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.
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
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.
National School Boards Association (NSBA) leaders participated in NBC’s Education Nation Summit this week, bringing NSBA’s message that local governance matters to a wide audience that included governors, foundations, business leaders, researchers and practitioners.
This year’s summit incorporated a student-centered “What it Takes” theme, with panel discussions on how to ensure all students are prepared for success in K-12, higher education, and careers. NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel and President David A. Pickler were among the more than 300 attendees invited to the event.
“Innovation was a persistent theme at Education Nation,” said Gentzel. “Some of the best presenters were young people who, in demonstrating their creativity, also served as great testimonials for the public education system that provided the training and opportunities for them to explore and develop exciting new ideas.”
Gentzel added that another significant theme that public schools are accomplishing great things but the expectations and needs are growing. However, he added, there needs to be more emphasis on the local leadership to make these achievements possible.
During an Oct. 8 panel featuring governors, Gov. Steve Beshear of Kentucky answered a question posed by Pickler, noting the role of local school boards in school improvement. Beshear also stated that charter schools should be authorized by local school boards, which can determine if those schools are needed.
Pickler also lauded the event’s emphasis on early learning and pre-K. In particular, he praised Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s response to a question from NBC’s Matt Lauer on what would be the single most important game changer to address America’s educational challenges. Duncan stated that the ultimate change should be on delivering a world class early childhood education, Pickler noted.
The three day Education Nation event took place October 6-8 at the New York City public library.
Kati Haycock had some good news and some bad news for urban school board members. The good news: Reading and math scores for elementary school students are up for all students, and the racial achievement gaps are narrowing.
The bad news: High school achievement is flat, and American students still aren’t faring well in international comparisons.
Haycock, the president of The Education Trust, was a keynote speaker at NSBA’s Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) annual meeting in San Antonio, Texas, on Saturday.
America tells two stories about itself. First, we are the land of opportunity: Work hard and you can be anything you want to be. Second, each generation can ensure that its children will have a better life. “These are powerful and pervasive stories,” Haycock said, “but they are fast slipping away. Inequality has been rising fast.”
Everyone acknowledges that gaps exist before children show up at school. But once they get there, she said, “we give the kids less of everything. When they don’t do well on tests, we blame the kids, the parents, the culture. We don’t talk about what we did.”
She pointed out that on a macro level, more and better education is not the only thing that needs to happen to reverse the achievement gap and our societal inequality. “But on an individual level, quality education is the only way up. What we do in education is important to our economy and democracy.”
She encouraged conference-goers to consider the choices that are made in schools that widen achievement gaps, including allowing minority and poor students to be taught by less experienced and ineffective teachers. Another problem is teachers who have low expectations for their students, and teachers who don’t know what and how to teach their students.
Haycock recommended school board members start with collecting data so they can correct the inequalities of teaching assignments. She advocated for the Common Core State Standards as a way to help teachers increase rigor and expectations. She also suggested learning from other schools and districts that have been successful in narrowing the achievement gap.
“It’s not a long list,” Haycock said of her suggested solutions, “but there are hard things on it.”
Kathleen Vail, Editor in Chief for ASBJ; Gregory Yost, Sodexo’s Manager of Public Relations; Bruce Hancock, the Vice President of the Board of Directors for the Derry Township School District, in Hershey, Pa.; and Diantha McKeel, a school board member for Albemarle County Public Schools in Charlottesville, Va. discussed the Magna Awards and school district success. Derry Township School District and Albemarle County Public Schools were both grand prize Magna Awards winners in 2013.
Listen to the show:
In 2013, the Derry Township School District, earned the Magna Awards grand prize in the under 5,000 enrollment category for its COCOA Principles program which aims to prepare students to be global Derry Township School District citizens. COCOA Principles, which stands for Community Opportunity Citizenship Ownership Academics, has encouraged the entire community, not just students, to be more inclusive, respectful, and responsible citizens. Students seen reflecting the program’s principles are nominated for awards, and high school graduation projects must identify the COCOA principle the student is modeling.
In 2013, Albemarle County Public Schools was honored as the Magna Awards grand prize winner in the 5,000 to 20,000 enrollment category for M-Cubed: Math, Men and Mission, a program developed to improve the academic achievement of African-American male students and encourage them to enroll in higher level high school math classes. The program starts with a two-week summer academy for upper elementary and middle school students but extends year-round with mentoring and academic support from the 100 Black Men of Central Virginia, a community group.
The Magna Awards, supported by Sodexo, recognize districts across the country for outstanding programs that advance student learning and encourage community involvement in schools. Each of the grand prize winning school districts receives a $4,000 contribution from Sodexo.
