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Articles from March, 2010

How can the Center for Public Education work for you?

You know NSBA’s Center for Public Education exists. But do you know how useful its products and research can be?

A March 30 webinar on using the Center for Public Education gave these five practical, time-saving tips on how you can use the Center to help your everyday work:

  1. Search the Center for answers to your members’ questions. “I have referred a number of local board members to visit ‘Making Time: What Research Says About Reorganizing School Schedules,'” says Sue Francis, the executive director of the Delaware School Boards Association. “This is an issue that comes before our boards whenever there is consideration of real schedule changes.  This website has been very helpful for our members to use prior to going into a discussion.”
  2. Use the Center’s materials in making your points – they’re made to be distributed. For instance, NSBA’s advocacy staff used the Center’s “Better Late Than Never” report to promote the benefits of supporting late graduates. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, even referred to the report in legislation he sponsored on graduation rates.
  3. Read the Center’s blog, the Edifier, for a quick take on test results. When a major education report (such as NAEP, SAT or ACT) is released, senior policy analyst Jim Hull posts a quick, easy-to-understand summary of the report’s major findings that same day.
  4. Reprint articles and success stories from the Center. All Center material is available and can be reprinted for free if the Center is properly attributed. To start, take a look at the Center’s “success stories” – short, engaging, “good news” stories about school boards. There is at least one from 31 states, and the Center is working to get all 50 states represented.
  5. Use our resource collections to support your work. The Center has extensive collections of resources advocating for school boards, teaching data use, and supporting pre-kindergarten. All are featured through icons on our home page.

If you’d like to get a quick, fifteen-minute tutorial on exactly where to look to access these resources, stay tuned for the next webinar. In the meantime, here are the top 10 suggestions from the Center for Public Education’s staff:

  1. Charter schools: finding out the facts
  2. What research says about the value of homework
  3. Better late than never (late graduates)
  4. Pay for performance: promise or peril?
  5. From beginning to stellar: Five tips on developing skillful readers
  6. What research says about English language learners
  7. Class size and student achievement
  8. Time out: is recess in danger?
  9. Is it really harder to get into college?
  10. Defining a 21st century education

-Rebecca St. Andrie, Manager, Center for Public Education

Erin Walsh|March 31st, 2010|Categories: Student Achievement, School Board News|

Education headlines: All Del. schools will receive RTTT funds, cyberbullying cited in teen suicide cases

New York is delaying $2.1 billion in payments to schools yet again because it doesn’t have the money to pay its bills, the New York Times reports… In Delaware, every public school will receive a piece of the $100 million Race to the Top award, according to the Wilmington News Journal… The tragic suicide of a teenager who was relentlessly bullied at her South Hadley, Mass. high school has captured national headlines and led to the arrests of several students, but now many parents and others are questioning the school official’s handling of the incident, the Boston Globe reports… In another tragic story on, students and community members in West Islip, N.Y., are protesting the “trolling–where anonymous persons post derogatory comments about a person who has died–of a high school senior who committed suicide.

Joetta Sack-Min|March 31st, 2010|Categories: Student Achievement, School Board News|

Tracking civil rights into the 21st century

Photo courtesy of ED

Photo courtesy of ED

A few weeks ago, at the 45th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” when a peacful protest turned violent in Selma, Alab., Education Secretary Arne Duncan promised to reinvigorate civil rights enforcement in schools, which under the auspices of the Office of Civil Rights had stalled.

“The struggle for equal opportunity in our nation’s schools and universities is not at an end,” Duncan said at the historic site. “We will work with schools and enforce laws to ensure that all children— no matter what their race, gender, disability or native origin– have a fair chance at a good future.” 

But with compliance reviews on those objectives having diminished to little more than a look at the system’s current procedures and protocol, what does “reinvigorate” mean in the 21st century?

Well, first off, we learned it meant that compliance investigators would be reviewing and closing grievances made against 32 school districts by the end of the fiscal year, and launching a major investigation of a large urban district, which we soon discovered was Los Angeles Unified.

Naomi Dillon|March 31st, 2010|Categories: Governance, Policy Formation, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , , |

Education headlines

sbn_LOGOIn today’ news, states that did not receive Race to the Top funding are reevaluating their applications, some Minnesota districts are cutting ties with charter schools in light of a new state accountability law, a Florida poll shows that a majority of residents would overturn the 2002 class-size reduction law if it would help schools save money, and some colleges are helping their volatile populations of low-income, first-generation students succeed. Read more in School Board News Today.

Joetta Sack-Min|March 30th, 2010|Categories: Student Achievement, American School Board Journal|

New on

One of  the preeminent processes for school board involvement, according to ASBJ contributing editor Doug Eadie, is strategic planning. Unfortunatley, this integral and important function of governance typically consisted of a passive review of an existing and weighty tome. In his latest installment, Eadie challenges boards and district administrators to be more proactive and engaged in developing a shared vision that is more than just a statement in a book, but a living, achievable, concrete goal. Read his advice on how to do that, here for a limited time.

