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Articles in the NSBA Opinions and Analysis category

Late graduates to be counted

Note: This entry was orignially posted on National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Center for Public Education’s blog The Edifier.

It took awhile but states will finally be able to count those students who take longer than four years to earn a high school diploma (late graduates) as graduates through a common graduation rate formula that all states must use starting this summer. NSBA has been fighting for this change ever since the Center released its Better Late Than Never: Examining late high school graduates report over two and half years ago which showed that late graduate’s were more successful after high school in terms of earning a college degree, finding a good job, civic engagement and living healthier than those students who earned a GED or never earned a high school credential. As a matter for fact, late graduates’ postsecondary outcomes outcomes did not differ much from those students who graduated on-time. So there was little reason why late graduates shouldn’t have been counted as graduates.

The adoption of the common rate enables states to report an extended-year rate which would include late graduates that are currently not counted in most state gradation rates. In a press release announcing the common rate the U.S. Department of Education declared:

States may also opt to use an extended-year adjusted cohort, allowing states, districts and schools to account for students who complete high school in more than four years.

Moreover, in the release Secretary Arne Duncan stated that a common rate “…will also encourage states to account for students who need more than four years to earn a diploma.”

This is a major step forward in giving districts credit where credit is due by counting all students who earn a standard high school diploma as graduates not just those who earn a diploma in four years. However, how districts get credit, if any, for their late graduates under Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) / No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and most state accountability systems is still unclear. Hopefully Congress will reauthorize ESEA soon and put into law that indeed late graduates are graduates even for accountability sake.

Jim Hull|July 29th, 2011|Categories: High Schools, Center for Public Education, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Student Achievement, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Reports|Tags: , , , , , , |

Is being a school board member more than a volunteer role?

BoardBuzz likes The Seattle Times editorial columnist Lynne K. Varner’s piece this week on the need for school board members in Seattle to be paid. In  “Time to pay school board members,” Varner noted:  

Everyone should occasionally rethink closely held convictions. In this summer of watching Seattle School Board candidates on the political hustings, here’s mine: It is time to pay board members.

I mean a salary, not the current per diem capped at $4,800 a year. In the past, I bought into the notion that community service comes gratis. You don’t get paid for giving back.

That rule may still hold true in small, homogeneous districts. But those vying for a seat on Seattle’s School Board are seeking responsibility for a large, complex, billion-dollar enterprise. While district watchers can be like the proverbial blind men feeling different parts of an elephant — knowing everything about the trunk, little about the legs — board members must understand the whole.

But too often they don’t. I recently called on the public to send me questions for board candidates. The breadth and depth of queries underscored a public expectation that board members deeply immerse themselves in policy and personnel issues. I agree. But that’s more than a volunteer role.

Varner also cited research from the National School Board Association’s School Boards Circa 2010: Governance in the Accountability Era in her justification that Seattle school board members should be paid:

Most of the country’s 14,000 school districts offer only small allowances for meetings and travel. Seattle should join the growing number of large and urban districts shifting to salaried positions, captured in a report by the National School Boards Association.

Share your comments! Let us know if you agree with Varner’s analysis.

Alexis Rice|July 29th, 2011|Categories: School Boards, Board governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|Tags: , , , |

Denver pre-K program yields impressive results

BoardBuzz recently learned that the first children to participate in the Denver Pre-K Program (DPP) are now in third grade, and data from the Colorado Department of Education indicate that they are doing noticeably better than their predecessors.  How much better? Fifty-six percent of 3rd graders are reading at grade level – a 5 percent increase from last year, and the biggest single year gain in the history of Denver Public Schools (DPS).

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) was superintendent of DPS when the DPP was approved in 2006.  “The voters made a smart investment by passing a ground-breaking public policy initiative designed to increase Denver children’s access to and enrollment in high-quality preschool programs,” the Senator stated at a recent hearing on quality early education and care.

The DPP is open and voluntary for all Denver children in the last year of preschool before kindergarten.  Nearly 6,000 children benefit from the tuition credit program, and most (60 percent) receive pre-k services from Denver Public Schools. The rest receive services from center-based and home care.

