Articles from December, 2008

A new issue of ASBJ

The new year has come early; the January edition of ASBJ in now online for your reading pleasure. While you’re enjoying the holidays check out our feature stories, personality profiles, and useful tips and advice from field experts. Happy Holidays. The Leading Source will be on hiatus until Jan. 5.

Naomi Dillon|December 24th, 2008|Categories: NSBA Publications, Student Achievement, American School Board Journal|

Teenage angst or media pranks? Scrutinizing adolescence, then and now

It was called “Sixteen in Webster Groves,” and if you grew up anywhere near that pleasant, upscale St. Louis suburb in 1966 — and were old enough to watch the CBS documentary on your black -and-white TV — you wouldn’t forget it.

I’ll explain later, but suffice it to say that Webster residents felt blindsided, big time, by CBS’ portrayal of their town, which was narrated, ironically, by none other than the man who would become that dean of folksy journalism, Charles Kuralt.  However,  “On the Road” this was not.

I remember because I was close to the kind of student CBS portrayed: Call me “Fourteen and Not Quite in, But Two Towns Away From, Webster Groves.”

Rumor had it that the opening dark panning shot of somber-looking teens was taken at a funeral. I have no idea whether this was true, or suburban legend. But imagine if you had the unenviable job of PR director for the Webster Groves School District (if such a job, existed back then) and you asked CBS if they wanted to shoot some great footage of an academic competition or spunky pep rally, and they said, “No thanks, we’re fine ” (with the funeral shot).

I remember the Webster teens being portrayed in “Sixteen” as troubled and alienated. That would make sense given the general atmosphere of the late 1960s, but it’s testament to the fallacy of memory that I have that seriously wrong.

According to a retrospective in St. Louis’ excellent city weekly, The Riverfront Times,  the youths were slammed not for their rebelliousness, but for their self-satisfied conformity.  It turns out the documentary was done in conjunction with a University of Chicago sociological study, and those findings are strange, to say the least.

“Nearly half [of the teens] said they wouldn’t mind spending the rest of their lives in Webster,” the Riverfront Times said. “Almost all of them said their biggest worry was getting good grades …. Only one in 50 had ever had a drink; and 99 percent knew who Dick Van Dyke was, compared to 20 percent who’d heard of Ho Chi Minh.”


Naomi Dillon|December 23rd, 2008|Categories: Student Achievement, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , , |

Spread the good news, we have. Something’s new on

ASBJ’s communications columnist Nora Carr always gives school districts sound practical advice on how to  to get the kind of media coverage your schools deserve. In this month’s feature Carr shows you how to create, in the words of media guru Terry Abbot, an “overwhelming fire hose of good news” about what’s happening in your district. It’s now available online for a limited time. Take notes.

Naomi Dillon|December 23rd, 2008|Categories: Student Achievement, American School Board Journal|

Children at risk becomes children of hope

ASBJ’s award-winning series “Children at Risk,” continues this month, though Senior Editor Larry Hardy has changed the title and the outlook. “Children of Hope,” examines today’s students and the realities they live in, as “a resource to be nurtured, not a problem to be solved,” says Hardy, who takes us on a journey through the middle grades, where a convergence of developmental, physical, and academic changes occur, giving credence to the phrase “growing pains.” Read it here for free for a limited time.

Naomi Dillon|December 22nd, 2008|Categories: NSBA Publications, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , |

A holiday hiatus

The weather outside (at least for most of the country) is frightful, so BoardBuzz is going to take some time to warm our feet by the fire (because it is so delightful!) and enjoy the holidays with our friends and family.  While we’re on hiatus, why not check out our archives for a look back at the year in education. 

Have a wonderful holiday season and a very Happy New Year!  We’ll see you right back here in 2009.

Christina Gordon|December 22nd, 2008|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

A natural solution for some national problems

BoardBuzz is encouraged to hear more voices sounding a theme we hope will grow louder. Consider three repeat headlines of late:

  1. Dire fiscal news all around, with some especially scary prospects for education;
  2. An overwhelming recognition that, as President-elect Obama put it, “education is the key to economic prosperity”; and
  3. An intense focus on the need for a huge stimulus package to jolt the economy back to life.

As we noted here and here, educators understandably are connecting some obvious dots when they ponder these things and the bailouts for Wall Street and the auto industry. While we’re at it, let’s throw in a few more factors:

  1. Schools serve practically every community in the nation and in many places are the largest local employer;
  2. If recent events have made taxpayers skittish about accountability for funds, virtually no institution in American society is subject to more intensive, exhaustive oversight than public school districts; and
  3. One clear message to come out of the election and the Obama campaign was that school accountability and adequate resources are inextricably linked.

One clear focus of stimulus discussions has been school construction projects. For a great summary of the need and the opportunity, check out this April 2008 briefing paper from the Economic Policy Institute on “GOOD BUILDINGS, BETTER SCHOOLS: An economic stimulus opportunity with long-term benefits.”

Beyond construction, check out this op-ed in Friday’s New York Daily News by Michael Rebell of the Campaign for Educational Equity at Columbia Teacher’s College. Rebell warns that a proposed $2.5 billion education cut in New York would be “illegal, unfair and unwise.” But recognizing the dire fiscal reality, he suggests that if New York Gov. David Paterson wants to avoid options like a tax increase on the wealthy, “he should instead urge the governors of the other 15 states who are currently cutting school funding to join him in petitioning the President-elect to throw a rope to the states to help them maintain their commitment to educational excellence and equity.”

