Articles from April, 2011

The week in blogs: British royals gain future queen with credentials

(Don’t have time to read through the hundreds of education-related blogs? NSBA Senior Editor Lawrence Hardy brings you the “must-reads” in his weekly round-up, “The Week in Blogs,” now appearing on School Board News Today. Laugh out loud and learn something new each Friday.)

Far from the American School Board Journal to get all tizzied up over the Royal Wedding. We’ve got more important things to do.

However, seeing as I’ve already mentioned it ….. did you see the lady in the church with the big black hat that draped down one whole side of her face? What was that about? And what’s it like for the guy sitting next to her facing a veritable “hat wall” on his left?

We’re journalists here; we have to ask these things. And, we must add, in the interests of full disclosure: “Tizzied,” apparently, is not a word. But of course it should be.

Now back to the matter at hand: Education. Did you know that Princess Kate, if and when she becomes queen, would be the first English female monarch to have a college degree? That revelation comes courtesy of Valerie Strauss’ Answer Sheet. Although Strauss notes that the best educated and brainiest queen “was probably the brilliant Queen Elizabeth I, who was leaning Latin at age 5.”  (And we thought it was Bush/Obama that pushed academics into kindergarten.)

In other, non-wedding-related, news, Joanne Jacobs highlights a troubling report from the Education Trust, which looked at high-performing schools in Maryland and Indiana and found they were still leaving certain subgroups of students behind.

Richard Thompson, of This Week in Education, seconds education consultant Andrew Rotherham’s asserting that “intention” is key to schools that succeed despite student poverty.  Rotherham made the comment in an interview on National Public Radio’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross.

While on the Fresh Air site, hear Diane Ravitch, who spoke at NSBA’s Leadership Conference in February, on the pitfalls of standardized testing.

Lawrence Hardy|April 30th, 2011|Categories: Announcements, School Board News, Week in Blogs|

The week in blogs

Far from the American School Board Journal to get all tizzied up over the Royal Wedding. We’ve got more important things to do.

However, seeing as I’ve already mentioned it ….. did you see the lady in the church with the big black hat that covered one whole side of her face? What was that about? And what’s it like for the guy sitting next to her facing a veritable “hat wall” on his left?

We’re journalists here; we have to ask these things. And, we must add, in the interests of full disclosure: “Tizzied,” apparently, is not a word. But of course it should be.

Now back to the matter at hand: Yes, Education. Did you know that Princess Kate, if and when she becomes queen, would be the first English queen to get a college education? That revelation comes courtesy of Valerie Strauss’ Answer Sheet, although Strauss notes that the best educated and brainiest queen “was probably the brilliant Queen Elizabeth I, who was leaning Latin at age 5.”  (And we thought it was Bush/Obama that pushed academics into kindergarten.)

In other, non-wedding-related, news, Joanne Jacobs highlights a troubling report from the Education Trust, which looked at high-performing schools in Maryland and Indiana and found they still left certain subgroups of students behind.

John Thompson, of This Week in Education, seconds education consultant Andrew Rotherham’s assertion that “intention” is key to schools that succeed despite student poverty.  Rotherham made the comment in an interview on National Public Radio’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross.

While on Fresh Air’s site, hear Diane Ravitch, who spoke at NSBA’s Federal Relations Conference earlier this year, on the pitfalls of standardized testing.

Lawrence Hardy, Senior Editor

Lawrence Hardy|April 29th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Assessment, Curriculum, Dropout Prevention, Educational Research, Governance, Policy Formation, School Reform, Student Achievement, Week in Blogs|

Schools starting to get the credit they deserve

NSBA’s Center for Public Education was ahead of its time.

When they released their “Better Late than Never” report few policymakers especially at the state and federal levels, talked about giving credit to schools for those students who took longer than four years to graduate high school. However, thanks to the Center’s report along with NSBA’s Advocacy staff and the hard work by our state associations times are a changing. Some states are now recognizing what school board members have been advocating for,that schools should be given credit for all the students they graduate not just those who graduate within four years. As a matter of fact, according to the National Governors Association (NGA) 22 states now report late high school graduation rate, nine of which have been approved to count late high school graduates for federal accountability. And the good news is that NGA expects these numbers to increase as states collect additional years of data.

A webinar earlier this week by the American Youth Policy Forum provided an overview of what states are currently doing to give credit to schools for not giving up on those students who fall behind and sticking with them until they earned a standard high school diploma. This is an important step forward to ensure schools are given credit for doing the right thing, which is graduating their students even if it takes longer than four years.

However, many state accountability systems still basically count late high school graduates as dropouts simply because they needed extra time to complete the requirements to earn a standard high school diploma. This is despite the fact that the Center’s report shows that late high school graduates are more successful after high school than dropouts or even GED recipients. On the other hand, late graduates are nearly as successful after high school as their on-time graduating peers whether one judges success based on post-secondary education, employment, or civic engagement.

