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Articles in the Dropout Prevention category

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.

Lawrence Hardy|May 6th, 2011|Categories: Governance, Curriculum, Week in Blogs, Diversity, Educational Research, Urban Schools, Student Achievement, Dropout Prevention, Policy Formation, Budgeting, American School Board Journal|

The week in blogs

Far from the American School Board Journal to get all tizzied up over the Royal Wedding. We’ve got more important things to do.

However, seeing as I’ve already mentioned it ….. did you see the lady in the church with the big black hat that covered one whole side of her face? What was that about? And what’s it like for the guy sitting next to her facing a veritable “hat wall” on his left?

We’re journalists here; we have to ask these things. And, we must add, in the interests of full disclosure: “Tizzied,” apparently, is not a word. But of course it should be.

Now back to the matter at hand: Yes, Education. Did you know that Princess Kate, if and when she becomes queen, would be the first English queen to get a college education? That revelation comes courtesy of Valerie Strauss’ Answer Sheet, although Strauss notes that the best educated and brainiest queen “was probably the brilliant Queen Elizabeth I, who was leaning Latin at age 5.”  (And we thought it was Bush/Obama that pushed academics into kindergarten.)

In other, non-wedding-related, news, Joanne Jacobs highlights a troubling report from the Education Trust, which looked at high-performing schools in Maryland and Indiana and found they still left certain subgroups of students behind.

John Thompson, of This Week in Education, seconds education consultant Andrew Rotherham’s assertion that “intention” is key to schools that succeed despite student poverty.  Rotherham made the comment in an interview on National Public Radio’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross.

While on Fresh Air’s site, hear Diane Ravitch, who spoke at NSBA’s Federal Relations Conference earlier this year, on the pitfalls of standardized testing.

Lawrence Hardy, Senior Editor

Lawrence Hardy|April 29th, 2011|Categories: Governance, Curriculum, Week in Blogs, Educational Research, School Reform, Student Achievement, Dropout Prevention, Policy Formation, Assessment, American School Board Journal|

“It takes a school system” — and then some

Call it “Disneyland Brain,” but when I returned from a two-and-a-half-week trip that included NSBA’s Annual Conference in San Francisco, three days of reporting on the Long Beach schools, and a family vacation to the famous Anaheim theme park, among other places, I was at a loss to identify the Conference Daily story I wrote that our analysis said was getting a lot of hits.

The story was slugged: “Rivers.”

Rivers?” I thought, trying to place it. Like other ASBJ editors, I covered three or four sessions a day, on everything from dual-emersion elementary schools to the most significant education-related court cases of the past year.

“Rivers,” it turns out, didn’t have anything to do — at least, directly — with the business of running a school system. It was a lunchtime speech by actor Victor Rivas Rivers, who has made highlighting the problem of domestic violence a personal goal. It is a quest born of personal experience.

Rivers said his father was a charming man — in public. In private he was an abuser who terrorized Rivers’ mother, beat him and his brothers, and even harassed the family pets.  Rivers eventually escaped his punisher through the help of a series of families who took him in, and a variety of people in the school district, including a teacher who secretly gave him a meal ticket when Rivers’ father was limiting him to one meal a day.

Lawrence Hardy|April 26th, 2011|Categories: Governance, Diversity, Educational Research, School Climate, Urban Schools, Student Achievement, Dropout Prevention, Policy Formation, Homeless People, American School Board Journal|

Their future — and ours

First Christmas in America. Ellis Island, 1918. Library of Congress photo It’s an ingenious title, when you think of it. Also a little ambiguous.

The Future of Children — the collaboration between the Brookings Institution and Princeton University’s Wilson School of Public and International Affairs — is it about future generations of children and our commitment (or lack thereof) to them? That’s the way I’ve always read it. Or is it about the future of today’s children and the kind of lives they will lead as adults?

It’s about both, of course, because the future of children — today’s and tomorrow’s — is the most compelling issue facing our society today.

Unfortunately, we often don’t treat children’s futures with the kind of commitment and urgency they deserve. As Laura Moore, of the Brookings-Princeton collaboration, notes in her blog last week on the challenges facing immigrant children, “without purchasing, voting, or lobbying power, the well-being of children can easily get lost in the debates, which is why knowledge and advocacy on the behalf of children is so critical.”

In other words, adults – teachers, school board members, school administrators, and others – must do the speaking for them. That’s one reason why thousands of them are going to NSBA’s 71st Annual Conference in San Francisco this week: to give voice to the voiceless. 

