Articles from May, 2011

Technology enables Chicago school to take learning worldwide

Newly-elected Chicago mayor and former White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, has promised to fix the city’s broken school system. But as this video illustrates, plenty of school successes already exist in the Windy City.

Naomi Dillon|May 31st, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Governance, Leadership, Student Achievement|Tags: , |

Week in Review

The week began with very sad news. Missouri’s Joplin Public Schools, which was recognized just this year as the grand prize winner of ASBJ‘s Magna Award, suffered a devastating setback on Sunday when a massive tornado struck the town, killing at least 116 people, destroying three schools and damaging as many others.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the city and people of Joplin. When schools are the cornerstone of communities, great things can be achieved(as in the case of Joplin), says the Coalition of Community Schools, which will host National Community Schools Advocacy day in Washington next month. And finally, we’ll leave you with a riddle: One potato, two potato, three potato, four. Under USDA proposed guidelines, Mr. Spud would be no more … at least, no more than one cup per week in school lunches. Enjoy the long weekend and we’ll see you Tuesday.

Naomi Dillon|May 28th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Week in Blogs|

The week in blogs

Say what you will about Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer-Lytton (and we know you talk about him all the time) the man could turn a phrase.

Among the bon mots coined by the 19th century English aristocrat:

The pen is mightier than the sword….

Pursuit of the almighty dollar

The great unwashed

And, most famous of all, (thanks, in part, to a certain cartoon beagle)

It was a dark and stormy night

Why are we talking about Bulwer-Lytton? Because in the fifth installment of a seven-part series in Education Week, Frederick Hess, of the American Enterprise Institute, and co-authors Greg M. Gunn and Olivia M. Meeks, use another well known Bulwer-Lyttonism to begin their commentary on how to improve teacher quality, something about the folly of squeezing square pegs into round holes.  However, Hess and Co. asserts, when it comes to searching for good teachers, plucking a few square pegs isn’t such a bad idea. And, yes, it makes more sense when they say it.

Anyway, to mix metaphors even further, blogger John Thompson, in citing the column, says Hess “hits home runs (when not striking out),” which I guess is sort of a compliment, maybe.

Speaking of Bulwer-Lytton. You’re right! – In less than three months, the results of the 2011 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Writing Contest – “where WWW means Wretched Writers Welcome”—will be a released to a grateful public. (We’ll put last year’s winner at the end, so you’ll have to read all this first.)

So, very quickly: read Maureen Downey’s fascinating“Dropping out of School to Prove You’re a Genius and Getting Paid, the Quick and the Ed about a New York Times story on alleged “affirmative action for the rich,” and Joanne Jacobs’ completely different take on the same article.

And now, last year’s winning Bulwer-Lytton entry, which, I believe, comes from the “Romance”  –  really, really intentionally bad Romance –  category, we have this offering from Molly Ringle of Seattle, Wash.:

For the first month of Ricardo and Felicity’s affair, they greeted one another at every stolen rendezvous with a kiss–a lengthy, ravenous kiss, Ricardo lapping and sucking at Felicity’s mouth as if she were a giant cage-mounted water bottle and he were the world’s thirstiest gerbil.

May that lovely image stay with you this Memorial Day holiday, or maybe not.
Lawrence Hardy|May 27th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Student Achievement, Week in Blogs|

The week in blogs

Say what you will about Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer-Lytton (and we know you talk about him all the time) the man could turn a phrase.

Among the bon mots coined by the 19th century English aristocrat:

The pen is mightier than the sword….

Pursuit of the almighty dollar

The great unwashed

And, most famous of all, (thanks, in part, to a certain cartoon beagle)

It was a dark and stormy night

Why are we talking about Bulwer-Lytton? Because in the fifth installment of a seven-part series in Education Week, Frederick Hess, of the American Enterprise Institute, and co-authors Greg M. Gunn and Olivia M. Meeks, use another well known Bulwer-Lyttonism to begin their commentary on how to improve teacher quality, something about the folly of squeezing square pegs into round holes.  However, Hess and Co. asserts, when it comes to searching for good teachers, plucking a few square pegs isn’t such a bad idea. And, yes, it makes more sense when they say it.
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Lawrence Hardy|May 27th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Diversity, Educational Research, Policy Formation, Student Achievement, Teachers, Week in Blogs|

Supreme Court ruling on child-abuse case leaves school officials in lurch

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to rule on whether a warrant was required nearly a decade ago when police and a social worker entered an Oregon elementary school to interview a 9-year-old suspected victim of child abuse.

The 7-2 decision in Camreta v. Greene effectively discards a decision by the U. S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which had ruled that a warrant should have been obtained.  The high court, without commenting on the merits of the Ninth Circuit’s ruling, said the case was moot because the alleged victim is now almost 18 and living in Florida.

