Articles from May, 2012

Save the dates for 2013 Technology Site Visits

The National School Boards Association and the Technology Leadership Network (TLN) are pleased to announce the 2013 spring series of Education Technology Site Visits. One of the most popular components of the TLN program, these visits  showcase the visionary leadership and technology integration practices of TLN districts, whose very participation in the program is a sign of their interest in innovation.

Leading next year’s line-up is Miami-Dade County Public Schools from March 6-8, followed by Township High School District 214 in Illinois, March 13-15; Pennsylvania’s East Penn School District, April 28-30; and finally, Vancouver Public Schools in Washington from May 1-3.

More details and programming information are to come, but mark one or all of them on your list of things to do in 2013.

 

 

Naomi Dillon|May 31st, 2012|Categories: Educational Technology, STEM Education, Technology Leadership Network|Tags: , , , |

NSBA signs shared vision for future of teaching

As part of this week’s Labor Management Conference, the National School Boards Association signed a “shared vision” for the future of the teaching profession that outlines seven elements to transform the field.

NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant participated in the opening panel of the conference, held May 23 to 24 in Cincinnati.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, the shared vision focuses on three goals, which include ensuring all students should be prepared for college, career, and citizenship; improving opportunities and access to higher education for less privileged students; and preparing all students to be globally competitive. The seven core principles to achieve these goals include:

• A culture of shared responsibility and leadership;

• Recruiting top talent into schools prepared for success;

• Continuous growth and professional development;

• Effective teachers and principals;

• A professional career continuum with competitive compensation;

• Conditions that support successful teaching and learning;

• Engaged communities.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and representatives from six other national education organizations also signed the document.

“The principles outlined in the document represent ways to strengthen and elevate teaching as one of our nation’s most valued and respected professions,” said Duncan.

In addition to NSBA and Duncan, co-signers of the document include the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, the American Association of School Administrators, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Council of the Great City Schools, and the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|May 24th, 2012|Categories: Professional Development, Teachers|Tags: , , |

NSBA reviews RTTT proposal for school districts

The National School Boards Association is reviewing the U.S. Department of Education’s draft plan for a new Race to the Top (RTTT) district competition. The proposal would send nearly $400 million directly to eligible school districts, regardless of whether their states applied for the RTTT state grants.

The agency announced its proposal on May 22 and will take public comments through June 8.

The program would give grants up to $25 million to school districts that have at least 2,500 students and at least 40 percent of students who qualify for free or reduced price lunch.

The proposal includes a requirement for school board evaluations as a contingency of a school district receiving funds. Reginald Felton, NSBA’s Assistant Executive Director for Congressional Relations, said that NSBA would not favor a comprehensive evaluation process, but would rather see a system based on indicators of support for increased student performance and focusing on specific responsibilities rather than a board’s overall performance.

Read more about the  proposal on the Education Department’s website.

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|May 24th, 2012|Categories: Race to the Top (RTTT), School Boards|Tags: , |

Guidelines offer “teachable moment” for tough First Amendment issues

A coalition that includes NSBA and 16 other education, religious, and civil liberties groups has released new guidelines for school districts to combat harassment and bullying while upholding student’s First Amendment rights to express views that may be upsetting to others.

“It is important to distinguish between speech that expresses an idea, including religious or political viewpoints — even ideas some find offensive — and speech that is intended to cause, or school officials demonstrate is likely to cause, emotional or psychological harm to the listener,” says Harassment, Bullying and Free Expression: Guidelines for Free and Safe Public Schools. “Words that convey ideas are one thing; words that are used as assault weapons are quite another.”

Simply put: The former is protected by the First Amendment, the latter is not. But while that principle may seem simple in the abstract, it is anything but straightforward in the real world.  Indeed, as NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón Jr. said Tuesday at a news conference in Washington, both the U.S. Department of Education and the courts have struggled with this issue.

While the guide “relies on our contemporary understanding of the state of the law, it is not of itself a legal document,” Negrón said. “To the contrary, it is more of a policy guide that roots itself in the best interests of students.  In this context, it means taking the natural tension between the right to be safe and secure and the right to freely express one’s self and identifying the teachable moment that makes sense for students. “ 

The project was organized by the American Jewish Committee and the Religious Freedom Education Project  Education Project and endorsed by NSBA along with American Association of School Administrators; ASCD; Center for Religion and Public Affairs at Wake Forest University Divinity School; Christian Educators Association International; Christian Legal Society; Hindu American Foundation; Islamic Networks Group and its affiliates; Islamic Society of North America; Muslim Public Affairs Council; National Association of Evangelicals; National Association of State Boards of Education; National Council for the Social Studies; Religion Action Center of Reform Judaism; and Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America.  

