Articles in the NSBA Opinions and Analysis category

Yet another reason to prevent tobacco use among youth

BoardBuzz knew tobacco was bad for us, but now the Los Angeles Times reports that the stuff is even worse than we thought. It turns out that U.S. cigarette brands are among the most toxic in the world, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This is because American cigarettes are typically made from “American blend” tobacco, a specific blend that, because of growing and curing practices, contains higher levels of cancer-causing tobacco-specific nitrosamines. The most popular Canadian, Australian, and British brands, in contrast, are made from “bright” tobacco, which is lighter in color and cured differently.

The bottom line is that any way you slice it, tobacco is bad news.  And yet, 1,500 kids in the U.S. try cigarettes each day and one third of those will become addicted.  One more reason to make sure your district has a comprehensive tobacco-free schools policy, allowing no tobacco use of any kind by anyone at anytime, anywhere on school property. 

NSBA is currently receiving funding from the CDC to develop strategies to strengthen state-level partnerships that involve state school boards associations and other key stakeholders to support tobacco prevention among youth through comprehensive tobacco-free school policies.  Through these partnerships, the National Consortium on Tobacco Use Prevention was born and some of its accomplishments include establishing pilot programs in five states to promote comprehensive tobacco free-schools policies.

Daniela Espinosa|June 9th, 2010|Categories: NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Wellness|

Saving money, saving energy

An article in the Ocala Star-Banner about a Florida school district got BoardBuzz’s attention with the headline “Energy savings net Marion schools $8.7M in four years.”

Turns out an energy management program created four years ago by the Marion County School Board has saved the school district $8.7 million since the program was enacted with energy usage per square foot dropping by more than 21 percent. 

What’s even more impressive is the energy cost went down even though the school district has added 500,000 square feet of buildings since 2005!

So what are they doing? Energy saving tactics include building new energy efficient schools and facilities, going to a four-day work weeks in the summer, summer school consolidation, using automatic heating and air conditioning controls, and working with custodians to shut off lights when they complete cleaning a room.

Alexis Rice|June 7th, 2010|Categories: Educational Finance, Environmental Issues, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards|

We need to save jobs in education

BoardBuzz was proud to see NSBA President Earl C. Rickman III speaking out today on the need to save educational jobs.  Rickman, who is additionally the President of the Board of Education of Mount Clemens Community School District in Michigan, had an op-ed on the Detroit Free Press’s website concerning educational funding where he noted:

My fellow board members and others across the nation are now in the final stages of crafting our budgets for 2010-11, and it’s been one of the toughest years I’ve seen in my more than 25 years as a school board member. It’s especially true in Michigan, where we’ve had years of trimming that has left us with no fat and mere bare-bones budgets. This year, any cuts we make will impact classroom instruction and, ultimately, academic achievement.


Over the past two years, about 6,500 teachers in Michigan schools have lost their jobs. This year more jobs are at risk. In a recent survey, 96% of Michigan school officials said they anticipated layoffs or job cuts. Nationally, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan estimates that 300,000 educators could lose their jobs.


Whether we ask our most experienced teachers to retire or let go of some of our young, bright, most enthusiastic teachers, our children will suffer. Their classes will become more crowded, and courses such as advanced placement, art, band, orchestra and vocational training are most likely to be eliminated.


The teachers who remain will have less time for individualized instruction and their own professional development – both of which are central to closing achievement gaps and preparing our students for college and careers. These severe budget cuts come at a time when our economy is demanding more 21st Century skills and a postsecondary education to achieve and sustain a globally competitive workforce and individuals’ quality of life.


Is this how we want to prepare our next generation?

BoardBuzz encourages school board members to take action and contact their members of Congress urging them to vote in favor of the Education Jobs Fund.

Alexis Rice|June 4th, 2010|Categories: Educational Legislation, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards, Student Achievement, Teachers|

One Laptop Per Child’s $100 tablet

Remember that One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) tablet concept we showed you back in December? On Thursday, the foundation announced a partnership with silicon solutions maker Marvell to make that concept a reality by 2011. They plan to launch the device at the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2011 for less than $100. The hardware is being produced by Marvell using its Moby Platform, featuring a built-in camera for video conferencing, and support for 3D graphics and Flash.

Although the OLPC device will run the traditional Sugar operating system as an application, the Marvell version could ship with the Android operating system from Google, the Windows Mobile platform, or Ubuntu.

The device appear as if it will be ultra thin. OLPC Chairman Nicholas Negropante says the tablet will be part laptop, iPad, and Kindle. However, it likely won’t include many features Negroponte had described: it won’t be all-plastic components for durability, it won’t be waterproof or half the thickness of an iPhone, and its Marvell processor will likely be just one gigahertz.

