Articles in the Governance category

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: , , |

NSBA asks Senate leaders to rethink Title I change in new ESEA bill

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) has issued a report calling on the U.S. Senate to reconsider a provision in its new Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization bill that seeks to ensure school districts give equitable support to students in high-poverty schools.

The ESEA legislation would change the current method for determining how school districts allocate comparable resources to their Title I schools. Based on NSBA’s report, “The Challenges and Unintended Consequences of Using Expenditures to Determine Title I Comparability,” the provision in the Senate bill will not achieve its goal.

“NSBA supports the concept of ‘comparability’ and ensuring that students in Title I schools receive equitable services,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “However, the proposal for the Title I comparability provision would be burdensome for school districts and it could even unintentionally harm Title I schools and other schools that have high operational costs or special services.”

As a condition for receiving Title I funding, ESEA requires that school districts show they are providing comparable services from local funds to their Title I schools through measures such as teacher-student ratios. The purpose is to show that the federal money is used in addition to local resources for Title I schools. Under the Senate bill’s plan, school districts would have to take into account new factors, such as the cost of each teacher’s salary and benefits, and other expenses that are not tied to student learning, such as transportation.

NSBA’s report found that the plan could force local school districts to shift money away from Title I schools because the provision does not account for wide variances in expenses such as student transportation, the availability of social services or grant funding to some schools, or other building-related costs.

As part of the report, NSBA surveyed school officials on the comparability provision in the Senate bill from the last Congress. Nearly 300 Title I program administrators and school business officials and other school officials responded. These on-the-ground practitioners reported that the proposed requirement was too difficult to administer and contained too many variables to make valid expenditure comparisons between Title I and non-Title I schools.

NSBA’s report shows that the proposed methods in Senate’s 2011 bill and the bill introduced this week are flawed because of wide variances in teacher salaries and benefits as well as other expenses in a school district. For example, factors such as variances in teachers’ salaries, employer-paid heath premiums, matching pension contributions and experience do not necessarily correlate to teacher effectiveness.

While the new Senate provision does not require the involuntary transfer of teachers, the provision would still appear to cause the bookkeeping problems raised in NSBA’s report and could still result in teacher transfer issues.

The new Senate provision seeks to respond to NSBA’s concerns regarding how certain expenditures that are not relevant to student learning would be accounted. It would allow school districts to adopt a method based on education expenditures that is of an equal or higher standard. However, those alternatives must be developed before the reauthorization is enacted and approved by the U.S. Secretary of Education.

Michael A. Resnick, NSBA’s Associate Executive Director for Federal Advocacy and Public Policy noted, “That option simply passes the buck to the federal agency to define what would still be a difficult to administer expenditure-based comparability system and would still result in the various unintended consequences cited in our report. There are far better approaches to ensure that all Title I students are receiving effective teachers and adequate educational resources.”

NSBA’s report was praised by the AASA, The American Association of School Administrators.

“NSBA’s report clearly shows that Congress needs to reject this provision and focus on supporting local efforts that will add to the resources needed for education rather than spending resources on bookkeeping and other adjustments that really aren’t on target to reach the intended goal,” said Bruce Hunter, AASA’s  Associate Executive Director for Advocacy, Policy and Communications.

Joetta Sack-Min|June 6th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Governance, School Boards, Student Achievement|Tags: , , , |

Congress takes first steps toward ESEA reauthorization

Democrats in the U.S. Senate introduced their bill to overhaul the No Child Left Behind Act, and the National School Boards Association’s advocacy team is hopeful that efforts to reauthorize the massive K-12 law could progress this summer.

“In conversations with key staff members, it’s clear they are eager to move a bill through the committee in short order” said Michael A. Resnick, the Associate Executive Director for Federal Advocacy and Public Policy at NSBA. “But some of the philosophical divide will need to be resolved.”

A key issue will be the role of the federal government in education policy, in addition to assessments and other accountability measures.

The Senate bill was introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin, the chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and co-sponsored by the Democratic members of the committee. The ranking Republican member of that committee, Sen. Lamar Alexander, is expected to offer the Republicans’ version of the ESEA reauthorization when the bill is marked-up in committee. NSBA is currently addressing the legislation. The Democrats’ bill, called the Strengthening America’s Schools Act, which is more than 1,100 pages long and the Republicans” bill, the “Every Child Ready for College and Career Act,” is less detailed at 200 pages.

The reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is now six years overdue and each attempt to overhaul the massive federal education law has floundered in Congress.

Members of the House education committee also have recently told NSBA’s lobbyists that they plan to introduce an ESEA reauthorization bill, Resnick said.

On May 21, members of the House Education and the Workforce Committee queried U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at a hearing on the Obama administration’s budget proposal. Duncan noted that the Department of Education is committed to working with Congress to get an ESEA reauthorization completed this year.

At that hearing, some Republican members were more interested in questioning the secretary about his budget priorities, particularly President Obama’s initiative to greatly expand prekindergarten education. Some said the money would be better spent to fully fund the nation’s main special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|June 6th, 2013|Categories: Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Governance, Legislative advocacy|Tags: , , |

NSBA board member reflects on testing and Teacher Appreciation Week

Neil Putnam, a member of the National School Boards Association’s Board of Directors, writes about Teacher Appreciation Week for his hometown newspaper in Mitchell, S.D.

In “Teachers are more than tests,” he reflects on his past teachers and how teachers now must look for ways to teach skills beyond the rote memorization needed for some standardized tests.

Neil Putnam

Putnam writes: “Today, as a parent and a school board member, I have developed a respect for educators. As a parent, I appreciate what they are doing to prepare my children for their futures, and I visit with other parents who concur with my appreciation. As a board member, particularly being involved in state and federal education policy, I am concerned about some of the fixation on test scores as the sole measurement of the quality of teaching. I would contend a more subjective measurement should be whether students leave the classroom more curious, creative, cooperative, collaborative, and have the character and citizenship to participate in society.”

Read more in The Daily Republic.

Joetta Sack-Min|May 8th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|Tags: , |

Louisiana Supreme Court strikes down voucher law, NSBA praises ruling

The National School Boards Association is thrilled that the Louisiana Supreme Court has deemed the state’s school voucher law to be unconstitutional.

The one-year-old program has diverted taxpayers’ money from public schools to private individuals and schools that are not subject to academic, operational, and accountability standards.

Working with the Louisiana School Boards Association (LSBA), NSBA pushed to overturn the law through an amicus brief in Louisiana Federation of Teachers v. State of Louisiana. That lawsuit challenged the constitutionality of several measures adopted by the Louisiana legislature, including the ploy to give vouchers to students in low-performing schools. The NSBA brief noted that the voucher scheme further aggravates the plight of academically challenged schools by taking away much-needed funds from low-performing public schools, thus perpetuating its own survival.

“These kinds of gimmicks undermine our country’s longstanding commitment to public education and steal resources from public school students,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “These are not grassroots efforts being proposed by residents who are concerned about the education and future of the state’s most vulnerable children, these are the products of out-of-state special-interest groups looking for profits.”

Under the provisions of the voucher law, Louisiana gives public funds to private schools, including religious schools, as “scholarships” to cover the tuition and fees of students whose parents choose to remove their children from public schools deemed “failing.” However, the plan goes so far as to allow parents to use vouchers for their children as early as kindergarten, even if the child never attended a public school or the school is highly ranked.

“We are pleased that the Louisiana Supreme Court has reaffirmed a basic tenet of the state Constitution: that taxpayer money should go to public schools that are open to all students,” said LSBA Executive Director Scott Richard. “We hope all state residents can understand the dangerous precedent that a voucher program has set and how such a program undermines our local community schools. LSBA will continue to work towards its mission of service, support and leadership for local school boards and to ensure a quality public education for all students.”

NSBA opposes private school vouchers and tuition tax subsidies, which have continuously failed to improve student achievement. NSBA is committed to defeating legislation and initiatives that unconstitutionally divert taxpayers’ funds from public schools to private and religious institutions that can exclude students for any reason.

“NSBA stands for strong public school system for all students. Vouchers undermine that fundamental principle and, as the court concluded, violate constitutional principles, too,” said NSBA President David A. Pickler.

Joetta Sack-Min|May 7th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Governance, School Vouchers|Tags: , , , , |

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: , , , , , |
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