According to the guidelines, students should be able to attend public schools where they are free to share their views and engage in discussions about religious and political differences while simultaneously attending safe schools that prohibit discrimination, bullying, and harassment.  

Negrón noted: “This guidance framework will allow educators and schools not to simply legislate prohibitions of conduct or speech or ideas, but to engage students about the importance of civil discourse, respect for the safety and rights of others and teach the value of thoughtful discussion particularly about very deeply held personal views and beliefs.“

Lawrence Hardy|May 22nd, 2012|Categories: Bullying, Discipline, Diversity, Religion, School Law|Tags: , |

NSBA leaders attend Labor-Management Conference

National School Boards Association (NSBA) President C. Ed Massey and Executive Director Anne L. Bryant will join school board leaders and educators from 41 states and more than 100 school districts for the U.S. Department of Education’s second Labor Management Conference.

The event, Collaborating to Transform the Teaching Profession, is designed to share innovative ideas and successful policies that strengthen the teaching profession, from recruiting new candidates to retaining talent already in the classroom. NSBA is a co-sponsor of the conference, to be held May 23 and 24 in Cincinnati.

The Education Department, joined by NSBA and other partners, produced a document, “Transforming the Teaching Profession,” which outlines steps that states, school districts, and the federal government must take to recruit, prepare, and support teachers through their careers. The document addresses conditions for successful teaching and learning, teacher compensation, professional development, and community engagement, among other strategies.

Bryant will speak about the formation of this document and on the school board’s role during the opening panel session on May 23.

“Teachers have a tremendous impact on student achievement and the overall school environment, and school boards across the country want new ways to improve the profession and attract the best candidates,” Bryant said. “NSBA is pleased to be a cosponsor again this year so that we can further these discussions and build on the work that we began during last year’s conference.”

Representatives from Massey’s school district, Boone County Schools in Florence, Ky., also will attend the conference. District officials recently negotiated a plan with its teachers union to forego raises to avoid layoffs.

“I am looking forward to collaborating with other school district leaders and national groups to share experiences and find ways to build better labor-management agreements that will benefit all students and school staff,” Massey said. “This conference provides a unique opportunity to meet with other colleagues and experts from around the country.”

Participants from NSBA and state school boards associations include:

  • C. Ed Massey, NSBA President & Vice Chairman, Boone County Board of Education
  • Timothy C. Duffy, Executive Director, Rhode Island Association of School Committees
  • Patrice McCarthy, Deputy Director and General Counsel, Connecticut Association of Boards of Education
  • Nathan W. Burbidge, Counsel, Utah School Boards Association
  • Timothy Kremer, Executive Director, New York State School Boards Association
  • Renee Fambro, Deputy Director of Labor Relations, Ohio School Boards Association
  • Anne L. Bryant, NSBA Executive Director

The following participants are also attending as part of their state teams:

  • William G. Scott, Executive Director, Kentucky School Boards Association
  • Stephen R. Dale, Executive Director, Vermont School Boards Association

A complete list of participating school districts is available at: http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/2012-labor-management-conference-showcase-local-work-strengthening-teaching-prof

Erin Walsh|May 22nd, 2012|Categories: Board governance, Teachers|Tags: , |

The week in blogs: Lost in cyber space?

NSBA has long been a leader in educational technology — and that’s no exaggeration. Through its Technology Leadership Network and its regular conferences and site visits, the association has championed technology in the classroom for more than 20 years.

So when NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant questions whether the explosion of online charter schools is causing “too many students to get lost in cyber space,” as she does in her recent Education Week blog, she’s hardly coming from Luddite territory.

“All this has taken place with no research to back it up,” Bryant writes. “In fact, what little research and anecdotal evidence exists on full-time virtual learning shows alarmingly low graduation rates, course completion and test scores.”

A new report from NSBA’s Center for Public Education, Searching for the Reality of Virtual Schools, says the biggest takeaway from its study of this burgeoning field — and market, for profit-making companies — is how little we know.

For example, what impact would increased enrollment in cyber schools have on real communities, many of which have long seen the public schools as key to maintaining strong ties between citizens?

Writes Gary Obermeyer, of Portland, Ore., in response to Bryant’s blog: “While I am a strong believer in and advocate for online learning, I do not support the notion of ‘virtual schools.’ My primary concern is for the health and vitality of communities. Schools should be grounded in communities, so that students’ learning experiences can be tied to local issues/concerns, through which they learn to care about and contribute to the community.”

In fact, technology intelligently used can actually help tie communities together by giving disadvantaged students the tools they need to become more active participants. As Ann Flynn, NSBA’s director of education technology, writes in a letter to the editor this week to the Washington Post:

“Public schools must provide the technology resources that level the playing field for all students, thus allowing them to excel in core content and develop media literacy,” Flynn writes in response to a Post story on the widely varying use of technology in area schools. “The skills supported through appropriate interactions with technology will define the literate person of the 21st century; those without such opportunities will be left behind.”

