Articles from November, 2011

NSBA challenges Alabama immigration law

Alabama’s draconian immigration law is using “fear and intimidation to drive undocumented immigrants and their children” from the state, the National School Boards Association, the National Education Association, and the Alabama Education Association argued in an amicus brief filed in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“This case is about the power of fear,” the three education groups say in the opening line of their brief in Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama v. Bentley.

The brief is one of three filed by NSBA just before Thanksgiving. The other amicus briefs were filed in two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court: Filarsky v. Delia, which concerns the qualified immunity status of a private attorney retained by the government to conduct an internal affairs investigation, and Payne v. Peninsula School District, which concerns whether parents of students with disabilities can file suit before going through a hearing process set up by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

The Alabama law, which, among other things, requires school districts to report on the immigration status of new students, has received national publicity over charges that it is being used to harass undocumented immigrants and drive them from the state.  In early October, after federal judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn upheld most of the law’s provisions, more than 2,000 Hispanic children were absent from school, according to newspaper reports, although 500 of them eventually returned.

“When this bill passes and is signed into law, I think you will see illegals leaving north Alabama and going elsewhere,” said Alabama House Majority Leader Micky Harmon, the law’s chief sponsor, whose statement is quoted in the amicus brief. “This bill is designed to make these people export themselves.”

That statement, and those of other supporters, show that the legal issues in the Alabama case are nearly identical to those from a less-harsh Georgia immigration law that was recently struck down by District Court Judge Thomas W. Thrash Jr., the brief argued. Thrash found that the law’s “apparent legislative intent is to create such a climate of hostility, fear, mistrust, and insecurity that all illegals will leave Georgia.”

In the groundbreaking 1982 decision in Plyler v. Doe the Supreme Court ruled that the state of Texas violated Fourteenth Amendment protections when it sought to bar the children of illegal immigrants from attending public schools.

“The Supreme Court’s 1982 Plyler decision makes it clear that children have a constitutional right to a public education regardless of their immigration status,” said NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón Jr. “Measures that chill that right are patently unconstitutional, violating the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”

In addition to its constitutional flaws, the law fails as public policy, added NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant.

“The mission of public schools is to educate all students in their communities regardless of their immigration status,” Bryant said.  “Laws aimed at children exercising their right to a public education are bad public policy.”

In the Filarsky brief, which concerns whether a private attorney working for a government agency should be granted qualified immunity, NSBA was joined by the National Association of Counties, the National Conference of State Legislatures, and the International Municipal Lawyers Association.

“A decision that holds private attorneys representing school districts are not entitled to qualified immunity in that representation could be a disincentive for lawyers to continue to offer counsel to school districts across the plethora of legal specialization areas facing schools today,” Negrón said.  “The unintended consequence of such a ruling would be that school district could have difficulty retaining high quality, affordable legal counsel to represent them in their most challenging disputes.”

 

Lawrence Hardy|November 30th, 2011|Categories: School Law|Tags: , |

The week in blogs

Pundits made a big deal about Rick Perry forgetting the name of one of the three federal departments he plans to eliminate if elected president– for the record, it was the Department of Energy — but blogger Frederick M. Hess of the American Enterprise Institute is more concerned about just what the Texas governor means when he says the Department of Education would also be “gone.”

“It isn’t clear that abolishing the Department would itself end any federal education programs (since they can migrate elsewhere),” Hess wrote. “So, specifically, which programs and activities will you eliminate?”

Then – wouldn’t you know it? – it gets complicated.

Would Perry try to eliminate federal funding for special education? Hess asked. How about Pell grants or Title 1?

“Many will think there are obvious right and wrong answers to these questions,” Hess writes after posing a few other queries “But I do want to know what the GOP candidate’s bold promises really mean.”

