Articles in the Educational Research category

School leaders lack understanding of minority male students’ home lives, CUBE speaker says

How is it that an African-American student attending his high school graduation ceremony can feel depressed—overwhelmed by what the future holds and wondering why other students appear to be looking forward to college and the years ahead?

Why could this youth see no advantage in his success—and the opportunity to go to college—compared to students who enlisted in the military or entered the workforce?

There is a crippling power in the disconnect that exists between many African-American and Latino male students and their educational opportunities, David Heifer, executive director of Concentric Educational Solutions, told urban school leaders during a workshop Friday at the Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) conference in Atlanta.

In an hour-and-a-half discussion of strategies that schools can use to help young men of color, Heifer noted that these students often face challenges that undermine their confidence, discourage their hopes, and leave them frustrated and defensive.

Many of these challenges have their roots in the poverty, broken homes, drug abuse, and other social ills that exist in urban communities. But another part of the problem rests in the failure of urban educators to understand what these students are going through—and the failure of schools to provide the social and emotional support these young men need.

That’s the result of another disconnect—between students and the adults in their schools, he said. Teachers and principals don’t live in the same neighborhoods as their students, and they cannot really understand what’s happening in the lives of these students.

Instead, school leaders turn to data to try to make sense of what’s happening.

“We get caught up in numbers—the dropout rate, the truancy rate,” he said. “We skip right to solutions … then come back next year and try to come up with policies to figure out” how to do better.

It’s a dynamic that Heifer indicated he understood all too well. During his high school years, his father died of a heart attack, and as a grief-stricken youth, he began to act out—a troublemaker transferred to five different schools over the course of his senior year. He eventually was arrested 28 times and sent to prison.

With a little luck and the support of others, however, Heifer says he managed to turn his life around, earn his GED, attend college, and become a school principal. But he still recalls that, after his father’s death, not a single teacher or school counselor offered any condolences.

None of the adults in his school understood his pain—or recognized that there was an underlying reason for his dramatic change in behavior.

The story underscored Heiber’s argument that, if educators truly want to help their minority male students, they need to do a better job of understanding what’s going on in these students’ lives. There are a variety of ways to do that, but Heiber focused most of his comments one strategy—encouraging teachers to make home visits.

It’s a strategy that his nonprofit school-support organization encourages in the schools that it works with. In fact, he boasted, teachers at these schools have made more than 5,000 home visits in recent years.

Schools also can do more to strengthen “wrap-around services” for students, he suggested. “Students need their social-emotional support.”

What they don’t need, however, is “discipline policy that mimics the criminal justice system.”

Many school boards already have recognized the need to provide these supports. If a school board isn’t seeing results, however, the reason may lie with another common “disconnect”—between what the school board wants to happen and the actual practices taking place in schools.

“We come up with policies at the school board level, then we go to the schools … quite frankly, they don’t want to hear what you have to say.”

So school board members need to get out more—into their schools and, yes, even into their students’ homes—so they can better understand the dynamics at work in young men’s lives.

“You have to uncover it, and the only way to uncover it is to ask the hard questions,” Heifer said. “You’ve got to get dirty. You’ve got to get in there.”

 

Del Stover|October 8th, 2012|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Assessment, Board governance, CUBE, Data Driven Decision Making, Discipline, Diversity, Dropout Prevention, Educational Research, School Boards, School Reform, School Security|Tags: , , |

In July’s ASBJ: An investment for a lifetime

What if I offered you a sure-fire investment that would pay $3 to as much as $16 for every dollar wagered? Would you think it was some kind of Ponzi scheme?

But wait! It gets better: This can’t-miss opportunity doesn’t just benefit you  — it benefits society.  We’re talking about preschool.  That $2 to $15 profit represents increased tax receipts over the lifetime of children who attended preschool, as well as reduced use of such things as social services, special education, juvenile detention centers, and prisons.

We don’t generally discuss raising our children in such crass commercial terms, but maybe we should. Because as I found out researching my July ASBJ story — Early Learning, Long-Term Benefits – all our sentimental talk about caring for children and their futures hasn’t spurred the nation into providing critical opportunities for many of its youngest and most vulnerable citizens.

