Articles in the Dropout Prevention category

NSBA’s 2013 Annual Conference to feature Geena Davis, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Diane Ravitch

Registration and housing for the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) 73rd Annual Conference, to be held April 13 to 15 in San Diego, is now open. Join more than 5,000 school board members and administrators for an event with hundreds of sessions, workshops, and exhibits that will help your school district programs and help you hone your leadership and management skills.

General Session speakers include Academy Award winning speaker Geena Davis, who will be speaking about her work off-screen as founder of the non-profit Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. Davis works with film and television creators to reduce gender stereotyping and increase the number of female characters in media targeted for children 11 and under. She will explain how media plays a key role in children’s development, and how her organization is making a difference.

Television star Neil deGrasse Tyson, one of the world’s most engaging and passionate science advocates, will headline Sunday’s General Session. From PBS to NASA to Presidential Commissions, organizations have depended on Tyson’s down-to-earth approach to astrophysics. He has been a frequent guest on “The Daily Show”, “The Colbert Report”, R”eal Time with Bill Maher”, and “Jeopardy!”. Tyson hopes to reach “all the people who never knew how much they’d love learning about space and science.”

Monday’s General Session features acclaimed researcher and author Diane Ravitch, who has become one of the most passionate voices for public schools. Her most recent book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, makes the case that public education today is in peril and offers a clear prescription for improving public schools.

Learn more about the common core standards, new research on differentiated learning styles, and teaching “unteachable” children at the Focus On lecture series. Learn about new technologies for your classrooms as part of the Technology + Learning programs.

Special discounted rates are available for early registrants who sign up by Jan. 10, 2013. NSBA National Affiliate and Technology Leadership Network Districts save even more.

View the conference brochure for more details. Be sure to check the Annual Conference website for updates and more information.

 

 

Report: High-level high school courses and school counseling boost college graduations

Taking high-level math in high school as well as Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses can have a dramatic impact on whether a student finishes college, according to a report released today from the National School Boards Association’s  Center for Public Education.

The “persistence rate” for students from above average socioeconomic backgrounds (SES) is 10 percent higher in four-year institutions if they had taken Pre-calculus or Calculus or math above Algebra II in high school. For low SES students, the effect is even greater: Those students who took higher level math are 22 percent more likely to persist in college. And the impact for both groups is even greater at two-year colleges.

In addition to AP, IB, and math classes, academic advising in college has a significant impact on a student’s propensity to stay in college, the report said.

“But we also believe that academic advising can be a great benefit when it starts earlier,” the report said. “Middle and high schools need enough counselors to monitor student progress so they can make sure all students are taking rigorous courses and have the support they need to be successful in them. Counselors also fill an important role in helping students plan for their futures after high school, including help choosing a post-secondary institution that best matches their goals, and navigating the college application and financial aid processes.”

Researchers project that by 2018, America will have produced 3 million fewer college graduates than the labor market demands. But that could be changed by better college outcomes, says Jim Hull, a senior policy analyst at the Center.

“If 90 percent of current freshmen continue and earn a credential, we would have an additional 3.8 million graduates by 2020, enough to meet the labor market’s needs,” Hull said. “This study points to clear-cut ways to help more students continue their work toward a degree, and that process begins in high school.”

Hull coauthored the report with lead researcher Kasey Klepfer, an Archer Graduate Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin.

The study identifies three main factors that affect postsecondary students’ chances of staying on track to graduation, particularly for students who enter high school behind most of their peers and who come from families with low socioeconomic status:

