Articles in the Board governance category

Court deems Virginia school takeover plan unconstitutional

A Circuit Court judge has struck down a state school takeover board that would have stripped local school boards of their authority over low-performing schools, ruling in favor of the Virginia School Boards Association (VSBA) and the City of Norfolk school board.

Norfolk Public Schools and VSBA sued the state last fall, arguing that the state’s Opportunity Educational Institution (OEI) and its governing board, established by then-Governor Bob McDonnell and the Virginia General Assembly to take over schools deemed to be chronically low performing, violated the state’s constitution.

“This ruling is an important affirmation of the Virginia Constitution’s intent that localities hold the responsibility for their public schools,” said VSBA Executive Director Gina G. Patterson. “With that being said, there is still much work to be done to ensure that all of our schools are successful.”

The OEI and the OEI Board were created by the state legislature in its 2013 session to take over the supervision of schools that were denied accreditation and to require documentation and information about schools that had been accredited with warning for three years. The legislation also granted the OEI Board the authority to vote to take over the supervision of any school accredited with warning for three years. The legislation creating the OEI and the OEI Board purported to make the OEI “a statewide school division” and the OEI Board “a policy board in the executive branch of state government.”

The school board of a school taken over would have been required to transfer to OEI not only the local funds required by the state-mandated Standards of Quality, but also any local funds appropriated to the school division of residence in excess of the state-mandated amount.

The VSBA and the Norfolk School Board argued that the law violated Article VIII, Section 7 of the Constitution of Virginia, which provides that “the supervision of schools in each school division shall be vested in a school board.”

The OEI board was a policy board under the executive branch of government and an education institution falling under Title 23 of the Code of Virginia, which relates to institutions of higher education. Further, the lawsuit argued that the legislation establishing the OEI board violates Article VIII, Section 5, of the Constitution of Virginia, which provides that the State Board of Education shall create school divisions. The General Assembly, not the Virginia Board of Education, created the OEI board as a statewide school division.

Norfolk School Board Chairman Kirk Houston said, “We are pleased with the ruling. We value our strong partnership with Virginia elected and appointed leaders, however, state takeover of schools was not going to be a magic formula for addressing challenges with student achievement, particularly in high-poverty schools. In Norfolk, our community is focused on creating school environments that maximize all children’s academic potential, with consideration for all of their unique needs.”

Since the lawsuit was filed, more than 100 school boards and municipal governing boards, including Norfolk’s City Council, passed resolutions supporting it.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|June 11th, 2014|Categories: Board governance, Governance, School Law, State School Boards Associations|Tags: |

NSBA President Anne Byrne: “High standards are a must”

Bryne-3-13-2014

Anne M. Byrne

National School Boards Association (NSBA) President Anne M. Byrne recently discussed the challenges and potential for the Common Core State Standards during a meeting of the Learning First Alliance (LFA), a coalition of national education groups. LFA followed up with specific questions for Byrne, including queries about her firsthand experience as a school board member from the Nanuet Union Free School District in New York. Byrne noted that in New York, “In spite of all the bumps in the road, teachers are seeing their students learning the subject matter more deeply and more clearly. This is a very good result.”

Read the interview, below:

First, we would love to get your thoughts on the actual standards. As a school board member, and as a state and national leader, when you assess the standards, what are your first impressions, both in terms of opportunity and potential challenges? Are there particular elements you are excited about, or nervous about? What are the implications for student achievement and equity?

This movement to higher standards is a very good thing. High standards are a must whether you call them career- and college-ready standards or the Common Core. Let me tell you about two experts at conferences I recently attended. At one, I heard from Bill Daggett, the founder and president of the International Center for Leadership in Education, who spoke to the data around present standards and clearly made the point of the absolute necessity to raise our standards in order to be career and college ready–and Common Core does exactly that. At another, Kevin Baird of the Common Core Institute talked about where we need to go so that all of our children can be successful. He, too, made the case using data how raising standards is a must. Both were powerful presentations about what the standards are and why we must raise them.

That said, there is a gap between where we are and where we need to be. Some states have greater gaps than others. Each state has their own standards. Massachusetts, for example, has the highest standards in the nation. All of the rest of the states go from high standards to not so high standards. The key to moving forward is for states to embrace higher standards and build a solid implementation plan. One state that’s implementing the standards well is Kentucky.

