Articles in the NSBA Opinions and Analysis category

Flu vaccinations within schools: still a possibility?

The H1N1 virus is spreading more and more each day, and the seasonal flu may show up at any moment; yet we’re all facing the dilemma of not knowing where and how to go to get vaccinated since there is currently a shortage of both the H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccines.  Although the H1N1 virus has caused mostly mild symptoms, it can be very dangerous to people with preexisting conditions such as asthma, and many children have asthma. According to the CDC, in 2007, 5.6 million school-aged children and youth (5-17 years old) were reported to have this condition.  In addition, outbreaks within student populations sometimes force schools to close, which decreases learning time and can be very costly.  Therefore, it is imperative that schools take steps to curb the spread of flu.

Certain cities have been receiving shipments of the vaccines and holding one-day clinics, but the lines for those clinics are enormous and only a very small percentage of the population ends up being vaccinated.  In addition, doctors’ offices are getting very limited supplies and yet we hear on the news that some big named banks and brokerage firms received shipments to vaccinate their entire staff…go figure.  BoardBuzz does not want to be bitter, but rather hopeful. 

BoardBuzz has learned of one way to increase vaccinations within schools: by partnering with PTAs.   As part of their “Let’s Fight Flu Together!” initiative, the National PTA is working with Novartis Vaccines, Flu Busters, and local health departments to provide on-site administration and vaccines at schools.  According to the PTA, the schools’ involvement and time in hosting the clinic is very limited. 

This initiative began last year in an effort to support CDC’s recommendations to have all children aged 6 months to 19 years receive the seasonal flu vaccine.  Over 400 schools participated in the first year and, to date, over 1,000 schools have registered for a clinic. Schools can host a clinic anytime between now and January. 

Let’s all team up to combat these viruses and make our children healthy and ready to learn!  To obtain more information about PTA’s initiative, visit  And to learn more about how to better prepare for and manage a flu pandemic within schools, don’t forget to check out NSBA’s H1N1 Planning for Schools webpage.

Daniela Espinosa|November 6th, 2009|Categories: Wellness, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Report cards go paperless

USA Today reports that Clarksville-Montgomery County school district in Tennessee decided to go mostly paperless with student report cards. The district now makes grades available to parents with secure online accounts. The same system, called Power School, is used by parents to access progress reports, attendance, and student lunch accounts.

NSBA’s own Ann Flynn, Director of education technology, says that an increasing number of districts are deciding to use online reporting. Those making the change “are no longer the exception. They are becoming the rule,” she says.

Districts in LouisianaSouth Carolina, and Texas are among those that have gone paperless since 2008. Jefferson County Public Schools, one of the Technology Leadership Network’s salute districts at this year’s T+L Conference, plans to make the move within the next year. If you’re interested in learning more about technology innovation, check out NSBA’s Education Technology Site Visits. Jefferson County Public Schools is just one of four disitricts where you can see innovation in action, as these school districts showcase effective technology solutions. You’ll have a chance to tour schools, ask questions, and see first-hand how these new practices transform the learning experience. You’ll return with new ideas and a fresh perspective on integrating technology into your district! Registration opens November 30.

Parents in Clarksville-Montgomery County who still wish to have a paper report card to hang on the fridge can request a hard copy from the school. BoardBuzz can’t help but think that it has become that much more of a challenge for students to hide grades from parents.

Erin Walsh|November 6th, 2009|Categories: Educational Technology, Student Achievement, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Critical thinking is important…but thinking about what??

We hear a lot about 21st century skills these days, but what does it really mean? Will teaching our kids critical thinking skills really help them to function better in the “real world?” NYU Education professor and former assistant secretary of education Diane Ravitch believes that without the knowledge behind it, critical thinking is not worth much. In a recent article in The Boston Globe, Ravitch writes that “What matters our capacity to make generalizations, to see beyond our own immediate experience.” Read the article here.   Diane Ravitch is one of the featured speakers at NSBA’s 2010 Annual Conference in Chicago, April 10-12, 2010, where she will share her views on how to strengthen public education – visit for details.  And to learn more about integrating critical thinking and rigorous subject matter, check out the Center for Public Education’s report on “Defining a 21st Century Education.”

Erin Walsh|November 4th, 2009|Categories: Center for Public Education, Student Achievement, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

How far is too far? reports today that two high school sophomores in Indiana have sued their school for punishing them for “posting sexually suggestive photos on MySpace during their summer vacation.”  The ACLU (no surprise here) is representing the girls and argues that the school violated the girls’ free speech rights when it banned them from extracurricular activities for a joke that didn’t involve the school.”  

