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Articles from July, 2010

Education headlines: Indiana survey finds many more students homeless

USA Today examines a move to pump more money into innovative education products and help more entrepreneurs break into the education market… An advocacy group in Indiana reports a 26 percent increase in the state’s number of students who are homeless, echoing a national trend, according to the Courier-Journal… And the Wake County, N.C. school board is discussing a “controlled choice” student assignment plan that could help alleviate tensions between those looking to keep economic diversity and those wanting  neighborhood schools, according to the News Observer.

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

Check your cyberbullying policies

The Chicago Public Schools are cracking down on cyberbullies—those students who send abusive e-mail messages to their victims, spread embarrassing messages about students through Facebook pages, or encourage violence via text messaging.

So reports the Chicago Sun-Times, which this week reported that CPS has adopted new guidelines to bring into the 21st century its policies on bullying.

Under new rules approved by the Chicago school board, the newspaper states, “cyberbullying will be considered as serious an offense as burglary, aggravated assault, gang activity, drug use or more traditional forms of bullying. Students who use computers or phones to ‘stalk, harass, bully or otherwise intimidate others’ will be suspended for five to 10 days and could be referred for expulsion.

“The details will automatically be referred to Chicago Police, who could hit students with criminal charges.”

It’s not as if CPS has just discovered this issue—or that school administrators haven’t been responding to electronic forms of bullying.

That said, CPS spokeswoman Monique Bond told the Sun-Times, until now “the issue was a ‘gray area’ . . . with some schools punishing students under existing anti-bullying rules, while others held back amid confusion over their role.”

The new rules clarify expected responses, she says. “We needed some clarity on where the limits are.”


Kathleen Vail|July 30th, 2010|Categories: Governance, School Law, NSBA Publications, Educational Technology, American School Board Journal|

Education headlines: Chicago board OKs tough cyberbullying policy, Obama defends proposals

In a speech to the National Urban League today, President Obama defended his policies to turn around failing schools and said he’ll continue to fight for the Race to the Top program. Read more in the Christian Science Monitor and  the Washington Post… The Chicago school board has passed tough new rules to deal with cyberbullies–now any student caught using a cell phone or social networking website to pick on classmates will face mandatory suspension, possible expulsion and a police investigation, the Chicago Sun-Times reports… And California gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown has unveiled a plan to restructure K-12 and higher education and change the state’s school finance system, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Joetta Sack-Min|July 29th, 2010|Categories: Student Achievement, School Board News|

NSBA: School officials must have authority to regulate classroom speech

A case involving a teacher’s First Amendment rights has the potential to impact school officials’ authority over speech in the classroom and school district exposure to lawsuits.

NSBA and the California School Boards Association are urging the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to preserve the right of schools to regulate materials posted by teachers and school employees in their classrooms. In Johnson v. Poway Unified School District, NSBA argues that schools need the same rights as other public employers to monitor their employees’ expressions in the workplace.

Although the court’s decision would only apply to schools within the 9th Circuit’s jurisdiction (Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands), it has the potential to impact other rulings, said Thomas Hutton, an attorney with Patterson Buchanan Fobes Leitch & Kalzer, a Pacific Northwest law firm, who was Counsel of Record for the brief.

“This is a very chaotic area of law—courts have been all over the place not only in the outcome but in the analysis they use to get there,” he said. “That has several implications for why this is a nationally significant case.”

Other circuit courts that have not dealt with the issue may look to the 9th Circuit’s decision for guidance, Hutton added. Further, a bevy of cases with mixed opinions eventually is more likely to get the attention of the Supreme Court.

The case arose when a Poway Unified District high school principal asked a math teacher, Bradley Johnson, to remove two seven-foot-long banners with religious references, including “God Bless America” and “All Men Are Created Equal, They Are Endowed by Their Creator,” from his classroom. Johnson claims the request infringed on his First Amendment free speech rights, although the district had a policy that banned religious advocacy by employees in the schools.

In 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Garcetti v. Ceballos that expressions public employees make in the routine course of doing their jobs are not protected by the First Amendment. Given that nearly every teacher posts artwork or other materials on their classroom walls, and school administrators often have to make quick judgments, NSBA’s legal team is specifically asking the appellate court to follow the precedent set in Garcetti v. Ceballos for public school district employees.

“It is important the Court apply established precedent that recognizes public employers’ authority to manage on-the-job speech of their employees including the classroom speech of teachers,” said NSBA’s General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón, Jr. “Schools, in particular, need to regulate teacher classroom speech, because teachers are in a unique position to greatly influence their students’ thinking and behavior.”