My first impressions are that it is going to be hard work for boards, administrators, teachers, parents and students. Higher standards allow opportunities that are directly related to brighter futures for each of our children. The potential challenges include making sure the resources are available to school districts; providing cutting edge professional development for our teachers; ensuring curricular materials are aligned to the new standards, and assessments aligned to the new curricular materials; making sure our children with special needs and English language learners are part of the conversation on how to help them reach the standards; and helping parents and communities to understand what the standards are and why they are so important. I am excited about the opportunities for children. I am nervous that because the standards are higher than what all of us have now, there might be a tendency to withdraw from them.

The implications for student achievement are not only great for our students, but also our country.
Equity is always a concern, because right now there are schools that do not receive adequate or equitable funding, both of which are needed to implement higher standards. Schools that are low performing need extra help and resources so that each child has the opportunity to succeed.

When it comes to district level alignment, what steps should local school boards take to prepare for Common Core implementation?

First, we must understand what the Common Core Standards are. We must ensure that our public and staff understand why we need high expectations for our students, why we need our students to be globally competitive, why we need to train staff in good professional development, and why we must raise our current standards.

This takes resources, so the school board must use the resources necessary to be successful. We need good curricula aligned to the Common Core, good learning materials for our staff and students, staff development to help staff teach and to keep parents and community informed.

We also must have patience. It will not happen overnight. It will take hard work to accomplish, but it must happen. We also have to find ways to decrease the test-taking anxiety of our students and their parents.

One of the big CCSS infrastructure questions concerns technology capacity and online assessments. Would you provide us with some information about your district and your preparations for testing? What are districts doing across New York; how big is the variance in preparedness by district?

According to an April, 2013 article by the New York State School Boards Association, in 2010, the Federal Communications Commission surveyed all schools that participate in the federal E-Rate program on their preparedness for online testing. It found that 80% of participating schools believe their broadband connections don’t meet their demands, and 55% of respondents cited “slow connection speed” as the main reason.

Most New York schools get their broadband connections through a RIC (regional information center) via a shared wide area network (WAN) service that is constantly being upgraded. This service is done in conjunction with BOCES (Board of Cooperative Educational Services). I don’t know if all New York schools have enough bandwidth or capacity with hardware to allow all their students to take the assessments on line, but they are certainly working toward that goal. My own local school board, Nanuet Union Free School District in Rockland County, has the capacity to allow our students to take their assessments on line.

New York State has encountered some bumps with implementation. Many individuals ascribe to the belief that there is just as much, if not more, to be learned from failure as there is from success. Would you mind identifying a few lessons that can be taken from New York’s recent challenges?

Communication is paramount to implementing the new standards. The implementation plan broke down in New York because communications broke down. Tests were given last year without curriculum modules, teacher preparation, student preparation, or parental involvement. The curricular guides are still being rolled out for English Language Arts and mathematics, and they have not been available for other subjects. The guides are highly prescriptive– you would need much longer than a year to complete a year’s worth of work. Staff is working very hard to modify and adopt the guides for their students. Parents are having a hard time helping their children with their homework, especially in math.

InBloom, the outside data collection group that was going to be collecting our children’s data, came under fire from parents because of data privacy concerns; now inBloom is no longer going to be collecting data, and the state education department has scaled back the timeline for implementation.

We see from this experience that we must have a curriculum that aligns with the standards and teachers who are adequately prepared to teach that curriculum. And we must ensure that we are working with a realistic timeframe to make changes and educate our parents, teachers, and other stakeholders about how and why we are doing this.
In spite of all the bumps in the road, teachers in the classroom are seeing their students learning the subject matter more deeply and more clearly. This is a very good result. This is why we need patience. This is hard work and it takes time.

More specific to the question of state level implementation, would you be able to discuss the particulars around the role of teacher evaluations during the transition to the standards?

One of the hottest conversations surrounding Common Core is the connection between teacher and principal evaluations and the Common Core. Some have called for a pause because teachers do not have the needed tools and as a result will be judged unfairly. Interestingly enough, in the initial round of evaluations, only one percent of teachers were found to be ineffective and less than 5% classified as “developing.” The data suggests that 94% of all teachers are succeeding in showing growth in their classrooms. Of course statewide exams in New York count for 20% of evaluation, and local exams another 20%, with 60% having to do with classroom evaluations. The school district, using considerable resources, and the local union negotiated the language used to develop each school district’s evaluation process and implementation plan.

