Articles in the Dropout Prevention category

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.”

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: Center for Public Education, Curriculum, Dropout Prevention, Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Leadership, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Preschool Education, School Boards|Tags: , , , , |

Credit recovery increasingly embraced as dropout prevention strategy

It’s such a logical concept, you might wonder why more schools didn’t embrace it years ago. But credit recovery is a hot topic now, and with good reason.

In today’s competitive environment, dropping out of high school is no longer an option — the jobs just aren’t there. But also becoming obsolete is the idea that high school can be an endpoint of education and training. With machines able to do more and more — and do it more cheaply – the new jobs being created require special skills and training that weren’t needed on many 20th century assembly lines.

A new policy brief by the Education Commission of the States — part of ESC’s Progress of Education Reform series, does a good job of defining just what credit recovery is and isn’t (i.e., remediation) and why it’s a key tool to not only increase graduation rates, but to prepare students for future learning, either in the vocational or academic realm. And it looks at what some innovative states are doing to give high school students a better shot at attaining their goals.

Lawrence Hardy, Senior Editor

Naomi Dillon|July 5th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Dropout Prevention, Policy Formation, Student Achievement|Tags: |

The week in blogs

How quickly does childhood pass? It seems like yesterday that I was reading my elder daughter Good Night Moon, a few hours since we completed the surprisingly dark Tale of Despereaux. Now, we’ve almost finished the truly harrowing fantasy, A Wrinkle in Time, and who knows what we’ll tackle next?

I’m overprotective. (What parent isn’t, to some degree, these days?) And as the books get progressively darker and more disturbing — because life, unfortunately gets darker and more disturbing (you learn, for example, to read the newspaper) — a voice in my head keeps repeating, “Is she really ready for this?” Considering that eight years from now she’ll be in college, the answer’s got to be “yes.”  Yes, I know, but part of me still resists.

I thought about this after reading Joanne Jacobs’ Friday blog, Violence, sex and ‘dark’ lit. It’s really a compendium of other pieces written in response to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s comment – in writing for a court majority that struck down a California law barring violent video sales to minors, on First Amendment grounds — that young adult lit is already replete with violent material. An opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, saying that “YA” fiction is two dark seems to have gotten the discussion rolling. But the best commentary on the subject, I feel, is by Linda Holms of NPR, who takes a different view.
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Lawrence Hardy|July 1st, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Curriculum, Diversity, Dropout Prevention, Governance, Policy Formation, Student Achievement, Week in Blogs|

Successful reform efforts often begin with attitude adjustment

One comment stood out a few weeks ago when I interviewed Patricia Holubec, a high school principal in the small, rural Skidmore-Tynan Independent School District.

A largely Hispanic district in the flatlands of south Texas, Skidmore-Tynan is not wealthy by any means: Sixty-five percent of its students qualify for free and reduced lunch, and many of its graduates must leave the area to find employment in the oil fields or state prisons that ring the district.

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Naomi Dillon|June 14th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Dropout Prevention, NSBA Publications, Policy Formation|Tags: , , |

The week in blogs

It’s the good elementary school teacher who tells her students: “It’s Okay to ask questions if you don’t understand.” It doesn’t mean you’re dumb; there could be many reasons why you’re lost.

Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., a strong advocate for public schools, seems to have taken that axiom to heart. In a sometimes darkly humorous video clip posted on This Week in Education, he shows that sometimes you can’t follow what someone is saying (in this case, someone testifying before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce) because, well, she isn’t making any sense.

“What are you telling me?” proclaims a somewhat exasperated Miller, after a witness attempts to explain that all those ill-defined private Education Management Organizations (EMOs) that are increasingly running public charter schools really are accountable to their public boards (even though they typically withhold the most basic information from them) because, well, they should be accountable — and, doggone it, it’s just the right thing to do. (Or something like that; I didn’t get it either.)

“I don’t understand what you’re telling me.” the congressman deadpans.

Watch it. Laugh. And maybe — weep.