Rebell then concludes by connecting all the dots we laid out above:

I estimate that such a program would cost about $20 billion nationwide for the next year. That is a lot of money, to be sure, but it pales in comparison to the bailout given to Wall Street, and it would arguably be money much better spent. If we can rescue banks and car manufacturers, surely we can afford to do the same for our children.

So, once again, here’s NSBA’s proposal for how to go about getting it done. Coming through for children seems like a pretty good way celebrate the holiday season, and a pretty good New Year’s resolution.

Tom Hutton|December 22nd, 2008|Categories: Governance, Educational Legislation, Educational Finance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Some parents deliberately overmedicate sick children

I was part of a game this morning. It was called, how many people can pack into a 10×15 room. I was obviously an unwilling participant. But I had no choice, as my train was delayed and the near-single digit temperatures (which likely caused the delay) forced all of my fellow commuters into the station’s tiny waiting room, which at its most can hold probably 20 people.

As what seemed like the 50th person squeezed into the cell, the air started to feel warm and stifling and then the man in front of me started to cough. And the woman beside me started to sniffle. Oh no, I thought, I don’t want to get sick again! I’d already caught the bug twice, thanks to my friends with kids … or as we call them germ vessels.

When it comes to kids and illness, though, there’s a strange, disturbing, and potentially fatal trend that doctors are discovering Apparently, some parents and adult caregivers are giving children cough and cold medicine not in order to treat them, but to subdue them.   

In a recent analysis of 189 children who died from a medication overdose, doctors determined that in 26 of those cases, the administering adult’s intentions were suspect.

“What we have is a group of adults who want to control the behavior of children and do it in a variety of ways,” Dr. Richard Dart, director of the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center in Denver and study’s lead author told Reuters. “Sometimes it is physical and sometimes it is drugs.”

Some of those adults were daycare providers, whose actions may not have necessarily been driven by maliciousness but by being overwhelmed, Dart said.

“I think there is a clear population here for us to focus on that are involved in these events,” he said. “This is a heads up.”

Naomi Dillon, Senior Editor

Naomi Dillon|December 22nd, 2008|Categories: Governance, American School Board Journal|Tags: , |

The week in review

Shopping, decorating, cleaning, baking, and, yes, working. Hey, you’ve had a lot to do this week, we understand. So, if reading our blog every day hasn’t been on the top of your list, we aren’t offended. Just don’t let it happen again. But here’s what you missed: Obama naming Chicago school’s chief Arne Duncan as education secretary (really, how could you miss that) and the opinions, and the opinions, and the opinions that followed; a suburban Maryland district pondering the value of a gifted and talented program and getting an earful from the public; and a look into the near and distant pages of ASBJ. Happy reading. See you for an abbreviated week on Monday.

Naomi Dillon|December 20th, 2008|Categories: Week in Blogs, Student Achievement, American School Board Journal|

Sports often the first to go

Early on in his life, Jim Richardson set his sights on doing two things: becoming a cop, like his father, and becoming an Olympic gold medal champion.

“Well, I fell a little short on the Olympics,” says Richardson, who is the police chief in Grand Meadow, Minn.  Though he did never earn a spot on the Olympics team, the long-time wrestler did earn a number of international and national sports awards. But more importantly, he’s earned the trust and respect of the many high school students he’s coached over the last 15 years.

“I like to get the kids who are skinny on life and feed him my recipe and let him just play,” Richardson says. “Tell him, ‘You know, some problems just aren’t that big.'”

Unfortunately, the current state of the economy is and Grand Meadow, like many other school districts across the country is running up against hard financial times, as state and local revenue dwindle and operational costs continue to rise. Just last year, the small, rural district came out of statutory debt, though that may be shortlived, since the state has already indicated that it will keep state aid flat next year, after giving schools a paltry two percent increase this year.

“That two percent, all it did was help us pay for the diesel fuel for three buses,” says Grand Meadow Superintendent Joe Brown. “I wish someone would tell me how they came up with the inflation rate for schools because  our diesel fuel doubled, our food costs went up double-digit, and our health care costs went up 12 percent.”


Naomi Dillon|December 19th, 2008|Categories: Governance, Policy Formation, Budgeting, American School Board Journal|Tags: , |

Preparing for a new discussion on standards

Now that we know who the next Secratary of Education will likely be, BoardBuzz‘s attention now shifts to how education policy may change at the federal level. Of course, the first thing that comes to mind are those four little letters that has defined federal education policy the last seven years, NCLB—but that may not be the only hot-button education issue to be debated in the next four years. Another, and maybe even more passionate, debate may be over who should develop the academic standards students are expected to meet.

The question over who should develop academic standards brings as much of a passionate discussion on the role of federal education policy as NCLB. That’s why our very own Center for Public Education created Standards: A new national discussion. There you will find what arguments are being made from all different perceptives on who is best equipped to develop standards. BoardBuzz strongly recommends you check it out so if the debate does heat up, you’ll have more ammunition to argue for who is best equipped to determine what our students should know and be able to do.

Jim Hull|December 19th, 2008|Categories: School Boards, Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|Tags: , |
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