Articles in the Educational Legislation category

Obama releases details of school reform grants

In preparing to dole out $4.35 billion to states and school districts, President Obama today challenged school boards and others across the country to bring about education reforms. 

President Obama joined Secretary Arne Duncan at the U.S. Department of Education today for a much anticipated event to outline the criteria for school districts and states to receive the remaining economic stimulus funds. Mike Resnick, associate executive director for advocacy represented NSBA at today’s important event. NSBA has been involved in ongoing conversations with the Department on school reforms, making sure the voice of school board members is heard. 

Specifically, Obama unveiled some details of what states and school districts need to do to be eligible for the “Race to the Top” grants, the centerpiece of the Administration’s education reform.

“I am issuing a challenge to our nation’s governors, school boards, principals, teachers, and businesses…,” the President said. “If you set and enforce challenging standards and assessments, if you put outstanding teachers at the front of the classroom, if you turn around failing schools, you state can win a race to the top grant.”

To be eligible for the competitive funds, states must show assurances in four areas the Administration considers critical in bringing about reforms: Equitable distribution of highly qualified teachers among all districts; development and use of longitudinal data systems; turning around schools subject to corrective action or restructuring under NCLB; and improving the quality of academic assessments and standards, including those of students with disabilities.

Visit NSBA‘s Economic Stimulus Resource Center for updates. Also be sure to check out the Department’s draft guidance on “Race to the Top” funds and on applications for states to complete the second round of State Fiscal Stabilization Fund.

Katherine Shek|July 24th, 2009|Categories: Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Early childhood and higher ed, two great tastes that taste great together

What do early childhood education and higher education have in common? In a surprise move last week, the House introduced legislation that would overhaul college student loans and at the same time provide funds to help states improve their early learning programs. The bill, H.R.3221, would also provide funding for school modernization.

NSBA sent this letter  to the House Committee on Education and Labor, which marked up the legislation today,  to support facilities funding in the bill; increase federal investments in early learning programs; and to ensure local school districts are involved in developing and implementing quality programs.

Thanks to preschool advocates on NSBA‘s Pre-K Legislation Committee who helped  contact Committee members urgining them to increase federal investments and strengthen school districts’ role in early learning development.  We will continue to need a strong voice from school board members when the legislation goes before the House floor.

Click here to read an analysis of the bill.

Katherine Shek|July 22nd, 2009|Categories: Educational Legislation, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Preschool Education|

Schools focusing on all students

BoardBuzz told you last year  — and the Center on Education Policy concurs — high achieving students are not being left behind. Last year BoardBuzz took issue with a Fordham Institute report’s conclusion that schools have been concentrating on low performing students at the expense of high achieving students since the implementation of NCLB. Fordham didn’t agree with BoardBuzz’s analysis but a new report by the Center on Education Policy called Is the Emphasis on “Proficiency” shortchanging our Low- and High-Achieving Students? concluded that there is “…no persuasive evidence that NCLB’s focus on proficiency is shortchanging students at the advanced or basic levels.

Does this mean that that all high performing students are doing as well as they would have before NCLB? Of course not. But it does mean that despite NCLB’s punitive pass/fail system our schools are working hard to educate all students not just those nearing proficiency. However, as BoardBuzz has stated before and for which NSBA advocates, schools should get credit for how much their students’ have learned during the year via a growth model, instead of just on the percent of students reaching a certain score on their state assessment. By doing so, schools will get credit for the learning of all students across the achievement spectrum and not just those nearing proficiency.

Hopefully Congress will act quickly to approve the changes proposed by NSBA to create a much fairer accountability system for our public schools.

Jim Hull|July 21st, 2009|Categories: Educational Legislation, Educational Research, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Sounding like a broken record . . .

