Articles from August, 2012

Is your district prepared for a natural disaster?

Hurricane Isaac left floods and power outages across the Gulf Coast this week, but officials at the National School Boards Association (NSBA) say damage to schools remains minimal.

“We’ve reached out to our colleagues in the states that were affected by Hurricane Isaac,” said NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant. “Although many families and schools have been affected by the torrential rains and wind, at this point there have been no fatalities related to schools.”

Public school buildings are often used as safe havens during storms and other disasters, and schools canceled classes and activities in many parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida and Alabama this week.

American School Board Journal has a compilation of stories with advice on handling natural disasters in its topical archives.

Joetta Sack-Min|August 31st, 2012|Categories: American School Board Journal, Crisis Management, Environmental Issues|Tags: , , |

ASBJ columnist has advice to promote public schools

A recent Gallup poll shows that most Americans think private, parochial, and charter schools do a better job educating students than public schools—but are those assumptions valid?

American School Board Journal (ASBJ) contributing editor Nora Carr writes about the notion—often based on false assumptions and incorrect data—that public schools are failing.

“In the battle for public education, charter schools are winning,” Carr writes in ASBJ’s August issue, which is available online. However, “Most public schools already offer what charters and private schools offer–and then some.”

Carr shows numerous examples—including marketing campaigns, community engagement strategies, and advertisements—that school boards can use to take back their message.

For instance, Texas’ Fort Worth Independent School District developed a new brand and an aggressive, multi-faceted campaign around its 50 choice programs and schools, Carr writes. The district’s “Gold Seal” campaign, which focuses on “college bound and career ready” students, advertises “a private school preparation without the cost” and promotes programs through the district’s website, www.fwisd.org/choice.

The Gallup poll showed 78 percent of Americans say children educated in private schools receive an “excellent” or “good” education, while 69 percent say parochial schools and 60 percent say charter schools do the same, according to Gallup. Only 37 percent said the same for public schools, and 46 percent made that statement about home schooling. (42 percent said public schools provide a “fair” education.)

Other sections of the Gallup survey showed that, similar to past years, the majority of Americans gave high marks to their children’s schools, while giving public education overall much lower grades.

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|August 30th, 2012|Categories: American School Board Journal, Board governance, Charter Schools, Public Advocacy, School Board News, School Boards, School Vouchers|Tags: , , , |

NYSSBA: “Let’s try a little bragging”

The following commentary is written by Rebecca Albright, a school board member in New York, and was originally published by the New York State School Boards Association.

In the beginning I had just two children. When my son and daughter were five and two, respectively, I adopted 1,200 others between the ages of 5 and 21.

Other school board members know the feeling. When I was first elected to the Wilson school board in Niagara County in 1986, I felt like I became “mom” in a much broader sense of the word. These were all my kids!

In 1994 I was elected to Orleans/Niagara BOCES and my brood grew to 37,000, give or take. I don’t remember their birthdays and they will never get my car keys, but they are mine nonetheless! I fret over them, I advocate for them, and I brag about them every chance I get.

I feel fully entitled to brag. It’s what moms and dads do.

There is a distinct difference between advocating and bragging. Advocating is speaking up for public education and the resources we need. I do a lot of that when I visit legislators, but bragging is bringing attention to what these kids are actually doing.

You don’t like the term “bragging”? How about “broadcasting success”? As school board members, we’re privy to lots of information that average community members don’t have. I think it’s our duty to share the good news. People rarely hear it anywhere else!

In the current economic and regulatory climate, I think we all find board work stressful. But when I brag, I light up. Bragging brings a thrill to these old bones. It’s exhilarating and energizing.

Is there anything better than seeing the faces of kids when you talk in a way that lets them know that you think they are special and that you are proud of them? Do you notice how they sit up straighter, maybe even smile a bit? Ever tried that with their parents? Have you tried that with community members who aren’t parents or whose children have grown?

One of the biggest contributions we can make as school leaders is expressing appreciation for the hard work and good results that occur every day in our schools despite all the issues that we grapple with in our boardrooms.

Recognizing accomplishments is not only good for kids, it’s good for you. When you see students, staff or community members puffed up with a sense of accomplishment, that feeling of well-being is infectious. It can easily outweigh all the other concerns that trouble us.

