Articles in the Governance category

Court deems Virginia school takeover plan unconstitutional

A Circuit Court judge has struck down a state school takeover board that would have stripped local school boards of their authority over low-performing schools, ruling in favor of the Virginia School Boards Association (VSBA) and the City of Norfolk school board.

Norfolk Public Schools and VSBA sued the state last fall, arguing that the state’s Opportunity Educational Institution (OEI) and its governing board, established by then-Governor Bob McDonnell and the Virginia General Assembly to take over schools deemed to be chronically low performing, violated the state’s constitution.

“This ruling is an important affirmation of the Virginia Constitution’s intent that localities hold the responsibility for their public schools,” said VSBA Executive Director Gina G. Patterson. “With that being said, there is still much work to be done to ensure that all of our schools are successful.”

The OEI and the OEI Board were created by the state legislature in its 2013 session to take over the supervision of schools that were denied accreditation and to require documentation and information about schools that had been accredited with warning for three years. The legislation also granted the OEI Board the authority to vote to take over the supervision of any school accredited with warning for three years. The legislation creating the OEI and the OEI Board purported to make the OEI “a statewide school division” and the OEI Board “a policy board in the executive branch of state government.”

The school board of a school taken over would have been required to transfer to OEI not only the local funds required by the state-mandated Standards of Quality, but also any local funds appropriated to the school division of residence in excess of the state-mandated amount.

The VSBA and the Norfolk School Board argued that the law violated Article VIII, Section 7 of the Constitution of Virginia, which provides that “the supervision of schools in each school division shall be vested in a school board.”

The OEI board was a policy board under the executive branch of government and an education institution falling under Title 23 of the Code of Virginia, which relates to institutions of higher education. Further, the lawsuit argued that the legislation establishing the OEI board violates Article VIII, Section 5, of the Constitution of Virginia, which provides that the State Board of Education shall create school divisions. The General Assembly, not the Virginia Board of Education, created the OEI board as a statewide school division.

Norfolk School Board Chairman Kirk Houston said, “We are pleased with the ruling. We value our strong partnership with Virginia elected and appointed leaders, however, state takeover of schools was not going to be a magic formula for addressing challenges with student achievement, particularly in high-poverty schools. In Norfolk, our community is focused on creating school environments that maximize all children’s academic potential, with consideration for all of their unique needs.”

Since the lawsuit was filed, more than 100 school boards and municipal governing boards, including Norfolk’s City Council, passed resolutions supporting it.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|June 11th, 2014|Categories: Board governance, Governance, School Law, State School Boards Associations|Tags: |

Call for proposals for NSBA’s 2015 Annual Conference

2015 NSBA Annual Conference

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is requesting proposals for breakout sessions to be conducted during our 75th Annual Conference in Nashville, Tenn., March 21-23. The conference will draw thousands of attendees, exhibitors, and guests representing nearly 1,400 school districts, and will feature distinguished speakers and hundreds of workshops, presentations, and other events that will help school board members develop leadership skills, boost student learning, and improve school districts’ operations.

If your school district or organization has an idea for a high-quality breakout session that focuses on a topic of critical interest to school board members for presentation at this conference, please complete a proposal online by the deadline of Monday, June 16 at 5 p.m. EDT. Only proposals submitted through the online process  will be considered. Breakout sessions will be 30, 45, or 75 minutes in length and will be scheduled throughout the conference.

Proposals are being solicited for the following focus areas:

• Innovations in District Management
• Legal and Legislative Advocacy
• Professional and Personal Development
• School Board/Superintendent Partnerships
• Student Achievement and Accountability
• Technology + Learning Solutions

“Myths and lies” threaten public schools, renowned researcher David Berliner says

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David C. Berliner  participated in a no-holds-barred interview with the Arizona School Boards Association.

David C. Berliner, Regents Professor Emeritus of education at Arizona State University (ASU) and co-author of the recently released book “50 Myths & Lies That Threaten America’s Public Schools,” recently spoke with the Arizona School Boards Association‘s (ASBA) Arizona Education News Service. Berliner discusses the policies, practices and popular beliefs that he believes are the greatest threats to Arizona’s public schools and shares his thoughts on how schools can better serve children. His co-author was Gene V. Glass, also a Regents Professor Emeritus of education at ASU.

