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Articles from September, 2010

Daniel Pink: What really motivates us?

BoardBuzz has long been a fan of Daniel Pink, the innovative thinker and author of several books on the changing world of work. His writing and lectures are full of new insights – delivered with humor and an engaging style —  and they’ve had a real impact on our views on performance and motivation in today’s society. 

In a recent speech given to the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) in London,  Pink makes the point that higher incentives often lead to poorer performance. While traditional monetary rewards are motivating factors when people are faced with simple, straightforward tasks, these rewards actually depress performance once a task requires more complicated, creative thinking.  Pink identifies three key factors that lead to better performance:  Autonomy, or self-direction; Mastery – the urge to get better at something; and Purpose—the feeling that a person is making a contribution.

BoardBuzz loves this video of his talk, with lively animation added by RSA Animate:

Daniel Pink will be the General Session speaker at the 2011 NSBA Annual Conference in San Francisco on Sunday, April 10. He’ll discuss how the latest research on motivation and performance can be used to better prepare our students to meet the challenges of the new workplace.

Barbara Moody|September 30th, 2010|Categories: Governance, School Boards, Student Achievement, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Education headlines: Child Nutrition bill stalls in Congress

The U.S. House of Representatives adjourned today, delaying a vote on the Child Nutrition Act reauthorization until after the Nov. 2 elections. The Washington Post reports that the bill has been a priority for First Lady Michelle Obama, who is directed a campaign to get kids to eat healthier foods and exercise to combat childhood obesity. However, anti-poverty lobbyists fiercely opposed the bill, which they perceive to cut the federal food-stamp program, and many members were wary of passing a measure that would have increased federal spending.

State school boards associations and local board members also have advocated for changes in the legislation. NSBA is concerned that the legislation’s requirements for new food standards and training would put an undue burden on schools at a time of economic hardship, as the proposed funding increases would only cover a portion of the increased costs. (Read NSBA’s Issue Brief on Child Nutrition for more information.)

Congress has passed a Continuing Resolution to temporarily extend Child Nutrition programs until December 3.

Joetta Sack-Min|September 30th, 2010|Categories: Announcements, Educational Legislation, School Board News|

Entertainment Nation?

This week, NBC’s “Education Nation” summit brought together some of the country’s top leaders and innovators in education and government, including President Barack Obama, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, numerous members of Congress, governors, mayors, and NSBA’s Executive Director Anne L. Bryant, plus dozens of teachers, parents, students and other educators.

But even though the focus was on education — and there were many discussions of complex issues — you could never forget that NBC is a conglomerate, and that this was an opportunity to showcase stars. NFL Commissioner Roger Goddell spoke on a panel, as did actress Cheryl Hines and Grammy Award-winning singer John Legend. Hines and actor Tony Danza, who attended the Brokaw/Duncan interview, both have new reality shows on education coming out in October.

Hines, a star of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” has a new show designed to show viewers who have “School Pride.” Premiering Oct. 15 on NBC, the show will show case parents, students, and teachers from around the country who are working to fix up their schools.


Kathleen Vail|September 30th, 2010|Categories: Governance, Teachers, Student Achievement, Policy Formation, American School Board Journal|

NSBA’s Bryant speaks on tenure reforms in recap of “Education Nation”

NBC’s Education Nation summit placed an at-times harsh spotlight on the nation’s public schools in two-and-a-half days of panel sessions that featured a little bit of everything. On Sept. 29, NBC released a video recapping the three-day summit, which included remarks by NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant on reforming teacher tenure.

The ambitious multimedia event, streamed live on the web and shown in excerpts on NBC News and the conglomerate’s multiple cable channels, drew a who’s who of star power from education, politics, and entertainment, complete with bickering, tears, posturing, and, ultimately, wary-but-determined hope.

Did anyone get off their pre-established soapboxes? Not really. Will it result in lasting change? The jury’s still out. Did it pay attention to a deserving — if not the deserving — issue of the 21st century? Absolutely.

Overall, the sessions I saw — except for one notable exception — generally were balanced. The events touched on math/science performance, the global economy, the need for highly qualified teachers, the battles between reformers and unions, and, especially, the plight of low-income minority students in high-need urban schools.

On that front, it was not anything new or revolutionary. But then again, the issues are not new.

