Articles from July, 2009

This week at the CPE

Want a little good news? Our friends at the  Center for Public Education regularly publishes “success stories” – stories of school districts raising achievement, with helpful lessons you can apply to your own district. This week, we’re featuring California‘s San Jose Unified School District. In 2001, only 23 percent of its Hispanic students graduated with the requirements needed to enroll in one of California’s four-year public colleges. This was monumental, considering that the district’s Hispanic student population was a little more than 50 percent of the overall student population. With statistics as dismal as these, what was the district to do? Why, raise expectations, of course! And it’s worked. Read the story, called Helping All Students Graduate, to see what they did to raise student achievement, and graduate all students college-ready.

And BoardBuzz wants to remind you not to forget to look to the Center when education’s in the news. The recent announcement of the “Race to the Top” funds focused on four main reforms: pay-for-performance plans, charter schools, common standards, and collecting longitudinal data (BoardBuzz covered that last week). Guess what?  The Center already has reports on three of these areas.

Christina Gordon|July 31st, 2009|Categories: Center for Public Education, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

School Board News Today headlines

Thrifty is the latest back-to-school trend

Texas education chief suggests voluntary ban on hiring dropouts

Court says English-only tests OK in Calif. schools

Guidance counselor offers insight for educators

Joetta Sack-Min|July 31st, 2009|Categories: Student Achievement, American School Board Journal|

The Week in Blogs

Photo courtesy of Stockvault

Photo courtesy of Stockvault

The Department of Education released guidelines on the Race to the Top competition last Friday, the contents of which have driven many conversations in the blogosphere this week. From Diane Ravitch’s nagging worry that the Fed’s (shocker) may not be the most qualified to know what will really work in the field to Flypaper’s take that the guidelines’ emphasis on tying student performance to teacher pay and stay came off more heavy-handed than enticing, there were lots of questions and comments on who’s really driving this race.

While we’re on the subject of teachers, the Daily Kos provides a glimpse of why it isn’t as clear cut to link student test scores to teacher evaluations.

Lastly, Eduwonk goes for the jugular by explaining why an AP story about class sizes increasing as budgets decrease isn’t really a story, while Teachable Moment explains why a new Pew Center study on the impact neighborhood income levels can have on its residents’ future earnings is a story.

Naomi Dillon|July 31st, 2009|Categories: Week in Blogs, American School Board Journal|

School Board News Today headlines

Teach for America: Elite corps or costing older teachers jobs?

When budgets get rough, states get gimmicky

Parents sue Louisville district to stop busing kindergarteners

Playgrounds: They’re safer but still can be dangerous

Broward County, Fla. teachers union to sue school district over hirings

Joetta Sack-Min|July 30th, 2009|Categories: Student Achievement, American School Board Journal|

New on

To use a sports analogy, school boards are like the ultimate team. And close 0809asbj3interaction and collaboration, says ASBJ governance columnist Doug Eadie, will allow you to achive the ultimate goal: providing a world class education.

In his latest column (now available online for a limited time), Eadie tells you how you can build a cohesive strategic governing team that is guided by a clear strategic vision, long range goals and achievable targets.

Naomi Dillon|July 30th, 2009|Categories: Governance, NSBA Publications, American School Board Journal|

A Facebook faux pas

BoardBuzz was intrigued to come across yet another example of “when poor thinking and social networking collide.” You may remember our coverage of the Bozeman, Montana incident where the city requested that job applicants hand over logins to sites like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc.

Well, as we predicted a similar situation has now emerged in the realm of public education. What happened you ask? Ars Technica reports that a high school cheerleading coach forced students on her squad to give up their Facebook account login information. We’re guessing the coach was looking for evidence of drug use and/or drinking.

Instead the Facebook account revealed a discussion between one student/cheerleader in particular and another member of the squad about its internal politics. This discussion was then allegedly shared with other squad supervisors and the school administration. The student claims to have been “publicly reprimanded, punished, and humiliated” as a result of the dissemination of said discussion.

Now the student is filing a suit alleging violation of her Constitutional rights to privacy, free speech, and association. The suit also makes claims of emotional distress, defamation of character, and civil conspiracy. All this over a little Facebook chit chat.

BoardBuzz would like to point out that both accessing another person’s account and sharing your account login with another person violated the Terms of Service of Facebook. It simply shouldn’t be done. Also, it’s wise to regulate your own speech on social networking sites, and this is something of which both students and teachers should be aware. However, regulating student speech and activity that takes place outside of school hours and off of school grounds is a very slippery slope. Many districts have a student code of conduct that does touch on off-campus behavior and discipline. For example, if those cheerleaders had been caught drinking, they would have been suspended from participation in extracurriculars.

The crux here is whether or not a teacher or administrator should go so far as to actively seek out such information. It certainly seems unwise to get into the habit of policing off-campus social networking behavior. Especially when the means of doing so violates the social networking sites’ terms of service. BoardBuzz is interested to see how this case progresses. Schools definitely need to take a serious look at social networking with regard to student safety and privacy.

Erin Walsh|July 30th, 2009|Categories: Educational Technology, Student Achievement, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

The naked news

Warning:  the following blog may contain references to partially-clothed school supporters with strategically placed props to cover personal areas. 

 The Vashon Beachcomber, which covers community happenings in Vashon-Maury Island, Wash., features several school board stories today including high school makeovers, the passage of the $15M school board budget and the new all male nude calendar to raise money for the school district. Yep, you read that right.