Naomi Dillon|March 30th, 2010|Categories: Governance, NSBA Publications, American School Board Journal|

Education headlines: Minn. districts dropping charter schools, poll shows Fla. voters now oppose class size reduction law

After yesterday’s announcement of the two Race to the Top winners, states like Kentucky are reevaluating their applications and making plans for the second round, the Courier-Journal reports… Districts across Minnesota, the first state to create charter schools, are now cutting their ties with some of those schools in light of a new state accountability law, according to the Star-Tribune… In Florida, a new poll says voters are willing to get rid of class-size limits to save money, reversing their own vote on the issue, the Tampa Tribune reports… And studies show 89 percent of low-income, first-generation college students do not finish their degrees, but new programs are giving those students crucial support, USA Today says.

Joetta Sack-Min|March 30th, 2010|Categories: Student Achievement, School Board News|

Regular reading, unfortunately, not a regular part of everyone’s day

1-1251554604ir6KFor most of us, the majority of the reading we do during the day probably involves looking over e-mails at work and checking Twitter updates on a smartphone. If we’re lucky, we might be able to squeeze in a few pages of a book before bed.

Unfortunately, it looks like this lack of emphasis on reading in real life has led to a lack of reading preparation in the classroom. The New York Times reported that test results released last week from the largest nationwide reading test show students have made little to no progress in reading achievement over the last 17 years.

The few students that did make gains in reading scores were those included in the lowest performing groups—students who already showed reading proficiency remained at the same level.

Susan Pimentel, a member of the governing board that oversees the test told the Times the reason progress is being made only at the lowest levels is because schools put all the emphasis on teaching basic reading skills, and almost none on developing advanced techniques for reading and comprehension.

Naomi Dillon|March 30th, 2010|Categories: Curriculum, Student Achievement, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , |

Education headlines

sbn_LOGOIn the news today, Delaware and Tennessee become the first winners of the coveted Race to the Top grants, Los Angeles is shortening its school year and limiting out-of-district transfers to cope with its budget shortfall, while Illinois districts may lay off more than 20,000 teachers and staff this year. Read more in School Board News Today.

Joetta Sack-Min|March 29th, 2010|Categories: Student Achievement, American School Board Journal|

Is a pattern developing?

Central Falls High School in Rhode Island gained national media attention earlier this month (and a lot of it) for a plan that will fire all of its teachers at the end of the school year.  Education professionals from all angles understood that something needed to be done and the superintendent and the school board took action by firing the teachers there.  Teachers around the country defended the teachers at the school because so much of the student population were coming from difficult family situations, many were victims of poverty, and struggled at home and at school as many urban students often do.

The situation in Rhode Island is not unique, unfortunately.  In Savannah, Georgia, last week, another superintendent faced the cameras and announced another high school is going to have to fire its entire staff and start over, all in the name of a federal rule that would close the high school if scores didn’t improve.  The situation in Savannah didn’t get national media attention for some reason, and unless you live in Georgia, you may not have heard anything about it.  But at BoardBuzz, we wonder if this is the beginning of a somewhat scary pattern. 

In both cases, test scores staying stagnant or not improving significantly enough in urban districts were the reasons for the firings.  In Savannah scores had been improving over the last several years, but not enough to satisfy NCLB requirements.  Perhaps there are some bad staff members (in Georgia, the entire staff, including the cafeteria workers are being laid off), but we wonder if public school teachers and administrators are now being treated like the latest celebrity on Donald Trump’s Apprentice show.  Is “you’re fired” going to be the next thing every staff person is worried about hearing at the next staff meeting?  Despite the attempts of people working hard to help students, these mass firings cannot be good for students in the long run.  Those who struggle at these two high schools will likely struggle again next year with a new staff, and unless we start addressing the bigger issues, engaging the entire community, and raising standards for all students, this pattern is bound to erupt into a national epidemic.

Kevin Scott|March 29th, 2010|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Going green to save some green

recycle-greenIt’s become a cliche to say that just about every school district is taking drastic actions to save money. States and districts are seeing sizable shortfalls that demand officials take drastic actions to keep their schools running these days, and budget forecasts do not appear to be getting any better.

As much as we hate budget cuts, the threat can spur creativity and force school officials to look at ways to create efficiencies.

“Going green” is certainly not a new trend–it’s actually been around for decades and began gaining prominence more than a decade ago. School districts that were thinking ahead to days when funds might be particularly tight—such as, now–were building schools that required less energy and maintenance. Others that did not have the luxury of building new facilities still found ways to create better environments through renovations and simple programs such as having teachers turn off lights and electrical devices when not in use.

These days, a lot more schools are making those changes. Which not only helps save money for other programs that might be cut, but let’s not forget the main purpose: helping the environment. Assuming our school budgets will eventually recover, programs designed to save energy and operating costs should remain in place indefinitely.

Naomi Dillon|March 29th, 2010|Categories: Student Achievement, American School Board Journal|Tags: , |
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