Articles from August, 2011

NSBA in the News: “A different kind of parent involvement—in school policy”

This week, the Washington Post’s “Answer Sheet” blog features a commentary by Idette B. Groff, a member of the Conestoga Valley, Penn., school board and a member of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association’s Board of Directors.  Groff wrote about ways her school board revamped and expanded its communications plans to ensure all parents were involved in issues such as the budget process.

The column is the latest in a series of entries by school board members from across the country, including:

“The problem school boards have with the public,” by Michael Rochholz, board president of the Schoolcraft Community Schools in Schoolcraft, Mich. and member of the Michigan Association of School Boards.

“Are school boards part of the problem or the solution?” by Anne M. Byrne, a member of the New York’s Nanuet school board and of NSBA’s Board of Directors.

“Should children have to compete for their education?” by Mary Fertakis, a member of Washington’s Tukwila School District Board of Directors and President-elect of the Washington State School Directors’ Association.




Joetta Sack-Min|August 31st, 2011|Categories: School Boards, Board governance|Tags: , |

CPE study shows impact of parental involvement on achievement

Get parents involved in their children’s education, and good things are bound to happen. That’s a statement that most everyone invested in the public schools — including parents, teachers, administrators, and school board members – can support.

But “parent involvement,” though widely praised, is a rather nebulous term encompassing a broad range of activities, from volunteering in the classroom, to helping children with homework, to serving on the PTA. Are certain types volunteering more effective than others when it comes to supporting a school’s most basic mission: raising student achievement?

The Center for Public Education — a research arm of the National School Boards Association – looked at this question by examining dozens of studies on various types of parent involvement.  Its conclusion:  The best things school leaders can do to improve achievement is to involve parents in the academic life of their children — by asking parents to monitor homework assignments, for example, and by setting high goals and encouraging college preparation.

“Families working in close partnerships with teachers can have a measurable impact on their children’s academic achievement, particularly when they are focused on helping students do well in school,” said Patte Barth, director of the Center. “While parent involvement is no substitute for good classroom instruction, it can make the job much easier for everyone — teachers, parents, guardians, and students themselves.”

Parents want to be involved in their children’s education, something that holds true regardless of their race and ethnicity or income level. For example, the study found that 82 percent of white parents checked their children’s homework. And those numbers were even higher for African-American parents (94 percent) and Hispanics (91 percent.) According to the report’s Executive Summary, studies “have shown that lower-income and minority parents often have the same level of involvement in education as others – even though it may not necessarily be reflected at PTA meetings or school fundraisers.”

“The vast majority of parents are involved and want their children to succeed,” Barth said. “However, the school may not be seeing it.”

The report — “Back to School: How Parent Involvement Affects Student Achievement” — looked at literacy programs in Minnesota and initiatives in West Virginia in which parents received learning packages in reading and math and training on how to use them. Among of the most effective programs, the report said, is an initiative run by Johns Hopkins University called TIPS (Teachers Involve Parents in Schoolwork).

A study of a TIPS writing program in Baltimore found that parent involvement at two middle schools increased the writing scores for 700 sixth- and eighth-grade students. And the more TIPS homework the students did, the better their language arts grades.


Lawrence Hardy|August 30th, 2011|Categories: Center for Public Education, Educational Research, Student Achievement, Reports|Tags: , , |

The week in blogs

It’s back-to-basics time in Carlisle, Pa, reports the Think Progress blog. And what could be more basic that bringing in a flock of sheep to cut the grass at two campuses of the Carlisle School District? Superintendent John Friend estimates that the sheep – who belong to a middle school principal – will save the district about $15,000 this year in mowing costs.

“They’ve done a good job so far,” Friend said.

And now for “the rest of the story,” as radio commentator Paul Harvey used to say: The district needs to save money — indeed, all Keystone State districts need to save money — in large part because of Gov. Tom Corbett’s devastating $900 million in cuts to education.  Maybe they could sell some wool too?

On to PreK education … Credentials, and the expertise they signify, are important. But in order to improve the quality of preschool education is it really necessary to require that preschool teachers have bachelor’s degrees? Kevin Carey, of the Quick and the Ed, thinks not. In a recent paper for the Brookings Institution, Carey and co-author Sara Mead say that the academic advantages of preschool teachers having a bachelor’s degree are negligible and that the costs are too high – especially for low income teachers who are likely to have to go into debt to pay for it. Mead and Carey want states to create new institutions — “charter collages of early childhood education — that would specialize in helping early childhood workers obtain new credentials that signal skills, knowledge and talent specific to the field.”

