Articles in the American School Board Journal category

Veteran school board lobbyist retires after 44-year career at NSBA

When Michael A. Resnick joined the National School Boards Association as a legislative specialist in 1969, Richard Nixon was president. Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. The U.S. Army began pulling troops out of Vietnam, and Jimi Hendrix sang at Woodstock.

And most Americans believed the nation’s public education system was the best in the world.

Over the next 44 years, much would change — and not just for the nation at large. In the realm of education, Resnick, who is retiring this week as head of NSBA’s Office of Federal Advocacy and Public Policy, has witnessed profound changes in state and federal education policy and in the challenges facing school boards nationwide.

Some of those changes were promising, such as the higher priority the nation placed on the academic success of all students, particularly the most disadvantaged and traditionally underserved. Slowly but persistently, the public schools raised student academic performance, narrowed the achievement gap between white and minority students, and raised high school graduation rates to a historic high.

Other changes, however, have been less welcome. Critics of public education have eroded confidence in our public education system. State and federal mandates have been increasingly intrusive and even damaging. Top-down reform efforts have undermined local school governance.

All of this has had an enormous impact on the roles and expectations of the nation’s more than 14,000 school boards, Resnick says.

“If you go back to the 1960s and 1970s, school boards generally served a trustee role, overseeing the budget, making sure finances were in good order, overseeing personnel and student matters — but leaving to the school district administration with limited authority over much of what went on in the educational program.”

That limited role for the school board gave way over the years as the nation embarked on a decades-long debate about student academic performance. No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) put academic accountability at the forefront of state and federal policy.

“While board members aren’t designing or running their schools’ academic program,” he says, “they certainly have to be familiar with it at a pretty technical level — so they can respond to issues surrounding student achievement and the need to meet accountability requirements for the school district.”

NCLB had good intentions, Resnick says, but it brought about a seismic shift in the federal government’s role in education policymaking. States and school boards had long been subject to federal rules in order to participate in categorical programs such as Title I.

However, NCLB mandated states to enact more sweeping and prescriptive policies and requirements that had a direct impact on districts overall and on how boards did their work.

That federal overreach has continued under the Race to the Top program, which offers the promise of significant federal aid to states that agree to enact policies favored by federal education officials.

NSBA has been fighting overreach of top-down policy direction, he says, making clear to Congress and U.S. Department of Education officials that the flood of mandates and regulations are increasingly onerous and limit the flexibility of school officials.

But there are other forces at work, making it harder for advocates of local school governance to influence state and federal policymaking, Resnick says. “Back in the 1960s and 1970s, the principal players in state legislatures and on Capitol Hill were the institutional professional education groups — those representing teachers, administrators, and school boards.”

Today, however, there are a host of new advocacy groups making their voices heard — ideology-driven think tanks, industry-backed advocacy groups, business leaders, and other special interests.

These new groups make it more difficult for the institutional associations to be heard, Resnick says. One of the more damaging policy directions that some groups have encouraged is to promote alternatives to the traditional public school system, he says.

Supported by business interests that hope to tap into the billions of dollars spent on education, these groups have helped accelerate state and federal policies in support of vouchers and charter schools.

NSBA has “had to find ways to increase our effectiveness in terms of the knowledge we can bring to the table but also raise our level of advocacy,” he says.

Resnick’s earliest strategies to strengthen NSBA’s advocacy was the creation of the Federal Relations Network (FRN) in 1970 — an initiative to enlist school board members as outspoken constituents of their federal House and Senate members.

Today, NSBA is working to expand the number of board members participating in legislative advocacy, Resnick says. NSBA also has launched the National School Boards Action Center, designed to broaden school board advocacy to impact Congress, the media, and the public. The center includes the Friends of Public Education network to bring together other local leaders and concerned citizens to advocate on behalf of public education and sound federal policies.

“With the increase in competing voices in the policymaking debate, it becomes harder for your voice to be heard,” he says. “It requires marshalling a different set of resources, and the level of information you must provide has to be greater, as does the level of political punch behind you.”