Speaking of accountability, in a provocative Op-Ed in the New York Times, author and education historian Diane Ravitch says that a lot of the dramatic short-term gains of charters “reconstituted” schools, and other highly touted programs “are the result of statistical legerdemain.” That drew a sharp response by Bloomberg’s Jonathan Alter called Don’t Believe the Critics Education, Education Reform Works.

And what do the kids think about this whole accountability thing? We can’t speak for all of them, of course, but the blogger “Miss Malarkey” has provided a helpful Top Ten list of “comments made by my third graders” during their first ever New York State tests.

My favorite: “Wait, is this the real test?”

Lawrence Hardy, Senior Editor

Lawrence Hardy|June 3rd, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Assessment, Curriculum, Dropout Prevention, Governance, Policy Formation, School Reform, Student Achievement, Teachers, Week in Blogs|

Life in Real Time

201323_10150163939134893_26415584892_6473475_7572509_oLast month, everywhere I looked during NSBA’s Annual Conference, officials from Missouri’s Joplin Public Schools were talking about Bright Futures. The district won this year’s Magna Award grand prize for the program, which works to build partnerships among schools, community members, businesses, and agencies to serve students in need.

Today, the immediate future is not looking as bright, and the entire Joplin community is in need.

On Sunday, a massive tornado struck this town of nearly 50,000, killing at least 116 people and injuring more than 1,100. It is the highest death toll from a single tornado since 1953.

The event was the latest in a series of devastating spring tornados that have pounded communities across the Southeast and through the Midwest. Just four weeks ago, 315 people were killed when a series of tornadoes struck in five states: Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi, and Virginia.

According to news reports, the late afternoon twister destroyed three schools, leaving two others and the central office seriously damaged as it ripped through the middle of this city 160 miles south of Kansas City. Graduation ceremonies for Joplin’s Class of 2011 were wrapping up at Missouri Southern State University when the tornado struck around 5:30 p.m. The high school itself was destroyed.
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Kathleen Vail|May 24th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Dropout Prevention, Governance, NSBA Publications, School Buildings|

The week in blogs

Living in the Washington, D.C., area can make you feel like a real mover and shaker — even if the only moving and shaking you do is on the dance floor. Case in point, watching my 9-year-old daughter’s soccer game one weekend, I couldn’t help but overhear a parent from the other team talking rather loudly and importantly on his cell phone, saying something about “our position regarding the European Union.”

Which, of course, made me think: “What’s my position regarding the European Union — and do I need to phone that in?” No, actually, it made me think: “What a cool place to live — a place where Big Things are being decided.”

In truth, most of us here spend more time talking about those Big Things than deciding them — or being around the people who decide them. An exception occurred last December, on the deadest of Friday afternoons before the Holidays, when I attended a small seminar in a nondescript building off Dupont Circle in the District.

The subject: common core standards.
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Lawrence Hardy|May 20th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Assessment, Curriculum, Diversity, Dropout Prevention, Educational Research, Governance, Policy Formation, Student Achievement, Teachers, Urban Schools, Week in Blogs|

The week in blogs

If you can’t read, you can’t learn. That statement might seem obvious.

Yet in the United States, according to Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash), there are more than 8 million students in grades four though 12 who are reading below grade level. At this time in their schooling – that is, beyond third grade – they should have moved from a “learning-to-read” mode to one sometimes called “reading to learn.” And the fact that they have not reached this point, or have only partially reached it, means they will have trouble keeping up with their peers, graduating from high school, and succeeding in life.

“The students of today will be the workers of tomorrow,” Murray told a group of literacy coaches recently. “Trying to find jobs, struggling to make their way in a world in which literacy is no longer a luxury. It’s a necessity.”

Murray, who received NSBA’s Special Recognition Award last month, is introducing the Literacy Education for All Results for the Nation or the LEARN Act, which would authorize $2.35 billion in federal support for literacy programs spanning birth through age 12.
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Lawrence Hardy|May 6th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Budgeting, Curriculum, Diversity, Dropout Prevention, Educational Research, Governance, Policy Formation, Student Achievement, Urban Schools, Week in Blogs|
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