Articles from February, 2012

NSBA’s “20-to Watch” announced

The National School Boards Association’s Technology Leadership Network (TLN) has named its “20 to Watch” honors for 2011-2012. These education leaders from across the country are being recognized for promoting the incorporation of innovative technology into high-quality classroom learning and school district operations.

“The ‘20 to Watch’ honorees are role models to advance student achievement with the use of technology in education,” said Ann Flynn, NSBA’s Director of Education Technology. “Their accomplishments provide real world examples for school leaders and board members to examine as they debate the best electronic tools and strategies to positively impact learning and address the growing digital divide.”

“20 to Watch” program was established in 2006. This year’s honorees will be recognized at 2012 Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) Conference on March 5 in Washington and also at TLN-hosted luncheon at NSBA’s 2012 Annual Conference in Boston this April. They also will be showcased in future NSBA education technology publications. 

The 2011-2012 honorees are (listed by state/territory):


Matt Akin, Superintendent, Piedmont City School District, Piedmont, Ala.

Superintendent Matt Akin’s district has seen impressive gains on state tests in math and reading since he launched the MPower Piedmont 1:1 initiative to transform teaching and learning in this rural town where over 65 percent of the student population participates in the free/reduced lunch program. Akin believes engagement is key to all learning and through his visionary leadership, MPower Piedmont has closed the digital divide by providing a MacBook laptop for every student in grades 4-12, many of which have never had access to technology and the Internet in their home.  He has also introduced technology-enabled assessment strategies providing immediate feedback to both teachers and students with the goal of improving student achievement through data-driven decisions.


Felicia Owen, Math Teacher, Lavaca High School, Lavaca Public Schools, Lavaca, Ark.

Rather than seeing Facebook as a distraction, Geometry teacher Felicia Owen is now using it for interaction both inside and outside the classroom. She first started receiving questions from students and parents on her personal page about homework or tests and eventually decided to make a page of it. By allowing students to submit assignments using their cell phones, some previously underperforming students who had refused to do homework, became very responsive. For many of her students, their only online access is through their phones. Owen’s innovative use of social media in the classroom has inspired other teachers and attracted local press coverage.


Mike Lawrence, Executive Director, Computer-Using Educators, Inc. (CUE), Placentia, Ca.

Mike Lawrence became CUE’s Executive Director in 2005, at a time of crisis for the non-profit organization.  His vision has reinvented and revitalized CUE by creating innovative initiatives and partnerships. Key accomplishments include co-founding the Google Certified Teacher program, directing the California Student Media Festival, and forming a national Alliance of over 30 non-profit organizations, universities, and educational agencies to develop the Leading Edge Certification for 21st century education professionals in the areas of educational technology and curriculum innovation.

District of Columbia:

Alex Inman, Director of Information Services, Sidwell Friends School, Washington, D.C.

Alex Inman has a history of innovation having launched one of the earliest US 1:1 wireless programs in 1999, launching a 600 seat Linux-based laptop program in 2005, and helping found Educational Collaborators, a national network of 75 educators that help other teachers and administrators around the world. Inman helped write a One-to-One Readiness survey that has been used by more than 800 schools as they prepare for their 1:1 programs.  He recently became the Director of Information Services at Sidwell Friends School  where he is taking on bring your own devices and exploring how big data can impact schools at the individual building or district level. Work on big data projects goes beyond the capabilities of conventional database tools and is on the cutting edge of innovation within K-12.


James Roodhouse, Technology Director, Geneseo Community Unit School District 228, Geneseo, Ill.

Since arriving in 2007, James Roodhouse has completely re-framed his district’s infrastructure,  led a crusade to unify its platform,  facilitated a new digital, web presence that pushed the district to earn two national awards as a “Digital School”, and  provided amazing support to teachers and administrators through development of classroom walk through and observation apps for iPhone and iPad. The apps enable teachers and administrators to focus  on “best practices” including use of technology which can be monitored, and then immediately communicated to the classroom teacher to help improve teaching performance, ultimately leading to greater student achievement. 


Andrew Markel, Ed.S., Technology Director, Crothersville Community Schools, Crothersville, Ind.

