Articles from March, 2009

NSBA testifies against federal mandate

BoardBuzz was pleased to see NSBA weighing in on Capitol Hill today.  The federal government should provide a national vision that considers the different needs of local school districts and communities in promoting healthy eating and lifestyles for children, Reggie Felton, NSBA‘s director of federal legislation told the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry today at a hearing on child nutrition. See NSBA’s official statement here and the entire testimony here.

Felton testified before the Committee on NSBA’s positions and recommendations regarding what role Congress should play in helping the nation’s school districts to improve nutrition in foods sold on campus. He argued that imposing federal mandates on schools and their communities is not the way to go.

“A national vision for child nutrition must reflect the understanding of current authority and Constitutional responsibilities of states and local communities, and redefine the role of the federal government so that it promotes national policies within the framework that supports states and local communities,” Felton said.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) chair of the Committee, plans to reintroduce legislation that would impose federal requirements on what types of foods can be sold in school outside the federally subsidized lunch and breakfast programs throughout the school day. NSBA opposes such legislation, see our recommendations here.

Sen.  Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) Ranking Member of the committee and Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE) agreed that local school districts and their communities must have the flexibility to address nutrition issues. “The very junior partner in education is the federal government,” said Johanns. “[The local community] knows what’s best for these kids.”

State school boards associations across the country have been working with school districts to develop and implement local wellness policies. NSBA’s school health program also works with educators and communities to bring awareness of increases in obesity among youth and to promote healthy lifestyles.

Katherine Shek|March 31st, 2009|Categories: Educational Legislation, Wellness, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Now accepting: The best and brightest? Not really

BoardBuzz was quite disheartened by this article in the New York Times today about how many private colleges are taking into consideration a potential future student’s ability to pay when deciding to accept that student into their school. Result being that lower performing, high income students will have more of an opportunity to get into college than their more deserving but lower income classmates.

BoardBuzz knows that there are many colleges out there — especially public colleges — where this isn’t the case but it still doesn’t sound right to us. BoardBuzz lives in the real world and knows many students can’t attend the college of their dreams simply because they can’t afford it, but at the very least shouldn’t that decision be up to the student and their family if that student is accepted?  Sure, we know we are going through the worst economic crisis of our time, but we don’t think that means that colleges should close their doors to students who are capable of achieving.   Moreover, colleges are closing their doors to some students that we as a nation need to support in order to help turn around this economy and be the future leaders of this country.

BoardBuzz doesn’t only feel for these high-performing lower-income students who are having the door shut in their face by many of our institutions of higher learning, we also feel for the teachers, administrators, and school board members who have been working so hard to prepare all students — regardless of their income — for college. For these colleges to decline admission to students based simply on their ability to pay is a stab in the back to these students and the hard work being done in the schools they attended.

Our nation’s K-12 public schools have taken a lot of criticism from our nation’s colleges for not preparing their students for college work, although it appears now that the real problem is that colleges are actually accepting students based on their on their ability to pay and not on their academic abilities.  Thankfully, we can rest easy knowing that our K-12 public schools, unlike our nation’s private colleges, accept all students no matter their income level.

Jim Hull|March 31st, 2009|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Lowering risk of dementia; yet another reason to stay in school, one report says

Want another argument to discourage young people from dropping out of high school? How about telling them that the longer they stay in school, the less likely they’ll come down with dementia in their old age.

Okay, that may be pushing it a bit. But Great Britain’s decision to raise the “school leaving age” to 15 years old in 1947-and to 16 years old in 1962-“could go some way to reducing dementia rates in the elderly,” reports BBC News.

Researchers at Cambridge University took a look at dementia rates among citizens who attended school before and after the changes and found “the increase in educational levels that we observed is consistent with changes in the mandatory school leaving age in England,” the BBC reports.

If your teens are skeptical of such findings— and what teen isn’t skeptical by nature— then you can back your argument with this explanation: “Poor cognitive function is known to be linked to developing dementia, and it is already known that dementia is less likely in people who have been educated for longer.”

Apparently, going to school increases the number of neural connections in the brain. The more connections, the longer it takes for all those connections to malfunction. No wonder Great Britain will insist students stay in school or job training until age 18, starting in 2015.

Of course, not everyone is convinced the research findings are definitive. Neil Hunt, chief executive of Great Britain’s Alzheimer’s Society, told BBC: “While we have a lot of really good evidence of healthy lifestyles and the fact that they can decrease risk of dementia, there isn’t enough evidence on education and dementia to draw any conclusions.”

Naomi Dillon|March 31st, 2009|Categories: Educational Research, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , |

Anchors away . . . attendees at NSBA Annual Conference ship off to the Navy

So what do school board members, superintendents, and other education leaders across the nation have in common with the Navy?  Education, games and simulations!

