Articles in the Diversity category

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: , |

At international technology conference, NSBA discusses potential to improve U.S. schools

Ann Flynn, Director of Education Technology for the National School Boards Association, was invited to participate in the recent World Innovation Summit for Education, known as the WISE conference, in Doha, Qatar. This is the second time Flynn has been invited by the Qatar Royal Family to participate in the initiative by the Qatar Foundation. In this video, she describes her experience, the potential of technology to improve the U.S. education system, and the plights of countries with far fewer resources than the U.S.

Joetta Sack-Min|December 9th, 2013|Categories: Conferences and Events, Diversity, Educational Technology, Governance, Leadership, Online learning, STEM Education, Technology Leadership Network, Uncategorized|Tags: , , , |

Schools reversing Zero Tolerance policies

It was called the “broken windows” theory, and it shows — quite tragically, in some cases — how taking a social policy that might make sense in one context and applying it to another can have disastrous consequences.

The theory, popular with police departments and big-city mayors in the 1980s and 1990s, was that if police ignored petty crime – the broken windows of a neighborhood – these incidents would grow to create a climate where more serious crimes would occur.

Was the policy successful? That depends on whom you talk to. But big problems resulted when it was applied to the public schools.

“Some of the same crime policies filtered into the school system,” said Dwanna Nicole, Policy Advocate for the Advancement’s Project’s Ending the Schoolhouse to Jailhouse Track Program, who gave a webinar Thursday sponsored by her organization and NSBA’s National Black Caucus of School Board Members.

That policy, also spurred by the Columbine shootings and a mistaken fear that youth violence was increasing, has spawned the kind of zero tolerance policies that have resulted in huge spikes in the number of suspensions and expulsions for all students, but particularly for African-American and Hispanics students, students with disabilities, and gay students.

Now, however, in places like Denver, Buffalo, N.Y., and Broward County, Fla., those numbers are starting to turn around as more school districts embrace discipline polices that put the long-term needs of students first. The Denver Public Schools now have one of the most progressive discipline codes in the nation, Nicole said. This has been augmented by a recent state Smart School Discipline law and a brokered Memorandum of Understanding between law enforcement agencies and the school district.

While black students in Denver are still suspended at greater rates than whites, these numbers are going down. In 2010-2011 86 percent of black students did not have out-of-school suspensions. By 2012-13, 90 percent had no  suspensions.  Attendance rates for black and Hispanic students have also increased steadily since 2008.

Districts such as Denver are explicitly addressing racial disparities in suspensions, expulsions, and other forms of discipline and collecting better discipline records, Nicole said.

Lawrence Hardy|December 6th, 2013|Categories: Bullying, Data Driven Decision Making, Discipline, Diversity, Dropout Prevention, High Schools, School Climate, Uncategorized|Tags: , , , |

CABE leader: Mandela’s life holds important lessons on education

Robert Rader, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE), penned this commentary on South African leader Nelson Mandela, who died Dec. 5, 2013, at age 95.

The revered Nobel Peace Prize winner, former leader of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, died yesterday as I write this. His is a story for all of us, from militant leader of the African National Congress and its military wing to long-term prisoner to the first democratically elected president of his nation and to world’s statesman.

But, in that biography, there are lessons for all of us about courage, commitment, communications and compromise. And, yes, about education.

His death holds special significance for me. As you might know, my wife, Megan, was born in South Africa and much of her family still lives there. We visited two years ago and plan to return this summer. I have watched through their eyes this amazing history.

I first went to South Africa in 1980, when Megan and I got married. Apartheid, the separation of the races, was still the law. We were shielded from seeing the worst of this abhorrent system, since whites were not allowed to go into black areas, such as the sprawling city of Soweto.

But, in 2000, years after Mandela’s release from prison in the early 1990s and after he had retired from the presidency, we took a trip to Soweto where we saw his original home, small, yet comfortable, but we were aware that he had been arrested there. It was very moving to think that the man who become such a beloved statesman had lived so modestly.

When we visited in 2010, his 90th birthday was celebrated in the media with articles about Madiba—his clan name, which is used as a sign of respect and affection.

Mandela, who was hunted, brought to trial and convicted twice and spent 27 years in prison, originally on stark, bleak Robben Island, four miles off the coast of Capetown. Contrary to what people might think, he was not a man without anger after his release from prison. However, as Richard Stengel, former Time editor-in-chief and Mandela biographer stated, he knew he needed to hide the bitterness of having been taken away from his wife and children, able to meet with ONE person for 30 minutes ONCE a year and allowed to receive ONE letter every six months. If he was to lead the nation, he could not retaliate for the losses he and other African National Congress leaders and followers had suffered.

It would have torn his nation apart.

To me, this is one of the most amazing feats of “turning the other cheek” in history. Think about it: once he had power, instead of revenge, his government set up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission—in which whites who had tortured, killed and oppressed blacks, including those in the army or secret police, had to confess their sins. But, after that confession, they served no jail time, were not fined and were allowed to return home. No one was sent to Robben Island.

It is a tourist attraction today.

Mandela gave up his power after one term and even surrendered some authority to his successor before he left office. Like our own George Washington, he understood the need to prepare those who would come after him. He hated the idea of being a President for life, which he could have easily been. That alone is a model for others, especially in Africa, where this does not often happen.

Mandela on Education

In Mandela’s view, education was critical if the blacks of South Africa and others around the world were to thrive. He was an attorney, his legal training at the University of Witwatersrand. Could you imagine what courage that took, especially as he was taunted with epithets and other indignities?