According to the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers, state-level preschool funding fell by $145 per child last year and $700 per child over the past decade. Part of this is surely do to the poor economy over much of that period, but when that economy improves, as it must sooner or later, will the nation put up the kind of money it needs to match its rhetoric?

There are some positive signs. Throughout the country, forward-thinking school districts are putting new emphasis on the quality of their students’ lives before kindergarten. And they’re realizing that to be successful they don’t have to do this alone — indeed, that they must have the support of a wide community network, the creation of which promises dividends every bit as rich as the kind of numbers mentioned above.

For the July story, I visited one of these districts close to ASBJ’s home: the Montgomery County (Md.) Public Schools, a large, urban, highly diverse district where 90 percent of 12th graders graduate from high school and 77 percent of these graduates go to college.

Many other districts across the country that are doing the same thing and working to make preschool a seamless part of their now-PreK-12 curriculum.

You could say they’re doing it because “children or our future” or something equally heart-warming. Or you could just all it a smart investment.

Lawrence Hardy|July 13th, 2012|Categories: American School Board Journal, Curriculum, Dropout Prevention, Educational Research, Federal Programs, Preschool Education|Tags: , , |

Response to Intervention program wins Kentucky’s PEAK Award

Kentucky’s Boone County school district received the Public Education Achieves in Kentucky (PEAK) Award on April 30 for its Response to Intervention (RTI) program. Boone County is the home district of NSBA President C. Ed Massey.

The PEAK Award, which is given twice a year by the Kentucky School Boards Association, honors outstanding programs that enhance students’ learning and promote the positive impact of public education.

Boone County’s RTI program, which began in 2007, focuses on keeping students in regular classrooms while using individualized, research-based instructions and interventions to help them overcome reading and math deficits. Students’ progress is monitored weekly and teachers use that data to make instruction decisions. Since the program has expanded to all of Boone County’s schools, the district reports that its special education referrals are down 99 percent.

“Intervention is very important as soon as a student’s needs are determined,” said PEAK judge Gene Allen, a member of the East Bernstadt Independent school board. “This helps at-risk children keep up in their studies, preventing them from being identified for special education services. This will save school systems a great deal of expense with their future education.”

Every six weeks, the grade-level professional learning teams meet and look at student progress. “If students continue to make progress, they continue with the same interventions,” said Karen Cheser, Boone County’s assistant superintendent for learning support services. “If they aren’t, the team does some data-driven decision making and says, ‘This student needs a different intervention or more time in intervention’ … always thinking we want the least restrictive environment.”

She added, “There are students with disabilities who need extreme special education services and they will continue to get them. The key difference with this program is the constant monitoring. We’re keeping a really close eye on if the intervention is working. We have a really tight list of research-based interventions. There has to be scientific evidence to support the use of that particular intervention with that particular type student.”

Boone County leaders used existing resources to build the program, as there was no new funding available.

KSBA accepts PEAK Award nominations from Kentucky’s public school systems twice a year and recognizes one outstanding program in the fall and in the spring.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|May 1st, 2012|Categories: Curriculum, Educational Research, School Boards, Special Education|

The week in blogs: But can your principal do this?

Blogger Fawn Johnson mentions “hapless Principal Krupp” from the Captain Underpants series and “deliciously evil Principal Rooney” from Ferris Bueller’s Day off. But my favorite fictional school leader is Principal Skinner from The Simpsons, who, many years ago, as I recall, escaped from some nefarious crooks who had locked him in the school basement by using — what else? — fifth grade science principles. Pretty cool!

Real principals don’t have to be quite as heroic, but, as Johnson notes in her National Journal blog, the job involves a lot more in the way of academic leadership than it once did. Citing recent a recent report from NSBA’s Center for Public Education, Johnson says that principals can be the key to turning around low-performing schools — if they’re given enough years to do the work.