Full Common Core implementation is a complex task, and general public awareness is fairly low. What is the biggest misconception you’ve personally heard about the standards? What role do school boards play in providing information and transparency for parents and local community members? What resources should they utilize, and what aspects of the standards should they emphasize?
There are many misconceptions about the Common Core Learning Standards. First, the standards are NOT the assessments, NOT the curriculum and NOT a national agenda to take over schools. Common Core standards are not a dumbing down of the curriculum; in fact, Common Core is more rigorous than most state standards and expects every student to learn Algebra 2, which is also higher than most states now. It is also not true that the new standards will crowd out classical literature, since reading and writing will be done across the subject areas. It is true that the new standards do not require cursive writing, but schools can still teach it.

It is crucial for school boards to make sure the district provides professional development for staff, aligned instructional material and supports for students and parents. There is lots of research on line to look at the standards; NSBA’s Center for Public Education is a good source. Each state education department also has many resources. In New York you can look at engageny.org, the New York State Education Department’s website on the Common Core.

Collaboration is a critical part of school climate and is often an essential component for success. With the new standards posed to have a significant impact on all levels of a school building, from teaching and learning, to testing administration and evaluation, collaboration and trust among building staff will help ensure a smoother transition. What steps and actions can local school boards take to facilitate greater district level collaboration at this particularly stressful and anxious juncture in time?

The Iowa Lighthouse Inquiry was a 10-year study by the Iowa School Boards Foundation that examined whether school boards made a difference in student achievement, and the answer was, yes they did. Starting with that premise, effective boards must set clear and high expectations for student learning, create the conditions for success, be accountable for results, create the public will to succeed, and learn as a team. Since boards are the policy makers in a district, they should have written policies on student achievement and maintain a collaborative relationship with staff and the community. Communications, both internal and external, are key to helping staff and the public understand what is happening and relieving some of the stress associated with the new standards. I think it helps if everyone is on the same page and staff and community feel they are listened to and kept apprised of any new developments.

Generally speaking, it seems that the school districts that are having a smoother transition to the Common Core Learning Standards tend to be those districts that valued and practiced collaboration prior to adoption and implementation of the Standards. It is part of their everyday work and mission. According to the Center for Public Education’s report, “Eight Characteristics of Effective Boards,” effective school boards tend to have a cohesive and reciprocal relationship with school personnel and the community. They value collaboration and effective communication, and it is embedded in their school district’s strategic vision and policy development.

As President of NSBA, would you mind taking a moment to discuss the national landscape with regards to implementation? Do you see particular districts that are doing an outstanding job in this work? What types of support from different entities or levels of government would be particularly useful over the next year or two?

Local school boards are responsible for the implementation of any new academic standards such as Common Core standards, which include locally approved instruction and materials in a manner that reflects community needs. Therefore, NSBA urges states to provide financial and technical support to enable school districts to implement, in an effective and timely manner, voluntarily adopted rigorous standards, including the Common Core standards.

NSBA supports high academic standards, including Common Core, that are voluntarily adopted by states with local school board input and free from federal direction, federal mandates, funding conditions or coercion.

It is apparent that every state is in a different place with implementation. Kentucky was the first state to start the implementation process, and they have done a good job, taking the time to communicate with all their stakeholders and making sure staff has good professional development opportunities. Massachusetts is also going about implementation at a thoughtful and steady pace, examining the gaps with their current standards, piloting in some districts and implementing the changes needed. I am sure there are other states that are far along in the process and others who need more time and help.

As far as help from any level of government, it would be refreshing if our elected state and federal representatives were more visionary. It takes looking down the road 10 years and saying, “Where do I want public education to be, and what do I need to do to make that happen?”

Of course more resources are vitally important, since public education is a labor intensive enterprise. But just as important is relief from onerous regulations and rules. Think about all the resources needed now to run a state or federal government. If we educated every child well, most of the money we spend now would be decreased. We would need fewer jails and less social service benefits, and we would be more productive as an economy.

Are there any additional thoughts you’d like to share with us that haven’t been covered above?

The bottom line is that raising our standards is absolutely necessary so each child can succeed.

One of my favorite quotes comes from Michelangelo, who said, “The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we will miss it, but it is too low and we will make it.”

Until every child is given the chance to be successful, we cannot rest. America is a great country, and public education is the cornerstone of our democracy. It is crucial for the future of our democracy and the future of public schools that all children have the opportunity to be successful.