  • Academic advising:  For both four-year and two-year students, talking to an academic advisor in college either “sometimes” or “often” significantly improved their chances to persist. Students in two-year institutions increased their chances of staying on track by as much as 53 percent just by meeting frequently with their academic advisor.
  • High-level mathematics: Consistent with previous studies, the Center’s researchers found the highest level of math in high school can be one of the largest predictors of college success. The analysis found that more affluent students who began high school with above average achievement had a 10 percent better chance of staying at a four-year institution if they had taken Pre-calculus or Calculus instead of completing math up to Algebra II, while students from low-income families and lesser academic achievements were 22 percent more likely to persist if they had taken high-level math classes. The impact is greatest for students in two-year institutions:  The persistence rates of students who took Pre-Calculus or Calculus in high school increased by 18 percent for the higher wealth, higher performing group and 27 percent for the lower wealth, lower performing students than had they only completed up to Algebra II.
  • Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate courses:  Taking an AP/IB course had a dramatic effect on students’ chance of persisting even when students fail the end-of-course test. Low achieving and high poverty students who took an AP/IB course were 18 percent more likely to persist in four-year colleges and 30 percent more likely to persist in two-year institutions. The more courses a student took, the higher their persistence rates.
  • Other high school factors also impacted students’ persistence rates in college, including students’ grade point average and the amount of time spent on homework in high school.

The good news is that this study shows actions that school leaders can take to improve their graduates’ chances for success in college,” said Patte Barth, the Center’s director. “Rigorous high school curriculum is important for all students’ future success. And the value of academic advising in college tells us that high schools can get a jump on it by helping their students with their after high school plans.”

Barth added, “Opening these opportunities can have the most impact for students who have traditionally been the least likely to succeed in college — those from low-income families and those who began high school as low achievers.”

The report can be downloaded at the Center’s website: www.centerforpubliceducation.org.

Also check out the upcoming November issue of the  American School Board Journal where this issued will be featured.

Lawrence Hardy|October 11th, 2012|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Center for Public Education, Dropout Prevention, High Schools, Mathematics Education, Student Achievement, Student Engagement, Teachers|Tags: , , , , |

School leaders lack understanding of minority male students’ home lives, CUBE speaker says

How is it that an African-American student attending his high school graduation ceremony can feel depressed—overwhelmed by what the future holds and wondering why other students appear to be looking forward to college and the years ahead?

Why could this youth see no advantage in his success—and the opportunity to go to college—compared to students who enlisted in the military or entered the workforce?

There is a crippling power in the disconnect that exists between many African-American and Latino male students and their educational opportunities, David Heifer, executive director of Concentric Educational Solutions, told urban school leaders during a workshop Friday at the Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) conference in Atlanta.

In an hour-and-a-half discussion of strategies that schools can use to help young men of color, Heifer noted that these students often face challenges that undermine their confidence, discourage their hopes, and leave them frustrated and defensive.

Many of these challenges have their roots in the poverty, broken homes, drug abuse, and other social ills that exist in urban communities. But another part of the problem rests in the failure of urban educators to understand what these students are going through—and the failure of schools to provide the social and emotional support these young men need.

That’s the result of another disconnect—between students and the adults in their schools, he said. Teachers and principals don’t live in the same neighborhoods as their students, and they cannot really understand what’s happening in the lives of these students.

Instead, school leaders turn to data to try to make sense of what’s happening.

“We get caught up in numbers—the dropout rate, the truancy rate,” he said. “We skip right to solutions … then come back next year and try to come up with policies to figure out” how to do better.

It’s a dynamic that Heifer indicated he understood all too well. During his high school years, his father died of a heart attack, and as a grief-stricken youth, he began to act out—a troublemaker transferred to five different schools over the course of his senior year. He eventually was arrested 28 times and sent to prison.

With a little luck and the support of others, however, Heifer says he managed to turn his life around, earn his GED, attend college, and become a school principal. But he still recalls that, after his father’s death, not a single teacher or school counselor offered any condolences.

None of the adults in his school understood his pain—or recognized that there was an underlying reason for his dramatic change in behavior.

The story underscored Heiber’s argument that, if educators truly want to help their minority male students, they need to do a better job of understanding what’s going on in these students’ lives. There are a variety of ways to do that, but Heiber focused most of his comments one strategy—encouraging teachers to make home visits.

It’s a strategy that his nonprofit school-support organization encourages in the schools that it works with. In fact, he boasted, teachers at these schools have made more than 5,000 home visits in recent years.

Schools also can do more to strengthen “wrap-around services” for students, he suggested. “Students need their social-emotional support.”

What they don’t need, however, is “discipline policy that mimics the criminal justice system.”