Remember nearly 10 years ago when Connecticut went to court over No Child Left Behind, claiming it would cost millions in unfunded mandates? Well, just look at what it could cost California in required “reforms” in order to be granted an NCLB waiver by the Obama Administration, writes This Week in Education’s John Thompson, and Connecticut’s decade-old legal gambit doesn’t seem that out of line.

Lastly, we turn to two timely blogs from NSBA’s Center for Public Education.  In one Mandy Newport, a former teacher, Center intern, and graduate student at George Washington University, takes the Heritage Foundation to task for it’s ill-conceived idea that paying teachers less will result in education improvements.

Then there is Research Analyst Jim Hull’s blog on Tennessee’s new teacher evaluation system, the title of which I absolutely love:

“Using research to inform policy without understanding the research.”

Sort of like, “Vowing to eliminate the Department of Education without understanding what the Department of Education does?”

Lawrence Hardy|November 19th, 2011|Categories: Center for Public Education, Educational Research, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Programs, Week in Blogs|Tags: , , , , , , , |

NSBA commends the educational contributions of “It’s Academic”

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) recently recognized the high school quiz show in Washington, “It’s Academic,”  for its educational value. Earlier this month it was announced that after hosting the quiz show for 50 years, Mac McGarry, 85, has decided to retire.

The Guinness Book of World Records has recognized “It’s Academic” as the longest-running television quiz show in the world and the winner of eight Emmy Awards. Here is the letter NSBA recently sent on the education value of “It’s Academic” and the retirement of McGarry :

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) commends Mac McGarry for challenging young minds as the host of the television quiz show “It’s Academic” for the past 50 years. Under McGarry’s insightful guidance numerous high school students have showcased their considerable scholastic skills every Saturday morning on WRC-TV in Washington, D.C.

NSBA is, and continues to be, a proud champion of “It’s Academic” because it gives students a platform to prove to their peers that being intelligent is a valuable asset. Cheered on by their parents, classmates, cheerleaders, and sometimes members of the school band, the quiz show always has remained true to its vision of asking students to meet and surpass their own educational expectations.

As the host of the nation’s longest-running television quiz show, McGarry has undoubtedly shaped the minds of countless students. As we acknowledge McGarry’s retirement this month, we also would like to congratulate Hillary Howard as she takes over as the host of “It’s Academic.”

We sincerely look forward to the future of “It’s Academic.”

With gratitude,
/s/
Anne L. Bryant
Executive Director
National School Boards Association

Alexis Rice|November 16th, 2011|Categories: Student Achievement, Student Engagement, Teachers|Tags: , , , , , |

Intern with NSBA’s Center for Public Education

Looking for a real world experience conducting education research for the Spring 2012 semester? Then look no further. The National School Board Association’s  Center for Public Education (The Center) seeks an intern to work closely with the Center’s senior policy analyst in conducting education policy research. The Center is a national resource for accurate, timely, and credible information about public education and its importance to the well-being of our nation. The Center provides up-to-date research, data, and analysis on current education issues and explores ways to improve student achievement and engage public support for public schools.

Primary duties include: Conduct research for the Center’s next original research report as well as summarize findings of significant education reports on the Center’s blog, update the Center’s previous reports, and attend briefings/conferences in the Washington, DC area.

Job qualifications: A graduate or undergraduate student studying education policy, public policy, statistics, economics, or a related field. The student should also have a strong interest in education policy and research. Background in statistical packages such as SAS and SPSS is preferred but not required

The internship begins in late January and concludes in May and requires a minimum of 10 to 15 hours a week. The internship is unpaid. However, the Center will work with your school to satisfy any requirements for you to receive course credit.

 Send a cover letter, resume, and writing sample to: Jim Hull 1680 Duke Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 or e-mail to jhull@nsba.org with the subject line Policy Research Intern. Please contact Jim Hull at (703) 838-6758 or jhull@nsba.org.

