BoardBuzz thanks NSBA president Sonny Savioe for delivering NSBA’s message to the U. S. Senate! Savoie was invited to speak on behalf of school boards at a roundtable convened by Senator Blanche Lincoln (AR), chair of the Senate Rural Outreach Program and chair of the Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry Committee. Also attending the roundtable were Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV) and Senators Kay Hagen (NC), Amy Klobuchar (MN), Jeff Merkley (OR) and Jon Tester (MT). About a dozen organizational leaders were invited to discuss such topics as funding equity, transportation, after school education and teacher quality as they effect rural states and districts. Savoie spoke powerfully to the need to improve NCLB and recognize that the economic conditions in each community impact educational needs and decisions locally.
School Board News Today, an online publication of NSBA, provides timely and relevant stories and analysis from NSBA and other news outlets to school board members, administrators, and all others interested in K-12 education.
Articles in the Educational Legislation category
More school, less summer. That’s what the Obama Administration is advocating as a way to help students in the U.S. catch up academically with their counterparts in other countries who attend school as much as 30 percent longer, according to this Associated Press article.
In an interview with the AP, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said he wants “to level the playing field” through extending the school year.
BoardBuzz thinks it’s a great idea to to lengthen the school year/day. NSBA encourages school districts to partner with other educational entities and community organizations in developing extended learning opportunities, including summer programs, to improve students’ academic achievement. However, school districts and schools cannot do this without adequate resources. As the AP article points out, extra learning time is not cheap. Massaschusetts’ extended learning initiative, which adds 300 hours to the calendar in select public schools, cost an additional $1,300 per student. Unfortunately, the increased cost of fuel last year and the economic downturn have prompted some school districts to adopt a 4-day school week, meaning longer but fewer days in class.
Besides, more school alone will not necessarily help improve academic achievement. Research shows that the additional time must focus on instruction and learning or “time on task” in order to be effective. Read NSBA‘s Beliefs and Policies on extended learning opportunities here.
Pre-K-12 advocates have much to celebrate with the passage of the $87 billion higher education bill in the House last week. The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009, H.R. 3221, contains $8 billion for an Early Learning Challenge Fund for eight years and $4 billion in school repair and modernization, see NSBA‘s update on legislative action here.
Thanks to NSBA‘s grassroots members who contacted their House of Representatives urging them to support the bill. NSBA is now working with the Senate to pass the same initiative.
If you check out EdWeek today you’ll find NSBA’s very own Center for Public Education commentary Why not count them all? (registration required) on why schools should be given credit in NCLBcurrently states can apply to do so but no state has been given permission to do sofor those students who take more than four years to graduate high school. The commentary is based on The Center’s Better late than never report that showed that students are much better off after high school than their classmates who went on to earn a GED or didn’t graduate at all. As a matter of fact, the report also showed late graduates were nearly as well off after high school as their classmates with similar backgrounds who graduated on-time.
BoardBuzz strongly suggests you check out both the commentary and the report so you can advocate for schools to get credit where credit is due by counting all students who earn a diploma as graduates even those who just needed more time to do so.
A major argument often heard by BoardBuzz from proponents of private school vouchers is that it’s less costly to educate a student in private school than in public school. The bad news is they can no longer cite that as a reason for supporting vouchers. This article in the Washington Post talks about a new study that found non-religious private schools actually spent almost twice as much per pupil as their public school counterparts. In addition, Catholic schools (nonparochial) tended to spend about the same as public schools.
Bruce Baker, author of the [independent] study by [using data from] the National Center for Education Statistics, said in the article:
“There are a lot of urban legends that drive the policy discussions,” he added that “private schools tend to be costlier than the commonly accepted figures in policy debates, especially conversations about school vouchers.”
The study dispelled just one of the many myths surrounding the perceived effectiveness of private school vouchers. For more information on why vouchers are bad public policy, see NSBA‘s Voucher Strategy Center .
BoardBuzz could not agree more with the goals of the much talked about “Race to the Top” grant program being rolled out by the U.S. Department of Education as part of the economic stimulus plan. This initiative will provide a significant opportunity for school districts and schools to build a results driven infrastructure that can help raise student achievement. What NSBA wants to make sure of is that the right process and incentives are in place to ensure the success of the program.
In the comments we submitted on Wednesday to the Department, NSBA offered mixed opinions of the proposal, which will provides states with $4.3 billion in competitive grants for education reforms. Some of the specific concerns included: the overall impact of the many new requirements (both fiscally and operationally) on states and districts, sustainability of reform initiatives, and a focus on specific strategies/interventions.