Joetta Sack-Min|June 5th, 2014|Categories: Board governance, Center for Public Education, Common Core State Standards, Educational Research, State School Boards Associations|Tags: , |

School board member shows how Brown decision changed lives

Neil Putnam, a board member of Mitchell School District #17 in South Dakota, reflected on this month’s 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision in his local newspaper, the Daily Republic. Putnam also is a Western Regional Director for the National School Boards Association’s board of directors.

Growing up in South Dakota, Putnam noted that he was not exposed to the inequities faced by the students involved in the Brown lawsuit. So he asked two fellow school board members from Kansas and Mississippi to tell about their firsthand experiences as students after the landmark ruling, and how it has impacted their work with their school districts.

Putnam wrote, “Perhaps it is coincidence that three school board members whose families come from agrarian beginnings — Kansas exodusters, Mississippi sharecroppers and Dakota homesteaders — would eventually be presidents of our state school board associations and are having a conversation about the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education. I rather think that is what is the legacy of Brown: all board members, educators, parents and citizens working together to insure all students regardless of abilities, circumstances and means can attend any public school. Now, 30 years later from the time I was handed a diploma, I am recognizing those who toiled and sacrificed for my education, but moreover commemorating those who fought for the right I took for granted.”

Read more in the Daily Republic.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|May 23rd, 2014|Categories: Board governance, Diversity, Educational Legislation, Rural Schools|Tags: , |

Gentzel calls for school board oversight of charters in USA Today letter

Thomas J. Gentzel, executive director of the National School Boards Association (NSBA) said that federal legislation on charter school law should recognize the need for accountability for student performance in charters, given the low performance of the majority of charter schools. His letter to the editor was published in the May 21, 2014 issue of USA Today.

Gentzel wrote, “In 2013, Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes revealed that only 25% and 29% of charters outperformed traditional public schools in reading and math assessments, respectively. These low percentages were actually an improvement over the 2009 data. CREDO attributed many of the improvements to the actions that authorizers — key among these local school boards — are taking to close down ineffective charter schools.

“Strong local governance matters. It cannot and should not be excluded from education reform initiatives. To give America’s schoolchildren strong accountability centered on student outcomes, the National School Boards Association calls for local school boards to serve as the sole authorizers of charter schools.”

USA Today also published comments from Twitter related to charter schools. Read more.

Joetta Sack-Min|May 21st, 2014|Categories: Board governance, Charter Schools, Educational Legislation, Educational Research, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation, Privatization|Tags: , |

In Huffington Post column, Gentzel calls for vigilance in Brown decision

To mark the 60th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, National School Boards Association Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel reflected on the impact of the decision and the challenges that public schools still face. The following commentary was published by the Huffington Post:

 

In the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a timeless and transformative message: All students deserve a great public education; separate systems are not equal.

In marking the 60th anniversary of this landmark Supreme Court ruling, it is important to reflect upon the ongoing effect of Brown v. Board of Education on the work of America’s school boards and our nation’s public schools. Enshrining this decision as a historic relic does not serve the nine out of 10 school-age children who attend our nation’s public schools. To protect students’ rights, freedoms and ready access to a high-quality education, we must actively heed the central tenets of the Brown v. Board of Education decision.

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is particularly concerned about the unintended consequences of privatization through vouchers, charter schools not governed by local school boards, and other means that research indicates are leading to the re-segregation of public schools, mainly in high-poverty urban areas.

In its most recent issue, NSBA’s flagship magazine, American School Board Journal, reports that the number of schools with a minority enrollment above 90 percent has climbed precipitously. Similarly, the Civil Rights Project at the University of California-Los Angeles also has reported that African-American and Hispanic students are increasingly segregated at the schools they attend.

Ironically, this comes at a time when America’s public schools are becoming much more diverse. The percentage of students who are white dropped from 61 percent in 2000 to 52 percent in 2010, and today stands at about 50 percent. Schools in the south and west now have a majority of minority students, according to the National Center on Education Statistics. And with more than half of babies born today falling into a minority classification, demographics will continue to diversify. At the same time, poverty and other risk factors also have increased.

Our lawmakers must continue to look at the entire public education system to ensure that we invest in our public schools and give them the support that is needed, rather than diverting scarce taxpayer dollars to voucher schemes and charter schools that lack local school district oversight. Today more than ever, it is essential that we continue to focus on ensuring that every child has access to an excellent and equitable education.

