Articles from August, 2008

Bragging rights

In case you haven’t noticed by reading the entries here the last two weeks, we’re extremely proud of our September issue.

September is always a big month for us — as the back-to-school issue, it’s traditionally one of our largest. Last year, we tackled the subject of 21st century skills. In 2006, we featured award-winning coverage of New Orleans, one year after Katrina.

This September, IMHO, tops them both. If you’re not a journalist or writer, the inside business of putting a magazine together may seem a bit like sausage making, so I won’t go into the nitty-gritty details. But we decided to cover the topic seven months ago, when it was a hot political topic and was destined to get even hotter and more contentious.

Readers tell us that their schools are struggling with issue of diversity and how to integrate different ethnic and cultural groups. Add to that the increasing rancor around illegal immigrant, and immigration and diversity seemed like a natural subject for us.

We focused on what school leaders needed to know. We are aware that plenty of general consumer newspapers and magazines are covering this topic as well. We chose districts all over the country that were dealing with these issues –some successfully, some not.

September’s magazine also is the first ever to feature articles by all of our editors. Our editor-in-chief Glenn Cook even chipped in by kicking off a year-long series following the newly consolidated Twin Rivers Unified School District in Sacramento, Calif.

If you’re just coming back from vacation or getting back to work, take some time to check out September.

Kathleen Vail, Managing Editor

Kathleen Vail|August 28th, 2008|Categories: Governance, Student Achievement, American School Board Journal|

Pre-K not quite a priority yet

Last week, BoardBuzz was pleased to see Congress recognizing the critical role that early childhood educators provide in the preparation and advancement of our nation’s youngest students. (Check that out here) But, an article in The New York Times reminds us that opportunities for Pre-K still have room to grow and expand.

New York is one of eight states (and D.C.) in the country that has adopted some variety of a universal pre-kindergarten program. In 1997, New York passed legislation to provide Pre-K classes for all four-year-olds,but ten years later only 38 percent of the state’s four year-olds attended Pre-K classes.

But, while Pre-K offers an opportunity for cognitive and personal development and the chance to level the playing field for children from different socioeconomic backgrounds, it seems that some districts aren’t finding it necessarily practical:

Few school administrators dispute the benefits of pre-kindergarten, but many say it is impractical to provide it to every child.
In Smithtown, for example, Mr. Ehmann said that even if his district could find the money, it would have to contract with community groups to provide pre-K classes because there is no room in the schools, which would mean hiring administrators to oversee those locations, adding costs.


In Westchester County, the affluent Bronxville district decided not to pursue a pre-kindergarten program for about 100 students because, as Superintendent David Quattrone put it, “the vast majority of parents prefer to use the private programs in our community.” He also cited financial and space constraints.

Despite these challenges, BoardBuzz knows that the benefits of early childhood education can’t be ignored, and the article does show the positive impact Pre-K can have:

“I’m disappointed by the slow progress, especially since over the last 10 years, there’s been even more evidence of how useful universal pre-K is in closing the achievement gap,” said Maria DeWald, president of the New York State Congress of Parents and Teachers, which has long advocated for universal pre-kindergarten.

Time, money, and space are all challenges for making Pre-K an available priority, but it’s great to see some states working on it. For more information on the benefits of early childhood education, be sure to check out the Center for Public Education.

Erin Walsh|August 28th, 2008|Categories: School Boards, Preschool Education, Educational Finance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Elect Education!

That’s the title of a new toolkit (pdf link) produced by NSBA’s Advocacy Office and developed exclusively for local school board members. The purpose is to help board members elevate the discussion of education in the upcoming Congressional campaigns. The non-partisan toolkit includes suggested activities and strategies that school board members, who are uniquely positioned in their communities to discuss education, can consider implementing, such as helping to put together candidate forums or meeting with the candidates running for Congress. It also features background information on key issues that the next Congress will have to tackle, including NCLB / ESEA reauthorization, funding, 21st century skills and competitiveness, and early education, among others.

Check out “Elect Education: A Campaign Toolkit for the Congressional Elections” on our website (pdf file).

Erin Walsh|August 28th, 2008|Categories: Educational Legislation, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Not so easy for male teachers

With back to school upon us, students are getting ready to see their new classrooms and meet their new teachers for the year. But, thanks to an article from ABC News, BoardBuzz was surprised to see that some parents aren’t so thrilled with the outcome of their children’s teachers… that is, when the teacher is a male.

The 2003 National Schools and Staffing Survey reported that men account for 16 percent of all elementary school teachers. Despite the help of the National Education Association and MenTeach to recruit young men interested in teaching, it seems that some parents still have stereotypes about male teachers not having enough experience with caretaking or nurturing.

For these male teachers, the struggle doesn’t end there. There is mistrust in male teachers for their interest in the profession, and many parents express uneasiness on how this affects student and teacher relationships.