While on Robben Island, this remarkable man learned Afrikaans, the language of his oppressors and studied their thinking and their culture. He felt he had to do this in order to understand his enemies. He became a master of emotional intelligence, able to put himself in the shoes of his jailers.

Thus, the remarkable turning point of getting the support of the whites of Africa came when he emerged from a tunnel into a bright rugby stadium wearing the shirt of the Springboks, the symbol of white South Africa Later captured beautifully in “Invictus”). It was then that he showed in such a vivid way that he “got” it—that he understood the fear and anxiety that whites had in a country where they were suddenly without the power that they had all grown up with.

He spoke many times about education. It was his belief that “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” He urged his people to” make every home, every shack or rickety structure a centre of learning”.

The South Africa of today is still a nation with many challenges. When we were last there, we had the chance to visit two schools in the suburbs of Johannesburg.

In a private school, the children had easy access to computers, the rooms had all the supplies the teachers needed and there was a feeling of optimism among those we talked to.

The public schools are dependent on federal funding, which just covers the basics. There was no music, art or athletics in the school we visited, because these are paid for by the community. It was 100 percent black, and though there were caring administrators, there were no supplies in the laboratories and little else that we would take for granted in our country.

That is not a recipe for long-term success for either the students or the nation. But, Mandela’s greatest characteristic might have been his ability to dream of a better future under even ghastly pressure. What he left to his nation, the children in that public school and to us, is the lesson that perseverance, a strong moral compass and the ability to understand and work with others can lead to unheard of success.

For most people, this is the type of legacy that is rarely within a person’s reach. But, even accomplishing a piece of it, whether through our daily lives, our service to others or our willingness to live up to our dreams and, as Lincoln would say, the better angels of our nature, we can help make this a better world for those who come after us.

Goodbye, Madiba. And, thank you.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|December 6th, 2013|Categories: Diversity, Governance, Leadership, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, State School Boards Associations, Student Achievement|Tags: , , |

NSBA’s National Black Caucus hosts Dec. 5 webinar on school-to-prison pipeline

The National Black Caucus of School Board Members (NBC) will present a webinar on the “school to prison pipeline,” a disturbing national trend where children are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. The webinar will be held from 3 to 4:30 p.m. EST on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013.NBCclip_image001

Many of these children have learning disabilities or histories of poverty, abuse or neglect, and would benefit from additional educational and counseling services. Instead, they are isolated, punished and pushed out, according to the NBC.  The unintended consequences of “zero-tolerance” policies have led to the criminalization of minor infractions of school rules.  Students of color are especially vulnerable to push-out trends and the discriminatory application of discipline.

This webinar will outline the history of zero tolerance policies and how they led to the creation of the school-to-prison pipeline. It will also examine the impact that the school-to-prison pipeline is having on students, school districts, cities, and states throughout the country. And finally, the work that school districts are doing to address this issue will be highlighted and discussed.

NBC is presenting the event with the Advancement Project, a multi-generational civil rights organization. NBC is one of three caucuses within the National School Boards Association (NSBA) that is devoted to promoting and advancing equitable educational access and opportunities for African-American children.

Participants may attend the event online through this weblink, or by calling (619) 550-0003. The access code and meeting ID is 692-228-865.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|December 2nd, 2013|Categories: Bullying, Conferences and Events, Discipline, Diversity, Dropout Prevention, Multimedia and Webinars, Policy Formation, Urban Schools|Tags: |

U.S. students doing quite well compared to international peers, CPE director writes

Even though the United States does not rank number one—or even close—in subjects on international tests, that doesn’t mean that our schools are failing, Patte Barth, director of the National School Boards Association’s Center for Public Education, writes in an online column for the Huffington Post.

In “The Kids are All Right-er,” Barth analyzes recent international test results to show that U.S. students, particularly in the early years, are doing quite well. It’s adults, actually, who really could use some improvement.

“In many ways, the popular storyline that U.S. students get crushed in international comparisons is a distortion of the actual record,” she writes. “Truth is, our fourth- and eighth-graders consistently score above average, and do especially well in reading and science. Even our high school students are slightly above average in those subjects, falling below in math only.”

She notes that the recent NAEP-TIMSS Linking Study also found that if Massachusetts and Vermont were their own countries, they would stand with the highest-achieving nations.

Read more of her analysis in the Huffington Post.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|November 12th, 2013|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Assessment, Center for Public Education, Curriculum, Diversity, Mathematics Education, Policy Formation, STEM Education, Student Achievement|Tags: , , |

NSBA, AASA back Employment Non-Discrimination Act in U.S. Senate

A bill that passed the U.S. Senate barring workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity has been strongly supported by NSBA and AASA: The School Superintendents Association.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) passed the Senate today by a 64 to 32 vote.

In a Nov. 1 letter to each senator, NSBA and AASA noted that they “have long prioritized the elimination of discrimination in schools, for both students and employees.”

“By voting to support ENDA, you will affirm and strengthen the American ideal that individual employees are hired, evaluated and promoted on the basis of their ability to perform their job, and not an arbitrary act of prejudice or discrimination,” said the letter, which was signed by AASA Associate Executive Director Noelle Ellerson and NSBA Associate Executive Director Michael A. Resnick.

While the bill passed the Senate easily, it confronts a tougher road in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, which includes many social conservatives who are opposed to the measure, the Washington Post said. But for the moment, those in the Senate majority could celebrate an historic vote.

“Let freedom ring,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, the bill’s chief sponsor, before the vote.

Lawrence Hardy|November 7th, 2013|Categories: Bullying, Diversity, Federal Advocacy, Public Advocacy|
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