Students have always been at the forefront of Andrew Markel’s work in the Crothersville Community Schools.  Under his leadership, students can be part of the  S.W.A. T. (Students Working to Advance Technology) group that utilizes various technologies for a plethora of projects including  Social Media Awareness, the Bossman show, and taping of school sponsored events. As the 2011 Dell state technology director for Indiana, Markel spearheaded a virtual desktop and server initiative that has replaced the entire corporations aging computer system and is launching an Android based 1:1 initiative to provide all  students in grades 6-10 with their own personal corporation provided tablet for computing needs.

Kay Reinoehl, Technology Director, East Noble School Corporation, Kendallville, Ind.

Kay Reinoehl’s  vision, dedication, and passion for preparing students with 21st century skills contributed to the success of the East Noble School Corporation’s 1:1 program that was implemented across the 3,800 student district in one year with less than eight months of planning and preparation.  By fall of 2011, eight school buildings became wireless and 600 iPods, 900 iPads, and 2400 laptops were distributed to students. In this rural district with high unemployment, many students in grades 5-12 who can take their laptops home, are now teaching their parents how to use this technology and who previously had no hardware or Internet service. Reinoehl was instrumental in convincing building administrators and teachers that even kindergarteners can effectively maintain and use an email account.


Greg Lumb, Principal, Morris Hill Elementary, Geary County Unified School District 475, Junction City, Kan.

A voracious learner, Greg Lumb uses Web 2.0 tools such as Wordle, Storybird, Epals, Wallwisher, and Voicethread to support his highest priority of using technology to extend his students’ learning beyond the four walls of school.  Fourth and fifth graders connected with Iraqi students  via videoconferencing  and other students experienced global projects recording world events on October 10, 2010 by blogging, creating websites, and practicing  Internet safety. Lumb planned the district’s first technology fair and worked with media center specialist to secure a district-sponsored grant that pays for authors to videocast with students. Under Lumb’s direction, Morris Hill Elementary is currently serving as a pilot school for using Facebook as a communication too.


Arlene Vidaurri Cain, AP/Gifted Science Teacher, Lake Charles Boston Academy of Learning, Calcasieu Parish School System, Lake Charles, La.

Arlene Cain has piloted and developed online science courses for the district and the Louisiana Virtual School for the past ten years and taught oceanography to Louisiana teachers every year since 1996. She utilizes a variety of technology tools and techniques within her classroom including Promethean boards, computer simulations, hand-held data collecting devices and probes, student produced videos, Web 2.0 tools, and graphing calculators that allow her to differentiate instruction and address the different learning styles of her students. 

New York:

Jeannette Gautier-Downes, Instructional Technology Professional Developer, District 75/P.S. 811, Queens, N.Y.

Jeannette Gautier-Downes brought the UFT Teacher Center to P.S.811, a school for students aged 5-21 with moderate to severe disabilities.  This state funded program provides professional development and teaching resources to all staff.  Since coming to P.S. 811, she  has provided professional development/inquiry studies to more than 90 percent of the teachers/paraprofessionals at P811’s nine school sites. Technology highlights under her guidance include initiating a 1:1 program for students with autism that links learning activities to IEP goals and objectives and engaging students through 3-D World, a program that enables students to create themselves (avatar) and complete real-world tasks in a virtual world.

Marc Lesser, Education Director, MOUSE, New York, N.Y.

Marc Lesser engages and inspires students to be leaders, innovators, makers and thinkers  through MOUSE,  a youth development program which impacts thousands of under-served students across the country. Lesser has been at the forefront of the creation of digital badges to recognize student’s 21st century skills and knowledge ; served as an adviser to the Mozilla Foundation; and spearheaded Emoti-con! NYC Youth Digital Media and Technology Festival, a venue for students to connect as youth media producers and technologists.  In addition to developing the help desk curriculum for students, he led the design of new specialist areas in robotics and game design and  is currently involved with Solar One to explore curriculum that supports teaching green technology.

Greg Partch, Director of Education Technology, Hudson Falls Central School District, Hudson Falls,  N.Y.

Greg Partch authored and designed the North Hudson Electronic Educational Project, a Title III Technology Literacy Challenge Grant  focused on promoting compelling and effective educational opportunities for children and teachers in resource-challenged areas of New York. Hudson Falls School District, the Lead Educational Agency,  was funded over five years for a  total of $5,500,000 allowing over 5,000 teachers to receive  professional development  in the use of instructional technologies.  Partch recently secured Quality Zone Academy Bonds funding  of $140,000 per-year  over the next five years to establish  an alternative learning academy focused on 21st century career and technical education skills for youth at risk.


