Articles from July, 2012

What would you do if parents lobbied your school board on adding athletic offerings

The August edition of ASBJ ‘s Adviser Poll poses this question to our readers:

A group of parents lobbied the school board to make archery one of the athletic offerings at the high school level. Their middle school children were very involved with the sport and they wanted them to continue in junior and varsity teams at the high school. The school board was hesitant because of the costs but the parents promised they would raise money to cover the expenses. What should the board do?

Vote and tell us what you think on our Facebook page.


Naomi Dillon|July 31st, 2012|Categories: School Boards, Athletics, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , |

Washington group analyzes K-12 initiatives and predicts future steps

Obama administration initiatives such as the Race to the Top (RTTT) competitive grant program and the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)/Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) waivers have generated more innovation in a shorter time than any other K-12 education reform in recent memory, according to an influential Washington group.

The Center for American Progress (CAP) hosted a forum on July 27 “The State of State Education Reform: What’s Happening, What’s Next?” At the event, the panelists singled out:

  • A wide variety of school improvement strategies
  • Removal of the caps on charter school creation
  • Widespread adoption of college- and career-ready standards
  • A build up of human capacity in the education sector
  • A determined focus on education reform creating a coherent vision of goals to achieve, the means to achieve them and the obstacles that need to be overcome

The National School Boards Association has been following developments in all of these areas because of the critical role school boards will play in implementing these programs, as well as monitoring the role of the federal government. Representatives from NSBA’s legislative advocacy department attended the event.

At the event, panelists John King, New York State Commissioner, Michael Yudin, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Strategic Initiatives in the U.S. Department of Education, and Alex Johnston, adviser to the Bloomberg Philanthropies and Chair of the Board of Directors, Policy Innovators in Education, agreed that the RTTT funding was a huge incentive to jump start much-needed reforms and help accelerate reforms many states had already embraced; increase charter school development; and bring an evaluation system into labor-management relations.  The process of developing applications brought together governors, state superintendents/commissioners and state boards of education, and ultimately state legislatures.

King was critical of local school boards for not being more proactive on the innovation front and avoiding interventions with failing schools.  He said he is seeking legislation in the upcoming New York 2013 legislative session to empower the state to remove local boards that have not addressed chronically underperforming schools.

“We’ve been missing that tool,” said King, whose experience before joining the New York Department of Education was with charter school management.

Johnston noted that Connecticut has been identified as having the greatest achievement gap between children in poverty and those from families with more affluence. But the state’s failure to secure RTTT funds motivated both gubernatorial candidates to make education a top campaign issue and continues to be a driving force.

Brown and panelists noted the current widespread diminished and limited capacity of state departments of education in leading change.  Their embedded monitoring and compliance approach, dictated by NCLB and the enforcement of state aid policies, was shifted to an agenda marked by change, school improvement, and increased standards.  The Common Core State Standards have also motivated states to work together on evaluating curriculum, on developing new, upgraded assessments, and on developing a system that relies more on technology for delivering professional development to teachers and principals.  The emphasis on building regional teams has also been reinforced.

The event was in tandem with the CAP’s analysis of the second round of applications for the NCLB waiver program.

This report was compiled by Roberta Stanley, NSBA’s director of federal affairs.

Erin Walsh|July 30th, 2012|Categories: Governance, School Boards, Educational Legislation, School Reform, Student Achievement, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Legislative advocacy|Tags: , , , , |

Tending to children’s social, emotional needs important part of delivering education

It’s hard to learn at school when you’re hungry. It’s hard to learn if you’re afraid of the school bully. And classroom lessons hold no interest for you if you have been abused at home, or your heart is otherwise filled with pain and anger.

That reality is no surprise to urban school leaders—and that’s why attendees at the CUBE Summer Issues Seminar in New York City spent part of Friday learning more about how to meet the social and emotional needs of students.

In poor urban neighborhoods, children can be bombarded with challenges to their social and emotional needs even before they’re born—starting with a lack of good prenatal care, said Barbara Cavallo, associate executive director of Partnership with Children, a social service agency that has counselors and social workers in 26 of New York City’s most disadvantaged schools.

Those challenges, which range from neglect to abuse to other social ills, leave many students struggling by the time they reach school age, she says. Those struggles are reflected in behavioral problems that can lead to repeated visits to the principal’s office, assignment to special education programs, or a slow decline in academic performance.