Many school boards already have recognized the need to provide these supports. If a school board isn’t seeing results, however, the reason may lie with another common “disconnect”—between what the school board wants to happen and the actual practices taking place in schools.

“We come up with policies at the school board level, then we go to the schools … quite frankly, they don’t want to hear what you have to say.”

So school board members need to get out more—into their schools and, yes, even into their students’ homes—so they can better understand the dynamics at work in young men’s lives.

“You have to uncover it, and the only way to uncover it is to ask the hard questions,” Heifer said. “You’ve got to get dirty. You’ve got to get in there.”

 

Del Stover|October 8th, 2012|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Assessment, Board governance, CUBE, Data Driven Decision Making, Discipline, Diversity, Dropout Prevention, Educational Research, School Boards, School Reform, School Security|Tags: , , |

Hope and hardship in Maplewood, Mo. — in the 1930s and today

Editor’s note: The following piece was sent to NSBA staff by Senior Editor Lawrence Hardy, whose mother passed away on Sept. 12. A native Missourian, she was a graduate of Maplewood High School, near St. Louis.

My mother, Eleanor Collins Hardy, was born in 1916 in Kansas City but spent most of her early life in St. Louis. Her father, a civil engineer, died of tuberculosis when she was 3, and as a result, my grandmother had to struggle to support her and her older brother. Not able to afford their own place, they lived with my great grandmother and other relatives in what must have been a crowded apartment over a drug store in Maplewood, a close-in, working class suburb of St. Louis. My grandmother worked at the drug store with the pharmacist, another relative.   

While others certainly had it worse during the Great Depression — witness the homeless families living in “Hoovervilles,” the makeshift campsites that sprung up downtown along the Mississippi River — my Mom had to forgo a lot of material things. She loved music, but had to quit piano lessons when my grandmother could no longer afford them. When walking to school, she was instructed by my grandmother to walk on the grass, not on the sidewalk, so the soles of her shoes would last longer. When she graduated from high school in the early 1930s and my grandmother started talking about college, one indignant relative would respond: “Eleanor can’t go to college!” (presumably, because there was no money). And my grandmother, a wonderful, kind, and deeply religious woman, would say in a strong voice, “Eleanor’s going to college.”

She did go to college, too, earning an associate’s degree from William Woods College in Fulton, Mo.  In later years, my Mom would tire of my grandmother repeating that story, but its lesson meant so much to her — that with hard work and the support of others, they could find a way.

This summer, for a story on community Involvement for September’s ASBJ, I interviewed Linda Henke, the recently retired superintendent of the Maplewood Richmond-Heights (Mo.) School District. Maplewood, as you recall, was a Grand Prize Winner of this year’s Magna Awards for districts under 5,000 enrollment. They won for a most unusual initiative. Struck by the number of homeless boys in their small district – boys who tended to show up in Henke’s office after school (perhaps because of the crackers, peanut butter, and frozen dinners she kept there) – Henke and the school board decided not to wait for the city, or the state, or someone else to face the problem of homelessness in their community: they bought a house themselves, formed a coalition, and turned the house into a homeless shelter for teenage boys.

Henke, a truly buoyant personality, told me of how she was walking around Maplewood one day and saw the big yellow Victorian with the “For Sale” sign in front.

“I thought, ‘Wow,’ she recalled. “That must be the house we’re supposed to buy.’”

It was an audacious move that took courage, hard work, and quite a bit of faith. As of this summer, of the 14 boys enrolled in the program 13 have graduated or are on the graduation track. College, once out of the question, is no longer a fantasy.

I told Henke I that had a connection to St. Louis, to her still-working class town, and to the castle-like fortress, not far from her office, that is Maplewood High School.

“I grew up in St. Louis,” I said, “and my Mom graduated from Maplewood High.”

Lawrence Hardy|September 27th, 2012|Categories: American School Board Journal, Dropout Prevention, Homeless People|Tags: , , , |

In July’s ASBJ: An investment for a lifetime

What if I offered you a sure-fire investment that would pay $3 to as much as $16 for every dollar wagered? Would you think it was some kind of Ponzi scheme?