Ironically, those most in need of a voice are also the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population: immigrant children. Thus, by definition, their success and the nation’s are inextricably combined. Appropriately, the latest Future of Children volume is devoted to them. 

 “Most of the recommendations in these volumes, and other Future of Children volumes, suggest prioritizing and investing in children now — regardless of their circumstances and often ahead of other interests,” Moore writes. “This is simply because investments in child well-being are the smartest ones we can make.”

Lawrence Hardy, Senior Editor

Lawrence Hardy|April 5th, 2011|Categories: Governance, Diversity, Educational Research, Student Achievement, Dropout Prevention, Policy Formation, Budgeting, American School Board Journal|

The week in blogs

This week, education researcher Richard Rothstein takes Bill Gates to task for claiming in a recent Washington Post column on teacher development that student achievement has remained “virtually flat” in recent decades while per-student costs have “more than doubled.”

 Looking at NAEP tests since 1980 and 1990, Rothstein concludes that “American students have improved substantially, in some cases phenomenally.” As far as a doubling of K12 funding is concerned, yes that’s true, he adds, but the statistic begs to be qualified.

“The biggest single recipient of new money has been special education for children with disabilities,” Rothstein writes. “Four decades ago, special education consumed less than 4 percent of all K12 spending. It now consumes 21 percent.”

What can high schools do to help community colleges and their astronomical drop-out rates? Blogger Dana Goldstein offers a thoughtful analysis.

 “Why are people dropping out of community colleges en masse?” Goldstein asks. “In part, it’s the frustration of being academically under-prepared and thus being forced to pay tuition for credit-less remediation classes. But national surveys of community college drop-outs find that the most cited reasons for leaving school are work and family responsibilities.”

(Thanks to Joanne Jacobs for leading us to Goldstein’s commentary.)

Recent stories in the Washington Post have questioned zero tolerance policies in the Fairfax County (Va.) Public Schools. Read a sobering post by the Post’s Valerie Strauss on common myths about zero tolerance’s effectiveness.

 Lawrence Hardy, Senior Editor

Lawrence Hardy|March 11th, 2011|Categories: Governance, Curriculum, Teachers, Week in Blogs, Special Education, Educational Research, Urban Schools, Student Achievement, Dropout Prevention, Policy Formation, Budgeting, Assessment, Discipline, American School Board Journal|

The week in blogs

Many, many years ago, my brother fought in The Battle of Nashville.

Maybe I should qualify that: He helped re-enact the Civil War Battle of Nashville. And since we were from St. Louis, a nominally Yankee town, he was part of a ridiculously undermanned squad of union re-enactors that somehow managed to overcome a massive army of Confederates. (We’re talking Tennessee, remember?) But even re-enactors must be minimally accurate, so yes, the Yankees won.

Just who will win today’s Battle of Nashville — a battle for public opinion similar to those that have erupted in Ohio, Illinois, and Wisconsin — is hard to say. But as many as 10,000 teachers are gathering to demonstrate at the capitol in Nashville as I write, preparing to march against a bill in the Tennessee legislature that would limit teachers’ collective bargaining rights.


Lawrence Hardy|March 5th, 2011|Categories: Governance, Teachers, Week in Blogs, Diversity, Student Achievement, Dropout Prevention, Policy Formation, Budgeting, American School Board Journal|

The week in blogs

Ask an 8-year-old this Sunday what he wants to be when he grows up and you might hear “a star running back for the Green Bay Packers” (or the Pittsburgh Steelers). Or maybe, if he or she is more focused on the halftime show: “A rock star like the Black Eyed Peas!”

How would you respond? Probably something on the order of, “Aww, isn’t that cute.”

But get the same response from, say, a 13-year-old – and I did once, when I visited an alternative school in Brockton, Mass., and talked to a 5-foot, 98-poundish student who wanted to be a pro basketball player — and your reaction would be more like:  “Isn’t that sad and deluded.”

Truth is, schools need to do a better job of preparing students for careers as well as higher education. And this week the Harvard Graduate School of Education released a report outlining just how it thinks it should be done.

One big supporter is Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

“I start with the basic premise that it is the responsibility of K-12 educators to prepare all students for both college and a career,” Duncan said in a speech this week.  “This must be ‘both/and,’ not ‘either/or.’ High school graduates themselves – not the educational system – should be choosing the postsecondary and career paths they want to pursue.”