One of my biggest fears was that the event would be a two-plus day infomercial for “Waiting for Superman,” the new documentary that I have very mixed feelings about. And those fears were not allayed on Sunday, when the film was shown under the tent in Rockefeller Center to an invitation-only crowd of 300 that stuck around for a panel session featuring director Davis Guggenheim, Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers, Chancellor Michelle Rhee of Washington, D.C.’s public schools, and Geoffrey Canada of the Harlem Children’s Zone.

You can’t help but be impressed by Canada, whose fervent desire, entrepreneurial spirit, and outright chutzpah have led to a great success story in one of the toughest areas of the country. I also appreciated the fact that he went out of his way to note that charters are public schools, some traditional public schools work as well as his, and the crisis we face is one we all should embrace.

The Rhee/Weingarten battles, which continued throughout the summit, became tiresome, as did the relentless bashing/undermining of the work of teachers’ unions. I will never go down as the biggest fan of unions, but it was nice to see Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter come to Weingarten’s defense with regard to contract negotiations.

Speaking of Duncan, the man is everywhere. I have never seen an education secretary be so passionate about getting his message — whether you agree with it or not — out to the public. And Nutter provided a nice counterbalance to D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, whose allegiance to Rhee was a factor — but not the sole factor — in losing his bid for re-election earlier this month.

If there was one group that was underrepresented, it was school board members.

NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant was featured on the closing panel that aired Tuesday, and NSBA President Earl Rickman was in attendance. However, only a handful of school board members attended, and they represented other groups, such as parent organizations that were invited to the summit.

That fact wasn’t lost on Andres Alonso, chief executive officer of Baltimore City Public Schools. Speaking at a session titled “Change Agents: How do we reinvent the status quo at all levels?” he pointed out that no school board members were on the panel and only two were in the audience.

“They should be here discussing these issues,” Alonso said. “Reform in the absence of the board of education is problematic.”

Alonso said the board’s work in Baltimore is “some of the reason we’ve been effective.” He noted a time early in his tenure when the board supported his plan to close underutilized schools, even though he received a no-confidence vote from the union.

“I told them, ‘This is what I can predict what will happen,’ and it did,” Alonso said. “Throughout everything, with the vote of no confidence from the union, the board’s support was huge. Even though there was some contention behind closed doors, ultimately their support was huge.”

Amen to that.

-Glenn Cook

Sound bites from the three-day session:

• President Obama, from Today Show interview: “Part of the challenge, I think, for the entire country is to understand that how well we do economically, whether jobs are created here, high-end jobs to support families and support the future of the American people, is going to depend on whether or not we can do something about these schools.”

• Tom Brokaw, prior to an interview with Education Secretary Arne Duncan: “The private sector has an enormous stake in our success … especially as we operate in a global environment. It’s a rising tide around the world. Do we become part of it or do we become submerged by what is going on elsewhere?”

• Andres Alonso, chief executive officer of Baltimore Public Schools, on reforming his district: “This is incredibly hard work. It requires that we all work together, and I don’t mean in a kumbaya way, but understanding that it’s incredibly hard. … There’s not a single city in America that’s doing their job right. The question is, can we make fast progress that puts us on that pathway?”

• Rep. George Miller, chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee: “This has reaffirmed what we know. We need to change and dramatically improve our education system. … It’s happening in some places, but not across the nation. We’re caught somewhere between the 19th and the 21st century.”

• Brian Williams, NBC Nightly News Anchor: “This is a national issue. It’s very close to a national security issue. When did we lose the threat? When do you think we decided we could make this anything less than a top priority?”

• Joel Klein, New York City schools chancellor: “This is a political business we are in, and the status quo will always have fierce defenders. I have to pay math and physical education teachers the same thing, and as a result I have a shortage of math teachers. When you truly professionalize teaching and have true competition … I think we’ll move the system in a way where teachers find it much more congenial and exciting. If you don’t shoot for excellence, you will come up with mediocrity every time.”

• Duncan on passing the buck: “There is much more common ground than people realize. Unions have to move. Superintendents need to move. Students need to move. Let’s stop blaming. Let’s stop pointing fingers.”

• Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty: “To go forward people are going to have to be willing to take political risks. These kids cannot wait; one year is too long.”

