Articles from October, 2010

The week in blogs

It’s three days before midterm elections. Do you live in a yellow state or a green state? Excuse me, Mr. Week in Blogs, isn’t it “red state or blue state?” No, we’re talking about the cool color-coded map from the Alliance for Excellent Education, which shows those states that have adopted common core standards as part of the Common Core State Standards Initiative (nearly 80 percent or, for the record, green), those that are part of the CCSSI but haven’t yet adopted the standards (yellow), and those that are not part of the CCSSI (Alaska and Texas, and colored, more conventionally, red). Click on your state to see where it stands.

Speaking of standards, there’s been some disturbing research recently showing wide variance in the content standards of various states  — indeed, it’s one reason for the CCSSI.  Now a new study by the American Institutes for Research shows that not only is there wide variance in content standards but in performance standards as well. So much so, reports the HechingerEd Blog, that, to cite the extremes, “Tennessee’s eighth graders are expected to perform at the level of Massachusetts’ fourth graders.”

But can they beat Wales? Say what? Well, according to The Core Knowledge Blog, British school children are about as clueless when it comes to their nation’s history as…. Americans? A story in the Daily Mail says many young Brits think that the Battle of Waterloo was fought in the London Rail Terminal and that the Spanish Armada is a  tapas-style dish. Or, as Core Knowledge quipped: “Spanish Armada please, and a pitcher of Sangria.”

Lawrence Hardy, Senior Editor

Lawrence Hardy|October 30th, 2010|Categories: Curriculum, Educational Research, Student Achievement, Policy Formation, Assessment, American School Board Journal|

Week in Review

The latest edition of ASBJ is now online and as always, the cover story (in this issue, a look at the recent string of documentary films focusing on education) is free to read during the month. If you’ve seen some of the films, including buzz-maker “Waiting for Superman,” you’ll note it is high on drama but short on depth, writes Associate Editor Joetta Sack. All of this corroborates Senior Editor Del Stover’s contention that stories of success, especially in urban education, need to be shared. Read these entries and more from this week’s Leading Source.

Naomi Dillon|October 30th, 2010|Categories: Week in Blogs, American School Board Journal|

Education headlines: Obama announces new sex-ed programs

The Obama administration has entered the politically sensitive debate over sex education, promising to put scientific evidence before political ideology, the Washington Post reports. But proponents on all sides of the debate are finding fault with the programs, which include a range of teaching about the risks of specific sexual activities and the benefits of contraception to abstinence… The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, a watchdog group, says that most charitable foundations that support education do not focus enough attention on helping the most needy students, according to the Associated Press… And Inside Higher Ed asks experts to analyze the impact of the U.S. Department of Education’s guidance on bullying policies sent earlier this week.

Joetta Sack-Min|October 28th, 2010|Categories: Announcements, School Board News|

Wes Moore shares his commitment to mentoring

Wes Moore is a youth advocate, Army combat veteran, business leader, and author. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from The Johns Hopkins University and became a Rhodes Scholar and later a White House Fellow and Special Assistant to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

In his recently published book, The Other Wes Moore, he tells how he overcame a troubled childhood to achieve success, while comparing his life to another person in his community with the same name, who ended up in a federal prison, serving a life sentence for murder.  Moore got to know the “other” Wes Moore through letters and prison visits, and found that they had much in common. BoardBuzz was struck by the parallel in these two men’s lives, and by the passion Moore shows in examining the roles education, mentoring and public service can play in the lives of American youth.

Take a look at this video, where Moore talks about his life, and the circumstances that put him on a positive path:

Wes Moore will share the inspirational story of his life and his passion for mentoring young people at the 2011 NSBA Annual Conference, where he will be the Fellowship Speaker on Sunday, April 10.

Barbara Moody|October 28th, 2010|Categories: Conferences and Events, Multimedia and Webinars, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

New on

For many Alaskan school districts, the sun doesn’t rise until 10 or 11 in the morning, and in some regions, not for weeks at a time. Despite these conditions, the personnel at these northernmost school districts, including Anchorage and Matanuska-Susitna Borough (MSB) in Palmer, are getting out of bed and making sure their facilities are efficient, safe, and sustainable.

Rachel Gutter, director of the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council, writes in a new ASBJ feature that increased environmental concerns and rising energy costs, have inspired the Anchorage and MSB school districts to address sustainability issues through the facilities they design for their students and staff.

Both communities have policies in place that require the school districts to build green schools that earn the LEED Silver certification. To learn more about these two Alaskan districts efforts to save money and the environment through innovative design read Gutter’s piece here. But hurry, it’s only available for a limited time.

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

Stories of success in urban education are always best when shared

1386-0902-0318-0632It’s always nice to read some good news about urban education. And it’s even nicer to share: So let’s look at a program called High School Ahead.

Sponsored by the Houston Independent School District, this program is designed to help overage, academically behind middle school students to catch up with their peers.

I learned about the program in a recent article in the Houston Chronicle, which describes the program as a way to put “middle school students on the fast track, with most able to complete two years of courses in one.”