Jim Hull|November 15th, 2011|Categories: Announcements, Center for Public Education|Tags: |

NSBA’ s president discusses school climate on Education Talk Radio

Mary Broderick, president of the National School Boards Association (NSBA), recently appeared on Education Talk Radio and discussed school climate and NSBA’s Students on Board initiative. Broderick talked about how school boards are addressing  and finding solutions to improve school climate.

Listen to internet radio with EduTalk on Blog Talk Radio


In August, Broderick discussed school climate on Comcast Newsmakers, check out the video.

Alexis Rice|November 8th, 2011|Categories: Arts Education, Bullying, Center for Public Education, Diversity, Dropout Prevention, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards, Student Achievement, Student Engagement, Teachers|Tags: , , |

NSBA seeks high court input on Internet speech

Can a school district discipline a student who posts lewd or vicious material online about another student or a school employee — or is that posting protected as “off-campus” speech?

That’s a question the National School Boards Association (NSBA), the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), and six other organizations are urging the U.S. Supreme Court to answer following a pair of appellate court decisions in favor of two Pennsylvania students.

In a brief filed recently, NSBA and the other groups say that, in order to further their educational mission, “schools need authority to regulate student speech that originates off campus.”

In one of the cases, J.S. v. Blue Mountain School District, a middle school girl who was upset about being reprimanded for dress code violations posted a fake MySpace profile of her principal that, according to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, “contained crude content and vulgar language, ranging from nonsense and juvenile humor to profanity and shameful personal attacks aimed at the principal and his family.” Nonetheless, the court, in an 8-6 decision, ruled in June that the school district had violated the girl’s First Amendment right to free speech when it suspended her for 10 days.

The other case, Layshock v. Hermitage School District, involved a Pennsylvania high school senior who also created a fake MySpace profile mocking his principal. In that case, the Third Circuit ruled unanimously for the student.

NSBA and the other groups argued that the expanding use of social networking and other forms of online communication have led to “a stunning increase in harmful student expression that school administrators are forced to address with no clear guiding jurisprudence.”

“Now is the time for the Supreme Court to resolve the question of whether and to what extent school district have the authority to discipline students for off-campus speech,” said NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón Jr. “As technology blurs the lines between on-campus and off-campus speech, school districts need clear guidance to be able to effectively address extreme off-campus speech that interferes with a safe and orderly learning environment.”

With more and more communications, as well as classes, conducted online, “grappling with the distinction between off-campus and on-campus speech,” as some courts have done, is arguably “a distinction without a difference,” the brief said.

“Courts that remain committed to the on-campus/ off-campus fiction risk discouraging school boards from using off-campus forums that benefit student learning,” the brief added. “Public school districts have been able to expand educational opportunities for students and to increase communication between school districts and their constituencies with their online presence. But school boards may be less inclined to expand educational opportunities online if their authority does not also expand. Imagine if a court held that a virtual school student who engages in lewd speech during a group online project cannot be disciplined because the conversation did not happen ‘on campus.’”

In addition to AASA, the other groups joining NSBA in the brief include, the American School Counselor Association; Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network; National Association of Elementary School Principals;  National Association of Secondary School Principals;  Pennsylvania School Boards Association; and the School Social Work Association of America.

Lawrence Hardy|November 8th, 2011|Categories: Bullying, Discipline, School Law, School Security|Tags: , , |

The week in blogs

My favorite response to the Heritage Foundation’s controversial study that teachers just aren’t as, well, smart as your typical college grad and, therefore, are way overpaid is this Modest Proposal from a reader of Jonathan Chait’s New York Magazine blog:

“How about we just don’t pay teachers anything at all and hope for the best possible outcome. That’s my kind of public policy.”

Ours too! And we have a think tank we want you to join.

Seriously, it’s fairly well known that education majors don’t score as highly on standardized tests, on average, as graduates in other fields. So, while some may consider such a study offensive and counterproductive, one could argue that there’s a certain logic in trying to compare wages by cognitive ability.