For many, the features lacking from the new tablet may represent another in a long history of disappointments from a nonprofit that has often failed to meet its near-science-fictional aims. People have called Negroponte’s concepts unrealistic, but “we think unrealistic is good,” says Negroponte. “The world needs some people who aren’t realistic, or you’ll always get the same old stuff.”

Watch the video below to learn more.

Erin Walsh|May 28th, 2010|Categories: Educational Technology, Multimedia and Webinars, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Student Achievement|

Take a break with TED

In case you’ve never spent a little time with TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design), the series of talks on their site can get you thinking.  Sometimes it’s a comedian or actor who gets into some deep thoughts about a variety of topics which surprises you, while other times they present a business leader or expert from academia who talks through some of the world’s biggest problems in less than 20 minutes. The most recent post is from Sir Ken Robinson, who devotes his talk mostly to the subject of education, and he makes some excellent points.

While we spend a great deal of time talking about education reform in the U.S., and as more news about standardized scores and results (see the Edifier’s post on NAEP results released on Friday) seem to depress even the most optimistic educator, Robinson discusses fundamental innovation that needs to occur in education.  Does that mean we need to prepare everyone for college?  According to him, no.  He talks about the “fast-food model of education” and how that may not be the best way to educate our children.  We don’t want to ruin the talk for you, but if you’re serious about working toward reform in education, this video is worth 18 minutes of your time.  But BoardBuzz says beware…these videos can become addictive.

Kevin Scott|May 24th, 2010|Categories: Educational Technology, Multimedia and Webinars, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Third-hand smoke? Join the world in saying no more tobacco!

BoardBuzz readers know that second-hand smoke is bad, but now doctors in Massachusetts have brought another issue to our attention: the “toxic brew of gases and particles” that gets left behind long after second-hand smoke has dissipated. 

That doesn’t sound great, but why should BoardBuzz readers be concerned?  This residue, or “third-hand smoke,” clings to clothing, upholstery and carpeting and is especially dangerous for children.  

BoardBuzz is picturing kindergartners sitting in a circle on the carpet.  The residue gets on their hands and clothing and can be ingested.  If ever there was a rationale for banning smoking on school property at all times, even when school is not in session, BoardBuzz believes this is it!

Third-hand smoke means that children can be harmed by heavy metals, carcinogens, and even radioactive materials weeks or months after a cigarette has been smoked inside their school.   And worse, we can’t get rid of it by simply running a fan or ventilating a building! 

This year, BoardBuzz readers have a great opportunity to combat the effects of third-hand smoke on World No Tobacco Day on May 31st

World No Tobacco Day, an event sponsored by the World Health Organization, is a day for the world to unite and educate the public on the negative health outcomes associated with tobacco use and the deceitful marketing practices of tobacco companies.  BoardBuzz knows it is also a chance to protect future generations from the harmful effects of tobacco and third-hand smoke.

BoardBuzz readers can get help ensuring their school or district is 100% tobacco-free 100 percent of the time by visiting the National Consortium on Tobacco Use Prevention through Schools or emailing schoolhealth@nsba.org.

Caroline Myers|May 20th, 2010|Categories: NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Student Achievement, Wellness|

Summer’s calling

In today’s The Washington Post’s  ”KidsPost” there is a feature that answers some age old questions when it comes to why we have summers off from school.  While many edu-wonks know exactly why schools are off in the summer, the idea of giving students (and teachers) months off in the summertime in the age of air conditioning and creature comforts still drives many non-educators bonkers. 

This got BoardBuzz thinking, in the days of increasing budget cuts and the reality of the costs it would take to keep schools open year around, not to mention changing the pay scale for teachers and administrators, will we ever see year round school? 

While some urban districts started changing their schedules, but many have had to resort back to the traditional calendar to save money.  Should we be more flexible with school schedules?  Will parents cry foul if their summer vacations are thwarted by a school system’s attempt at educating students year ’round?  With Memorial Day just around the corner, it won’t be long until American students act like it’s summer, even if their teachers are trying to keep them focused.

Kevin Scott|May 17th, 2010|Categories: Educational Finance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Student Achievement, Teachers|

Food allergies in schools: a manageable reality

BoardBuzz wants to alert readers to an important event that took place this week: Food Allergy Awareness Week (FAAW).  According to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), twelve million Americans have food allergies, including one in every 17 children under the age of three.  Additionally, the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics show that the prevalence of children with food allergies rose 18 percent between 1997 and 2007, although causes are still unknown. 