This Week in Education’s John Thompson takes a skeptical look at credit recovery in his blog, aptly titled “In Praise of Seat Time.” He’s commenting on two other critiques of the practice by the Washington Post’s Jay Mathews and Title I-Derland’s Nancy Connor. Also see “Course Credits on the Quick, in the March/April issue of the Harvard Education Letter.

Lastly, it’s college acceptance/rejection season, and. Time’s Andrew Rotherham has some sage words for high schoolers receiving “the thin envelop.”

Lawrence Hardy|April 28th, 2012|Categories: Center for Public Education, Curriculum, Educational Research, Governance, Urban Schools|Tags: , , , |

New Center report looks at ways to boost high school rigor

Advanced Placement courses, rigorous math curriculum, dual high school-college enrollment, and early college programs can all increase the rigor of America’s secondary schools, according to Is High School Tough Enough?, a new report by NSBA’s Center for Public Education.

While the report noted that more in-depth research is needed, it said that school boards interested in applying these four strategies need to consider issues such as funding, data collection, and increasing access for low-income and minority students.

“In today’s education landscape, many are beginning to re-think the high school experience,” said Patte Barth, Director of the Center.  “From Advanced Placement courses to dual enrollment, early college high schools, and even high-level math, the aim is to expose students to concepts, curricula, and ideas that will help them succeed in college or lead to a productive career.”

Barth said this emphasis is reflected in many policy trends, including an increasing “PreK-16” perspective as well as the recently developed Common Core State Standards in math and language arts, which most states have adopted in order to help produce college-ready and career-ready high school graduates.

Still, there is wide variation in secondary school rigor across the country, the report noted. It said that — while the term “rigor” is not easily defined — “many low-income schools lack access to a rigorous high school curriculum by any definition.” For example, according to a 2011 report by U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) 3,000 high schools serving nearly 500,000 students offer no classes in Algebra II, a gateway to higher math, college, and career readiness.

In a survey issued Tuesday, OCR expanded on that issue, noting, among other things, only 29 percent of high-minority high schools offered Calculus, compared to 55 percent of schools with the lowest black and Hispanic enrollment. In addition, the report found that teachers in high-minority schools were paid $2,251 less than teachers in low minority schools in the same district. It also noted that African American students, particularly males, were far more likely to be expelled or suspended from school than their peers.

“The power of the data is not only in the numbers themselves, but in the impact it can have when married with the courage and the will to change,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “The undeniable truth is that the everyday educational experience for many students of color violates the principle of equity at the heart of the American promise.  It is our collective duty to change that.”

Exposure to advanced courses can have a big impact on the educational success of low-income and minority students, the Center for Public Education report said.  

“For example, Hispanic students who passed an AP exam were nearly seven times more likely to graduate from college than their non-participating counterparts,” the Center’s report said. “Such findings buttress the argument that exposure to higher-level courses can translate into long-term gains for underrepresented students.”

Moreover, the Center report said that taking AP courses can improve students’ chances for success even if they don’t pass the AP exam. It said that only 10 percent of African-American students who did not take an AP course graduated within five years, compared with 37 percent who took an AP course and did not pass the exam, and 53 percent who took an AP course and passed.

 

Lawrence Hardy|March 7th, 2012|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Board governance, Center for Public Education, Curriculum, Data Driven Decision Making, Discipline, Diversity, Educational Research, High Schools, Student Achievement|Tags: , , , , |

Insights into transforming learning

Check out Mary Broderick’s, President of the National School Boards Association (NSBA) and the former Chair of Connecticut’s East Lyme Board of Education, insights on Education Week’s blog, Transforming Learning.

In the posting, Broderick discusses the opportunity for America’s public schools to excel and challenges our schools are facing.  Broderick notes:

As our teachers and school officials try to meet the mandates of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Race to the Top programs, our children are being denied the inquiry and problem solving they crave. Our challenge as we go through the process to rewrite NCLB is to move to a model where we unleash curiosity, drive for excellence, and creative potential and generate a love of learning in our students and staff members.

School board members share the urgent sense that each and every child, no matter their circumstances, must have the opportunity to excel. We know we must ensure high quality experiences so that each child evolves fully. Only then will America continue to lead the world in innovative and creative solutions to the world’s problems.

