Articles in the Governance category

NSBA featured in major media on school choice concerns

After Republicans introduced legislation that would allow states to send up to $24 billion in federal funding toward school choice programs, National School Boards Association (NSBA) Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel offered a reality check on the performance of charter schools, vouchers, and other measures. Gentzel appeared on Fox News and was quoted in The Washington Post and The New York Times stories on the measure.

“We certainly haven’t seen any consistent evidence anywhere in the country that these kinds of programs are effective or producing better results,” said Gentzel, who appeared on a segment during Fox News’ Special Report with Bret Baier on the Senate proposal, introduced this week by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) has introduced legislation in the House that also would include some students with disabilities and use funds from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Watch the video segment.

In the New York Times article, Gentzel countered proponents of school choice who claim that traditional public schools have not improved fast enough, and that low-income families should have other choices.

“The big issue is really that lack of accountability,” Gentzel told the Times. “Frankly, our view is every child should have access to a great public school where they live.”

In The Washington Post, Gentzel discussed Alexander’s proposal, the “Scholarships for Kids Act,” which would allow states to create $2,100 scholarships from existing federal K-12 programs, including Title I, to “follow” 11 million children whose families meet the federal to any public or private school of their parents’ choice. The total cost would be $24 billion—41 percent of the current federal education allotment.

“School choice is a well-funded and politically powerful movement seeking to privatize much of American education,” he told the Post. “We’re not against public charters, and there are some that are well-motivated. . . . But our goal is that public schools be schools of choice. We need to invest and support public schools, not divert money and attention from them to what amounts, in many cases, to experiments.”

Reginald Felton, NSBA’s Interim Associate Executive Director for Federal Advocacy and Public Policy, also told Governing magazine that Title I would inevitably face cuts under Lamar’s plan, along with other programs that benefit disadvantaged children. For states that would choose not to opt into the proposed program, that means less money is available for their most vulnerable populations, he said.

“It’s hard for us to believe that a $24 billion reallocation could exist without drastically reducing funding for Title I students,” he told Governing.

The Ohio Schools Boards Association (OSBA) recently showcased how funding to choice programs hurts neighborhood public schools. In its December newsletter, OSBA notes, “Ohio Department of Education data shows traditional public schools will lose more than $870 million in state funding to charter schools in fiscal year (FY) 2014. That’s an increase of 5.4 percent over FY 2013, when approximately $824 million was transferred from traditional public schools to charters. This increase comes amid ongoing reports of charter school mismanagement, conflicts of interest and felony indictments and convictions.”

According to CREDO (Center for Research on Educational Outcomes) research on charters, states that empower multiple authorizing agencies are more likely to report the weakest academic results for charter schools. Local governance – enacted by local school boards – offers transparency and accountability along with a direct focus on student achievement versus profit.

In 2008, 64 percent of Ohio’s charter schools were on academic watch or emergency status, compared to 9 percent of traditional public schools, according to “The Regulation of Charter Schools” in the Jan./Feb. issue of American School Board Journal.

While the state changed its regulations in 2008, ASBJ cites the case of Hope Academy Cathedral, a K-8 charter school in Cleveland, as an example of the loopholes that exist in Ohio’s charter law. The school was ordered to close in 2011 after repeatedly being rated as in “academic emergency.”

Less than two months later, a new K-8 charter — Woodland Academy — opened in the same building, with 15 returning staff members, the same authorizer, and the same for-profit management firm, wrote ASBJ Senior Editor Del Stover. In its first year of operation, the new charter school also was judged to be in academic emergency.

 

 

National Coalition for Public Education offers sample Tweets on vouchers

The National Coalition for Public Education (NCPE) recently offered the following guide to using Twitter during National School Choice Week, Jan. 26-Feb. 1, 2014.  NSBA is a member of NCPE, which is made up of more than 50 education, civil rights, civic, and religious organizations that work together to fight vouchers and promote strong public schools.