Dr. Dale P. Lynch, Superintendent, Hamblen County Schools, Morristown, Tenn.

Dale Lynch has a natural curiosity and is first in the district to obtain new technology, model usage, & encourage others to find applications that enhance learning, leading, & efficiency. Through his leadership, Hamblen County Schools is part of the first P-20 mobilized consortium in the nation and a leader in moving Tennessee to provide e-books.  iPhones and iPads provide administrators with real-time feedback and the recent hardware refresh for each classroom was supported by job embedded professional development from technology coaches to ensure its seamless integration.  ESL students and those with disabilities use iPads and Smart Tables to support learning while classes in video-production and app development remain popular.  A parent portal offers a range of services and the board room is paperless.   From sound amplification to video-conferencing, technology innovation reaches across the district and into the community.


Kyle Davie, Chief Technology Officer, Fort Worth Independent School District, Fort Worth, Texas

Kyle Davie insists on systemic, systematic implementation of technologies that includes educational technology staff to plan, train and assist groups or individuals on how to effectively and efficiently implement the district’s powerful educational technologies. He successfully completed the largest implementation of interactive whiteboards in the nation as part of a $593 million capital improvement bond program that created 5,500 digital classrooms and partnered with Chief Academic Officer Michael Sorum to create a district-wide curriculum framework with a teacher portal and curriculum guide incorporating essential questions. Davie supports cloud computing through Google tools, virtual professional development opportunities using open source, and e-books and e-readers as part of the library modernization effort at 140 school sites.

Andrea Keller, LIFE K-5 Special Education Teacher, Elliott Elementary School, Irving Independent School District, Irving, Texas

Andrea Keller has taught special education for nine years and the last four of those years have been in a pervasive developmental disorder K-3 unit.  Although Keller’s students are often low-verbal or non-verbal, she adapts and modifies so they can participate in podcasting, vodcasting, and video conferencing . Her grant for 50 webcams allows all of the self-contained LIFE/PDD units in the district  to video conference with other special needs students and classrooms around the globe. Texas service centers are using her classroom set-up videos for Autism 101 online training to understand how she uses technology to connect with others and her Busy Bee blog,  with hits from all over the world, allows her to share what she has learned. 

Darlene Rankin, Director, Instructional Technology, Katy Independent School District (KISD), Katy, Texas

Darlene Rankin is a dynamic change agent for technology. She has championed three strategic initiatives that when combined, philosophically change the way instruction is delivered in KISD classrooms. The  first initiative incorporated digital citizenship into classrooms, encouraging students to operate responsibly on the Internet not just in school, but outside the classroom walls as well. For the second initiative, she worked with the Curriculum & Instruction Department to develop a Web 2.0 toolbox of apps and sites aligned with KISD curriculum. The third initiative is a mobile learning program for fifth grade students that introduced smart phones into the classroom that, in its third year, has grown to over 2300 devices at 18 elementary campuses and provided the foundation for a program that allows  students at all KISD campuses to bring their personal devices and connect to the district’s public Wi-Fi.


John “Coach” Brishcar, Teacher, Warren County Middle School,  Warren County Schools, Front Royal, Va.

John Brishcar’s 30 donated laptops and free public domain software, a server, and a Moodle classroom management platform, operating without an Internet connection, comprise “The BrishLab”, a classroom where sixth graders are becoming independent learners and thinkers capable of working in teams without constant cuing from a facilitator.  Brishcar’s class materials are mirrored  at, while the science text book he authored  working with,  is published as a public domain document at .  As the moderator of Yahoo’s 2,500 member “Middle School Science Teacher” user group and the “High School Science” user  group, he influences teachers around  the world. 

Janet Platenberg, Principal, Steuart Weller Elementary, Loudoun County Public Schools, Ashburn, Va.

Janet Platenberg seeks effective, research-based solutions to address her students needs and understands that technology is a quintessential  component of good pedagogy which requires providing time and professional development opportunities for her staff.  Platenberg s school conducts project-based learning opportunities, differentiates instruction and designs curriculum in real-time. Gesture-based computing, using Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect in all subject areas, is among the innovative initiatives supported by Platenberg. 