Data show public schools are educating today’s diverse student population to higher levels than ever before. We should be proud that our high school graduation rate is at an all-time high — about 80 percent of students graduate on time, and when late graduates are included, the graduation rate rises to more than 85 percent. The graduation rate of Hispanics, the fastest growing group of students in our nation’s schools, jumped from 61 percent to 76 percent between 2006 and 2012. And African-American students made significant gains during this period, improving their graduation rate from 59 percent to 68 percent.

Brown v. Board of Education honors a truth core to our nation’s democracy: to provide a strong education to each and every child who enters our nation’s public school system. We must stay focused on investing equitably in our public schools and students, ensuring that they have the resources and support they need, and we must not be diverted by programs that have the effect of re-segregating America’s public education system. We must honor Brown v. Board of Education‘s intention for every child to achieve, and we must insist that every child in America has access to a great public school where they live. No exceptions; no excuses.

Joetta Sack-Min|May 19th, 2014|Categories: American School Board Journal, Board governance, Charter Schools, Diversity, Privatization, School Law, Student Achievement, Urban Schools|Tags: , , , , , |

School board member blasts fed’s rescission of NCLB waiver for Washington state

In a strong and incisive letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Washington school board member David Iseminger has decried the U.S. Department of Education’s decision to rescind the state’s waiver of some of the more onerous requirements of No Child Left Behind, a move that will cause nearly all state schools to fail to reach the law’s student achievement benchmarks and require school districts to send “failure letters” to parents if they want to receive critical federal funds.

Last week, the department said it was rescinding the wavier because the state has not moved fast enough on its promise to use student test data to evaluate teachers and principals. The waivers allow states to escape from the law’s requirements that all schools educate 100 percent of their students to proficiency and math and language arts by this year–a provision widely criticized by educators and researchers as nearly impossible to meet.

In his letter, which was published on the Washington Post’s Answer Sheet blog, Iseminger characterized Duncan’s action as arbitrary and detrimental to schools and students.

“Your reason for revoking our waiver: we didn’t pass legislation you wanted,” wrote Iseminger, a board member for both the Lake Stevens School District and the Washington State School Directors’ Association. “More precisely, we passed legislation, but it didn’t have the wording (actually, one specific word) you wanted.”

Noting that Washington, D.C., is nearly 3,000 miles from his state, Iseminger offered to tell Duncan about “this other Washington” where “we have strong leadership in our board rooms, schools, and classrooms” and students who “are capable, confident, and work extremely hard.”

“In Lake Stevens — and in school districts across America — we lead by example,” Iseminger said. “We create confidence, capacity, knowledge, and opportunity for everyone in our community. There is a palpable and ubiquitous culture of excellence in Lake Stevens, where it’s common knowledge that each individual is supported, challenged, engaged, and empowered. Such things don’t appear overnight, they’re not accidental, and I have no intention of having our work undermined by distant labels and bracketed explanations.”

Among the schools that the education department would have the state call “failing” are “Schools of distinction one of them four years running,” Iseminger said, as well as Washington Achievement Awards schools and a Reward School. He said Lake Stevens has won a Magna Award from the National School Boards Association (NSBA)’s American School Board Journal and is a recognized Board of Distinction.

With NCLB reauthorization languishing six years in Congress, the law “has been subverted into a name-calling, label-applying bully pulpit,” Iseminger said.

“We tried to help,” Iseminger said. “With input and work from many education advocates, Congress was provided an extensive list of fixes that would make NCLB workable and forward-thinking, and keep us all accountable. I was there too — as a member of the (NSBA’s) Federal Relations Network (FRN), I made the trek to Washington D.C., multiple times to ask our members to reauthorize, year after year. While there, many of us from Washington also met with people from your Department of Education, in your building, trying to create relationships and press for a change in policy and tone: ‘Stop telling our students and educators they’re failing,’ I said.”

Iseminger works for Microsoft in its Business Intelligence Group, part of the Cloud + Enterprise Division. He said if the Education Department follows up the rescinding of its waiver by withholding Title I money and other key funds, disadvantaged students will suffer.

“If you pull our funding, you’ll be forsaking Washington’s most needy students — the very students for whom the original ESEA legislation was passed 50 years ago,” Iseminger wrote. “You’ll be abandoning those students, but we won’t. In Lake Stevens — and in every district across America – we’ll do whatever we must to ensure no child is left behind, waiver or not.”