However, on Wednesday, May 11, a New York Times articleportrayed a new study casting doubts on many reports of food allergies.  According to the study, only about 8 percent of children and less than 5 percent of adults are food allergic; yet about 30 percent of the population believe they have food allergies.  The study’s author, Dr. March Reidl, believes that there are several reasons for that disparity including that children who had food allergies may not have them as adults.  Another possible reason for such high reported numbers of food allergies is that some people think they have a food allergy when they really just have a food intolerance, such as headaches when they drink red wine.  Still, nowadays, many schools have kids who are truly food allergic and may have staff with the same condition as well.  And a food allergy can strike any person, at any age, unexpectedly.   

It is hard to fully comprehend a food allergy if you’re not a victim of it.  Food is not only one of the main mechanisms for survival and good health, in western societies like ours, it is usually associated with pleasure (we like to eat foods and they can provide a “good feeling”) and often helps celebrate a special occasion.  So can you imagine when certain foods become your enemy, and it’s a matter between life and death?  Can you think of yourself looking at a yummy piece of cake, for instance, and not being able to eat it because you don’t know whether or not it will harm or even kill you or going out to a restaurant and being fearful of cross-contamination…Yes, living with life-threatening food allergies can be pretty difficult. 

That’s why schools should make those with food allergies feel welcomed and secure.  Schools play an essential role in keeping students and staff well informed of food allergies because millions of people eat one or more meals at school everyday.  And BoardBuzz believes food allergies can be well managed within schools.  This includes educating those who do not have food allergies about the seriousness of this medical condition and not isolating those with food allergies, but rather helping them identify potential allergens and handle their condition well.  In addition, it is of utmost importance that schools have emergency plans in place to deal with students who have food allergies and those who might unexpectedly become allergic to a certain food.  For these actions to be successful, schools need to have sound food allergy policies and practices. 

NSBA is currently developing a food allergy policy guide to help school leaders develop a comprehensive food allergy policy.  And, sometime in the fall, NSBAwill have a webcast featuring school leaders, nurses and students who have successfully worked together to address this issue within their school district, so stay tuned! 

What are your schools doing to help children and staff manage food allergies? Leave us a comment.

Daniela Espinosa|May 14th, 2010|Categories: NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Student Achievement, Wellness|

Integrating social media into the classroom

Recently, BoardBuzz came across an interesting post from Mashable that suggests there is a place for social networks in K-12 education.

The post goes on to cite NSBA’s own study, Creating and Connecting // Research and Guidelines on Online Social–and Educational–Networking:

In 2007, half of all students who used the Internet said they use it to talk specifically about schoolwork… Still, most schools continue to discourage or outright ban the use of the technology in school. This is often due to a lack of understanding, its status as a distraction, or both.

The fact is, social networks are here to stay, and with or without rules, kids are going to use them. Here are four tips for educators on how to develop a technology policy that seizes on social networking as a learning tool and teaches children how to use it responsibly.

Mashable has a point. While a significant percentage of educators require their students to use the Internet for homework, school policies indicate that many are not yet convinced about the value of social networking as a useful educational tool or even as an effective communications tool. This may indicate that their experience with social networking is limited. However, they are curious about its potential — a sign that there may be some shifts in attitudes, policies and practices in the future.

So what should schools do? Here is what Mashable suggests:

  1. Let Down the Filters, Cautiously
  2. Add “Digital Citizenship” to the Curriculum
  3. Keep One Eye on Student Conduct, the Other on the Law
  4. Teach With Social Media

Check out the full post for more details on these four tips. In summary, Mashable says that schools should embrace social media to both limit the potential for students to abuse the technology and discover a new set of valuable educational tools. The development of social media policies, curricula, and usage guidelines is key.

Erin Walsh|May 14th, 2010|Categories: Educational Technology, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Student Achievement|

Now Hiring

Sure, it’s a welcome sign to see posted around America as we recover from the Great Recession.  In Massachusetts, a new relationship is being introduced that will marry the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary and local school districts in order to hire teachers in areas that need high quality teachers.  35 schools have been identified within the state and unlike previous incentives that involved money, this time the funding will come in part from turnaround grants.  Using websites, foundation dollars, Twitter, and Facebook, the strategy is to help improve achievement levels in those schools that are most in need in the state.

Many edu-minded readers may remember previous attempts at getting teachers to move schools and/or states by offering large signing bonuses.  With a very different economic situation facing us now, the attempt by Massachusetts is based more on pride and the hopes that many districts will encourage teachers who want to make the biggest impact possible on their students.  The question we’re wondering at BoardBuzz today is–will this work?  Will other states and local districts follow their lead?  Or are teachers looking for more than just a change in scenery?  We’ll be waiting to see the results, and hope urban students in Massachusetts districts reap the benefits.

Kevin Scott|May 11th, 2010|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Teachers|
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