“In just the few short years of its existence, DPP has made good on its mandate, growing quickly to become one of the highest enrolled preschool programs in the country.” Bennet said. “I hope we can find additional ways to replicate this kind of successful effort.”

BoardBuzz knows that public schools are important in the delivery system for pre-K instruction.  Local school boards are uniquely positioned to lead, plan, and support early learning collaborations throughout the community to eliminate achievement gaps and improve school readiness and transitions to K–12 education settings.

Learn more about federal policy for investing in early childhood education on the NSBA website.  In addition, the Center for Public Education has videos, a Toolkit for School Boards and many other resources for school boards interested in pre-K collaboration.

Lucy Gettman|July 22nd, 2011|Categories: Curriculum, School Boards, Educational Legislation, Center for Public Education, Preschool Education, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Dropout Prevention, Leadership, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|Tags: , , , , |

Is NCLB leading to cheating?

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spoke out this week in The Washington Post on the recent standardized tests cheating scandals and noted that “testing and teaching are not at odds.”

But could No Child Left Behind (NCLB) be to blame on these high profile cheating scandals?

As Duncan noted “Now as NCLB’s deadline for 100-percent proficiency approaches and performance goals grow steeper, we learn of egregious, systemic cheating in Atlanta and suspected cheating elsewhere.”

Duncan stated that “poorly designed laws” are “part of the problem” and that “NCLB has created the wrong incentives for boosting student achievement.”

Duncan promoted the need for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and stated “we are working with Congress to fix the law by instead measuring individual student growth against college and career-ready standards.”

BoardBuzz thinks it’s time Congress moves forward on ESEA, but wonders when that will happen. Instead as the 2011-2012 school year is about to begin shortly, schools are stuck with a flawed accountability system.

Alexis Rice|July 21st, 2011|Categories: Teachers, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Urban Schools, Student Achievement, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|Tags: , , , , |

NAEP results: students’ history knowledge in need of improvement

Earlier this week, the 2010 NAEP U.S. History results were released for our 4th, 8th, and 12th graders. Overall, the results were not very encouraging especially at the 12th grade level. Our 8th graders have made some progress over the past decade but overall scores at the 4th and 12th grade levels remained relatively unchanged. However, as Jim Hull over at The Edifier points out, Black and Hispanic students have made tremendous progress since the mid-90’s at both the 4th and 8th grade levels.

Yet, besides these bright spots yesterday’s report point out our students are lacking in their knowledge of this nation’s history. That, as the New York Times argues, there needs to be a renewed focus on history. The first step in doing so is for Congress to reauthorize ESEA so schools aren’t judged on math and reading alone. BoardBuzz is excited to hear Secretary Duncan signal there is regulatory relief for school districts if Congress doesn’t act this summer. Hopefully this will push Congress to develop a fair and constructive federal accountability system that values the importance of all subjects.

 For a full summary of the NEAP results check out NSBA’s Center for Public Education’s blog The Edifier. Also, for more information on what NAEP results really mean check out The Center’s The Proficiency Debate: A guide to NAEP Achievement Levels.

Jim Hull|June 16th, 2011|Categories: Elementary and Secondary Education Act, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Center for Public Education Update, Reports|

Are charter start-ups succeeding?

Over at the Flypaper Mike Petrilli claimed that Charter Start-Ups are 4-Times as Likely to Succeed than District Turnarounds* (Note Big Asterisk). He bases this claim on an analysis Dr. David Stuit conducted for the Fordham Institute.

Although Petrilli was transparent about the fact that the analysis has significant shortcomings by placing “big asterisk” in the title, it didn’t dissuade him from recommending taking away hundreds of millions of dollars from low-performing and many cases severely disadvantaged traditional public schools and giving them to charter schools. 

Petrilli states:

“It is screwy for federal tax payers to spend 12 times as much on school turnarounds ($3 billion) as charter start-ups ($250 million) when the latter appear to be four times more likely to succeed than the former. Team Obama want to fix that?”

A quick look at the analysis gives pause to whether indeed charter start-ups should be expanded as an alternative to turnaround traditional public schools.

Shortcomings of the Analysis

The analysis is based on a small sample of schools

  • Only 81 pairs of low-performing traditional public schools and charter school startups were found across the ten large states.
  • Of the 81 pairs, only 19 schools (15 charter and 4 traditional public schools were found to be “successful.”
  • These pairs were not necessarily representative of schools nationwide.  

