Articles in the Diversity category

NSBA calls for research, not mandates, to help public schools serve ELLs

The National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel participated in a National Roundtable on English Language Learners at the U.S. Department of Education this week, where he discussed the needs of students whose primary language is not English.

Gentzel emphasized the need for the federal government to focus on providing technical assistance and disseminating best practices rather than imposing new mandates on school districts.

“Changing demographics are affecting school districts of all sizes in every part of the country,” Gentzel said after the discussion, which included representatives of nearly a dozen national and statewide organizations, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and several other officials from the Department of Education.

The U.S. student population is growing in diversity, and about 10 percent of students are ELLs, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). In schools in southern and western states, more than half of students in prekindergarten through 12th grade were minorities, according to 2011 data from NCES. And that same year, the U.S. Census reported that, for the first time, the majority of children under one year old in the United States were minorities, which will further impact diversity in public schools.

To continue to meet the needs of these students, local school districts will require greater collaborative support from other federal, state and local state agencies to ensure these students and their families have the appropriate support to succeed.

Joetta Sack-Min|May 28th, 2014|Categories: Diversity, Educational Research, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs|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: , |

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: , , , , , |

NSBA calls for equity in education with the upcoming 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) honors the 60th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling by calling on America’s school boards, parents and communities to continue to ensure that public education is a right made available to all students on equal terms.

“The 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision catalyzed education reform and reminds us to be ever vigilant in challenging segregation to maintain a civil society,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “School boards believe that every child in America should be able to attend a great public school where they live—no exceptions, no excuses.”

The urgency of the 60th anniversary is that segregation is not an issue of yesteryear – it is a growing concern today. While the Brown v. Board decision made clear the inherent inequality of a separate educational system based on race, today the data show that many areas have been resegregating. NSBA is particularly concerned about the impact of resegregation for schools in underserved communities. Research shows that students learn more—both academically and socially—in settings where their peers may be of a different race and have different life experiences.

In a special report on the Brown decision, NSBA’s flagship magazine, American School Board Journal (ASBJ), reports that the number of schools with a minority enrollment above 90 percent has climbed precipitously. In a video segment, ASBJ shows the legacy of Brown and the challenges that the Pittsburgh school district currently faces in integrating its schools when most of its neighborhoods are highly segregated.

ASBJ also has created a timeline documenting major events and court cases involving racial issues in public education.

NSBA is encouraging public schools across the country to mark the anniversary with an appropriate ceremony and remembrance. Through a resolution issued by our Board of Directors on behalf of this nation’s 90,000 school board members, NSBA and its state associations are promoting district-level activity that activates students’ personal commitment to democracy and recognizes the contributions of civil rights leaders.

NSBA’s Council of Urban Boards of Education also is commemorating this important anniversary with a year-long focus on special programming focusing on excellence, equity, and unity to advance urban education.

“The mission of the National School Boards Association to advocate for equity and excellence remains ever-vigilant as we mark the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision,” said NSBA President Anne M. Byrne, a school board member from New York’s Nanuet Union Free School District. “School board leadership is essential to protect our public schools and demand that equitable funding and equitable resources be made available so that each child has the opportunity to achieve, no matter where they live.”

Alexis Rice|May 13th, 2014|Categories: CUBE, Diversity, Multimedia and Webinars, School Boards, School Climate|Tags: , , , |

U.S. Supreme Court affirmative action ruling hampers diversity policies, NSBA says

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is concerned that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action will embolden groups opposing diversity to push for state constitutional proposals that could restrict or invalidate local school board-initiated policies that help facilitate diversity in public schools.

By upholding a Michigan constitutional amendment that bans the use of racial preferences in college admissions, the Supreme Court’s decision in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action on April 22, could limit school districts from adopting diversity policies by prohibiting the consideration of race and other factors in public education.

“The academic goal of diversity benefits all students, not just racial or ethnic minorities,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “Diversity promotes student achievement both through improvement on standardized test scores in the short term and as preparation for participation in a pluralistic, democratic society.”

NSBA had urged the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down Michigan’s Constitutional amendment in an amicus brief in the Schuette case . NSBA argued that instead of protecting the rights of public school students, the ill-conceived Michigan amendment would limit students’ opportunities by interfering with local control of education and local school boards’ abilities to design voluntary policies promoting the academic benefits of diversity.

“These kinds of state constitutional amendments will limit the use of race and therefore greatly limit the ability of schools to implement diversity policies that work,” said NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón, Jr. “We are concerned that in places that pass these kinds of constitutional provisions, public schools that want to maintain diversity policies will have to show that there is specific, invidious, or aggravating injury to minorities in order for those policies to pass a constitutional test.”

Negrón noted that school diversity policies can still exist under the Schuette ruling as long as they comply with the 2007 Supreme Court ruling in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1, which stipulated that policies must be narrowly tailored to achieve academic benefits for all students.

Read more details about the ruling in NSBA’s Legal Clips.

