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Articles from June, 2010

Education headlines: House may vote on revamped K-12 jobs bill

House Democrats, who are trying to pass a military funding bill this week, have put forth a $10 billion amendment to help school districts avoid teacher layoffs, the Associated Press reports… USA Today writes that New York has the highest per-pupil spending—$17,173 per student in 2007-08 (before the budget crisis truly hit)… And New York City’s infamous “rubber rooms” for teachers accused of wrongdoing are paid for doing no work are now officially closed, the New York Times reports.

Joetta Sack-Min|June 30th, 2010|Categories: Announcements, School Board News|

High school graduation tradition becoming complicated, antiquated

graduation-jubilationHow many valedictorians should a high school have? One, three, 20 or more? Or none at all?

In June, American School Board Journal reported on the trend of high schools, particularly those in affluent or suburban areas, awarding multiple top honors. Others, Senior Editor Del Stover wrote, have simply done away with the honorarium in favor of honors such as summa cum laude.

The New York Times covered the story this week, noting that, “in top suburban schools across the country, the valedictorian, a beloved tradition, is rapidly losing its singular meaning as administrators dispense the title to every straight-A student rather than try to choose the best among them.”

Some school administrators like the concept of multiple valedictorians because it helps them honor more students who have excelled, but others say it’s simply exacerbating grade inflation.

 “I think, honestly, it’s a bit of an anachronism,” William R. Fitzsimmons, the dean of admissions at Harvard, told the Times. “This has been a long tradition, but in the world of college admissions, it makes no real difference.”

Fitzsimmons offered some good anecdotes–schools with more than 100 valedictorians, and home-schooled students praised as No. 1 — out of one. Perhaps it is time to say “farewell” to the tradition.

Joetta Sack-Min, Associate Editor

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

Education headlines: Civil rights lawyer Bill Taylor dies at 78

While much has been written about the passing of Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia, another legendary figure in education died this week. William L. Taylor was a prominent civil rights attorney for more than 50 years and head of the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Education Fund. He was instrumental in several desegregation cases, including the enforcement of Brown v. Board of Education. Read the NAACP’s press release and more in the St. Louis Beacon.

Joetta Sack-Min|June 29th, 2010|Categories: School Law, Announcements, Diversity, Student Achievement, School Board News|

List and shout

stockvault_24925_20100427I’m not a regular reader of Woman’s Day. Or Ladies Home Journal. But one day awhile back, when we were visiting my mother-in-law, I saw a story on the cover of one of those magazines that was so tantalizing, so enticing that … well, I just had to check it out. It was titled (and here I’m relying on my remarkable memory, and poetic license):

“Five Keys to the Most Energized You …. Ever!!

I think it was the “…. Ever!!” that got me. Anyway, I said to myself, “I need to know that!” and quickly turned to the following list:

Five Keys to the Most Energized You….. Ever!!” 

#1  Get eight hours of sleep a night.

#2  Cut the booze.

#3  Same for coffee.

#4  Avoid stress.

#5  Try not to have kids.

This was not helpful. And unfortunately, most magazine lists that promise these kinds of things aren’t very helpful, either. But not ASBJ‘s Truly Astounding July Feature: “Let’s List Again!!!'”

It’s not just because we use three exclamation points instead of two. (But you’ll notice, we do!!!) No, it’s because I wrote it.

In “Let’s List Again” you’ll find things like: Ten Common Myths of Board Service, Five Comments Guaranteed to Drive You Crazy, Five Tips  for a Successful Meeting, Six Curriculum Mistakes, and Ten Way to Minimize Fraud.

A note on the lede. I didn’t write it; our Editor-in-Chief Glenn Cook did. I had originally – now listen to this — used a quote from the very same board member that Naomi Dillon opens with in her story. (How likely is that???)

So Glenn changed it to “a bad pun.”  Actually, I kind of like the pun. Only after reading it, I can’t get Chubby Checker out of my mind.

Lawrence Hardy, Senior Editor

Lawrence Hardy|June 29th, 2010|Categories: Curriculum, Wellness, Student Achievement, Policy Formation, Leadership, Key Work of School Boards, Budgeting, American School Board Journal|

Supreme Court ruling bolsters K-12 nondiscrimination policies

The Supreme Court has upheld a public law school’s nondiscrimination policy after a challenge by a Christian student group, providing an important victory for many public school districts with similar policies.

The University of California’s Hastings College of the Law, in San Francisco, denied the Christian Legal Society recognition and related benefits because its bylaws required that members share its beliefs on faith and marriage.

The case, Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, could have hurt public schools’ efforts to build an inclusive environment, according to an amicus brief filed by NSBA.

“The court’s decision is a recognition of the value of fairness policies in the school setting,” said NSBA’s General Counsel, Francisco M. Negron Jr. “For public schools, this means that schools can continue to keep in place valuable policies that ensure all students are treated fairly and equitably.”

Following California law, Hastings College of Law had implemented a non-discrimination policy that conditioned official recognition of student organizations on their agreement to allow any student to participate, become a member, or seek leadership positions, regardless of her status or beliefs. The benefits for a recognized group at Hastings College of Law include funding, use of facilities, and access to communications tools such as e-mail lists.