The controversy has experts on both sides arguing about the role of schools in this era of online social networking.  Some say schools should play “a role in monitoring students’ behavior,”  but others say schools should mind their own business unless the students’ off campus actions are disruptive on campus.   One complicating factor is what young people themselves think about their online lives.  “From the standpoint of young people, there’s no real distinction between online life and offline life,” said John Palfrey, a Harvard University law professor and codirector of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society. “It’s just life.”

But, for schools the problem seems be the nexus or link back to on-campus consequences.  Erik Weber, an attorney for the school said the school “was enforcing the northeast Indiana school’s athletic code, which allows the principal to bar from school activities any student athlete whose behavior in or out of school “creates a disruptive influence on the discipline, good order, moral or educational environment at [the school].”  Apparently photos of the offending students were shared on campus.  The courts have upheld similar policies, but some experts believe that “the issue could come to a head as advances in technology bring more out-of-school behavior issues to light.”

Meanwhile, the students who posted the pictures of themselves in lingerie are probably wondering what went wrong with the privacy controls they had set “so only those designated as friends could view them.”  Meanwhile Professor Palfrey says, “‘Privacy on social networking sites is an illusion, even if strict privacy controls are set.'” Wait, BoardBuzzz is scratching its little bee head.  You mean privacy settings do really provide, er, privacy?  Say what? BoardBuzz thinks it’s high time someone started telling our youngsters that social networking is more than just a toy.  Yeah, it’s fun.  Yeah, it helps us connect. But, now we can connect with many more people at once.  And, unlike speaking a word, when you speak on social networking sites, it’s in writing!

Christina Gordon|November 2nd, 2009|Categories: Educational Technology, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Parents more comfortable talking about drugs than science

According to a recent Intel Corporation survey, parents are more comfortable talking about drug abuse than math and science with their children. Despite a perceived importance of math and science for success, and an overwhelming willingness to be involved, the survey results reveal that parents, particularly those of teenagers, often find themselves with little more understanding of these subjects than their children and without the necessary resources to bridge this gap.

A strong background in math and science is increasingly critical for American prosperity in a global economy. But just last week the National Assessment of Educational Progress report stated that less than 40 percent of fourth- and eighth-graders are proficient in math. The Intel survey makes the point that parents must play a pivotal role in education and inspire their children to take an interest in math and science, and Intel hopes to provide resources to assist in doing so.

Some key points from the survey:

  • Despite recognizing the importance of math and science, parents say they are uncomfortable addressing these subjects with their children. More than 50 percent (53 percent) of parents of teenagers admit that they have trouble helping their children with math and science homework. Parents of high school students are also more likely than parents of younger kids to express disappointment in their own ability to help their child with these subjects.
  • Nearly a quarter of parents (23 percent) who admit to being less involved in their child’s math and science education than they would like say their own lack of knowledge in these subjects is a key barrier.
  • Another 26 percent of parents who are less involved than they would like wish there was a one-stop shop with materials to refresh their existing, but unused math and science knowledge so they can better help their kids.

The survey also found that our schools are falling short of parents’ expectations, with nearly 9 in 10 parents saying they believe the U.S. lags behind other countries in math and science, even though 98 percent of parents say these subjects are critical to America’s future.

Parents clearly want to be part of the solution. Ninety-one (91) percent of parents believe parental involvement is crucial to their children’s academic success, with nearly 9 in 10 (89 percent) saying that talking to their children about the importance of math and science in the real world would help improve their children’s performance and interest. BoardBuzz wholeheartedly agrees.

To learn more about the Intel Education Initiative, visit To join Intel’s community of people sharing their stories with the hope of becoming a catalyst for action and a voice for change in global education, visit

Erin Walsh|November 2nd, 2009|Categories: Educational Technology, STEM Education, Student Achievement, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

School health and cultural differences: meeting the challenge

As the holidays near, BoardBuzz likes to reflect on the “cornucopia” that is the American student population.  Without a doubt, the cultural diversity of American students is a great asset.  However, effectively accommodating the wide variety of social, religious, and cultural beliefs of students and their families in the school environment is extremely challenging.  This is particularly true for efforts aimed at improving physical activity and nutrition, when cultural beliefs about food, weight, and leisure time may present barriers to effective communication and collaboration with parents, students, and others in the community.

But never fear!  A new field report from Action for Healthy Kids presents several success stories and lessons learned that schools and communities can apply to help bridge the cultural divide.