So BoardBuzz wants to know, is gender really important? According to the article:

“I really think it has a lot to do with the personality of the teacher,” said Dr. Caryl Oris, a consulting psychiatrist for the Sewanhaka Central High School District on Long Island, N.Y. “What matters more than anything is that it’s a good teacher and the teacher loves to teach.”

A good teacher that loves to teach sounds good to BoardBuzz. Be sure to check out the article to learn how parents are dealing with their anxieties over male teachers, and what great accomplishments some have had with students. And tell us about how male teachers in your district are faring by leaving a comment.

Erin Walsh|August 28th, 2008|Categories: Teachers, Wellness, Student Achievement, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Results are in

BoardBuzz promised and BoardBuzz delivers: a full summary of the 2008 SAT results direct from the Center for Public Education.

Although the SAT scores get all the headlines, the Center delves deep into the data to answer these important questions:

* Which graduates took the SAT and what was the percent of race/ethnicity and gender participation?

* How many of the test takers will be the first in their families to attend college?

* What courses did the graduates take during their high school careers?

These questions often get overlooked when SAT results are released each year, even though they show that our schools are opening up the possibility of college to a number of students who may not have thought they were college material. So check out the Center’s summary to find out how students are getting more prepared for college.

For more information on how SAT scores should be used to determine how well your school is preparing students for college check out the Center for Public Education’s Good Measures for Good Schools.

And for additional press on the results (and quotes from the Center), click here and here.

Erin Walsh|August 27th, 2008|Categories: Educational Legislation, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Pre-k cuts crime, report says

One more reason to invest in pre-K . . .

Congress and states should expand pre-K programs because it is among “the most effective strategies to increase graduation rate,” said a new report by Fight Crime; Invest in Kids, a national anti-crime group comprising more than 4,000 law enforcement officials and crime victims.

Although it is not a new argument, the report has some interesting stats, including: increasing high school graduation rates by 10 percentage points will save billions of dollars and prevent 3,000 murders and 175,000 aggravated assaults in the U.S. each year.

Given this report and other evidence that shows the benefit of quality preschool, NSBA has been in the forefront of advocating more federal investments in voluntary publicly funded pre-K in states, check out NSBA’s Pre-K Legislative Committee and the work it does, here.

And for more on pre-K research, check out the Center for Public Education.

Erin Walsh|August 27th, 2008|Categories: Educational Legislation, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Nurturing the potential of immigrant students

I’m not happy about illegal immigration. Not that I don’t sympathize with the plights of some of the people who are living amongst us without documentation. But the pragmatic side of me says that, to put it simply, there are just too many economic and social costs associated with an influx of people with limited skills, especially given the current state of our economy.

That said, education is the one area where states should turn a blind eye to immigration status and encourage any student who is capable of going on to college to do so. Not only have several states blocked undocumented students from receiving in-state tuition rates and financial aid, some also have gone so far as to block admissions to their colleges. North Carolina’s State Board of Community Colleges, for instance, has just voted to retain a policy to bar undocumented students from admission and may make that decision a permanent policy.

These decisions seem short-sighted and knee-jerk reactionary when considering the potential of some of these students. Many likely will become law-abiding citizens and have the potential to live prosperously and contribute to our economy in a way that would please any fiscal conservative. In some cases, their life experiences have boosted their work ethics and appreciation for our education system in ways that most of us take for granted. If a foreign-born student can persevere to graduate from high school and gain admission to college, we should nurture that potential.

My opinions on this issue crystallized when I found out a few years ago that two long-time friends whom I met while attending the University of Maryland began school here as illegal immigrants. After attaining citizenship status and graduating college, one became an engineer and the other is pursuing his MBA while working as a computer programmer. Frankly, their lives are more prosperous than most of my native-born high school classmates.

When I visited Norcross High School in Georgia as part of ASBJ’s series on diversity, I met several immigrant students who appeared to have the drive and the grades to not only get into college, but also to prosper. Some have the means to do just that. Others—and I made a point not to inquire about their immigration status—probably will not have the means, financial or otherwise. Georgia recently banned undocumented students from receiving in-state tuition rates, which probably killed the motivation for some who are undocumented.

Unfortunately, the teachers and staff deal with this on a daily basis as they search for students with potential to take college-prep classes and plum work-study assignments. You can read more about the school and its students and faculty in September’s ASBJ.

Joetta Sack-Min, Associate Editor

Kathleen Vail|August 27th, 2008|Categories: Governance, Student Achievement, American School Board Journal|

SAT results are in . . . and we’ve got the scoop!

BoardBuzz has had our eye on the SAT story (results were released this morning) all day today — and it sure seems to be simmering. Our friends at the Center for Public Education have been weighing in all over the place.

From Bloomberg:

Increased preparation of students, including those in lower-income areas, may be the reason, said Jim Hull, an analyst for the Center for Public Education, a nonprofit research organization in Alexandria, Virginia. In previous years, the SAT exam had spread to more schools with little expertise at test preparation, he said.

“All the efforts the schools have been putting in, with increases emphasis on getting all kids college ready, has started to pay off,” Hull said in a phone interview yesterday.