• Gwen Samuels, Connecticut parent: “We’re here today because we are in crisis. You’ll call us for an ice cream social but you won’t call me because my child has a better pathway to prison than to college.”

• Gene Wilhoit, executive director of the Chief State School Officers: “Are we asking the right question? Is this about fixing schools, something created in a time past under very different circumstances? Or are we about educating all children to a high level?”

• Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter on changing schools: “It can happen. It takes a whole community approach. You have to be involved. You have to be empowered. It’s a checking of massive egos at the door. I don’t run the schools. I don’t have authority over them, but I feel the responsibility for them. Education is economic development.”

• Miller: “This country talks about how they want a moon shot. They want a Sputnik moment. Folks, this is it.”

Words and phrases used by speakers ad nauseum: Change agents, achievement gaps, tipping point, status quo, void, crisis.

Glenn Cook|September 30th, 2010|Categories: School Reform, School Board News|

Policy guide provides advice on creating safe schools for LGBT students

A string of teen suicides provoked by anti-gay bashing and bullying have renewed attention on the vulnerability of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students to hostility and homophobia at the hands of fellow students. Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi’s despair over discovering his roommate had livestreamed sexual encounters he had with another man drove the talented music student to jump from New Jersey’s George Washington Bridge last week.

It followed similiar tragedies including four anti-gay related suicides this year in Minnesota’s Anoka Hennepin School District alone. Amid this backdrop, the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice, the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado’s school of education and the Williams Institute at UCLA’s law school have released, Safe at School: Addressing the School Environment and LGBT Safety through Policy and Legislation.

In addition to documenting the continuing presence of anti-gay bullying in public schools and the growing liability schools face, the report provides policy recommendations and model legislation to prevent both from occurring.

You can find the complete report here.

Naomi Dillon|September 30th, 2010|Categories: Governance, School Climate, Policy Formation, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , |

STEM in the spotlight as education gets a major media focus

From a pair of segments on Oprah to a multi-day media blitz on NBC to a televised address from the president himself, the state of education in the U.S. has, arguably, never enjoyed as much publicity as it has over the last week and a half.

And the subjects of science, technology, engineering, and math have been a prominent part of the coverage.

President Barack Obama, for instance, launched a national initiative on Monday to recruit 10,000 teachers in the STEM fields.

“Strengthening STEM education is vital to preparing our students to compete in the 21st century economy and we need to recruit and train math and science teachers to support our nation’s students,” Obama said in a prepared statement.

Teachers, no doubt, like Dos Pueblos High School physics and engineering teacher Amir Abo-Shaeer, who learned last Monday that he was one of the 23 recipients— and the only public school teacher— named as the 2010 MacArthur Fellow, a prestige that also carries with it $500,000 in unfettered funds.

Perhaps with a national recruitment project and local champions like Abo-Shaeer, more states can be like New Jersey, whose college students earn more Bachelor degrees in science and engineering than any other field.

Want to learn how to engage students and the community in STEM subjects? Prepare teachers for these dynamic and challenging fields? Or create career paths to enhance STEM in your district and beyond? Then you should attend this year’s T+L conference, held in Phoenix from October 19-22. Register here.

Naomi Dillon|September 29th, 2010|Categories: Teachers, Conferences and Events, Educational Technology, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|Tags: , , |

Duncan promotes teacher recruiting, defends AFT leader at “Education Nation”

Pointing to a huge loss of teachers expected over the next decade, Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced plans for a national campaign to recruit young professionals into education, starting with a new website — — that is “a soup-to-nuts explanation of what it takes to become a good teacher.”

Duncan noted that research shows the difference effective teachers make. “If you have three good teachers in a row, you’ll be one and a half to two years ahead. If you have three poor teachers in a row, you’ll be behind and never catch up.

“What we’re doing as a country isn’t good enough,” he said. “We lose almost 1 million high school students to the streets. A decade ago we led the world in college graduation. Now we’re ninth.”

Duncan, in a one-on-one interview with NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw at the “Education Nation” summit, said the campaign is working to recruit 1 million new teachers over the next five years. The greatest emphasis will be in recruiting male teachers, especially minorities, and in finding qualified staff for the hardest-to-fill positions (math, science, and special education).

