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Articles from July, 2011

Late graduates to be counted

Note: This entry was orignially posted on National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Center for Public Education’s blog The Edifier.

It took awhile but states will finally be able to count those students who take longer than four years to earn a high school diploma (late graduates) as graduates through a common graduation rate formula that all states must use starting this summer. NSBA has been fighting for this change ever since the Center released its Better Late Than Never: Examining late high school graduates report over two and half years ago which showed that late graduate’s were more successful after high school in terms of earning a college degree, finding a good job, civic engagement and living healthier than those students who earned a GED or never earned a high school credential. As a matter for fact, late graduates’ postsecondary outcomes outcomes did not differ much from those students who graduated on-time. So there was little reason why late graduates shouldn’t have been counted as graduates.

The adoption of the common rate enables states to report an extended-year rate which would include late graduates that are currently not counted in most state gradation rates. In a press release announcing the common rate the U.S. Department of Education declared:

States may also opt to use an extended-year adjusted cohort, allowing states, districts and schools to account for students who complete high school in more than four years.

Moreover, in the release Secretary Arne Duncan stated that a common rate “…will also encourage states to account for students who need more than four years to earn a diploma.”

This is a major step forward in giving districts credit where credit is due by counting all students who earn a standard high school diploma as graduates not just those who earn a diploma in four years. However, how districts get credit, if any, for their late graduates under Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) / No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and most state accountability systems is still unclear. Hopefully Congress will reauthorize ESEA soon and put into law that indeed late graduates are graduates even for accountability sake.

Jim Hull|July 29th, 2011|Categories: High Schools, Center for Public Education, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Student Achievement, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Reports|Tags: , , , , , , |

The week in blogs

Should we be paying school board members who serve in large school districts? Lynne K. Varner, a columnist for the Seattle Times, thinks so. Citing the growing complexity of K12 education and the increasing demands on board members’ times, Varner says it’s time for Seattle to follow the lead of cities like Los Angeles, which pays board members $46,000 but requires that they not take other jobs. She cites NSBA’s School Boards Circa 2010 for her statistics.

I see where she’s coming from, but I doubt that the LA schools’ payment system has much to do with how well the system is governed. And $46,000 doesn’t sound like a lot to raise a family on in the LA area.

Have you heard any of NPR’s series this week on dropouts in America? It’s pretty disturbing but very well done. Joanne Jacob comments on it in her blog, “Linking and Thinking on Education.”

Elsewhere in the news, it’s been a tough week for President Obama, who can’t seem to get Congress to agree on a bill to increase the debt ceiling. Adding insult to injury, the leaders of the “Save Our Schools” rally in Washington apparently turned down a meeting with the president as well.

Speaking of the debt crisis and Congress’ apparent paralysis, The Onion, a satiric weekly, has the answer: Just air-drop in a team of 8th grade civics teachers to the nation’s capital for some serious remedial instruction.

Now that’s a plan!

Lawrence Hardy|July 29th, 2011|Categories: Uncategorized, School Boards, Teachers, Week in Blogs|Tags: , , , , |

Is being a school board member more than a volunteer role?

BoardBuzz likes The Seattle Times editorial columnist Lynne K. Varner’s piece this week on the need for school board members in Seattle to be paid. In  “Time to pay school board members,” Varner noted:  

Everyone should occasionally rethink closely held convictions. In this summer of watching Seattle School Board candidates on the political hustings, here’s mine: It is time to pay board members.

I mean a salary, not the current per diem capped at $4,800 a year. In the past, I bought into the notion that community service comes gratis. You don’t get paid for giving back.

That rule may still hold true in small, homogeneous districts. But those vying for a seat on Seattle’s School Board are seeking responsibility for a large, complex, billion-dollar enterprise. While district watchers can be like the proverbial blind men feeling different parts of an elephant — knowing everything about the trunk, little about the legs — board members must understand the whole.