This is an important point to remember as the debate on the reauthorization of ESEA heats up. There are those who argue that giving credit to schools for late graduates lowers the expectations bar. However, late graduates are still expected to jump the same bar to earn a standard high school diploma as their classmates who graduated on-time, they just needed more time to do so. So BoardBuzz asks, is it really lowering the bar? Or does allowing students extra time to meet their graduation requirements better prepare them for life after high school? What do you think?

Jim Hull|April 29th, 2011|Categories: Center for Public Education, Educational Legislation, Governance, High Schools, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Panel: School boards connect community, focus on accountability

School boards are the connection to the community, to the taxpayers, to the owners of our public schools, NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant said during a panel discussion on “Are Local School Boards Vital in 21st Century America?” at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute in Washington, D.C. this week.

That connection allows school boards to ensure that a community’s values and educational priorities are part of the mission of the local schools, she said. What’s more, this connection makes board members well positioned to rally community resources that can lead to improving student achievement.

School board members recognize that their responsibilities have expanded over the decades—and that they no longer serve simply as trustees for taxpayer dollars.

“School boards are also very aware of the issues facing public education,” Bryant said. “The vast majority said that the current state of student achievement is unacceptable, so school board members are not sitting in some dreamland.”

That might be the case in many communities, said fellow panelists Gene Maeroff, founding director of the Hechinger Institute at Columbia University’s Teachers College. But he expressed concern about the quality of people serving on some school boards.

In researching his new book, “School Boards in America: A Flawed Exercise in Democracy,” he said it became clear that special interest groups, such as teachers unions, were using the traditionally low voter turnout in school board elections to seat candidates who were more concerned with private agendas than with the needs of students.

“There are tens of thousands of men and women who are fine, even exemplary, members of school boards,” he said. “But there are other school board members who have no business on such bodies. We have to regard their existence as a flaw of the [governance] system.”

Christopher Barclay, president of the Montgomery County, Md., school board, argued that school boards still are necessary. Lay community members, he said, keep school system focused on student achievement and champion the special needs of underserved and low-achieving students who otherwise might be overlooked.

In Montgomery County, he said, “we applaud ourselves for having a graduation rate that’s high. But if I look at the graduation rate for African-American males, for example, we’re not doing that great . . . and we need some people to be at the table who can ask the questions of the administration: how are we going to change that? And I strongly believe that is part of the role of the school board.”

Echoing that viewpoint was Bryant, who said local school boards often act as a buffer to the fads and quick fixes that pundits and policymakers regularly propose as a panacea to the problems in public education.

“School board members do not believe in some of the current silver bullets that are flying around out there,” she said. “They are very cautious about quick fixes, such as charter schools, increasing school choice, hiring nontraditional teachers.”

So what do they think will drive turning around poor-performing schools? Bryant asked. “Professional development, using assessment data to guide their decisions, improving the quality of school and district leadership . . .  well, guess what, those are the proven, research-based techniques that, in fact, actually drive turning around low-performing schools.”

The fourth panelist, Chester Finn, president of the Fordham Institute, said his concern was less with the fate of school boards than with the condition of the nation’s multi-layered governance structure overseeing public education.

Educational decisions are made at the school site, district central office, state capital, and in Washington, D.C., and that doesn’t include larger districts with area superintendents or states with regional education boards that can add extra levels of bureaucracy, he said. “You could get up to six layers of decision making in the governance structure . . . it doesn’t make much sense.”

All that accomplishes, he says, is “to pull schools apart in response to funding and regulatory streams that emanate from different levels of government; to foster bureaucracy, confusion, and tension; and maybe most importantly, in a reform era, it pretty much gives every level a functional veto over reforms initiated at ever other level.”

Over the course of the debate, issues as varied as the effectiveness of charter schools and the impact of union political influence came under the spotlight. But one commonly cited observation was the need for more training and professional development for school board members to improve their effectiveness and limit such misguided practices as micromanaging the school administration.

“That’s why the [NSBA's] Key Work of School Boards and that training is so vital because, basically, if boards are focused on student achievement, if they are setting goals, if they’re setting up accountability systems, if they are asking for the data to drive those kinds of decisions, they don’t have time for the trivial. And that’s the argument we have. And that’s what our state associations are trying to do.”

Watch a video of the hour-and-a-half long session here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGtqR_T2xBM

Del Stover|April 28th, 2011|Categories: Governance, School Board News, School Boards, School Reform|

Too much bureacracy in education?

Are there too many layers of governance in public education? That question has been on my mind since I watched a panel discussion earlier this week titled “Are Local School Boards Vital in 21st Century America?” at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute in Washington, D.C.