Or perhaps BoardBuzz sounds like a skipping CD, perhaps a bad mp3 file?  Earlier today the Huffington Post chimed in on the mayoral control issue and discusses whether school boards are better at running an urban school system or is the mayor of the city better suited for the job.  Gerald Bracey points out what others have also said–the data doesn’t back up the idea that the mayor running schools is better off for students, and after you put away all the grownups in this fight, it’s supposed to be about what is best for the students of America.  He says that Secretary Duncan‘s “listening tour” is more accurately described as a talking tour, and we need to hear more from the communities around the country who are facing tough educational times.  Bracey states:

But do mayors do better? Depends on how you feel about democracy. The Spring 2009 issue of Rethinking Schools, said that, as [Mayor] Daley’s man, Duncan “has shown himself to be the central messenger, manager and staunch defender of corporate involvement in, and privatization of, public schools, closing schools in low-income neighborhoods of color with little community input, limiting local democratic control, undermining the teachers union and promoting competitive merit pay for teachers.”

He continues on to discuss the situation in New York City, Mayor Bloomberg’s steamrolling of the New York legislature to pass a bill to keep him in control of the schools, and how that is playing out for the children.  The verdict is still out on who wins in these debates.  BoardBuzz hopes that while the back and forth between what’s best for urban schools continues, we (as adults) realize that the more time that we waste on arguing, more students are getting caught in the rheorical crossfire.  There is no silver bullet–what works some places may not work in others.  It’s more than just a public relations game, it’s our future.

Kevin Scott|July 20th, 2009|Categories: Educational Legislation, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards, Student Achievement, Teachers|

Don’t forget school leaders, Mr. President

According to the Washington Post, this week will be an important one for urban leaders and the White House.  The president will be holding a day long conference today to discuss its urban policy and is expected to announce a national tour of cities to discuss the issues they face (sounds a lot like the Arne Duncan tour).  While campaigning, President Obama mentioned his desire to focus attention on cities, especially since prior administrations haven’t spent the time or money that he thought they deserved.  We can only hope that this is the beginning of a longer conversation, that includes school leaders.

Adolfo Carrión, the director of Urban Affairs says:

“For too long government has operated from the top down…we’ve always heard why does the national government send down these unfunded mandates, under funded mandates, mandates that are not necessarily universally applicable. The bottom-up approach speaks to the need for this to be flexible.”

We agree, and if cities are truly looking at issues from a bottom-up approach, schools need to be at the table and included in these conversations.  After all, where else do you have such a critical piece to your future than in urban schools?  School leaders are often the most connected to what the community is doing, saying, and feeling about their neighborhoods, and they know what’s important locally.  While business development, crime, and real estate values may drive what a city council or mayor’s office is doing, the school board and superintendent are just as aware and important to what’s happening around any city in the U.S.  If we are looking at urban issues from the bottom up, let’s not forget the students in urban schools.

Kevin Scott|July 13th, 2009|Categories: Educational Legislation, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards, Student Achievement|

Vouchers make no difference in Florida

It should come with no surprise that the Florida private school voucher program has not helped raise student achievement, according to this article in the St. Peterburg Times. This latest finding is added to the numerous others that have drawn similar conclusions about the lack of effectiveness of vouchers (see here and here).

The study of Florida’s Corporate Tax Credit Scholarship Program, mandated by the state legislature, showed that students using vouchers are doing no better than their peers in public school. Even voucher proponent Jay Greene was quoted as saying voucher support “promised the moon, and public policy almost never delivers the moon.”

The truth is vouchers are not the answer to improving education for all students and do not maraculously improve public schools. As Congress considers whether to fund another voucher program — the only federally funded voucher program for the District of Columbia –  lawmakers should consider these programs’ lack of effectiveness as concluded by so many studies, discontinue the voucher experiment, and redirect the funds to public schools, see NSBA‘s letter to Congress here.  Also check out NSBA’s Voucher Strategy Center for information and resources.

Katherine Shek|July 1st, 2009|Categories: Educational Legislation, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Privatization|

Children are winners in Medicaid rule reversal

After years of fighting a Medicaid rule that would’ve cut billions of dollars from services provided to eligible students, school districts across the country are seeing their advocacy efforts pay off.  Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sibelius announced this week that the agency is reversing the rule and continues to allow school districts to claim Medicaid reimbursement for outreach activities and transportation costs for eligible students with disabilities, see the Federal Register here.

BoardBuzz knows that NSBA appreciates the years of coordinated efforts from school districts and state school boards associations to reverse the rule. Even though the rule was issued in December 2007, our joint advocacy effort has helped delay its implementation through congressional action, see NSBA‘s advocacy on Medicaid reimbursement here.