The report, Lessons for Engaging Diverse Communities to Create Healthy Schools and Kids, showcases successful strategies employed by Action for Healthy Kids state teams in Utah, New York, New Jersey, Idaho, and South Carolina to understand the unique challenges facing diverse schools and communities, communicate in culturally meaningful ways, and use culturally-competent methods to engage parents and other key community stakeholders.   The report also provides lessons learned, tips and techniques for improving the cultural sensitivity and increasing the relevance of childhood obesity and wellness initiatives. 

Cultural competency is important in addressing a wide variety of school health topics, not just obesity.  To learn more about disparities and addressing cultural differences in school health, check out NSBA’s School Health Issues in Communities of Color “101” packet.

Has your district found a way to bridge the cultural divide, particularly around school health issues?  Let us know about it!

Erin Walsh|October 30th, 2009|Categories: Wellness, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Raising an internet-savvy child

October is about to come to a close, and since it is National Cyber Security Awareness Month BoardBuzz thought we’d end the month by mentioning an excellent piece about teaching your child to be internet-savvy from the get-go.

Wired’s Geekdad has recently had a series of guest posts by Adam Rosenberg, New Media Manager, Center for Democracy & Technology, and The First E-Mail Address: Raising an Internet-Savvy Child certainly caught our attention. Here are some key points, but we suggest you check out the full article:

  1. The never talk to strangers rule is still true online.
  2. Treat your e-mail address like any other piece of property.
  3. Read every form you fill out during sign-up, including the privacy policy.
  4. Do not give out personal information without permission.
  5. Keep an open dialogue with your children about their internet usage and whom they talk to.
Erin Walsh|October 30th, 2009|Categories: Educational Technology, Student Achievement, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Differences in state standards

BoardBuzz just checked out this post over at The Edifier about a report that was just released by the Department of Education that compared each state’s standard for proficiency on their state assessments. The report shows that what each state considers proficient varies from state to state. BoardBuzz is certain that some will use this report to argue for national standards, Gadfly I’m looking at you, but Edifier makes a good point. What matters most is if the standards meet the needs of their students and not necessarily if they are the highest. Each state has their own needs and the variation in state standards may just reflect this fact. For example, what students need to know and be able to do in Michigan may be a whole lot different than what students need to know and be able to do in Hawaii.

So before we get too excited over one report and rush into creating national standards, lets take a breath and determine whether each state asks enough of their students so they leave high school prepared for life after high school. If so, we could use our time and energy to actually help schools improve rather than spent arguing over national standards.

To learn more about the national standards debate check out the Center for Public Education’s A new national conversation on national standards? and for more information on NAEP achievement levels check out the Center’s The proficiency debate: A guide to NAEP achievement levels.

Jim Hull|October 30th, 2009|Categories: Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Student involvement, indeed!

BoardBuzz loves to see students getting involved in their own education.  And we have a real soft spot for student school board members.  So we were really pleased with this video that NSBA put together after interviewing student school board leaders at the NSBA Conference in April.  Check it out and see what these outstanding kids think about democracy and civic engagement.  We’re sure you’ll be as impressed as we are! 


For more information about how you can get involved in your school board, to learn how to be a better board member, or for learning opportunities, check out NSBA’s Annual Conference website.  We hope to see you in Chicago!

Christina Gordon|October 27th, 2009|Categories: School Boards, Student Achievement, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

School board governance

Yesterday’s Education Week online chat featuring Anne Bryant was full of really rich content.  Bryant and her co-chatter, Carey Harris of A+ Schools touched on a number of really interesting topics. 

Amy Hetzner: Here in Milwaukee, there is a debate over whether the mayor should be given the power to appoint the next superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools. In your opinion does this, as the school board members contend, amount to control over the school system? In what ways can school boards in cities where the superintendent is appointed by the mayor still remain relevant and responsive to their constituents?  Thanks.

Anne Bryant: Amy, you’ve asked an important question. Namely, what is more effective: school board or mayoral control. In cities like Milwaukee, there is in fact a new and vibrant school board who is more than ready to make dramatic changes in the Milwaukee schools. They need the support of the mayor, because the mayor can bring resources, other city partners, businesses, and community organizations to the table…to benefit our kids. The mayor alone does not have the expertise, the time, or in many cases the political stomach for running the school district. The mayor must be accountable to so many different forces and people that we question whether he or she can truly be the leader for all of the public schools in the city. There is just not the access to the mayor that there is to an elected board.

To check out more of the chat and learn about school governance, click here to see the transcript.

Christina Gordon|October 23rd, 2009|Categories: School Boards, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|
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