Thank you for engaging in NCPE’S twitter campaign during National School Choice Week. This information should be of use to anyone in your organization who has a twitter account and is interested in helping NCPE successfully counter the pro-voucher messaging that will be a major part of National School Choice Week’s campaign.

Tip #1: School Choice Week will be using the hashtag #SCW. While it’s unnecessary to use this hashtag for every tweet, consider emphasizing and borrowing the #SCW hashtag some of your tweets. This will allow NCPE to disrupt the narrative the Choice Week organizers are putting out and will make our social media campaign a success.

Tip #2: Try not to overload your tweets with hashtags. If you’ve used #voucher, you don’t really need to add #voucherfail at the end.  The more concise the tweet, the higher the likelihood others will re-tweet you.

Sample Tweets

DC schools couldn’t account for more than 1 in 5 students given taxpayer-funded vouchers. #voucherfail  http://bit.ly/1bWbx5V

#Vouchers have helped spread the teaching of junk creationist “science.” http://on.msnbc.com/1eHJ8E7

DC’s voucher schools vary drastically because the system lacks basic quality controls. #voucherfail  http://wapo.st/1cBCCid

Taxpayer-funded tuition tax credits in Georgia fund schools with anti-gay policies and curriculum.  http://nyti.ms/1dwHHpH #schoolchoicefail

Test scores shows that students in Milwaukee public schools outperformed students in #voucher schools http://bit.ly/1ghHKJt

Voters don’t like vouchers: over 30 years, voucher ballot measures have been defeated every time they appeared on a ballot #voucherfail

#Voucher schools often discriminate against students with special needs http://bit.ly/1eHLKla

Religious freedom provisions in many state constitutions bar vouchers for religious schools http://bit.ly/1bSdf8q  #voucherfail

Florida voters rejected a constitutional amendment to funnel public funds directly to religious schools in 2012 http://bit.ly/1aIejvV #voucherfail

Public funds should pay only for public schools that are open to all children and accountable to the taxpayers. #voucherfail

Your taxpayer dollars shouldn’t fund #vouchers for schools that teach creationist “science” or debunked “Christian nation” history.

#Vouchers are ineffective, lack accountability to taxpayers, and deprive students of rights provided to public school students #voucherfail

Public funds for public schools! Tax dollars should fund education for everyone, not a select few. #voucherfail

Our public schools deserve support. They’re safe, neutral zones where students can learn free of discrimination #voucherfail

#Voucher schools use your tax dollars. So what do they teach? http://on.msnbc.com/1eHJ8E7

Sectarian #voucher schools can discriminate against students based on special needs, sexual orientation, and gender.

#Voucher schools don’t solve social inequality. They contribute to it: http://bit.ly/1er5YPU

In North Carolina, #vouchers give taxpayer money to homeschool families, too. http://bit.ly/1hwhHC0

Private school #vouchers don’t actually guarantee students a safe, quality education.

#VoucherFail Tumblr

Also, we welcome you to link to our #voucherfail tumbr at http://voucherfail.tumblr.com/.  We already have relevant articles posted there.  And, we have some funny memes from last year that you might want to direct people to again this year.  Keep checking it too, as we will continue to update it during school choice week.

Joetta Sack-Min|January 22nd, 2014|Categories: Charter Schools, Federal Advocacy, Governance, Legislative advocacy, School Reform, School Vouchers, Social Networking|Tags: , , |

Expanding School Choice: An Education Revolution or Diversion?

Patte Barth,  director of the Center for Public Education at the National School Boards Association, penned  the following column for the Huffington Post:

House majority leader Eric Cantor (R-Va) was speaking recently at the release of the Brookings Institution’s latest report on Education Choice and Competition. Calling these policies “an education revolution,” the House leader baldly stated, “school choice is the surest way to break [the] vicious cycle of poverty.”

Not “a solid education.”  School choice.