BoardBuzz agrees, it’s time to remove the barriers to ensure all American students receive a world class education.

Alexis Rice|February 16th, 2012|Categories: Assessment, Educational Research, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Programs, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

The week in blogs: Making elementary school feel safe for all

By its very title, the report suggests that playgrounds, as well as other places in elementary schools, aren’t viewed as  “safe” by many students.

Titled Playgrounds and Prejudice: Elementary School Climate in the United States, the report was released this week by the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network. (GLSEN). It found, among other things, that 75 percent of elementary school students “are called names, made fun of, or bullied with at least some regularity.”

“Most commonly this is because of students’ looks or body size (67%), followed by not being good at sports (37%), how well they do at schoolwork (26%), not conforming to traditional gender norms/roles (23%) or because other people think they’re gay (21%),” the report said.

Along with the report, GLSEN also released Ready, Set, Respect! a toolkit for helping teachers understand bullying, gender nonconformity, and family diversity. Board members should also see NSBA’s extensive information on bullying and visit Students on Board, which recommends that school board members get critical information from some of the best sources around – students themselves.

“Honest conversations with students can be the quickest way you can move toward practical steps to sustain or improve school climate,” the Students on Board website says.

Also of interest this week is the National Journal’s Education forum on the push for more comprehensive education in civics. And NSBA’s Center for Public Education looks at a comprehensive study showing that teacher evaluations based on multiple criteria  – including well-designed and regular classroom observations – can be highly effective and accurate.

Lawrence Hardy|January 21st, 2012|Categories: Board governance, Bullying, Data Driven Decision Making, Diversity, Educational Research, Teachers, Week in Blogs|Tags: , , , |

The week in blogs: Center report on time in school elicits big response

Public education, like any discipline, has accumulated a lot of truisms over the years, most of which are, well … true.

Who can challenge statements like: Parents are the first teachers. School boards should set policy, not run the district. Next to home influences, teachers are the most important factor in a child’s education.

Pretty self-evident stuff.

And then there’s this: U. S. students don’t do as well as their international counterparts because they spend less time in school. True? Well, plausible enough (and certainly repeated enough) that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan made a reference to it recently, saying that students in India and China “are going to school 25 to 30 percent longer than we are,” and adding, “Our students, I think, are at a competitive disadvantage.”

Such a deficit might indeed be a competitive disadvantage —  if it were true.  But NSBA’s Center for Public Education examined the claim and, using the best available evidence, concluded that it was not.

For the report Time in School: How does the U.S. Compare? Senior Research Analyst Jim Hull compared the hours required in school by several nations that compete with the United States with the those required from five of the more populous states. (States were used because they set minimum hour requirements.)

His conclusion? U.S. students attend about the same number of hours as students in most of these other countries, with some variations. (Less than in Italy, for example; more than in Finland.) Moreover, Hull said, a big issue for schools is often not how much time they require, but what they do with the time they’ve got.

The report took off in the blogosphere, being featured in Valerie Strauss’s Answer Sheet column in the Washington Post and several other places.

“Many modern school reformers have unfortunately maintained a narrow focus about the conditions that lead to academic success, including the notion that more time is necessarily better,” Strauss said.

In an EDifier blog, Hull said he appreciated the Posts citation, but he emphasized that “while simply adding more instructional time will not automatically improve student achievement. What gets lost is that adding time can be an effective tool to improve student achievement especially for students from low-income families.”

As they always say  — truism alert! – the devil is in the details.

The study was also picked up byThe Denver Post and U.S. News & World Report.

Lawrence Hardy|December 17th, 2011|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Center for Public Education, Educational Research, Student Achievement, Teachers, Week in Blogs|Tags: , , |

Align Pre-K and early grades, coalition says

High-quality preschool is essential for ensuring that all children — particularly disadvantaged children and English Language Learners — are launched onto a path of academic and career success, says a new report by the Pre-K Coalition, a group that includes NSBA and six other education organizations. Yet, as important as this advantage is, Pre-K is not some kind of educational “silver bullet,” and its successes must be built upon in early elementary school,

To get the most impact from Pre-K, the programs should be closely aligned with early elementary school (kindergarten through third grade) so gains made in preschool can be maintained and enhanced throughout the K12 years and beyond, says the coalition’s report, The Importance of Aligning Pre-k through 3rd Grade.