NSBA had wanted the court to provide greater clarity on whether warrants were required in such cases, as schools are frequently called on to assist child protective services agencies and police in investigations of suspected child abuse or neglect by allowing students to be interviewed at school.

A detailed legal analysis of the case can be found on NSBA’s Legal Clips.


Lawrence Hardy|May 26th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, School Law|

Education headlines: School choice increasing for K-12 and higher education

A recent survey by the federal National Center for Educational Statistics finds that school choice—in both K-12 and higher education—is fast increasing across the country, mainly because of charter schools and for-profit colleges taking a larger share of students, particularly in urban areas, the Associated Press reports…

The Tea Party Patriots, which claims 1,000 chapters nationally, are instructing members to remind teachers that a 2004 federal law requires public schools to teach Constitution lessons the week of Sept. 17, commemorating the day the document was signed. And, according to the AP, they’d like the teachers to use material from the Idaho-based National Center for Constitutional Studies, which promotes the Constitution as a divinely-inspired document.

The New York Times reports that the New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled that Gov. Chris Christie’s cost-cutting plans are unconstitutional and ordered state lawmakers to raise spending for poor, urban schools… And a new analysis shows that graduates with degrees in fields such as science and engineering really do make considerably more money than those who major in liberal-arts subjects, including education. But a college degree is still considered a good investment, the Washington Post reports.

Joetta Sack-Min|May 26th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Announcements|

How ambitious is too ambitious?

SampleIt sounds great in theory: Raise standards—and students will rise to the occasion.

But is that always the case?

That question currently is under debate in Fairfax County, Va., where some parents are challenging the plans of county school officials to phase out many honors courses.

School officials say the move makes sense. They want more students—particularly minority students—to test themselves to the fullest by enrolling in Advanced Placement (AP) classes.

“We’ve found that traditionally underrepresented minorities do not access the most-rigorous track when three tracks are offered,” Peter Noonan, Fairfax County’s assistant superintendent for instructional services, told the Washington Post. “But when two tracks are offered, they do.”

So, in schools where an AP class is offered in a subject, officials plan to discontinue any parallel honors courses.

Not all parents see the decision as that simple. Without that middle ground course offering, opponents say, some students will decide that AP courses are too challenging academically or will demand more work than they’re willing to take on.

For those students, the only alternative remaining will be standard track courses. And some will choose to “dumb down” their education with less-academically challenging classes.

Enough parents are raising concerns that the school board has agreed to review its decision, but it’s unclear whether supporters of honors courses can resist what the Post describes as “a national trend to reduce the number of ‘tracks’ for students.”

Del Stover, Senior Editor

Naomi Dillon|May 26th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Curriculum, Governance, Student Achievement|Tags: , , |

New RTTT grants address state prekindergarten programs

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has announced a $500 million Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge competition that urges states to improve, expand, and better coordinate prekindergarten programs.

In a joint announcement on May 25 with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Duncan said strong pre-k programs will have social, educational, economic, and even national security benefits for America, as many military recruits are rejected because they lack the requisite academic skills.

“Investment in early learning is one of the smartest, one of the best, one of the most important things we can do in our nation,” Duncan said at a news conference. He said the department is looking for participating states to demonstrate “courage, commitment, compassion and creativity.”

The announcement was good news to the Pre-K Coalition, a collaboration of NSBA, the American Association of School Administrators, the American Federation of Teachers, and several other education groups that calls for greater federal investment in pre-k and a better coordinated system of early childhood programs. The group is also asking Congress to address pre-k in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

“We welcome the news, and we’re happy to see the attention to early education,” said Patte Barth, director of NSBA’s Center for Public Education, whose website provides prekindergarten research and advice for school board members interested in improving early learning programs in their communities.

The Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge asks states competing for RTTT grants to implement several policies that the Pre-K Coalition has advocated.

“States applying for challenge grants will be encouraged to increase access to quality early learning programs for low income and disadvantaged children,” the Education Department said in a news release, as well as “design integrated and transparent systems that align their early care and education programs, bolster training and support for the early learning workforce, create robust evaluation systems to document and share effective practices and successful programs, and help parents make informed decisions about care for their children.”

Lawrence Hardy|May 25th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Preschool Education, Race to the Top (RTTT)|

Schools, the cornerstone of a community

800px-LittleRedSchoolhouse1913-RestoredIf you’re planning on coming to music and arts night at my daughter’s elementary school, better get there early — way early – because it’ll be standing room only.  And that’s five or 10 minutes before the show even starts.

“Parent involvement run amok!” I like to call it, and, of course, I’m being facetious, because it’s wonderful that so many parents in this Washington, D.C., suburb, care so deeply about their children’s education and that of others in their community.

It’s not like that everywhere. And that’s not because parents in inner city Newark, N.J., or Cleveland, or Detroit,  or St. Louis don’t care about their children and their communities.  But it’s hard for many parents to make it to school events when they’re working two jobs and just trying to pay for food and rent.