Schools are an essential place where children can get their health services. Eliminating outreach and transportation reimbursement to school districts would’ve denied the most vulnerable children these services.  At the end of this fight, the winners are our children.

Katherine Shek|July 1st, 2009|Categories: Educational Legislation, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards, Student Achievement, Wellness|

More Charter chatter

BoardBuzz wrote about a new report that came out last week which once again discusses the issues of charter schools and accountability.  This week, Education Secretary Arne Duncan added his ideas at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools‘ annual conference.  According to our friends at EdWeek, Secretary Duncan outlined what must be done with charter schools to raise the bar and focus on “quality, not quantity” when it comes to the growth of charter schools nationwide. 

But we also wonder how much tinkering needs to be done with what Duncan called second-, and in some cases, third-rate schools.  While these schools are often put into place to replace flailing public schools, often in urban environments, how is it serving the community if charters bring the same, or worse, results?  As we’ve stated before, it’s important to keep schools on equal playing fields, so that all students have the chance to learn, regardless of who the ‘authorizer’ (sounds very Hollywood) is.  In the case where it is a school board, accountability is critical, but in other cases, well, who is held accountable if the charter school falters?  And most importantly, what happens to the students in that school?  These are the questions we need to be asking, and more importantly, answering.

Kevin Scott|June 24th, 2009|Categories: Educational Legislation, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Educators and policymakers address diversity

On June 12, NSBA’s General Counsel Francisco Negron headed to Capitol Hill to discuss with other educators, lawyers, and policy-makers ideas for creating more racially integrated schools.  A recent article from Diverse Online provided BoardBuzz with details of this forum sponsored by Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA), The Center for Civil Rights at UNC School of Law, the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, The University of Georgia Education Policy and Evaluation Center, and the Forum for Education and Democracy.  Gary Orfield of the Civil Rights Project moderated.  

About 75 people attended the briefing, entitled “New Initiatives for Integrated Education in the Obama Era: Reversing the Resegration of the Past Two Decades.”  Scholars presented five academic papers presenting diverse points of views on the issue, with titles ranging from “School Racial Composition and Young Children’s Cognitive Development: Isolating Family, Neighborhood and School Influences” to “Racially Integrated Education and the Role of the Federal Government. ”

 While panelists Chinh Q. Lee, a practitioner in residence with the Center for Social Justice at Seton Hall University School of Law, advocated for more federal efforts to eliminate segregated in our schools, Negron reminded attendees that positive change requires more than sweeping executive action. 

“We need to be cognizant of the fact that the way we run our schools is not at the federal level,” Negron said. 

He later noted that educational quality is impacted by more than just the school itself.  Two papers on the influence on neighborhoods, families, and housing on student success directed the conversation to one about the student’s community and educational quality.  “The stable, integrated community is the answer, not housing,” Negron said.  Other researchers agreed and shared a study that about how community leaders in Omaha, Nebraska fought for legislation that would create “learning communities.” These communities would unify 11 school districts, allowing them to share resources and reduce the impact of socioeconomic disparities on the school environment. 

What is your district doing to address diversity in schools?  Leave a comment and tell us about it.

Christina Gordon|June 16th, 2009|Categories: Educational Legislation, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Law, Student Achievement|

Common standards racing to the top of the education agenda?

Recent developments on the issue of common standards have Boardbuzz wondering if the issue will reach critical mass soon.  The Council of Chief State School Officers announced June 1st that 49 states and territories signed on to the Common Core Standards Initiative to develop a common core of state standards in math and English language arts for grades K-12.  Over the weekend, Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced that $350 million in Race To The Top funds would be used to support state efforts to develop rigorous standards linked to common standards.  

As Wayne J. Lueders, executive director of the Associated School Boards of South Dakota points out in the Argus Leader, the call for national standards isn’t new.  What is different about the current momentum is that governors and state leaders are driving reforms with an expectation that adequate resources would be available to achieve success.  Common standards are still far from a reality, but recent events could indicate a convergence of state and federal priorities intended to help all children be successful.

What’s your take on the standards debate?  Leave a comment here and tell us about it.  You can also check out NSBA’s statement on standards here.

Lucy Gettman|June 15th, 2009|Categories: Curriculum, Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|Tags: |
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