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Articles by Naomi Dillon

NATA brings message of sports safety to Hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Members of Congress address FRN audience

In preparation for their big day on Capitol Hill, board members attending the final general session of the 39th Annual Federal Relations Network heard from three members of Congress who reflect the diversity of political persuasions across the country.

Rep. Rush Holt, a former teacher, Congressional Science Fellow, and five-time “Jeopardy” game show winner has long been an advocate of education.

“I think you can say the first answer to every question is education,” said Holt, a New Jersey Democrat who was the session’s first speaker. “The biggest issue facing Congress maybe should be education, but it was the debt ceiling, something that should’ve been disposed of easily but that led to creation of the so-called super committee, which didn’t accomplish what is was charged with and as result left with automatic cuts.”

The annual FRN Conference, which runs through Tuesday, drew more than 700 school board members — selected by their state associations — and state association staff to Washington to learn about the most current federal policies and issues that will impact their schools. On Tuesday, participants will spend a day meeting with their representatives on Capitol Hill to further discuss federal issues and pending legislation and advocate for the needs of their school districts.

Holt said rather than implementing drastic, non-specific budget cuts, Congress would do better to talk about investing in education.

“And there is no better investment,” Holt said. “We should be working on bills that fix problems we know exist without abandoning the poor and minority children.”

While on the Hill, Holt said board members should make their case with data and real-life stories.

“I think you will discover if you haven’t already, that the decisions about legislation are not made only the basis of charts and graphs, but also on the basis of stories … the story of what your students need.”

Rep. Phil Roe, a former obstetrician, was full of stories that he shared willingly with the audience.

Raised on a farm in middle Tennessee, Roe grew up in home with no running water or plumbing and attended a rural school with few walls and even fewer teachers. But those teachers had a positive influence.

“They made an impression on me … and without a strong education I wouldn’t be here today, though when you can deliver your own constituency that helps as well,” joked Roe, who pointed out that one board member in the audience was one of the nearly 5,000 babies he brought into the world.

When he gets down in the dumps, Roe said he often visits his area schools and conducts town hall style meetings. “You can’t help but come out in a good mood when you do that,” he said.

Unfortunately, the mood among teachers and education has not been so cheerful lately.

“We’re making it impossible with all rule and regulations to educate,” Roe said. “The federal government does not do big very well … the thing I want to do and many of us want to do on both sides of the aisle is push as much of the decision making back down to the local level. No one understands your situation better than you do.”

That also happens to be the same position of Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), a former English professor and school board member.

“I believe that a well educated citizenry is the surest way of keeping our society intact,” Foxx said. “We are the great country in the world, no question about it, however, I believe we can lose that categorization and lose it easily if we’re not smart.”

Describing herself as a small government conservative, Foxx said she was convinced America must reduce the size and scope of the federal government.

“I defy you to find education as a responsibility of the federal government,” Foxx said to the crowd.

Naomi Dillon|February 6th, 2012|Categories: FRN Conference 2012|

Compensating talented staff

School board members attending the Federal Relations Network (FRN) Conference had a number of opportunities to learn about the various congressional and cabinet-level efforts to improve teacher efficacy through innovative recruiting, retention, and compensation models.

Led by NSBA’s Director of Federal Programs Lucy Gettman, one of Monday’s final sessions recapped the proposed and draft versions of these federal efforts and, more importantly, drew audience members into a strategic discussion on the issue.

“What are some of the things you have done or would like to do to recruit, retain, or compensate talented instructional staff?” Gettman asked the board members in attendance.

One board member said her Arizona district had been struggling with declining enrollment and subsequent declining funding for years. To make sure student achievement didn’t decline along with it, she said star principals were identified and placed in the most difficult schools. “And good teachers will follow good principals,” she said. “It doesn’t matter they don’t get extra pay or have a challenging job, they are really happy to work with them.”

In San Francisco, one board member said that district leadership has engaged in a multi-year and multi-layered effort to improve the quality of teaching. Voter-approved tax hikes and bonds, for instance, have provided a slight increase for all staff, as well as, those who agree to work in hard-to-staff schools or fill chronically vacant positions. In return, the district has raised their standards above the state of California and made it easier to remove ineffective teachers, removing 18 of them last year alone with the union’s blessing.

“The key is you need to link higher standards to compensation,” she said.

But what happens when additional funding just isn’t available? One board member in suburban Omaha, Neb., said his district maintain its competitive edge in recruiting top-quality candidates by emphasizing its size.

“We say, ‘even though we can’t pay you what others can, we consider ourselves to be the right size district for you,’” he said, referring to its smaller student-to-teacher ratio and district population.

