Articles in the Governance category

More lawmakers sign on to NSBA bill

The National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) legislative proposal which would establish a framework for improved recognition of local school board authority when the U.S. Department of Education acts on issues that impact local school districts unless specifically authorized in federal legislation, the Local School Board Governance and Flexibility Act (H.R. 1386), has now garnered 16 co-sponsors.

Introduced by Rep. Aaron Schock (R-lll.) on March 21, the bill had as original co-sponsors Reps. Schock, Rodney Davis of Illinois, Ron Kind of Wisconsin, Patrick Meehan of Pennsylvania, and David Valadao of California. Since then, 11 more members of the U.S. House of Representatives have signed on: Reps. Lou Barletta (PA), Jo Bonner (AL), Kevin Cramer (ND), Jim Gerlach (PA), Bob Gibbs (OH), Adam Kinzinger (IL), Cynthia Lummis (WY), Kenny Marchant (TX), Mick Mulvaney (SC), Stevan Pearce (NM.), Ted Poe (TX), and Marlin Stutzman (IN).

School board members are encouraged to contact their House members to become co-sponsors. Increased focus is now being directed to urge senators to introduce a companion bill in the U.S. Senate, and school board members also are encouraged to contact their senators and urge them to sponsor similar legislation.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|May 3rd, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Governance, Leadership, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation, School Boards, School Reform|Tags: , |

Not much data available on school turnaround models, new CPE report finds

Turnaround strategies for low-performing schools are getting a lot of attention from states and the federal government—which are spending billions of dollars on those efforts. But do these strategies work?

The National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Center for Public Education (CPE)  finds that while there have been some successes there’s not much evidence yet that many of these strategies will work on a larger scale.

The report, “Which Way Up?  What research says about school turnaround strategies,” reviews numerous methods of school improvement to determine which, if any, hold the most promise, but finds that in most cases it’s too early to tell.

“With the significant federal investment and mandated models to ‘turnaround’ low-performing schools, we have limited research to date on the effectiveness of these strategies and little guidance on what actually works,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel.  “We know that school improvement funding is extremely important, but it should encourage innovation, instead of mandating unnecessary federal restrictions.”

The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law has placed a larger focus on turnaround strategies by identifying schools with low performance and sizable achievement gaps. The main federal turnaround program, the School Improvement Grant (SIG), targets schools in the bottom 5 percent nationwide with four models of reform ranging from replacing staff to shutting down a school. These strategies are echoed in the federal Race to the Top grants and so-called Parent Trigger laws being introduced in a handful of states.

One federal study showed that two-thirds of SIG grant recipients posted gains with the infusion of federal funds, but because the report was based on only one year’s data, it was too early to draw conclusions.

“The focus on the nation’s lowest performing schools is vitally important so we can make sure all students have the benefit of a solid public education,” said Patte Barth, CPE’s Director. “In these efforts, education policymakers need to balance the need for evidence-based strategies while tapping the potential for local innovation, especially in cases like turnaround strategies where the data is limited.”

In examining research on the impact of school closure, restart, transformation, and turnaround models, the report concludes:

  • Research is limited. There is some evidence of success, primarily for schools undertaking more dramatic turnaround reforms, but data collected over a longer period of time is needed.
  • The vast majority of SIG schools — about three-quarters are choosing the “transformation model” which provides the most flexibility for local planners.
  • Replacing a majority of teachers—required in the turnaround model—presents challenges for some schools. Rural schools are particularly challenged to find enough teachers to meet the replacement requirements.
  • Rural schools also face difficulties with the restart model since they have limited access to private management organizations. The closure model also may not be feasible if they have no other schools in which to send students. Even in urban areas, a closure model seems to be promising only when students can transfer to schools with higher achievement rates.
  • Replacing a principal may show promise, as some studies indicate principals are second only to teachers in their impact on student learning.  But the strategy is new and again, the data is limited.

NSBA has repeatedly voiced concerns about the U.S. Department of Education’s mandates and overreach, which hinder school officials’ abilities to address their unique local needs. In response to NSBA concerns, the Local School Board Governance and Flexibility Act (HR 1386) has been introduced and now has 15 cosponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill would ensure that the agency engages local school boards much more to preclude federal requirements that are ineffective and beyond local school district capacity.

Joetta Sack-Min|May 1st, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Center for Public Education, Charter Schools, Educational Research, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Governance, Leadership, Legislative advocacy, Mayoral Control, School Reform, Student Achievement|Tags: , , , , , |

New NSBA President David Pickler takes office in midst of change

David A. Pickler

David A. Pickler knows about change.