It doesn’t help the cause of school boards, however, that Congress is politically deadlocked and struggling to fulfill its responsibilities, he says. Federal lawmakers have failed to adopt an annual federal budget for several years and the long-overdue reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) still is winding its way through the legislative process.

“Years ago, it was a time of more predictable, orderly policymaking on Capitol Hill, without the partisan rancor of today,” he says. “The political parties had different views, but compromise and accommodations could be made. One role of NSBA was to help broker those compromises.”

The political stalemate in Congress has created a vacuum in federal policy-making — one that the Education Department is too willing to fill with rigid regulations that are eroding local policymakers’ authority, Resnick notes. But, whatever the merits of any particular policy initiative, the department’s efforts lack the level of accountability or public input that would occur if federal policies were under the legislative oversight of Congress.

“What we see is an overreach of authority from the Department of Education — not only in terms of the federal role but also in the role of the agency itself,” he says.

That’s why NSBA earlier this year proposed the Local School Board Governance and Flexibility Act, designed to protect local school districts from unnecessary and counter-productive federal regulations. Key provisions of this legislative proposal were incorporated into the House of Representatives’ bill to reauthorize ESEA, which passed in July.

Yet there is much more to be done, Resnick says. NSBA will be working more closely than ever with state school boards associations to support their advocacy efforts in state legislatures and courts “because that’s where many of the policy debates have gone — to the state level.”

As he steps down after four decades advocating on behalf of school boards, Resnick expresses some worry that the next generation of school board members may come to see the current state and federal intrusion into local policymaking as the norm, rather than a recent development that runs counter to the traditional policy of local school control.

“Over time, if we continue in this current framework, without knowing the history and evolution of recent education policymaking, we may find that new school board members assume it has to be this way,” he says. “But there are better approaches — emphasizing local school governance — with tools to increase student achievement with less top-down management.”

Del Stover|November 26th, 2013|Categories: American School Board Journal, Board governance, Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Featured, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, National School Boards Action Center, NSBA Publications, NSBAC|Tags: |

New on ASBJ.com: Disaster preparation and recovery

Seven schoolchildren, along with their teacher and her baby, died when a tornado ripped through their school building in Moore, Okla., in May.  This deadly storm, ferocious even by Tornado Alley standards, devastated the town and the school district.

ASBJ communications columnist Nora Carr was on the ground in Moore after the storms.  She documents the physical and emotional aftermath of the storm   in this issue’s cover story,  “Storm Recovery in Oklahoma,”  online now at ASBJ.com.

Also in the November/December issue, Senior Editor Lawrence Hardy takes a look at how school security has changed in the year since the Newtown, Conn., school shootings.

NSBA’s “advocate-in-chief”  (and ASBJ’s On the Hill columnist) Michael A. Resnick is retiring after a 44 years. Read his perspective on how times have changed in the national education arena in our interview.

While you’re on ASBJ.com, check out our bonus articles and vote in our Adviser poll.

 

 

Kathleen Vail|November 20th, 2013|Categories: American School Board Journal, Crisis Management, Legislative advocacy, NSBA Publications, School Security|Tags: , , , , |

New on ASBJ.com: It’s Easy Being Green

Building environmentally friendly schools qualifies as one of those elusive “win-win” scenarios we’re always hearing about. Yes, green strategies make schools healthier for students, teachers, and other employees, and they help keep the environment healthy for future generations. But those environmental building practices also save money for schools – in many cases, a great deal of money. In the October issue of American School Board Journal, online now, our cover story details how schools around the country have been saving the planet while saving money. If you’re just getting started, help is available from the federal government.

Also in the October issue is the next in our continuing Agents of Change series. This month, we feature an Illinois school board that created a college-going culture at its high school while enhancing the reputation of the entire district.

While you’re online, check out our bonus articles, vote in our Adviser poll, and nominate your district for a 2014 Magna Award.