From Associated Press:

The class of 2008 scored an average of 515 out of a possible 800 points on the math section of the college entrance exam, a performance identical to graduating seniors in the previous year.

Scores in the critical reading component among last spring’s high school seniors also held steady at 502, but the decline over time has been more dramatic: the past two years represent the lowest reading average since 1994, when graduating seniors scored 499.

By comparison, the highest average reading score in recent decades was 530 by the class of 1972, although that score dropped dramatically within five years to near present levels. The latest math average is just five points below the 35-year high of 520, reached three years ago.

Those historical highs are tempered by the test’s more selective reach a generation ago, said Jim Hull, a policy analyst for the Center for Public Education, which is affiliated with the National School Boards Association.

“You only had the best of the best taking the test,” he said. “The SAT has become far more inclusive.”

From Education Week:

In line with previous graduating classes, gender gaps persisted on this year’s SAT. Despite narrowing score differences between men and women on some other standardized math exams in recent years, the mean math score on the SAT for men among this year’s graduating class was 533 out of a possible 800 points, 33 points higher than the mean score for women. That’s the smallest difference in years, but still substantial.

Female students continue to take the test in greater numbers than their male peers­; in this year’s class, 54 percent of test-takers were female.

“There is certainly no clear explanation of why the male-female math gap has disappeared on most state tests but not on the SAT,” Jim Hull, the education policy analyst for the National School Boards Association in Alexandria, Va., said in an e-mail. “One reason that I heard is that a greater number of minority females than minority males take the SAT, which may suppress female scores. It also just may be because more females are going to college, so a greater variability of SAT/ACT [scores] is found for females.”

The Center is working on a full summary of the results, which BoardBuzz will share with you tomorrow. Enjoy!

Erin Walsh|August 26th, 2008|Categories: Announcements, Student Achievement, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Getcha news here! Twin Rivers is almost two months old

Last week Board Buzz told you about a new project that NSBA has undertaken to help districts understand and navigate through the consolidation/unification process. And it seems that the Sacramento Bee has been following the story too. The paper wondered why the American School Board Journal (ASBJ) and NSBA’s National Affiliate program were so involved in the process. NSBA’s Gene Broderson, director, National Affiliate Services and Technology Programs helped uncover the reasons.

The National Affiliate program advocates on behalf of local school districts from across the country, said Gene Broderson, who heads affiliate services and technology programs for the National School Boards Association in Alexandria, Va.

Unification, he said, is a hot topic in many states. The Twin Rivers experience will provide a road map for other districts attempting unification.

“This is a good case study. It is very timely,” Broderson said. “The goal is to provide tools and resources other districts can use.”

Broderson pointed out that one of the feature stories in this month’s ASBJ examines the process that help create the district and the challenges they now face. In addition to the ASBJ article, the NSBA’s National Affiliate program has a website dedicated to the projectthat includes interviews with all of the key players. Broderson told BoardBuzz that, “We want to make sure everybody’s voice is heard.” The site will be updated as new information becomes available and more interviews conducted.

A series of webinars and vodcasts will soon be available to help tell the story of the Twin Rivers project. More information about the Twin Rivers project can be found on the National Affiliate website at

Erin Walsh|August 26th, 2008|Categories: School Boards, Announcements, School District Reorganization, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Schools dealing with immigration raids

With its arrows and boxes explaining “Campus Procedure,” the newest flow chart from the Garland Independent School District looks like instructions for handling weather emergencies — a tornado, perhaps, or a Code Red day.

But this diagram has nothing to do with the weather. It’s called “Parental Deportations,” and it tells staff at the 57,000-student district near Dallas what to do if parents are detained in a raid by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). About 43 percent of Garland students are Hispanic; the number who are illegal immigrants is unknown.

“This is relatively new to a lot of school districts,” Clyde Schilling, principal of South Gate Elementary School in Garland, told the Dallas Morning News. “I don’t think it’s a topic of discussion at the lunch table, but as you imagine, it is very upsetting when it happens to any of your students.”

District offices don’t anticipate any raids, but they don’t want what transpired in places like Postville, Iowa, to happen in Garland. As Senior Editor Del Stover describes in ASBJ’s September Special Report, “Immigration and Diversity,” nearly 200 of Postville’s students — one-third of its enrollment — were affected.

“We had kids crying and going crazy,” Chad Wahls, a principal in the town’s combined elementary/middle school, told Stover. “They knew mom or dad was at work [at the nearby meatpacking plant], and they were saying, ‘They’re taking them. They’re taking them.’”

Now, districts like Garland are writing contingency plans for responding to ICE raids, telling staff, for example, not to let students get on buses if their parents are detained and to try instead to have one of six emergency contacts — provided earlier by all parents — pick them up.

For more information on the effect of immigration raids on families, see also the Urban Institute report: “Paying the Price: The Impact of Immigration Raids on America’s Children.”

Lawrence Hardy, Senior Editor

Kathleen Vail|August 26th, 2008|Categories: Student Achievement, American School Board Journal|
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