The Brookings’ report ranks 100 large districts on their school choice policies. Their report came out in advance of National School Choice Week whose organizers boast 5,500 scheduled events across the country beginning January 26, 2014. Both share a goal to drum up more support for funneling tax dollars into educational options — whether they be charters, magnets, private, or virtual schools.  The rationale is that a free marketplace will force schools to innovate in order to compete for students. Popular schools will equate with “good schools” and unpopular ones will close. And thus, in Brookings words, we will raise “the quality of the product.”

Unfortunately, that’s one mighty big assumption.

Most choice advocates defend their position by pointing to successful charter schools in New York City and elsewhere. Others extol the promise of virtual learning. What they all provide, for the most part, is anecdote, intuition and belief. When they do cite data, it basically shows that choice policies work in some places with some students some of the time.  Truth is, the evidence is much spottier than the champions for choice would have us believe.

Charter schools, for example, are the most studied “choice” reform.  Charter schools are public schools that have certain requirements waived so they can try out new ideas.  There is much to commend successful charters and what they are learning about effective practices. But according to a 2013 study from Stanford researchers, these are the exception. Only one in four charter schools outperforms its traditional public school counterpart in reading. About one in five performs significantly worse. In math, it’s nearly one in three.

The quality of research on voucher programs is notoriously uneven and often contradictory. Nonetheless, there seems to be general agreement that vouchers may have had a modest impact on some low-income and minority youth in some urban districts. But the findings are inconclusive as to their effect overall.  And the general efficacy of virtual schools is a big unknown, largely because districts lack the infrastructure to sufficiently track student performance in online environments.

Ironically, the Brookings report card itself illustrates the disconnect between choice policies on one hand and student performance on the other.  One does not necessarily follow the other.

Only three districts earned A’s on Brookings choice and competition rankings:  Louisiana’s Recovery District, Orleans Parish and New York City. Along with its Brookings “A,” Orleans Parish earned an “A” on Louisiana’s report card for district performance.  Yet the state gave the Recovery District an F. New York City’s A- from Brookings bears little relation to its math scores on NAEP, a national assessment. The city’s scores were at the average for large cities, and below average in terms of gains over the last decade.

Then there’s the low end of the rankings. Atlanta was given an “F” by Brookings. Yet the city boasts fourth-graders who perform above the national “large city” average in reading and posted more than twice the gains their peers made nationwide.  Charlotte, North Carolina, and Austin, Texas, are among the highest performing urban districts in both math and reading. Brookings gave them a C and D respectively.

see full data tables

 

So what does this tell us? That high-achieving, high-gaining districts can have “choice and competition” or not. Either way, it shows it’s a mistake to claim, as Rep. Cantor does, that choice is “the surest way to break the cycle of poverty.”

Contrary to popular perception, public schools have been steadily improving over the last twenty years. Math performance and graduation rates, in particular, are at all-time highs. Neither are public schools the monolithic creature some of the choice advocates make them out to be. Many districts across the country already offer alternatives in the form of charter and magnet schools, and continue to diversify instructional programs in traditional neighborhood schools, too. But parents and students need assurance that the choices they are offered are good ones, something choice for choice’s sake has not done, as the research shows.

In addition, it’s one thing to offer alternatives. It’s quite another to encourage public schools to compete with each other for students which could send the wrong messages. We need only look to our colleges and universities who, in their race to attract students, build football teams and state-of-the-art facilities at the expense of investments in teaching.  I really doubt that’s the kind of marketplace we want to create for public schools.

Far from an education revolution, the political attention given choice and competition is diverting us from the hard work of making sure public schools prepare every child for their next steps after graduation.  This means continuing to invest in those things that an abundance of evidence shows consistently work  – access to high-quality pre-kindergarten, effective teachers, rigorous curriculum and individualized instruction for students. It also means learning from successful schools — including schools of choice — about what works with different students in which situations, and bringing those practices to scale.  When we get that right, districts will earn the grades that really matter.

