Articles in the NSBA Opinions and Analysis category

H1N1: making sense of and preparing for it all…

BoardBuzz is pleased to say that NSBA has been at the forefront as school leaders prepare for the H1N1 (swine) flu pandemic which, according to experts, may worsen in the fall.  NSBA has been working closely with the CDC to make sure the most current information gets out to local school boards, and most recently, NSBA surveyed superintendents around the country to gather their opinions on having their schools serve as H1N1 vaccination locations. 

An Associated Press article that came out today mentions NSBA’s survey and describes how hundreds of schools are currently attentive to the government’s call to set up flu-shot clinics this fall.  According to the article, this could be the most widespread school vaccination effort since the days of polio.  Their review of swine flu planning suggests approximately three million students are in districts where officials want to offer the vaccine once available for shipping in mid-October.  The government’s premise for having these H1N1 flu clinics within schools is pretty simple: school-aged children have been highly affected by this virus and having them gathered in one place is easier than trying to get millions of them to go their doctors or local clinics to get vaccinated.  Also, children are known to spread viruses easily because of their close contact with people and rudimentary hygiene practices.    

The survey that NSBA conducted shows that three out of four school leaders would allow their schools to be used as sites for H1N1 virus vaccinations.  Only four of the 485 respondents from school districts would not allow their school facilities to be used.

There are, as BoardBuzz knows, some legitimate fears that come with offering such a vaccine within schools.  Some of the most common concerns cited by school officials in the survey included: liability issues; the safety or effectiveness of the vaccine itself; a belief that children should be vaccinated in health care providers’ offices; and lack of resources, such as staff and space.

But many school officials are expressing confidence in working with their state or local health departments, and Brenda Z. Greene, director of NSBA’s School Health Programs, believes that what’s driving superintendents’ willingness is a core belief that schools must do what’s in the best interest of the students.  She adds, however, that schools must plan ahead, such as for logistics.  For instance, at what time of the day would the vaccines be administered to kids? It seems like two doses of the H1N1 shot will have to be taken, about three weeks apart, and some schools may also be offering the seasonal flu shot at the same time.  Would having a vaccination clinic take time away from classroom activities?  Fifty-three percent of those surveyed by NSBA stated they would prefer a combination of during and after-school availability to administer the vaccines.

And once the decision is made to offer flu shots at school, there are still other issues to be worked out, like staffing – health professionals will need to administer shots and also check for any reactions to the vaccine.  In addition, not only must a parent sign a permission form, but someone needs to make sure it’s filled out correctly and matches up. 

Yes, there is a lot to think about and plan.  And it’s important to remember that hygiene practices, not vaccines come first and foremost: it is essential to teach kids to wash hands frequently and appropriately and to follow the new “in the sleeve” coughing and sneezing etiquette promulgated by the CDC.  There are also established mitigation and school closure guidelines that need to be followed whenever necessary. But BoardBuzz believes that with a concerted effort between schools, the local and federal governments, public health officials, the medical community, and with NSBA’s help, school located vaccinations for H1N1 will be readily managed and help benefit the health of students, the nation, and believe or not, the world (P.S.: This is a global pandemic and none of use wants to see another 1918 pandemic).

Daniela Espinosa|August 18th, 2009|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Wellness|

20 to Watch nominations still open

20-logoIt’s not too late to nominate an outstanding education technology leader for this year’s Twenty to Watch.  Do you know an emerging leader who is transforming education through their innovative application and approach to technology? 

NSBA’s “20 to Watch” search is underway again this year.  Twenty to Watch seeks to identify the next generation of leaders who reflect the spirit of creativity and collaboration while embracing the power of technology to enhance learning for students, inspire colleagues, transform operations, and engage communities.

The “20 to Watch” are exceptional leaders who will help define expectations for the role technology can play in the future.  The 20 technology leaders will be recognized at the general session at NSBA’s  T+L Conference, Oct. 28-30 in Denver.  Additionally, these 20 outstanding leaders will be showcased in future NSBA education technology publications and multimedia projects. To nominate a technology leader click here!

Colleen O'Brien|August 18th, 2009|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

That’s some uniform

BoardBuzz was astounded to discover (hat tip to Boing Boing) that a Belarusian textile company (their announcement is only available in Russian) has developed a special school uniform that protects kids from—get this—electromagnetic radiation emanating from their cellphones! Now that’s innovation! Guess it’s time to toss those old tin foil hats.

The uniform sports a dedicated pocket specifically designed for students’ cell phones. We’re guessing it has some magic lining that traps the “harmful” radiation. The government is apparently very excited about it—or maybe just the Ministry of Trade official who reportedly delivered the news.

Now you may be wondering where did BoardBuzz learn Russian? Or maybe you’re worried about our coffee addiction. But in the spirit of Friday, all we have to say is Za zdarou’e!