Alexis Rice|April 23rd, 2014|Categories: Diversity, School Boards, School Law|Tags: , , , , , |

‘The Butler’ author tells the story of a patriot

In a gripping and surprising story about the origin of a gripping and surprising story, Washington Post reporter Wil Haygood told an audience at NSBA’s Annual Conference on Sunday how an encounter with three unhappy women in North Carolina led to his book about Eugene Allen, the black man who served eight presidents. Allen was the subject of the acclaimed movie, “The Butler.”

The story begins in North Carolina in 2008, Haygood told a luncheon meeting of the NSBA’s Black Caucus. After covering an appearance by Sen. Barack Obama, who was trailing Hillary Clinton by 10 percentage points in the fight for the Democratic Party nomination, he encountered three white women, all crying. One told him that “Daddy” had kicked her out of the house because they were supporting Obama.

At that moment, Haygood became convinced that Obama’s base of support was wider than anyone suspected, and that he would become the next president. Preparing to cover that historic election, Haygood began looking for someone for whom Obama’s victory would mean the most. He decided that person might be an African-American who had worked in the White House, preferably before passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

His calls to government sources turned up nothing. But a former White House employee who heard about his quest, third-hand, called him and gave him Allen’s name. Not knowing where else to start, Haygood opened the phone book. On the 57th call, Gene Allen answered and agreed to an interview.

Haygood’s visit to Allen’s home, now a Historic National Landmark, coincided with broadcast of “The Price is Right,” which Allen and his wife, Helene, insisted was the first priority for the morning. By the end of the day, though, Haygood had filled seven reporter’s notebooks and been admitted into the inner sanctum of the Allen’s home – the basement. The room was full of photos, letters from first ladies, and gifts from presidents from Truman to Reagan. There were also photos of Allen with celebrities including Ella Fitzgerald, Sammy Davis Jr., and Michael Jackson.

“I was stunned,” Haygood said. “I looked around in total silence. Then I said, ‘Mr. Allen, are you saying no one has ever written about this, your amazing life?’”

Allen replied, “Well, if you think I’m worthy, you’ll be the first.”

But in a twist, Haygood said he decided not to write the story. A couple of days after the interview, Helene died.

Haygood blamed himself. He wondered if his relentless questions and the disruption of his visit to the Allens’ quiet life had been too much stress for the 86-year-old woman.

But then Allen’s son, Charles, called. He said one sentence that liberated Allen from his guilt and freed him to tell Allen’s story.

He said, “My momma was waiting on your knock.”

So Haygood wrote the story of Eugene Allen, who worked as an underling in the White House from the era of segregation through the election of a black president. He was an associate producer of the movie.

What is it about Allen that made him such a beloved figure, once his story became known?

“He loved this country more than this country’s laws loved him,” Haygood said. “If you ask me, that’s the definition of a patriot.”

 

Eric D. Randall|April 6th, 2014|Categories: Diversity, NSBA Annual Conference 2014|Tags: , , , , |

U.S. Department of Education study shows racial disparities in school suspensions

A new study released by the Department of Education shows African-American students as young as preschoolers are more likely to be suspended than their white counterparts—a statistic that the National School Boards Association (NSBA) calls “unacceptable.”

According to the report, “Black students represent 16% of the [K-12] student population, but 32-42% of students suspended or expelled. In comparison, white students also represent a similar range of between 31-40% of students suspended or expelled, but they are 51% of the student population.”

Read the snapshot of the study.

Reggie Felton, NSBA’s interim associate executive director for federal advocacy and public policy deemed these rates “unacceptable” in an Associated Press story. Felton also brought up the NSBA’s awareness efforts and the importance of keeping students in school. NSBA has been working in local districts across the US to talk about the crisis in out-of-school suspensions, which are particularly harmful to students of color and students with special needs.

“Local school boards are addressing these issues in many states with elimination of zero tolerance policies and establishment of more effective policies,” Felton said.  “Local school boards also recognize the need to shift toward in-school suspension policies to ensure access to quality learning, even if students are removed from a specific classroom.”

Just last year, NSBA released a comprehensive policy guide for school boards addressing the out-of-school suspension crisis. The policy guide offers questions for policymakers, educators, and parents as well as case studies of capacity-building programs in districts where racial equity has been addressed.

As the NSBA report found in April 2013: “When students are forced to leave the school environment, they are denied an opportunity to learn. While overly harsh school discipline policies can affect all students, they have a disproportionate impact on students of color. Research shows that African American, Latino and Native American students, in particular, are far more likely to be suspended, expelled, and arrested than their white peers, even when accused of similar behavior.”

Read the policy guide: Addressing the Out-Of-School Suspension Crisis

 

Staff|March 21st, 2014|Categories: Discipline, Diversity, Dropout Prevention, Governance, High Schools, Legislative advocacy, Preschool Education|Tags: , |

NSBA highlights 60th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education decision

NSBA’s Board of Directors has unanimously approved a resolution commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education, saying it “has had a profound, significant, and beneficial impact on all aspects of life in the United States.”

While the historic decision repudiated the doctrine of “separate but equal” — ruling that separate educational systems, by their very nature, could not be equal — the board noted that “many areas of our nation are still struggling with the vestiges of segregation in American.”

The resolution was proposed by Frank Pugh, Director of NSBA’s Pacific Region, and enthusiastically endorsed by Board President David A. Pickler.