According to VBC, it seems 12 islands fathers and residents are wearing their birthday suits in a new 2010 calendar dubbed “the DreamBoats” that will be sold for $20 each to benefit the Vashon Island School District.  But, lest it be accused of pandering smut, the calendar reportedly strategically hides each islander’s “personal area.”  The effort aims at raising $10,000 “for a school system that has struggled mightily to forego layoffs this year and even put out a plea to parents to help keep a few teachers on staff.”  That sure does bring resourcefulness to a new level, doesn’t it?

It seems, too, the participants are motivated by the beneficence of the fund drive, although the chance of stardom may have sparked a glimmer of possibilities in some.  “It’s nice to have this as a fun way to support the schools in an otherwise dreary financial environment for the district,” said Benner, 43, a financial planner and lawyer. “It was a lot of fun, actually… I haven’t done something like that before, and probably won’t again.”  Probably?

Of course, the school district itself is staying far away from the idea, according to organizers who simply wanted to help the districts financials woes with their creative, er, assets.  According to the districts new superintendent, the calendar exhibits, “Island creativity.  If it benefits our schools and our instructional programs, without necessarily an endorsement of a particular funding strategy, I think it’s great.”

But, others, including “School board vice chair Laura Wishik [say] she’s concerned the calendar could send the wrong message to Island children.”  Children, she says, should “make good choices, including not judging others based on appearance, not obsessing about their own bodies and not taking sex lightly.”   Even though one model is described as a “a 6-foot-2, blue-eyed German-Irish-Norweigan DreamBoat,” Wishik’s concerns about appropriateness may strike some of the men on the board as Victorian.

The school board chair, a man and father of three,  disagrees with Wishik, claiming, ‘ “The objectification of middle-aged men is not a problem in our society.” ‘ The chair takes a lighthearted view of it all, saying ‘ “The only message I perceive here is that we have a group of people who care about our schools and don’t take themselves too seriously.” ‘

Another Board member, ‘John “Oz” Osborne,’ agreed with the Board Chair.  ‘ “It’s not a full monty kind of thing,” he said. “I just find the whole thing so funny, and if they want to donate us money based on the proceeds from that, I don’t have a problem with it.” Likewise, ‘ “Board member Dan Chasan… said he’d gladly accept the money.””

The whole thing will probably come to a head when the calendar people actually try to give the money to the school district.  What?  Someone’s giving away free money?  Say it ain’t so!  Wishik says she may “vote against the school board taking funds raised by the effort.”

In BoardBuzz‘s view it’s all much ado about nothing.  Student achievement, racial isolation, school financing, teacher salaries.  Those are the issues about which parents and communities care.  The real issue isn’t that someone made a beefcake calendar to raise money for public schools.  It’s that somebody had to. As one local photographer who helped with the project said “[I]t’s a sad commentary on our society – that we have to have bake sales and car washes and beefcake calendars to raise money for our children.  We shouldn’t have to do that.”  Hear, hear.

Christina Gordon|July 29th, 2009|Categories: Governance, School Boards, Educational Finance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

School Board News Today headlines

Michelle Obama inspires a new crop of school gardens

A decade later, Florida’s FCAT, school grade reforms get mixed grades

U.S. children likely worse off due to recession

Ariz. superintendent working to eliminate ethnic studies classes

California schools chief reacts to U.S. criticism on teacher evaluation

Joetta Sack-Min|July 29th, 2009|Categories: Student Achievement, American School Board Journal|

Schools brace, prepare for influx of swine flu

Photo courtesy of Stockvault

Photo courtesy of Stockvault

If dozens of students and teachers in one of your schools suddenly start to show flu-like symptoms this fall, what will you do?

If a lot fewer, say, five students in one school are sick and you suspect they may have caught the H1N1 virus, or swine flu, then what will you do?

If your district doesn’t already have policies in place for closing schools and notifying parents and the community during a potential swine flu outbreak, you should be spending these summer months strategizing how to handle the possibility.

Health officials are extremely concerned about an outbreak later this year because the virus spreads so quickly, and children appear to be more vulnerable than adults. And the White House has announced that schools may be the site of mass vaccination campaigns, an act many parents favor in a recent Associated Press poll.

That said, there are some lessons to be learned from summer camps, where children and teens are hanging out in close quarters. The L.A. Times reports this week that hundreds of children in Southern California camps were sent home this week with flu-like symptoms, and camp staff members have been scrambling to disinfect bedding and spaces where the children lived.

Naomi Dillon|July 29th, 2009|Categories: Student Achievement, American School Board Journal|

Everyone loves lists

The BoardBuzz crew often wonders what it is about lists that gets our attention so often.  Whether it’s the “best places to retire,” or “top songs of 2009,” we find ourselves pausing and perusing the list for a moment.  Much to many a parent’s chagrin, the top college ‘party’ school always gets a lot of media attention (we’ll make you click the link in case you haven’t heard), and this year is no exception.  But what’s more interesting is some of the other categories that made the Princeton Review listing this year. 

Because we cater to K-12 public education, one category that is important to us is affordability of college, or “best value colleges,” especially in the current situation we’re facing as a nation.  The top public school was the University of Virginia, while the top private school is Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania.   Another category that caught our eye in light of the recent events in Cambridge, Massachusetts last week is “race/class relations friendliest,” which went to the University of Miami (Florida). 

So, if you’re in the market for colleges, or just want to peruse the results of the college students of America, it may be worth a look.

And if you want to learn more about college readiness and bone up on a little research, check out the Center for Public Education.

Kevin Scott|July 28th, 2009|Categories: Governance, High Schools, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|
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