High School Ahead was launched in February as part of Houston Superintendent Terry Grier’s efforts to reduce the district’s dropout rate. At the middle school level, nearly 2,900 students are at least two grade levels behind their peers, and that puts these students at high risk of dropping out in high school.

About 400 are served by this program.

The Houston school system also “continues to contract with the charter school Inspired for Excellence, which runs two other campuses for overage middle school students,” the Chronicle reports. Those campuses opened in 2008 and serve about 170.

Students in these programs take a series of eighth-grade courses in traditional classrooms, while high school level-courses are available “through a self-paced computer program.” Principal Jorge Cardenas told the newspaper that teachers focus on the main objectives in the state’s curriculum—the meat and potatoes . . . to move students along quickly.”

Naomi Dillon|October 28th, 2010|Categories: Governance, Student Achievement, Leadership, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , |

2011 Magna Awards: nominate a school district for its innovative best practices

The Magna Awards recognize school districts across the country for outstanding programs that advance student learning and encourage community involvement in schools. As school districts face unprecedented financial challenges, the Magna Awards are an opportunity to showcase innovation and the bold steps that school leaders take every day. The deadline for nominations for the 2011 Magna Awards is Friday, October 29. So if your district hasn’t applied, it’s not too late. (UPDATE: Deadline extended to Friday, November 5.)

The American School Board Journal initiated the Magna Awards in 1995 to recognize school boards for taking bold and innovative steps to improve their educational programs. An independent panel of school board members, administrators, and other educators selected the winners.

Also take a look at the new, searchable Magna Awards Best Practices Database, where you can browse through past Magna winners and other high-scoring programs for innovative best practices, proven and practical solutions, and new ideas.

Alexis Rice|October 27th, 2010|Categories: Teachers, Announcements, NSBA Publications, Student Achievement, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

ED reinforces role of schools in combating bullying

Yesterday,  the U.S. Department of Education dispatched a letter to thousands of school districts and colleges reminding them of their responsibility to mitigate and hinder harrasment among students.

Though the missive is a year in the making and is part of ED’s reinvigoration of the Office of Civil Rights, the letter took on renewed urgency in the wake of several high-profile suicides, most notably the case of 18-year-old Tyler Clementi, the Rutger’s University freshman who jumped to his death after his roommate livestreamed his sexual encounters with another man.


Naomi Dillon|October 27th, 2010|Categories: Governance, School Climate, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , |

Schools that don’t address bullying may lose federal funds, ED says

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights issued guidance this week that reminds schools receiving federal funding that behavior considered bullying under a school’s bullying policy may also trigger the school’s responsibilities under federal civil rights statutes. In extreme cases, the agency could withhold federal funds.

The guidance provides factual scenarios and specific steps a school may need to take to stop or prevent harassment of based on ethnic group and gender, and sexual harassment of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender individuals.

The guidance states that school officials “must take prompt and effective steps reasonably calculated to end the harassment, eliminate any hostile environment and its effects, and prevent the harassment from recurring.” NSBA’s Legal Clips has an analysis of the letter.

The White House also announced plans to host a conference on bullying early next year. And a new large-scale survey reported that 50 percent of U.S. high school students say they have bullied or teased someone at least once in the past year, and nearly half say they have been bullied as well.

For more information on school safety and cyberbullying go to the National Affiliate webinar website for access to additional resources:

Also, in the headlines,  Bloomberg News notes that the White House will convene a summit on bullying and harassment next year.

Meanwhile, USA Today reports on a new survey—the largest ever on bullying–that shows half of U.S. high school students admit to teasing or bullying someone in the past year, and another 47 percent say they have been targets of such bullying or taunt. The report’s authors also found a “tremendous amount of anger” festering in today’s students.

Joetta Sack-Min|October 26th, 2010|Categories: Announcements, Diversity, School Climate, School Board News|

Rewriting Civil War history in the Old Dominion

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

I grew up with two older brothers, and, like most younger siblings, there was a time when I pretty much believed everything they said.  Like when my oldest brother told me that those 1960s-era fighter jets – the ones with the extremely long, narrow noses that sort of look like long needles protruding from the front — that those planes used their appendages to spear enemy airplanes. That’s right: Aerial shish kabob.

“Wow, cool!” I must have said. (Or something similar; it was after all, a long time ago, and I was very gullible.)

Over time I learned that my brothers were not the unerring fonts of knowledge they purported to be. And it was no big deal. (By that time, they had also put Tabasco sauce on my ice cream and festooned my hair with curlers one night as I slept so that I woke up looking like a third grade Julius Caesar  … so their motives had become increasingly suspect.)

It’s one thing to be told such whoppers from your dear brothers, quite another from your history text. But that’s what happened when Virginia fourth graders opened a book called Our Virginia and learned that thousands of black soldiers fought for the South.

Lawrence Hardy|October 26th, 2010|Categories: Governance, Curriculum, Diversity, Policy Formation, American School Board Journal|
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