These kids go into “survival mode,” Cavallo says, which leaves them ill-prepared to learn or stay out of trouble.

Recognizing this dynamic, the Partnership attempts to intervene with a program that provides participating schools with extra counseling services. Counselors also can conduct home visits and coordinate referrals for students with more serious problems.

The Partnership also works with school personnel to develop a healthy school culture by training teachers in how to respond to student misbehavior and identify the underlying causes of any problem so that an appropriate response can be planned. Counselors also work with teachers and principals to develop a school-wide plan to create a safe and supportive school climate.

Part of the Partnership’s work is inspired by Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs,” Cavallo said. Once a child has satisfied such basic survival needs as food and water, what they need is a sense of safety, of love and self-esteem and confidence.

“That’s what we’re focusing on,” she said. “Once students feel confident and supported, they can start to demonstrate appropriate reactions [in school]. They are willing to establish relations with teachers and the classroom. That’s when we’re on our way to preparing students for success.”

It’s not just a touchy-feeling exercise to make children feel better—meeting students’ social and emotional needs have a practical impact on learning, she says. A survey of the Partnership’s program found that school administrators reported a 25-percent decrease in students being referred to their office, and they said they spent about one-third less time on disciplinary matters.

What’s more, another study of similar programs nationwide found that schools that focused on social and emotional learning reported a noticeable bump in standardized test scores.

But such an effort begins with training—of everyone from the school board to the classroom teacher, Cavallo said. And the message is that human connections are key.

“We work with teachers and explain what works. We ask them to greet students every day at the door … to stand outside the classroom and say, ‘Hello.’ It’s a connection to a caring adult that makes all the difference in the world.”

Del Stover|July 30th, 2012|Categories: CUBE|

Technology Leadership Network promotes new online community

NSBA’s Technology Leadership Network is supporting “Connected Educator Month,” a new program that creates an online community that helps educators connect to resources, tools, colleagues, experts, and learning activities, both within and beyond schools.

Connected Educators’ sponsors are hosting a series of keynote speakers to introduce educators to the program. Chris Lehman, a past recipient of TLN’s “20 to Watch” award and principal of the Science Leader Academy in Philadelphia is a featured speaker next month. Learn more about the events at

CEM Kickoff Keynotes

  • August 1, 5:00 PM ET Deborah Meier, Teacher, Principal, Writer, Advocate
  • August 1, 7:00 PM ET Chris Lehmann, Principal, Science Leader Academy, Philadelphia, PA
  • August 2, 11:30 AM ET Douglas Rushkoff, Author, Teacher, Documentarian
  • August 2, 7:00 PM ET Larry Johnson, CEO, the New Media Consortium
  • August 3, 11:00 EM ET Connie Yowell, Director of Education, the MacArthur Foundation
Joetta Sack-Min|July 27th, 2012|Categories: Educational Technology, Technology Leadership Network|Tags: , , |

The data made me do it

These days, everyone is talking about data-driven decision making. But how many school board members really are comfortable using data to make decisions?

And how do they determine what data they really need?

These questions are at the heart of “Data-Driven School Governance,” a series of articles featured in ASBJ’s July issue.

One invaluable use of data is to help school boards fulfill their role as good stewards of their districts—to hold school personnel accountable for students’ instructional success, data experts say. But school leaders often aren’t certain where to begin.

“What benchmarks or criteria do you use to evaluate the successes and failures of your superintendent and district leadership?” one article asks. “And how do you determine whether good instruction is occurring in your schools? If 70 percent of third-graders at your elementary school are proficient in reading, is that a huge success or a disturbing failure?”

Joe Wehrli, director of board development for the Oregon School Boards Association, says any data used for accountability must be developed jointly by the board and superintendent.

“They need to be very specific and laser-focused in their discussion with the administration about what achievement expectations they are after … to identify specifically what types of assessments they’ll use,” he says. “If you’re holding district personnel accountable for their work, you’ve got to set expectations … and you have a responsibility to provide the resources for the work.”

Yet accountability isn’t the only use for data, experts say. “It’s one thing to put district administrators on the spot after a three-year effort to boost reading test scores; it’s another to use data to help determine why that effort failed — or what to try next.”