His career has evolved from business to law to financial planning and accounting.  As a member of the Shelby County, Tenn. school board, Pickler is in the midst of a massive merger with Memphis City Schools that will drastically change the demographics and operations of the school district.

So as Pickler becomes NSBA’s 2013-14 President at the Third General Session this afternoon, he has plans to help NSBA become a “change agent,” and a stronger, more responsive organization. Working with NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel, he wants NSBA to become a reform leader and an even greater proponent for public education.

“Our responsibility is to lead the conversation, forge the alliances with core stakeholders, and bring forward a powerful message,” Pickler says.

As a member of the organization’s board of directors, he has been lending his expertise as a financial planner and attorney to NSBA in recent years. C. Ed Massey, NSBA’s 2012-13 President, said he and Pickler have worked together very closely over the past year and he expects a seamless transition.

“David has the requisite communication skills and certainly the knowledge to make sure we keep NSBA on track as we continue to promote our advocacy about public education in multiple ways,” Massey says. Further, “at a time where finances are a consistent and constant challenge, his particular skill set will assist NSBA.”

After graduating from Arkansas State University and working for International Paper in Dallas for one year, Pickler joined the Xerox Corp. and began attending law school at night. He intended to specialize in corporate law, but two and a half years in was offered a promotion by Xerox that would have forced him to give up a legal career. Instead, he decided to look for a job in finance—and after a series of cold calls to brokerage firms, he took a job with PaineWebber.

By the time he graduated law school in December 1985, Pickler had already built a successful financial planning business. The next year, he passed the bar exam and began practicing law on the side.

The two careers finally merged in 2005, when Pickler opened his own wealth management firm, Pickler Wealth Advisors. Two years later, he opened The Pickler Law Firm, and in January, 2012, founded Pickler Accounting Advisors.

“Our motto is, we bring it all together,” Pickler says. “It’s a very holistic model of services for our clients, one of very few organizations in country.”

Pickler has been named to Barron’s Magazine’s list of the country’s top financial planners, and the trade magazine Registered Rep awarded Pickler its highest honor, the “Altruism Award,” in 2011 for his work with children, calling him “the children’s advocate.”

With his wife Beth, he became involved with the Shelby County district through the PTAs at his two children’s schools. He ran for the county’s first elected school board in 1998, and served as board chairman from 1999 to 2011.

“Our board has really strongly advocated for traditional values,” Pickler says. For instance, when he realized many classrooms did not have an American flag, he convinced FedEx Corp. and its founder Fred Smith to donate a flag for each of the district’s 50 schools and 1000 classrooms. The board also passed a policy to ensure each day begins with a moment of silence and the Pledge of Allegiance.

In 2001, Shelby County became the first large district to mandate every school have an active and empowered PTA.

“Districts like ours were significantly underfunded,” Pickler said. “We wanted to send a message to principals that parent engagement is an essential ingredient to student achievement.”

In 2011, the Shelby County board found itself in the midst of an unprecedented merger when the Memphis City board voted 5-4 to give up the city’s charter for a special school district. The move meant the suburban 47,000-student Shelby County district would be responsible for educating 103,000 new students, a population that was 85 percent African-American and with many living in poverty.

Logistically, the challenges have been enormous, and many more challenges remain, Pickler says. A merged school board now has 23 members to manage two systems. Both the Memphis and Shelby County superintendents have resigned in recent months and hundreds of teachers and staff have chosen to retire or leave. The merger will be completed at the start of the 2013-14 school year.

Most recently, the Tennessee legislature is expected to approve a measure that would allow all the incorporated towns in Shelby County to create their own school districts, and as many as six are expected to apply.

Throughout the difficult process, Pickler said he has tried to focus on student achievement and issues that will unite the many “wonderful, passionate people who really care about public education in our communities.” A lesson learned, he says, is that “monumental decisions should not be made by small majorities.”

Outside his school board work and professional career, Pickler loves sports. An avid racquetball player and huge St. Louis Cardinals baseball fan, he has been a Dallas Cowboys season ticket holder for over a quarter century. He also describes himself as a voracious reader, with a particular interest in American history.

He also chairs the board of directors for the Memphis Oral School for the Deaf, a school that teaches deaf children from birth to age 5 to “listen, learn and talk.”