Joetta Sack-Min|May 6th, 2014|Categories: American School Board Journal, Assessment, Board governance, Budgeting, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Programs, NSBA Recognition Programs, School Reform, Teachers|Tags: , , , , |

School board leadership DOES matter

An editorial by Robert Rader, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education:

The Fordham Institute, whose president, Chester Finn, has called the school board “an aberration, an anachronism, an educational sinkhole” that should be put “out of its misery,” recently published a report, “Does School Board Leadership Matter?

It definitely contradicts the spirit of Finn’s previous comments.

The document lists information that we have known ever since the original Iowa Lighthouse Initiative was released: School boards, particularly their attitudes on student learning, are an important element of student success. Other information points us to what we must do to ensure that boards are relevant, effective, and beneficial.

The report comes at a critical time for executive directors from state school boards associations who have been involved in attempting to discern what the board of tomorrow will be like. It gives us an idea of what boards need to do to accomplish their primary goal: increasing student achievement and growth.

I believe it also implicitly supports the idea of boards of education, with all of their warts, is the most effective way in which to govern almost all school districts.

Report authors Arnold F. Shober and Michael T. Hartney started with information from “a national [2009] survey of 900 school board members situated across 417 unique school districts.” They combined this information with demographic and student achievement data for the same districts.

Here’s what they found. The bolded sentences below indicate findings from the study. Other comments are mine.

1. Board members, by and large, possess accurate information about their districts and adopt work practices that are generally similar across districts. But there is little consensus about which goals should be central.

The fact that board members have good information about their districts is a hugely significant fact. Without such data, whether provided by the administration or by other board members or from the community is central to making good decisions.

Unfortunately, while the report states that in school finance, teacher pay, collective bargaining, and class size board members have “reasonable knowledge of district conditions,” they “appear less knowledgeable about the rigor (or lack thereof) of academic standards in their respective state.”

2. Districts that are more successful academically have board members who assign high priority to improving student learning. School boards that comprise a higher proportion of members who have an academic focus are, all else being equal, more likely to govern districts that “beat the odds”—that is, districts whose students perform better academically than one would expect, given their demographic and financial characteristics.

Thirty years ago, the focus of boards across the country was on issues such as collective bargaining, the termination of underperforming teachers, and fiscal matters. Today, more focus is on student achievement, measured in standardized test scores and in other ways. However, we still have not identified what those “other ways” are. The public basically only sees and reacts to the test results.

Districts that are “punching above their weights” (my phrase), are those that have embraced raising student achievement as the central goal of the board. While all boards are affected by such factors as politics, funding, and other issues, those that focus on academics do the best, which is what the original Lighthouse study taught us a decade ago.

On the other hand, the study is based on the 2009 survey. I would hope that today, with all of the discussion of Common Core and five more years of discussion of increasing student achievement, there would be an even stronger recognition of the importance of increasing achievement.

3. Political moderates tend to be more informed than liberals and conservatives when it comes to money matters; educators and former educators are less informed.

This is a particularly interesting finding. While the report found “strong evidence that both knowledge and focus are shaped by board members’ occupational background and political ideology,” which is no surprise, it also found that political liberals “are more likely than moderates or conservatives to place less focus on improving student learning, believing instead that schools serve many goals.”

On the other hand, conservatives “do not subscribe to either an academic or plural focus, suggesting that their priorities may lie in financial stewardship (or other matters) rather than in student learning or other outcomes.”

4. At-large, on-cycle elections are associated with districts that beat the odds.

This would appear to be good news for Connecticut, where almost all school board elections occur in conjunction with general elections. The report did not examine the effect of board members running on political lines, which comes with its own benefits and disadvantages.

This study indicates a need to keep our eye on the prize: higher academic achievement for all of our students. It reminds us that board members must become as knowledgeable as possible on understanding relevant data, as well as best practices and current education trends.

In most cases, board members do not join boards as experts in education and, as the study shows, those who do, do not necessarily focus on student achievement. But, the board members who are determined to learn more and, I would add, get involved in regional and statewide opportunities for learning, provide their districts with the value that will make their boards and their students even more successful than they are now.

And in this competitive world, every little bit helps.

Staff|April 29th, 2014|Categories: Board governance, Key Work of School Boards, Leadership, State School Boards Associations, Student Achievement|Tags: , , , , , , , , |

NSBA elects board leaders: Anne M. Byrne of New York to serve as president

School board leader Anne M. Byrne of New York’s Nanuet Union Free School District was named the 2014-15 President of the National School Boards Association (NSBA) at the association’s Annual Conference in New Orleans.

