Articles from December, 2009

Identify, but not address? The dilemma of the black male achievement gap

front-graphicLess than half of young black male students graduate from high school on time, and while there are discrepancies in local and state dropout rate reports, it’s clear too many young black males never graduate.

In some high-poverty areas, less than one in three appear to earn a diploma.

The result: “Black males have consistently low educational attainment levels, are more chronically unemployed and underemployed, are less healthy and have access to fewer health care resources, die much younger, and are many times more likely to be sent to jail for periods significantly longer than males of other racial/ethnic groups.”

That conclusion from Given Half a Chance, the 2008 report on black males and public education by the Schott Foundation for Public Education, begs the question: What do school board members do to help this troubled group of students? 

That’s a question I’m still trying to answer.

Actually, these days, I’m in the middle of researching an article about the academic challenges facing young black males for the Urban Advocate, a publication of NSBA’s Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE). Urban school leaders are looking to discuss the issue at the NSBA Annual Conference in Chicago this spring.

Naomi Dillon|December 30th, 2009|Categories: Student Achievement, American School Board Journal|

OLPC releases XO-3 tablet concept

The XO-3 tablet should be coming to the market in 2012.

The XO-3 tablet should be coming to the market in 2012.

Do you remember the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project? A U.S.-based, non-profit organization, the project works to create a cheap, low-power, mobile computer for kids in developing countries. Their current XO-1 laptop is still being shipped to countries such as Rwanda and Uruguay, but the folks at OLPC are working on a next generation device—a tablet.

The plan for the next OLPC XO was originally a two-screen foldable device named XO-2, but that model was eventually scrapped. The XO-3 follows in line with the current tablet buzz that has cropped up because of rumors of an Apple tablet. Even the XO-3 is still a concept at this point, but the plan is to have a 8.5 x 11 touchscreen, a built-in camera, induction charger, and a foldable carrying ring on one of its corners. Priced at only $75, the device appears to be a pie-in-the-sky dream, but you have to start somewhere. So why not set a lofty goal?

Half the thickness of an iPhone, this concept is obviously banking heavily on technology advances by 2012 (the projected release date), but it’s not too hard to see somebody making this design a reality by then—maybe even Apple. OLPC’s Nick Negroponte isn’t all hubris, however: “…we’re not a commercial operation. If we only achieve half of what we’re setting out to do, it could have very big consequences.”

BoardBuzz would love to see this device succeed. Any endeavor that aims to bring modern technology into the hands of impoverished children is worthy of success.

Erin Walsh|December 30th, 2009|Categories: Educational Technology, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Read what else is happening in the pages of ASBJ

logoYou’ve ransacked the mall for holiday steals and deals. You’ve gone to the movie theater and seen the latest blockbusters. You’ve baked (or eaten) all the cookies and treats you ever want to see in your lifetime (or at least until next holiday season.) 

How else to spend your final days off until the new year? Why not thumbing through the pages (virtually, of course) of the January issue of ASBJ?

Yes, by now, you’ve combed through the cover story on universal breakfast and committed to memory Doug Eadie’s most recent tips on school governance. But if you haven’t read it yet, Susan Black’s introspective on civics education, in class and in practice, is as always well-researched and thought-provoking. For lighter, though no less relevant, fare take a gander at our Up Front section, which includes a monthly list of noteworthy topics in education.

There’s a wealth of information we’ve made available for free for a limited time, so take advantage of it. And ok, if you want to take advantage of that brownie, too, we won’t say anything.

Naomi Dillon|December 29th, 2009|Categories: NSBA Publications, American School Board Journal|

Breakfast in the classroom, a winning strategy to start every kid right

0110cvrstryIn recognition of all the hard work she put into making Christmas a festive and memorable occasion (and the fact that she was completely spent from the effort), my girlfriend’s husband and children rewarded her with breakfast in bed the next day.

Having a meal delivered to you while you lounge in the comfort of your comforter, is a rare and special treat as an adult. Which is probably why, the idea of serving breakfast in the classroom has taken off as a way to make sure students are well nourished and ready to learn.

Research on the importance of breakfast to boost performance, mental and physical, is voluminous and undisputed. And if you read my cover story in the January edition of ASBJ, you’ll learn that school districts are increasingly implementing a universal breakfast program to boost participation rates.

But offering a free breakfast to every child, which is what the program does, doesn’t necessarily mean every student will take it. There are logistical details like bus schedules, adequate staffing, and, of course, increased food prep to be worked out. 