But wait! It gets better: This can’t-miss opportunity doesn’t just benefit you  — it benefits society.  We’re talking about preschool.  That $2 to $15 profit represents increased tax receipts over the lifetime of children who attended preschool, as well as reduced use of such things as social services, special education, juvenile detention centers, and prisons.

We don’t generally discuss raising our children in such crass commercial terms, but maybe we should. Because as I found out researching my July ASBJ story — Early Learning, Long-Term Benefits – all our sentimental talk about caring for children and their futures hasn’t spurred the nation into providing critical opportunities for many of its youngest and most vulnerable citizens.

According to the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers, state-level preschool funding fell by $145 per child last year and $700 per child over the past decade. Part of this is surely do to the poor economy over much of that period, but when that economy improves, as it must sooner or later, will the nation put up the kind of money it needs to match its rhetoric?

There are some positive signs. Throughout the country, forward-thinking school districts are putting new emphasis on the quality of their students’ lives before kindergarten. And they’re realizing that to be successful they don’t have to do this alone — indeed, that they must have the support of a wide community network, the creation of which promises dividends every bit as rich as the kind of numbers mentioned above.

For the July story, I visited one of these districts close to ASBJ’s home: the Montgomery County (Md.) Public Schools, a large, urban, highly diverse district where 90 percent of 12th graders graduate from high school and 77 percent of these graduates go to college.

Many other districts across the country that are doing the same thing and working to make preschool a seamless part of their now-PreK-12 curriculum.

You could say they’re doing it because “children or our future” or something equally heart-warming. Or you could just all it a smart investment.

Lawrence Hardy|July 13th, 2012|Categories: American School Board Journal, Curriculum, Dropout Prevention, Educational Research, Federal Programs, Preschool Education|Tags: , , |

Education technology: Game changer

Only four out of 10 ninth-graders today graduate from high school ready for college or the workplace—and it’s going to take a more thoughtful, strategic use of technology to change that equation.

That was the message of Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education, who spoke Sunday at NSBA’s Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C.

More attention must be paid to technology because limited financial resources and demographic trends are likely to force schools to hire fewer, younger, and less-experienced teachers in the years ahead, he said. Technology will prove a useful tool to help these teachers maximize their time and instructional effort.

But the promise of technology will only be kept if school leaders are smart about its use, Wise warned. Technology is not simply about adding laptops or Internet connections to classrooms.

“If you do that, you accomplish nothing but the spending of a lot of money,” he said. “What is required is a conscious strategy. When talking about districts where the technology is not working and large amounts of money were spent, you’re looking at a district that did not develop a conscious strategy beforehand.”

To emphasize his point, Wise showed his audience two slides: one of a classroom of a hundred students sitting in an amphitheater-style classroom with laptops in front of them; the other of a classroom where students were organized in small groups, with the teacher standing amidst half a dozen students, each working on their own laptop project.

The more intimate setting was the more reassuring, he noted. The scene suggested students were receiving personalized instruction. They were more engaged in individual instruction and advancing at their own pace, with an instructor available to answer questions, track individual student progress, and ready to step in when students faltered.

Any discussion of successful technology in schools won’t focus gadgets and software, he added. “It’s about the teaching, the pedagogy. We want technology to enhance teachers … We want technology matched with what teachers teach to allow them to do what couldn’t be done before.”

That’s going to take a lot of thoughtful planning—and school boards are just the entity to see that happen, Wise told conference attendees. One of the strengths of technology is that it can be adapted to variety of settings, and school boards are best positioned to determine what adaptations are needed for their school settings and student populations.

“During the next several years, the local school board will be the main agent for change,” Wise told School Board News after his presentation. “They will provide the innovation … school boards are where the rubber meets the road, and they’ll create the future education laboratories to help us find what works.”

Del Stover|February 5th, 2012|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Dropout Prevention, Educational Technology, Leadership Conference 2012|Tags: , , , , |

Successful community college/school partnerships

The importance of building partnerships was the centerpiece of Prince George’s Community College President Charlene M. Dukes’ presentation to attendees of the Council of Urban Boards of Education’s winter Issues Forum at NSBA’s Leadership Conference  on Saturday. And small wonder– strong alliances between the Maryland community college and its feeder school district have been the key to delivering innovative programs and opportunities to the students they both serve.