“This miraculous place gives deaf and profound hearing loss children the gift of sound and speech, and empowers them to enter school as a non-special needs student and look forward to a life of limitless possibilities,” Pickler noted. His wife, Beth, is a longtime volunteer at the school.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|April 15th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Conferences and Events, Crisis Management, Governance, Leadership, Legislative advocacy, NSBA Annual Conference 2013, School Boards|Tags: , |

Leadership and alignment improve Latino student achievement

One of the first tasks of Robert Arias did when he accepted the superintendency in Bakersfield, Calif., was to work with the school board to align the board’s values and goals with the work of the central office and the school improvement plans at each campus.

“Clarity precedes competence,” Arias told attendees at a Hispanic Caucus Breakout Session on Sunday at NSBA’s annual conference titled, “Leadership Through Governance: Aligning Practice and Culture to Improve Latino Student Outcomes.”

Aligning every stage of a school district’s efforts is necessary if school officials are going to be efficient and focused on improvement, he said. “Otherwise, you’ve got the board doing its thing, the superintendent doing his thing, and maybe what gets overlooked are the issues they need to work on.”

This alignment starts with the school board, Arias said. “They really must set the tone. It’s up to them to bring in the superintendent and sit down together and work it out.”

In Bakersfield, where Hispanics comprise 78 percent of student enrollment, “the board really was interested in aligning its efforts, he said. “Things weren’t happening as they should, and the problem was things weren’t aligned.”

The power of alignment can be seen in how the school system has dealt with the issue of student disciplinary issues, he said.

One of the four values articulated by the school board is equity, and in the process of setting specific district goals, one issue that came to the forefront was the disproportionate suspension rates of black students. This led the district to drill down into the data, which helped guide district and school strategies to tackle the issue.

The first step of administrators was to seek alternative strategies, including offering positive reinforcement for students, to deal with misbehavior—and that did help cut suspension rates by 46 percent in a single year. But a closer look at the data, Arias said, revealed that black students still were three times as likely to be suspended as white students.

But with the values and goals clear, he said, district and school administrators remain focused on the issue and this summer will be providing cultural proficiency training to help principals and teachers learn better techniques “to combat biases that impede student success.”

Another strategy, which also will boost student learning, was the creation of professional learning communities in each school, Arias said.

That focus also is key, he said. In a visit to China, Arias recalled, he looked out the window at a forest of construction cranes across the city and thought to himself, “These people are gearing up to take over the world.”

The latest international test scores underscored his concern, as China ranked near the top of such tests and the U.S. was far down the list.

“The point is, this is no longer somebody else’s problem” if minority students and students of poverty aren’t academically successful, he said. “We have to find the solutions … or we’re not going to keep pace.”

Del Stover|April 14th, 2013|Categories: Governance, Leadership Conference 2013, NSBA Annual Conference 2013, Student Achievement|

NSBA board members find lessons in Finland’s schools

Three members of the National School Boards Association’s board of directors saw the well-regarded education system in Finland on a recent academic trip. And while the two countries have major differences, there are some important lessons school boards can take away from the Scandanavian schools, said NSBA President C. Ed Massey.

Massey joined a group of researchers and educators from Northern Kentucky University for a guided tour of Finnish schools, where they saw classrooms from early education to postsecondary and career training. He invited fellow NSBA board members David A. Pickler, NSBA’s President-Elect and a school board member from the Shelby County School Board in Memphis, and Kevin E. Ciak, a school board member from the Saylorsville School District in New Jersey, to join the tour.

Massey noted that the country emphasizes the importance of education by giving all children access to high-quality schools from age one through college—and the government pays for it all.

“The biggest thing that struck me was that they only hire the best teachers,” said Massey, a member of the Boone County, Ky., school district’s board of education. “A teacher cannot be hired unless they have a master’s degree, and then they are treated as consummate professionals, on the same rank as a doctor or lawyer.”

Members of NSBA's Board of Directors pose with Bruce J. Oreck, U.S. Ambassador to Finland, on their recent trip. From left, NSBA President-Elect David A. Pickler, Oreck, NBSA President C. Ed Massey, and Kevin E. Ciak.

Students in Finland also learn three languages through immersion by the time they leave elementary school. One thing that schools do not have is sports teams—popular pastimes such as hockey take place in clubs after school. And the schools provide a free lunch for all students, regardless of their families’ income level.

Each school is run by a “counsel” made up of administrators, teachers, and parents, Massey said. A school district is governed by a municipal education board, where members are appointed by the country’s Ministry of Education.

There are some important differences between Finland and the United States that make any comparisons unfair, Massey noted. For one, the country only has about 5.5 million people and 540,000 students—much smaller than even Kentucky, which has more than 670,000 students. The population is largely homogeneous with very little immigration, Massey said, noting that there are 59 different languages spoken within Boone County’s student population.

