Articles in the Educational Legislation category

All States Eligible to Measure Student Growth

BoardBuzz is certain that many state departments of education staff have been burning the midnight oil the last couple days. That’s because today is the deadline for states to submit their proposals for including a growth model into their No Child Left Behind (NCLB) accountability plans for the 2007-08 school year.

Back in December Secretary Spellings announced that she was expanding the growth model pilot program to include all states instead of limiting it to just ten. However, BoardBuzz is not expecting a slew of states to use growth models in the coming year for several reasons discussed below.

In its recent report Growth Models: A guide to informed decision making the Center for Public Education points out that states need properly designed annual tests; data systems to collect, sort, and analyze data covering at least the past two years; and statistical experts to design and implement an accurate and reliable measure of student achievement growth. Unfortunately, growth models are still relatively new in education and not only do states have to meet all seven of the pilot program’s conditions, but, as the Center for Public Education points out, so many states still do not have the right elements in place, although most states will in the coming years.

BoardBuzz certainly agrees that allowing states to judge schools based on how much their students learned from one year to the next is much more fair then the current system. However, that does not mean states should rush into implementing just any growth model. School boards members, educators, parents, state policymakers, and anyone else interested in developing an accurate measure of student growth should read the Center for Public Education’s Growth Models: A guide to informed decision making to learn what it takes to implement the right growth model. Implementing the wrong growth model will not help improve NCLB, but implementing the right one most definitely will.

To learn more about NCLB, standardized testing and many other important educational issues check out the

Erin Walsh|February 1st, 2008|Categories: Educational Legislation, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Tuesday’s super for us too!

NSBA’s 35th annual Federal Relations Network Conference begins this Sunday and runs through Tuesday, when FRN members will visit their members of Congress on Capitol Hill. Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland Baltimore County will address the nearly 900 school board members in attendance on Sunday on their role in American democracy, and Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) will address the group on Monday.

School board members will be poised to talk to their Congressional members about supporting improvements to the No Child Left Behind law and securing funding for key programs. More than 675 school districts nationwide have passed resolutions urging Congress to support H.R. 648, the No Child Left Behind Improvements Act. In this election year, it’s essential that elected officials focus on education, and specifically the reauthorization of NCLB.

Check back here for all the news from the conference.

Erin Walsh|January 31st, 2008|Categories: Educational Legislation, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Haven’t we seen this movie before?

The good news is that President Bush utilized his final State of the Union address to mention education. The bad news? We’ve heard a lot of this before, including the D.O.A. idea of a national voucher program. Now, if next week the President’s budget includes a substantial increase in funding for the No Child Left Behind Act, then maybe Congress and the administration will be able to seriously tackle the challenge of reauthorizing the broken law in 2008. BoardBuzz has expressed why we think major changes are needed now instead of forcing students, educators and schools to suffer under a flawed system for another 2 or 3 school years.

And vouchers, again? Really? No chance and everyone knows it. When will the administration realize it undercuts its own arguments about school accountability every time it promotes sending taxpayer dollars to private schools that are not accountable to the public?

NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant issued this statement on the State of the Union.

Erin Walsh|January 29th, 2008|Categories: Educational Legislation, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

A low blow

BoardBuzz loves a good chuckle and this one out of Florida really got us giggling. The Ledger (Lakeland) reports that a committee in the Florida legislature has okayed a ban on droopy pants, which will move the legislation forward to the Senate floor. We’re all for a little modesty, but is this what it’s come to?

According to the article, “Youths who let their drawers droop to expose underwear, G-strings or worse at school would be get a verbal warning after a first offense but face suspension if they keep doing it under a measure that cleared a Senate committee Wednesday.”

The article goes on to say, “The Prekindergarten-12th Grade Education Committee unanimously approved Sen. Gary Siplin’s “pull up your britches” bill (SB 302). It next will go to the Senate floor after the Legislature convenes its regular annual session in March.”

Previous measures have failed, including a provision that “would have jailed repeat offenders.” If that’s not an argument for elastic wastebands and belts, we don’t know what is. For more BoardBuzz coverage on a similar story, click here.

Erin Walsh|January 10th, 2008|Categories: Educational Legislation, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Ed action on tap before Congress breaks for holidays

With Congress set to leave Friday for a 2-week Thanksgiving break, several education related bills and amendments are on this week’s agenda. Get all the latest on the appropriations fight, a school nutrition amendment that could restrict local school board authority, the completion (finally) of Head Start reauthorization, and action on higher education reauthorization, plus more in the NSBA Advocacy Department’s weekly update.

