Articles from June, 2012

NSBA: New analysis on school nutrition costs is misleading

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) supports locally driven programs to provide healthy and nutritious foods in schools and programs to help students, parents, and communities understand the importance of nutrition. NSBA has long been concerned about the costs of new federal mandates created by the Child Nutrition Act reauthorization of 2010. As part of that new law, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will propose new standards for competitive foods, which include snacks and drinks sold in school vending machines, stores and à la carte lines.

Michael A. Resnick, NSBA’s Associate Executive Director for Public Policy and Federal Advocacy, commented on the Health Impact Assessment on competitive food standards released on June 26 by the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation:

“The press release and the report itself are misleading. Conclusions that mandatory national standards are affordable and could even generate revenue increases for ‘schools and districts’ pertain only to school food service departments, and the report minimizes or ignores the potential loss of revenue for other school district functions including instruction, or potential increases in costs to students and families.

“The report’s narrow focus on school food service revenue overlooks the impact on revenue from competitive food sales on other school activities such as athletics and field trips. The assessment also ignores the cumulative impact of other provisions of the child nutrition reauthorization – such as paid meal pricing requirements and the under-funded cost of national standards for subsidized school meals – that could require schools and districts to increase the prices that students and families must pay for breakfast, lunch and snacks.

“The press release statement that mandatory national standards for all foods sold on the school campus throughout the school day ‘is something that schools and districts can afford,’ and that ‘school budgets’ will benefit, should be retracted, given the limited scope.

“As the USDA prepares regulations to implement the competitive food standards provision of PL 111-296, NSBA urges the Department to recognize the limitations of the Health Impact Assessment.

“It’s important that our nation’s public schools have the ability to provide a full range of academic programs in addition to healthy school meals to give each child a healthy and positive learning environment to achieve their full potential,” Resnick concluded.

 

Erin Walsh|June 29th, 2012|Categories: Uncategorized|

More flexibility needed in bill regulating use of restraints on students, NSBA tells Senate

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is asking for more flexibility for local school officials in a bill designed to prevent the improper use of restraints and seclusion to manage students with disabilities.

In testimony submitted in anticipation of a hearing on July 12, NSBA is asking the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions to reconsider portions of the Keeping All Students Safe Act (S. 2020). The bill, which is supported by many special education and disability rights advocates, would ban certain types of restraints and require school districts to report incidents to the U.S. Department of Education.

“Local school boards want to be assured that federal legislation addressing the use of restraints and seclusion provides maximum flexibility and authority to states and local school boards in its implementation,” reads NSBA’s testimony.

NSBA asks that any requirements for teacher and staff training and certification “be structured in a manner that is reasonable, affordable and effective,” and that Congress ensures that data collecting and reporting requirements are minimized, given the limited capacity of school districts and the U.S. Department of Education to collect and analyze such data.

The testimony asks for specific changes to the bill, including:

  • Remove or rewrite the threshold for restraints, based on the definition of serious bodily injury adopted by IDEA in 2004, which is not feasible in emergencies and takes away other opportunities to train staff and prepare for its use;
  • Modify the requirement for a debriefing session within five days, as this is burdensome and costly to schools and would create conditions well beyond the control of the school. NSBA recommends that personnel should be allowed to submit information verbally, in writing and electronically since all parties may not be able to physically participate;
  • Ensure that the bill allows flexibility to address unanticipated threats to students’ safety;
  • Remove a stipulation that prohibits any reference to the use of physical restraints into a student’s education plan; and
  • Allow states that have successfully created policies dealing with restraints and seclusion to be exempt from new federal mandates.

The bill was introduced in December but its chance of passage seems unlikely, given its lack of progress in the House and the lack of time remaining in Congress in an election year.

Joetta Sack-Min|June 27th, 2012|Categories: Crisis Management, Discipline, Educational Legislation, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation, School Climate, School Security, Special Education|Tags: , , , |

NSBA president praises mission of National PTA

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) President C. Ed Massey spoke at the National PTA’s annual conference, held June 21 to 25 in San Jose, Calif., and says he was inspired by the organization’s energy and enthusiasm. In his remarks to the conference’s 1,300 attendees, he asked PTA members to join with school board members and other like-minded educators to help raise student achievement and improve public schools.

Massey praised the National PTA’s motto, “Every child, one voice.”

“Educational associations can take a lesson from this,” Massey said. “By partnering with our sister organizations as one voice, we can make a difference in America’s courts and the halls of Congress.”

Massey represents NSBA on the board of directors of the National PTA (also known as the Parent Teacher Association). He believes school boards should continuously look for ways to encourage parental involvement in schools.