The following question-and-answer session is republished with permission from ASBA.

Q: What three policies, practices and popular beliefs mentioned in the book affect Arizona’s public schools most?

A: The first and most important myth is that American students do not do well in international competition, which shows how poor our schools are. This is complete nonsense.

If you start to break up the scores of kids on the tests into five groups – one of which are kids that go to schools where less than 10 percent of the families are in poverty, and another group of schools where less than 25 percent of kids are in poverty –in the last big international test scores, the PISA, those kids actually scored among the best in the world.

In reading, they scored almost better than anyone else. Even in mathematics, which is not our strongest area in the U.S., they scored terrific.

It’s the other end of the spectrum – kids who go to schools where there are over 50 percent in poverty or at schools where there are over 75 percent of kids in poverty – they’re doing terrible.

The blanket statement that our schools don’t do well is factually incorrect.

The proper statement is that some of our schools are not doing well, and almost all of them are schools where poverty is endemic.

The second one that I would touch on is the absolutely stupid policy passed by our Legislature (Move on When Reading) to hold kids back if they are not reading well in third grade.

There is no better set of research in education than in that area. We know quite factually, as certainly as we know evolution and as well as we know global warming, that leaving a child back is a wrong decision for almost all of them. It’s a mistake.

The child who is left back has a much higher chance of dropping out of school. They don’t like school. When those students are interviewed, they call up the equivalent of wetting their pants in school, or losing a parent, or going blind. It’s a horrible occurrence for the family.

What’s more, the state has committed itself to putting in another approximately $8,000 because to leave that child back, means one more year of elementary school.

If they used that $8,000 for tutoring of the kid, you wouldn’t have to leave the kid back. The kid wouldn’t drop out of high school. The kid wouldn’t be a negative force in classrooms and wouldn’t be overage for their grade. You’d be much better off.

The third one I’d suggest is one promulgated by Arizona’s own Goldwater Institute, in which the president of the Goldwater Institute says early childhood education is no good.

She is factually wrong.

There are studies out showing that for all kids high-quality early childhood education makes a difference in their lives and for poor kids in particular it has really profound effects.

Those are three areas where Arizona, in particular, has got it all wrong.

Q: Which specific funding issues identified in the book need to be addressed most urgently and how?

A: There are a number of parts to this. Number one, teacher salaries in Arizona have gone way down. Other states, while they had to rescind some salaries during the recession, have restored them. During the recession, Massachusetts’ teachers’ salaries went up.

You cannot attract the best and the brightest to the field even if they want to be teachers, if you don’t pay them enough for the starting salary.

Maybe even worse for the long-term in Arizona is that state funding for the three state universities has gone straight down for the last 20 years while the demand for higher education and the demand for educated workers is up.

You can’t have a future in a knowledge economy without people possessing knowledge.

Also, we have not restored the funding that the state gives to school districts either. So we’ve had to cancel art and music classes, we’ve had to cancel a lot of special services for kids who need them, and after school programs, etc.

Not only have you hurt who you can attract to the field, but you’ve actually hurt the systems themselves.

Funding matters a lot. Other states are way, way ahead of us.

Q: You have identified a group of college-and-career ready “myths and lies.” What is the most prevalent issue related to this that you identify in the book?

A: We don’t think most people know what career- and college-ready means.

What we need is certainly a literate workforce, a numerate workforce, a scientifically literate workforce, but we’ve always needed that. I don’t think that’s anything new.

What we really need to save our state and our nation is a population that takes its role in citizenship seriously. We are more likely to lose our pre-eminence as a nation because of apathetic voters than anything else.

Q: How can schools better serve children?

A: Schools could be better if they were, in our more modern times, more encompassing of the child.

That means more after-school programs, because lots of families are not home for kids after school. It could be homework areas for kids with tutors, it could be sports, it could be music, it could be art.

There’s a fascinating study that says when people reach the age of 55 or so, which is usually around the peak earning parts of their lives, people who have studied the humanities out-earn people who have gone into business.

But what we see all over America is the cutting of the humanities – less government, less history, less art, less music.

What we’re doing is cutting off our humanities, when we need to keep them. We need the journalism club. We need the music classes. We need the art classes. That would make some schools better, but it also makes kids want to go to school.

I bet very few kids want to go to school to study mathematics. I bet lots of kids want to go to school to be part of the music program, the art program, and the sports program.

What you want are the hooks to keep kids in school, and those are the ones that we’re getting rid of. Every parent knows this, and every legislator doesn’t care.

Q: “Myths and lies” is a pretty inflammatory title. Why did you choose this as a way to discuss the serious issues facing America’s and Arizona’s public schools?

A: A good deal of what’s promulgated is self interest.

School uniforms companies tell everyone learning improves if you wear uniforms. Not true. Your laundry bill may improve, though.

Other companies sell iPads, and say it will help kids do better in school. Well, there’s no evidence of that.

Another part of it is simple failure to understand the research base. Like the passage of Move on When Reading.

(The interview was edited for length and clarity.)

Joetta Sack-Min|April 23rd, 2014|Categories: Assessment, Curriculum, Data Driven Decision Making, Educational Research, Governance, Policy Formation, Preschool Education, Privatization, Public Advocacy, School Reform, State School Boards Associations|Tags: , , , , , |

NSBA elects board leaders: Anne M. Byrne of New York to serve as president

School board leader Anne M. Byrne of New York’s Nanuet Union Free School District was named the 2014-15 President of the National School Boards Association (NSBA) at the association’s Annual Conference in New Orleans.

John D. Tuttle of Oklahoma’s Kellyville Public Schools was elected President-elect and Miranda Beard of Mississippi’s Laurel School District was elected Secretary-Treasurer by NSBA’s 150-member Delegate Assembly. Additionally, David A. Pickler of Tennessee’s Shelby County Schools, who served as the 2013-2014 President, will now serve as Immediate Past President.

Byrne has been a member of the Nanuet Union Free School Board for 32 years and has served as Vice President and President. She has served as President and Vice President of the Rockland County School Boards Association. She is also an executive board member and a past President of the Mid-Hudson School Study Council. She is a founding member of the Hudson-Long Island Coalition for responsible state funding, a nine-county coalition, and served as its chair.

In addition, Byrne has served as President during 2004-2005 followed by a term as Immediate Past President of the New York State School Boards Association. Byrne joined the National School Boards Association’s Board of Directors in 2006.

In the one-year term as NSBA President, Byrne plans to help NSBA become a “reservoir of research” for how engaged school boards positively affect student achievement. Byrne spoke at Annual Conference about how she wants NSBA to become an even greater advocate for public education.

“Research very clearly says that if a school board expects each child in their district to be successful and they devote the time, it happens. But school boards have to have that vision first,” said Byrne. “Once we make the decision to focus on leading children to excellence and turning around low-performing schools, we have an opportunity to change the conversation about public schools with the media and the public.”

NSBA’s Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel praised Byrne’s dedication to public education and school board governance.

“As a committed advocate for student achievement and school improvement, Anne Byrne is a champion for delivering quality education for all children starting at the local level,” said Gentzel. “Anne is the type of leader who will stand up for public education and engage in productive dialogue with school boards about how we can help all children to succeed.”

NSBA’s Delegate Assembly also elected the following school board members as regional directors to NSBA’s Board:

• ElizaBeth D. Branham of South Carolina’s Lexington School District Two was elected as a Southern Region Director;

• Anne Ritter of Idaho’s Meridian Joint School District #2 was elected as a Western Region Director;

• Viola Garcia of Texas’s Aldine Independent School District Board Member was elected as a Southern Region Director; and

• Charles Wilson, of Ohio’s Worthington School District was elected as a Central Region Director.