“Child development is a continuous process that must be fed and nurtured along the way,’ the report says. “Gains made in high-quality Pre-K programs must be sustained by quality education throughout the K-3 years. Likewise, skills developed in first grade must be reinforced and built upon in second grade.”

The report cites several impediments to aligning Pre-K with early elementary school, as well as strategies for addressing them. One issue is the lack of focus that policymakers have put on the early grades.

“Unfortunately, our education system is structured to pay the least attention to children’s progress during these critical years,” the report says. “Under current federal law, state and district accountability benchmarks focus primarily on student performance in grades three through eight. Intervention strategies and turn around models for schools ‘in need of improvement’ target these grades as well.”

While the new Common Core State Standards, which cover grades kindergarten through 12, will help states and districts focus on the entire K-12 continuum, schools need to provide “a continuous and well-aligned set of early learning experiences” in grades K-3 to achieve sustained success,” the report says.

School districts also have to work to finds ways to collaborate with community preschool programs, which may have different regulations, funding streams, and educational philosophies.

“To foster collaboration, some districts have implemented joint professional development opportunities for community-based early educators and teachers to come together to share experiences and align expectations,” the report says. “Other efforts may involve more formal program integration such as the sharing of program staff, space, or other resources between a public school and a Head Start provider.”

The report cites school districts in three communities that are successfully aligning Pre-K and early elementary school: Montgomery County, Md.; Nooksack Valley, Wash.; and Santa Maria Bonita, Calif.

In addition to NSBA, which is spearheading the coalition, the other members are: the American Association of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, Council of Chief State School Officers, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of State Boards of Education, and the National Education Association.

Successfully aligning Pre-K and early elementary school will take hard work and the cooperation of educators and policymakers at all levels, said NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant.

“There must be a culture of shared responsibility among all partners (local, state, and federal as well as parents to support a comprehensive continuum of learning from pre-K to grade 3,” Bryant said. “We are asking the federal government to become a true partner with states and local communities to ensure that students receive a high quality start to learning.”

Lawrence Hardy|December 7th, 2011|Categories: Center for Public Education, Curriculum, Educational Research, Governance, National Standards, Preschool Education, School Board News, Student Achievement, Student Engagement|Tags: , , , , |

The week in blogs

Depending on your point of view — and your experiences with high-stakes testing — No Child Left Behind was either a critical first step toward school accountability, a good idea with some major flaws, or a colossal flop. (And there’s probably a myriad views in between.) Will the Common Core State Standards Initiative be any better? As you might expect, the views expressed by a number of experts on the National Journal’s education blog are all well-reasoned — and all over the map. Nobody said this was going to be easy.

Alberta has one of the best school systems in the world, writes the provocatively-named blog Dangerously Irrelevant, and it doesn’t look too kindly on what’s happening to its south. Thanks to This Week in Education for pointing out this eye-opening critique of why Canada seems to be getting things right in school reform – and much of the U.S. is getting it wrong.

Another must-read is the review of a new Department of Education report on school inequity from Raegen Miller of the Center for American Progress.  Then, on the same site, see Robert Pianta’s proposals for improving teacher development.

Finally, a non-education story, strictly speaking, but one that says a lot about what it takes to be an effective leader – including a leader in a school district. Yes, it’s a sports column (by the Washington Post’s Sally Jenkins) and yes it deals with recent coaching changes on two of Washington’s pro teams, which, most of you I would imagine do not care a whole lot about. ( I live here, and even I don’t care that much.) But — trust me here — Jenkins’ message about the kind of leaders people follow goes beyond mere games.

 

Lawrence Hardy|December 2nd, 2011|Categories: Board governance, Educational Legislation, Educational Research, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Governance, Leadership, National Standards, Professional Development, School Reform, Student Achievement, Teachers, Uncategorized|Tags: , , , , |
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