Differences in “success” rates were not statistically significant

  • That is, the difference in success rates may have happened by chance, rather than differences in actual effectiveness.
  • Because of the small sample size it was not possible to determine with any confidence whether there was any true difference in success rates. 
  • There is even less statistical confidence that charter school start-ups are four times more likely to succeed than low-performing traditional public schools.

The analysis only examined the success of low-performing traditional public schools where charter schools were present.

  • The report ignores all other traditional public schools that may have turned around – specifically, many of those schools that received federal ‘turnaround’ funds Petrilli is recommending sending to charters instead.
  • It could be that low-performing traditional public schools have a greater success rate when a charter school is not located in their neighborhood. 

 The analysis did not examine whether the charter schools enrolled students of similar achievement.

  • In particular, the analysis did not explore whether charter school start-ups impeded low-performing traditional public schools from becoming ‘successes’ by enrolling their higher-performing students from the low-performing traditional public school.

The analysis neglects the fact that fewer than 1 in 5 charter schools are more effective than their neighboring traditional public school.

  • So expanding charters, even in areas where there are low-performing schools, is not necessarily the answer.

Finding that more charter start-ups is the answer neglects the fact that students will remain in traditional public schools.

Overall, the analysis tries to answer a very important question: What is the best way to turn around schools?  But its methodology has significant limitations. As such, Petrilli’s conclusion and recommendations are overblown. However, the analysis does provide the basis for future research on this topic that can more accurately answer the question, “What is a better use of resources, putting money in charter schools or turning around existing schools?” However, more sophisticated research techniques are needed to answer this very important question. In the meantime, research indicates charter start-ups may be more successful, but not with enough confidence to siphon hundreds of millions of dollars from disadvantaged traditional public schools.

For more information about charter schools check out the Center for Public Education’s Charter Schools: Finding out the Facts.

Jim Hull|June 10th, 2011|Categories: Charter Schools, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Center for Public Education Update|

Schools starting to get the credit they deserve

NSBA’s Center for Public Education was ahead of its time.

When they released their “Better Late than Never” report few policymakers especially at the state and federal levels, talked about giving credit to schools for those students who took longer than four years to graduate high school. However, thanks to the Center’s report along with NSBA’s Advocacy staff and the hard work by our state associations times are a changing. Some states are now recognizing what school board members have been advocating for,that schools should be given credit for all the students they graduate not just those who graduate within four years. As a matter of fact, according to the National Governors Association (NGA) 22 states now report late high school graduation rate, nine of which have been approved to count late high school graduates for federal accountability. And the good news is that NGA expects these numbers to increase as states collect additional years of data.

A webinar earlier this week by the American Youth Policy Forum provided an overview of what states are currently doing to give credit to schools for not giving up on those students who fall behind and sticking with them until they earned a standard high school diploma. This is an important step forward to ensure schools are given credit for doing the right thing, which is graduating their students even if it takes longer than four years.

However, many state accountability systems still basically count late high school graduates as dropouts simply because they needed extra time to complete the requirements to earn a standard high school diploma. This is despite the fact that the Center’s report shows that late high school graduates are more successful after high school than dropouts or even GED recipients. On the other hand, late graduates are nearly as successful after high school as their on-time graduating peers whether one judges success based on post-secondary education, employment, or civic engagement.

This is an important point to remember as the debate on the reauthorization of ESEA heats up. There are those who argue that giving credit to schools for late graduates lowers the expectations bar. However, late graduates are still expected to jump the same bar to earn a standard high school diploma as their classmates who graduated on-time, they just needed more time to do so. So BoardBuzz asks, is it really lowering the bar? Or does allowing students extra time to meet their graduation requirements better prepare them for life after high school? What do you think?

Jim Hull|April 29th, 2011|Categories: Governance, High Schools, Educational Legislation, Center for Public Education, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Intern at the Center for Public Education this summer

Looking for a real world experience conducting education research this summer? Then look no further. NSBA’s Center for Public Education (The Center) seeks an intern to work closely with the Center’s senior policy analyst in conducting education policy research. The Center is a national resource for accurate, timely, and credible information about public education and its importance to the well-being of our nation. The Center provides up-to-date research, data, and analysis on current education issues and explores ways to improve student achievement and engage public support for public schools.

