Articles from November, 2008

Today’s education news headlines

Courtesy of School Board News

Support for magnet schools waning despite their success
Los Angeles Times, Nov. 26

Support for magnet schools has foundered nationwide, even though they continue to shine compared to other types of public schools, including charters. Read more

Families forgo Thanksgiving traditions to get kids to sports tournaments

Washington Post, Nov. 26

Turkey and gravy are losing out as parents race to get their kids to sports tournaments during the holiday. Read more

Study: Math teachers a chapter ahead of students

Associated Press via Yahoo! News, Nov. 25

Math can be hard enough, but imagine the difficulty when a teacher is just one chapter ahead of students. Read more

Naomi Dillon|November 26th, 2008|Categories: Student Achievement, American School Board Journal|

Magnets; attracting attention, again

Remember magnet schools? Those specialized public schools that first sprouted up in the late 1960s and 1970s and were heralded as one of the first school choice options?

They’re still around, and they’re still an effective model for integrating public schools and closing the achievement gap, the Civil Rights Project says. In a report being released today, the group wants to put the focus back on magnets, calling them the “forgotten choice.”

The CRP researchers are particularly concerned about the impact of the 2007 Supreme Court decision that limited the use of race as a factor in student assignments and school admissions in desegregation programs in Louisville and Seattle.

Magnet schools operate in 31 states and enroll more than 2 million students, yet they are being marginalized in national debates and local policies for school choice, according to the CRP, which is based at the University of California Los Angeles. In fact, the report shows that magnets are more prevalent and more diverse then charter schools, yet receive significantly less federal funding.

“We’re concerned about the issue of magnet schools in part because there have been no efforts by the federal government in several decades to focus on integrated schools,” Gary Orfield, the co-director of the CRP, said in a conference call with reporters yesterday.

In fact, during the Bush administration the Department of Justice has worked to dismantle some of the programs, even though there is compelling research that shows magnets do a better job of educating their diverse populations of students, he added.

The group wants districts to renew their commitment to magnet schools and focus on ensuring diversity within the parameters set by the Supreme Court. They also want to see more funding from the federal government and are optimistic that the new Obama administration will see the need as well.

Joetta Sack-Min, Associate Editor

Naomi Dillon|November 26th, 2008|Categories: Governance, Educational Research, Student Achievement, American School Board Journal|

Today’s education news headlines

Courtesy of School Board News:

Miami-Dade schools chief Alberto Carvalho: Schools deserve bail out, too
Miami Herald, Nov. 25
With Florida facing a potential $1.4 billion tax shortfall, Miami-Dade schools chief Alberto Carvalho called on the federal government to consider a bailout for the nation’s public schools.
Read more.

Obama faces fierce fight to keep education promises
Washington Post, Nov. 24
President-elect Barack Obama has made big promises to educators, parents, and the nation’s nearly 50 million public school students. As the new administration prepares to take over the Education Department, school experts say one of its biggest—and toughest—jobs will be restoring the broad bipartisan support it took to enact the No Child Left Behind Act.
Read more.

Unaccredited Clayton, Ga., district loses $27 million in state funds
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Nov. 24
Clayton County’s schools stand to lose about $27 million in state money next year after more than 3,200 students fled the district when it lost its accreditation this fall.
Read more.

Kathleen Vail|November 25th, 2008|Categories: Governance, American School Board Journal|

Hazard pay for teachers?

In the U.S. military, there’s something called “hostile fire pay,” and it can earn you an extra $225 a month. Qualify for “imminent danger pay” and you’ll get a similar bonus.

If you’re in the Navy, and you’re willing to spend considerable time in a cramped, airtight space under the surface of the ocean, congratulations: You qualify for “submarine duty pay” — and $12,000 added to your salary.

What’s this got to do with public schools? Maybe the military — and the civil service and medical professions — have some thing to say when it comes to attracting teachers to hard-to-staff schools.

These comparisons are found in a report called “Financial Incentives for Hard-to-Staff Positions: Cross- Sector Lessons for Public Education.” The title may sound complicated, but the idea is simple. As co-author Julie Kowal explained last week, it’s no longer a question of whether schools should offer financial incentives to attract talented teachers to high-poverty schools, it’s how they should do it.

“How much should we be offering?” Kowal asked at a forum at the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C. “Who should get this? What form should it take? When should they get it?”