And—perhaps the most significant difference–Finland pays for all its educational services by taxing its residents at much higher rates than U.S. governments, he added.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|April 4th, 2013|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Board governance, Educational Research, Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Preschool Education, School District Reorganization, School Reform, Student Achievement, Teachers|Tags: , , , , , |

School board legislation gains new support in the U.S. Congress

A bipartisan group of lawmakers has signed on to the Local School Board Governance and Flexibility Act, a measure proposed by the National School Boards Association (NSBA). The bill, H.R. 1386, is designed to protect local school district governance from unnecessary and counter-productive federal intrusion from the U.S. Department of Education.

The bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on March 21 by Reps. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) and Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.) It is now cosponsored by Reps. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), Ron Kind (D-Wis.), and David Valadao (R-Calif.).

NSBA is now seeking an original sponsor for the legislation in the Senate, and it is urging school board members to contact their members of Congress to support the bill while the lawmakers are in their home districts next week.

“As a former school board president, I believe that the combination of parents, educators, employers and the local community must work together to ensure all children develop the skills and acquire the educational tools they will need to become successful. I believe a big part of this is ensuring local school boards do not have their authority eroded by regulators in Washington,” said Schock. “Not all education regulations are misguided, but the ones that are need to be taken off the books. The focus has to be expanding the opportunity to learn; not tying the hands of local administrators with more red tape by federal bureaucrats. My legislation ensures this encroachment does not continue and restores the local authority school boards need.”

Members of Congress are at home in their districts/state until Monday, April 8. This is an excellent opportunity to communicate with your members of Congress the importance of co-sponsoring the Local School Board Governance and Flexibility Act. Make sure you call, email, or meet with your members of Congress to discuss the importance of co-sponsoring this bill.

Joetta Sack-Min|March 29th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Governance, Policy Formation, School Boards|Tags: , |

School board success story: Improving graduation rates in Montana

Missoula County School Board Chair Toni Rehbein and Superintendent Alex Apostle.

Missoula County School Board Chair Toni Rehbein and Superintendent Alex Apostle.

January’s American School Board Journal (ASBJ) features the success story of the Missoula County Public School Board of Trustees’s goal of having 100 percent  of its students finish high school.

Examine how a superintendent, school board, and community leaders  in Missoula, Mont. banded together to identify the scope of the problem, develop strategies to improve the graduation rate, and then implemented a program that’s making a difference in student lives—and has inspired the Montana state government to start a similar program of its own.

This is a new feature for 2013 in  ASBJ  and each month an innovative school board success story will be profiled.

Alexis Rice|January 31st, 2013|Categories: American School Board Journal, Board governance, Governance, High Schools, Leadership, Student Achievement, Student Engagement|Tags: , , , |

School boards ask Congress to revamp regulatory process and prevent overreach

More than 700 school board members and state school boards association leaders are meeting with their members of Congress today and urging them to co-sponsor legislation, developed by the National School Boards Association (NSBA), to protect local school district governance from unnecessary and counter-productive federal intrusion from the U.S. Department of Education. The leaders took part in NSBA’s 40th annual Federal Relations Network Conference and spent the final day, January 29, lobbying on Capitol Hill.

The proposed legislation would ensure that the Department of Education’s actions are consistent with the specific intent of federal law and are educationally, operationally, and financially supportable at the local level. This would also establish several procedural steps that the agency would need to take prior to initiating regulations, rules, grant requirements, guidance documents, and other regulatory materials. The legislation is also designed to more broadly underscore the role of Congress as the federal policy-maker in education and through its representative function.

“In recent years, the U.S. Department of Education has engaged in a variety of activities to reshape the educational delivery system,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, NSBA’s Executive Director. “All too often these activities have impacted local school district policy and programs in ways that have been beyond the specific legislative intent. School board leaders are simply asking that local flexibility and decision-making not be eroded through regulatory actions.

The proposal also is intended to provide Congress and the public with better information regarding the local impact of Department of Education’s activities through annual reports.

“We must ensure that the decisions made at the federal level will best support the needs and goals of local school systems and the communities they serve,” said Gentzel. “Local school boards must have the ability to make on-the-ground decisions that serve the best interests of our school districts.”

 

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|January 29th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, FRN Conference 2013, Governance, School Boards|Tags: , , |

Secretary Duncan addresses school board members at NSBA meeting

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan urged school board members Monday at NSBA’s Federal Relations Network (FRN) meeting in Washington, D.C., to “stay the course” through a tumultuous time in public education, predicting that in a few years the nation will see big results from programs such as Race to the Top (RTTT) and the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

“The implementation of Common Core is really difficult,” Duncan said. “It’s going to take a lot of hard work, and I really urge you to stay the course.”