My point is this: Our elementary school has become a “community school” of sorts by default.  The parents make it that way.  But schools in many areas – the ones that most need to be vibrant centers of their communities – these schools need our help and financial support more than ever.

That’s the message that the Coalition of Community Schools and its supporters across the country will be emphasizing at the National Community Schools Advocacy Day, June 10 and 11 in Washington. The Coalition is rallying in support of three bills in Congress that would make community school principles a centerpiece of any reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

A community school is one that is concerned about the “whole” child and his or her environment. And it either houses or has links to community resources that address family needs.  A model school I wrote about four years ago, George Washington Community School in Indianapolis, includes a health clinic, a mental health clinic and about 50 partnerships to support families and the community.
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Naomi Dillon|May 25th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Governance, Policy Formation, School Climate|

NSBA, AASA urge federal officials to eliminate unneeded regulations

NSBA is urging U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to give schools relief from a heavy load of federal regulations as a new study finds the nation’s schools are again facing major reductions in staff.

NSBA joined with leaders from the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) on May 24 to announce a petition calling for Congressional support to encourage the Department of Education to remove regulatory and reporting requirements stemming from No Child Left Behind(NCLB), the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), and other federal programs.

At the same time, AASA released a new report that estimates school districts will be forced to lay off 227,000 teachers and other school employees in the 2011-12 school year.

“State and local education budgets are being cut to the bone, while the federal government continues to mandate unnecessary standards and sanctions under ESEA and ARRA’s demands for data,” NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant said at a press conference. “Are we supposed to lay off teachers and hire data collectors?”

NSBA and AASA are asking their members and affiliates to sign a petition to encourage members of Congress to act on the behalf of local school districts and give flexibility to allow school districts to use more funding for programs to advance student achievement instead of administrative tasks. Specifically, the petition requests the Education Department suspend additional sanctions under NCLB’s Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) requirements that go into effect this school year.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently estimated that as many as 82 percent of public schools could be labeled as failing this year under the increased sanctions. Already, 37 percent have failed to meet the AYP benchmark.

NSBA is particularly concerned that the law requires so-called failing schools to set aside 20 percent of their Title I funds for school choice and supplemental services, mainly provided by the private sector.

“There is no valid research or data to support these two strategies as universally improving student achievement,” said Bryant. “We demand that Secretary Duncan allow the flexibility to use Title I funding and funding for other programs as they were intended — to advance the academic achievement of low-income children.”

In addition to the petition to Congress, AASA released a survey that found 65 percent of school administrators reported eliminating positions in the 2010-11 school year, and 74 percent plan to do so by this fall. Based on the responses of more than 1,100 administrators in May, AASA estimated these projected layoffs will total 227,000 education jobs nationally.

The continued economic recession at the state level, the end of federal stimulus funding, and actual and anticipated funding cuts in federal appropriations “are having a devastating effect on staffing the nation’s public schools,” said Daniel A. Domenech, AASA’s executive director. “No question this will mean larger class sizes and more belt-tightening.”

AASA cited an analysis by Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute, who calculates that for every 100,000 education jobs cut, another 30,000 jobs in other sectors will be eliminated. That increases the projected total job losses to 294,500, according to AASA.

A similar AASA study last year revealed that school administrators planned to eliminate more than 275,000 education jobs for the 2010‐11 school year. The $10 billion Education Jobs Fund, passed by Congress in late summer 2010, helped stave off many of those anticipated layoffs, according to AASA’s follow-up study. Less than half of respondents reported cutting jobs, down from 82 percent who anticipated having to do so before EduJobs funding.

A recent NSBA study, School Boards Circa 2010, found that the economic downturn and decline in local real estate values and state revenues is a major concern for school board members. More than two-thirds of board members ranked their funding and economic situations as extremely urgent, and more than 74 percent indicate that finance and funding issues are at least a strong barrier to improving student achievement, with 30 percent going so far as to label it a total barrier.

New reporting requirements now being imposed on schools that received the federal stimulus funds are becoming time-consuming and costly to report, according to Noelle Ellerson, AASA’s Assistant Director ofPolicy Analysis & Advocacy and author of the survey analysis.

“Aside from the huge issues of costs, data reliability and privacy rights—individual and identifiable student data will now be reported to the state—many schools do not have the technology in place to collect the data that the federal government is asking for,” Domenech said. “It could be years before this data is available in many states. In the meantime, schools are using precious resources, both in time and money, trying to meet the standards.”

NSBA President Mary Broderick, a school board member in East Lyme, Conn., said that schools should not have to spend scarce dollars and staff time to adhere to a flawed accountability system.

“The U.S. Department of Education must provide clear policy decisions, not case-by-case waivers,” she said. “While we believe in assessment and holding all schools accountable, we must give our schools the flexibility and necessary resources to teach our children and advance student learning.”

Joetta Sack-Min|May 24th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act|
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