 

Kathleen Vail|October 2nd, 2013|Categories: American School Board Journal, NSBA Recognition Programs|

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

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

Kathleen Vail, Editor in Chief for ASBJ; Gregory Yost, Sodexo’s Manager of Public Relations; Bruce Hancock, the Vice President of the Board of Directors for the Derry Township School District, in Hershey, Pa.; and Diantha McKeel, a school board member for Albemarle County Public Schools in Charlottesville, Va. discussed the Magna Awards and school district success. Derry Township School District and  Albemarle County Public Schools were both grand prize Magna Awards winners in 2013.

Listen to the show:

Find Additional Education Podcasts with EduTalk on BlogTalkRadio

 

In 2013, the Derry Township School District, earned the Magna Awards grand prize in the under 5,000 enrollment category for its COCOA Principles program which aims to prepare students to be global Derry Township School District citizens. COCOA Principles, which stands for Community Opportunity Citizenship Ownership Academics, has encouraged the entire community, not just students, to be more inclusive, respectful, and responsible citizens. Students seen reflecting the program’s principles are nominated for awards, and high school graduation projects must identify the COCOA principle the student is modeling.

In 2013, Albemarle County Public Schools was honored as the Magna Awards grand prize winner in the 5,000 to 20,000 enrollment category for M-Cubed: Math, Men and Mission, a program developed to improve the academic achievement of African-American male students and encourage them to enroll in higher level high school math classes. The program starts with a two-week summer academy for upper elementary and middle school students but extends year-round with mentoring and academic support from the 100 Black Men of Central Virginia, a community group.

The Magna Awards, supported by Sodexo, recognize districts across the country for outstanding programs that advance student learning and encourage community involvement in schools. Each of the grand prize winning school districts receives a $4,000 contribution from Sodexo.

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

Also check out the searchable Magna Awards Best Practices Database, where you can browse through past Magna winners and other high-scoring programs for innovative best practices, proven and practical solutions, and new ideas. New programs that receive high scores from the Magna judges.

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

New report finds teachers need more effective professional development to meet higher standards

Despite decades of research, teacher professional development is not adequately helping teachers to develop their students’ critical thinking skills and subject matter knowledge so that they can be ready for college and the workplace, a new report by the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Center for Public Education (CPE) finds.

Teaching the Teachers: Effective Professional Development in an Era of High Stakes Accountability,” reports that ongoing, dedicated time for collaboration and coaching is the most effective way to help teachers develop needed classroom skills, but most professional development exercises are one-time workshops that research shows have no lasting effect. An estimated 90 percent of teachers participate in some form of professional development each year, but the vast majority receive it in workshops.

“Effective professional development is a key factor in improving student achievement and better preparing our students for the challenges of the 21st century economy,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “We already see that public schools are facing greater accountability for their students’ learning, and now teachers in the states that implement the Common Core State Standards will be under intense pressure to teach their students critical thinking and problem-solving skills.”

The report notes that professional development that is ongoing, collaborative and connected to the teacher’s subject area produces the largest student gains. The biggest challenge for teachers, research shows, is implementing the skills they have learned in their classrooms.

The report also looked at effective practices and found that:
• Professional development is best delivered in the context of the teacher’s subject area;
• Working with a coach or mentor is shown to be highly effective;
• Although research on effective critical thinking strategies is lacking, teachers in some areas have established professional learning communities to create best practices and coach each other;
• Case studies show that some school districts may be able to reallocate spending to provide better professional development opportunities without spending significantly more.

Teachers’ time is the most significant cost consideration for effective professional development. Further, professional development is often one of the first areas cut in tight budget times.

“Teachers need embedded time for collaboration and support while they attempt to change their practices,” said CPE Director Patte Barth. “But time is money. When budgets are pinched, districts may be tempted to go with one-time workshops which cost fewer dollars. But a low price is still too high if there is no impact on student learning.”

Teaching the Teachers: Effective Professional Development in an Era of High Stakes Accountability,” was written by Allison Gulamhussein, a doctoral student at George Washington University and a former high school English teacher, who was a policy intern for the Center for Public Education.  View Gulamhussein’s analysis of this report in American School Board Journal.

