Articles from August, 2009

Private school spending myth busted

A major argument often heard by BoardBuzz from proponents of private school vouchers is that it’s less costly to educate a student in private school than in public school.  The bad news is they can no longer cite that as a reason for supporting vouchers.  This article in the Washington Post talks about a new study that found non-religious private schools actually spent almost twice as much per pupil as their public school counterparts.  In addition, Catholic schools (nonparochial) tended to spend about the same as public schools.

Bruce Baker,  author of the [independent] study by  [using data from] the National Center for Education Statistics, said in the article:

“There are a lot of urban legends that drive the policy discussions,” he added that “private schools tend to be costlier than the commonly accepted figures in policy debates, especially conversations about school vouchers.”

The study dispelled just one of the many myths surrounding the perceived effectiveness of private school vouchers.  For more information on why vouchers are bad public policy, see NSBA‘s Voucher Strategy Center .

Katherine Shek|August 31st, 2009|Categories: Governance, Educational Legislation, Privatization, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

NSBA voices concerns for “race to the top” plan

BoardBuzz could not agree more with the goals of the much talked about “Race to the Top” grant program being rolled out by the U.S. Department of Education as part of the economic stimulus plan.  This initiative will provide a significant opportunity for school districts and schools to build a results driven infrastructure that can help raise student achievement. What NSBA wants to make sure of is that the right process and incentives are in place to ensure the success of the program.

In the comments we submitted on Wednesday to the Department, NSBA offered mixed opinions of the proposal, which will provides states with $4.3 billion in competitive grants for education reforms.  Some of the specific concerns included: the overall impact of the many new requirements (both fiscally and operationally) on states and districts, sustainability of reform initiatives, and a focus on specific strategies/interventions. 

It is extremely important that the Administration listen to educators who are doing the work every day, including local governance. Policymaking without practical perspectives will only hurt a good program and prevent it from achieving its goals.

For more information about economic stimulus and school reform, visit NSBA‘s Stimulus Resource Center here.

Katherine Shek|August 31st, 2009|Categories: Governance, Educational Legislation, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Chicago Public Schools bans public social networking platforms for teachers

Districts throughout the country are debating the use of social networking platforms. What’s interesting about the social media ban for teachers is that the school system just announced that they are using Twitter as a way of welcoming back back students.   Read more and share your thoughts.

Colleen O'Brien|August 31st, 2009|Categories: Social Networking, T+L|

Leroy Parks was my final interview and that was unfortunate. Because by the time I spoke to the Wichita, Kansas native and educator, I’d already amassed enough material for my story on teacher turnover and retention and simply couldn’t find the space to include him.

But that’s what blogs are for, right?

If you read my story, indeed all of September’s cover package on teacher quality, you’ll understand (and probably already do) that building an effective faculty requires not only a cracker-jack identification and recruitment process, but professional development and a desirable work environment to keep them there.

Wichita Public Schools began their Grown Your Own Teacher Program some 20 years ago for the express purpose of increasing diversity among their teachers. Though that goal has expanded to include anyone who has an interest and passion for teaching culturally diverse learners, the program’s strength and uniqueness came from identifying and investing in promising talent from their own schools and the community.

Leroy Parks was one such person. He’d  graduated from Southeast High School in 1986 and was one of the few minority students bused into the mostly white college prep academy as part of the district’s desegregation order.

“I benefitted from that and I’m not ashamed or embarrased because of it,” Parks says of his high school experience. In fact, his schooling inspired him to want to become a teacher and after going away for college he returned to Wichita to finish his degree and enter the school system’s GYOT program.

Naomi Dillon|August 31st, 2009|Categories: Student Achievement, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , |

Education headlines

sbn_logo13A new, groundbreaking study shows that private schools without religious affiliations spend about twice as much money on their students than those in public and Catholic schools, and significantly more than other Christian schools. This study could impact future voucher debates, its author says, because for the first time it shows the actual costs of private schools and shows that students with vouchers are more likely to attend religious schools. In other news, principals in New York City are resisting orders to fill vacancies by hiring  teachers who have lost their jobs at other schools, and Michigan administrators have submitted plans for innovative practices in hopes of winning a share of the federal stimulus money. Read these and other stories in today’s issue of School Board News Today.

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

The payoff of improving indoor air quality at schools…

It’s completely invisible, but ignore it and you may put the health of everyone in a school at risk: Poor indoor air quality (IAQ) can affect the comfort and health of students and staff and impact concentration, attendance, and student performance. Students and staff in schools that have poor IAQ–which is often caused by mold, dander, certain cleaning agents, and tobacco smoke–are at an increased risk of short-term health problems, such as fatigue and nausea, as well as long-term problems like asthma. In fact, poor IAQ is a common trigger for asthma, one of the leading causes of school absences. Improving IAQ and creating a healthy environment is of utmost importance for students to learn and thrive.


It has come to BoardBuzz’s attention that the deadline for applying for the prestigious, competitive Environmental Protection Agency’s Indoor Air Quality, Tools for Schools (IAQ TfS) awards is Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2009, just a month away. The program was initiated to recognize schools’ commitment to promoting good IAQ to improve students’ health – not to mention the “side” benefit of enhancing student and staff performance!

There are several awards associated with this program: two that are non-competitive and are awarded throughout the year and three that are competitive and awarded at the EPA IAQ symposium in January 2010. Here are the categories:

Non-competitive awards:

  • The IAQ TfS National Great Start Award recognizes schools and districts in the U.S. that are just beginning to implement the IAQ TfS program.
  • The IAQ TfS National Leadership Award recognizes schools and districts in the U.S. that have shown significant progress in implementing an IAQ management program.

