Today marks the second anniversary of the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act. This year is also the 50th anniversary of the historic Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision. And, of course, both anniversaries fall during a presidential election year. This confluence is providing much grist for the commentary mill, and we observe the occasion with some news and reflections of our own.
School Board News Today, an online publication of NSBA, provides timely and relevant stories and analysis from NSBA and other news outlets to school board members, administrators, and all others interested in K-12 education.
Articles in the Governance category
NSBA is again partnering with the American Music Conference and other leading music and education organizations to present the fifth annual “Best 100 Communities for Music Education” survey. You can take part by completing the online survey at AMC’s website. Even if you don’t know all the answers about music education in your hometown, the ones you do know will help-and with just a few mouse clicks, you can forward the survey link to other school officials who have all the facts. However you do it, the important thing is to make sure your community’s music education and excellence are represented! This survey has saved music programs in more than one school district. With budget cuts and shifting priorities threatening music education across the country, your participation has never been more important.
While public schools struggle financially to implement the mandates of No Child Left Behind, other institutions are faring better under the new federal law-notably private, for-profit testing and tutoring companies. The Contra Costa Times reprinted a Wall Street Journal article on the subject, and the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette weighed in on the windfall these companies are experiencing.
The U.S. Justice Department recently approved New York City Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to replace elected school boards with appointed education councils. DOJ’s approval was required because the new governance structure affects the voting practices in areas of New York covered by the Voting Rights Act. Locally elected school boards will be replaced with education councils, whereby a combination of PTA officers, borough presidents, and superintendents will appoint parents and one non-voting student. Unlike school boards, the new councils will have little authority over the district budget and operations and will not hire superintendents.
Opponents of the plan argue that taxpayers who are not parents are now disenfranchised from district decision-making. Minority parents may sue because, critics say, many minority-majority schools lack PTAs, and in more diverse schools, the PTA officers tend to be white.
With the New Year, come the same tired arguments of years gone by from the anti-public school crowd. Recent news reports bring assertions that testing is not expensive, No Child Left Behind is not underfunded, and American students’ performance on tests is poor when compared internationally. As radio legend Paul Harvey says, now it’s time “for the rest of the story.”
Testing itself may not be expensive, although even this is debatable, since meaningful, high quality tests cost more. But to base education costs on money for tests is like saying a pacemaker is cheap because the battery is inexpensive. The major expenses are not testing but the resources needed to educate all students and to implement changes where needed.
Speaking of funding (or underfunding), the U.S. Senate, due back soon, is poised to pass an education funding bill that is far below the funding requirements of NCLB and IDEA. Contact Congress now and urge them to oppose the inadequate funding proposed for education this year. America’s students deserve better in 2004.
Let’s also, as a New Year’s resolution, begin to ask those who play the international comparison game how many children in these other countries take these tests? What percentage of them? Do they include special needs children? Do they include students who do not fully speak the native language? How many go on to college? In other words, let’s demand a clearer comparison.
Check out American School Board Journal’s list of the year’s best books about K-12 education.
Four days. That’s how long it took before the arrival of 2004′s first syndicated column condemning public schools and citing vouchers as the cure-all. Mona Charen calls the education world “dismal” and “sad.” Read our next item for a different perspective on that.
The problem is that Charen, like too many public school critics, relies on suspect information. The first study she cites, by Paul Peterson of a New York City voucher experiment, was debunked last year by Princeton researchers who noted, among other problems, that Peterson’s research team excluded the test scores of 44 percent of the students in the experiment. Likewise, Charen also applauds a Florida study, by another pro-voucher researcher, that came under heavy criticism from numerous researchers for ignoring key factors. NSBA has debunked a number of voucher myths and will continue to set the record straight in 2004.
While Charen’s column called the education world “dismal” and “sad,” another syndicated columnist provides a different perspective. Michelle Malkin’s recent column headlined “The better angels of our nature” reveals an uplifting trend on public school campuses: Students electing special needs students homecoming kings and queens. Check out this school in Texas. And some folks think today’s public schools are devoid of values. Tell that to these students. What do you think: are today’s public schools places where children learn the right values? Send us an e-mail.
For an overview of school finance issues, including ongoing lawsuits and ballot initiatives, read more from the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD).