Articles in the American School Board Journal category

PBS’s Frontline examines the resurgence of school segregation in America

PBS’s Frontline will feature upcoming programming about resegregation in America, “Separate and Unequal,” following the recent 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education. Tune in to PBS on July 15, 2014 (check your local listings for time) for Frontline’s two-part examination of what’s behind the growing racial divide in American schools, and the legacy of Brown.

Frontline will profile Louisiana’s East Baton Rouge Parish School District, which desegregated its schools in 1981 following a 25-year-long legal battle. Today, frustrated with the district’s many low-performing schools, a constituent group of mostly white, middle-class parents and business leaders have a bold plan to break away from the school district and Baton Rouge to form a new city with its own separate schools. If they succeed, the newly formed school district would be more affluent and predominantly white, and the East Baton Rouge Parish School District would be left essentially resegregated, with a student population of mostly black students from lower-income families.

Also, be sure to read American School Board Journal’s coverage of Brown’s legacy and future and National School Boards Association’s (NSBA)Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel reflection on the impact of Brown and the challenges that public schools still face in the Huffington Post. PBS had alerted us about the Frontline programming following NSBA’s recent coverage of Brown.

Margaret Suslick|July 14th, 2014|Categories: Urban Schools, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , |

In Huffington Post column, Gentzel calls for vigilance in Brown decision

To mark the 60th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, National School Boards Association Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel reflected on the impact of the decision and the challenges that public schools still face. The following commentary was published by the Huffington Post:

 

In the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a timeless and transformative message: All students deserve a great public education; separate systems are not equal.

In marking the 60th anniversary of this landmark Supreme Court ruling, it is important to reflect upon the ongoing effect of Brown v. Board of Education on the work of America’s school boards and our nation’s public schools. Enshrining this decision as a historic relic does not serve the nine out of 10 school-age children who attend our nation’s public schools. To protect students’ rights, freedoms and ready access to a high-quality education, we must actively heed the central tenets of the Brown v. Board of Education decision.

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is particularly concerned about the unintended consequences of privatization through vouchers, charter schools not governed by local school boards, and other means that research indicates are leading to the re-segregation of public schools, mainly in high-poverty urban areas.

In its most recent issue, NSBA’s flagship magazine, American School Board Journal, reports that the number of schools with a minority enrollment above 90 percent has climbed precipitously. Similarly, the Civil Rights Project at the University of California-Los Angeles also has reported that African-American and Hispanic students are increasingly segregated at the schools they attend.

Ironically, this comes at a time when America’s public schools are becoming much more diverse. The percentage of students who are white dropped from 61 percent in 2000 to 52 percent in 2010, and today stands at about 50 percent. Schools in the south and west now have a majority of minority students, according to the National Center on Education Statistics. And with more than half of babies born today falling into a minority classification, demographics will continue to diversify. At the same time, poverty and other risk factors also have increased.

Our lawmakers must continue to look at the entire public education system to ensure that we invest in our public schools and give them the support that is needed, rather than diverting scarce taxpayer dollars to voucher schemes and charter schools that lack local school district oversight. Today more than ever, it is essential that we continue to focus on ensuring that every child has access to an excellent and equitable education.

Data show public schools are educating today’s diverse student population to higher levels than ever before. We should be proud that our high school graduation rate is at an all-time high — about 80 percent of students graduate on time, and when late graduates are included, the graduation rate rises to more than 85 percent. The graduation rate of Hispanics, the fastest growing group of students in our nation’s schools, jumped from 61 percent to 76 percent between 2006 and 2012. And African-American students made significant gains during this period, improving their graduation rate from 59 percent to 68 percent.

Brown v. Board of Education honors a truth core to our nation’s democracy: to provide a strong education to each and every child who enters our nation’s public school system. We must stay focused on investing equitably in our public schools and students, ensuring that they have the resources and support they need, and we must not be diverted by programs that have the effect of re-segregating America’s public education system. We must honor Brown v. Board of Education‘s intention for every child to achieve, and we must insist that every child in America has access to a great public school where they live. No exceptions; no excuses.