Naomi Dillon|February 6th, 2012|Categories: Teachers, Legislative advocacy, FRN Conference 2012|Tags: , |

What makes teachers highly qualified?

Research has consistently shown that an effective teacher has the greatest single impact on student achievement inside a school. But how to determine what an effective teacher is and even what impact an effective principal has on his or her faculty has been less clear. The good news is these questions are being increasingly addressed in federal and local policy and practice, and was the focus of a Monday morning session at the Federal Relations Network (FRN) Conference.

Over the last decade, what most people have considered a highly qualified teacher is someone who possesses strong credentials, is highly motivated and passionate about teaching, and cares about their students, said Jim Hull, senior policy analyst for NSBA’s Center for Public Education.

But that view has shifted as research and proposed federal legislation call for more rigor and quantitative data to measure teacher effectiveness. The House, for instance, has introduced a bill that would eliminate the provision under the No Child Left Behind Act that identifies teachers with bachelor’s degrees, state certifications, and subject matter knowledge as highly qualified, in favor of programs to develop teacher evaluation systems that would presumably rely on student achievement data like test scores to demonstrate teacher effectiveness.

“It’s going from quality to effectiveness and looking at the impact teachers have on students,” Hull said.

The problem is most states haven’t yet developed systems to quantitatively identify what an effective teacher looks like. Many of the original indicators, such as experience, teaching training, and cognitive skills, still have relevance, Hull said. But research has shown it’s the combination of these factors that is most likely to lead to teaching effectiveness and not any one in isolation. Research literature, for instance, is pretty clear that an advanced degree, in and of itself, does improve teacher efficacy — especially if the degree is not related to the subject matter taught.

“The most common advanced degree among teachers is in school administration … but there is no evidence that it improves their teaching or the performance of students,” Hull said.

And while teachers have been proven to have a tremendous impact on student success, research is just emerging that shows principals also play an important role.

“Researchers and policy makers have only recently begun to focus on [principals] and have found principals are second only to teachers in having an impact in school,” Hull said. “So what impact do principals have on student achievement? Quite a bit.”

But that impact varies between schools, with evidence suggesting that principals have the greatest impact in the most challenging schools.

“Unfortunately what we see is principal turnover at these challenging schools is twice as high then in less challenging schools,” Hull said. “We really need to find a way to keep our best principals in our most challenging schools.”

Naomi Dillon|February 6th, 2012|Categories: Teachers, Federal Programs, Data Driven Decision Making, Legislative advocacy, FRN Conference 2012|Tags: , , |

School counselors move to central education role

Just as the role of teacher has shifted in the last several years, so has the role of the school counselor, turning a once-fringe position into a proactive, data-driven, and integrated part of delivering a world class education for every child.

A distinguished panel of school counselors talked about these changes and the challenges of being a school counselor in the 21st century during a Saturday session of the Council of Urban Boards of Education winter Issues Forum at NSBA’s Leadership Conference.

“Yesterday’s counselor was very reactive. You rarely found them. Today’s counselor is serving all students. They’re not waiting for students to come to them; they’re looking at student’s needs and planning for them,” said Julie Hartline, the head counselor at Campbell High School in Georgia’s Cobb County School District. “Yesterday’s counselor would say, ‘I don’t know what kind of impact I have on a student until they’re gone. Today’s counselor has that data. It’s moved us into the role of being school leaders, instead of being ancillary.”

Indeed, Cobb County schools must set annual goals and part of her job at Nickajack Elementary is to track the school’s progress on those goals and areas where the counseling program can help achieve them, said Nicole Pfleger, who jsut names the 2012 National School Counselor of the Year by the American School Counselors Association.

A focus on improving math scores, for instance, resulted in targeted interventions for struggling math students. Meanwhile, the identification of “frequent flyers” or students who were continually referred to the disciplinary office, led to the DREAM Team, a program for at-risk boys that works on issues like character development, self-control, etiquette, and respect, Pfleger said.

“Our job is to help raise aspirations and aspirations come with information,” said Carolyn Stone, who spent 22 years as a school counselor at Florida’s Duval County Public Schools before becoming a professor of counselor education at the University of North Florida.

School counselors are ideally situated to close the information gap, which Stone said must be part of any effort to close the achievement gap.

“It’s about helping them connect the dots, making sure they know this is what you need to do to be successful,” Stone said. “I don’t want to sound simplistic, but sometimes it comes down to setting goals, so that when that kid is about to graduate, they have options, whether it’s a two-year, a four-year program or technical college, they know what they’re options are.”