Melany Reeves Stowe, Communication Coordinator, Henry County Public Schools, Collinsville, Va.

Melany Stowe has secured over $1.5 million in competitive grant funds over the past three years to support increased student achievement initiatives using cutting-edge technology in classrooms, providing quality after school programming, and purchasing emergency communications equipment to connect several agencies across the school district in the event of a large scale emergency. Stowe secured local support for two robotics teams and provided leadership for the district’s Explore Camp, a free one-week summer camp focused on STEAM topics and career clusters for students in grades 4-8; an iPad checkout program to address the digital and technological access gap; the Career Hub, a mall-based program providing students and families with access to information for college and career preparation; and the development of A Stranger Online, an Internet Safety comic book shared with districts around the country.


Lisa Greseth, Manager, Information and Instructional Technology, Vancouver Public Schools, Vancouver, Wash.

Lisa Greseth leads the design and deployment of performance management tools vital to building a shared understanding of student and system progress that fosters continuous improvement.  From her work with the Learner Profile and the data dashboard, to identifying and implementing conditions for 21st century flexible learning environments like bring your own devices, Greseth links teaching, learning and technology services in ways that promote shared understanding, solution-oriented conversations, and agile implementation of new ideas all with an explicit focus on student learning and engagement.  She moves new ideas into structured exploration through technology pilots and ensures that decisions reflect the voices of the  district’s students, staff, parents, and community.

Since 1987, TLN has served local district leadership teams that establish policy and implement technology decisions to enhance teaching and learning, administrative operations, and community outreach.

Naomi Dillon|February 29th, 2012|Categories: T+L, Technology Leadership Network|Tags: , |

The week in blogs: MIT tries turning down the pressure

Greetings, prospective MIT freshman. Ready for your first essay question?

“What do you do for fun?”

If you think that’s a trick question on the application of the ultra-selective Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stuart Schmill, MIT’s Dean of Admission, assures you on Inside Higher ED  that it is not.

“The truth is that we’re looking for balance,” the application says.

Then, look at this: In the spaces where MIT asks applicants to list their AP, IB, or Cambridge classes, there are all of three spaces (although students can click a button to add more if they want.) The point is that MIT is trying, in one small way, to send the message that it’s not all about loading up on AP classes or signing up for every activity. Try telling that to some students at highly competitive high schools, who routinely enroll in five or more AP classes in a typical senior year.

MIT is on the right track. Question is, with most highly selective colleges looking at strength of program (that is, how may advanced classes a student takes) as a measure of student accomplishment, is MIT really going to give no edge to those with more college-level classes?

Speaking of trying to lay off the pressure, read Bill Gates in the New York Times on why public release of individual teacher performance assessments is not a good idea. And, also in the Times, see the insightful editorial “Shuttering Bad Charter Schools.”

Finally, in what can only be called The Best Twisting Left-Handed Over-the-Shoulder Pass in a Celebrity All-Star Game by a U.S. Secretary of Education, see the UTube video of Arne Duncan — former Harvard and Australian pro league basketball player — in a warm up to Sunday’s NBA All Star Game

Lawrence Hardy|February 26th, 2012|Categories: Curriculum, Teachers, High Schools|Tags: , , , |

Q&A with Chef Jeff Henderson

Jeff Henderson is an award-winning culinary figure known simply as Chef Jeff — although simple would hardly be the way to describe his rise to fame. Growing up poor in southern California, Henderson quickly fell in with one bad crowd after another. When he was 24, he was nabbed for drug peddling and was sent to prison for nearly a decade.

While incarcerated, Henderson worked in the prison kitchen where he found sustenance and salvation in cooking. Today, he is a New York Times best-selling author and television personality who will be speaking at NSBA’s 72nd Annual Conference in Boston in April. The self-made entrepreneur recently took time out of his busy schedule to provide some food for thought to ASBJ Senior Editor Naomi Dillon.

When did your passion for food ignite?