“As NSBA recognizes the importance of local school boards, we must also recognize the importance of parent volunteers within our schools,” Massey said.  “Together we can change America’s schools and raise the achievement levels of the students. We both share the core belief that America’s children will determine our destiny as a nation.”

During its conference, the National PTA announced a “Champions of Change” partnership with the White House and U.S. Department of Education to honor 12 PTA members who have “dedicated time, talent and a powerful voice to improving educational equity and opportunity for every child.” Nominations will be accepted until July 10 at PTA.org/championsofchange, and the winners will be recognized at a White House education event and policy briefing in August.

Joetta Sack-Min|June 26th, 2012|Categories: NSBA Opinions and Analysis, NSBA Recognition Programs|Tags: , , |

Watch inspiring speeches by NSBA leaders on YouTube

Videos of NSBA’s leaders’ speeches given during NSBA’s 2012 Annual Conference, held April 21-23 in Boston, are now available on NSBA’s YouTube channel.

Mary Broderick, NSBA’s 2011-12 President, detailed a letter to President Obama she had written during her term as president, calling for a greater focus on nurturing children’s desires to learn rather than an emphasis on testing.

Speaking at the Second General Session on April 22, Broderick cited examples of federal and state policies stifling children’s motivation and learning through an overemphasis on standards and testing. She called for more focus on motivational research on students, and she also emphasized the need for public education systems to attract and retain good teachers and administrators by giving them flexibility to do their jobs.

Broderick’s letter to President Obama elicited several news stories and hundreds of Twitter “tweets.”

NSBA President C. Ed Massey also engaged attendees with a speech on adaptive leadership and ways that school boards can position their schools to adapt to a constantly changing world. Rethinking the ways the system has operated can improve students’ learning, and ultimately, the nation’s economy, he said at the Third General Session on April 23.

Massey called on national leaders and school board members to “commit to public education as a civil and moral right” and to make education a top priority in policy and budget discussions.

The NSBA YouTube channel also features videos of speeches by leaders and presenters at previous NSBA conferences.

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|June 22nd, 2012|Categories: NSBA Annual Conference 2012, Teachers|Tags: , , , , |

Pennsylvania, NY reports raise concerns about charter and SES funding

Reports have surfaced in recent days that have state policymakers in Pennsylvania and New York taking a harder look at the money going into charter schools and federally funded tutoring programs.

Pennsylvania “could save $365 million each year if it fixed the state’s flawed formula for funding cyber and charter schools,” reports the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Those projected savings—which other news accounts suggest are closer to $300 million—are based on a report by state Auditor General Jack Warner, who estimates that Pennsylvania spends an average of $13,400 to educate every charter school student. That figure is about $3,000 more per student than the national average.

More information about the funding and academic impact of cyber schools can be found in NSBA’s Center for Public Education report, “Searching for the Reality of Virtual Schools.”

The Pennsylvania School Boards Association responded to the report with a statement that noted, “Auditor General Jack Wagner’s recent report of charter and cyber charter school funding adds quantifiable numbers to what school board directors across the state have been saying for years–the funding formula is unfair and results in taxpayers spending more than necessary on these schools.”

“Charter and cyber charter funding formulas must be reflective of actual instructional expenses, predictable and based on logic,” PSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel said.

Meanwhile, the Huffington Post reports that a group of for-profit tutoring companies, who depend on funding under the federal Supplemental Education Services (SES) program, “have been working back-channels in the state Senate and Assembly” to stop state education leaders from shifting SES funds toward other interventions that might prove more useful to students and schools.

This lobbying effort was launched in response to reports finding that the SES program suffers from “bloated budgets, profiteering, and corruption.” According to the Huffington Post, one official discovered a SES provider that “collected $860,000 for tutoring students who never showed up.”

Del Stover|June 21st, 2012|Categories: Budgeting, Center for Public Education, Charter Schools, School Reform|Tags: , , , |

NSBA opposes funding for unproven D.C. voucher program

The National School Boards Association has asked the House Appropriations Committee to eliminate funding for the Washington, D.C., school voucher program, an experimental program which provides tuition assistance for about 1,600 disadvantaged students from the District of Columbia to attend private or religious schools.

The program has repeatedly failed to show effectiveness in improving student achievement over the years,” writes Michael A. Resnick, NSBA’s associate executive director for federal advocacy and public policy, in a June 20 letter.

“At the time when Congress is considering cutting billions of dollars from the federal budget, it should not be spending $20 million of taxpayer dollars, or a 35 percent increase from last year’s funding level, for a small number of students to attend private schools.”