Speaking of PreK, if you haven’t seen it already, read the July report, “PreK as a Turnaround Strategy,” from PreK Now.

Lastly, read Alex Kotlowitz’s eminently reasonable response to a Steven Brill tirade on the “reform deniers” who dare to think that schools cannot – all by themselves – cure poverty.






Lawrence Hardy|August 27th, 2011|Categories: Uncategorized|Tags: , , , |

NSBA in the News: “The problem school boards have with the public”

Michael Rochholz, school board president of the Schoolcraft Community Schools in Schoolcraft, Mich. and member of the Michigan Association of School Boards, has penned a commentary, “The problem school boards have with the public,” for the Washington Post’s Answer Sheet blog. Rochholz is concerned that community members really don’t understand the public education system, how it works, how it’s changed, and the many successes that take place. He writes, “Based on my board work and the public education initiatives I’ve been involved in at the local, state and federal levels, I see that the public doesn’t know enough about public education and therefore, is not insisting on adequate representation in the political and policy arenas. It’s easy for others to bash public education when there’s no one to defend it.” Read more in the Washington Post.

Also, NSBA’s Director of Federal Programs Lucy Gettman weighed in on a recent move by the Department of Agriculture to regulate costs that school districts charge to their own cafeterias. Gettman tells Education Week that the USDA rule is a premature and potentially problematic move that could lead to more administrative costs for school districts.


Joetta Sack-Min|August 26th, 2011|Categories: Governance, Federal Programs, Educational Finance, Food Service, Board governance|

The week in blogs

In school board circles — you might say, “school board lore” — it’s known simply as “The Blueberry Story.” But for our purposes, we’ll call it “The Blueberry Question” and add that any audience query that backs a public speaker into a corner (a rightfully deserved corner, some might say) “A Blueberry Question.” This week, in a Washington Post blog, Mary Fertakis, a board member for the Tukwila (Wash.) School District, describes a classic “Blueberry Question” she asked Education Secretary Arne Duncan last winter during NSBA’s Federal Relations Conference.

More on that later. But first, the original. In case you haven’t heard it, here it is, very briefly: Many years ago, Jamie Vollmer, an ice cream entrepreneur and public school critic who wanted schools run more like businesses, was questioned by a polite veteran English teacher after one of his lectures. She asked if he makes great ice cream, and, as he would later describe, he fell into “the trap.” After he raved about the quality of his ice cream and all its premium ingredients, she asked what he did if he got an inferior shipment of blueberries.

“I send them back,” he said, already sensing that he was a goner.

Then the teacher gave an eloquent speech about schools not being able to send back their blueberries – the blueberries, of course, being children, who arrive at school rich or poor, speaking English or not, well-adjusted or troubled. Vollmer thought about that, and soon thereafter his attitude shifted ’s 180 degrees and he became a champion for the public schools.

So, what was Fertakis’ “Blueberry Question? As she describes it in the Post’s Answer Sheet blog, her question to Duncan was this: “Should children have to compete for their education?” and of course, his answer, indeed anyone’s answer, had to be “no.” But then he was left to explain why Race to the Top, which Fertakis says pits small, rural, and disadvantaged school districts against larger, wealthier ones, is good policy.

Duncan’s no Vollmer (I’m talking pre-Blueberry-Question Vollmer) and he’s doing all he can to help close the achievement gap. But Fertakis column is an eloquent account of what it’s like to lead what the New York Times once called the “most diverse school district in the United States.”

There was a lot more in the national press this week, including a National Journal experts’ blog on bullying. The forum takes, as its starting point, NSBA’s recently launched Students on Board initiative, which encourages board members to get a better understanding of their schools through talking directly to students.

Also, see the sobering report Kids Count, from the Anne E. Casey Foundation, which found that child poverty increased 18 percent between 2000 and 2009. And nearly 8 million children in 2009 were living with at least one parent who was unemployed but looking for a job.






Lawrence Hardy|August 19th, 2011|Categories: Uncategorized, School Boards, Week in Blogs, Diversity, Student Achievement|Tags: , , , , , |

Video: NSBA discusses school climate and bullying on Comcast Newsmakers

BoardBuzz recommends you check out Mary Broderick, President of the National School Boards Association (NSBA), recent appearance on Comcast Newsmakers.

