Articles from April, 2010

Illinois sexting bill aims to educate, not criminalize

As BoardBuzz has mentioned before, “Sexting” became a household term last year after four Pennsylvania teens were charged with disseminating and possessing child pornography after officials learned they had exchanged nude photos of themselves via cell phone. Moreover, lawmakers have been rethinking the issue, and most seem to want to decriminalize sexting among teens.

The Illinois legislature passed a bill back in March that would limit penalties for minors that share nude or sexually explicit photos via cell phone or computer. The bill, which has moved to Governor Pat Quinn’s desk for signature, aims to take a realistic approach to teens making stupid decisions. It would both educate and punish teenagers for sexting, but not treat them as sex offenders. Sexting teens would likely receive counseling and perform community service.

Ars Technica notes:

Under the Illinois proposal, teens who send racy images to just each other would not be punished—only those who decide to widely distribute those images (usually as part of an attempt to blackmail or embarrass the sender). Those found guilty of sending the texts would be subject to juvenile court supervision, but wouldn’t get labeled a sex offender for possessing an image of a minor, as would be appropriate under current Illinois law.

“As the Internet explodes and people are taking advantage of it, these images hang around forever,” said State Senator Ira Silverstein (D-Chicago). “Once they’re disseminated, they can ruin somebody’s career.”  Silverstein left open the option of crafting more severe penalties for sexting. “If it continues, we might have to take harsher steps,” he said.

Quinn’s spokesman Bob Reed said the governor intends to review the bill before committing to sign it. What do you think? Does the Illinois bill strike the right balance between punishment and education?

Erin Walsh|April 30th, 2010|Categories: Educational Technology, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Student Achievement|Tags: |

The week in blogs

Photo courtesy of Stockvault.com

Photo courtesy of Stockvault.com

It was a great line in, of all places, a 7th grade text on the history of science. And I still remember it today.

In a discussion of scientific misconceptions handed down for generations, the book told of medieval monks copying an error from Aristotle — that all flies had eight legs — “while six-legged flies crawled on their pages.”

Clever, to be sure. But why did my seventh grade science teacher, a wonderful man if not the most scintillating of lecturers, have to read it to us, nearly verbatim, as we sat docility in our desks following the same words in the text? It was, unfortunately, the way he conducted most of his classes: reading, almost word for word, from the book.

What’s the 21th century equivalent of that class? According to Joann Jacobs’ blog, it just might be PowerPoint.

“PowerPoint makes us stupid,” says Marine General James N. Mattis, in a New York Times  story cited in the blog. Adds Brig. General H. R. McMaster, “It’s dangerous because it can create the illusion of understanding and the illusion of control.”
(more…)

Lawrence Hardy|April 30th, 2010|Categories: American School Board Journal, Student Achievement|

Education headlines: Ariz. officials target non-fluent ELL teachers

Arizona’s education department is telling school principals to remove or reassign teachers who do not speak grammatically correct English or speak with heavy accents from classes for English language learners, the Wall Street Journal says… Meanwhile, Denver Public  Schools officials have banned employees’ work-related travel to Arizona to protest the state’s controversial new immigration enforcement law, the Washington Post reports… As states mull whether to reapply for the second round of Race to the Top grants, officials in California, one of the largest, have decided that three of the state’s largest districts stand a better chance and will apply instead, the Los Angeles Times says.


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

Education headlines: New campaign teaches students to understand advertising

A teachers’ union in Rhode Island is suing the school district that fired all its teachers and is now requiring them to reapply for their jobs, the Washington Post reported. Superintendent Frances Gallo told the teachers they would have to reapply and give a five-minute lesson if they want to be rehired… Florida State University released a study showing that a good teacher is the most helpful tool for kids learning to read. The study used identical twins in first and second grade, and found that 42 pairs out of 280 pairs showed significant differences in reading improvement, according to USA Today… Speaking of reading, the Bureau of Consumer Protection of the Federal Trade Commission are sponsoring a federal effort to teach students in grades four through six how to “read” advertising and make informed consumer choices. A New York Times report said readers can start their “ad-ucation” at admongo.gov

Erin Walsh|April 29th, 2010|Categories: Announcements, School Board News, Teachers|

Recession’s lasting effect on public schools unknown

1-1235664948qCNwHaving made some really tough budget decisions in the past few years—and now confronted with yet another tough fiscal year ahead—local school boards truly are entering “uncharted territory.”

That’s the title of ASBJ‘s May cover story, which examines the budget struggles of public schools nationwide—and what the future holds.

Perhaps the biggest question is how recent budget cuts will affect student learning. If little Johnny must attend a class with 30 other students, how does this affect his ability to learn to read? How is little Sally affected if her math teacher hasn’t had any professional development training since 2007?

Answers are simple: No one knows. But certainly many worry about the accumulated impact of larger class sizes, loss of teacher training, delayed technology and textbook purchases, closed down tutoring programs, and the layoff of many qualified teachers and administrators.