“If you look across the country today and put black males and Hispanic males together, it’s 3.5 percent of the teacher workforce,” Duncan said. “If we’re serious about having young men aspire to go to college, we have to put men in their lives. … We lose almost a million students from our high schools each year to the streets.”

“We have to elevate the status of the teaching profession. The countries that are outperforming us today are getting the best and brightest to go into education.”

Brokaw asked whether Duncan’s push would be effective at a time when four out of five school districts are cutting positions.

“It’s a little tough in the short-term,” Duncan said, “but there are a couple of thousand teacher jobs available today at As the economy bounces back you’ll see those numbers change.”

Weingarten gets backing from Duncan, others

Randi Weingarten, the controversial leader of the American Federation of Teachers, is the de facto villain in “Waiting for Superman.” Teachers unions are seen as the hardcore barriers to reform in the documentary, and Weingarten was forced to defend her union’s stances in panel sessions throughout Education Nation.

Weingarten and Michelle Rhee, Washington, D.C.’s equally controversial chancellor, have no love for each other and the two sparred repeatedly. And Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty, who was defeated in his re-election bid earlier this month based in large part on his education agenda, referred to the AFT as an “obstructionist force” in a panel session.

However, Weingarten did get some support from Education Secretary Arne Duncan, among others.

“In hundreds and hundreds of school districts, you see management, boards, and unions working together,” Duncan said. “Unions are signing on to bold reforms … We need to do a better job of spotlighting, a better job of highlighting, because these things are occurring quietly but very very courageously.”

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter noted that Weingarten had helped the teachers union negotiate a contract that allows for Saturday and extended-day programs in the district’s empowerment schools. “That’s a game changer,” he said.

Miami Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said districts face “an impossible juggling act” between state mandates and federal policy that have forced unions and administrators to come to the table.

“It’s no surprise that Florida has the vast majority of its unions negotiating MOUs (memorandums of understanding) on Race to the Top,” Carvalho said. “If they do not change and adapt, unions, they will perish.”

-Glenn Cook

Glenn Cook|September 29th, 2010|Categories: School Reform, School Board News|

“Education Nation” panel: Are politics of education a blood sport?

One session at NBC’s “Education Nation” should make school boards take notice–and not in a good way.

In a panel chaired by “Meet the Press” host David Gregory, the opening video promised a look at the “pros and cons of how public schools are governed at the local level.” It then proceeded to show adults fighting in school board meetings, flashed headlines that noted examples of bad board conduct, and focused on the controversy surrounding the firing of the teachers at Central Falls High School in Rhode Island. (For more on that, read American School Board Journal‘s article in its September issue.)

“Grownups often need a lesson in good conduct,” Gregory’s voiceover said. “… Is the politics of public education often a blood sport?”

The members included three urban superintendents (New York’s Joel Klein, Miami’s Alberto Carvalho, and Boston’s Carol Johnson), former Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, and Gregory McGinity of The Broad Foundation.

Klein, who became chancellor after Mayor Michael Bloomberg wrested control of New York City’s schools, said centralized accountability is necessary. A supporter of D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee and Mayor Adrian Fenty, Klein said he did not understand the “push back” that cost Fenty re-election and could cost Rhee her job “when they were doing what to me obviously was the right thing.”

“Doing nothing and winning is something that has been occurring in public education for far too long… There are a lot of hands on the steering wheel pulling this thing in different directions,” he said. “We need mayors to be accountable. We need governors to be accountable. I’m not real big on boards, which is a thing for some people here, but that’s how I feel.”

Spellings noted that 90 percent of the resources in public education come from state and local government. She said the federal government should be concerned about “outcomes, results” and “leave the how to local administrators, states, and governors, and legislatures.”

The group she neglected to mention: school boards.

“The strategies of 10 years ago were all tactics,” said Bredesen, the Tennessee governor. “Now it’s accountability. Get rid of all these intermediaries. Put it on the governors and the mayors.”

The group he neglected to mention: school boards.

Broad’s McGinity said states and the federal government have taken responsibility for accountability because local control has not worked.

“We have local control and we have continued failure — 40 years of failure,” McGinity said. “It’s the state government’s responsibility and the federal government’s responsibility to find out the cause of that failure.”

