Articles from February, 2010

Week in Review

Sure, exercise and proper nutrition are essential to staying healthy and battling obesity, but adequate sleep is equally important, a number of studies have shown, including this recent one aimed at young adults. While we’re on the subject of adequate time for sleep, lets shift into adequate time for learning, which most educators agree is insufficient in today’s schools and yet restructuring the school day and calendar is still not an easy proposition, as one of the cover stories in the latest ASBJ issue illuminates. Lastly, teacher evaluations are getting lots of attention lately, with the release of a few new reports, including one that found that half of all Boston public school teachers hadn’t been evaluated in the last two years and that some had received tenure without ever being evaluated. Read these entries and more from this week’s Leading Source.

Naomi Dillon|February 27th, 2010|Categories: American School Board Journal, Week in Blogs|

Local oversight for charter schools needed, NSBA says

NSBA’s advocacy team told members of Congress that federal legislation on charter schools should ensure that those schools must abide by the same environmental, labor, civil rights, due process, and fiscal laws as traditional public schools.

The House Education and Labor Committee held a hearing this week on charter schools, where many charter proponents urged lawmakers to ensure that charters are properly monitored in areas such as admissions, academic achievement, and finances, according to the New York Times.

President Obama and his administration have pushed states to increase the numbers of charters as a central piece of his education reform plans, and charters are expected to be included as part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization.

Until recently “charter schools have operated mostly on the fringe. In a rather bold move emanating from the overriding influence of the Chicago Public Schools’ experiences, today they are a cornerstone of President Barack Obama’s and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s education agenda,” NSBA’s statement says. “Because [charters] do not exist in every state and the knowledge base of members of Congress on their operations varies widely, it is critical that we educate our elected representatives on some basic issues relating to charter schools,” NSBA’s statement reads.

NSBA’s recommendations for lawmakers include:

  • Any new legislation should rectify areas where charters are not held to the same accountability standards as traditional public schools;
  • Public school systems led by school boards should be the only allowed sponsors of charters;
  • Local school boards should retain the authority to decertify or not renew the charter of any school that fails to meet its agreed upon goals, such as requirements that charter schools demonstrate improved student achievement; and
  • More data is needed to fully understand the charters movement, including their enrollments, locations, and types of services offered. Other data needed include student mobility, suspension and expulsion rates and demographics.

Advocates are hopeful that the ESEA reauthorization will pass later this year.

Joetta Sack-Min, online editor

Joetta Sack-Min|February 26th, 2010|Categories: School Board News, Student Achievement|

The week in blogs

photo by stockvault.com

photo by stockvault.com

If you read Del Stover’s February ASBJ cover story on applying business principles to the public schools, you’ll be well-prepared for today’s blog roundup. But first, we have two questions: Just what are “business principles?” And exactly how should they apply to schools?

“Every few years, it seems, some school reform report implies that schools simply need a jolt of good old business sense,” writes Stover, an ASBJ senior editor. “As with most panaceas, there’s a fair bit of truth — and no little rubbish — in such thinking.”

Which brings us to Kevin Carey’s critique of Nick Anderson’s Washington Post profile of Diane Ravitch and her new book. Got that? Basically, Carey criticizes Anderson’s article for “conflating the phrase ‘business  principles’ with school reform,” saying “there’s nothing inherently business-like about paying your employees based on how well they do their jobs, or allocating resources to the people you think will use them most effectively, or shutting down organizations that chronically fail.”

Well said. And I suspect some of you in the schools might be a bit weary of the idea that if only you adopted “business principles” or “market-based reforms,” excellence would abound. (Notice, you never hear about “banking principles” or “hedge fund principles” or “No. 1 Japanese automaker principles.” At least, not lately.)
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Lawrence Hardy|February 26th, 2010|Categories: American School Board Journal, Student Achievement|

Education headlines

sbn_LOGOSecretary of Education Arne Duncan writes about the Obama administration’s plan for direct student loans and prominent education Diane Ravitch discusses her change of heart on the free marketplace and schools in the Washington Post today. And the Associated Press reports on the need for state laws on restraints and seclusion in the classroom (NSBA is supporting federal legislation on this issue, as ASBJ reported in the March issue) Read these stories in School Board News Today.

Joetta Sack-Min|February 26th, 2010|Categories: American School Board Journal, Student Achievement|

Education headlines: Duncan, Ravitch speak out

In today’s Washington Post, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan pitches the Obama administration’s plan to convert the federal student loan program to a direct-lending institution run by the government. By eliminating subsidies to private banks, he says, the federal government can fund early education and more programs to help low-and middle-income students go to college. In another Post article, education historian Diane Ravitch says business principles won’t work for schools, a reversal of some other policies she advocated for as an official in the first Bush administration. And the Associated Press reports on the lack of state regulation on seclusion for disruptive students, which in some extreme cases has led to suicides. (NSBA is supporting a House bill that would require states to set rules and report on incidents of restraint and seclusion, read its statement here, and the story in American School Board Journal, here.)