Kathleen Vail|November 25th, 2008|Categories: Governance, Curriculum, Educational Research, Student Achievement, Budgeting, American School Board Journal|

Today’s education news headlines

School officials look for the least painful trims during economic woes
Christian Science Monitor, Nov. 24
School districts across the United States are tightening their belts in anticipation of a meager fiscal diet that could carry into 2011. Concern is growing that students, particularly those who are struggling to learn or who are homeless, are going to feel the pinch.
Read more.

Anti-Prostitution Initiative Taken to D.C. Schools
Washington Post, Nov. 24
A group that typically fights sex trafficking in foreign countries is visiting D.C. schools to highlight the intractable problem of child prostitution. For four years, there has been a concerted effort in the District to break up prostitution networks and enhance services for youths rescued from the streets, a problem officials say is evident but difficult to measure.
Read more.

Bankrupt Georgia superintendent keeps vow to donate $1 million in show winnings to schools
New York Times, Nov. 24
In September, the Georgia state schools superintendent won $1 million on the television game show “Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?” She also won praise and national publicity for choosing to donate all of the winnings to local schools. But last week,Superintendent Kathy Cox and her husband John filed for bankruptcy.
Read more.

Defining, disciplining bullies creates dilemma for Connecticut schools
Hartford Courant, Nov. 23
When it comes to interpreting the state law, schools districts are often confused about what constitutes bullying and how to discipline students for bullying, experts say.
Read more.

Dallas school officials missed, misread signs of deficit
Dallas Morning News, Nov. 23
When Dallas school officials expressed shock as they announced in September that they had overspent last year’s budget by $64 million, and were on track to run up an $84 million deficit this year, the news seemed incredible. But the answers are complex.
Read more.

New Hampshire proposal would allow students to opt out of junior, senior years
Nashua Telegraph, Nov. 23
State education officials are looking to implement a board of exams that students would take after their sophomore year. Those who pass would be able to essentially opt out of their junior and senior years, graduate early and start taking community college courses.
Read more.

Stanford professor leads Obama transition team
San Francisco Chronicle, Nov. 22
Linda Darling-Hammond, a Stanford University education professor, will preside over the start of what she hopes will be a new – and better funded – era for public schools. Darling-Hammond, a teacher-friendly educator, has been tapped by President-elect Barack Obama to head his transition team on education policy.
Read more.

Kathleen Vail|November 24th, 2008|Categories: Governance, American School Board Journal|

Teens’ online habits

The MacArthur Foundation just released a new study on teens and their online habits.

Billed as the most extensive examination of Internet and new media usage by U.S. teenagers, “Living and Learning with New Media” was conducted over three years by more than two dozen researchers who interviewed and observed more than 800 youth and their families.
Their findings: Kids are learning valuable technical and social skills that aren’t always understood or appreciated by adults.

“It may look as though kids are wasting a lot of time hanging out with new media, whether it’s on MySpace or sending instant messages,” says Mizuko Ito, the study’s lead researcher. “But their participation is giving them technological skills and literacy they need to succeed in the contemporary world. They’re learning how to get along with others, how to manage a public identity, how to create a home page.”

Hear Ito talk more about what she and other researchers discovered:

Then check out American School Board Journal’s current cover story, “Protecting Students Online,” which explores how educators can keep students safe while still embracing and integrating the tools of the 21st century.

Naomi Dillon, Senior Editor

Kathleen Vail|November 24th, 2008|Categories: Governance, Curriculum, Educational Technology, School Security, Student Achievement, American School Board Journal|

The tryptophan is going to our heads!

For those of you unaware of Thanksgiving’s only serious side effect, here’s a little information about tryptophan (also known as “that stuff in turkey that makes you sleepy“).

So in light of that turkey-induced coma we’re expecting come Thursday, BoardBuzz is taking the week off to prepare. We’ll catch you back here after the holiday.

Erin Walsh|November 24th, 2008|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Protecting students online

As usual, I amassed a mountain of information for my latest ASBJ cover story, “Protecting Students Online” now available at

As the title suggests, ensuring students are productive, learning, and most importantly safe when they go online is more complicated than even I had originally thought. Of course, news reports have made cyberbullying and sexual predators well-known threats (though recent studies have refuted the prevalence of online stranger, saying it is overblown by the media.)