Oh, yes, then there’s the astonishing fact that some financially hard-hit school systems—including the entire state of Hawaii—switched to a four-day school week to balance their budgets.
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Naomi Dillon|April 29th, 2010|Categories: American School Board Journal, Budgeting, NSBA Publications|Tags: , , |

Supreme Court ruling will protect districts from attorney fee claims

By a narrow majority, the U.S. Supreme Court has decided that a judge erred when he granted plaintiffs’ lawyers a $4.5 million bonus for what he considered exemplary work in a civil rights case that led to major reforms in Georgia’s foster care system.

The 5-4 decision, announced April 21, is viewed as a victory for school officials. NSBA had argued in an amicus brief that adding bonuses to a plaintiff’s regular attorney fees would make it harder for school districts to settle lawsuits, as they would unable to project the potential costs.

“When Georgia voluntarily took steps above and beyond what could have been recovered in this litigation to fix what was, by all accounts, a seriously broken foster care system, it got slapped with a 75 percent penalty for doing so,” says NSBA’s brief in Perdue V. Kenny A. “An enhanced fee award based on results in similar situations sends school districts the message that it may be better to take their chances at trial rather than voluntarily offer changes that the district recognizes are in the best educational interest of the children they serve but are beyond what the law would specifically require.”

Moreover, enhanced fees would in effect take money from the very children represented in such lawsuits because schools and other under-funded public entities would have to pay the plaintiff lawyers out of scarce funds that would otherwise go to solving the problems, NSBA’s brief said.

Justice Samuel A. Alito, who wrote for the majority, said that while bonus payments may be warranted in rare instances, the Georgia judge did not present sufficient evidence that the Kenny case was one of them, according to a report in New York Times.

“It has to be up to the plaintiff to prove that this is one of those rare situations that deserve an enhancement” of attorney fees, said NSBA Deputy General Counsel Naomi Gittins. She called the decision “a good one for schools” because if offers them protection from “outlandish enhancements.”

Justice Alito also said it was impossible to know the impact a lawyer has on a case’s outcome.

“The outcome may be attributable to superior performance and commitment of resources by plaintiffs’ counsel,” he wrote. “Or the outcome may result from inferior performance by defense counsel, unanticipated defense concessions, unexpectedly favorable rulings by the court, an unexpectedly sympathetic jury or simple luck.”

-Lawrence Hardy

Lawrence Hardy|April 28th, 2010|Categories: School Board News, Student Achievement|

New on ASBJ.com

When it comes to budget cuts, “soft services” like human resources, staff 0510ASBJnddevelopment, and communications often get the ax first. But developing people and improving squishy processes like teamwork, project management, and employee communications is critical work, argues ASBJ communications columnist Nora Carr in her latest installation.

Though it may seem like an easy target, keeping the soft services is necessary in a people-intensive business like education, Carr writes. To learn more about how the hard work of schools is tied to the soft skills of its staff read Carr’s column here for a limited time.

Naomi Dillon|April 28th, 2010|Categories: American School Board Journal, NSBA Publications|

Webinar: Open Source software saves districts money

Using Open Source software can be a great way for schools to save money, increase the capabilities of their computers, and offer students the same programs they use at school for use on home computers.

NSBA’s National Affiliate Services and Technology Programs hosted a webinar on April 27 to educate school officials about the benefits of Open Source software and the best way to implement it in their schools.

Randy Orwin, an independent consultant and the owner of k12opensourcehelp.com, said the Bainbridge Island School District in Washington, where he worked for the last nine years, saved about $100,000 by using Open Source software.

The transition to Open Source from traditional or “proprietary” programs can be simple. Just by switching from a proprietary program like Microsoft Office to an Open Source program like Open Office, a district can save tens of thousands of dollars in just the first year, since software licensing is free on Open Source programs.

Open Source is also beneficial to schools because it can run on any platform, including Windows, Mac and Linux.  This means that students with a home computer can install the same Open Source programs they use at school.

Some free programs lack the bells and whistles of proprietary programs, but that is starting to change as more people switch to Open Source.

“There is an awful lot of money to be saved, on one hand, but also a lot of functionality that can be added by using Open Source applications in the classroom,” Orwin said.

(Go here for more information about National Affiliate webinars or to replay recent sessions.)

-Patricia Smith

Erin Walsh|April 28th, 2010|Categories: School Board News, Student Achievement|

NSBA thanks 2010 Annual Conference sponsors

NSBA would like to thank the following sponsors of its 2010 Annual Conference:

Platinum Level

Gold Level Sponsors

Silver Level Sponsors

Joetta Sack-Min|April 28th, 2010|Categories: School Board News, Student Achievement|

School lunches partially blamed for making the next generation unfit for duty

When considering the “dangers” of school lunch, parents’ concerns probably don’t go much further than worrying about their child trading his carrot sticks for that peanut butter sandwich that’s an allergy attack waiting to happen. But a group of retired military leaders who call themselves Mission: Readiness say that school lunches are causing a threat to national security. A report by the Associated Press quotes one of the former officers as saying unhealthy school lunches are making kids “too fat to fight.”

The group released a study that said 27 percent of Americans between the age of 17 and 24 are too overweight to join the military. A startling statistic, to be sure, but how much of this is really based on school lunches?
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Naomi Dillon|April 28th, 2010|Categories: American School Board Journal, Educational Research, Governance, Wellness|Tags: , |
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