Broderick discusses school climate, bullying, and cyberbullying, and promotes NSBA’s Students on Board: A Conversation Between School Board Members and Studentsproject to get school board members across the country to start talking with students about school climate.

Alexis Rice|August 18th, 2011|Categories: School Boards, Teachers, Bullying, Center for Public Education, School Climate, Student Achievement, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|Tags: , , , , , , , |

NSBA in the News: “Should children have to compete for their education?”

Mary Fertakis, a member of the Tukwila, Wash., school board and president-elect of the Washington State School Directors’ Association, wrote a column for the Washington Post’s Answer Sheet blog this week discussing competitive federal grant programs and the disadvantages many students and school districts face.

Fertakis posed the question, “Should children have to compete for their education?” to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at NSBA’s 2011 Federal Relations Network conference in February. Read the column and be sure to leave your comments.

Joetta Sack-Min|August 18th, 2011|Categories: FRN Conference 2011, Rural Schools, Educational Finance, School Reform, Race to the Top (RTTT)|Tags: , , |

Making progress preparing more students for college

A similar review with a summary of additional findings can be found on NSBA’s Center for Public Education’s blog The Edifier.

There was a slight increase in the percent of 2011 high school graduates ready for college English, math, social science, and science courses, according to ACT’s The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2011 report released today. 

It is good news that the percent of students considered “college ready” increased, especially since it has been increasing for several years. This shows our high schools are graduating more students ready to succeed in college. This is likely because more students are taking more rigorous courses. As the Center’s Chasing the College Acceptance Letter found, those students who take more rigorous courses increase their chances of getting into a good college at a greater rate than students who simply improve their grades.

However, the results also show that progress has been slow and gaps between groups of students persist. The progress needs to accelerate exponentially to close the gap between the percent of students who want to go onto earn a 4-year degree (83 percent) and those who are “college ready” (25 percent) so they are adequately prepared for such college level work when they enter college. Yes, high schools are on the right track, but there is much more work to be done to truly meet the needs of their students.

For more information on how to use college entrance exam scores to evaluate your school, check out the Center’s Date First website.

Jim Hull|August 17th, 2011|Categories: High Schools, Center for Public Education, Student Achievement, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Reports|Tags: , , |

Concussion prevention laws, practices spreading

Recent news headlines have highlighted a proliferation of youth concussion prevention regulations and strategies across the country.

From Arizona, which apparently is the first state to require student athletes to pass a test based on a traumatic brain injury video they must watch, to Virginia, which became one of nearly two dozen states to write concussion prevention among students into law in the past six months.

In the August edition of ASBJ, I tackled the issue of youth concussions, which remains a largely misunderstood injury.  Among one of the more intriguiging revelations in the story: restricting physical exertion of injured student is only half the battle– in fact, it’s even less.

“We spend 90 percent of our time in the clinic, around how to return that kid to school,” Gerald Gioa, chief of neuropsychology at  Children’s National Medical Center in Washington D.C., told me. “The sports side is the easy part. I can easily restrict sports it’s not so easy to restrict the academic side.”

To learn more about this serious, yet highly preventable injury, read the August cover story, online for free for a limited time.

Naomi Dillon, Senior Editor


Naomi Dillon|August 17th, 2011|Categories: Wellness, Crisis Management, Athletics, American School Board Journal|

Americans sympathetic to school finances, teachers, PDK poll finds

The latest edition of the influential Phi Delta Kappan/Gallup opinion poll, released on August 17, found more support for public school teachers and sympathy toward schools’ financial woes.

Despite negative publicity and state initiatives limiting the power of teachers unions, the annual poll found significant support for teachers. More than 70 percent of respondents said they have “trust and confidence” in public school teachers, and 69 percent of respondents gave public school teachers in their community a letter grade of an A or B, compared to 50 percent in 1984.

Another result found that 36 percent of respondents think that lack of financial support is the biggest problem facing schools.

And most respondents felt that decisions on teacher salaries and layoffs should be based on multiple factors, including advanced degrees, experience, and administrator evaluations, while their students’ scores on standardized tests were rated as least important. Also, most respondents thought that school districts should use multiple factors when determining layoffs, rather than seniority.

Full results of the poll are available at:

Joetta Sack-Min|August 17th, 2011|Categories: Teachers, Educational Finance|Tags: , , , |
Page 1 of 212