Alexis Rice|September 10th, 2013|Categories: American School Board Journal, Center for Public Education, Center for Public Education Update, Reports, School Boards|Tags: , , |

ASBJ’s 2014 Magna Awards open for nominations

The American School Board Journal’s Magna Awards honors exceptional school programs created by school boards each year. The program, which is sponsored by Sodexo School Services, is now accepting nominations for its 2014 awards.

The deadline for submissions is October 31, and all applications must be submitted online. Categories are divided by district enrollment: Under 5,000, 5,000-20,000, and over 20,000 students. School districts in the United States and Virgin Islands that are members of their state school boards associations are eligible. Please also read the Magna information page for tips on making your nomination and  information about Magna and the judging process, nomination criteria, contacts, guidelines for backup materials, and answers to frequently asked questions.

The awards have been given since 1989, and are designed to showcase replicable programs that help improve student achievement and inspire healthy lifestyles and engagement in local schools.

You can also use the Magna Best Practices Database to search for winning programs  Learn more about the 2013 winners– Pennsylvania’s Derry Township School District, Virginia’s Albemarle County Public Schools, and California’s Fontana Unified School District–in this video or on the resource page.

 

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|August 16th, 2013|Categories: American School Board Journal, Announcements, Board governance|Tags: , , |

New on ASBJ.com: Going beyond academics

Reading. Writing. Algebra. Geometry. Educators and schools need to cover a lot of academic subject matter with their students. But most people who work with children and teenagers know that the knowledge they are imparting will fall on deaf ears if their students are hungry. Or in pain. Or worried about their parents. Or dealing with any of the myriad problems that children and youth face every day.

In ASBJ’s June cover story, now online at ASBJ.com, Senior Editor Lawrence Hardy looks at four school districts that go far beyond just academics with their students. The districts are all Magna Award winners, and you can read about all of their programs on our website.

The June isue also features an article on how to seek unity on your board (hint: Start with yourself) and the another in our Change Agent series, this one about Michigan board and superinendent who were determined to improve both their district’s academic performance and its reputation.

While you’re online, check out our Adviser poll and bonus articles.

Kathleen Vail|June 5th, 2013|Categories: American School Board Journal, NSBA Publications|

ASBJ bonus article offers sound advice for boosting meeting participation

Tired of spending hours in meetings only to walk out and wonder, yet again, “What was our net gain?” This week’s ASBJ bonus article can help. Read along as a retired superintendent with 50 years of service in public schools outlines a three-phase planning process that leads to truly effective meetings — the kind of meetings that produce results that meet or exceed your expectations.

Learn how stepping back and listening to some wise voices from an earlier generation can help us develop and encourage more staff and community ownership and participation in the meetings we lead and attend.

Feel free to browse through our growing archive of valuable and wide-ranging bonus articles, all of which are designed to help school board members do their jobs. And while you’re on ASBJ.com, don’t forget to take this month’s Adviser poll!

Margaret Suslick|May 29th, 2013|Categories: American School Board Journal, Board governance, NSBA Publications, School Boards|

Oklahoma State School Boards Association helps tornado-torn district recover

Tornados are a fact of life in Oklahoma. That’s especially true in the central and western portions of the state, which belong to a region that includes parts of nine states and is dubbed “Tornado Alley.” Shaped, fittingly, like a cylinder, it stretches north from Texas to South Dakota and is the area of the country where tornados are among the most numerous and severe.

The town of Moore, south of Oklahoma City, is in the heart of Tornado Alley. Its residents are familiar with the storms and the damage they can cause. But nothing could prepare residents for two major tornados that hit the town in 14 years: the first in May of 1999; the second, this past Monday.

The May 3, 1999, tornado killed 36 people. In mid-afternoon on Monday, May 20, another tornado killed 24 people and destroyed 13,000 structures, including the district headquarters of the Moore Public Schools and two of its elementary school buildings. At Plaza Towers Elementary School, where teachers herded student into hallways and bathrooms, seven children died.