“The idea of partnering is nothing new. You partner with neighbors, churches, and communities to get things done,” Dukes said. But building partnerships to support education, upward mobility, and improved quality of life are what drives the work and shared goals of Prince George’s educators as well as those in the state.

“For the fourth year in a row, Education Week has named Maryland as number one for education,” Dukes said, referring to the annual Quality Counts report the publication produces that examines the current education landscape and where various states fall. “That doesn’t happen by chance.”

Dukes said every three weeks she has breakfast with Prince George’s County Public Schools Superintendent William Hite to vent, celebrate, and strategize.

“Dr. Hite and I want our students to see beyond the walls of school, beyond the boundaries of neighborhoods,” Dukes said. “We want them to see themselves as part of the world.”

One of the ways the two school systems are working to achieve that is through the Academy of Health Sciences at Prince George’s Community College, which opened in the fall of 2011 with 100 high school freshmen as the state’s first middle college.

As the name suggests, students who enroll in this program, which will eventually serve 400 low-income high school students, will graduate with a diploma and up to two years of college or an associate’s degree in the health sciences field.

“And it’s all free of charge to the students and their families because we were able to work in partnership as a school system and community college,” said Dukes. She explained to an audience eager to know how it was funded that some of the money comes from per-pupil expenditures the district gets from the state, but much of it comes from the college in the way of waived fees and free use of space.

Dukes said the program received 978 applications for the first class of freshmen. This time around, it received 4,000 applications for the freshman class.

“That tells you how hungry people are for something different in public education,” Dukes said. But it doesn’t stop there.

“In America, we’ve done a great job with access, with providing opportunities, but we have to do more to make sure that people make it out on the other end, that they reach their goals and walk across the stage with those academic credentials,” she said. “We have much work to do and we think we can do it together as boards of education.”

 

Naomi Dillon|February 4th, 2012|Categories: Dropout Prevention, Governance, High Schools, Leadership Conference 2012, School Boards, School Reform, Student Engagement, Urban Schools|Tags: , , , |

CPE report finds little research on fast-growing credit recovery courses

This much we know: Credit recovery– “a structured means for students to earn credit in order to graduate”–is becoming more common in high schools across the country, according to a new report from NSBA’s Center for Public Education. What we don’t know about the courses–which can be online, in person, or a mixture of the two–is, well, a lot. And that’s because the programs vary so much from district to district.

One certainty: Credit recovery is growing, representing $500 million out of a $2 billion digital education market, according to a 2010 study. The Center conducted the report in part to give school board members and the public more information and open a conversation about the related issues.

“Unfortunately, credit recovery is a subject where there are far more questions than there are answers,” the report says. “The wide variation in program structure could be a good thing, encouraging creative solutions to the dropout problem. However, since so little is known, we cannot identify what works and what doesn’t. Because the concept of credit recovery is so varied and its implementation so malleable, there is little sense of its impact and effectiveness, leaving many in education with questions.”

Among the most basic questions: Is credit recovery effective? On one hand, proponents argue that it allows struggling students a second chance in which they direct the pace of instruction. However, skeptics wonder how much students are learning and whether some districts use the programs simply to increase their graduation numbers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lawrence Hardy|January 26th, 2012|Categories: Center for Public Education, Dropout Prevention|

NSBA’ s president discusses school climate on Education Talk Radio

Mary Broderick, president of the National School Boards Association (NSBA), recently appeared on Education Talk Radio and discussed school climate and NSBA’s Students on Board initiative. Broderick talked about how school boards are addressing  and finding solutions to improve school climate.

Listen to internet radio with EduTalk on Blog Talk Radio


In August, Broderick discussed school climate on Comcast Newsmakers, check out the video.

Alexis Rice|November 8th, 2011|Categories: Arts Education, Bullying, Center for Public Education, Diversity, Dropout Prevention, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards, Student Achievement, Student Engagement, Teachers|Tags: , , |

Analysis: NBC learned its lesson with this Education Nation

Glenn Cook, American School Board Journal’s editor-in-chief, attended NBC’s Education Nation summit in New York for the second straight year. Here are his observations.