Joetta Sack-Min|May 19th, 2014|Categories: School Law, Charter Schools, Diversity, Privatization, Urban Schools, Board governance, Student Achievement, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , , , , |

School board member blasts fed’s rescission of NCLB waiver for Washington state

In a strong and incisive letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Washington school board member David Iseminger has decried the U.S. Department of Education’s decision to rescind the state’s waiver of some of the more onerous requirements of No Child Left Behind, a move that will cause nearly all state schools to fail to reach the law’s student achievement benchmarks and require school districts to send “failure letters” to parents if they want to receive critical federal funds.

Last week, the department said it was rescinding the wavier because the state has not moved fast enough on its promise to use student test data to evaluate teachers and principals. The waivers allow states to escape from the law’s requirements that all schools educate 100 percent of their students to proficiency and math and language arts by this year–a provision widely criticized by educators and researchers as nearly impossible to meet.

In his letter, which was published on the Washington Post’s Answer Sheet blog, Iseminger characterized Duncan’s action as arbitrary and detrimental to schools and students.

“Your reason for revoking our waiver: we didn’t pass legislation you wanted,” wrote Iseminger, a board member for both the Lake Stevens School District and the Washington State School Directors’ Association. “More precisely, we passed legislation, but it didn’t have the wording (actually, one specific word) you wanted.”

Noting that Washington, D.C., is nearly 3,000 miles from his state, Iseminger offered to tell Duncan about “this other Washington” where “we have strong leadership in our board rooms, schools, and classrooms” and students who “are capable, confident, and work extremely hard.”

“In Lake Stevens — and in school districts across America — we lead by example,” Iseminger said. “We create confidence, capacity, knowledge, and opportunity for everyone in our community. There is a palpable and ubiquitous culture of excellence in Lake Stevens, where it’s common knowledge that each individual is supported, challenged, engaged, and empowered. Such things don’t appear overnight, they’re not accidental, and I have no intention of having our work undermined by distant labels and bracketed explanations.”

Among the schools that the education department would have the state call “failing” are “Schools of distinction one of them four years running,” Iseminger said, as well as Washington Achievement Awards schools and a Reward School. He said Lake Stevens has won a Magna Award from the National School Boards Association (NSBA)’s American School Board Journal and is a recognized Board of Distinction.

With NCLB reauthorization languishing six years in Congress, the law “has been subverted into a name-calling, label-applying bully pulpit,” Iseminger said.

“We tried to help,” Iseminger said. “With input and work from many education advocates, Congress was provided an extensive list of fixes that would make NCLB workable and forward-thinking, and keep us all accountable. I was there too — as a member of the (NSBA’s) Federal Relations Network (FRN), I made the trek to Washington D.C., multiple times to ask our members to reauthorize, year after year. While there, many of us from Washington also met with people from your Department of Education, in your building, trying to create relationships and press for a change in policy and tone: ‘Stop telling our students and educators they’re failing,’ I said.”

Iseminger works for Microsoft in its Business Intelligence Group, part of the Cloud + Enterprise Division. He said if the Education Department follows up the rescinding of its waiver by withholding Title I money and other key funds, disadvantaged students will suffer.

“If you pull our funding, you’ll be forsaking Washington’s most needy students — the very students for whom the original ESEA legislation was passed 50 years ago,” Iseminger wrote. “You’ll be abandoning those students, but we won’t. In Lake Stevens — and in every district across America – we’ll do whatever we must to ensure no child is left behind, waiver or not.”

Joetta Sack-Min|May 6th, 2014|Categories: Teachers, Educational Legislation, Federal Programs, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Educational Finance, School Reform, Board governance, Budgeting, Assessment, NSBA Recognition Programs, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , , , |

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: Educational Legislation, NSBA Publications, Federal Programs, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Board governance, American School Board Journal, Featured, Federal Advocacy, National School Boards Action Center, 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: NSBA Publications, Crisis Management, School Security, American School Board Journal, Legislative advocacy|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: NSBA Recognition Programs, American School Board Journal|

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: Governance, School Boards, Leadership, American School Board Journal|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: School Boards, Center for Public Education, American School Board Journal, Center for Public Education Update, Reports|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: Announcements, Board governance, American School Board Journal|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: NSBA Publications, American School Board Journal|
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