Right after the most recent storm, the Oklahoma State School Boards Association (OSSBA) began accepting gifts of school supplies at its Oklahoma City headquarters, as well as monetary gifts for the stricken district, said Jeff B. Mills, a former superintendent and OSSBA’s executive director. Mills spoke with ASBJ Senior Editor Lawrence Hardy on May 22, two days after the most recent storm hit.

How is OSSBA helping?

[We’re] just trying to be a resource for them. Many of their phone lines and cell phone services are down. They can’t get their e-mail, either. Just offering support, prayers — anything they need.

How is the district coping?

Their administration building was destroyed. Their records, fortunately, are off site; but when you’ve got your computer down, you feel helpless. But if you have your whole administration building down, it’s very difficult. It’s definitely a struggle. They’re trying to move on. They’re going to go ahead with their graduation this weekend. And they’ll deal with the losses that they have and start rebuilding.

What’s been the response to the drop off site for school supplies?

There’s been an unbelievable outpouring. We’ve got a truck coming from Nebraska tomorrow. We’ve got a couple of trailers that have been loaded up down around Florida coming this way, and just from all over the country. People just are hurting for Moore and wanting to do something, and we wanted to make sure we were able be an outlet for them.

We’re working with Feed the Children here in Oklahoma City to help distribute immediate needs like water and Gatorade bottles, diapers, hand sanitizers, gloves — those types of things we get in. But the school supplies we’ll store for the district and then hold back until they’re ready to receive them, because the last thing they need is us showing up with a truckload of pens and pencils right now. But they’ll need them in the fall.

Have you been to Moore since the tornado?

No. You can’t unless you’re a state official or a first responder — or actually live there.

As a former Oklahoma superintendent, have you ever dealt with anything like this?

No, I never did. Of course we had storm issues — we always do in Oklahoma. Nothing like this. When it hit [Moore] in ’99, the schools weren’t in session; they were already out for the day. It destroyed some schools, and they had to be rebuilt. Basically, [the most recent storm] traveled the same path. The big thing that’s happened in Moore since ’99 is just a huge growth spurt, not only in housing but in retail. The area that it came through, it followed that same path — there’s been a lot of lot of expansion in retail, highway frontage, building activity that is basically gone.

What are some of the challenges facing school board member in the coming months?

I think just the overwhelming idea that, “I’ve got to deal with all of this.” It’s not just one area, one issue. And then the things that will linger once the kids come back and classmates are gone or staff members are gone. They’ll be, I’m sure, a lot of counseling hours, and then just rebuilding. It’ll be a challenge, but they are a very strong board. The members are very dedicated and focused on what they need for the children.

How will the state respond in the long term?

We’ve faced things like this before in Oklahoma, just like other states deal with tragedy.  And we’ve always come out of it in a positive way. We’ll rebuild and start over. People are very resilient here, and they’re going to focus on what they can do for their kids. And we’re going to be there to support the schools and their board, and anything we can do to make that happen we’re going to do.

For information on how to contribute to OSSBA’s efforts for Moore, go here.

ASBJ has compiled an anthology of articles on disaster recovery for school districts, available in hard copy or as a downloadable PDF. Purchasing information is available here.

Lawrence Hardy|May 24th, 2013|Categories: American School Board Journal, Crisis Management, School Boards, School Buildings, State School Boards Associations|Tags: , , |

ASBJ bonus article on how a district turned renovation into motivation

There’s no such thing as a free lunch – you’ve heard that, surely. You’ve also heard that you can’t get something for nothing.

Those statements are true, most of the time. But for our online readers of ASBJ, we offer something for nothing in the form of bonus articles found only on our website. This week, the superintendent of Caroline County Public Schools in Bowling Green, Va., Gregory N. Killough details how one of his elementary schools made educational lemonade out of lemons in the form of renovation construction.

The Junior Foreman program involved second-graders, hard hats, blueprints, and forklifts. Read the article to find out how the program worked.

And while you’re on ASBJ.com, remember to take this month’s Adviser poll and check out our archive of other bonus articles designed to help school board members do their jobs.

Kathleen Vail|May 22nd, 2013|Categories: American School Board Journal, School Buildings|Tags: |
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