Erin Walsh|August 14th, 2009|Categories: Educational Technology, Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Student Achievement|

Urban districts recognized

Five urban districts will be recognized by the Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) in October in Austin.  The CUBE Annual Award for School Board Excellence is given out every year to a CUBE district that is working toward closing the achievement gap, has strong governance structure, a good community engagement strategy, and raising academic achievement.  This year, CUBE is recognizing Atlanta, Georgia and Broward County, Florida as finalists for the award, and giving special recognition to Wake County, North Carolina, Jefferson County, Kentucky, and Baltimore City, Maryland for demonstrating and dedication to diversity and progressive leadership, respectively (press release).

CUBE’s award is in its sixth year and prior winners include Boston, Norfolk, Hillsborough County, Florida, Houston, Miami-Dade, and Brownsville, Texas.  The award is a chance for districts to highlight the programs that are working well and the strides they governance team have made to serve the students in their community.  For more information on CUBE and the award, check out the web site.

Kevin Scott|August 14th, 2009|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards|

School Board News Today headlines this week

The unlikely trio is back, and they’re kicking off their U.S. tour today in Atlanta. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and civil rights activist Al Sharpton will be visiting several urban areas this fall to promote President Obama‘s reforms for urban schools, including an expansion of charter schools.

In other School Board News Today headlines this week, a new survey shows that teens aren’t shy about sharing their prescription drugs: one in five has given medications such as antibiotics and antihistamines to friends.

And, with the threat of an outbreak of the fast-spreading H1N1 virus, some school districts are rethinking rewards for perfect attendance. The Hillsborough County, Fla., school board voted this week to suspend its policy allowing high school students with good grades to skip exams if they have not missed any days of school, a common-sense move given that all health experts say students with any symptoms of the flu need to stay home.

And California officials announced the debut of the first ten online textbooks, part of a long-term plan to move to digital textbooks. But whether they’ll be used remains to be seen, as critics say they do not align to state standards and teachers need more training.

Check out these and all the education news each day at School Board News Today.

Joetta Sack-Min|August 14th, 2009|Categories: NSBA Opinions and Analysis, NSBA Publications|

Boston charter schools serve few disadvantaged

With the Administration placing a premium on expanding charter schools as part of the criteria for competitive economic stimulus funds, it is worth noting that no clear research has shown that charter schools – as an educational option – are superior than traditional public schools.  This article from the Boston Globe asked some critical  questions regarding performance of charter schools in relations to their student populations. 

“Are many charter schools achieving dazzling MCAS scores because of innovative teaching or because they enroll fewer disadvantaged students?” the article asked.

The article found that in many of the charter schools in Boston, which has a quarter of the state’s charter schools, English language learners made up less than four percent of students in all but one charter school, even though they represent almost a fifth of the students in the public school system.  When it comes to enrollments of students with disabilities, more than half the charter schools there were at least six percentage points below traditional school districts’ average of 21 percent.

The Globe analysis asked legitimate questions about how test scores could be affected by the makeup of student populations.  This is a good reminder that policymakers should not single out charter schools, or any one strategy,  as a magic reform tool.  The Administration’s position that states must encourage more charter schools by lifting enrollment caps or providing funding must also consider how the charter school is authorized and held accountable for student achievement.

NSBA supports charters that are authorized by the local school districts because such authorization will promote better coordination, sharing of resources and practices, accountability and a more comprehensive approach and support for education within the school system and the larger community.

Katherine Shek|August 13th, 2009|Categories: Educational Legislation, Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Preparing kids for the future through education and….STD tests?

BoardBuzz was intrigued by this  Washington Post article that shows that D.C. school officials are planning to offer tests for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) to all high school students in the coming school year.  And get this, it’s not something completely new.  The D.C. program will be an expansion of a pilot program, and the article states that school systems in New York, Chicago, New Orleans and Baltimore, among others, are either currently perform screening for STDs or are preparing to initiate a pilot program.  

The D.C. program was conducted last year at eight high schools and, alarmingly, revealed that 13 percent of about 3,000 students tested positive for an STD, mostly gonorrhea or chlamydia. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one million adolescents and young adults aged 10-24 years were reported to have chlamydia, gonorrhea, or syphilis in 2006.  And nearly a quarter of females aged 15-19 years had a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection during 2003-2004.

But why exactly are school systems doing this and is there real value to such a program?  First and foremost, addressing STDs plays a major role in curbing HIV infection.  How so? According to the CDC, individuals who are infected with STDs are at least two to five times more likely than uninfected individuals to acquire HIV infection if they are exposed to the virus through sexual contact. So in a city like D.C., which has the highest HIV rate in the nation, combating STDs is of utmost importance. 

In addition, schools house hundreds to thousands of students at a time, making it a strategic place to recruit teenagers, without the need to develop multimillion dollar campaigns to lure youth to go to clinics to get tested.   Moreover, STD testing in schools provides a unique opportunity to increase awareness of STDs and HIV among youth and teach them about the consequences of unprotected and too early sex. Yes, there are some drawbacks: kids might feel they are under the microscope and some parents might oppose such a program, which may cause concern for school officials.  But the Washington Post article relays that there has not been much community opposition.

