Congratulations to Anna Song, who is the Saturday winner of the Learning Lounge Raffle. Song wins a Barnes and Noble Nook tablet.
School Board News Today, an online publication of NSBA, provides timely and relevant stories and analysis from NSBA and other news outlets to school board members, administrators, and all others interested in K-12 education.
Articles in the Leadership Conference 2012 category
Two school law leaders were honored for their contributions to public schools at the Council of School Attorneys (COSA) School Law Seminar in Boston. Ann L. Majestic and Susan R. Butler, CAE, were each presented with COSA’s 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award for exemplary leadership in legal advocacy and distinguished service to COSA.
“We are thrilled to honor Ann and Susan for their outstanding work in the field of education law and their steadfast dedication to public education,” said Patrice McCarthy, COSA’s Chair.
Majestic is partner in the Raleigh, N.C., law firm of Tharrington Smith and is a past chair of COSA and the North Carolina Council of School Attorneys. For almost 30 years, she has represented numerous North Carolina school boards, including Alamance County, Durham Public Schools, Moore County, Person County, and Wake County — the state’s largest district. She serves as outside counsel to the North Carolina School Boards Association as well. In 1998, Majestic received the Distinguished Service Award from the North Carolina Bar Association.
“I feel very fortunate to have spent my career, working with dedicated educators and excellent colleagues supporting the work of the public schools of North Carolina,” said Majestic.
Butler, who has been NSBA’s Director of Legal Services and COSA since 1984, will retire from her post later this year to pursue a second career in fine arts. COSA officers unanimously acted to recognize Butler’s 28 years of outstanding service to COSA members prior to learning about her plans for retirement.
Under Butler’s leadership, COSA’s membership has grown from 1,800 to more than 3,000 members. Her creative management style has been instrumental in COSA taking the lead in membership service delivery through audio conferences, pay-for-download Web documents, Web streaming seminar content, social networking, and webinars.
Prior to joining NSBA, Butler earned her MBA in management from George Mason University and was Manager of Certification Programs for the American Society for Microbiology. She became a Certified Association Executive (CAE) in 1990. Butler began her career in 1969 as a high school English and drama teacher in the Washington, D.C., public schools.
McCarthy noted: “Susan Butler has been an invaluable resource to the Council members and leadership, a careful steward of COSA’s resources, and a champion of COSA’s many projects and activities.”
“As a former high school teacher, I know firsthand the vital role public schools play in shaping children’s lives,” Butler said. “I’m proud that through COSA, I have been able to support school boards as they carry out the nation’s most important priority—educating children.”
If you want to see “continuous improvement” in your school system, then take your annual board and superintendent evaluations seriously.
That was the message delivered by staff members of the Georgia School Boards Association (GSBA) at a pre-conference workshop Friday.
A good evaluation process does more than simply provide feedback on how well a district’s leadership is doing its job, said panelist Mark Willis, GSBA’s assistant executive director. Evaluations also provide board members and superintendents with an opportunity to reflect on whether they’ve stayed the course — focusing on the goals they originally set for the year.
“This is about continuous improvement … making sure you’re providing the most effective leadership possible.”
During their three-hour workshop, Willis and co-panelist Tony Arasi, GSBA’s director of board development, offered conference attendees an overview of the evaluation process and guidance on how to use goals and data to improve their evaluations.
Among their observations:
# Although evaluations should be conducted annually, it’s a good idea to schedule a mid-year review so that the board and superintendent can identify any problems and respond immediately.
# Any evaluation model should focus on standards and goals defined in the previous year. A school board should not set goals and expectations for its superintendent and then judge him or her based on other factors.
# Set aside time for the board and superintendent to discuss the evaluation results. Perhaps the most important part of any evaluation process is the time spent to study the results, identify problems, and discuss any needed responses.
# It’s best if the board conduct its evaluation first, as it will allow the board to determine its role in supporting or interfering with the superintendent’s efforts to meet his or her goals.
Both panelists acknowledged that there is no single, perfect evaluation model — and school boards might have unique interests or situations that influence the evaluation process they use. But, for those looking to improve their process, they said, a good place to look for assistance is state school boards associations.
As part of their presentation, both men shared GSBA’s Board Self-Assessment Instrument, pointing out such features as allowing the superintendent and top administrators to rate the board’s work.
And they re-emphasized the importance of a face-to-face discussion of the evaluation results, noting that district leaders should give particular attention to differences between the board’s and administration’s perceptions on their effectiveness.
Said Arasi, “You need to talk about this … if there’s a big split there, something is going on.”
David Warlick was riding a train from North Carolina to Washington, D.C., when a rustic stone pyramid in the landscape caught his eye. He snapped a picture with his phone’s camera, then posted it on Twitter and asked if anyone knew what it was.
Within five minutes, a woman responded that it was a memorial to a Civil War general.
What makes this story so remarkable was that the woman who sent the information was in New Zealand, Warlick added.