John D. Tuttle of Oklahoma’s Kellyville Public Schools was elected President-elect and Miranda Beard of Mississippi’s Laurel School District was elected Secretary-Treasurer by NSBA’s 150-member Delegate Assembly. Additionally, David A. Pickler of Tennessee’s Shelby County Schools, who served as the 2013-2014 President, will now serve as Immediate Past President.

Byrne has been a member of the Nanuet Union Free School Board for 32 years and has served as Vice President and President. She has served as President and Vice President of the Rockland County School Boards Association. She is also an executive board member and a past President of the Mid-Hudson School Study Council. She is a founding member of the Hudson-Long Island Coalition for responsible state funding, a nine-county coalition, and served as its chair.

In addition, Byrne has served as President during 2004-2005 followed by a term as Immediate Past President of the New York State School Boards Association. Byrne joined the National School Boards Association’s Board of Directors in 2006.

In the one-year term as NSBA President, Byrne plans to help NSBA become a “reservoir of research” for how engaged school boards positively affect student achievement. Byrne spoke at Annual Conference about how she wants NSBA to become an even greater advocate for public education.

“Research very clearly says that if a school board expects each child in their district to be successful and they devote the time, it happens. But school boards have to have that vision first,” said Byrne. “Once we make the decision to focus on leading children to excellence and turning around low-performing schools, we have an opportunity to change the conversation about public schools with the media and the public.”

NSBA’s Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel praised Byrne’s dedication to public education and school board governance.

“As a committed advocate for student achievement and school improvement, Anne Byrne is a champion for delivering quality education for all children starting at the local level,” said Gentzel. “Anne is the type of leader who will stand up for public education and engage in productive dialogue with school boards about how we can help all children to succeed.”

NSBA’s Delegate Assembly also elected the following school board members as regional directors to NSBA’s Board:

• ElizaBeth D. Branham of South Carolina’s Lexington School District Two was elected as a Southern Region Director;

• Anne Ritter of Idaho’s Meridian Joint School District #2 was elected as a Western Region Director;

• Viola Garcia of Texas’s Aldine Independent School District Board Member was elected as a Southern Region Director; and

• Charles Wilson, of Ohio’s Worthington School District was elected as a Central Region Director.

Serving as NSBA ex-officio directors on the NSBA Board for 2014-2015 will be: Van Henri White of New York’s Rochester City School District as the Chair of the Council of Urban Boards of Education; Ellis A. Alexander of Louisiana’s St. Charles Parish Public Schools as Chair of the National Black Caucus of School Boards; Guillermo Z. Lopez of Michigan’s Lansing Public School District as Chair of the National Hispanic Caucus of School Board Members; Gregory J. Guercio of New York’s Law Offices of Guercio & Guercio, LLP as the Chair of the Council of School Attorneys; Karen Echeverria of the Idaho School Boards Association as the Chair of the Organization of State Association Executive Directors’ Liaison Committee; and NSBA’s Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|April 10th, 2014|Categories: Announcements, Board governance, Governance, Leadership, NSBA Annual Conference 2014|Tags: , , , , , , , |

CUBE elects new leadership at NSBA Annual Conference

The National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) has elected new leaders and members to its Steering Committee.

Van Henri White of New York’s Rochester City School District was elected Chair and Harium Martin-Morris of Washington’s Seattle Public Schools was elected Vice Chair. Minnie Forte-Brown of Durham Public Schools in North Carolina, who served as 2013-14 Chair, is now Immediate Past Chair.

“I am humbled to have this opportunity to advocate and organize on behalf of the urban families, students, and staff of this nation,” said White. “While we have made some significant strides forward, we still have a ways to go to ensure that every child has access to a quality public education. The Council of Urban Boards of Education is committed to that end and we will not rest until that goal is realized for every child.”

White is the President of the Board of Education in Rochester City School District and has served on the school board since 2007. He is also an author, civil rights attorney, and founder of the Center for the Study of Civil and Human Rights Laws.  White is an outspoken advocate for improving school safety, boosting graduation rates, decreasing truancy, and addressing the sources of lead poisoning and the impact it can have on children’s brain development. He is the author of Frustration in America, which examines the impact of racism and responsibility of African-American men and boys and Marching Forward by Looking Back: Fifty Years Since the March on Washington.