Serving as NSBA ex-officio directors on the NSBA Board for 2014-2015 will be: Van Henri White of New York’s Rochester City School District as the Chair of the Council of Urban Boards of Education; Ellis A. Alexander of Louisiana’s St. Charles Parish Public Schools as Chair of the National Black Caucus of School Boards; Guillermo Z. Lopez of Michigan’s Lansing Public School District as Chair of the National Hispanic Caucus of School Board Members; Gregory J. Guercio of New York’s Law Offices of Guercio & Guercio, LLP as the Chair of the Council of School Attorneys; Karen Echeverria of the Idaho School Boards Association as the Chair of the Organization of State Association Executive Directors’ Liaison Committee; and NSBA’s Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|April 10th, 2014|Categories: Announcements, Board governance, Governance, Leadership, NSBA Annual Conference 2014|Tags: , , , , , , , |

Courage is an essential quality for school leaders

How big is your brave, Angela Maiers wants to know.

Courage, according to the teacher, speaker, and social media evangelist, is not just an essential part of being a leader – it’s the most important quality and the one through which other qualities follow.

Maiers was part of a three-speaker hour-long opening General Session April 7 at NSBA’s annual conference in New Orleans, which included Erin Gruwell and Nikhil Goyal. The speakers then continued in separate sessions that went more in-depth.

Maier asked a group of kindergartners, “What does it mean to be brave?” They came up with this list:

1. Love yourself

2. Never give up

3. Be calm in yourself

4. Stand up for yourself

5. Believe in yourself

6. Be brave

“If you don’t follow that to-do list, you have no chance of asking anyone else to do any of those things,” she said. “You are the leader they wish to be. You are the change that needs to be.”

Maiers shows schools how social media and technology can bring out the genius in students and teachers and bring about social change. Some schools have put into place a “genius hour” where students can meeting physically and virtually to plan projects.

An entire district – with children from kindergarten to 12th grade – took on this project – Hutto, Texas. The district has 6,000 students. “All I said was give me a group of kids and we’ll figure it out,” Maiers said. “All we needed was school board that said, ‘I believe in you; we will be brave.’” From the project, 57 social enterprises were launched.

A large part of being a courageous leader is having a community of leaders to turn to. “I feel brave because I don’t do this work alone,” she said. “I have a network of educators and others who make me smarter every day. I have never felt so supported.”

Maiers announced that she was starting a Twitter chat for school board members, SBchat, so they could build a community, as well. The chat will run through her Choose 2 Matter website.

 

Kathleen Vail|April 10th, 2014|Categories: Governance, NSBA Annual Conference 2014, School Boards, Social Networking, Student Engagement, Teachers|Tags: , , , , , |

Wrestling with difficult people

In a Sunday session entitled “Working with Difficult People is like Wrestling Gators in the Bayou!”, attendees at NSBA’s Annual Conference learned that when people move out of their comfort zone, they tend to become either more aggressive or more passive. Given the challenges in public education and the pace of change, it’s inevitable that conflict will occur at every level of school leadership, including board leadership.

It’s a fool’s errand to try to get anyone to change their style and their priorities, said speaker Winton I. Goodrich, a former Vermont School Boards Association official who was recently hired to be superintendent of Franklin Northwest Supervisory Union school district in Swanton, Vt.

More effective is to change your attitude toward the person and your behavior with the person. “This is the thesis of this presentation: Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you deal with it,” Goodrich said.

It’s easier said than done, because having a confrontation with a difficult person can fire the amygdala, the emotional center of the brain, Goodrich said.

Start by trying to understand what personal style a difficult person has. There four common styles:

1. Drivers who want to get things done.

2. Analyzers who want to get it right.

3. Amiable folks who want to get along.

4. Expressive types who want appreciation.

All types can be assets in board work. For instance, drivers will keep your meetings from getting bogged down, while the amiable will play a key role in consensus-building. Both are skills needed on school boards.

Equally valuable on school boards are analyzers, who want to ensure all data receives adequate attention and demand facts. For creative brainstorming, and comfort with change, turn your boards’ expressive member.

Conflict on boards and within districts is inevitable, but Goodrich said a good way to reduce it is to focus on what inspires and motivates each person to be a strong leader.

As management guru Peter Drucker wrote, “The task of leadership is to create an alignment of strengths … making a system’s weaknesses irrelevant.”