Competitive awards:

  • The IAQ TfS National Excellence Award is presented to U.S. school districts that have exemplary IAQ programs and have demonstrated exceptional commitment to IAQ management in schools. This is one of EPA’s highest IAQ awards.
  • The IAQ TfS National Model of Sustained Excellence Award is presented to U.S. school districts that have demonstrated and maintained ongoing exceptional commitment and achievement to IAQ management in schools and have institutionalized comprehensive IAQ management practices.
  • The National IAQ Connector Award is presented to individuals and organizations whose outstanding, innovative actions and initiatives have supported improved school indoor environments.

Nearly 80 schools and school districts have been awarded the National Excellence awards. Will yours be next?

For more information on the program as well as applications and innovative ideas on improving IAQ in your districts, BoardBuzz encourages you to visit EPA’s IAQ TfS website.

And to learn more about the importance of indoor air quality for student health and learning as well as the work NSBA has been doing to prevent tobacco use and improve asthma management among students, visit NSBA’s school health programs website.

Daniela Espinosa|August 31st, 2009|Categories: Governance, Wellness, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Week in Review

A new issue of ASBJ went online and as always it’s chock full of the latest news from the field and analysis from leading experts, this time on such varying topics as teacher quality and teacher retention and current teaching methods like RTI. For even more up-to-the minute news from this week, peruse through our daily compilation of education headlines. Read these and other entries from this week’s Leading Source. Happy reading and we’ll see you Monday.

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

School Board News Today headlines

It’s like the dinner guest who shows up before you’ve had a chance to set the table. The H1N1 virus, otherwise known as Swine flu, has already appeared in the opening days of school in some parts of the country. USA Today reported this week on Vista del Lago High School in California, where officials had their first confirmed case within two hours of the first day of school, and 14 by the end of last week. A report by a White House panel said half the U.S. population may be infected this year, and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that a massive school closing won’t stop the spread of the virus, students need to be vaccinated.

And in other headlines this week:

  • A story in the Boston Globe asks whether we’re over-testing kindergarteners, and the answer from early childhood experts is an unequivocal yes. Replacing the playtimes and experiences that foster learning in 5-year-old brains with rote testing can cause stress, aggression, and other behavioral problems, they say.
  • This weekend marks the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and USA Today takes a look at the charter school system that may become the most enduring education legacy of the tragedy. The success of those schools may become a model for urban schools across the country, some officials say.
  • School districts are focusing on survival more than innovation when it comes to spending their share of the federal stimulus funds, a new survey by our friends at the American Association of School Administrators has found.
  • And finally, for the states playing catch-up file: New Hampshire is poised to become the last state to require its districts to offer kindergarten, and a state panel is urging Arizona to ban corporal punishment.

Read the best headlines from around the country each day in School Board News Today. Miss a day? Check out the weekly roundup.

Joetta Sack-Min|August 28th, 2009|Categories: Governance, NSBA Publications, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Education headlines

sbn_logo12Has kindergarten, once the land of building blocks and singalongs, become a pressure cooker? Today, the Boston Globe reports on what early childhood advocates say is “a growing disconnect between what the research says is best for children — a classroom free of pressure — and what’s actually going on in schools.” In other news, the Hillsborough County, Fla., school district attempted to verify the incomes of a small, targeted group of parents who had applied for free- and reduced-price lunch, but more than half did not respond. And an Arizona panel is recommending the state ban corporal punishment. Read these stories and more in today’s edition of School Board News Today.

Joetta Sack-Min|August 28th, 2009|Categories: Student Achievement, American School Board Journal|

Live, from L. A., it’s Tuesday night

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles School Board approved a plan that could change 250 schools to charter schools.  According to the Los Angeles Times, the meeting where this was approved by a 6-1 margin lasted four hours.  While some people refer to televised school board meetings as the “original reality TV,” we don’t think anyone would tune in for a marathon meeting like this one.  L.A. also streams these meetings on their web site, and while many districts use this practice to streamline coverage for their constituents and inform the community from anywhere in the world (literally), the debate over this plan must have been interesting to watch.

The argument is similar to one that has been hashed out in urban districts around the country:  Charter schools allow more freedom for the principal and school leaders and take away a lot of the red tape when it comes to hiring, firing, and working with the teachers and staff at a school.  They eliminate the status quo (count how many times you’ve heard that term since January), they give parents more choices, and the students work longer and harder in classes.

But our question remains, can you prove that these charter schools actually increase student achievement?  If L.A. is going to transform 250 schools (a quarter of their schools), then shouldn’t there be data to back up the claim that this will improve student achievement?  To date, the verdict is still out on the impact.

Something has to be done.  Too many students in L.A. and other urban districts are facing increasingly difficult odds and they are not succeeding anywhere near the level they should be.  But turning over this many schools to private entities may be a slippery slope.  As the second largest district in the nation, L.A. should be a leader and an innovator.  But in too many cases, decisions are made and instant results are expected.  The students lose in those situations every time, as the adults and decision makers claim that they tried to change the status quo and the results didn’t lead to change as planned.

As loyal readers of BoardBuzz, you know education changes sometimes move at glacial speeds.  We just hope that the experiment recently approved in Los Angeles works so that their students succeed academically.  We will all be watching.

Kevin Scott|August 28th, 2009|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|
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