I was placed on pots-and-pans detail in the prison kitchen. I realized the kitchen staff, like in any restaurant, gets to eat the leftover food. I thought, “OK, maybe this is the place to be.” The opportunity came for me to learn to cook by helping the head inmate cooks, and I got very good at it. I was very fast at seasoning and organization. Six months after I worked in the kitchen full time, the head cook left and I was promoted to head inmate cook and eventually head inmate baker. I had to be creative with the ingredients — onions, garlic powder, salt, pepper, top ramen noodle seasoning packages, canned tuna, a piece of bell pepper, some squeeze cheese. Whatever it was, we’d create these dishes.

You re-entered society with gusto, becoming the first African American to be named executive  chef at Café Bellagio in Las Vegas. How did you make that transition?

I took the same drive and tenacity that I had on the streets into the corporate world. Prison makes you very disciplined, and so do the streets. That added to my ability to move quickly up the food chain in the corporate world. I was the first one in and last one out every day. I studied the best talent around me. I bought the same shoes they wore, the same chef jackets, the same eyewear, and the same books. I watched how they moved through the kitchen, how they held knives, how they seasoned, how they held a pot handle, a sauté pan, and incorporated it all into what I do.

What does food represent to you?

It means a lot of things. Early in my life, it was survival. In prison it was an opportunity for me to eat better. After prison, food became a career. It became that vehicle for my redemption. The power of food is like a metaphor; food changes life. I get e-mails and letters and blogs and tweets from people who talk about how food changed their lives.

What is the Chef Jeff Project?

It was born out of my Los Angeles business called the Posh Urban Cuisine, where we catered to Hollywood celebrities and corporate executives. I would always hire at-risk kids through Job Corps, Pro Start, and local culinary trade schools. I would take these young people into multimillion-dollar estates and catering events and teach them how to cook. Many of these kids had social challenges. They didn’t smile, they sagged their pants, and their facial expressions were intimidating. So I wound up teaching these kids the importance of self-presentation. Then the Food Network reached out to me after I was on the Oprah Winfrey show and said, “Chef Jeff we want you to do a show.”

So how are you able to break through to the kids you work with?

Most teachers don’t come from poverty so they don’t understand the mindset. They don’t understand the trauma that these kids have been through. Until you understand that, you can’t connect. You can’t get them to buy in to the idea that education pays off. You get them to buy in by building up their self-esteem. You have to help them discover their gift and figure out what they want to do [in life] and cultivate that. In my travels, I meet kids who have never been on an airplane, never saw the ocean, never been to a white-tablecloth restaurant, never been to a museum, never been told that they were smart, never been told that they have potential. These kids were born in poverty to drug-addicted parents, abusive single parents, and broken family homes. It’s them against the world and the odds are stacked against them. So you’ve got to let them taste it, feel it, and see it, so when they go back to that environment that little voice talks to them and says, “You know what, there really is an ocean, there really is a New York, there really are opportunities.”

Naomi Dillon|February 24th, 2012|Categories: NSBA Publications, Wellness, Urban Schools, Nutrition, Student Engagement, NSBA Annual Conference 2012|Tags: , |

NATA brings message of sports safety to Hill

Members of the National Association of Athletic Trainers will be in Washington, DC on Friday for the association’s annual “Capitol Hill Day,” where they hope to educate members of Congress about the athletic training profession and request support for athletic safety and physical activity legislation.

The day also marks the kickoff of National Athletic Training Month which takes place each March and will boast the theme “Athletic Trainers Save Lives.”

Indeed, high school athletes suffer 2 million injuries, have 500,000 doctor visits and 30,000 hospitalizations every year – and 40 young athletes have died from sports injuries so far this year according to NATA.

And yet only 42 percent of high schools are staffed with athletic trainers, health care professionals who specialize in the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of injuries and sport-related illnesses and as such are in the unique position to act quickly when an athlete goes down on the field.

NATA and its members have been instrumental in heightening awareness around youth concussions, which ASBJ chronicled in its August 2011 issue.

And this month, NATA published a position statement that outlines the top 10 major health conditions and causes of sudden death among young athletes, along with updated recommendations to ensure better prevention and treatment of youth sport injuries.

“This is the first time NATA has provided this condensed information in one document to help medical professionals, coaches, parents and others make more effective and efficient return to play and care decisions,” remarked Marjorie J. Albohm, NATA’s president.