Lawrence Hardy|May 19th, 2012|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Charter Schools, Computer Uses in Education, Educational Technology, Technology Leadership Network|Tags: , , , |

Bryant: “Virtual Schools Need a Grounding in Reality”

NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant wrote a blog, “Virtual Schools Need a Grounding in Reality,” for “Transforming Learning,” published by Education Week.  Her commentary is based on the new groundbreaking report by NSBA’s Center for Public Education, “Searching for the Reality of Virtual Schools.”

Bryant notes that, “Until we take a hard look at the potential and peril of virtual schools, lawmakers must tread much more cautiously.”

The report examines data on all types of online learning, but most notably finds that the data available on the fast-growing field of full-time virtual schools shows low rates of graduation, course completion, and assessment scores.

“The rate at which state legislatures have approved these institutions is remarkable,” Bryant writes. “What’s more remarkable, perhaps, is that the Center found these schools operate with few accountability measures, and states and districts are paying online providers from 70 to 100 percent of the costs of educating students in traditional schools, even though their actual costs should be much lower.”

Further, she writes, “All of this has taken place with no research to back it up — in fact, what little research and anecdotal evidence exists on full-time virtual learning shows alarmingly low graduation rates, course completion and test scores.”

Not all the news is bad, though. Through its 25-year-old Technology Leadership Network, NSBA has highlighted many successful examples of online learning through its Technology Site Visits and conferences, Bryant notes.

The Learning First Alliance is a coalition of 16 major education groups.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|May 17th, 2012|Categories: Center for Public Education, Charter Schools, Data Driven Decision Making, Educational Technology, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Online learning, Technology Leadership Network|Tags: , , , |

NSBA comments on U.S. Chamber of Commerce report on school boards

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce may not agree on everything regarding K-12 education, but when it comes to basic recommendations for improving school board governance they can find some common ground.

Consider School Board Case Studies, a new report by the chamber’s Institute for a Competitive Workforce, which was released May 15 at a forum in Washington. Among the report’s findings:

  • School boards are most effective when they have clearly defined, and limited, responsibilities
  • Superintendents play a key role
  • Effective training and board development can make a difference
  • Caliber and commitment of individual board members matters

“Frankly, that’s what we call The Key Work of School Boards,” said NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant, one of several panelists asked to comment on the report. NSBA’s Key Work is a framework of eight interrelated action areas to focus and guide school boards in their efforts to improve student achievement.

The chamber’s report looks at case studies of 13 mainly urban school districts across the country that are experiencing varying degrees of success, from the internationally recognized Long Beach Unified School District in Southern California to more challenged school systems in Detroit and Newark, N.J. The report emphasizes the role that business can play to create — as panelist Andrew J. Rotherham, co-founder of Bellwether Education Partners, put it — “urgency and context for reform.”

Rotherham said that business leaders and other concerned parties need to encourage well-qualified people to run for school boards. He said recruiting the right people doesn’t mean finding someone who shares your political views as much as choosing citizens who are up to this increasingly complex job.

“The reality is — it’s the type of habits and skills that people have” that are important, Rotherham said.

Bryant agreed. But she pointed to the 2011 report by NSBA, the Iowa School Boards Foundation, and the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, School Boards Circa 2010: Governance in the Accountability Era to counter some of the claims in the report, including a claim that school board elections are driven by special interests that are pouring money into races. School Boards Circa 2010 found that nationally, 74 percent of school board members said they spent less than $1,000 on their most recent race, and 87 percent spent less than $5,000.

Bryant also noted that two-thirds of board members surveyed for the report saw an urgent need to improve student achievement. As a group, the board members were also well-educated; 75 percent had at least a bachelor’s degree. And they typically aren’t using the board as a stepping stone to other positions, as some critics charge. When asked what prompted them to serve on a school board in the first place, just over 50 percent of respondents reported that their first motivation was to ensure that schools were the “best they can be,” 22 percent said “civic duty,” and only 1 percent said “developing their role as a public leader,” according to School Boards Circa 2010.

Bryant emphasized the need for collaboration, but also warned that strong partnerships take time and work.

“ We know from experience that our most successful partnerships start by building a culture of collaboration,” Bryant said. “This is hard work and any business or local chamber of commerce needs to understand that it takes time not only to build partnerships but to recognize their schools’ strengths and challenges. We’ve seen many partnerships flounder when a business coalition comes in and tells a school what to do without understanding how schools work and what the levers of real long term change are.”