But too often they don’t. I recently called on the public to send me questions for board candidates. The breadth and depth of queries underscored a public expectation that board members deeply immerse themselves in policy and personnel issues. I agree. But that’s more than a volunteer role.

Varner also cited research from the National School Board Association’s School Boards Circa 2010: Governance in the Accountability Era in her justification that Seattle school board members should be paid:

Most of the country’s 14,000 school districts offer only small allowances for meetings and travel. Seattle should join the growing number of large and urban districts shifting to salaried positions, captured in a report by the National School Boards Association.

Share your comments! Let us know if you agree with Varner’s analysis.

Alexis Rice|July 29th, 2011|Categories: School Boards, Board governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|Tags: , , , |

The week in blogs

Here are two unsettling statistics on school discipline, based on an unprecedented study of nearly 1 million Texas secondary school students: Nearly 60 percent of these children were suspended or expelled over the course of the six-year study, and African-American students were disproportionately disciplined for infractions that the researchers described as “discretionary” — that is, the school had the option of not suspending or expelling the student but chose the harsher path.

As it turns out, it’s not as much the behavior of the students that leads to vastly different kinds of discipline, says the study by The Council of State Government’s Justice Center and Texas A&M University’s Public Policy Research Institute. It’s the policies of school leaders.

“The bottom line is that schools can get different outcomes with very similar student bodies,” Michael D. Thompson, a co-author of the report, told the Washington Post. “School superintendents and teachers can have a dramatic impact.”

To that list we should also add school board members, who hire the superintendent and, through their policy-making decisions, have significant authority over the way schools handle discipline.

The day after that report was made public, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder issued a new Supportive School Discipline Initiative that aims to dismantle the “School-to-Prison Pipeline” that pushes students into the juvenile justice system for school infractions that could be handled in other ways.

Citing the Texas report and the high number of suspensions and expulsions it found, Holder said, “I think these numbers are kind of a wake-up call. It’s obvious we can do better.”

In yet another critical look at school discipline, journalist Annette Fuentes, in her new book, Lockdown High, examines the heightened national concern about school safety – and its negative consequences – since 9/11 and Columbine.

“The Columbine scenario is terrifying, but the odds of it occurring in your hometown are about one in two million,” Fuentes told the Post.

In a later interview, she makes another point that is well known to most school board members: School is among the safest places for children and young people to be.

So how about those ultra-safe playgrounds, with nothing too high or too hard, too fast or too rickety? Not good for kids, says Ellen Sandseter, a professor of psychology at Queen Maud University of Norway. Yes, they may prevent a few physical injuries (and even that is open to debate) but the psychological toll – in children becoming more fearful because they’re not given the chance to adequately explore their world — outweighs the benefits, she says in a New York Times article.

So too safe is bad – psychologically. What about too extravagant, for example, the $248,000 playhouse a former CEO built for his grandchildren? Not a great idea, notes the Post’s Ruth Marcus. Could make for overly indulged, uncreative kids. Imagine that?

At least that’s one problem cashed-strapped school districts don’t have to worry about.

Lawrence Hardy|July 22nd, 2011|Categories: Uncategorized, Teachers, Week in Blogs, School Security, School Climate, Reports|Tags: , , , , , , |

Denver pre-K program yields impressive results

BoardBuzz recently learned that the first children to participate in the Denver Pre-K Program (DPP) are now in third grade, and data from the Colorado Department of Education indicate that they are doing noticeably better than their predecessors.  How much better? Fifty-six percent of 3rd graders are reading at grade level – a 5 percent increase from last year, and the biggest single year gain in the history of Denver Public Schools (DPS).

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) was superintendent of DPS when the DPP was approved in 2006.  “The voters made a smart investment by passing a ground-breaking public policy initiative designed to increase Denver children’s access to and enrollment in high-quality preschool programs,” the Senator stated at a recent hearing on quality early education and care.