A great idea, but what’s the track record for schools in preparing students for careers? A mixed one, notes Education Week‘s Catherine Gewertz in the Curriculum Matters blog.

What’s another way to improve career education – and, indeed, all education? “Stop driving out good teachers,” says University of Georgia Professor Peter Smagorinsky, quoted on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s Get Schooled blog.  In this witty and quite opinionated piece, Smagorinsky muses about how today’s test-crazy education leaders would have reacted to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount Speech.  Hint: Think multiple choice.

“I suspect that neither (here he’s referring to Jesus and Socrates) would last long as the test-administering functionary required by Duncan.”

I think “Ouch” is the proper (and clichéd) response.

Finally, thank Alexander Russo’s “This Week in Education” for alerting us to the return of Patrick Riccard’s satirical “Edu-Pundit” on YouTube. Very clever. Very funny … but scarily close to reality? See for yourself.

Lawrence Hardy, Senior Editor

Lawrence Hardy|February 4th, 2011|Categories: Governance, Curriculum, Teachers, Educational Research, Urban Schools, Student Achievement, Dropout Prevention, Policy Formation, Assessment, American School Board Journal|

The week in blogs

My 9-year-old showed me her book report last night; I read it and made this comment:   

“You need to say ‘on which’ here, not simply ‘which.’ And if you’re turning this in tomorrow, your pencil needs to be sharper.”

“It’s a first draft,” my wife said. And, no, it’s not due tomorrow. And one more thing: “Why are you being so tough on her?”

Why? Is it because I’ve just read about Amy Chua, the now-famous “Tiger Mother,” and fear her kids are getting ahead? (Metaphorically speaking — I believe they’re teenagers now.)

Forgive me for belaboring Chua’s recent Wall Street Journal article and the myriad responses it’s received. But there are two reasons why I find this discussion fascinating. One, of course, has to do with comparing the different styles of so-called “American” and “Chinese” parents.  My book report critique notwithstanding – I tend toward the lenient side.


Lawrence Hardy|January 21st, 2011|Categories: Governance, Curriculum, Educational Research, Student Achievement, Dropout Prevention, Budgeting, Assessment, American School Board Journal|

What motivates troubled kids to shape up?

800px-Jail_Cell_NMCPFlipping through the channels last night, desperate to find something besides Desperate Housewives in-a-town-near-you, I landed on A&E, completely enthralled by a new documentary series called, Beyond Scared Straight.

In my former life as a newspaper reporter, I remember spending the better part of a day, visiting a correctional facility with a group of students, who were given a grim but cursory look at prison life. I remember the experience being long, void of any real contact with inmates, and hence not very impactful for the students, none of which I recall where troublesome.

I guess, you could say it was a lighter version of Scared Straight, the widely acclaimed one-day intervention juvenile deliquents had in prison. Well, it seems Scared Straight is a lighter version of Beyond Scared Straight, a far more intense and frankly, downright scary wakeup call to teens heading in the wrong direction.

The shows promo contends that today’s youth require a different approach, one that marries communication, information and confrontation, to get through to them. In watching the last 20 minutes of the program, I’m certainly a believer in this strategy. And in followups with a handful of girls they profiled in the season’s openers, all but one seemed changed for good.

As security issues and student violence continue to plague schools, it’s a get-tough approach that could save some of today’s toughest youth.

Naomi Dillon, Senior Editor

Naomi Dillon|January 19th, 2011|Categories: School Security, School Climate, Dropout Prevention, American School Board Journal|Tags: , |

Culture, stereotypes, and the drive to succeed

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Stereotypes are dangerous things, but they can sometimes be useful. They’re blunt instruments that can just as easily reveal truth as prejudice, but more likely point to some uncomfortable  mixture of the two. Which is why we try to leave them alone.

Today, however, I’m not taking my own advice. And that’s because the authors of the two essays I want to tell you about have tossed out some broad stereotypes of their own.    

If you’re tired of reading about the self-described Chinese American “Tiger Mother,” I understand. But if, somehow, you missed her recent essay in the Wall Street Journal, you must know that Yale Law School Professor Amy Chua created an Internet sensation with her account of her strict (or is that draconian?) child-rearing practices:

Lawrence Hardy|January 18th, 2011|Categories: Diversity, Urban Schools, Student Achievement, Dropout Prevention, Policy Formation, American School Board Journal|
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