“That’s the biggest ‘ah-ha moment’ I’ve had in 20 years in working with data — that there’s accountability data and instructional improvement data,” says Ronald Thomas, associate director of the Center for Leadership in Education at Maryland’s Towson University.

“School boards need [data] to deeply delve into the next set of questions … what do students know, what do they not know, and what are we going to do about it.”

All of this should sound great in principle, but how do you make it happen? The answer is training—from the school board down to the classroom teacher. Everyone needs to learn how to “use data to turn the board priorities into day-to-day instructional practices.”

Ironically, the toughest battle may be convincing board colleagues to invest in their own training. But school board members must educate themselves, says Steven Ultrino, a former board member for Massachusetts’ Malden Public Schools.

“Professional development is key for board members.”


Del Stover|July 27th, 2012|Categories: Board governance, American School Board Journal|

Role play, real-life scenarios fortify training at CUBE conference

After a teacher learns that two students plan to fight after school—because he read the gossip on a student Facebook page—the school board is relieved when school officials intervene and prevent the altercation.

But shouldn’t the school board also be concerned that students and teachers are interacting on social media sites without supervision?

This real-life scenario—and the policy implications regarding employee use of social media sites shared with students—was one of several case studies debated yesterday by urban school leaders attending the CUBE Summer Issues Seminar at Columbia University’s Teachers College in New York City.

Yesterday’s discussions were part of a new CUBE Leadership Academy designed to strengthen board member leadership skills, led by Brian Perkins, a past chair of CUBE’s Steering Committee and currently director of the university’s Urban Education Leadership Program.

With help from a cadre of presenters, the Academy put urban leaders through the paces by posing a series of what-if scenarios and asking them to find potential solutions.

One of the more compelling case studies dealt with school board policies on social media sites—such as Facebook or Twitter—and potential communications between students and teachers. As noted by presenter Sharon Skyers-Jenkins, a former school board member and education attorney, this is a policy issue that school boards ignore at their risk.

“At least 40 school districts have approved social media policies,” she noted, adding that some school districts have required teachers to “unfriend” students on Facebook while others have banned all social networking efforts using school-owned computers.

Yet many school officials are playing catch-up on this issue, Skyers-Jenkins added. “Technology is moving at warp speed, and social media outlets are increasing. A district has to carefully craft their policy to be relevant. To ignore this issue now is probably not too wise.”

In their discussion, urban school leaders were asked how they would come to agreement if their board was divided in its views. For example, in the case study given them, one hypothetical board member wanted to ban all teacher and student interaction through social media services. Another wanted to regulate even private use of social media services by employees, and a third wanted to ignore the entire issue.

In the end, many board members decided that a combination of views would make an appropriate policy, with the main points being to ensure that communications between student and teacher was accessible to parents and school officials, teachers should only use online communications for education-related issues, and teachers must avoid any social interaction with students.

At its most basic level, one board member noted, the issue is that teachers cannot “friend” students online.

“Teachers are teachers 24 hours a day. They can never be a friend. They must never cross that boundary.”

Del Stover|July 27th, 2012|Categories: Urban Schools, CUBE|

NSBA and federal officials warn that sequestration will damage public schools

The U.S. Department of Education says that sequestration would not affect 2012-13 school year budgets, except for districts that receive Impact Aid funds.

However, sequestration—the across-the-board budget cuts slated to occur in all federal discretionary programs in Jan. 2013—could have a profound impact on K-12 budgets beginning in the 2013-14 school year, according to the National School Boards Association (NSBA).

A July 20 memo from U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education Anthony Miller to chief state school officers said that because most K-12 grants to states are given in October, the impact is not expected to occur until the next fiscal year and school districts should not withhold funds in anticipation of mid-year cuts. The sequestration will occur on Jan. 2, 2013 under the Budget Control Act of 2011 unless Congress and the White House approve a different plan to deal with the nation’s debt ceiling.

But the law ultimately could have an “unprecedented impact” on K-12 funding, NSBA officials say.

While news that funding for the 2012-13 school year appears to relieve immediate concerns, “it does not take the pressure off to do something,” says Michael A. Resnick, NSBA’s associate executive director for federal advocacy and public policy. If Congress temporarily delays the Jan. 2 deadline of sequestration, district officials will still be operating in limbo as they prepare their budgets for the 2013-14 school year this spring. And a cut—estimated at 7.8 percent—would severely hinder school budgets.