It is extremely important that the Administration listen to educators who are doing the work every day, including local governance. Policymaking without practical perspectives will only hurt a good program and prevent it from achieving its goals.
For more information about economic stimulus and school reform, visit NSBA‘s Stimulus Resource Center here.
Districts throughout the country are debating the use of social networking platforms. What’s interesting about the social media ban for teachers is that the school system just announced that they are using Twitter as a way of welcoming back back students. Read more…
BoardBuzz read with suspicion the claim of a new Manhattan Institute report that private school vouchers can “slow the unnecessary growth” in special education. The report concluded that vouchers deter the financial incentive for public schools to over-identify students with specific learning disabilities since an SLD diagnosis would make the student eligible for vouchers.
This conclusion over-simplified the many complex factors involving a diagnosis such as the characteristics of the student, the services and interventions needed, etc. Just because a public school saw a reduction in the percentage of diagnoses, one cannot automatically attribute the reason to the presence of private schools. In fact, the 2004 reauthorization of the federal IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) requires schools to use early interventions prior to identification of a disability. This practice helps schools more accurately identify students who need special education services, therefore reducing potential identification.
The more important question here is whether these voucher students receive appropriate services and education after they leave the public school. Has their performance improved? Did they exit special education because they no longer need it? How are the voucher schools being held accountable? However, there are no answers to any of these questions because the information is not available to make an assessment.
The Manhattan report used Florida’s McKay program (which provides vouchers to students with disabilities) to gauge the changes in the percentage of students diagnosed with a disability in public schools. However, BoardBuzz wonders what good is the program if it doesn’t improve student outcomes but simply reduces the number of students diagnosed? Despite its popularity, the McKay program has not been proven effective, see the research here, and has not held participating private schools accountable for student outcomes. In fact, when parents take their children out of the public school to attend a voucher school, they give up a multitude of rights afforded under the IDEA. There are no requirements for participating private schools to report any information on student outcomes or follow any due process procedures. As much as the No Child Left Behind Act has sparked new attention to raising the academic achievement of students with disabilities, vouchers are taking this accountability movement a giant step backward.
For more information on why vouchers are a bad policy, see NSBA‘s Voucher Strategy Center.
With the Administration placing a premium on expanding charter schools as part of the criteria for competitive economic stimulus funds, it is worth noting that no clear research has shown that charter schools — as an educational option — are superior than traditional public schools. This article from the Boston Globe asked some critical questions regarding performance of charter schools in relations to their student populations.
“Are many charter schools achieving dazzling MCAS scores because of innovative teaching or because they enroll fewer disadvantaged students?” the article asked.
The article found that in many of the charter schools in Boston, which has a quarter of the state’s charter schools, English language learners made up less than four percent of students in all but one charter school, even though they represent almost a fifth of the students in the public school system. When it comes to enrollments of students with disabilities, more than half the charter schools there were at least six percentage points below traditional school districts’ average of 21 percent.
The Globe analysis asked legitimate questions about how test scores could be affected by the makeup of student populations. This is a good reminder that policymakers should not single out charter schools, or any one strategy, as a magic reform tool. The Administration’s position that states must encourage more charter schools by lifting enrollment caps or providing funding must also consider how the charter school is authorized and held accountable for student achievement.
NSBA supports charters that are authorized by the local school districts because such authorization will promote better coordination, sharing of resources and practices, accountability and a more comprehensive approach and support for education within the school system and the larger community.
Diane Ravitch does not mince words about privatizing education: privatization will not help us reach our goals. BoardBuzz agrees with this and many of her observations about the consequences of NCLB, the promise and potential pitfalls of common standards and the need for discernment with regard charter schools and other reforms. Further, BoardBuzz supplements Ravitch’s recent interview with Learning Matters with a few observations of its own:
- Charter schools – Reports on the CREDO National Charter School Study frequently overlook a key finding: that states with multiple charter school authorizers (translation: entities outside the public K-12 system) experience significantly lower growth in learning in their students. The reasons aren’t completely clear, but the report suggests that multiple entities could permit charter school operators to “shop around” for an authorizer and recommends ratcheting up accountability and transparency. School districts already are accountable to their communities and remain the logical authorizers for charter schools.
- Common standards – A common set of standards, not mandated by the federal government but supported by it, can lead to raising student achievement. Funding for research and financial assistance to states in developing and implementing standards are appropriate federal roles, but not federal mandates over content or national assessments. Read more here.
What’s the buzz on privatization, charter schools and common standards in your state?