We also would like to thank the six new co-sponsors of H.R. 648, the comprehensive bill to improve ESEA / NCLB that is backed by NSBA: Representatives Phil English (R-PA-3), Donna Christensen (D-VI), Bart Gordon (D-TN-6), and Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ-2), Rick Boucher (D-VA-9) and Jerry Moran (R-KS-1).

UPDATE: As expected, President Bush yesterday vetoed the education appropriations bill. The House may vote tomorrow on an override. NSBA is urging House members to override the veto and support needed funding increases for Title I and special education. Learn more about this and take action on NSBA’s special veto override web page. Some local school officials are speaking up already.

Check out more NSBA resources, including this funding chart.

Erin Walsh|November 14th, 2007|Categories: Educational Legislation, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Growth Models: A Silver Bullet?

BoardBuzz has heard from a lot of hard working educators and school board members that growth models need to be incorporated into NCLB version 2.0 so schools are given the credit they deserve for increasing student achievement. BoardBuzz certainly agrees, but is including a measure of student growth a silver bullet to cure all of NCLB’s ills?

If you have been following the recent developments up in the Big Apple, the answer surely seems to be a resounding NO. The New York Times had two articles (read here and here) this past week on the fallout of New York City‘s new school accountability system which included a growth measure. So what is all the fuss about? Well, since the growth measure accounts for more than half (55 percent) of each school’s accountability grade (schools are graded A through F) many schools with already “high performing” students with impeccable reputations received grades lower than schools with lower performing students who were making greater gains with their students. This did not sit well with many parents from the “high performing” schools or parents from many of the schools receiving D and F’s for that matter.

So what went wrong? If New York officials were able to read the Center for Public Education’s report released today—Growth Models: A guide for informed decision making—maybe the fallout could’ve been avoided. The report points out several important issues policymakers, such as those in New York City, need to take into consideration when implementing a growth model. Although BoardBuzz is an NYC outsider, it does not appear that city officials took into consideration one key element the Center’s report points out—one that is often overlooked when implementing a growth model—provide professional development.

According to the report, professional development is needed to inform teachers, administrators, and parents to what exactly is being measured and how the data should be used, because if those who are affected by the growth model don’t understand it, then they won’t accept its results. After reading the New York Times articles, it appears this was the case in NYC. Parents and educators seemed confused about how some schools were graded higher than others, since it is hard to understand how the grades were calculated.

This is a lesson federal policymakers should take heed of before they include a growth model in NCLB’s reauthorization. Just throwing a growth model into the new law won’t magically make NCLB better, just as a doctor simply diagnosing an illness won’t make a patient better. As the Center’s report points out, there is no “one” growth model, and federal policymakers should give states the flexibility needed to develop growth models that meet the goals of NCLB and enable them to develop growth models that fit their needs and resources.

Although including a growth model in NCLB 2.0 is certainly a step in the right direction, it needs to be done correctly. Policymakers, educators, parents and even the media should check out the Center for Public Education’s Growth Models: A guide for informed decision making to learn more about the different types of growth models, what is needed to implement a growth model, and how growth model data should be used.

Erin Walsh|November 13th, 2007|Categories: Educational Legislation, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

From Sea to Shining Sea

Election Day came and went on Tuesday without as much fanfare as we’re used to seeing in most states. With no presidential election or mid-term elections to entice people to go to the polls, the more local matters became the center of attention. Yesterday we highlighted the Utah voucher vote which was watched closely in education circles, but what about some of the other issues? From Seattle to Miami, and everywhere in-between, there are some big challenges to address, especially in urban districts.

A recent study from the Southern Education Foundation found that poverty is on the rise in the south, requiring school districts to accept the fact that, according to our friends at Ed Week, “low-income students are now a majority in the public schools of the U.S. South, and that schools in the West may cross that line in the near future.” This undoubtedly brings health issues to the forefront of public schools, and it seems that you can’t open the newspaper or go to the web without seeing a blurb about childhood obesity. In Houston, they’re facing the issue with a pilot program that brings in chefs to discuss healthy eating, cook great food, and change the way students choose what to eat. An article in the Houston Chronicle on election day outlines the program and discusses the challenges. But poverty, health, and obesity are not alone…

National academic standards, school choice, school safety, conquering the achievement gap, NCLB, and pre-kindergarten (just to name a few) are on the minds of Americans, but are they on the minds of the candidates? Now that election day 2007 has come and gone, these issues could actually be addressed by the 16 presidential candidates. So far, other issues have dominated the debates and the rhetoric so in some cities, it’s the students who are chiming in with ideas. In Washington, D.C., almost 200 students participated in a town hall meeting to tell Mayor Adrian Fenty and School Chancellor Michelle Rhee how they thought the D.C. schools could be improved. What’s happening in your part of the country? Leave a comment to share the issues that you feel should be addressed.