Naomi Dillon|December 28th, 2009|Categories: Wellness, Student Achievement, American School Board Journal|Tags: |

NSBA ornament brightens White House Holiday decor

The landmark Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education is depicted on NSBA's White House ornament.The landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision was the theme of NSBA’s hand decorated ornament at the White House this year.  Initiated by First Lady Michelle Obama and coordinated by the National Policy Alliance and others, non-profit organizations were invited to decorate ornaments that commemorate local American landmarks.  Kanisha Williams-Jones and Myra Maxwell of NSBA selected the U.S. Supreme Court as a landmark and used decoupage to decorate an ornament with items depicting the 1954 court case that struck down segregation in schools and propelled educational and social reform throughout the United States.   

Hundreds of landmark ornaments decorated the White House, but BoardBuzz has it on good authority that the NSBA ornament was prominently placed for easy viewing.  NSBA board members and several staff had an opportunity to see the ornament during a tour of the White House in December.  Another of the 26 trees at the White House was a Wish Tree made of recycled cardboard and constructed so that visitors could write down a wish and insert it into the tree’s branches. 

BoardBuzz hopes everyone’s wishes come true in 2010 and congratulates all those who participated in this celebration of equity and excellence in education.

Lucy Gettman|December 25th, 2009|Categories: Governance, School Law, Educational Legislation, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Happy Holidays

Photo courtesy of Stockvault

Photo courtesy of Stockvault



From the staff of ASBJ, here’s wishing you a very Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, or a Joyous Festivus! Have a good one and we’ll see you Monday!

Naomi Dillon|December 25th, 2009|Categories: Student Achievement, American School Board Journal|

New on

And after you’re done reading this month’s cover story on universal breakfast, check out Doug Eadie’s latest installment on school governance. Contrary to popular belief, Eadie writes, governing isn’t just about policymaking. Indeed, “when you strip away the fancy rhetoric, governing becomes nothing more than the board making decisions about very concrete governing products.” Intrigued? Better read it soon, while it’s online for free for a limited time.

Naomi Dillon|December 24th, 2009|Categories: Governance, NSBA Publications, American School Board Journal|

New on

0110cvrstryEveryone knows breakfast is the most important meal of the day, yet many children come to school hungry, which ultimately impacts their performance. To make sure students are ready to learn, more and more school districts are offering universal breakfast, a practice that serves the first meal of the day to every child, regardless of income.

To learn how they do it, why they do it, and if it make sense for your district, read this month’s cover story, now available online.

Naomi Dillon|December 24th, 2009|Categories: NSBA Publications, American School Board Journal|Tags: |

Education headlines

sbn_LOGORoy Romer, Arne Duncan, Geoffrey Canada, and Doug and Lynn Fuchs are on the list. Who else does Forbes consider to be a “Revolutionary Educator,” someone who can achieve the impossible with disadvantaged children? Find out here. In other news, Los Angeles’ teachers file a lawsuit to stop a school reform plan that would allow new charters, and Michigan officials begin talks on school finance reform.

(School Board News Today will take a break over the holidays and will return January 4.)

Joetta Sack-Min|December 23rd, 2009|Categories: Student Achievement, American School Board Journal|

Closing the achievement gap is a principle responsibility of…principals

With the introduction of S 2896,  the “Principal Recruitment and Retention Act,” Senators Al Franken (D-MN) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) hope to close the achievement gap by assuring that high need schools have highly qualified principals who can improve instruction, assessments and the use of data, and can recruit and retain effective teachers.  Representatives Susan Davis (D-CA 53rd) and Todd Platts (R-PA 19th) introduced a companion bill in the House (HR 4354). 

Research shows that school leadership is second only to teacher quality among school-related factors in its impact on student learning – that’s why the Minnesota School Boards Association and NSBA are on the record supporting the legislation.  The bill creates a grant program for school districts (and to other entities, such as non-profits and universities, that establish partnerships with school districts) for high-quality training programs that prepare principals to improve student academic achievement in high-need schools.  Each grantee will recruit, train and support aspiring and/or current principals who commit to serving at least four years in high-need schools. 

However, “We cannot expect schools to go it alone,” Senator Franken stated on the Senate floor. “We also need to improve social services in low-income communities to help students address the numerous challenges they face outside of the classroom that make it difficult to learn. At the same time, we cannot absolve schools of their responsibility to improve considerably.” 

BoardBuzz wonders – What is the balance of school and community responsibility for academic success?  And aren’t school board members part of both groups?  As school and community leaders, school board members are uniquely positioned to foster healthy schools and communities for the benefit of all.

Lucy Gettman|December 23rd, 2009|Categories: Governance, School Boards, Educational Legislation, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|
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