In the end, BoardBuzz thinks it boils down to this:  What’s the point of schools preparing children for the future if they will not have a future because they were struck by a devastating and life-threatening disease such as AIDS? 

What do you think?  Should schools be testing kids for STDs? Leave us a comment.  And if you need helping navigating through such controversial issues, NSBA is here to help! NSBA’s School Health Programs website has several resources pertaining to the sexual health of youth and, if you would like to obtain more information on legal issues surrounding such programs, don’t forget to check out NSBA’s School Law website.

Daniela Espinosa|August 11th, 2009|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Wellness|

Don’t Tweet me, bro…

We can’t avoid it, it’s everywhere.  Social media, AKA Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other ways to tell the masses what you’re doing, where you are, and what you’re thinking.  Teachers and school districts have been using it to send messages out, replacing robo-calls and mass emails about closings or up to the minute happenings.  This posting from uber-blogger Alexander Russo over the weekend got our attention (and many other bloggers as well), mostly because it comes from the district that is recently being looked at as the national model.  Chicago is, like it or not, where much of the new federal policies are coming from because of the close ties to the city in the education world-perhaps that’s why this policy has us a bit befuddled.  Add to the mix that CPS recently praised an R&B singer with more than 75,000 Twitter followers and steamy lyrics as a role model who is helping get kids back to school this September, “He’s agreeing to help twitter many of our students back to school,” said Ron Huberman, Chicago Public Schools CEO.

The policy that caught Russo’s (and our) eye states that teachers in the district may not contact students in any way outside of the CPS email system or phone.  No Facebook or Twitter, and no sharing of cell phone numbers with students.  But what if the way to guide kids into making the right decisions is leading by example?  We all know that teachers, staff members, and others that tweet make mistakes and there’s a risk to putting something out there that you may regret later.  In other words, if you wouldn’t say it to their face, you probably shouldn’t make it your status on Facebook.  That’s just common sense, right?  It’s not like this is an entirely new issue, in fact BoardBuzz talked about this same topic almost exactly a year ago.

What other professions would squash innovation?  Can you think of other areas of the workforce where the boss would say, “reject new technology, embrace the past?”  Okay, maybe there are some areas out there that should reject new media, especially when it comes to safety.  Nobody wants their pilot or train operator on a cell phone tweeting about what’s for dinner, but there has to be some direction here.  It reeks of distrust.  In a way, school systems have to protect their employees and themselves by putting in policies like this one, but it also sends a message that says, “young teachers, we can’t trust you to do the right thing and not tweet with students.”  There has to be some middle ground, and we’re sure there are districts out there that are giving teachers some latitude to use Facebook and Twitter with students effectively.  Because if we reject these new technologies and ways of communicating, how will we ever embrace all the buzzworthy terms like “21st century learning?”

What’s your district doing in the face of new technology?  Leave a comment and tell us about it.

Kevin Scott|August 10th, 2009|Categories: Educational Technology, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards, Student Achievement, Teachers|

School Board News Today’s weekly wrap-up

Have you recently noticed more parents showing up to help out your schools? A new survey, featured in this USA Today article, shows the economy and the “Obama Effect” are spurring more parents, particularly African Americans, to volunteer in schools.

It’s the dog days of summer, but that doesn’t mean the education news has stopped. Some of this week’s headlines in School Board News Today:

  • After lengthy negotiations and more than a month after legislation that authorized mayoral control of New York City schools expired, the state senate finally voted to allow Mayor Michael Bloomberg to continue his reign.
  • The Los Angeles Unified School District reported some good news this week: its dropout rate declined 17 percent this year. District officials credit several reforms, including a program that finds and mentors at-risk students and the conversion of several large high schools into “clusters” of career academies.
  • And the Washington, D.C. school system announced plans to offer tests for STDs in all its high schools, after a pilot program found that many teens were infected.

Find these, more stories on schools preparing for swine flu, and all the week’s headlines in School Board News Today’s weekly wrap-up.

Joetta Sack-Min|August 7th, 2009|Categories: NSBA Opinions and Analysis, NSBA Publications|

H1N1 tools for schools

BoardBuzz has been watching what our friends at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have been up to this week to help schools be ready to deal with H1N1 (aka swine flu) as schools open.  Today, they closed out the week by issuing updated guidelines for schools, plus a communications toolkit that will give school officials a leg up in dealing with a potential outbreak of flu. Earlier in the week, CDC posted an online reporting system for collecting reports of school closures.  You can check out all the latest information at NSBA’s update on H1N1 resources for schools.   And CDC has told BoardBuzz that coming soon are guidelines for holding vaccination clinics in schools. Remember. You heard it here first.

In the meantime, remember that sneezing and coughing “etiquette” are important for stopping the spread of any airborne disease (as BoardBuzz shared with you earlier today). Just ask a kindergartener you know what you should do when you sneeze or cough. If you don’t know a kindergartener, take a look at another video we found on YouTube that shows you how to do it.

Christina Gordon|August 7th, 2009|Categories: NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Security, Wellness|
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