Also check out the searchable Magna Awards Best Practices Database, where you can browse through past Magna winners and other high-scoring programs for innovative best practices, proven and practical solutions, and new ideas. New programs that receive high scores from the Magna judges.
David A. Pickler, the 2013-14 president of the National School Boards Association (NSBA) and a member of Tennessee’s Shelby County School Board, wrote this column for the October 2013 issue of American School Board Journal.
How can school boards become more effective?
Through our work at NSBA and the state associations, we’ve seen many good examples of school boards that function well and show results through student achievement. We’ve learned through NSBA’s Center for Public Education (CPE) that school boards in districts with high student achievement are different than school boards in low-achieving districts.
So this would seem to be a fairly straightforward matter of identifying what makes school boards work effectively. But teasing out the tangible areas where school boards can make a difference is still an emerging area of research, and the question is more complex than it initially appears.
I recently spoke at a media event in Seattle, hosted by the Alliance for Education. This nonprofit group is working with the Seattle school board to improve academic achievement and guide student success in the district — and to sustain those actions over time. We talked about CPE’s recent report, “Eight Characteristics of Effective School Boards,” as well as other research by the Iowa School Boards Foundation and NSBA’s Key Work of School Boards. Researcher Thomas L. Alsbury, a professor at Seattle Pacific University, also discussed the important role that a school board holds as “one of the few remaining vestiges of accessible democracy.”
So what do we know about effective school boards — those that are making progress in student achievement across all sectors of their student population? CPE’s research shows that some of those characteristics include:
- An ability to set goals reflecting high expectations for students and monitoring progress toward goals, an understanding of student data and how it can be used
- A relentless focus on student achievement and spending less time on operational issues
- A comprehensive understanding of the needs of the school district, and strong relationships with the superintendent, other administrators, teachers, and other key stakeholders, and
- Perhaps most importantly, everyone in the district is committed to success.
More information about the eight characteristics can be found at CPE’s website.
Student success should be the core mission for any school board. We cannot focus on a single issue but must be committed to a comprehensive plan that will support all our students and their needs, Alsbury noted. Board conflict and turnover ultimately will harm student achievement. We must not get mired in micromanagement and organizational details.
As school board leaders, we must lead, and we must model these characteristics for the district staff, students, and the community. We must ensure that every child is prepared for the 21st century and beyond. We know that we are living in exponential times of change—in just the last few years technology has changed our work and our lives in ways we never imagined. The generation of students that we are now educating will be taking on jobs that don’t yet exist.
This work becomes even more important in light of the new landscape of education policy, where we as school boards are being forced to justify our existence more frequently.
Not every school board has an organized group like the Alliance for Education to monitor our work, so we must take it upon ourselves to learn from this research, taking a hard look at our inner workings and continuously striving for improvement. We also could look for community and business partnerships with like-minded groups such as the Alliance. If we use our ability to lay a foundation and set the culture for the school district, our students will benefit for years to come.
Our students need—and deserve—the best we can give.
The National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Council of School Attorneys (COSA) is hosting a two-part webinar series on the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FEPRA). Register today to learn more about this important topic.
Here are details on the sessions:
September 11, 2013 – FERPA Session 1: The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act Inside and Out
Veteran in-house counsel Margaret-Ann Howies presents an engaging look at FERPA through the lens of a very real and traumatic school shooting. Here’s your chance to learn – or brush up on – the ins and outs of the federal law that permeates school district operations, FERPA. We’ll start with the basics: What is an education record covered by FERPA? When can personally identifiable information about a student be released and to whom? Are emails education records? Then, we’ll move into recent questions: May a school district store student records in “the cloud?” When does an “emergency” cease, thereby triggering the consent requirement? What if the student is deceased? What if the student has changed names? Become FERPA conversant in just over an hour.
1:00 p.m. – 2:15 p.m. (EDT)
Host: Sonja Trainor, Director, NSBA Council of School Attorneys
Presenter: Margaret-Ann Howie, General Counsel, Baltimore County Public Schools
January 15, 2014 – FERPA Session 2: School Videos and Student Privacy – What’s the Final Rule?
Few issues have caused such widespread consternation for school districts and their attorneys than the following: to what extent are school videos education records covered by FERPA? NSBA requested clarification from the U.S. Department of Education years ago. Join a seasoned school lawyer for a distillation of the current state of the law and “unofficial” guidance from the Department’s Family Policy Compliance Office.
Time: 1 p.m. – 2:15 p.m. (EST)
Host: Sonja Trainor, Director, NSBA Council of School Attorneys
Presenter: Sarah Craven Clark, Deputy Director of Legal Services, Ohio State Association Counsel
Learn more and register now.