The founder of the Landmark Project used this anecdote to show that technologies such as Twitter have completely — and rather suddenly — changed the way the world communicates and obtains information. Those ways are particularly compelling to students, and school board members must find ways to harness – not ban — these technologies to understand the youngest generation and teach them more effectively.
Educators repeatedly have been given the message to embrace technology in education. But figuring out what that means—and what to do about it—remains an elusive goal for school board members.
Warlick shared his thoughts in an interactive session at the final session of NSBA’s Leadership Conference Sunday. Attendees shared their reactions online during the presentation in a Twitter-like chat room called Knitterchat.com, which Warlick created. He uses the Knitterchat platform not only as a way to further discussions and answer questions from participants but also as an example of how students use technology to access information.
Today’s students “have almost no formative recollection of 20th century. They are 21st century learners,” he said. “Yet they are still learning in 19th century classrooms.”
Warlick showed examples of his college-age son’s videography and texting as ways the younger generations use technologies to gain information and communicate. Rather than fear cell phones, social media, and video games, educators should use them as classroom tools, Warlick said.
“Things have to change — we are for the first time in history preparing children for a future we can’t describe,” he said. “So what do our children need to be learning for an uncertain future?”
For one, education policy experts have repeatedly emphasized the need for more classes tied to STEM—science, technology, engineering, and math—subjects because so many future jobs will be in those fields. But Warlick argued for a similar emphasis on creative arts, including music, drama, and culture.
Not only will those classes stimulate learning in STEM topics and other areas, but these students will be prepared for careers that require creative arts skills to support STEM fields, such as designers for the casings of new technology products.
He suggested questions that school board members should ask, including, “What are the children learning that I didn’t learn?” and, “How the schools are using this new information environment to touch their communities?”
For more information on Warlick’s work, visit http://landmark-project.com.
Only four out of 10 ninth-graders today graduate from high school ready for college or the workplace—and it’s going to take a more thoughtful, strategic use of technology to change that equation.
That was the message of Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education, who spoke Sunday at NSBA’s Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C.
More attention must be paid to technology because limited financial resources and demographic trends are likely to force schools to hire fewer, younger, and less-experienced teachers in the years ahead, he said. Technology will prove a useful tool to help these teachers maximize their time and instructional effort.
But the promise of technology will only be kept if school leaders are smart about its use, Wise warned. Technology is not simply about adding laptops or Internet connections to classrooms.
“If you do that, you accomplish nothing but the spending of a lot of money,” he said. “What is required is a conscious strategy. When talking about districts where the technology is not working and large amounts of money were spent, you’re looking at a district that did not develop a conscious strategy beforehand.”
To emphasize his point, Wise showed his audience two slides: one of a classroom of a hundred students sitting in an amphitheater-style classroom with laptops in front of them; the other of a classroom where students were organized in small groups, with the teacher standing amidst half a dozen students, each working on their own laptop project.
The more intimate setting was the more reassuring, he noted. The scene suggested students were receiving personalized instruction. They were more engaged in individual instruction and advancing at their own pace, with an instructor available to answer questions, track individual student progress, and ready to step in when students faltered.
Any discussion of successful technology in schools won’t focus gadgets and software, he added. “It’s about the teaching, the pedagogy. We want technology to enhance teachers … We want technology matched with what teachers teach to allow them to do what couldn’t be done before.”
That’s going to take a lot of thoughtful planning—and school boards are just the entity to see that happen, Wise told conference attendees. One of the strengths of technology is that it can be adapted to variety of settings, and school boards are best positioned to determine what adaptations are needed for their school settings and student populations.
“During the next several years, the local school board will be the main agent for change,” Wise told School Board News after his presentation. “They will provide the innovation … school boards are where the rubber meets the road, and they’ll create the future education laboratories to help us find what works.”
Just as the role of teacher has shifted in the last several years, so has the role of the school counselor, turning a once-fringe position into a proactive, data-driven, and integrated part of delivering a world class education for every child.
A distinguished panel of school counselors talked about these changes and the challenges of being a school counselor in the 21st century during a Saturday session of the Council of Urban Boards of Education winter Issues Forum at NSBA’s Leadership Conference.
“Yesterday’s counselor was very reactive. You rarely found them. Today’s counselor is serving all students. They’re not waiting for students to come to them; they’re looking at student’s needs and planning for them,” said Julie Hartline, the head counselor at Campbell High School in Georgia’s Cobb County School District. “Yesterday’s counselor would say, ‘I don’t know what kind of impact I have on a student until they’re gone. Today’s counselor has that data. It’s moved us into the role of being school leaders, instead of being ancillary.”
Indeed, Cobb County schools must set annual goals and part of her job at Nickajack Elementary is to track the school’s progress on those goals and areas where the counseling program can help achieve them, said Nicole Pfleger, who jsut names the 2012 National School Counselor of the Year by the American School Counselors Association.
A focus on improving math scores, for instance, resulted in targeted interventions for struggling math students. Meanwhile, the identification of “frequent flyers” or students who were continually referred to the disciplinary office, led to the DREAM Team, a program for at-risk boys that works on issues like character development, self-control, etiquette, and respect, Pfleger said.
