Articles in the Governance category

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: , , , , , , |

ESEA Reauthorization key for NSBA this year

Urging Congress to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)—and seeking sponsors for a bill to shield local school board control from federal intrusion —are key initiatives of NSBA this year.

That was the message delivered by Reginald Felton, NSBA’s assistant executive director for congressional relations, at a Monday policy briefing at the Federal Relations Network (FRN) meeting in Washington, D.C.

When school leaders visit Capitol Hill this week to meet with lawmakers, they need to emphasize the importance of putting the ESEA reauthorization back on track, he told conference attendees.

“They need to know how intensely you want to move the bill forward,” Felton said. “You have to give them a reason to help them get moving.”

In response to intense criticism over the use of sanctions, as well as other flaws, in the No Child Left Behind Act—the last reauthorization of ESEA—the U.S. Department of Education has responded with waivers to ease some of the excesses of the law. But that’s not enough, Felton insisted.

“We don’t want a quick fix. We don’t want reauthorization to go away [as a priority]. We need a bill that addresses what we need done so the law is more effective.”

At least one audience member expressed frustration with lawmakers, who offer their support yet have repeatedly failed to advance a reauthorization bill to a vote. Felton acknowledged the problem but said that, if school board members don’t make their voices heard, lawmakers certainly will put reauthorization on the backburner.

But when school leaders are face-to-face with lawmakers, he warned, they should not settle for a general statement of support—what’s needed is a specific commitment, whether it’s a promise to co-sponsor legislation or lobby fellow lawmakers to support action.

“If they say, ‘I’m with you,’ then define what ‘I’m with you’ means,” he said.

Meanwhile, Felton also encouraged school leaders to seek co-sponsors for NSBA’s new legislative proposal to protect local school district governance from unnecessary and counter‐productive federal intrusion from the federal education department.

The bill would require the Education Department to establish that new regulations, grant requirements, and other regulatory material is consistent with the intent of federal law and are “educationally, operationally, and financial supportable at the local level.”

The bill is a response to the Obama administration’s increasing practice to guide local and state education policy by tying access to federal funds to new rules and regulations designed to advanced administration policies—and not based on federal legislation that, at least, is more subject to public and legislative deliberation.

“We don’t want local school board authority to continue to be eroded because of what’s happening at the federal level.”

Del Stover|January 28th, 2013|Categories: Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, FRN Conference 2013, Governance|Tags: , , , |

Expanded K-12 privatization on the horizon

School board members can expect continued political activity to promote charter schools, vouchers, school choice options, and to expand the privatization of K-12 education.

That was the message of Roberta Stanley, NSBA’s director of federal affairs, who gave a political update on these issues Monday at the Federal Relations Network (FRN) Annual Conference in Washington, D.C.

The charter school movement currently dominates efforts to redesign the traditional public school system, she told conference attendees. At least 1.8 million children—or 4 percent of the K-12 student population—currently are enrolled in publicly funded charter schools.

“Charters are the big name in the game today,” Stanley said, noting that they enjoy strong political support from some urban mayors, governors, state lawmakers, and such federal officials as Education Secretary Arne Duncan and President Obama.

Helping fuel this policy push is money from several large foundations, as well as private entrepreneurs who see the opportunity to tap into billions of dollars in education funding.

NSBA policy isn’t to oppose charter schools but to insist that their authorization and their accountability be the responsibility of school boards, so that the future of children’s educational opportunities remains under the control of the local community, she said.

Accountability is an issue that’s going to continue to surround the charter school movement in the years ahead, Stanley said. More data is needed on the academic performance of these schools, and state and federal lawmakers will need to address better procedures for closing down poor-performing charters.

Although school voucher advocates still are active, school board members will find that a more fast-growth phenomenon is the “explosion of cyber, virtual, and online schools,” Stanley said.

Enrollment in virtual schools is growing at a rate of about 3 percent annually, yet some studies suggest these schools aren’t successful for all students, she said.

That’s not to say that online schools have no future role in K-12 education, Stanley added.

“I understand one of the best [roles] for cyber schools is credit recovery, working with kids who lag behind or are homebound or sick,” or to expand course offerings in smaller or rural schools, she said.

Where school leaders need to watch carefully is in states where state policymakers are too eager to push all-day online learning or seek to use virtual schools as a cheap alternative to brick-and-mortar schools.

“Students need oversight. Students need to be taught to be civic-minded, to learn teamwork-building skills,” Stanley said. “We don’t get that with a child sitting in his or her bedroom at a computer.”

To strengthen its advocacy efforts on these issues, NSBA works with a coalition of 60 education and civil rights groups to broaden the message that serious issues remain to be addressed regarding school choice, she added. This coalition also seeks to block poor policy decisions that will hurt public education.

“This is as sharp a coalition as I’ve ever worked with,” Stanley said. “And we are right on top of it, so we can try to nip these things in the bud.”

Del Stover|January 28th, 2013|Categories: Charter Schools, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, FRN Conference 2013, Governance, Legislative advocacy, Online learning, Privatization, School Boards, School Reform, School Vouchers|Tags: , |

Kentucky leads on Common Core

When its state legislature passed the Kentucky Education Reform Act more than two decades ago, the Bluegrass State was lauded as a leader in K-12 education reform.

“In 1990, we were the darling,” said David Baird, associate executive director of the Kentucky School Boards Association. “Everyone was looking to Kentucky and saying, ‘What a wonderful reform you have done.’”

Kentucky basked in that praise for many years – maybe too many years, Baird said Monday. Like just about every other state, even with education reform, too many of its high school graduates were needing remediation when they got to college.

But Kentucky snapped out of its complacency in 2009 when the legislature passed Senate Bill 1, a new education reform initiative that just happened to dovetail nicely with the Common Core State Standards Initiative. Once again, Kentucky was the first state to raise the bar.

Baird and Patte Barth, director of NSBA’s Center for Public Education, talked Monday morning at the Federal Relations Network (FRN) meeting in Washington, D.C., about what school districts should expect from the Common Core – and what the Common Core expects of them. Described as “fewer, clearer, higher,” the new standards aim to help all students be prepared for college or the 21st century workforce.

A state-led program sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association, the Common Core standards in math and language arts have so far been embraced by 46 states and the District of Columbia. It is built upon the strengths of current state standards.

“[NSBA] supports these because they are state-led,” Barth said, but added that the organization expects more financial support for the program.

“We support more funding to go to research and support of assessments,” Barth said.

Two consortia are developing assessments to align with the common core. The assessments are scheduled to be released during the 2014-15 school year; it’s a scenario that doesn’t give school districts a lot of time.

Among the biggest changes in language arts standards will be a new emphasis on exploring and analyzing nonfiction texts, Barth said. She said U. S. students score highly on international comparisons on their ability to analyze fiction, but do less well on expository texts.

Some English teachers have been critical of the standards, believing it would force them to limit the teaching of literature, but Barth said the aim is to spread the requirements for nonfiction reading across the curriculum and to all teachers.

 

Lawrence Hardy|January 28th, 2013|Categories: FRN Conference 2013, Governance, National Standards, School Boards, School Reform|Tags: , , , , , , |
Page 5 of 233« First...34567...102030...Last »