So here is Bragging 101: talk about students as if they are your own flesh and blood. In the same way parents are quick to open their wallets (or smart phones) and show photos of their kids, you ought to have something handy to show people or brag about. Ask your superintendent for a “cheat sheet” of facts – maybe in graphical form – on student achievements, graduation percentages, student athlete teams, the scholarship monies earned. When someone asks you how the kids are  doing, give them an answer that they’ll remember and repeat to others!

Of all the duties that come with being a school board member, this is one you will truly enjoy. And it will be good for the students and the district, too. So, brag a little. After all, they really are your kids.

Rebecca Albright is president of the Orleans/Niagara BOCES board and host of “Your Public Schools” on LCTV public access television in Lockport.

Joetta Sack-Min|August 24th, 2012|Categories: Board governance, Public Advocacy, School Boards, State School Boards Associations, Student Achievement, Student Engagement, Uncategorized|Tags: , , , |

New voucher study doesn’t live up to hype, NSBA says

A new study released today by the Brookings Institute and Harvard University researcher Paul E. Peterson shows that low-income students who participated in a three-year voucher program in New York City in the late 1990s overall fared no better in college enrollments than their peers in public schools. However, the study found that African-American students did attend college at higher rates than those who did not receive vouchers.

Although the study was relatively small and narrowly focused, the authors and voucher proponents are using it to lobby for expanding voucher programs across the country. Peterson and researcher Matthew M. Chingos published an editorial in The Wall Street Journal calling on the Obama administration to support the voucher program for students in Washington D.C. Their claims have been challenged by the National School Boards Association (NSBA).

“The grandiose statements made in the executive summary are not substantiated by the data,” said NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant. One undetermined factor, she added, is the level of parental involvement with a child’s education, which research shows makes a significant difference in the child’s academic achievement.

“Clearly the parents who chose this program were dedicated, and parent involvement is key,” Bryant said.

The study examined longitudinal data from the privately funded New York School Choice Scholarships Foundation Program, which offered three-year scholarships of up to $1,400 each year to as many as 1,000 low-income families. Those vouchers were primarily used at Catholic schools, and in most cases parents also paid a portion of the tuition. However, 22 percent of the students who were offered a voucher never used it, and most of the students returned to public schools for reasons unknown, some after the first or second year, noted Jim Hull, senior policy analyst for NSBA’s Center for Public Education.

Several of the report’s methodologies are particularly troublesome, he noted:

  • The study neither isolates the impact of private schools nor school choice on students going to college;
  • The study never took into account what happened to those students who left the voucher program to return to the public school;
  • Results do not show that expanding vouchers programs will necessarily result in higher college going rates for low-income students in urban schools, even black students;
  • While the findings about African-American students appear impressive, the actual impact may in fact be minimal due to a large margin of error. An offer of a voucher may only increase a black student’s chances of going to college by as little as .4 percentage points but could be as large as increasing their chances by 13.8 percentage points. A more robust study is needed to more precisely determine the true impact that a voucher offer has on the enrollment of black students in college;
  • The more years a student uses a voucher does not necessarily mean a student is more likely to go on to college.

NSBA opposes publicly-funded vouchers for private schools because such programs abandon public schools, which are required to serve all students regardless of abilities, and eliminate public accountability for those tax dollars. Read more in NSBA’s issue brief.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|August 23rd, 2012|Categories: Budgeting, Center for Public Education, Center for Public Education Update, Federal Advocacy, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation, Reports, School Board News, School Vouchers|Tags: , , , , , , |

New poll finds strong support for local schools and teachers

The latest Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll on public education shows Americans continue to strongly support their public schools, want rigorous teacher evaluations, support Common Core standards, and are divided about the concept of school choice.

By a considerable margin, the poll showed that a lack of funding is viewed as the biggest challenge facing public schools, cited by 35 percent of Americans and 43 percent of public school parents. The survey’s authors noted that only 23 percent of Americans saw funding as a problem in 2002, the same year that 39 percent cited fighting, gang violence, and drugs as the largest issue in public schools. Only 14 percent of Americans cited those factors as problems in 2012.

Half of the Americans polled said they believe Common Core standards will improve the quality of education in their communities (including 46 percent of those identified as Republicans, 60 percent of Democrats, and 43 percent of Independents).

And for the first time in 10 years, support for charter schools dipped slightly, with 66 percent of Americans overall supporting the schools. But 44 percent of Americans approve of vouchers for private schools, a 10 percentage point jump from last year’s all-time low of 34 percent. And 70 percent of Americans favor giving parents of children in failing schools the option of mounting a petition to remove the administrators and teachers.