On the other hand, there’s a lot more that goes into teaching than test scores, many teachers enter the field from other majors; and cutting teacher salaries, as the report’s authors suggest, seems to be the last thing you’d want to do improve the profession. Finally, after an unprecedented year of public employee — and, especially, teacher — bashing, it’s disturbing to see teachers as targets once again.

For other views on the study, see Time magazine; former Washington D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee (via Politico), and a response by report co-author Andrew Biggs.

A lot of grand ideas come out of Washington, emanating from think tanks such as Heritage and, of course, from government itself. Right now, Congress is taking a critical look at one of the biggest “grand ideas” — No Child Left Behind — struggling to preserve its goal of higher achievement for all while revising or abolishing its more onerous mandates.

That’s what’s happening here; for a view of what it was like in the trenches, read Mandy Newport, a former teacher, NSBA Center for Public Education intern, and graduate student in education policy at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., as she describes the real-world impact of NCLB.

“No chalkboard space was left in classrooms because we were required to use that space to hang standards and essential questions. Science and social studies were taken away for the younger grades and replaced with test taking skills for an hour a day … Lesson plans had to be a certain font and size and were on a template given to teachers by the district.”

But if we just paid teachers less…..

Finally, read Newport’s evenhanded — and largely positive — review of Denver’s ProComp Pay for Performance plan.

Lawrence Hardy|November 4th, 2011|Categories: Center for Public Education, Curriculum, Educational Research, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Teachers, Week in Blogs|Tags: , , , , , |

Half-day pre-k + half-day kindergarten = big reading gains by third grade

Full-day kindergarten and half-day preschool both lead to significant academic gains — the research consistently bears this out. Put together, these programs offer students the best chance to achieve at high levels.

But what if your district can’t afford that combination yet still wants to provide a rich learning experience for young children? Would it be better, in terms of later reading proficiency, if your students got a half day of preschool and only a half day of kindergarten, or full-day kindergarten alone?

In a report released today entitled “Starting Out Right: Pre-K and Kindergarten,” NSBA’s Center for Public Education looked at both options and concluded that the half-and-half approach — half day pre-k plus half-day kindergarten — is more effective in boosting reading scores at the third grade level, which is often described as the grade in which students are expected to have largely moved from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.”

The Center’s conclusion is more than academic: It has practical implications in these tough economic times, when school boards are faced with difficult choices about which program to cut, and which to maintain or expand. According to the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), state funding for pre-k declined in 2010 for the first time in nearly a decade, leaving school districts to pay more of the cost. But the report suggests that cutting half-day preschool would be a mistake.

“Early education is vital,’ said Jim Hull, the Center’s senior policy analyst and author of the report. “With today’s release of the NAEP [National Assessment of Educational Progress] 2011 Nation’s Report Cards in Mathematics and Reading, this report gives us more information on how we can increase academic success in our schools by expanding access to high-quality pre-kindergarten programs.”

Here are some of the report’s key findings:

# Children who received a half-day of both pre-k and kindergarten were 3 percent more likely than those attending full-day kindergarten alone to comprehend words in sentence.

# These half-day pre-k, half-day kindergarten children were also 12 percent more likely than those in full-day kindergarten alone to be able to make “literal references” such as those expressed in the simile “Her eyes were as blue as the sky.”

# Children who received half-days of both pre-k and kindergarten were 18 percent more likely than those in full-day kindergarten alone to be able to extrapolate from their reading. That is, they were able to identify clues in a text and use those clues and their background knowledge to understand the contextual meaning of homonyms, such as whether a sentence containing the word “bear,” meant “to carry” or “an animal.”

In almost all cases, these results were more pronounced among African Americans, Hispanics, low-income students, and English language learners.

 

Lawrence Hardy|November 1st, 2011|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Assessment, Center for Public Education, Curriculum, Data Driven Decision Making, Preschool Education, Student Achievement, Urban Schools|Tags: , , , , |
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