Erin Walsh|November 8th, 2007|Categories: School Boards, Educational Legislation, Wellness, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|Tags: , , , |

Good news, bad news on Congressional front

While Congress moved forward this week on two bills of importance to public schools and students, the expectation remains that President Bush will veto both measures. On Tuesday night, the Senate overwhelmingly passed its version of the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education Appropriations bill that includes more than a $1 billion increase for Title I and $450 million more for IDEA (special education). The House-passed bill (H.R. 3043) includes larger funding increases for education, and differences will need to be reconciled in conference committee before heading to the president’s desk.

Although the Senate cleared the measure 75 – 19, it looks doubtful at this point that the House will reach the two-thirds majority needed to override the expected veto. Follow the process and take action in supporting your local schools by visiting NSBA’s Advocacy web site.

On Thursday, the House passed a new version of the SCHIP bill (State Children’s Health Insurance Program) that President Bush previously vetoed. Of special interest to school boards and taxpayers is that the bill would extend to January 1, 2010, a moratorium preventing the administration from taking any action on a newly proposed rule that restricts school districts’ ability to seek federal reimbursement for Medicaid services to eligible children. As with the approps bill, the vote is still short of what will be needed to override another potential veto. Learn more on why this reimbursement is so crucial to schools on NSBA’s Advocacy web site.

Erin Walsh|October 26th, 2007|Categories: Educational Legislation, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

NSBA testifies on STEM

Responding to a recent action plan from the National Science Board on Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) education, NSBA testified before the House Subcommittee on Research and Science Education of the Committee on Science and Technology last week. Chrisanne Gayl, NSBA‘s director of federal programs, indicated in her testimony that the plan is on the right track to ensuring that students receive the education and skills they will need to become productive workers, good citizens, and intelligent consumers in the 21st century.

“We believe that this action plan is a step in the right direction for promoting high-quality STEM education in the U.S. Its emphasis on increasing public appreciation for and understanding of STEM education is consistent with the key work of local school boards to engage their communities and ensure support for these initiatives,” Gayl said. “In particular, the plan’s focus on ensuring an adequate supply of well-prepared and effective STEM teachers is absolutely essential to enhancing student learning in these fields.”

However, NSBA is concerned that some of the Board’s recommendations could ultimately erode state and local control over education, such as the creation of a national council to develop academic content guidelines and teacher certification requirements.

Read NSBA’s press release on the testimony here and the full testimony here.

Erin Walsh|October 15th, 2007|Categories: Educational Legislation, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Poll shows public fed up with the Feds

Public schools take their fair share (okay, often more than their fair share) of lumps from politicians, especially the ones who work in Washington. So we couldn’t help but notice the findings of a recent Gallup poll revealing that these are woeful times for the federal government in the eyes of Americans.

How bad is it? Ever hear of Watergate? Well…

Now, Americans generally express less trust in the federal government than at any point in the past decade, and trust in many federal government institutions is now lower than it was during the Watergate era, generally recognized as the low point in American history for trust in government.

On ability to handle domestic issues, which BoardBuzz has a keen interest in, not a lot of love. How does that play into Congress’ need to tackle tough matters, like say increasing education funding and fixing No Child Left Behind?

Less than half of Americans, 47%, now have at least a fair amount of trust in the federal government to handle domestic problems. Gallup found a sub-50% reading on this measure only one other time, in 1976.

But while Americans are vastly unimpressed with the Feds, they still express faith in their state and local governments. So maybe before members of Congress and the administration launch into the occasional trashing of our schools, they ought to take steps to restore credibility in their own houses. One place we might suggest they begin is with improving NCLB and providing states and local districts with the appropriate latitude to make education decisions.

Erin Walsh|September 28th, 2007|Categories: Educational Legislation, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|
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