Joetta Sack-Min|February 26th, 2010|Categories: School Board News, Student Achievement|

Education headlines

sbn_LOGOAt a House committee hearing on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, charter school supporters told lawmakers that the federal government must do more to ensure the schools are properly monitored in areas such as admissions, academics, and finances. Meanwhile, some gifted students are reinventing—or outright skipping—their senior year of high school. Read these stories and more in School Board News Today.

Joetta Sack-Min|February 25th, 2010|Categories: American School Board Journal, Student Achievement|

Education headlines: Charter schools and skipping the senior year

The House Education and Labor Committee kicked off its hearings on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization with testimony from charter-school proponents who said the federal government must ensure charters are properly monitored, the New York Times reports. The Times also continues coverage of the mass firing of staff at Central Fall High School in Rhode Island, a story that has gotten significant national coverage. USA Today writes about students who are reinventing—or outright skipping—their senior year of high school. And the Missouri School Boards Association is advocating for districts that have not received promised funds from the state in this story from the Missourian.

Joetta Sack-Min|February 25th, 2010|Categories: School Board News, Student Achievement|

NSBA urges quick passage of jobs legislation

The jobs bill passed by the U.S. Senate this week would expand provisions for tax credit bonds, including school bond programs, and ultimately could provide some relief to school districts to help save teachers’ jobs and educational programs.

A $15 billion economic stimulus package, much smaller than what President Obama had requested and smaller than a companion piece of legislation passed by the House of Representatives late last year, would be the first of several measures designed to create new jobs and keep the U.S. economy afloat. The measure passed the Senate by a bipartisan 70-28 vote on Feb. 24.

Since much of the money in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed one year ago has already been allotted and estimates for state budget shortfalls for K-12 education have reached as high as $38 billion for this year, states and districts need immediate help, NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant said. Read NSBA’s statement here.

“The loss of jobs in communities has impacted local and state revenues for education and other vital public services,” Bryant said. “We have seen the devastating results of layoffs in our school districts including larger class sizes that do not facilitate the type of interaction and specialized instruction for many students and teachers, the loss of specialists for intervention programs such as reading and math coaches and after school tutoring, and discontinued extracurricular programs that help provide a well-rounded education program for our students.”

In many states, school officials have already begun handing out layoff notices to teachers and other staff, as union contracts often dictate that any employee whose job could be eliminated receive notice months in advance. This week, for instance, the San Francisco school board voted to send about 900 pink slips to teachers in March, and the Fairfax County, Va., school district has announced plans to eliminate some 600 jobs next year.

The federal government, though, must provide more relief specifically for school districts, Bryant said.

“While the Senate’s recent action is a good step, NSBA urges continued diligence in passing a jobs package that includes fiscal aid to school districts and states,” she said. “This is critical to helping our nation’s schools continue effective programs and save jobs.”

The Senate bill would extend funding for the Qualified School Construction Bonds (QSCBs) and Qualified Zone Academy Bonds (QZABs). These bonds, which also were included in last year’s stimulus funding, provide zero-interest financing to school districts for infrastructure projects by giving the bond buyer a federal tax credit in lieu of interest payments from the school district. The program’s goal is to help state and local governments finance capital improvement projects at a lower cost, with the federal government subsidizing a portion of the interest paid, which would create jobs.

Joetta Sack-Min, Online Editor

Joetta Sack-Min|February 25th, 2010|Categories: School Board News, Student Achievement|

Teacher evaulation process needs evaluation

Photo courtesy Stockvault

Photo courtesy Stockvault

There’s a reason school districts still rely on the same teacher evaluation model that’s been around for half a century.

Many are not ready for anything more ambitious.

Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of local school leaders who do a great job of evaluating teachers.

It’s just that, with everything else there is to do in today’s public schools, the teacher evaluation process can get lost in the shuffle. You just assume it’s working fine.

That’s why there are principals out there who are not adequately trained to evaluate their faculty. And why there is little money out there to provide that training.

And why lots of mediocre teachers get a “satisfactory” rating each year—because principals don’t feel qualified to make hard judgments or prefer to avoid the hassles of dealing with a struggling teacher.

Of course, there also are those schools that just avoid the issue altogether. That reality was revealed in a new report that concludes the Boston Public schools “routinely neglect a basic task: evaluating teachers.”

According to the Boston Globe, the report, commissioned by the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, found that “half the city’s approximately 5,000 teachers have not received an evaluation in the past two years, and a quarter of the city’s 135 schools have not conducted evaluations during that period.”
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Naomi Dillon|February 25th, 2010|Categories: American School Board Journal, Governance, Teachers|Tags: , |

Education headlines

sbn_LOGOMore districts are looking to “extreme makeovers” for their public schools–taking drastic actions such as reconstitution or extending school hours, sometimes with the support of the teachers’ unions. But then there’s the district in Rhode Island that made national headlines when its school board fired the entire staff of its high school, setting off protests from teachers across the state. Read about these situations and the jobs bill (designed to save education jobs) that is making its way through Congress in today’s School Board News Today.

Joetta Sack-Min|February 24th, 2010|Categories: American School Board Journal, Student Achievement|
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