McGinity then noted that education policy is “light years ahead of where we were 10 years ago.”

“Do we still have a long way to go? Absolutely. We need to look at strong leadership,” he said. “School boards need to be responsible for making sure they get great leaders in there. We’ve still got a lot of reforms to go, but we’ve come a long way.”

Klein and Spellings noted that the politics of education cut across party lines.

“The perception is that this thing isn’t working and our future is at peril if we don’t do something about it. When came in here eight years ago, people said we can’t fix education until we fix poverty,” Klein said. “Now people believe what I believe: We’ll never fix poverty until we fix education.”

Spellings said education reformers are a nontraditional mix of civil rights leaders and the business community. Partisan politics do not have a place, she said, when it comes to education.

“This movement,” she said, “is big.”

-Glenn Cook

Glenn Cook|September 29th, 2010|Categories: School Reform, Student Achievement, School Board News|

NSBA’s Bryant touts local control at “Education Nation”

NSBA Executive Director Anne Bryant participated in the closing session of NBC’s “Education Nation” summit on September 28, reminding policymakers that education remains “a local issue” despite increased federal involvement in schools.

“Education is a local issue,” Bryant said during the session, titled “Talking to Your Policymakers.”

“Most of the funding comes from state and local jurisdictions,” she said. “I hope Race to the Top doesn’t go away, but if it does, we have to be prepared.”

Bryant was part of a 10-person panel that included Education Secretary Arne Duncan, three members of the U.S. House of Representatives (Democrat George Miller and Republicans Shelley Moore Capito and Michael Castle), two governors (Michigan’s Jennifer Granholm and Tennessee’s Phil Bredesen, both Democrats), two mayors (Philadelphia’s Michael Nutter and Washington, D.C.’s Adrian Fenty), and Gene Wilhoit, a former state superintendent who now is executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers. The panel answered questions from a group of parents, teachers and community activists during the two-hour session moderated by NBC’s Brian Williams.

Responding to a statement by Pam Heuer, an Indianapolis teacher who raised reading levels in her high school class, only to get laid off, Bryant noted that the reason was likely her lack of seniority compared to other teachers. After Heuer nodded affirmatively, Bryant said better compensation and reward systems are needed for the best teachers.

“I think that’s a real problem,” she said. “We have been talking for two days about compensation systems that are different than we have today, and something needs to be done about it. School boards care passionately about keeping the best teachers in schools, and that means changing the system that is in place. School boards want that flexibility.

“We’ve got to focus our priorities on investing in the quality of teachers,” she added.

Williams asked Bryant if the policy of “last in, first out” was fair and she shook her head, saying “That’s why we have to change collective bargaining agreements.”

Bryant also made a note about charter schools that was picked up by the rest of the panel: Local school boards authorize 55 percent of the charters in the U.S. She said school districts need the flexibility to close charters “when they’re not good.”

Bryant noted that 75 percent of the population does not have children in school, and that districts — and boards — need to do a better job of engaging that segment of the community.

“We need to wake up the nation. That is our priority in the future,” she said. “That’s the role of the local board of education.”

-Glenn Cook

Glenn Cook|September 29th, 2010|Categories: Governance, Announcements, School Reform, School Board News|

San Francisco proposes restrictions on toys in kids’ meals

happy-meal-childrenFor better and for worse, California has always been a progressive state, introducing and adopting new policies, programs, and practices long before the rest of the country— a fact that was proven once again by legislation being considered Monday by one of it’s most progressive cities, San Francisco.

Alarmed and fired up by the unabating childhood obesity rate— recent CDC figures hold it steady at 16 percent of school-aged children, though a 2009 national sampling of 9,000 pre-schoolers concluded 18 percent of 4-year-olds were obese— the city is considering a policy that would limit the use of promotional toys used by fast food industries giants like McDonald’s in its happy meals.

Despite renewed national attention, particularly from First Lady Michelle Obama who is spearheading a White House initiative to tackle childhood obesity, the notoriously hilly city will face an uphill battle on the legislation which some, including industry reps (no surprise), Mayor Gavin Newsome (some what surprising), and even parents (even more surprising) oppose.


Naomi Dillon|September 29th, 2010|Categories: Governance, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , |
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