Joetta Sack-Min|January 22nd, 2014|Categories: Center for Public Education, Educational Legislation, Educational Research, Federal Advocacy, Governance, Legislative advocacy, Religion, School Law, School Reform, School Vouchers, Student Achievement|Tags: , , , , , , |

NSBA mourns the passing of longtime colleague Michael Eader

MichaelEader

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is mourning the death of Michael E. Eader, who had previously served as NSBA’s Associate Executive Director for Federation Member Services from 1985 to 1997, passed away Monday.

”Mike worked closely with state associations and built many lasting friendships during his service here and in his roles with state school boards associations and as a consultant to school districts,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “He was truly committed to public education and will be deeply missed by all of us who knew him.”

Most recently, Eader was an international education governance consultant, providing presentations, programs and workshops for NSBA, several state school boards associations, and local school districts. He was executive director of the Florida Association of School Administrators from 2003 to 2005, and executive director of the New Hampshire School Boards Association, from 2001 to 2003.

A native of Michigan, Eader also served as executive director of the Alabama Association of School Boards in the 1980s.

“Mike, a fellow Detroiter, and I go way back,” said Timothy G. Kremer, executive director of the New York State School Boards Association. “We met at an NSBA trainers’ conference in Atlanta in the early ‘80s.”

After that meeting, Kremer said that he and Eader were “fast friends and troublemakers from the start.”

“Quick smile, big hug, but also a smart, complex guy,” Kremer said. “I will miss you, Mike.  God bless you.”

Lawrence Hardy|January 15th, 2014|Categories: Governance, State School Boards Associations|Tags: , |

NSBA’s Massey discusses leadership for new Discovery Education webinar series

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is taking part in a new webinar series by Discovery Education designed to feature innovative leaders in K-12 education.

The series debuts Jan. 16 at 7 p.m. EST with NSBA’s Immediate Past President C. Ed Massey leading a conversation on adaptive leadership. In this webinar, Massey will investigate the many challenges education leaders face today, discuss his personal definition of adaptive leadership, and propose how educators can foster this style of leadership within their own schools.2012-2013 - Massey_President_2 (large)

The monthly series, Leadership@NOW, is offered at no charge. The events are designed by Discovery Education to provide an opportunity for educators to interact with leaders experts to share their ideas about hot topics within education and learn from experiences. Topics discussed will include effective and adaptive leadership, emerging technologies, instructional techniques, planning for change, and impactful communication. Discovery Education is using technologies including Google Hangouts and Edmodo’s social learning platform “to provide real-world experience with these services as you interact with leaders making a difference in their districts and schools.”

Registration information and a schedule of future events can be found at www.discoveryeducation.com/leadershipnow.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|January 15th, 2014|Categories: Announcements, Educational Research, Governance, Leadership, Multimedia and Webinars|Tags: , , , |

NSBA: School board involvement critical to addressing discipline issues

The U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice have issued a four-part guide designed to address disparities in discipline practices and improve school climate. The guide, which includes data showing that minorities and students with disabilities are disproportionately affected by harsher punishments, is the first time the federal government has dealt with these issues through guidance.

Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director of the National School Boards Association (NSBA), responded to the guidance and noted that  local school board and community involvement is essential in addressing concerns of discipline and race.

“Our nation’s school boards share the Education and Justice departments’ concerns for ‘safe, inclusive and positive school climates,’ with zero tolerance for discriminatory practices in public schools,” he said. “NSBA is generally pleased with the documents’ emphasis on positive interventions, but it is vital to underscore that school discipline must acknowledge the various levels of resources available to public schools and communities. It is critical that the guidelines not impose any type of unfunded mandate on local public schools and not be misused as a loophole to fund private educational placements at taxpayer expense. A one-size fits all approach is not appropriate, since public schools, communities, and resources differ.”