The DPP is open and voluntary for all Denver children in the last year of preschool before kindergarten.  Nearly 6,000 children benefit from the tuition credit program, and most (60 percent) receive pre-k services from Denver Public Schools. The rest receive services from center-based and home care.

“In just the few short years of its existence, DPP has made good on its mandate, growing quickly to become one of the highest enrolled preschool programs in the country.” Bennet said. “I hope we can find additional ways to replicate this kind of successful effort.”

BoardBuzz knows that public schools are important in the delivery system for pre-K instruction.  Local school boards are uniquely positioned to lead, plan, and support early learning collaborations throughout the community to eliminate achievement gaps and improve school readiness and transitions to K–12 education settings.

Learn more about federal policy for investing in early childhood education on the NSBA website.  In addition, the Center for Public Education has videos, a Toolkit for School Boards and many other resources for school boards interested in pre-K collaboration.

Lucy Gettman|July 22nd, 2011|Categories: Curriculum, School Boards, Educational Legislation, Center for Public Education, Preschool Education, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Dropout Prevention, Leadership, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|Tags: , , , , |

School districts identify NCLB regulatory relief needs

As part of continuing efforts to urge Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to grant regulatory relief from the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) to school districts, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) recently surveyed school district leaders to determine the specific waivers that would be most useful.

NSBA was heartened by Duncan’s recent announcement that he intends to offer waivers from certain Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) regulations in exchange for reforms.

The survey identified 17 areas where immediate relief is most needed. These include:

  • Eliminate the 20 percent set-aside for supplemental services or school choice; these have not produced significant results in student achievement and districts need the flexibility to use the money in more effective ways.
  • Relieve entire school districts from being identified as needing improvement when the focus should be on specific schools or groups.
  • Enable states to use multiple measures for measuring adequate yearly progress (AYP) instead of one test.
  • Allow a three-year transition, instead of one-year transition, for English language learners to be counted toward AYP benchmarks.

More than 100 school districts, representing a cross-section of urban, suburban, and rural schools and demographics across the country, responded to the survey.

And more than 1,000 signatures have been collected for a petition sponsored by NSBA and the American Association of School Administrators calling for relief from NCLB’s flawed, costly, and ineffective regulations before the start of the new academic year, as it is clear Congress will not be able to enact a new law by that time.

NSBA continues to support efforts by the Department of Education and Congress to build a better and more appropriate accountability system under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. However, given the short time before the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year, NSBA leaders have urged Duncan to immediately remove sanctions and requirements proven to be flawed, costly and ineffective.

“This is a real concern, particularly in light of financial challenges facing local school districts, the administrative actions related to the opening of the new school year, and the expected changes in direction from the new ESEA law,” said NSBA’s Executive Director Anne L. Bryant.  “ESEA reauthorization continues to remain a top priority. Therefore, we consider this relief to be a short-term patch to provide a bridge over the expanding dysfunctional impact that No Child Left Behind is having on schools and districts.”

NSBA also is concerned that a proposal by the Education Department to grant relief to states would not recognize the different needs of local school districts, which were evident in the survey. Further, the Education Department should not tie relief in exchange for specific other reforms, considering costs, varying local needs and capacities, timing for the school year, and that Congress is already working on a reauthorization of ESEA.

“The best approach for offering relief would be to address the on-the-ground needs of local school districts and address those needs in a practical manner,” said Michael A. Resnick, NSBA’s Associate Executive Director for Advocacy and Public Policy.

NSBA has recommended that the short-term approach should focus on providing local relief and not initiating broad-based reforms, in part given the uncertainty of the direction that the ESEA reauthorization will take in Congress.

However, NSBA leaders emphasized that they support the intentions of NCLB to hold school leaders accountable for their students’ performance.

“In approaching regulatory relief, we in no way intend to undermine accountability systems that appropriately identify low-performing or high-achieving students, schools, or districts,” said Bryant. “We are simply calling for regulatory relief in areas where the current program is flawed or in need of immediate change.”




Joetta Sack-Min|July 22nd, 2011|Categories: Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act|Tags: |

Is NCLB leading to cheating?

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spoke out this week in The Washington Post on the recent standardized tests cheating scandals and noted that “testing and teaching are not at odds.”

But could No Child Left Behind (NCLB) be to blame on these high profile cheating scandals?

As Duncan noted “Now as NCLB’s deadline for 100-percent proficiency approaches and performance goals grow steeper, we learn of egregious, systemic cheating in Atlanta and suspected cheating elsewhere.”

Duncan stated that “poorly designed laws” are “part of the problem” and that “NCLB has created the wrong incentives for boosting student achievement.”

Duncan promoted the need for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and stated “we are working with Congress to fix the law by instead measuring individual student growth against college and career-ready standards.”

BoardBuzz thinks it’s time Congress moves forward on ESEA, but wonders when that will happen. Instead as the 2011-2012 school year is about to begin shortly, schools are stuck with a flawed accountability system.

Alexis Rice|July 21st, 2011|Categories: Teachers, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Urban Schools, Student Achievement, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|Tags: , , , , |

New on

As rhetoric heats up, parsing legitimate concerns from intractable political or philosophical positions is getting more challenging. Misinformation abounds, spread worldwide 24/7 by bloggers and social media savants, writes ASBJ communications columnist Nora Carr in her latest installment for the magazine. 

Traditional political wisdom counsels school officials to reinforce their supporters, engage those in the middle, and ignore the negative 2 percent to 10 percent whose opinions will never change, continues Carr.

Unfortunately, with more than 70 percent of U.S. voters no longer directly connected to their public schools through their children, ignoring media-savvy activist groups is likely to backfire.

Before school officials spend limited time and political capital, Carr offers some pointers from savvy public relations and communications professionals on how districts can get in front of an issue before it overwhelms them, and ultimately inflicts harmful political damage.

Read Carr’s column here, though hurry as it’s available free only for a limited time.

Naomi Dillon|July 20th, 2011|Categories: Governance, School Boards, Crisis Management, Leadership|Tags: , , , , , |

The week in blogs

Not only is it lonely at the top, it’s stressful too. You have to watch your back and fight off challengers.

Yes, of course, we’re talking about baboons.

According to fascinating new research described in today’s New York Times, it’s not all that bad to be a beta male. In fact, it may help you live longer and perpetuate the species.

“After all,” says the Times, “when the alpha gets into another baboon bar fight, who’s going to take the girl home?”

And what does all this have to do with K12 education? Wait, I’m thinking… Yes, here it is: Who’s better equipped to survive those interminable school board budget meetings without burning out? Who’s more skillful at collaborating, finding consensus, and “speaking with one voice?”  Who not only “talks the talk,” or “walks the walk,” but truly “walks the talk?” (Answer: Beta males? And females?  It must be true; it’s in the New York Times.)

In other education news — actually, on a more serious note — read the Times’ Michael Winerip on Matthew, a young student with an attention problem who was allegedly “fired” from a New York City charter school because he didn’t fit in.

“Matthew’s story raises perhaps the most critical question in the debate about charter schools,” Winerip writes.  “Do they cherry-pick students, if not by gaming the admissions process, then by counseling out children who might be more expensive or difficult to educate — and who could bring down their test scores, graduation rates and safety records?

Also see Joanne Jacobs on “Why Math Tutors Prosper,” Yong Zhao’s provocative call to “Ditch Testing” in light of the Atlanta cheating furor, and Charlotte Williams of the Learning First Alliance on desegregation during the Obama years.

