’s T+L conference. With a focus on 21st Century education this year, T+L will explore what encompasses and challenges education today as well as tomorrow for our children.

National and state leaders in education gather with school districts, administrators, educators, and school board members from around the country to share their stories, expertise, and vision for education. Setting the tone for the conference are visionaries Paul Saffo and Joe Carusso and industry leader David Warlick. With the though provoking insight and foresight these experts will open the dialogue on education in a changing world. School district and exhibitor workshops will help to elaborate on the best practices around the country and the creative use of technology to enhance and advance learning environments for students.

T+L 2008 will focus on 21st century learning with sessions focused on these hot issues:
S.T.E.M. Initiatives
One-to-One Learning
Open Source Solutions
Social Networking & Web 2.0 tools
Educational Games & Simulation

Please join us this fall in Seattle Washington for the only education technology conference in the country designed for the school leadership team. Understanding that it takes a team to envision, motivate, and implement change we provide programming and content across the spectrum to provide an enriching learning opportunity for all attendees.

Erin Walsh|June 16th, 2008|Categories: Student Achievement, T+L|

Where’s it gonna go?

As the gas meter began to approach the $50 mark, I groused about having to make the hour’s drive to a family function yesterday. With the cost of fuel averaging just above $4 a gallon in the Washington Metro area, the spike in gas prices has hit my pocketbook and altered my driving habits. I couldn’t help but wonder how school districts — responsible for transporting millions of students each day — are faring.

Let’s take a look.

In the Seattle area, where diesel fuel is currently at about $5 a gallon, school districts tried to offset the increase by allocating more money to transportation costs. The Auburn and the Northshore school districts both funneled about a quarter of a million dollars extra into their fuel budget midway through the year. But it wasn’t enough.

Northshore had to nix eight routes last year and has plans to pare down after-school and extracurricular activity routes. Meanwhile, Auburn is making students walk farther in tandem with creating safer walking routes.

In Colorado, Boulder Valley School District officials instituted cost saving measures like idle-reduction methods at bus stops and schools, and they have combed through all of its routes to make sure buses are running as efficiently as possible. The district has also discussed making families pay for transportation services and eliminating some service, but hasn’t made any moves in either direction … yet.

“We anticipated some of this, and because of previous planning we’re not hurting yet,” Bob Young, the district’s transportation director, told the Daily Camera. “The real question is, ‘Where’s it gonna go?’”

Naomi Dillon, Senior Editor

Kathleen Vail|June 16th, 2008|Categories: Governance, Budgeting, American School Board Journal|

NSBA supports bill to suspend NCLB sanctions

NSBA has worked with Rep. Sam Graves, R-MO to introduce H.R. 6239, which would suspend NCLB sanctions on schools and school districts for a year. Tim Walz, D-MN, is a cosponsor. Given that Congress fails to reauthorize the bill this year, H.R 6239 is a critical bill to make sure schools do not continue to be subject to mislabeling and costly sanctions which have not been proven effective. NCLB’s accountability system needs to be overhauled completely; see NSBA‘s recommendations here. Meanwhile Graves’ bill provides an interim solution that is needed to stop NCLB sanctions from wrongly ensnaring more schools.

Erin Walsh|June 13th, 2008|Categories: Elementary and Secondary Education Act, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

BoardBuzz podcast
BoardBuzzNSBAMouseover the icon to listen to BuzzCast 27

  • Phew! Schools dodge lawsuit bullet;
  • Presidential Advisors face off in education debate;
  • 21st century civics lessons;
  • Students all over the world;
  • How many students aren’t graduating?;
  • A man’s best friend is a student’s new reading partner;
  • Too busy to read
Erin Walsh|June 13th, 2008|Categories: Multimedia and Webinars, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Living the DREAM

It’s graduation season, and most high school seniors are planning fun summers with their classmates and getting ready to start college in the Fall. But for valedictorian, Arthur Mkoyan, such celebratory plans may come to a halt ten days after graduation—the day Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has scheduled his and his family’s deportation, according to this article BoardBuzz found via

Mkoyan came to the U.S. with his parents in 1995 and has since achieved a grade-point average above a 4.0 through taking Advanced Placement classes and has been accepted to a California state university to study medicine in the fall. He is one of 65,000 students annually who have been raised in the U.S. and graduated from U.S. high schools, but who because of their undocumented status are denied the same access to higher education as their peers.
The bipartisan Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act is designed to help students like Mkoyan have better access to higher education and become legal permanent residents.

If the DREAM Act were in place, Mkoyan and other undocumented students graduating high school who have been in the U.S. for at least five years and were brought here when they were 15 years old or younger would be eligible for a six year conditional legal residency during which they are expected to complete a 2-year degree, 2 years toward a 4-year degree, or 2 years of military service. If they complete the requirements of the six year conditional period and demonstrate good moral character, they will be granted permanent residency.

NSBA supports the enactment of the DREAM Act to give students like Mkoyan the educational opportunities they deserve. It was first introduced in 2001, and has continued to grow, passing the Senate Judiciary Committee twice and passing the full Senate in 2006 as part of comprehensive immigration legislation, though not passing in 2007. This year, there is minor legislative activity regarding the DREAM Act, but it is unlikely to see further progress until 2009.

Students like Mkoyan currently have little resources available to obtain higher education in the U.S. — they are often ineligible for in-state tuition and for state and federal loans, as well as unable to work legally. In addition to their academic struggles, these students constantly face the possibility of deportation. In an update on Mkoyan’s struggle, also reported that Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, has introduced a private bill to allow the family to stay in the U.S. The bill likely will create only a temporary reprieve, however, since such private immigration bills usually do not pass. Unless the DREAM Act is passed, the potential of students like Mkoyan will continue to be significantly restricted by the undocumented status they inherited from their parents.

Erin Walsh|June 13th, 2008|Categories: Educational Legislation, Student Achievement, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Protection or censorship?

On Tuesday, three of the country’s largest Internet service providers — Sprint Nextel, Verizon Communications, and Time Warner Cable — agreed to block customer access to child porn sites.

While child welfare advocates declared the agreement — which would prevent users from visiting newsgroups with suspected child pornography and remove websites with questionable images from servers — others saw the move as the first step toward censorship.

Interestingly enough, many of the same issues were discussed at a conference held in Washington D.C., also on Tuesday. The “Point Smart, Click Safe” summit drew together representatives from the education, child safety, law enforcement, and cable and telecommunications field to talk about ways to ensure children’s online safety.

What role each group, particularly industry, plays in achieving this goal was a central theme of the summit, and a question that wasn’t easily answered.

“There’s always a feeling that more should be done, either by government or industry,” said Adam Thierer, a senior fellow and director of the Progress & Freedom Foundation’s Center for Digital Media Freedom. “We can always pressure companies to do a little bit more, but I think it would be crossing the line to clean up all content and the naughty bits out there. How far can you go in empowering (parents) without going into censorship?”

While all of the tools, ratings, and policies have helped parents and families in safeguarding children’s online activities, nothing can be substituted for education.

“But when we turn to policy, we regulate first and then turn to education,” said Thierer, who examined more than three dozen recent bills on online safety and discovered only two included an education component.

“Our government has spent money losing this stuff, when what we really need is an outreach and awareness building,” Thierer surmises.

Naomi Dillon, Senior Editor

Kathleen Vail|June 13th, 2008|Categories: Governance, Curriculum, Educational Technology, School Security, American School Board Journal|
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