Martin-Morris, a former classroom teacher, was elected to the Seattle School Board in 2007 and is a member of the school board’s Audit and Finance Committee. He also is the Chair of the Washington State School Directors Association’s Urban Suburban Task Force. Martin-Morris has served on the CUBE Steering Committee of since 2009.

“While the road ahead is long and hard with many turns, I am excited to take on the role as Vice Chair,” said Martin-Morris.  “We truly are in a battle in this country to provide excellence and equity for all students.”

The following school board members also were elected this year to serve on CUBE’s 16-member Steering Committee:

  • Bruce Alexander (incumbent) of Ohio’s Akron Public Schools;
  • Willetta Milam (incumbent) of Ohio’s Cleveland Municipal School District;
  • Nandi Seko of the U.S. Virgin Island’s Board of Education;
  • JulieMarie Shepherd of Colorado’s Aurora Public Schools;
  • Patsy Taylor of Texas’s Fort Bend Independent School District.

“The leaders of the Council of Urban Boards of Education have strong experience in advancing urban education, and we are proud of their deep commitment to aiding the work of urban school boards so that all students can succeed,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director of NSBA.

CUBE supports urban school boards and fosters effective leadership for excellence and equity in public education, with a specific focus on underrepresented students. CUBE provides educational opportunities that engage urban school districts and district leaders, working through their state school boards associations, while addressing challenges in urban centers. CUBE represents nearly 100 urban school districts in 35 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The districts that comprise CUBE educate nearly 7.5 million students in over 12,000 schools, with a collective budget of approximately $99 billion.

“Every American citizen should have the opportunity to be a part of the American dream,” said Ruth Veales, the head of this year’s CUBE Nominating Committee and a school board member from Oklahoma City Public Schools. “To achieve this dream, it is imperative that we empower every school with the proper tools to give their students the quality education that they so deserve. The Council of Urban Boards of Education’s new Steering Committee consists of dedicated urban school board leaders throughout our great nation who will aid in our work of ensuring that all students get a quality education, so that they too can be included in the American dream.”

For more information on CUBE, please visit www.nsba.org/cube.

Joetta Sack-Min|April 10th, 2014|Categories: Board governance, CUBE, Leadership, Urban Schools|Tags: , , , , |

NSBA comments on Fordham Institute’s new school leadership report

A new report by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute concludes that school districts whose school board members are focused on student achievement are more likely than others to “beat the odds” academically — that is, to perform better than the demographics and financial conditions of their students would suggest.

The report, Does School Board Leadership Matter? is a follow-up to the 2010 report School Boards Circa 2010: Governance in the Accountability Era, a joint project of Fordham Institute, the National School Boards Association (NSBA), and the Iowa School Boards Association. As with the earlier report, NSBA says that — while the new study makes a valuable contribution to the field of school board research —  some of its findings are based on questionable assumptions.

NSBA issued the following statement regarding the report:

The report, “Does School Board Leadership Matter?” released March 26 by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute in Washington, DC, affirms the fact that local school boards matter and that their actions can positively impact student achievement.  The study sheds additional light on what makes a quality school board, and adds further support to a Jan. 2011 research review issued by NSBA’s Center for Public Education (CPE) on the “Eight Characteristics of Effective Boards.”

As such, the new Fordham Institute report makes a valuable contribution to the field of school board research, especially when viewed alongside other research, such as the CPE report, that also shows a relationship between school board behaviors and higher student achievement.  We appreciate the transparency with which Fordham Institute indicates the limitations of its findings, which were based in part on a prior Fordham Institute-NSBA-Iowa School Boards Foundation national survey of school boards, School Boards Circa 2010: Governance in the Accountability Era.  As with all correlational studies, reviewers of the Fordham Institute report should use caution when interpreting findings, some of which are based on questionable assumptions. For example, in determining the accuracy of school board members’ knowledge of district funding, the authors conflate relative per pupil dollars with school board members’ perceptions about how sufficient those dollars are — two entirely different things.

Nonetheless, NSBA appreciates the Fordham Institute focus on providing greater insight around effective local school board governance, recognizing that school boards need the support of key influencers such as parents, teachers, principals and others who help to create positive teaching and learning environments.  We look forward to continuing our collaboration on this important issue.

Lawrence Hardy|March 26th, 2014|Categories: Board governance, Center for Public Education, Governance, School Boards, School Reform|Tags: , |
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