Rather it was the other, lesser-known hazards (at least to me) that were surprising. Who knew there was an entire cyber-subculture that promoting, or at least promulgating, eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia? Or that gang members had taken to the Internet to recruit and brag about their exploits, an activity that even has its own moniker: net banging.

It makes sense when you think about it, though. Just about anything you can find in the real world has its virtual counterpoint. So what’s an educator or a parent to do in this risk-laden world? Some, as you’ll discover, rely on filters, blocking questionable or even unfamiliar material. That’s only a temporary solution, however, says Sophie Reid, a clinical psychologist and research fellow at the Centre for Adolescent Health at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia.

“When a child comes to us and says I want to go rock climbing, you don’t say it’s too dangerous or I’ll do it for you,” says Reid who was one of the panelists at an online safety conference last spring. “Instead you go to a reputable establishment, put them on rope we know won’t break, stand at the bottom, attach the other end of the rope to us and let them go up; if they fall, we’ve taken up the slack.”

Reid says educators and parents need to take the same approach when addressing online youth safety.

“We need to engage young people in their space, we need to be a reliable and helpful presence on the Internet because that’s where they’ve gone,” she says.

Naomi Dillon, Senior Editor

Kathleen Vail|November 23rd, 2008|Categories: Governance, Curriculum, Educational Technology, Wellness, Educational Research, School Security, American School Board Journal|

NSBA to Feds: Facilitate, Don’t Dictate

NSBA has released its vision for redefining the federal role in education and how the Obama administration can make education an urgent national priority, as outlined in a new paper “A New Era in Education.”

The paper recommends an immediate reevaluation of the federal role to better reflect the need to partner with and support states and local school districts in their efforts to prepare all students to succeed in the 21st century economy. This means more than just funding programs directed to students with the greatest needs, but also providing reliable research and best practices linked to improving student achievement; assistance in the development of state and local evaluation tools to measure success, including 21st century skills; and, providing incentives to recruit, retain and reward highly effective teachers in schools that most need them.

“What we’d like to see is for the federal government to facilitate, not dictate, the necessary actions and innovations that are needed in order to guarantee that all of our public schools thrive,” NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant said in a statement.

Erin Walsh|November 21st, 2008|Categories: Educational Legislation, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Cultivating Wellness

School children across the U.S. are harvesting what they have planted….By that, BoardBuzz means that students are literally planting and picking vegetables in “urban” gardens within schools. An article that came out this week in the Canadian Press shows that this movement is sweeping North America and that, with this activity, schools are not only trying to teach children about nature, but also about the importance of eating healthy foods. Some schools are using whatever students harvest to supplement lunches; New York City schoolchildren, for instance, grew vegetables and herbs that were picked in October and used them in cafeterias. Washington D.C. is going a step further and celebrating School Garden Week.

According to the article, school gardens aren’t entirely new. The word “kindergarten,” which means “children-garden” was created in 1840 by a German educator. But in the past, school gardens were often linked to 4-H programs and agricultural studies. Interest in urban school gardens started about a decade ago as a way to introduce children to more local and organic produce. And with the 2004 reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, which requires districts to adopt wellness programs, that interest became even greater.

BoardBuzz thinks this is a great concept, but knows too well that there can be many barriers in developing and maintaining these gardens. Gardens, as the Canadian Press article shows, are operationally difficult. In addition, schools must submit menus for federal approval weeks in advance, making any last-minute additions from school gardens challenging. Then there is also the fact that health departments get concerned about food sources and many schools don’t have enough land and resources to feed all students fresh vegetables.

But BoardBuzz sees great value in students cultivating fresh vegetables, even if that food can’t make it to the school cafeteria. For one, harvesting gardens teaches children how to eat healthy. By harvesting their own food, kids can also taste what they grow and make the connection between what is grown and what is eaten. And, although the article doesn’t mention this, BoardBuzz believes working on gardens provides kids with an excellent opportunity to be physically active!

Research shows healthy children learn better. And if school gardens are going to encourage children to eat healthier at school or at home, then gardens are worth it. And as one person eloquently stated in the Canadian Press article: “If we can link it to the kids performing better in school, then I think the extra cost for the food is going to be justified.”

Does your school district have student-grown vegetable gardens? Leave us a comment and tell us about it. And to learn more about the importance of healthy eating in improving academic achievement, access NSBA’s School Health Programs resources at, including “Healthy Eating 101.”

Erin Walsh|November 21st, 2008|Categories: Wellness, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|
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