Another panelist, Don McAdams,  chairman and founder of the Center for Reform of School Systems, criticized the report and said the 13 case studies were used to advance opinions rather than represent a snapshot of national findings.

The audience also heard from former U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, now president of the chamber’s U.S. Forum for Policy Innovation. She said that business people need to have more of a presence at school board meetings, which she said are typically attended by vendors, teacher unions, and others with special interest in the proceedings.

 

 

Lawrence Hardy|May 15th, 2012|Categories: Board governance, Data Driven Decision Making, Governance, Key Work of School Boards, Student Achievement, Teachers, Urban Schools|Tags: , , , , , |

Virtual Learning: Growing but untested, NSBA report says

Do K12 students benefit from taking some or all of their classes online? A new report by NSBA’s Center for Public Education, Searching for the Reality of Virtual Schools, says that while online education holds promise for 21st century learning, researchers know relatively little about the performance of virtual schools, and the studies that have been done are troubling.

“Virtual learning is the future. It’s increasing,” said Patte Barth, director of the Center. “But we don’t have a lot of information about its effect right now, so I would caution people to start slow and monitor it very closely.”

“Online learning” can refer to anything from a single class, such as an Advanced Placement class that is not available at a school or a credit recovery class, to full-time K-12 virtual schools, to a combination online and face-to-face instruction. Programs can be created and operated by school districts, states, non-profit or for-profit entities, as well as a host of other sources, which can blur the lines of accountability. 

While the information on online learning is incomplete, several studies on the practice are not encouraging. For example, a Stanford University study covering the period 2007-2010 found that 100 percent of virtual charters schools in Pennsylvania performed significantly worse in math and reading than traditional schools in terms of student gains.

The research also shows that full-time K-12 virtual schools tend to show the least effective results in graduation rates, course completion, and test scores.  While full-time virtual schools enroll less than two percent of the nation’s public school population, that number is rapidly increasing, and much of the growth is with for-profit providers.

“A full-time experience is much different than one class, and the overall data for full-time virtual schools tends to be where the wheels fall off,” Barth said. “Most of the research we found raises serious questions about the accountability and monitoring of some of these schools.”

The report also examines the funding streams of four states: Colorado, Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania, and the researchers found that in most cases funding is not based on the actual cost to educate a child through virtual schools. Determining budgets—and sometimes, enrollments—of virtual schools is often difficult.

The report gives school board members and the public a list of questions to ask to ensure their taxpayer’s funds are being used by programs that produce better results for students.

The report was written by Barth, the Center’s Managing Editor Rebecca St. Andrie, and the Center’s Senior Policy Analyst Jim Hull.

 

Lawrence Hardy|May 14th, 2012|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Board governance, Center for Public Education, Charter Schools, Computer Uses in Education, Curriculum, Educational Technology, High Schools, Online learning, Privatization, School Board News, Student Achievement|Tags: , , |

The week in blogs: Who’s got the most determined students?

Here’s a little quiz about cultural norms, brought to you with the help of education blogger Joanne Jacobs. Match the three hypothetical comments – which have to do with how young people view luck, talent, opportunity, destiny, etc. – with students in North America, Europe, or China:

  1. 1.     “My father was a plumber, so I’m going to be a plumber.”
  2. 2.     “I’m [either] born talented in mathematics or I’m born less talented, so I’ll study something else.”
  3. 3.     “[My progress] depends on the effort I invest, and I can succeed if I study hard.”

If you said No. 3 must be North America because of its work ethic, democratic institutions, or social mobility – well, you would be wrong, according to Andreas Schleicher, who runs the international test known as PISA. The correct answer is China. (For the record, Europe is 1, and North America is 2.)

At least, that’s Schleicher’s opinion, expressed in a BBC article, China: The World’s Cleverest County, by Sean Coughlan.

We’ve heard about — and perhaps over-generalized about — the Asian work ethic. But Jacobs is skeptical that simply working hard and believing you can succeed is enough to get you ahead in an authoritarian nation where students, like everyone else, are routinely sorted, and where the well-connected have a distinct advantage over the poor.

Speaking of China and its education system, read the Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss on the latest efforts by ambitious Chinese students and teachers to raise standardized test scores: Hooking up students to IVs of amino acids, which they believe enhance memory.

Moving across the ocean: Was Mitt Romney a prep school bully some four decades ago? Does it matter? Read This Week in Education’s Alexander Russo about a provocative Washington Post article on the presidential candidate’s years at Michigan’s Cranbrook School.

On Tuesday, NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant will speak at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce forum on school boards and the role of businesses with them, notes Eduwonk

Lawrence Hardy|May 11th, 2012|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Assessment, Bullying, Comparative Education, High Schools, Student Achievement|Tags: , , |
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