You can’t blame traditional public school advocates if they were filled with dread when NBC announced that Education Nation would return this fall. Last year the network bought into the hype surrounding the documentary “Waiting for Superman,” inexplicably tying the event to a flawed film that exhorted charters as the pancea for public education’s ills.

Thankfully, NBC has learned its lesson. This year’s event took pains to correct past wrongs as it recognized the complexities school leaders face in managing a public system that is open to all.

Starting with a screening of “American Teacher,” a documentary that helped erase some of the “bad teachers” taste left by “Superman,” and ending with an appearance by former President Bill Clinton, Education Nation featured a strong balance of heavy hitters from education, philanthropy, and politics.

You also had a touch of celebrity — basketball player Lebron James, actress Jennifer Garner, and what amounted to a family reunion with former Gov. Jeb Bush and First Lady Laura Bush participating in sessions — but in this case, it fit the overall tone.

The key word here is balance. Last year’s programming was flawed because it exhorted simple antidotes to complex problems. This year, silver bullets were nowhere to be found, but calls for more effective teaching and improvements to early education were.

You can watch many of the sessions online at www.educationnation.com, but here is my list of highlights:

• Start with “Brain Power: Why Early Learning Matters,” a fascinating hour-long session featuring Nancy Snyderman, NBC’s chief medical editor, and three university professors. Held on Monday morning, it was the best, most concise presentation I’ve seen yet on why we need to reach children much, much earlier than we do.

• The dramatic rise in poverty rates was a focus throughout, especially in the session “What’s in a Zip Code?” moderated by Brian Williams. Poverty is reality for many people in today’s economy — Clinton was eloquent on this topic in the closing session — and communities must come together to do more.

• Education Secretary Arne Duncan was everywhere this year, participating in interviews with Tom Brokaw and responding to questions during various panels (a nice touch).

• We saw an entertaining back and forth between Geoffrey Canada, founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone and Diane Ravitch, author and professor of education at New York University. Their approaches are so different, but both made excellent points. Canada and Sal Khan, another Education Nation speaker, are scheduled to keynote NSBA’s 2012 Annual Conference.

• Teacher and student accountability, as you might expect, was a recurring theme. Michelle Shearer, the current National Teacher of the Year from Maryland’s Urbana High School, said teachers “want to be evaluated on things that really matter.”

“There are all sorts of different ways of looking at student growth,” she said. “Whatever evaluation looks like in the end, it has to be a system of multiple measures, because often what’s most important are those intangibles … that are tough to put on a check list.”

• At the same session, Khaatim El, a former member of the Atlanta school board, addressed the cheating scandal that has plagued the district he served for almost a decade. “We wanted to be the hype,” he said of the allegations, which are based on the state assessments. “We wanted to be the first to get it right so bad.”

But El noted the district also made huge gains in NAEP scores during that time, an achievement untouched but overshadowed by the scandal. “I would be remiss if I didn’t point to the hard work that many educators put in,” he said. “We focused on the basics. Literacy instruction in elementary school. Autonomy for principals. We invested in professional development. Those things were overshadowed by the cheating scandal. And they were good things for kids.”

The setting for Education Nation was not perfect — the big tent in Rockefeller Plaza is a good idea in theory, but the humidity and poor audio were ever-present distractions. And while this year’s session was far more substantive, future years should stop belaboring the problems and focus instead on how to solve them. Panels featuring districts that have been successful at “what works,” with ideas and content that are easily imitated and replicated, would be a valuable start.

Chances are good that will happen. The National School Boards Association (NSBA) had a strong presence in the planning and execution of the meeting. Anne L. Bryant, our executive director, met with NBC officials about the content and answered audience questions in a video Q&A format prior to the event. Mary Broderick, NSBA’s president, was featured in a panel session with the mayors of Albuquerque, Baltimore, and Newark.

“What we’ve heard from the last two days of this conference is that we need to come together around a sense of urgency,” Broderick said during her session, noting that it takes a shared vision between the school board, the mayor’s office, and the community. “The vision needs to be of excellence. If that cohesive message can be carried through our schools … there’s nothing off the table.”

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