In a separate poll conducted by Gallup on the No Child Left Behind Act, more Americans said the law and its testing and accountability requirements have made education worse rather than better. Twenty-nine percent said the law has made school worse, 16 said better, and 38 percent said it hasn’t made much of a difference. Gallup’s annual Work and Education Poll, released Aug. 20, has shown similar results in recent years.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|August 22nd, 2012|Categories: Educational Finance, No Child Left Behind, School Vouchers, Teachers|Tags: , , , |

Federal court overrules ID checks on immigrant students

A three-judge panel of 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has struck down a portion of Alabama’s strict immigration law that required public schools to check the legal status of students.

In a friend-of-the-court brief late last year, NSBA, the National Education Association, and the Alabama Education Association said the law was trying to use “fear and intimidation to drive undocumented immigrants from the state.”

The law had put public schools in a difficult position –on one hand, required by federal law to serve all children in the state regardless of their immigration status; on the other, being thrust to the front lines of a highly partisan battle over illegal immigration.

NSBA released a guide for educators last year, “Legal Issues for School Districts Related to the Education of Undocumented Children,” that discusses legal questions related to undocumented students that are commonly asked by school officials.

The main federal law is 1982 U.S. Supreme Court case Plyler v. Doe held that undocumented students have a constitutional right to attend public elementary and secondary school for free, although there are other conflicted lower court rulings and many issues that the Plyler decision did not address, according to the guide.

Nevertheless, “The law of the land still requires that schools provide an education for undocumented students,” said NSBA’s General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón, Jr.

Numerous states have debated the fates of undocumented students in recent years, and the issue has reemerged with the Obama administration’s recent announcement that they will defer the deportations of thousands of young adults who came to the United States as children.

Read a legal analysis of the decision in Legal Clips.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lawrence Hardy|August 22nd, 2012|Categories: Board governance, Council of School Attorneys, Diversity, Immigrants, School Law|Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Three numbers that could alter the 2012 elections: 92, 37 and 6

August 26th is Women’s Equality Day, marking the 92nd anniversary of the constitutional amendment that granted women the right to vote.  While much work remained in the 20th century to assure that everyone could exercise their right to vote, the 19th amendment was an important threshold.  It is particularly significant for local school boards, as Kentucky’s 1838 law permitting married women with children to vote in school board elections was the first state suffrage law following the American Revolution. It took the rest of the country more than 80 years to catch up.

Casting a shadow on this celebration, however, is the wave of laws proposed or passed in 37 states to impose stricter requirements for voting – laws that could adversely impact representation in our highest-need communities.  These laws frequently require various forms of identification in order to vote, but other restrictions – such as limiting early voting hours – are other forms of voter suppression.  While safeguards for the integrity of elections are necessary, a nationwide analysis of 2000 alleged voter fraud cases published in the The Washington Post shows that instances of voter impersonation are extremely rare. If extrapolated to the entire eligible population, voter impersonation could be as rare as 1 in 15 million prospective voters.

BoardBuzz thinks school districts can be catalysts for civic education and engagement by students and communities – especially for students who are 18 years old and eligible to vote for the very first time.  This year’s national elections will set the course for the United States for years to come. Redistricting resulting from the 2010 Census means that many Americans will be voting for newly-minted candidates and/or state & national legislative districts.  And only once every twenty years does redistricting coincide with the presidential election, upping the stakes for voters who must also choose who will represent them in the White House.

The most important number for the 2012 elections then? November 6th – Election Day!

Lucy Gettman|August 21st, 2012|Categories: Curriculum, Diversity, Educational Legislation, Leadership, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards|Tags: , , , , , |

NSBA shows how Race to the Top hurts small districts

Lucy Gettman, director of federal programs at the National School Boards Association (NSBA), recently spoke to The Atlantic about the recent announcement of the Race to the Top federal grants for school districts. Gettman noted that the competitive grant program tends to put small, high poverty, and rural school districts at a disadvantage with its lengthy application process.

The author, Emily Richmond, the public editor for the Education Writers Association, has shared her question-and-answer session with Gettman on EWA’s EdMedia Commons website, which is designed to help reporters covering education.