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Naomi Dillon|April 28th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Governance, Policy Formation|Tags: , , , , |

Education headlines: Jeb Bush influencing school reforms in many states

So far 2011 is becoming one of the most consequential years for school governance changes in states, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has been working behind the scenes in many state capitols to promote his brand of education reform, which includes private-school vouchers, online courses, and rigorous standards, according to the New York Times… The Associated Press writes that “one in four children in the United States is being raised by a single parent — a percentage that has been on the rise and is higher than other developed countries, according to a new report”… The U.S. Department of Education announced the new Green Ribbon Schools program that will “recognize schools that are creating healthy and sustainable learning environments and teaching environmental literacy,” according to the agency… And the Miami Herald reports on the Broward County school board’s painstaking process in cutting $150 million from its $19 billion budget. Among the things on the block are benefits for teachers who plan to leave, field trips and extracurricular activities, and graduation cords.

Joetta Sack-Min|April 27th, 2011|Categories: Announcements, School Board News|

NSBA leaders discuss school board issues on blog radio show

NSBA President Mary Broderick and Executive Director Anne L. Bryant appeared on Blog Radio’s Education Talk Radio this week to discuss school boards and the role of school boards in education reform.

Bryant discussed NSBA’s recent Annual Conference in San Francisco and the professional development that NSBA and the state associations provide for local school board members, including the Key Work of School Boards and using data and technology to make decisions and improve student learning.

Host Larry Jacobs queried Bryant and Broderick about school districts’ budgets and finances and how school boards make decisions in the era of budget cuts and tight economies. The conversation also veers into the role of teachers unions and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s ideas for innovation in education.

Listen to the 40-minute broadcast at Blog Talk Radio’s website.

Joetta Sack-Min|April 27th, 2011|Categories: NSBA Annual Conference 2011, School Board News, School Boards|

ED announces Green Ribbon Schools program

You’ve heard of Blue Ribbon Schools, now the U.S. Department of Education is launching a new program, Green Ribbon Schools, that will recognize the efforts and intiatives of schools that adopt, promote, and teach environmental sustainability.

From graduating environmentally literate students to reducing their carbon footprints, schools that best exemplify America’s move toward a sustainable economy will be awarded this prestigious honor — and in the process protect and save valuable resources.
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Naomi Dillon|April 27th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Curriculum, Governance, School Buildings, School Climate|Tags: , |

“It takes a school system” — and then some

Call it “Disneyland Brain,” but when I returned from a two-and-a-half-week trip that included NSBA’s Annual Conference in San Francisco, three days of reporting on the Long Beach schools, and a family vacation to the famous Anaheim theme park, among other places, I was at a loss to identify the Conference Daily story I wrote that our analysis said was getting a lot of hits.

The story was slugged: “Rivers.”

Rivers?” I thought, trying to place it. Like other ASBJ editors, I covered three or four sessions a day, on everything from dual-emersion elementary schools to the most significant education-related court cases of the past year.

“Rivers,” it turns out, didn’t have anything to do — at least, directly — with the business of running a school system. It was a lunchtime speech by actor Victor Rivas Rivers, who has made highlighting the problem of domestic violence a personal goal. It is a quest born of personal experience.

Rivers said his father was a charming man — in public. In private he was an abuser who terrorized Rivers’ mother, beat him and his brothers, and even harassed the family pets.  Rivers eventually escaped his punisher through the help of a series of families who took him in, and a variety of people in the school district, including a teacher who secretly gave him a meal ticket when Rivers’ father was limiting him to one meal a day.
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Lawrence Hardy|April 26th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Diversity, Dropout Prevention, Educational Research, Governance, Homeless People, Policy Formation, School Climate, Student Achievement, Urban Schools|

Education headlines: Charters seeing shortages of good leaders

Charter schools are seeing shortages of qualified leaders: People who can manage the administrative tasks as well as the extra budgetary and operational responsibilities that come with an autonomous school, the Hechinger Institute reports. The issue is particularly prevalent in areas where the numbers of charters are growing rapidly, such as Washington D.C., according to the story that appeared in the Washington Post.

In Pennsylvania, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that “the two main combatants in the clamor over whether to use public dollars for private schooling donated a combined $8.3 million to legislative and gubernatorial candidates, state campaign finance records show.”

A new federal analysis shows more high school students are taking more rigorous courses—but are those courses as rigorous as they sound? The New York Times finds evidence that the titles of courses in some high schools may be inflated… And CBS’ 60 Minutes profiles billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad, who spearheaded the Broad Prize for urban school districts and leadership academy for aspiring administrators, among other works in education reform.

Joetta Sack-Min|April 25th, 2011|Categories: Announcements, School Board News|
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