Pugh called the ruling the most important educational decision of the past 100 years and worthy of continued reflection as public schools strive to make a world-class education available to all children, regardless of such difference as race, income, and ethnicity.

“It’s good for school boards to recognize how history has created the type of schools that we have today that are open to everyone and are equitable to all,” Pugh said. At the same time, he added, “there is a lot of work to be done” to ensure that all children have the opportunity to succeed.

The resolution now goes to NSBA’s Delegate Assembly, which meets April 4 at the association’s 74th Annual Conference in New Orleans

The Board of Directors has asked state school boards associations and school districts to issue their own commemorations of the historic civil rights decision made on May 17, 1954, and its resolution “encourages direct student participation through essays, creative arts, lectures, research and writing, community projects, and other activities to foster personal commitment to democracy.”

 

Lawrence Hardy|February 20th, 2014|Categories: Diversity, NSBA Annual Conference 2014, State School Boards Associations|

Common Core poses opportunities, challenges for English Language Learners

Imagine you’re a student being asked to demonstrate a level of knowledge and critical thinking never before demanded of the vast majority of students in the United States. That is what assessments for the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) initiative are asking — or will soon ask — students to do in at least 46 states and the District of Columbia.

Now imagine you’re being asked to demonstrate this high level of learning and cognitive ability in a language different from the one you grew up with at home.  If you were, say, a native English speaker and were asked to do this in Europe or Latin America, would your high school French or Spanish suffice?

That’s a little what the growing population English language learners in this country is being ask to do.  And whether these students succeed or not is critical to our nation’s future.

“English language learners represent the future majority of our student population,” said Rose Aronson, executive director of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc.  (TESOL).  “So whether you come from a district where English language learners are already in large numbers, or from a district where their numbers are growing rapidly, you are directly affected.”

Aronson and Patte Barth, director of NBA’s Center for Public Education, spoke last week at a webinar, now archived, called The Common Core State Standards and English Language Learners: Challenges and Opportunities for Academic Success, which was sponsored by NSBA’s National Hispanic Caucus of School Board Members.

On the “opportunities” side, the CCSS sets the expectation that all students — including English Language Learners — will meet rigorous performance standards. And, because of this, Aronson said, “it has the potential to raise academic achievement of ELLs and close the achievement gap.”

In addition, “CCSS and NGSS [the Next Generation Science Standards] give us an opportunity to reassess our assumptions, instructional approaches, and polices related to the education of ELLs” and to strengthen the role of teachers of English as a Second Language (ESL).

Among the biggest challenges is ensuring that ELLs “acquire and use the academic language necessary to access the rigorous content demanded by the CCSS,” Aronson said. And there is the challenge of ensuring that all teachers are prepared to teach in the academic language that CCSS requires.

School boards have a big role to play regarding CCSS, Barth said. They can help all students succeed in this initiative by setting clear and high expectations, creating the conditions for success, holding the system accountable, creating the public will to success, and learning as a board team about CCSS and what it requires.

Lawrence Hardy|January 14th, 2014|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Assessment, Center for Public Education, Common Core State Standards, Curriculum, Diversity, Immigrants, Student Achievement, Uncategorized|Tags: , , , , |

NSBA: School board involvement critical to addressing discipline issues

The U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice have issued a four-part guide designed to address disparities in discipline practices and improve school climate. The guide, which includes data showing that minorities and students with disabilities are disproportionately affected by harsher punishments, is the first time the federal government has dealt with these issues through guidance.

Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director of the National School Boards Association (NSBA), responded to the guidance and noted that  local school board and community involvement is essential in addressing concerns of discipline and race.

“Our nation’s school boards share the Education and Justice departments’ concerns for ‘safe, inclusive and positive school climates,’ with zero tolerance for discriminatory practices in public schools,” he said. “NSBA is generally pleased with the documents’ emphasis on positive interventions, but it is vital to underscore that school discipline must acknowledge the various levels of resources available to public schools and communities. It is critical that the guidelines not impose any type of unfunded mandate on local public schools and not be misused as a loophole to fund private educational placements at taxpayer expense. A one-size fits all approach is not appropriate, since public schools, communities, and resources differ.”

Further, he added, “NSBA is concerned that part of the Education and Justice departments’ legal framework may constitute an expansive interpretation of the law. We are studying the agencies’ legal analysis and will likely issue further comment.  We invite the agencies to confer further with NSBA to ensure that guidelines released incorporate school boards’ perspective on these critical topics.”

The guide could be helpful to local school boards because it provides a detailed process of how the Education and Justice departments will approach investigations with respect to student discipline and race, he added.

On a related topic, NSBA released a report, “Addressing the Out-of-School Suspension Crisis: A Policy Guide for School Board Members,” in April 2013. The document examines discipline policies and the disproportionate impact on students of color. It recommends that school disciplinary measures should not be used to exclude students from school or deprive them of educational services, and suspensions should only be used as a last resort for school safety.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|January 9th, 2014|Categories: Discipline, Diversity, Dropout Prevention, Educational Research, Governance, School Climate, School Security|Tags: , |
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