The Navy and other military branches work hard to connect with today’s students and schools to provide resources across the country through their ROTC and outreach programs.  Although, ROTC programs are such a huge benefit to students, they don’t always get the attention and support they deserve when it comes to the education system.  Why?  The obvious answer is that schools have so many mandates and bench marks to hit that often time’s result in additional programs losing their much deserved attention despite their benefits to the education system and student learning and development.  We’ve seen this happen again and again with music and art programs as funding and staff are scaled-back, and with after-school programs, outreach and volunteer programs in schools when there are staffing shortages.  So with the military’s support of education, their outreach to schools, and their effective use of technology in their own education and training efforts why aren’t schools tapping this readily accessible and mutually beneficial relationship more often?  Well, a group of Annual Conference attendees will be participating in a site visit to a naval base on Coronado, just outside downtown San Diego to answer that question.  The Navy will share what they have been doing to ensure that the fluency of their highly trained squadrons remain informed, experienced, and safe.  How do they do this? The answer is simple – technology, education, and continued professional development.  

Games and simulations are not new to training in the military.  The Army and Marines use it to simulate the experiences that their infantry officers will encounter while in combat.  The belief is that the more times a soldier is exposed to situation the more clearly they will be able to navigate the challenges and ensure the safety of their men and those they are there to protect.  NSBA aims to demonstrate how this very same idea can be applicable in the classroom by exposing students to simulations and games around biology, anthropology, math, spelling, and grammar.  S.T.E.M. is a hot topic in education today and games and simulations hit all four parts of the initiative: Science.Technology.Engineering.Math.  Is it possible for games and simulations to bring S.T.E.M. to life and maybe encourage more young girls to explore the fields of science, technology, math and engineering?  The statistics are promising. 

Simulations are used in the military because they are the most realistic way to bring to life the words on the pages of the books that were written to train and protect our soldiers.  Reading something and experiencing it are two totally different realms of learning and retention.  If a pilot reads about how to land a plane or do a night-trap (landing a plane at night on a ship) they may understand the concept but would they feel affluent and confident enough to get in a plane and try it without first having the safety of a simulator to practice?  The same is true for how students learn.  People learn by doing.  Adolescences learn to drive and car by driving on their permit under the watch of their parents.  A pilot learns to fly by testing their wings out in a simulator first.  A doctor learns to operate on a cadaver.  To provide students with the ability to get their hands dirty and learn by doing is an invaluable gift that hopefully more schools will explore.   Games and simulations provide that access across the curriculum and grade levels. 

NSBA’s site visit with the Navy will demonstrate the amazing efforts and honorable mission of the Navy as well as their utilization of games and simulations in education.  To learn more about the visit please stop by our website and to find out more about the Navy and their ROTC efforts and use of simulations please visit their website.

We hope to see you in San Diego!

Colleen O'Brien|March 30th, 2009|Categories: Conferences and Events, Educational Technology, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|Tags: , , , , |

No difference in performance, voucher study finds

Private school voucher proponents face another defeat after a recent study found no big difference in academic performance between the students attending private schools through the Milwaukee voucher program and those attending Milwaukee public schools. This article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said the study, released on Thursday, was the first research since any formal evaluations were conducted in the mid-1990s.

Another interesting note is that the study was funded by some pro-voucher groups, the article pointed out.

The research also found that while 94 percent of Milwaukee public school teachers were certified by the state, 69 percent of teachers in voucher schools were certified. What’s more, the voucher program continues to disproportionally burden Milwaukee property taxpayers, the article said.

This latest study again illustrates the unproven success of private school vouchers, which usurp tax dollars from the nation’s public schools where 46 million students attend. You can read about NSBA‘s positions against vouchers here; and obtain more information on the case against vouchers by visiting NSBA‘s voucher strategy center here.

Katherine Shek|March 30th, 2009|Categories: Governance, Educational Legislation, Privatization, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Green movement helps save the environment and could save you cash, too

A couple weeks ago, our facility manager sent an email to all staff members, imploring anyone who had suggestions on how to reduce building costs to send it his way. Like all organizations and companies nationwide, finding opportunities to streamline operations and reduce costs has become of utmost importance.

Our building manager had already implemented several cost-cutting measures, his most notable and visual change being the installation of motion sensor lights, which not only saved us money but reduced our energy consumption.

Environmental consciousness, as a movement, has ebbed and flowed over the years. But it seems to have picked up steam lately, thanks to not only  a new administration but, ironically, a poor economy.

The recession is forcing everyone to be innovative in how they use materials, time, and energy;  propelling the green movement (as it is as often called) into a viable and lucrative approach to preserving budgets, while preserving nature.

April’s edition of ASBJ features a package of stories on this emerging trend, including a look at how environmentally-friendly practices have altered construction, curriculum, and behaviors.