The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against Louisiana to stop a voucher program spending millions in taxpayer funds to send low-income students to private and religious schools, saying that the vouchers have impeded long-standing desegregation orders in many of the state’s school districts.
The National School Boards Association (NSBA) joined the Louisiana School Boards Association (LSBA) in a lawsuit last year challenging the legality of the voucher plan, which was pushed by Gov. Bobby Jindal and GOP lawmakers. The LSBA lawsuit ultimately prevailed when the state’s Supreme Court found the funding mechanism to be unconstitutional but the GOP-led legislature is attempting to keep the program alive through alternative funding sources.
LSBA has closely monitored desegregation litigation in Louisiana for many years. LSBA Executive Director Scott Richard noted that many school boards have spent millions of dollars in order to attain unitary status and freedom from federal oversight due to past discriminatory practices—and this latest round of legal problems with the Louisiana voucher program only exacerbates the issues raised in the recent state Supreme Court ruling that struck down the law and highlighted the program’s illegal funding schemes.
“The fact that the U.S. Department of Justice has to get involved at this point again punches holes in the flawed legislation,” Richard said. “It is irresponsible that state government in Louisiana, with all of the legal resources available, would move forward with this effort fully knowing that many school districts continue to be under federal desegregation orders – basically ignoring federal law.”
Proponents for the voucher plan have decried the federal government’s move and argued that the vouchers help low-income students “escape failing schools.” However, LSBA and other education groups have countered that the plan actually allows kindergarteners zoned for high-achieving public schools—those graded A or B—to receive vouchers as well.
Thirty-four school districts, of which 22 send students to private schools using voucher funds, would be subject to the Justice Department’s ruling, according to the New Orleans Times Picayune.
More than 80 state school board leaders gathered in Memphis, Tenn., last week to discuss school governance trends, hone their leadership skills, reflect on the fast-changing landscape, and learn from their colleagues at the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) annual Presidents’ Retreat.
NSBA President David A. Pickler, a member of the Tennessee’s Shelby County Board of Education, hosted the retreat in his hometown for state school boards association presidents, past presidents, and state executive directors.
The retreat focused on transformational leadership, Pickler’s theme for his term as president and addressed the challenges in public education. Pickler encouraged school board leaders to become more effective advocates for public education and school board governance.
“This is our time to challenge conventional wisdom and embrace the possibilities ahead,” said Pickler. “We also must consider the challenges ahead with the efforts by well-funded and well-organized entities that want to dismantle our American institution of public schools and local school board governance. We must take on those who are trying to take away our students’ right to a great education and fight for the futures of more than 50 million schoolchildren.”
School board leaders participated in a highly interactive training event with staff from the Crew Training International (CTI), a Memphis-based company that specializes in human factors training used by commercial and military aviators to accomplish their complex missions. The facilitated training began with enhanced academics and culminated with a simulated space flight using CTI’s interactive, computerized training.
“This training gave school board leaders real skills to build teams, communicate effectively, and capture best practices so they can positively affect public education and the advocacy required to promote it,” said David Dufour, CTI’s Director of Operations who led the training program.
Following the leadership training, school board leaders participated in a wing-pinning ceremony recognizing their leadership training with Commander W. Brent Phillips of the U.S. Navy Recruiting Command. Phillips, before pinning the school board leaders, gave remarks and noted to the school board leaders, “My kids have benefited from your efforts. Thank you for all that you do”
Representatives from the National Governors Association, Northern Kentucky University, several state school boards leaders, and previous NSBA Presidents spoke about key leadership topics and vital issues in the states and federal level concerning K-12 education policy.
Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Maj. Gen. Patrick Henry Brady addressed the retreat’s closing session and discussed leadership and his experiences in the Vietnam War and longtime career with the U.S. Army.
Brady discussed that school board member’s are “key to the success to the future of America.” Brady noted that we must “teach young people the importance of charter and patriotism” and show them “they can be heros.”
Pickler announced a new NSBA partnership with the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation’s (CMOHF) Medal of Honor Character Development Program. The program incorporates the ideals of courage and selfless service into the middle and high school curriculum to build character and promote responsible citizenship. The program offers Medal of Honor-related lesson plans that draw upon the ideals embodied in the Medal of Honor and their application in daily life. The program already is in 33 states and Department of Defense Dependents Schools in Europe and the Pacific.
NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel, praised the new partnership and noted, “We are honored to ally with the CMOHF to pursue our mutual goals of ensuring that students fully appreciate the value of these contributions and that they will be inspired to fulfill all their responsibilities as citizens of the United States. NSBA looks forward to working exploring partnership opportunities with the Foundation and to lend our active support to its mission.”
Brady’s address and the Presidents’ Retreat were featured on WMC-TV Action Five News in Memphis.