Further, he added, “NSBA is concerned that part of the Education and Justice departments’ legal framework may constitute an expansive interpretation of the law. We are studying the agencies’ legal analysis and will likely issue further comment.  We invite the agencies to confer further with NSBA to ensure that guidelines released incorporate school boards’ perspective on these critical topics.”

The guide could be helpful to local school boards because it provides a detailed process of how the Education and Justice departments will approach investigations with respect to student discipline and race, he added.

On a related topic, NSBA released a report, “Addressing the Out-of-School Suspension Crisis: A Policy Guide for School Board Members,” in April 2013. The document examines discipline policies and the disproportionate impact on students of color. It recommends that school disciplinary measures should not be used to exclude students from school or deprive them of educational services, and suspensions should only be used as a last resort for school safety.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|January 9th, 2014|Categories: Discipline, Diversity, Dropout Prevention, Educational Research, Governance, School Climate, School Security|Tags: , |

NSBA urges high court to review “I Heart Boobies” case

The National School Boards Association (NSBA), joined by other leading education groups and a state school boards association, is urging the U.S. Supreme Court to accept Easton Area Sch. Dist. v. B.H for review and to reverse the appellate court’s decision as contrary to well-established Supreme Court precedent.

The case focuses on a school district decision to require two female  students at a Pennsylvania middle school  to remove bracelets with the slogan, “I  ♥ Boobies KEEP A BREAST,” because of reports that the bracelets were causing a distraction for students, including instances of possible sexual harassment.

NSBA is joined by AASA, the School Superintendents Association; the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), and the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) in asking the Supreme Court to reverse the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and reaffirm that school officials have authority to determine that messages such as “I Y Boobies” disrupt the school environment and interfere with the rights of others.

“NSBA is representing the voices of parents and others who want their children focused on education and protected from lewd speech while attending public schools,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “This important amicus brief urges the Supreme Court to recognize the authority of school officials to regulate student speech during the school day if such speech disrupts the school environment or interferes with the responsibility of schools to teach civil discourse as an inherent democratic value and to protect the rights and sensibilities of other students.”

“The Third Circuit ruling forces school officials to jettison educational judgments for highly legalistic ones in a way that jeopardizes the day-to-day work of public schools and potentially harms students,” said NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón, Jr. “This ruling misreads Supreme Court precedent recognizing that school officials have the authority to determine what is appropriate speech in schools and to limit student expression that is contrary to their educational mission.”

The appellate court introduced a new standard that conflates language from two separate Supreme Court cases in a way that leaves school officials subject to litigation and restricts their ability to maintain harassment-free school environments. It replaces well-established precedents with a legally complex test that requires school officials to discern whether the student speech is “plainly lewd” or “ambiguously lewd.” If the speech falls into the latter category, it may not be regulated if it could be interpreted as political or social commentary.

Joetta Sack-Min|January 6th, 2014|Categories: Discipline, Federal Advocacy, Governance, Leadership, School Law|Tags: , |

NSBA addresses new report on cloud computing in public schools

The rapidly-evolving web-based services that have enabled school districts to streamline record keeping and make timely, data-driven decisions are also creating big challenges for safeguarding student information and preventing unauthorized use by third-party providers, a new report says.

“Cloud computing” services have helped school districts store and manage vast amounts of information, says the study released Friday by the Center on Law and Information Policy at Fordham Law School. But “we’re worried about the implications for students over time, how their information can be used or misused,” Joel R. Reidenberg, a Fordham law professor and the report’s lead author, told The New York Times.

The issue also concerns National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Council of School Attorneys (COSA), which earlier this year set up a Cloud Computing and Student Privacy Working Group that plans to issue two resources in the coming months: the first a comprehensive legal primer for school attorneys, and the second an issue-spotting guide for school board members. Both publications aim to raise operational awareness for policy makers. COSA Director Sonja H. Trainor participated in a forum on the issue at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society in November and was among about 20 education, industry, and data experts asked to discuss the report’s recommendations at Microsoft’s Washington, D.C., offices.