Indeed, in my piece about green technology, I interviewed a number of school districts in various stages of implementation, and all of them agreed that changing behaviors was the hardest and most important part of employing any new technology. 

So check out our spread on the green movement and how you could implement it in your schools.

Naomi Dillon, Senior Editor

Naomi Dillon|March 30th, 2009|Categories: Curriculum, Educational Technology, School Buildings, Policy Formation, American School Board Journal|

We’re heading west!

Yes, it’s that time of year again!  The NSBA Annual Conference is upon us.  In just a few days, thousands of school board members, school administrators, and others will converge up on San Diego for what promises to be one heck of a program.  This year’s conference has sessions that will help school board members become stronger leaders, streamline their district operations, and improve student achievement.  You can learn more about all of the sessions at the online conference planner

If you can’t make it to this year’s conference, there are still great opportunities for you to learn.  Be sure to follow BoardBuzz over at the conference blog to get a sense of what’s happening in San Diego.  You can also check back during our online discussions, which will offer some really great information about the President Obama’s first 75 days in office and what the Roberts Supreme Court means for public education.  See here to set a reminder to log in and learn.

Christina Gordon|March 30th, 2009|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Week in Review

The Leading Source writers spent this week talking up the latest edition of ASBJ (have you read it yet? Better hurry!), which is devoted to how the economy has impacted school districts nationwide. Each editor went to a different part of the country, states that had been the hardest hit by the recession, to tell the story. But as any writer knows there’s always more material than there is space. So, many of our entries provided an insider’s look, an update, or simply a reiteration of the tough job educators have now and in the future. Happy reading and enjoy the weekend.

Naomi Dillon|March 28th, 2009|Categories: Week in Blogs, American School Board Journal|

NSBA website adds RSS feeds

Joining the 21st century at last, the National School Boards Association has recently added RSS feeds to various parts of our website. BoardBuzz, as you know, has always been available via RSS. If you don’t already subscribe, well, why not?

The newest RSS feed comes from the Council of School Attorneys. We’re pleased to announce this great upgrade to the Council’s website. A “recent updates” section has been added to notifiy subscribers of new additions to the Council website or other important information. The other great feature is that RSS updates are archived in date order so if you know the approximate date that something was posted, you can easily find it.

Other feeds that are available on the NSBA site include, the TLN eZine, Electronic School, School Health Programs’ updates and announcements, School Board News, and the Economic Stimulus Resource Center.  Be sure to check them out!

Erin Walsh|March 27th, 2009|Categories: School Law, Announcements, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

An unexpected trend?

Our friends at NSBA’s free weekly Legal Clips e-newsletter have pointed out a potential trend that BoardBuzz hopes we might see more of. It’s one you might not expect at a time when the national mood overall is for a lot more accountability and government oversight.

In this item that ran in yesterday’s issue, Legal Clips highlights state legislatures that are reconsidering how much regulation they’ve piled on schools in recent years. First, Oklahoma is the scene of a big showdown over giving school districts the same kind of flexibility state lawmakers already have seen fit to give charter schools. That’s long overdue consistency from the many politicians who extol charter schools at the same time they’re busily regulating school districts more and more. But the explosive issue lurking in the Oklahoma legislation is its implications for teacher collective bargaining: It’s not required for Oklahoma charters. The Oklahoma State School Boards Association figures prominently in the debate.

The other states highlighted are Washington, Florida, and Georgia, as well as several states that have been reconsidering their statewide laws, often tourism-influenced, dictating local school calendars. Check it out. And BoardBuzz hears California is another state to watch on this question as it deals with its budget problems.

And those budget problems are a big part of what’s happening here. State legislators who were budgeting more and more for schools over the years were powerfully tempted to play school board on all kinds of minutiae. Now that they’re cutting education budgets, some of them apparently are finding it a little harder to justify wading into such details—or to ignore how much their mandates drive up local costs.

That’s not to say we’re necessarily embarking on a new era of school flexibility. We don’t yet know what the new federal role in education will end up looking like, and certainly on some issues we’re likely to see stronger accountability, not less. 

But school boards can take some comfort if there’s at least some more careful thinking about the difference between accountability and micromanagement. After all, that’s a distinction effective school boards think about constantly.

By the way, if you don’t already get NSBA’s Legal Clips, give it a try. This week’s issue also featured cool things like NSBA’s brief in the Supreme Court’s upcoming case on funding for English language learners, mayoral control of urban schools, the Arizona Supreme Court’s unanimous decision striking down two voucher programs, and an unsuccessful lawsuit by a superintendent victimized by botched Fox News commentary.

Tom Hutton|March 27th, 2009|Categories: School Boards, School Law, Educational Legislation, Educational Finance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|
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