Lawrence Hardy|July 15th, 2011|Categories: Uncategorized, Charter Schools, Week in Blogs, Student Achievement|Tags: , , , , |

NSBA announces 2010-11 Recognition Program honorees

NSBA recently announced the recipients of the 2010-11 School Board Member Recognition Program, which allows state school boards associations to recognize exemplary school board members from their states on a national level. The nominees chosen must meet criteria that include having made a significant contribution to the advancement of education as evidenced by leadership at or beyond the local level. Nominees also must have regularly attended regional, state, and national conferences for four consecutive years.

Following is a list of the 2010-11 recipients:


Florence Bellamy, Phenix City Board of Education

Steven Foster, Lowndes County School District

Suzanne Helms, Madison City Schools

Katy Smith-Campbell, Macon County Board of Education


Melissa Borton, Kodiak Island Borough School District

Jolene Edenshaw, Hydaburg City School District

Willard Hand, Copper River School Distrct

Pete Hoepfner, Cordova City School District

Tiffany Jackson, Aleutians East Borough School District

Carol Kelly, Haines Borough School District

Sherry Lestenkof, Pribilof School District

Mike Swain, Jr., Bristol Bay Borough School District

Colleen Vague, Matanuska-Suitna Borough Schools

Charles W. Wilson, Annette Islands School District


David Johnson, Floyd County School District

Vernon Payne, Clarke County School District

Joseph White, Mitchell County School District


Donald Clayberg, Sycamore Community Unit School District #247

Juanita R. Jordan, Prairie-Hills Elementary School District #144

Theresa L. Kelly, Proviso Township High School

Anna Klimkowicz, Township High School District #211

Alva J. Kreutzer, Township High School District #214

Dr. Maria P. Smith, Ridgewood Community High School District 234


Ellis A. Alexander, Saint Charles Parish Public Schools

Joel J. Dugas, Iberia Parish School Board

Victoria Krutzer, Monroe City School System

Yolanda Laws, Iberville Parish School District

Melvin Lodge, Iberville Parish School District

A. J. Nickens, Ascension Parish School Board


Ronald Gnatkowski, Saginaw Intermediate School District

Thomas Owczarek, Fitzgerald Public Schools


JoAnn W. Feltner, Franklin City School District

Tawana Lynn Keels, Princeton City School District

Susan Lawson, Tri-County Educational Service Center

Donna J. Myers, Springfield-Clark Career Technology Center

Warren S. Stevens, Urbana City School District

David H. White, Fort Frye Local School District

Charlie Wilson, Worthington School District



Beth Gerot, Eugene School District 4J

Kris Howatt, Gresham-Barlow School District 10

Annette Mattson, David Douglas School District #4


Robert Bold, Lehigh Career & Technical Institute

Frederick Botterbusch, II, Dallastown Area School District

Karen Brennan, Athens Area School District

Shauna D’Allesandro, Allegheny Intermediate Unit

Idette Groff, Conestoga Valley School District

Robert Lumley-Sapanski, Bellefonte Area School District

Roberta Marcus, Parkland School District

Marianne Neel, West Jefferson Hills School District

Michael Paston, Upper Dublin School District

Donald Raifsnider, Muhlenberg School District

Jody Sperry, Conneaut School District

Eric Wolfgang, Central York School District

Donald Yoder, Jr., Dallastown Area School District


Robert Alvey, Jr., Jackson-Madison County Board of Education

Roger Greene, Sr., Hamblen County Department of Education

Janice Haun, Hamblen County Department of Education

Carolyn Holt, Hamblen County Department of Education

Clyde Kinder, Hamblen County Department of Education

Susan Lodal, Kingsport City School System

Amy Martin, Bedford County School District

Kent McNish, Franklin Special School District

Horace Murphy, Jr., Clarksville-Montgomery County School District

Patrice Robinson, Memphis City Schools

State associations are allowed to nominate up to 1 percent of the members of their membership. If you would like to submit nominations, please contact Valarie Carty at (703) 838-6168 or via e-mail at


Joetta Sack-Min|July 13th, 2011|Categories: School Boards, Announcements, NSBA Recognition Programs, School Board News|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |
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