The report, Privacy and Cloud Computing in Public Schools, notes that many school districts employ cloud-based services, but cautions that policies and contracts are not transparent to the public, and appear to lack some important privacy protections. It is based on information provided by 20 school districts.

The report estimated that 95 percent of the reporting school districts “rely on cloud services for a diverse range of functions, including data mining related to student performance, support for classroom activities, student guidance, data hosting, as well as special services such as cafeteria payments and transportation planning.” Yet the report estimated that 20 percent of the reporting districts do not have policies governing the use of online services, and many districts have significant gaps in their contract documentation no student privacy provisions.

Only 25 percent of the responding districts inform parents that they are using cloud services to store information, the report said. “Fewer than 7 percent of the contracts restrict the sale or marketing of student information by vendors,” the report said, “and many agreements allow the vendors to change the terms without notice.”

In an interview with School Board News Today, N. Cameron Russell, the Fordham Law Center’s Executive Director and a member of the research team, said the report is based on contracts and other documents received from the 20 school districts studied, which vary in size and are located throughout the country. He emphasized that the practices concerning safeguarding of information often go beyond the language in the contracts — something the Software and Information Industry Association emphasized in commenting on the study.

Still, the report’s authors expressed concern over the lack of specific language in many vendor contracts regarding such issues as maintaining the privacy of student data and preventing its commercial use.

Rapidly evolving web-based technologies such as cloud computing offer the potential for significant advances in individualized instruction and assessment – and many school districts are on the cutting edge of these innovations, said NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón Jr.

“Schools want to help students succeed, and web-based technology is helping them do this in innovative and creative ways,” Negrón said. “At the same time, it is important to inform and engage parents and communities about these developments and ensure vendor contracts protect student privacy and address restrictions on third-party use of data.”

The report concluded with several recommendations for school districts. Among them are putting “the existence and identity of cloud service providers and the privacy protections for student data’ on district websites and “establishing policies and implementation plans for the adoption of cloud services by teachers and staff,” including in-service training and an easy mechanism for teachers to adopt and propose technologies for instructional use.

 

Lawrence Hardy|December 16th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Computer Uses in Education, Council of School Attorneys, Data Driven Decision Making, Educational Technology, Governance, School Law, School Security|

At international technology conference, NSBA discusses potential to improve U.S. schools

Ann Flynn, Director of Education Technology for the National School Boards Association, was invited to participate in the recent World Innovation Summit for Education, known as the WISE conference, in Doha, Qatar. This is the second time Flynn has been invited by the Qatar Royal Family to participate in the initiative by the Qatar Foundation. In this video, she describes her experience, the potential of technology to improve the U.S. education system, and the plights of countries with far fewer resources than the U.S.

Joetta Sack-Min|December 9th, 2013|Categories: Conferences and Events, Diversity, Educational Technology, Governance, Leadership, Online learning, STEM Education, Technology Leadership Network, Uncategorized|Tags: , , , |

CABE leader: Mandela’s life holds important lessons on education

Robert Rader, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE), penned this commentary on South African leader Nelson Mandela, who died Dec. 5, 2013, at age 95.

The revered Nobel Peace Prize winner, former leader of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, died yesterday as I write this. His is a story for all of us, from militant leader of the African National Congress and its military wing to long-term prisoner to the first democratically elected president of his nation and to world’s statesman.

But, in that biography, there are lessons for all of us about courage, commitment, communications and compromise. And, yes, about education.

His death holds special significance for me. As you might know, my wife, Megan, was born in South Africa and much of her family still lives there. We visited two years ago and plan to return this summer. I have watched through their eyes this amazing history.

I first went to South Africa in 1980, when Megan and I got married. Apartheid, the separation of the races, was still the law. We were shielded from seeing the worst of this abhorrent system, since whites were not allowed to go into black areas, such as the sprawling city of Soweto.