Naomi Dillon|February 23rd, 2012|Categories: Athletics, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , |

NSBA, AASA leaders look back, ahead

The relationship between school boards and the superintendents they hire is continuously evolving, with built-in opportunities for issues to be fruitful, fractious, or both. But the leaders of the two national organizations serving these groups believe working together is more critical than ever.

Anne L. Bryant, National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) executive director, and Dan Domenech, who holds the same position for the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), discussed board/superintendent relations and many other topics during a 60-minute session at AASA’s annual conference in Houston.

The annual session originally was titled “The Changing Nature of School Board Governance and Leadership,” but the AASA audiences knew it would be another edition of “The Dan and Anne Show.” (Billing is reversed at NSBA’s conference.) And while that changing landscape was covered during the 60 minutes, the informal conversation also served as an overview of Bryant’s NSBA career.

Bryant, who was the executive director of the American Association of University Women prior to coming to NSBA, said she is proudest of three things during a 16-year tenure that will end with her retirement in September:

The Key Work of School Boards, an eight-part framework for governance launched in 1999.

• The creation of the Center for Public Education, created in 2006 to “translate research that’s not Democrat, not Republican, not spin, but telling the truth in public education.”

• The organization’s advocacy work on Capitol Hill. “We have a strong lobbying team,” she said. “When we send out an alert and 6,000 to 8,000 school board members e-mail their members of Congress, that’s power. And we need that grassroots advocacy now.”

Both Bryant and Domenech expressed concerns with Congress’ failure to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act as well as increased “federal intrusion” into local schools.

“It’s awful. It’s terrible,” Bryant said of the politics that have seeped into public education since she came to NSBA in 1996. “It’s gone from bantering to bickering, from back slapping to back stabbing, and there’s a meaner sense out there. … On my pessimistic days I wonder if we’ll ever get a good reauthorization of ESEA. On my good days, I think we might.”

Domenech agreed with Bryant that “clearly we’re at a point where politics is doing more harm than good.”

“A lot has to do with the fact that the politicians who are trying to lead the charge of education reform are not focusing on the very things they value,” said Domenech, who was superintendent of school districts in New York and Virginia prior to coming to AASA in 2008.

Other highlights from the session:

• Bryant discussed her interview with the search committee, which was seeking a successor to Thomas A. Shannon. “I said I wanted to know if they were an organization that was about defending school boards or an organization that wants to make school boards more effective, and they asked me to leave the room,” she said.

“When I was asked to come back in the room, the committee members said, ‘We’ve been an organization about defending school boards. We want to be an organization that’s about effective school board governance.’ And the board has never waivered from that. They have been absolutely committed to the concept of effective governance, and that is what has driven me and driven our board.”

• After taking the job, Bryant met with state association executive directors, presidents, the NSBA staff and board of directors. She also met with executive directors for the various education organizations that are based in the Washington, D.C. area.

“I wanted to know why school board members run for office, what keeps them there, what motivates them, what keeps them satisfied, and it became clear after hundreds of conversations that they cared deeply about student achievement,” she said. “They really wanted to talk about student achievement.”

She recalled talking to Paul Houston, AASA’s former executive director, after the Key Work’s release, noting that he pulled together ten superintendents to work on creating a section of the guidebook that focused on the board/superintendent roles in creating a vision for districts.

• Collective bargaining can be one of the most contentious issues for school boards and superintendents. Bryant, noting that each state is different, said she is “very proud of how our state school boards associations have gone out on a limb and taken a lead role on this issue.”

“There is a fine line between protecting the jobs of teachers and some of the protections that were hurting education,” she said. “There’s a different culture in every state, and what we’ve got to focus on … is collective bargaining for student achievement.”

• Domenech noted that AASA was founded in 1865 — 75 years before NSBA — and “for many, many years was the only game in town.” Today, both executives are active in the Learning First Alliance, an organization of 16 education associations that meets monthly to discuss key issues affecting K-12 public schools.

“There’s this growing sense that there needs to be a voice for public education,” Bryant said. “We’re trying to do it, very often very individually, but we don’t have the resources that unfortunately that the critics of public education seem to have and bring to the table. It’s so important to come together and speak with one voice. We have to do more of that.”