The funding is included in the FY2013 financial services appropriations bill, which is scheduled to be debated by the committee on June 20.

The letter cites four studies by the U.S. Department of Education, ordered by Congress and conducted in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 that found no significant impact on math achievement among students who were in voucher schools compared to their peers in public schools.

In the programs’ first two years, data showed no significant improvement in reading achievement. There were some gains in reading achievement in the next two years, but NSBA noted that students coming from “failing schools” and those who enter the voucher program in the lower third of the test-score distribution—the very groups the program intended to help—showed no improvement in reading.

“Not only does the experimental program lack academic evidence to support its continuation, the [2007 report] documented numerous accountability shortcomings, including federal taxpayer dollars paying tuition at private schools that do not even charge tuition, schools that lacked a legally-required city occupancy permit, and schools employing teachers without bachelor’s degrees and/or certification,” Resnick writes. “It also noted that children with physical or learning disabilities were underrepresented compared to public schools.”

 

Joetta Sack-Min|June 20th, 2012|Categories: Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Legislative advocacy, Mathematics Education, School Vouchers, Student Achievement|Tags: , , , |

Are you ready for Common Core? Answer this technology readiness survey to find out

If you haven’t done so already and you’re in one of the 45 states, plus the District of Columbia, that signed on to participate in the Common Core State Standards Initiative, take a moment before the end of the month to see if your school’s technology infrastructure is ready to handle the electronic assessments that are also part of the project.

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, the two groups chosen to develop the online tests, have jointly created the Technology Readiness Tool– a detailed questionnaire that asks schools about the state of their IT program.

Along with hardware purchasing guidelines, the readiness tool helps districts see where they are and where they need to be, in terms of technology, when Common Core goes live in 2014-2015.

As a reminder, Common Core State Standards for reading and math were released in the summer of 2010. Internationally benchmarked and designed to be clearer and more rigorous than the patchwork of state standards, the standards are scheduled to be implemented, complete with new computerized assessment systems in two years.

Read ASBJ’s March 2011 issue for a great primer on the initiative and logon to take the technology readiness assessment by June 30. The consortia will use the answers supplied by districts to make decisions on how the implementation, such as how long to keep the testing window open.

Naomi Dillon|June 20th, 2012|Categories: American School Board Journal|Tags: , , , , , |

Senate committee passes K-12 budget, but gains could be lost

Updated to reflect June 14 vote by Senate Appropriations Committee.

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health & Human Services, and Education passed its Fiscal Year 2013 funding recommendations on a party-line vote on June 12, giving Title I, Race to the Top, and other federal K-12 programs a modest increase. However, those gains could be wiped out by across-the-board cuts that are scheduled to occur in January because of the Budget Control Act.

The full Senate Appropriations Committee approved the measure on June 14 on a party-line vote.  The National School Boards Association is asking school board members to contact their Senators and ask them to preserve investments in Title I and special education (IDEA) and to develop a balanced budget that protects education.

“As state education aid continues to be impacted by state budgets that have not fully rebounded from the recession, it is even more critical that local K-12 educational programs receive the needed federal investment,” NSBA Associate Executive Director for Federal Advocacy and Public Policy Michael A. Resnick writes in a June 8 letter to members of the subcommittee. “Since Fiscal Year 2011, federal funding for elementary and secondary education programs has been reduced by more than $835 million through program eliminations and cuts. Any further cuts would affect core instruction and cause even larger class sizes that do not facilitate differentiated instruction and other specialized curricula that many students need.”

According to NSBA’s advocacy department, the subcommittee voted to increase funding for Title I grants by $100 million and to increase funding for IDEA by $100 million. Race to the Top would be funded at $600 million, a $51 million increase over current funding. Among other programs, Head Start would receive a $70 million increase; and School Improvement grants, Teacher Quality grants, Impact Aid, Rural Education grants, and Investing In Innovation (3i) would be funded at the same level.

Unless Congress intervenes before January, the Budget Control Act is slated to cut most federal programs by about 8 percent, which would impact almost every school district. NSBA wants to emphasize the importance of communicating these issues with members of Congress before that law goes into effect.

Joetta Sack-Min|June 14th, 2012|Categories: Budgeting, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy|

Thirty years after Plyler, immigrant students still face obstacles

If you want to see how the nation’s views on undocumented immigrants have hardened in recent years, you don’t have to read the majority opinion in Plyler vs. Doe, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that said public schools must educate all children regardless of their immigration status.

 Just read the dissent.

 “Were it our business to set the Nation’s social policy,” dissenting Chief Justice Warren Burger began, “I would agree without hesitation that it is senseless for an enlightened society to deprive any children — including illegal aliens — of an elementary education.” 