NSBA was pleased that the U.S. Department of Education dropped its plans to require a school board evaluation as part of the process, but remains concerned about other provisions of the program. Read the interview at EdMedia Commons.

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|August 21st, 2012|Categories: Budgeting, Educational Finance, Federal Advocacy, Legislative advocacy, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Race to the Top (RTTT)|Tags: , , , , |

NSBA President attends White House briefing with PTA leaders

National School Boards Association (NSBA) President C. Ed Massey attended “PTA Day at the White House” on Aug. 10, which included a briefing on education issues. Massey, who serves as a member of the board of directors of the National PTA, as part of his role with NSBA, gave his reflections on his meeting with key Obama administration staff. His comments are below:

“Several White House officials and officials from the U.S. Department of Education addressed our group, discussing many issues including funding, reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and parent engagement.  Twelve PTA members were awarded a “Champions for Change” award for innovative ideas that enhanced student support and parent engagement. The White House created the Champions of Change program last year to recognize Americans who do extraordinary work in their communities.

“The message the officials conveyed is that the Obama administration is committed to public education, and parents, teachers and administrators are important to student success.

“Session topics included:  cradle to career; parent/family Engagement; Innovation and STEM; college affordability; Let’s Move campaign and student nutrition; fatherhood initiative; teaching and school leadership; and special education. The participants included White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew; Jon Carson, director, White House Office of Public Engagement; Martha Coven, associate director, Office of Management and Budget; and Valerie Jarrett, assistant to the president and senior advisor.

“Each participant was given a copy of the “Obama Administration Record on Education.” The key components of this plan are:

  • Reforming Education through Race to the Top grants;
  • Enhancing outcomes and results in early learning;
  • Investing in Innovation;
  • Raising standards and giving states flexibility from the No Child Left Behind law;
  • Making STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education a priority;
  • Helping students and families pay for college;
  • Transforming America’s lowest performing schools.

“As I participated, I was motivated to consider the possibilities in education if we all adopted these concepts.  Only together will our country return to the forefront of education.”

 

Erin Walsh|August 17th, 2012|Categories: Uncategorized|

New details, deadlines for Race to the Top district grants released

The U.S. Department of Education has released the final requirements for Race to the Top-District (RTT-D) grant applications, a program designed to improve classroom instruction and teaching to directly impact student learning.

These grants will distribute nearly $400 million directly to school districts for programs that support teaching and learning and the goals of the Race to the Top state grants. The department is expected to award 15 to 25 grants ranging from $5 million to $40 million.

Qualifying school districts must serve at least 2,000 students with 40 percent or more qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch, or join with other districts that meet this qualification. Grants will support learning strategies that personalize education in all or a group of schools, within specific grade levels, or select subjects. Districts also must demonstrate a commitment to Race to the Top’s four core reform areas and the district superintendent or CEO, local school board president, and local teacher union president (or 70 percent of teachers in districts without collective bargaining) must sign off on the plan.

The department will conduct technical assistance webinars for school officials on Aug. 16 and Aug. 21, 2012.  Registration for the webinars is available at the Race to the Top website.

School boards should first evaluate the work needed to apply for the grant and the likelihood of receiving an award, advised Michael A. Resnick, the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) associate executive director for federal advocacy and public policy.

NSBA submitted extensive comments on the draft requirements for the RTT-D program urging federal officials to articulate and preserve local school board authority. NSBA’s lobbying efforts resulted in a big win for local school boards when a requirement that grantees evaluate local school boards was deleted.  Other provisions – such as required 10-day comment period for state education agencies and mayors – may prove too onerous for school districts, according to Resnick.

School districts and consortia interested in applying must notify the agency of their intent by Aug. 30, 2012.  The deadline for applications is Oct. 30, 2012 and grant awards will be made by the end of this year.  More information about the RTT-D Program is on the department’s website.

According to the department, “Grantees will be selected based on their vision and capacity for reform as well as a strong plan that provides educators with resources to accelerate student achievement and prepare students for college and their careers. Plans will focus on transforming the learning environment so that it meets all students’ learning abilities, making equity and access to high-quality education a priority. Teachers will receive real-time feedback that helps them adapt to their students’ needs, allowing them to create opportunities for students to pursue areas of personal academic interest – while ensuring that each student is ready for college and their career.”

 

Joetta Sack-Min|August 14th, 2012|Categories: Announcements, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy, Race to the Top (RTTT), School Reform|Tags: , , , |
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