Both Bryant and Domenech, who will have one more segment of this show at NSBA’s annual conference in April in Boston, said they are looking forward to a merged conference between the two organizations starting in 2013.

“I think it will be important,” she said. “It’s an opportunity to show that our organizations are in sync and working to make sure the board and superintendent see itself as a team.”

Glenn Cook|February 20th, 2012|Categories: School Boards, Center for Public Education, Federal Programs, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Key Work of School Boards|Tags: , , |

The week in blogs: Obama’s education budget (abridged)

Want to get the high points of President Obama’s K12 budget — that is, without sifting through all the numbers and the fine print? Read the Quick and the Ed post by Rikesh Nana on the “three key takeaways” from the Administration’s proposal. It’s an excellent synopsis of what the president is proposing and what it all means.

So what are those takeaways? In order: consolidation of Department of Education programs (something that’s been tried in past budgets but never adopted): continued funding of Race to the Top and other competitive grant programs; and — in the absence of congressional action — an administration-sponsored overhaul of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

OK, sports fans, this next column is not about Jeremy Lin. (But if we find one on the New York Knicks sensation that has to do with K12 education, we promise to include it next week.) Instead, Eduwonk’s Andrew Rotherham looks at the firing — and quick rehiring by another team — of NHL hockey coach Bruce Boudreau and what that says about the importance of professional “fit.” Hint: It applies to teaching as well as big-time sports.

Been to Cleveland recently? Even if you haven’t, or have no plans to do so, you’ll want to check out another interesting Quick and the Ed blog on the city’s “portfolio” system of managing schools. Schools would operate with greater or lesser autonomy depending on their performance. “Charter schools as well as district-operated ones would participate,” says the blog by Richard Lee Colvin, “with the goal of giving families a real choice among several good options in every neighborhood.”

Lastly, check out Mark Bauerlein of the Chronicle of Higher Education on the attitudes and academic habits of college freshman. Here’s an interesting paradox (actually a bunch of paradoxes): more than 70 percent of students placed their academic ability in the “highest 10 percent” or “above average,” but only 45 percent felt that confident about their math ability, and just 46 percent believed they were that stellar in writing.

Lawrence Hardy|February 17th, 2012|Categories: Teachers, Charter Schools, Week in Blogs, Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, School Reform, Student Achievement, Budgeting, 21st Century Skills|Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Insights into transforming learning

Check out Mary Broderick’s, President of the National School Boards Association (NSBA) and the former Chair of Connecticut’s East Lyme Board of Education, insights on Education Week’s blog, Transforming Learning.

In the posting, Broderick discusses the opportunity for America’s public schools to excel and challenges our schools are facing.  Broderick notes:

As our teachers and school officials try to meet the mandates of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Race to the Top programs, our children are being denied the inquiry and problem solving they crave. Our challenge as we go through the process to rewrite NCLB is to move to a model where we unleash curiosity, drive for excellence, and creative potential and generate a love of learning in our students and staff members.

School board members share the urgent sense that each and every child, no matter their circumstances, must have the opportunity to excel. We know we must ensure high quality experiences so that each child evolves fully. Only then will America continue to lead the world in innovative and creative solutions to the world’s problems.

BoardBuzz agrees, it’s time to remove the barriers to ensure all American students receive a world class education.

Alexis Rice|February 16th, 2012|Categories: Federal Programs, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Educational Research, Assessment, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Happy birthday Susan B. Anthony!

Susan B. Anthony was born 192 years ago, on February 15, 1820.  Most of us know about her lifelong crusade for human rights, including temperance, the abolition of slavery and especially for universal suffrage (votes) for women.  But did you know her first paying job was as a teacher? 

Anthony taught at two schools in New York state in the early 1840’s – the Eunice Kenyon Friends’ Seminary in New Rochelle and the Canajoharie Academy.   By the mid-1840’s she had reinvented herself as a reformer and the rest is history.   

BoardBuzz thinks that while Anthony did not spend many years in the classroom, she has much to teach us to this day.  Her most famous quotation says it all – “Failure is Impossible.”

Lucy Gettman|February 15th, 2012|Categories: Teachers, School Reform, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Legislative advocacy|Tags: , , |

Obama proposes increased grants, stable IDEA funds for FY2013 budget

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) applauded President Barack Obama’s proposal to allot funding for school construction and teachers in the administration’s fiscal 2013 budget proposal. However, NSBA is concerned that  Obama’s would put a greater emphasis on increasing funds for competitive grant programs at the expense of Title I and special education.

