Articles in the Governance category

Haycock: Narrowing gap starts with data

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|October 5th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Common Core State Standards, CUBE Annual Conference2013, Governance, Urban Schools|Tags: |

NSBA: Allegations of misused funds by charter school operators show need for school board oversight

According to The Washington Post, D.C. authorities filed a lawsuit Tuesday in D.C. Superior Court in which former senior managers and the board chairwoman of D.C.-based Options Public Charter School (OPCS) are accused of diverting millions of taxpayer dollars intended to fund student programs.

The lawsuit claims that improper payments of more than $3 million were made since 2012. The filing alleges a “pattern of self-dealing” in which large payments were made to for-profit companies that OPCS managers founded while running the charter school. The OPCS enrolls about 400 at-risk students in middle and high school, many of whom have disabilities, for which the charter school receives thousands of dollars in extra taxpayer-based payments because they have special needs. The OPCS board chairwoman is D.C.-based WUSA9 news personality J.C. Hayward.

“The alleged charges surrounding this local issue should spark national attention and concern,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director of the National School Boards Association. “While charter schools authorized by local boards of education assure the public of transparency and accountability, those solely in the for-profit sector without the oversight of a public school board offer a degree of risk that does not effectively serve the public interest. Strong local governance protects students’ interests. If these allegations are proven true, it is yet another case in point that local school boards are what best serve the public good.”

According to the D.C. Public Charter School Board (PCSB), Options Public Charter School opened in 1996 as one of D.C.’s first five charter schools. While the initial charter was issued by the D.C. Board of Education, oversight for the past six years (including the period during which the abuses are alleged to have occurred) has been the responsibility of PCSB, an appointed board with no direct accountability to the public.

NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón, Jr. noted that any misuse of public funds would ultimately hurt students and the public schools that serve D.C. families.

“The diversion of tax dollars from traditional public schools into charter schools lacking the oversight of a public school board serves neither students nor taxpayers,” said Negrón. “Diverting scarce monies into such programs limits the ability of traditional public schools to carry out their mission to educate all children.”

Joetta Sack-Min|October 2nd, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Charter Schools, Educational Finance, Governance, Public Advocacy, School Boards, School Reform|Tags: , , , , , |

Education Talk Radio highlights outstanding school district programs through the Magna Awards

The National School Boards Association’s American School Board Journal’s (ASBJ) Magna Awards, were highlighted this week on Education Talk Radio.

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:

Find Additional Education Podcasts with EduTalk on BlogTalkRadio

 

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.

Learn more about the Magna Awards and nominate your program on ASBJ‘s website. The deadline is Oct. 31, 2013 for nominations for the 2014 Magna Awards.

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.

Alexis Rice|September 19th, 2013|Categories: American School Board Journal, Governance, Leadership, School Boards|Tags: , , , , |

NSBA President: Effective school boards will improve students’ success

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.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|September 11th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Center for Public Education, Educational Research, Governance, Key Work of School Boards, Leadership, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Reform|Tags: , , , , |

New school law webinars examine the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act

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.

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|September 10th, 2013|Categories: Council of School Attorneys, Federal Programs, Governance, School Law|Tags: , , , , |

LSBA: U.S. Justice Dept. action in Louisiana vouchers shows weakness of law

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.

 

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|August 28th, 2013|Categories: Educational Finance, Governance, Privatization, School Boards, School Law, School Reform, School Vouchers, State School Boards Associations, Uncategorized|Tags: , , |

State school board leaders focus on transformative leadership at NSBA event

David Pickler

NSBA President David Pickler addresses Presidents’ Retreat

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.

Action News 5 – Memphis, Tennessee

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.

Alexis Rice|August 22nd, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Governance, Leadership|Tags: , , , |

State school board leaders to attend NSBA retreat on leadership

This week dozens of state school board leaders will meet in Memphis, Tenn., to discuss school governance trends and hone their leadership skills at the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) annual Presidents’ Retreat.

NSBA President David A. Pickler, a member of the Shelby County, Tenn., school board, is hosting the retreat in his hometown from August 15 to 18 for more than 80 state school boards association presidents, past presidents, and staff directors.

The retreat is focusing on transformational leadership, Pickler’s theme for his one-year term as president.

“We are living in a world of exponential change, where technology is reshaping the way we work and communicate,” Pickler noted. “As school board leaders, we will oversee the transformation of public education to ensure that every child is prepared for the 21st century and beyond. This event will give us the opportunity to learn as well as explore ideas with our peers.”

The school board members also will participate in a highly interactive training event with staff from the Crew Training International, a Memphis-based company that offers training to develop the skills used by U.S. military aviators to accomplish complex missions. The facilitated training will explore several scenarios and allow participants to use CTI’s specialized hands-on, computerized training.

Representatives from the National Governors Association, Northern Kentucky University, and several state school boards leaders will speak about current topics in leadership and K-12 education policy.

And in a Sunday morning address, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Maj. Gen. Patrick Henry Brady will speak about leadership and his experiences in the Vietnam War and longtime career with the U.S. Army.

“Each year this retreat gives our state association leaders a chance to reflect on the fast-changing landscape and learn from their colleagues,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “We look forward to organizing a fantastic and productive event for our state leaders.”

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|August 15th, 2013|Categories: Announcements, Board governance, Governance, Key Work of School Boards, Leadership|Tags: , , , , , |

COSA panel: Design school diversity policies to meet educational goals

School district policies to promote diversity are still viable, and recent Supreme Court rulings have bolstered existing laws that allow narrowly defined diversity policies. Districts must be careful, however, to design policies that meet these standards.

A panel of prominent education attorneys gave their advice on how build policies and programs that meet the current legal standard during a July 16 webinar organized by the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Council of School Attorneys (COSA).