Burger goes on to say, however, that whatever “folly” may have existed by the State of Texas’ decision to refuse to educate undocumented children, that decision was not unconstitutional. Such sentiments are a far cry from the prevailing view in the 2011 Alabama House Bill 56, part of which requires school districts to report the number of undocumented children in their schools, said Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Saenz was one of six speakers at a Washington forum Monday titled Plyler v. Doe at 30 years: Keeping Public Schools Open to All of America’s Children. He said he wants people to read both Plyler’s majority opinion and the dissent to get a sense of the values expressed at the time. Also speaking at the event, sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union, was Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez, the U.S. Justice Department’s chief civil rights enforcement officer, who was a keynote speaker the Council of School Attorneys (COSA) School Law Seminar in Boston.

Before Plyler could take effect, the justice department, joined by civil rights and religious groups, succeeded in securing a temporary court injunction on the part of the law that concerns school reports on students’ immigration status. But by then, Perez said, the damage had been done. Hispanic students were missing school and dropping out.

“We must never lose sight of the fact that this is about real people with real dreams,” Perez said.

That fact was underscored by William Lawrence, principal of Foley Elementary School in Foley, Ala. Soon after word of the new law reached Hispanic families, there was tremendous fear in the community that they would be targeted.

“The scene at the school was chaos,” Lawrence said. “There was crying and wailing” both from the Latino students and their non-Latino friends. Within weeks, 64 students would be withdrawn.

Ironically, 96 percent of the Hispanic students at Foley Elementary were born in the United States, Lawrence said. 

“It became clear to me that these children — American-born, U.S. citizens — were facing the brunt of the law,” said Lawrence, “a lifelong conservative Republican” who was nonetheless distraught over the measure that Alabama’s Republican majority pushed through the state legislature. 

If Lawrence’s political affiliation was ironic, there was irony in the actions of the Obama administration as well. Laura W. Murphy, the event’s moderator and director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office, praised Perez and Russlynn Ali, the U.S. Department of Education assistant secretary for civil rights, for their work on behalf of immigrants’ rights. But she said that if an official from the Department of Homeland Security had addressed the group, the reception would have been much different.

Last October, the Obama administration reported nearly 397,000 people were deported over the past 12 months, the third straight year of record deportations. Although the administration has initiated reviews of more than 410,000 deportation cases over the past seven months, fewer than 2 percent have been closed, leaving immigrant rights groups frustrated, according to the New York Times.

Perez’s office and the Department of Education have taken a much different course, investigating cases in states such as Indiana, North Carolina, and Alabama, where immigrant students have encountered roadblocks to school registration. In most instances, Perez said, school districts have been helpful.

“When we work with school districts, we explain the dos and don’ts,” Perez said. “They’ve been very receptive, because teachers want to work with kids.”

Lawrence Hardy|June 12th, 2012|Categories: American School Board Journal, Assessment, Council of School Attorneys, Diversity, Immigrants, School Board News, School Law|Tags: , , , |

Bryant honors new “Green Ribbon” schools at ceremony

National School Boards Association Executive Director Anne L. Bryant helped honor a group of schools with environmentally friendly designs that have integrated student learning into the features of their buildings and environments.

A June 4 ceremony was the inaugural event for the U.S. Department of Education’s new “Green Ribbon” program, designed to recognize schools with facilities that have reduced environmental impact, improved the health of their students, and have coordinated effective environmental education. Some 78 schools received the award, some with newly constructed buildings and others which had undergone “green” renovations.

“Reading through each story of the winning schools I see hope, light, and a focus on real 21st century learning,” Bryant said. “These schools used the physical structures, whether gardens, forests or solar energized school buildings, to teach STEM and analytical thinking, project based learning, problem solving, critical thinking and teamwork. 21st Century learning reinforces communication skills, creativity, and collaboration.”

Bryant pointed to examples of winners, such as Longfellow Elementary School in Long Beach, Calif. The school won a 2011 Energy Star award with a perfect score of 100, partners with a local middle school to share best practices, gives each teacher professional development in environmental sustainability, conducts all physical education classes outside and hosts a “Walk to School Wednesday” to engage not only students but community members.

Bryant was also particularly impressed with Terra Environmental Institute in Miami, a science-focused magnet high school that focuses on engineering, medical, and biological science courses to promote learning and conservation techniques.

For more details about this year’s winning schools and the Education Department’s Green Ribbon program, go to:

http://www2.ed.gov/programs/green-ribbon-schools/highlights-2012.pdf

Joetta Sack-Min|June 11th, 2012|Categories: Environmental Issues, School Buildings|Tags: , |
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