The budget essentially would fund Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Part B state grants at the same levels as last year. It would continue the competitive grant programs that are the hallmark of the Obama administration, including the State Improvement Grants (SIG), Investing in Innovation fund (i3), Promise Neighborhoods, and the Race to the Top program, which would receive a $300 million increase to $850 million.

It proposes a $30 billion program to hire teachers and first responders, including police officers and firefighters, in communities. It also proposes $30 billion for school modernization and repairs that are estimated would help 35,000 schools.

“We certainly applaud the administration’s desire to continue to press for funding for education jobs and school construction, which would greatly help schools and help invigorate the economy,” said Michael A. Resnick, NSBA’s associate executive director for federal advocacy and public policy. “However, IDEA and Title I are the underpinnings of the federal education budget, and those programs should be given increases over initiatives that can only be attained by districts that are able to hire the best grantwriters.”

Overall, the Obama administration wants $69.8 billion in discretionary funding for 2013, an increase of $1.7 billion from 2012. However, much of the new funding would go toward higher education and college accessibility programs. The administration also wants to consolidate and increase funding for teacher preparation programs, although it does not yet have specific details on those plans.

Obama announced his proposal at a community college in Annandale, Va., on Feb. 13. The location was chosen to emphasize the president’s commitment to education, according to the U.S. Department of Education, which also emphasized that the proposal included an overall 2.5 percent increase for K-12 and higher education programs while many other discretionary budgets would be cut.

However, the budget is expected to meet tough opposition in Congress, with many Republicans and fiscal conservatives calling for more cuts to alleviate the deficit.

More information about the budget, including tables with specific funding requests, is available on the Education Department’s website.





Joetta Sack-Min|February 14th, 2012|Categories: Educational Finance, Budgeting|

NSBA: NCLB waivers are not enough

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) was encouraged on Thursday by President Barack Obama’s announcement to waive problematic and burdensome regulatory requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) from ten states.

However, NSBA cautions that this is not enough and is calling for Congress to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary School Education Act (ESEA).

“The NCLB waiver program will give ten states additional flexibility but also imposes new conditions and program criteria on states and school districts requiring them to engage in activities that do not necessarily improve student achievement.” said Anne L. Bryant, NSBA’s Executive Director, who was at the White House for the announcement. “The waiver process should not be viewed as an acceptable substitute for ESEA reauthorization, as all U.S. school districts must be free of unnecessary or counterproductive federal mandates that hinder our goals of increasing student achievement. Congress cannot continue to delay, now is the time to reauthorize ESEA and fully replace the current accountability system that neither accurately nor fairly reflects the performance of students, schools, or school districts.”

The first ten states to receive the waivers are Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. The next submission deadline to request waivers is February 21, 2012. As of February 6, 2012, the U.S. Department of Education reports that 28 additional states, D.C., and Puerto Rico have submitted an intent to request waivers for the February deadline. For those states that do not choose to apply or whose application is rejected, their local school districts will continue to suffer under the existing NCLB regime.

Bryant additionally noted, “If Congress waits until next year to reauthorize ESEA and decides not to include these conditions or decides on a different set of requirements, school districts could have spent unnecessary time and financial resources to comply with the waivers.”

Where state applications are approved for waivers, local school boards will be offered far greater flexibility in the use of federal funds to address their own unique needs. Of great significance to local school boards experiencing declines in their own revenue streams is the elimination of requirements to set aside 20 percent of Title I funds for public school choice and supplemental tutorial services. While local school boards may continue to fund additional tutorial and open enrollment programs, these funds may be used to support school improvement strategies that can more effectively address local conditions.

Additionally, the waivers allow states to request relief from NCLB’s other badly flawed policies and regulations. This includes an accountability system requiring all students and groups of students to be 100 percent proficient by 2014 and a one-size-fits-all system of punitive actions against schools and school districts such as the firing of principals and teachers or closing of schools that rarely resulted in consistent improvement in student achievement.

Alexis Rice|February 10th, 2012|Categories: School Boards, Teachers, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Policy Formation|Tags: , , , |
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