 

 

Eric D. Randall|April 6th, 2014|Categories: Governance, NSBA Annual Conference 2014, School Boards|Tags: , , |

NSBA Executive Director tours successful schools, community partnerships in Cleveland

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel saw firsthand the successes of an urban school district during a tour of  high-performing schools in Cleveland last month.

Gentzel met with Cleveland Municipal School District (CMSD) CEO Eric Gordon and CMSD Board Chair Denise Link in addition to CMSD board members Willetta Milam and Robert Heard. Milam also sits on the steering committee for NSBA’s Council for Urban Boards of Education.

Gentzel was particularly impressed with the school district’s emphasis on student achievement and its innovative programs.

“I toured schools in an urban district that clearly is achieving significant gains in student achievement, thanks to a reform plan that enjoys broad community and political support,” said Gentzel. “I was especially impressed with the district leadership’s commitment to being held accountable in very public ways for their work.”

One school even had a “countdown clock” for student achievement, he added.

Other exceptional programs included dual-language elementary programs, a partnership with Cleveland State University, and the district’s pioneering partnership with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

Gentzel toured the museum with Ohio School Board Association Executive Director Rick Lewis to learn more about its curriculum, which integrates rock n’ roll into prek-12 lessons, from business to technology to English/language arts. A lesson might ask students to build a persuasive argument for their favorite band to be admitted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame or teach business and contract management skills.

Lewis, for one, noted that  “a feeling of excitement and optimism for the future flourishes throughout the CMSD.”

“The Board of Education and community have collaborated to create several standout schools and programs that offer assurances for higher student achievement,” he said. “As you walk through the halls of these schools, you can’t help but feel the contagious spirit of faith and energy. The results of their transformational plan show that excellence is possible even in an urban district with enormous socio-economic challenges.”

Gentzel toured two top-performing schools, Buhrer Dual Language School and Campus International School on the campus of Cleveland State University.

Buhrer Dual Language School is a K-8 school with the first dual language education program in Ohio. All classes are taught in English and Spanish, and Buhrer students become proficient in both.  Students earn high school credit in Algebra I and Spanish I.

Situated on Cleveland State University’s downtown campus, Campus International School, is the only International Baccalaureate candidate school in the CMSD and prepares students in grades K-6 for international citizenship with a rigorous and comprehensive global curriculum. Each year the school adds a grade level until it will become a K-12 school.

“Our Board members and our CEO appreciated the opportunity to meet with Tom to discuss our school district’s ongoing transformation plan and our efforts to increase the number of high-performing schools in Cleveland,” said Link.

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|April 2nd, 2014|Categories: Assessment, Curriculum, Dropout Prevention, Governance, High Schools, Urban Schools|Tags: , |

NSBA comments on Fordham Institute’s new school leadership report

A new report by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute concludes that school districts whose school board members are focused on student achievement are more likely than others to “beat the odds” academically — that is, to perform better than the demographics and financial conditions of their students would suggest.

The report, Does School Board Leadership Matter? is a follow-up to the 2010 report School Boards Circa 2010: Governance in the Accountability Era, a joint project of Fordham Institute, the National School Boards Association (NSBA), and the Iowa School Boards Association. As with the earlier report, NSBA says that — while the new study makes a valuable contribution to the field of school board research —  some of its findings are based on questionable assumptions.

NSBA issued the following statement regarding the report:

The report, “Does School Board Leadership Matter?” released March 26 by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute in Washington, DC, affirms the fact that local school boards matter and that their actions can positively impact student achievement.  The study sheds additional light on what makes a quality school board, and adds further support to a Jan. 2011 research review issued by NSBA’s Center for Public Education (CPE) on the “Eight Characteristics of Effective Boards.”

As such, the new Fordham Institute report makes a valuable contribution to the field of school board research, especially when viewed alongside other research, such as the CPE report, that also shows a relationship between school board behaviors and higher student achievement.  We appreciate the transparency with which Fordham Institute indicates the limitations of its findings, which were based in part on a prior Fordham Institute-NSBA-Iowa School Boards Foundation national survey of school boards, School Boards Circa 2010: Governance in the Accountability Era.  As with all correlational studies, reviewers of the Fordham Institute report should use caution when interpreting findings, some of which are based on questionable assumptions. For example, in determining the accuracy of school board members’ knowledge of district funding, the authors conflate relative per pupil dollars with school board members’ perceptions about how sufficient those dollars are — two entirely different things.