The 1,192 districts that receive federal Impact Aid funds, which total $1.2 billion this year, would see reductions immediately, according to Miller.

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health & Human Services, Education and Related Agencies also held a hearing on Wednesday to discuss the impact of cuts to non-defense programs. A report released by the committee’s Democratic leaders said that they have been pressured to exempt defense programs from the sequestration, and either find offsets for those programs or have other programs bear the full brunt of what is estimated to be a $1.2 trillion cut. If defense programs are excluded, other agencies would see cuts of up to 17.6 percent, according to Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and chairman of the subcommittee.

The subcommittee report notes that, “States and local communities would lose $2.7 billion in Federal funding for just three critical education programs alone – Title I, special education state grants, and Head Start – that serve a combined 30.7 million children. Nationwide, these cuts would force 46,349 employees to either lose their jobs or rely on cash-strapped states and localities to pick up their salaries instead.”

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan warned of dire cuts at the subcommittee hearing. When asked what would be his priorities to cut under sequestration, Duncan responded that the Department would have no flexibility to determine which programs would be cut, that any cuts would be across-the-board.

NSBA submitted questions and a letter to the subcommittee on July 23.

“More than $835 million was cut from federal elementary and secondary education programs in FY2011 as a result of the series of continuing resolutions and the final appropriations bill. Another budget cut would be counterproductive to student achievement gains and local and national economies, thereby affecting sustainability and growth,” Resnick wrote.

Joetta Sack-Min|July 26th, 2012|Categories: Educational Legislation, Federal Programs, Educational Finance, Budgeting, Federal Advocacy|Tags: , , |

NSBA in the News: Southern school boards show successes

Mississippi  Public Broadcasting reported on the National School Boards Association’s Southern regional meeting, held this week in Biloxi, Miss. School board members from 12 states discussed issues such as finance and graduation rates and shared their success stories.

Read the story at MPB Online.


Erin Walsh|July 25th, 2012|Categories: Board governance, Leadership, Budgeting, NSBA Recognition Programs|Tags: , |

NSBA President speaks on unfunded mandates

The National School Board Association’s (NSBA) President C. Ed Massey, a member of the Boone County, Ky., school board, spoke to his local Rotary Club about the need to relieve local school systems from inflexible federal laws that do not come with enough funding to successfully implement.

Massey explained the need for local school board members and other education advocates to become involved in lobbying their members of Congress in a presentation to members of the Florence, Ky. Rotary Club last week.

“A lot of congressional members just get snippets of information,” he said in a story published at the Cincinnati Enquirer’s community website. “Because they are not educators, they don’t understand the issues in depth.”

The Boone County school board and members of the Kentucky School Boards Association have recently worked with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on issues related to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization.


Joetta Sack-Min|July 23rd, 2012|Categories: Federal Programs, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Educational Finance, Board governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Legislative advocacy, Federal Advocacy|Tags: , , , , |

Editorial discusses the importance of school boards

What does your community know about your school board and the work school board members do?

Two members of California’s Fresno Unified School District’s school board recently penned an editorial for the Fresno Bee detailing the importance of their jobs. Cal Johnson and Valerie Davis urged their community members to pay attention to the candidates running for the school board because it has such a crucial role in guiding the community’s education system.

“School boards set direction for the district; we advocate for public education as well as needed improvements; we are currently maintaining the financial stability of our districts under some of the worst economic conditions in modern history; and, most importantly, we keep a laser-like focus on improving student achievement,” the authors write.

Davis and Johnson discussed some of the challenges facing the Fresno Unified School District and others in the area, including extreme concentrations of poverty that impact students’ abilities to attend school and learn.

“Schools cannot solve these problems alone, so they seek the community’s help to alleviate the scars that poverty inflicts on so many of the children and families in our Valley,” they write. “Everything from land-use decisions to policy approaches to public safety, mental health, and recreation impact our challenge.”

Read the column at the Fresno Bee and learn more about ways to communicate with your community from American School Board Journal’s columnist Nora Carr in “Telling Your Story.”



Joetta Sack-Min|July 19th, 2012|Categories: Governance, School Boards, American School Board Journal, School Board News|Tags: , , , , |
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