The case arose when leaders of an existing Christian group formed the Christian Legal Society, a branch of a national group that requires its members to sign a “Statement of Faith” and to conduct their lives in accord with prescribed principles, including the belief that sexual activity should not occur outside of marriage between a man and a woman, thus barring gay students and those who did not subscribe to its strict beliefs.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the majority ruling, with which Justices Stevens, Kennedy, Breyer, and Sotomayor joined. Justices Stevens and Kennedy wrote separate concurrences. Justice Alito filed a dissent in which Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia and Thomas joined.

In the amicus brief filed in March, NSBA, the California School Boards Association (CSBA), the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), and the School Social Work Association of America (SSWAA) argued that school officials, without fear of liability, should be able to adopt and enforce nondiscrimination policies. The brief asked the high court to give clear guidance to public school officials so that they are able to adopt nondiscrimination policies that benefit all students without fear of legal actions.

Joetta Sack-Min|June 28th, 2010|Categories: Religion, School Law, Diversity, School Climate, School Board News|

Education headlines: Cyberbullying creates complex problems for school officials

Cyberbullying is presenting an array of complex questions for school officials, the New York Times says in an in-depth report… The NYT also reports on the growing trend of multiple high school valedictorians (American School Board Journal covered the topic in its June issue, read more here)… Schools in Arizona are relying more heavily on school volunteers for tasks that used to be assigned to paid staff, according to the Arizona Republic… And in a battle over local control, some Texas districts are suing the state education commissioner to continue a long-held practice of giving students a minimum grade for completing a class assignment, the Dallas Morning News writes.

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

Board training, development — an important part of your governance process

0710Cover_ASBJSchool’s out, summer’s on, and for many school board members the real work starts. I’m talking about board development, whether that means a board retreat to establish a mission statement and goals, a review to determine the district’s progress towards set goals, or workshops and courses to enhance and deepen knowledge on school governance and current issues.

Education is a dynamic and volatile field and the districts that navigate the changes best are the ones with leadership teams who understand the value of regular professional development and training, as I discovered in reporting for the July cover story for ASBJ.

“People aren’t born understanding the intricacies of school funding formulas, parliamentiary procedure, open meetings, and public records requirements,” Lisa Bartusek, NSBA’s associate executive director of state association services, told me. “Board training helps lay citizens get up to speed quickly with the practical knowledge to perform their role.”

In fact, this knowledge base is so important that 20 states currently mandate board training for newly elected board members and even ongoing training for sitting board members.

Naomi Dillon|June 28th, 2010|Categories: Governance, Policy Formation, American School Board Journal|Tags: , |

Week in Review

As budgets get leaner for school districts across the country, it’s forcing some officials to pursue dubious partnerships. Meanwhile, yet another study finds charter school franchise, KIPP schools, a model of urban education reform– but are comparisons to its traditional counterparts fair? Lastly, a new edition of ASBJ is now online, and we hope you take the time to peruse the informative articles on leadership and professional development— which are free for a limited time. Read these and other entries from this week’s Leading Source.

Naomi Dillon|June 26th, 2010|Categories: Week in Blogs, American School Board Journal|

The week in blogs

Today’s New York Times tells a story of qualified success in the turning around of troubled Locke High School in south central Los Angeles. It’s a success because school leaders have restored a sense of order and purpose to a huge high school in one of the city’s toughest neighborhoods. But it’s qualified, the Times says, because of the tremendous cost — $15 million, much of it from private foundations. How useful a model is it for districts that don’t have that kind of money to spend, even with federal turnaround funds?

However, in his This Week in Education blog, Alexander Russo makes two good points: Locke High has many more problems than the typical low-performing school; and, considering cash-strapped California’s meager support of schools (about 46th place among the states in per-pupils spending, according to one estimate), the high school had a lot of ground to make up.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Get Schooled blog covers a troubling development in Memphis, Tenn., where school officials are considering bringing back corporal punishment.

NSBA’s own EDifier blog describes an interesting study that shows states can have more meaningful tests – and have them at a fraction of the cost of the current bubble-in kind.

Finally, a “you be the judge” kind of post on Education Tech News about a Philadelphia area English teacher who was fired from her parochial school after writing a blog about a class assignment. A Philadelphia Inquirer poll found overwhelming support for the teacher, but after reading the paper’s story, which appeared some time ago, I have to believe she crossed the line in a couple of serious ways. What do you think?

Lawrence Hardy, Senior Editor

Lawrence Hardy|June 25th, 2010|Categories: Governance, Curriculum, Teachers, School Security, School Climate, Student Achievement, Budgeting, Assessment, American School Board Journal|

Education headlines: School libraries are casualty of budget cuts

School libraries and librarians are becoming mass casualties of major K-12 budget cuts in many districts, according to the Associated Press… South Hadley High School in Massachusetts, which gained notoriety after freshman Phoebe Prince was bullied and committed suicide earlier this year, has new plans to overhaul its bullying policies, including an electronic system to report incidents anonymously, the Boston Globe reports… A group of parents is suing Missouri, saying state officials owe its schools more money, according to the AP… And after the Provincetown, Mass., school board made national news for its decision to provide condoms to any student regardless of grade level, officials there will rethink the policy. An article in USA Today covers the decision, and AP covers the aftermath.

Joetta Sack-Min|June 25th, 2010|Categories: Governance, American School Board Journal|
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