Other attorneys from the Patterson Buchanan firm who contributed to the pro bono brief for NSBA included: Derek A. Bishop, Michael Kitson, Keith A. Talbot, and Bryan T. Terry.

Joetta Sack-Min|July 29th, 2010|Categories: Governance, Religion, School Law, Teachers, School Board News|

Can schools help solve the obesity crisis?

Health is the word in the August issue of American School Board Journal, just posted on our website. The cover article by Senior Editor Naomi Dillon looks at how increased national attention, including from the White House, is influencing how school districts and communities are helping students and their families get and stay healthy and fit. Dillon traveled to Huntington, W.Va., a town that won the dubious honor of being the fatest city in the U.S. several years ago. The Huntington schools, along with community partners, took up the challenge to encourage good health and eating habits among children and adults.
Do you believe that the war on underage use of tobacco has been won? You might want to rethink that notion after reading Senior Editor Del Stover’s article on how tobacco companies are using different products and marketing techniques on your students.
ASBJ’s cover package is open for a month for all everyone, including those who don’t subscribe. Subcribers can read the entire issue, as well as search past issues and use our topical archives.

Kathleen Vail|July 29th, 2010|Categories: NSBA Publications, Wellness, Athletics, American School Board Journal|

Education headlines: Who are the 19 RTTT second-round finalists?

The Hechinger Report has put together a comprehensive online resource on the round-two finalists in the Department of Education’s Race to the Top grant competition. The package includes an interactive map and a question-and-answer feature with Delaware’s education secretary… The Washington Post reports that President Obama’s education agenda is provoking states to enact reforms but “hitting a wall in Congress”… And the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued new guidance on head lice, advising schools to abandon their “no nit” policies and allow students with head lice to come to class.

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

Department of Education announces 19 RTTT finalists for second round

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced finalists for the second round of the Race to the Top this afternoon. Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia applied for the remaining $3.4 billion grants, which will be awarded in September. Delaware and Tennessee won the first round.

“Peer reviewers identified these 19 finalists as having the boldest plans, but every state that applied will benefit from this process of collaboratively creating a comprehensive education reform agenda,” Duncan said in the announcement. “Much of the federal dollars we distribute though other channels can support their plan to raise standards, improve teaching, use data more effectively to support student learning, and turn around underperforming schools.”

Here is a list of the finalists:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • District of Columbia
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
Joetta Sack-Min|July 27th, 2010|Categories: Student Achievement, School Board News|

Education headlines: Civil rights leaders criticize Obama’s education plans

Civil rights leaders are criticizing the Obama administration’s plans for reforming low-performing schools and closing the achievement gap. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan met with leaders of the NAACP and other groups yesterday, USA Today reports… Common Core standards are an issue in the Massachusetts gubernatorial race, with one candidate slamming Gov. Deval Patrick’s plan to replace the state’s highly regarded standards with the Common Core standards, according to the Boston Globe… And following up on a previous story, the Beverly Hills, Calif., school board is moving ahead with plans to oust most of their students who live outside their boundaries, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Joetta Sack-Min|July 27th, 2010|Categories: Announcements, School Board News|

NSBA, Central Region directors examine common standards movement

(republished with permission of Kentucky School Boards Association)

Adoption of nationally-standardized learning targets is just one step in changing how America’s K-12 schools prepare students for college and the workforce, according to two players involved in Kentucky becoming the first state to adopt the new yardsticks in English and math.

Former Kentucky Education Commissioner Gene Wilhoit and past Kentucky Board of Education Chairman Joe Brothers shared that assessment of the Common Core Standards Initiative in Louisville on Saturday, addressing leaders of the National School Boards Association and the nine states in its Central Region.

“In 1970, society could take care of four types of workers: high school graduates for low-skilled jobs, not-so-skilled manual labor, routine category jobs and non-routine creative jobs,” said Wilhoit, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), an organization of the states’ top elementary and secondary education officials. CCSSO is one of the leading agencies in the development of the common core standards in English/language arts and math and the ongoing draft of science and social studies standards.

“Today, there is almost no opportunity for those in the bottom two categories,” he said. “A lot of people are unprepared for the jobs of the future. The big shift is that we have to prepare youngsters for that reality.”

Standards pose challenges

A starting point in the “big shift” is the move to the common core standards.

“The successful person today is the person who has enough depth of knowledge to use that as a basis for discussion to solve a problem,” Wilhoit said. “(In the past), we’ve had too many standards that were not deep enough and we’ve overloaded teachers.