Primary duties include: Conduct research for the Center’s next original research report as well as summarize findings of significant education reports on the Center’s blog, update the Center’s previous reports, and attend briefings/conferences in the Washington, DC area.

Job qualifications: A graduate or undergraduate student studying education policy, public policy, statistics, economics, or a related field. The student should also have a strong interest in education policy and research. Background in statistical packages such as SAS and SPSS is preferred but not required.

The internship begins in late May and concludes in August and requires a minimum of 10 to 15 hours a week. The internship is unpaid. However, the Center will work with your school to satisfy any requirements for you to receive course credit.

Send a cover letter, resume, and writing sample to: Jim Hull 1680 Duke Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 or e-mail to with the subject line Policy Research Intern. Please contact Jim Hull at 703-838-6758 or with any questions about the internship.

Jim Hull|April 19th, 2011|Categories: Governance, Center for Public Education, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Evaluating teachers on student performance

If you try to keep up with whether teachers should be evaluated based on their students’ performance by using value-added models your head is probably spinning from all the conflicting conclusions. On one hand, researchers say value-added results are too imprecise to accurately evaluate teachers. While on the other had, another group of researchers claim using value-added results are better than how we evaluate teachers now.

So what are school board members and other policymakers to make of these conflicting findings?

Well, a report released today by NSBA’s  Center for Public Education helps makes sense of it all even for the non-researcher. Their report– Building a Better Evaluation System: Can value-added models be used in evaluations? –delves into the limitations of current teacher evaluation systems as well as into the conflicting research on using student achievement to evaluate teachers to help school board members and other policymakers make more informed decisions on how to best evaluate teachers. The report came to these general conclusions:

  • Current teacher evaluation systems are lacking: Research shows that less than 1 percent of teachers nationwide earn ‘unsatisfactory’ ratings even though by all accounts more teachers fall into this category.
  • Value-added models have their flaws but they are better than what are in place now: Value-added results may misidentify some effective teachers as ineffective and vise versa but they are more accurate than the current system that identifies both effective and ineffective teachers as ‘satisfactory’.
  • Similar statistical measures are used effectively to evaluate employees in other industries: Other professionals are evaluated based on similarly imprecise statistical measures.
  • There are ways to improve value-added models: There are tools available to make value-added results more accurate such as averaging results over multiple years.
  • Multiples measures that include value-added results provide the fullest picture of a teacher’s actual effectiveness: Value-added measures should be just one tool in determining a teacher’s true effectiveness. Other measures of teachers effectiveness should also be used as part of  comprehensive evaluation system that is not only used for personnel decisions but to help all teaches improve as well.

Of course the report provides a wealth of information for school board members when considering including student results in evaluating teachers so be sure check out the full report on the Center’s website at

Jim Hull|April 1st, 2011|Categories: Governance, Teachers, Center for Public Education, Educational Research, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Abolish NCLB Now

The Concord Monitor had a great commentary piece in their Sunday paper titled, “Education reform is failing kids” and noted, “The Obama administration wants to reform No Child Left Behind. Reform, however, is not what this act needs. NCLB should be abolished.”

NSBA is urging Congress to act by summer to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and replace the flawed accountability requirements in No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

NSBA’s timetable for action was reinforced by recent remarks from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Duncan warned that, based on Department estimates, as many as 82 percent of U.S. public schools could fail to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in the 2011-12 school year—even in many schools that are exceeding previous achievement gains for their students. This year, 37 percent failed to meet the AYP benchmark.

“Although the intent of Congress was to improve academic achievement by all students, with particular emphasis on English language learners (ELL), students in poverty, and students with disabilities, the design of the current accountability framework in NCLB is seriously flawed,”said Michael A. Resnick, NSBA’s Associate Executive Director for Advocacy and Public Policy. “Further, when schools are identified as failing under this flawed system, the law then imposes a system of sanctions that is also flawed in terms of high cost, overbroad scope, and limited effectiveness in raising student achievement.”

Alexis Rice|March 28th, 2011|Categories: Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Student Achievement, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|
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