Naomi Dillon|February 4th, 2012|Categories: Urban Schools, Leadership, Leadership Conference 2012|Tags: , , |

Successful community college/school partnerships

The importance of building partnerships was the centerpiece of Prince George’s Community College President Charlene M. Dukes’ presentation to attendees of the Council of Urban Boards of Education’s winter Issues Forum at NSBA’s Leadership Conference  on Saturday. And small wonder– strong alliances between the Maryland community college and its feeder school district have been the key to delivering innovative programs and opportunities to the students they both serve.

“The idea of partnering is nothing new. You partner with neighbors, churches, and communities to get things done,” Dukes said. But building partnerships to support education, upward mobility, and improved quality of life are what drives the work and shared goals of Prince George’s educators as well as those in the state.

“For the fourth year in a row, Education Week has named Maryland as number one for education,” Dukes said, referring to the annual Quality Counts report the publication produces that examines the current education landscape and where various states fall. “That doesn’t happen by chance.”

Dukes said every three weeks she has breakfast with Prince George’s County Public Schools Superintendent William Hite to vent, celebrate, and strategize.

“Dr. Hite and I want our students to see beyond the walls of school, beyond the boundaries of neighborhoods,” Dukes said. “We want them to see themselves as part of the world.”

One of the ways the two school systems are working to achieve that is through the Academy of Health Sciences at Prince George’s Community College, which opened in the fall of 2011 with 100 high school freshmen as the state’s first middle college.

As the name suggests, students who enroll in this program, which will eventually serve 400 low-income high school students, will graduate with a diploma and up to two years of college or an associate’s degree in the health sciences field.

“And it’s all free of charge to the students and their families because we were able to work in partnership as a school system and community college,” said Dukes. She explained to an audience eager to know how it was funded that some of the money comes from per-pupil expenditures the district gets from the state, but much of it comes from the college in the way of waived fees and free use of space.

Dukes said the program received 978 applications for the first class of freshmen. This time around, it received 4,000 applications for the freshman class.

“That tells you how hungry people are for something different in public education,” Dukes said. But it doesn’t stop there.

“In America, we’ve done a great job with access, with providing opportunities, but we have to do more to make sure that people make it out on the other end, that they reach their goals and walk across the stage with those academic credentials,” she said. “We have much work to do and we think we can do it together as boards of education.”


Naomi Dillon|February 4th, 2012|Categories: Governance, School Boards, High Schools, Urban Schools, School Reform, Dropout Prevention, Student Engagement, Leadership Conference 2012|Tags: , , , |

What would you do if …

The American School Board Journal’s monthly Adviser Poll asks what would you do if:  A member wanted the board to switch to tablets, even though teachers don’t have them yet?

A member asked his board to consider switching from laptop computers to tablet devices for meetings and to conduct board and district business. The other board members were concerned of the impression it would give the community if they had the technology first before classroom teachers. What should the board do?

To vote or comment visit our Facebook question here

Naomi Dillon|February 2nd, 2012|Categories: Board governance, American School Board Journal|Tags: |

Follow the money trail in Feb. issue of ASBJ

Hundreds of new charter schools will open this year—clear evidence of the growing momentum behind the charter school movement. But it’s worth noting that today’s support for charters didn’t just happen. It was bought and paid for.

That’s the contention of “Money Talks,” a package of articles in February’s American School Board Journal by Senior Editor Del Stover details an often-overlooked political reality: Advocates for charter schools have poured millions of dollars in private funds to sell the idea of charters to state and federal policymakers, as well as the general public.

With its pages, ASBJ offers up a brief glimpse of how this money is influencing education policymaking today. For example:

  • An Ohio for-profit operator of charter schools donates approximately $4 million over a decade to state politicians—and convinces legislators to introduce controversial legislation on behalf of the charter school industry.
  • The Walton Foundation awards nearly $75 million in school choice and charter-related grants, providing “venture capital” that helps hundreds of charter schools open and supporting the advocacy efforts of state charter school groups.
  • Advocacy groups in Wisconsin spent thousands on ads and fliers against candidates opposed to school choice and charters. These ads blame candidates for a variety of wrongdoing—but never actually talk of charter schools or education in general.


As ASBJ makes clear, it’s important for school board members to understand that this money is being spent—because, in politics, money talks.

And since up-to-date information and insight is a public servant’s best weapon, read the companion piece from respected planning consultant, Kelley Carey, on how to address charter school growth before it happens.

Read these features and more in the latest issue of ASBJ.

Naomi Dillon|February 2nd, 2012|Categories: American School Board Journal|Tags: , , |

Celebrate Digital Learning Day today

Today, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) is proud to be a core partner in the first-ever national Digital Learning Day. This event celebrates innovative teaching practices that make learning more personalized and engaging and encourage exploration of how digital learning can provide more students with more opportunities to get the skills they need to succeed.