But, in 2000, years after Mandela’s release from prison in the early 1990s and after he had retired from the presidency, we took a trip to Soweto where we saw his original home, small, yet comfortable, but we were aware that he had been arrested there. It was very moving to think that the man who become such a beloved statesman had lived so modestly.

When we visited in 2010, his 90th birthday was celebrated in the media with articles about Madiba—his clan name, which is used as a sign of respect and affection.

Mandela, who was hunted, brought to trial and convicted twice and spent 27 years in prison, originally on stark, bleak Robben Island, four miles off the coast of Capetown. Contrary to what people might think, he was not a man without anger after his release from prison. However, as Richard Stengel, former Time editor-in-chief and Mandela biographer stated, he knew he needed to hide the bitterness of having been taken away from his wife and children, able to meet with ONE person for 30 minutes ONCE a year and allowed to receive ONE letter every six months. If he was to lead the nation, he could not retaliate for the losses he and other African National Congress leaders and followers had suffered.

It would have torn his nation apart.

To me, this is one of the most amazing feats of “turning the other cheek” in history. Think about it: once he had power, instead of revenge, his government set up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission—in which whites who had tortured, killed and oppressed blacks, including those in the army or secret police, had to confess their sins. But, after that confession, they served no jail time, were not fined and were allowed to return home. No one was sent to Robben Island.

It is a tourist attraction today.

Mandela gave up his power after one term and even surrendered some authority to his successor before he left office. Like our own George Washington, he understood the need to prepare those who would come after him. He hated the idea of being a President for life, which he could have easily been. That alone is a model for others, especially in Africa, where this does not often happen.

Mandela on Education

In Mandela’s view, education was critical if the blacks of South Africa and others around the world were to thrive. He was an attorney, his legal training at the University of Witwatersrand. Could you imagine what courage that took, especially as he was taunted with epithets and other indignities?

While on Robben Island, this remarkable man learned Afrikaans, the language of his oppressors and studied their thinking and their culture. He felt he had to do this in order to understand his enemies. He became a master of emotional intelligence, able to put himself in the shoes of his jailers.

Thus, the remarkable turning point of getting the support of the whites of Africa came when he emerged from a tunnel into a bright rugby stadium wearing the shirt of the Springboks, the symbol of white South Africa Later captured beautifully in “Invictus”). It was then that he showed in such a vivid way that he “got” it—that he understood the fear and anxiety that whites had in a country where they were suddenly without the power that they had all grown up with.

He spoke many times about education. It was his belief that “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” He urged his people to” make every home, every shack or rickety structure a centre of learning”.

The South Africa of today is still a nation with many challenges. When we were last there, we had the chance to visit two schools in the suburbs of Johannesburg.

In a private school, the children had easy access to computers, the rooms had all the supplies the teachers needed and there was a feeling of optimism among those we talked to.

The public schools are dependent on federal funding, which just covers the basics. There was no music, art or athletics in the school we visited, because these are paid for by the community. It was 100 percent black, and though there were caring administrators, there were no supplies in the laboratories and little else that we would take for granted in our country.

That is not a recipe for long-term success for either the students or the nation. But, Mandela’s greatest characteristic might have been his ability to dream of a better future under even ghastly pressure. What he left to his nation, the children in that public school and to us, is the lesson that perseverance, a strong moral compass and the ability to understand and work with others can lead to unheard of success.

For most people, this is the type of legacy that is rarely within a person’s reach. But, even accomplishing a piece of it, whether through our daily lives, our service to others or our willingness to live up to our dreams and, as Lincoln would say, the better angels of our nature, we can help make this a better world for those who come after us.

Goodbye, Madiba. And, thank you.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|December 6th, 2013|Categories: Diversity, Governance, Leadership, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, State School Boards Associations, Student Achievement|Tags: , , |
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