A ruling last month in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin upheld a 2003 decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, which permitted the use of race in university admissions if such policies were narrowly tailored. That decision, as well as a 2007 ruling in PICS v. Seattle School Dist., has made diversity a more complex—but not impossible–area for school districts to navigate.

“Diversity is still in place and still very much supported by the federal government,” Anurima Bhargava, Chief of the Educational Opportunities Section at the U.S. Department of Justice, told the audience of school attorneys.

NSBA was pleased with the Fisher ruling because schools are able to put into place diversity policies that advance students’ educations and did not erode the existing laws, said NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón, Jr.

The panelists offered advice to help clarify the new ruling and how to create policies that will support student learning in a diverse environment. The first step, all agreed, is clearly defining the desired outcomes.

“As school districts consider voluntary diversity policies, it’s important to articulate why you have an interest in diversity,” said Negrón, who added that research shows a diverse student body can improve student learning and test scores. NSBA and the College Board filed an amicus brief in the Fisher case that noted diversity could promote 21st century education goals and that policies considering many student characteristics, including race and diversity, are essential for achievement.

School leaders also need to shift their thinking and view diversity as a means to their educational goals, not the district’s demographics or quotas, panelists said.

And institutions must be prepared to show very clearly that they considered race-neutral alternatives before instituting a race-conscious policy—they have to be clear that none of the race-neutral alternatives would work as well, the panelists said.

School districts also must periodically review their policies, particularly considering changing demographics and enrollments, noted John W. Borkowski, a partner with the Hogan Lovells law firm in Washington, D.C.

“You can’t have a policy that is permanent,” he said.

But the Fisher case is not the end of the story. Diversity policies also will be impacted by the Supreme Court’s 2013-14 term through Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, a case from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit that will determine the fate of a proposal to amend the Michigan constitution to prohibit discrimination in public agencies, including public schools and universities. NSBA will argue in an amicus brief that the measure would restrict a school district’s abilities to use race-conscious policies to achieve diversity.

 

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|July 17th, 2013|Categories: Conferences and Events, Council of School Attorneys, Diversity, Governance, School Boards, School Climate, School District Reorganization, School Law|

Join our army of advocates

The following is NSBA President David Pickler’s column from the July/August issue of American School Board Journal.

This is a particularly exciting year to take the reins as NSBA President. I am excited and energized to work with our new Executive Director, Tom Gentzel, and see his vision for this organization take hold.

We are living in exponential times of change in NSBA, and the opportunities that lay ahead are incredible. You’ve probably already heard about what we’re calling the New NSBA in this column and at NSBA events. The NSBA Board of Directors has worked to restructure and recreate our organization. Under the leadership of Tom and our new Chief Operating Officer Marie Bilik, we are transforming NSBA’s internal operations to establish structure that is efficient, effective, and fiscally viable.

We now must transform NSBA’s external advocacy and outreach to meet challenges at the federal, state, and local level. Chief among these are efforts to privatize our nation’s public schools through charter school expansion and taxpayer-funded school vouchers.

Charters remain an unproven experiment. And while we embrace the right of each parent to have a choice for their child’s education, taxpayer-funded school vouchers represent a subsidization of private schools with public school dollars. Neither charter schools nor voucher programs require the same accountability that is imposed on our public schools. Another challenge is federal regulators’ growing encroachment into local school board governance.

Now is the time to change the conversation about public education and school board governance. We know our public schools are not failing — each of us witnesses their tremendous accomplishments taking place each day. As school board members and community leaders, we must take a stand for our public schools.

How can we do that?

If you share my belief that public education is a civil right and cornerstone of our democracy, then we must embrace our responsibility to be vigilant advocates. Failing to act will lead to the loss of this great American institution of public schools for all children.

At NSBA, we are working to strengthen our advocacy in Washington and in each state, aligning and focusing our resources and providing more relevant services to our state associations.

Our voice is already gaining resonance. We are going on offense in an effort to change the conversations about public education. NSBA wrote legislation, “The School Board Governance and Flexibility Act,” that would boost local school board authority and curb the U.S. Department of Education’s overreach. This bipartisan bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in March and now has 20 cosponsors.

We are creating advocacy strike forces to combat those who seek to privatize our schools or impede local decision making. NSBA worked with the Louisiana School Boards Association to provide legal, communications, and advocacy support during its recent lawsuit to stop the state’s taxpayer-funded voucher scheme. The state’s Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional in May, but we know that is not the end of the story. School choice proponents—backed by wealthy entrepreneurs and for-profit investors —are cooking up new ploys in Louisiana and several other states. NSBA and your state association will be there to stave them off.

While NSBA has been a visible player in Washington politics for years, we have yet to achieve our potential as an advocate and ambassador for public education. We must lead the conversation about public education and school board governance and fight for the futures of our more than 50 million schoolchildren.

To do so, we will create an army of advocates that will go to battle, though the courts and legislatures, for public education and school board governance. We will build strong partnerships with state association members, corporate stakeholders, and other national groups to increase our effectiveness.

We need your help. As a school board member, you are an influential community leader. Through your leadership, we will engage parents, educators, and community and business leaders as core stakeholders. We will move beyond issues that divide us and forge alliances around the opportunities that can unite us.

I encourage each of you to join our army of advocates. Never forget your significance as we move forward. Never forget the power of one person to make a difference in the lives of our schoolchildren.

Now multiply one by 90,000—the number of school board members in the U.S.

With this power, we will be that voice for public education to ensure that our public schools empower our nation to fulfill its potential — one child at a time. Together, we can.

 

Staff|July 10th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Federal Programs, Governance, Leadership, Legislative advocacy, Public Advocacy, School Boards|Tags: , , |
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