“The National School Boards Association has been an advocate for the use of technology to enhance teaching and student achievement for more than two decades,” said NSBA’s Executive Director Anne L. Bryant. “On Digital Learning Day, we must ensure that all students have access to these resources or we will see the digital divide widen.  Devices and content alone will not transform education.  Policies and targeted resources must also be aligned to ensure teachers have the essential professional development opportunities that are necessary to maximize learning in this exciting new age of content.”

Today, a majority of states, hundreds of school districts, thousands of teachers, and more than a million students will encourage the innovative use of technology by trying something new, showcasing success, kicking off project-based learning, or focusing on how digital tools can help improve student outcomes.

To see real examples of the positive impact digital resources are having on learning, visit here to participate in Digital Learning Day’s virtual town hall meeting today from 1-2:30 p.m. EST. NSBA will be hosting a Technology Leadership Network site visit February 19-21 in the Texas’ Klein Independent School District, one of the districts featured during the virtual town hall. To learn more about Klein Independent School District’s technology initiatives go to:

Naomi Dillon|February 1st, 2012|Categories: Educational Technology|Tags: , , |

Interview with Khan Academy’s Sal Khan

It began innocently enough in 2004 as a way for Sal Khan to tutor his young cousin, who was struggling with math and lived miles away. Within two years, those virtual lessons blossomed into a full-time career and the KhanAcademy, an online library of 2,600 YouTube videos and counting that currently draw more than 3 million viewers a month and fans like Google and Bill Gates, who sends his own kids to the free site for help with school work.

Covering mostly math and science, Khan’s low-key, straightforward and concise approach to brain-jarring concepts like quadratic equations and the phases of mitosis have taken the education community and students by storm.  

Khan, who is a keynote speaker at NSBA’s 2012 Annual Conference in Boston in April, carved time out of his busy schedule to talk to ASBJ Senior Editor Naomi Dillon about his journey toward “helping people learn what they want, when they want, at their own pace.”

So you’re an educator to the masses. Would you say that’s an accurate description?

Different people have different views on what an education is, and we don’t pretend that just experiencing on-demand video by itself is the panacea to solving education’s problems. But what we think we’re giving, at minimum, is an alternate way to tackle the material. If students missed a day at school, if their mind wasn’t engaged when it was happening in class, if they need to remediate things from previous years they’re definitely getting that. And I actually don’t think that should be understated, because frankly I think a lot of the reason why some students have trouble progressing is because they have gaps in their basic knowledge.

Few people realize how difficult it is to transfer knowledge from one person to the next. Did that come naturally to you?

I wouldn’t want to pretend by me recording these videos that I’m doing everything that a teacher does. I once volunteered teaching seventh-graders when I was in Boston. It didn’t take long for the classroom management to go through the door. I did not know what I was doing in terms of being able to handle 30 kids. But the part about explaining concepts, that is something I am into, and that’s hopefully the value I’m bringing. There’s a methodology to learning and my videos are about sharing that methodology to other people: “Let’s think this through; let’s do what seems logical; let’s try to find the pattern between things; and let’s do it in a conversational way.” You should feel like it’s a story even if it’s a math problem.

Where did this drive and appreciation for learning and education come from?

I think it’s a human instinct to love to learn and understand the world. But I think, what’s happened for most people is they become frustrated with one topic or another, or have a bad experience along their education, and they kind of fall off and start to believe that they don’t like learning. When really, they just don’t like being frustrated, they just don’t like being talked down to, and they don’t like when the information is going past them.

Explain why we don’t see you in your videos – just a black screen and a drawing tool with a multiple array of colors, a whole setup you call “The Forum Factor.”

When I decided to make the first videos I didn’t have any production equipment or a background in video production. I just got a cheap $20 head-set to record my voice, used screen capture software and just started using Microsoft paint. My cousins liked it. Other people gave good feedback. And now, although we have the ability to do more, we realize that [this way] is not only easier to produce, but it focuses on the content. It’s more intimate. It feels like we’re sitting next to each other as opposed to me at a white board talking to you.

Your videos are known for being brief and concise, lasting no more than 10 minutes. How do you know how much material to cover and when to stop?

I have found with most concepts 10 minutes is actually about enough time. You can get about two or three pretty decent concepts across in that time. If it requires more complex development I will say, “Hey, let’s just take a break,” and I’ll just resume it in the next video.

Besides the actual lesson, what do you want the viewers to take away from the videos and the exercises on the Khan Academy?

What we’re hoping to do is give students a genuine love for learning and, frankly, I hope I can make students see what I see: a world that’s fascinating, a world that’s full of mysteries to be solved.


Naomi Dillon|January 26th, 2012|Categories: Educational Technology, Student Achievement, Student Engagement, NSBA Annual Conference 2012|Tags: , , |
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