“Every student should be on a pathway to somewhere else and that causes us to think about standards differently. We went out and searched standards in the states and the world and went into the tests and curriculum guides of all of the countries that were making rapid improvement in education.”

Wilhoit stressed that the new standards don’t represent a move to “federalism” nor should the shift leave local leaders sitting on the sideline.

“The nugget on the table for local boards of education is to have a serious conversation about learning progressions,” he said. “How are you going to give teachers the time to have to make adjustments? How do you take these new standards with the teaching force you have and get all kids graduating with a mastery of knowledge and skills? That’s the new north star.”

Changing the educational culture

Brothers told NSBA leaders that the common standards are necessary because “we have unacceptable student success by U.S. standards and by global metrics.

“Thirty percent of our students dropout. Fifty percent of those who go to college need remediation,” he said. “We must have culture change.

“We have islands of excellence in some schools and even some districts. But the culture change is to eliminate those (exceptions) and bring all up to the level of performance of those islands of excellence.”

And Brothers called for rejection of the historic solutions educators have turned to when challenged to change.

“If you think money will fix this problem, I beg to disagree. If we’ve proven anything, we’ve proven money won’t fix this problem,” he said. “The typical response is that we need more money and to do more professional development.

“Since 1987, I’ve been hearing about ‘more professional development.’ What are we going to do this time than was done in the other 23 years I’ve been in education? That’s a discussion you have to have back in your home states,” he said.

Brothers, a former Elizabethtown Independent school board member and KSBA president, offered a check list for school boards to move their schools forward with “a sense of urgency and a will to win.”

The check list includes:

  • Developing a comprehensive district kindergarten-through-college education plan
  • Aligning academic standards with what is measured in assessments
  • Establishing “common folks” metrics for measuring success so people can understand proficiency
  • Implementing formative, summative and end of course assessments
  • Linking teacher/administrator evaluations to student achievement
  • Developing longitudinal student data tracking
  • Engaging parents and the community, from classroom to homework to “you name it”
  • Asking for money based on data reflecting achievement, or don’t ask

“Local control means accountability and responsibility,” Brothers said. “Quit talking about what the state needs to do and what the federal government needs to do. The question is what are you going in your community? I challenge you as local board members to exercise the leadership skill you have back at home and make these things happen.”

KSBA hosted the 2010 NSBA Central Region meeting Friday through Sunday. More than 90 school board members from Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin as well as NSBA national officers and staff took part in the conference.

-Brad Hughes, Kentucky School Boards Association

Joetta Sack-Min|July 27th, 2010|Categories: Student Achievement, School Board News|

Do charters = reform?

Edu-watchers know that the big news tomorrow will be about the second round of Race to the Top winners, but another report on charter schools popped up recently and with all eyes on anything that has the terms reform, turnaround, and national standards, we thought we’d look at old favorite, a classic, if you will–charter schools.

Charter schools are a blessing and a curse, depending on where you live, and the verdict is still out on whether they will solve all of the woes in education or cause more problems.  Even Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has said that there are both good and bad charter schools out there and the bad need to be shut down.  Often, those involved in the debate have something to lose or gain when the findings of a new study come out.  Let’s just say that the funders of charter schools make interesting partnerships with those doing the studying (sometimes).

A randomized study would be really beneficial in a situation like this, and our friends at EdWeek‘s Inside School Research wrote a blog about the results of a study that say there really isn’t that big of a difference in student achievement in charter schools, except in urban areas.  According to their blog and the study:

For instance, several studies show that charters are more successful with disadvantaged students in urban school systems and less effective with suburban populations…”From the perspective of a researcher, that’s encouraging,” Gill [study’s researcher] said, “and it suggests that maybe, in fact, we can conduct nonexperimental studies that can replicate the experimental findings.”

This made us start to wonder a bit about the emphasis put on “choice” in many suburban public schools.  The emphasis on charters is often in urban districts, because that’s where achievement is very low, but in many districts, the line is blurry between urban and suburban, and the school board has to make the difficult choice about where to place charter schools.  If charters are helping students in urban districts, maybe the emphasis on innovation and experimentation should reside in a select few urban districts, then studied, before duplicating.  What’s clear now is the “Race to be Different” (i.e. charter schools) can sometimes blow up in the face of the well-intentioned adults making decisions, and then you have a group of students who are steps behind their peers instead of steps ahead.  And that is an injustice to students in urban districts who cannot afford to be left behind.

Kevin Scott|July 26th, 2010|Categories: Privatization, Educational Research, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|
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