Nonetheless, NSBA appreciates the Fordham Institute focus on providing greater insight around effective local school board governance, recognizing that school boards need the support of key influencers such as parents, teachers, principals and others who help to create positive teaching and learning environments.  We look forward to continuing our collaboration on this important issue.

Lawrence Hardy|March 26th, 2014|Categories: Board governance, Center for Public Education, Governance, School Boards, School Reform|Tags: , |

U.S. Department of Education study shows racial disparities in school suspensions

A new study released by the Department of Education shows African-American students as young as preschoolers are more likely to be suspended than their white counterparts—a statistic that the National School Boards Association (NSBA) calls “unacceptable.”

According to the report, “Black students represent 16% of the [K-12] student population, but 32-42% of students suspended or expelled. In comparison, white students also represent a similar range of between 31-40% of students suspended or expelled, but they are 51% of the student population.”

Read the snapshot of the study.

Reggie Felton, NSBA’s interim associate executive director for federal advocacy and public policy deemed these rates “unacceptable” in an Associated Press story. Felton also brought up the NSBA’s awareness efforts and the importance of keeping students in school. NSBA has been working in local districts across the US to talk about the crisis in out-of-school suspensions, which are particularly harmful to students of color and students with special needs.

“Local school boards are addressing these issues in many states with elimination of zero tolerance policies and establishment of more effective policies,” Felton said.  “Local school boards also recognize the need to shift toward in-school suspension policies to ensure access to quality learning, even if students are removed from a specific classroom.”

Just last year, NSBA released a comprehensive policy guide for school boards addressing the out-of-school suspension crisis. The policy guide offers questions for policymakers, educators, and parents as well as case studies of capacity-building programs in districts where racial equity has been addressed.

As the NSBA report found in April 2013: “When students are forced to leave the school environment, they are denied an opportunity to learn. While overly harsh school discipline policies can affect all students, they have a disproportionate impact on students of color. Research shows that African American, Latino and Native American students, in particular, are far more likely to be suspended, expelled, and arrested than their white peers, even when accused of similar behavior.”

Read the policy guide: Addressing the Out-Of-School Suspension Crisis

 

Staff|March 21st, 2014|Categories: Discipline, Diversity, Dropout Prevention, Governance, High Schools, Legislative advocacy, Preschool Education|Tags: , |

NSBA honors House members for work on ESEA, federal overreach

U.S. House of Representatives members, Aaron Schock of Illinois, Patrick Meehan of Pennsylvania, and Ron Kind of Wisconsin, were honored this week with the Congressional Special Recognition Award, given by the National School Boards Association (NSBA) for their strong support for public education.

Schock, Meehan, and Kind worked together to introduce and promote the Local School Board Governance and Flexibility Act, HR 1386, which would better establish local school boards’ authority and curb overreach by the U.S. Department of Education on issues that impact local school districts unless specifically authorized in federal legislation. Provisions of the bill were approved as an amendment to the House version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), HR 5, which passed the House last summer.

“We are proud to honor Reps. Schock, Meehan, and Kind with NSBA’s Congressional Special Recognition Award for their tireless efforts to help improve school boards’ abilities to lead our public schools,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “Their leadership on the Local School Board Governance and Flexibility Act and the ESEA reauthorization amendment are extremely important to public school leaders across the country who deal daily with federal regulations that hinder their abilities to improve student achievement. We appreciate their support for local school boards.”

The awards were announced at NSBA’s Advocacy Institute in Washington, which focuses on building year-round advocates for public education and local school governance in public, legal, and legislative arenas. More than 750 school board members are attending the three-day conference, which includes visits to their members of Congress on Capitol Hill.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|February 5th, 2014|Categories: Assessment, Conferences and Events, Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Governance, Legislative advocacy, National School Boards Action Center, NSBA Recognition Programs|Tags: , , , |
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