“Our job is to help raise aspirations and aspirations come with information,” said Carolyn Stone, who spent 22 years as a school counselor at Florida’s Duval County Public Schools before becoming a professor of counselor education at the University of North Florida.
School counselors are ideally situated to close the information gap, which Stone said must be part of any effort to close the achievement gap.
“It’s about helping them connect the dots, making sure they know this is what you need to do to be successful,” Stone said. “I don’t want to sound simplistic, but sometimes it comes down to setting goals, so that when that kid is about to graduate, they have options, whether it’s a two-year, a four-year program or technical college, they know what they’re options are.”
The importance of building partnerships was the centerpiece of Prince George’s Community College President Charlene M. Dukes’ presentation to attendees of the Council of Urban Boards of Education’s winter Issues Forum at NSBA’s Leadership Conference on Saturday. And small wonder– strong alliances between the Maryland community college and its feeder school district have been the key to delivering innovative programs and opportunities to the students they both serve.
“The idea of partnering is nothing new. You partner with neighbors, churches, and communities to get things done,” Dukes said. But building partnerships to support education, upward mobility, and improved quality of life are what drives the work and shared goals of Prince George’s educators as well as those in the state.
“For the fourth year in a row, Education Week has named Maryland as number one for education,” Dukes said, referring to the annual Quality Counts report the publication produces that examines the current education landscape and where various states fall. “That doesn’t happen by chance.”
Dukes said every three weeks she has breakfast with Prince George’s County Public Schools Superintendent William Hite to vent, celebrate, and strategize.
“Dr. Hite and I want our students to see beyond the walls of school, beyond the boundaries of neighborhoods,” Dukes said. “We want them to see themselves as part of the world.”
One of the ways the two school systems are working to achieve that is through the Academy of Health Sciences at Prince George’s Community College, which opened in the fall of 2011 with 100 high school freshmen as the state’s first middle college.
As the name suggests, students who enroll in this program, which will eventually serve 400 low-income high school students, will graduate with a diploma and up to two years of college or an associate’s degree in the health sciences field.
“And it’s all free of charge to the students and their families because we were able to work in partnership as a school system and community college,” said Dukes. She explained to an audience eager to know how it was funded that some of the money comes from per-pupil expenditures the district gets from the state, but much of it comes from the college in the way of waived fees and free use of space.
Dukes said the program received 978 applications for the first class of freshmen. This time around, it received 4,000 applications for the freshman class.
“That tells you how hungry people are for something different in public education,” Dukes said. But it doesn’t stop there.
“In America, we’ve done a great job with access, with providing opportunities, but we have to do more to make sure that people make it out on the other end, that they reach their goals and walk across the stage with those academic credentials,” she said. “We have much work to do and we think we can do it together as boards of education.”
Try to answer this question about one of the most significant cases in U.S. Supreme Court history:
The 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which desegregated the public schools – did it a) ensure that black students had access to the same educational advantages as white students, or b) assure that educational decisions in the public schools would not be based on race?
If you answered “both,” you might be right, but it wouldn’t help you come to a decision in a subsequent student assignment case, PICS v. Seattle. In this case, a divided Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that the diversity plans of the Seattle and Kentucky’s Louisville public schools were unconstitutional. And that’s because justices on both sides of the 5-4 decision invoked the famous Topeka, Kan., case and its legacy in justifying their decisions
“Fifty-years later … is PICS v. Seattle the New Brown v. Board of Education” was the title of this breakout session at Saturday’s Leadership Conference. It was led by Jay Worona, general counsel of the New York State School Boards Association, and Francisco M. Negrón Jr., general counsel of NSBA. And yes, Negrón said, the title was meant to be a little facetious because the opposing sides in the later case disagreed vehemently on just what the legacy of Brown meant.
For dissenting justices Stephen Breyer and John Paul Stevens, the two districts’ student assignment plans, which used race in some instances to diversity popular schools, was in keeping with the reasoning of Brown.
“[The] history books do not tell stories of white children struggling to attend black schools…,” Stevens wrote.
But Justice Clarence Thomas, a member of the court majority, characterized Breyer’s dissent as “[d]isfavoring a color blind interpretation of the Constitution.”
So does this mean school districts cannot consider race when making student assignments? Actually no, Negrón said. In trying to diversify schools, districts can still consider race, as long as it is part of a well-reasoned decision that also involves other factors, such as socioeconomic status, geographic location, and parental education levels. What schools may not do, he said, is to use race to determine where an individual student goes to school.
The key is to consider the educational advantages of diversity, rather than diversity of its own sake.
“You should think about diversity as something that academically benefits all of your students,” Negrón said.
For more information, see the NSBA publication Achieving Educational Excellence for All: A Guide to Diversity-Related Policy Strategies for School Districts.
Check out photos from the first day of NSBA’s Leadership Conference on Flickr.