However, he added: “I think the back-end of all this – three or four years from now – the country’s going to be in a radically different place.”

Duncan spoke briefly, but quickly and emphatically. He praised school board members for their dedication, and gave out his email address, saying he wanted to hear their concerns. In a short question and answer period, skeptical board members raised concerns about the proliferation of charter schools; unfunded federal mandates; competitions for funding, such as RTTT (the questioner said dedicated funding made more sense); and what many saw as an erosion of local control.

“This is a tough crowd,” the education secretary quipped at one point.

One requirement for states receiving funds has been a lifting of state caps on the number of charter schools. But Duncan said he didn’t favor charters over regular public schools.

“I’m just a big proponent of high-quality public schools,” Duncan said. “That’s traditional schools. That’s magnet schools. And that may be charter schools.”

Speaking of the achievement gap, Duncan said, “In some places we’re seeing real progress, but in other places these gaps are extraordinarily large.”

But Melinda Bernard, a board member for the St. Charles Parish Public Schools in Louisiana, said the problems of public school are being exaggerated.

“I think you will agree, public education’s being denigrated by the media recently,” Bernard told Duncan. “Especially our teachers.”

Duncan touted some of the Obama administration’s accomplishments, including an additional $600 million for early childhood education and an increase in the number of Pell Grants from 6 million in 2008 to 10 million last year. He said the $4 billion in competitive grants for RTTT may seem like a large number, but is less than 1 percent of the department’s $650 billion budget. He said that competition has spurred states to make major innovations regarding the common core, teacher evaluation, and other challenges.

Speaking of the recent shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Duncan said the Obama administration has “huge support for the Second Amendment,” but added, “I do feel that if we don’t act now as a country, we will never act.”

A former school superintendent for the Chicago Public Schools, Duncan said he was acquainted with the problem of violence, particularly in inner-city neighborhoods.

“We lost one child every two weeks due to the gang problem,” Duncan said. “It was a staggering loss.”

Lawrence Hardy|January 28th, 2013|Categories: Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Programs, FRN Conference 2013, Governance, National Standards, Preschool Education, School Security|Tags: , , , , |

School board members need to be aware of ALEC, other anti-public education groups

Once upon a time there was a rather odd North Carolina school board member who proposed that all purchasing orders in his very large district — from pencils, to books, to paper clips, to cleaning supplies — be posted online. It was a move that, not surprisingly, would have required the cash-strapped district to hire several additional central office staff, just to keep up with the paperwork.

If this sounds like a very bad fairy tale, well, it isn’t. The board member in question was no ordinary public servant, but a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an ultraconservative advocacy group whose main tactic is to introduce literally thousands of bills each year in state legislatures across the country, many aimed at privatizing public education. Three years ago, ALEC called for the abolishment of school boards, so you have some idea where it stands.

“So if you see something that looks, I would say, overly bizarre, ask some questions,” said Leanne Winner, director of governmental relations for the North Carolina School Boards Association.

Better yet, go to an ALEC meeting. Really. At least you’ll know what they’re up to – and what kind of legislation could be headed to a statehouse near you.

“Knowing what the conversation is — [that’s] the first step to fighting the legislation,” said Janice Palmer, director of governmental relations for the Arizona School Boards Association.

Palmer and Winner joined Roberta E. Stanley, NSBA’s director of federal affairs, for a Monday morning session at NSBA’s Federal Relations Network (FRN) meeting called “Molding the K-12 Debate,” which dealt with the outsized influence of ALEC and the slightly-less-radical Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEIE), founded by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

“One thing they have is money,” Stanley said of ALEC, which is backed by the owners of Wal-Mart and other billionaires. “Copious amounts of money.”

Typically, the bills ALEC introduces in state legislatures come from the same template, barely tweaked to fit a particular state. Sometimes lawmakers introduce them virtually verbatim. Arizona has been a target for years.

“ALEC has seen Arizona as an incubator for model legislation, especially in the area of school choice,” Palmer said.

The state has more than 500 charter schools of varying quality, and statewide public school choice – with districts paying the cost of transportation. Arizona’s public schools are the second worst funded in the country. Yet about $60 million that could have gone to public schools has been funneled to private and religious schools via tax credits.

Lawrence Hardy|January 28th, 2013|Categories: FRN Conference 2013, Governance, National School Boards Action Center, Privatization|Tags: , , , , , , |
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