Check out the Education Talk Radio show from Friday, January 13, 2012 with National School Board Association‘s Executive Director Anne L. Bryant discussing our upcoming 2012 Annual Conference in Boston and the importance of school board professional development and leadership.
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 Multimedia and Webinars category
Whether you’re talking about raising student achievement, spending local tax dollars wisely, or ensuring that children are educated with a nod to community values, the importance of local school control is all too clear.
But it wouldn’t hurt school board members to speak out more forcefully about this reality.
Those were some of the messages delivered during NSBA’s recent National Affiliate webinar, “We are here to stay! … A discussion about school boards and the importance of local control.”
One of the big advantages of local control—through the local school board—is that it ensures that decisions about educating children are made as close to the community as possible, said co-presenter Anne Byrne, who serves as president of the Nanuet Union Free School District and is a member of NSBA’s Board of Directors.
Local control ensures that the community has a say in how local tax dollars are spent, how much emphasis is put on 21st century skills versus music and drama, and whether graduation requirements will go beyond state minimum requirements, she added.
Local decision-making also means more accountability. Unlike state and federal policymakers who legislate mandates from afar, Byrne said, local school board members “are very accessible … you’re questioned at school events, on the ball field, in your houses of worship, and definitely in the supermarket … Everyone knows your telephone number, and they know where you live. You can’t get more accessible than that.”
It’s also important to remember that local school boards are unique in that their mission is solely devoted to student learning, Byrne added. State legislators, municipal mayors, federal officials, and charter school entrepreneurs can seek a greater stake in education decision-making, but school boards “are unique because education is not just a line item in the budget. It is the only item. We are unique in that we are single-minded and single-focused . . . we are the voice of public education.”
That voice is particularly important when it comes to raising student academic achievement, she said. Using data for decision-making, setting high academic goals and standards, and holding educators accountable are among the many ways that school boards can prove a powerful force in improving a school district’s success in teaching children.
Evidence of that is found in the Iowa Association of School Boards’ Lighthouse Study, which “shows very clearly that not only do school boards matter, but they are integral to student achievement,” Byrne said. “School boards do make a difference.”
For all of that, criticism of local school boards continue, and over the years, state and federal mandates increasingly have eroded the authority of local officials to make decisions on behalf of their schools. To slow that trend, Byrne said, school board members must become more advocacy-minded.
“Advocacy is one of the most powerful tools we have as school board members because we are elected officials—elected by the same people who elected all of our other public officials,” she said. “And we should use that power.”
The problem, of course, is that school boards don’t speak out enough, she said. But there is “strength in numbers,” so local school boards must reach out to their state school boards associations and get more involved. “You must get involved. You must advocate. You must be on the front lines. That is the only way to stop the erosion of local control.”
A school board’s communications effort also must reach down into the local community, suggested webinar co-presenter Steve Lamb, a leadership services specialist with the Oregon School Boards Association. It’s important, he said, that school boards are very clear about what they’re trying to achieve—and about their progress toward that achievement.
School boards also must speak out to their communities about the importance of protecting local control, Byrne added. School boards must “get the message out to the public that it is important to keep things local.” School boards “will be a thing of the past if we don’t get our message out.”
That’s a daunting task, but Byrne said help is available.
“Your state association is the best place to start,” she said. “They are well-versed in just about any topic.” The NSBA annual conference, along with research available at NSBA’s Center for Public Education, also are places to turn for good information.
But use that information, she said. Get out there and tell the world what it needs to hear. “We all know that communications is key to ensuring that the importance of local control is understood by all parties: the local community, state stakeholders, elected federal officials. Communicate, communicate, communicate, and communicate some more.”
An archive of this webinar and related resources are available at: http://www.nsba.org/Services/NationalAffiliates/Webinar-Archive.
Teachers, administrators, and other school staff are considered public employees, which means they have certain protections under federal and state laws. But those immunities are complex and apply only in certain situations, and the laws are always evolving.
A webinar sponsored by NSBA’s National Affiliate program and legal department gave school board members and others a quick lesson in the basic legal concept of immunity and the laws that offer protections to school officials. The webinar, “Teacher and Administrator Immunity,” will be archived at www.nsba.org/webchannelna for later viewing.
Attorney Derek Teeter of Husch Blackwell LLP in Kansas City explained that while some laws date back hundreds of years, the most current laws came about because of concerns that school officials needed autonomy to discipline and perform other basic functions of their jobs without fear of retribution.
“Public school teachers and administrators get sued all the time — some would say at an increasing rate,” Teeter said.
The most common lawsuits his firm sees are negligent supervision, constitutional rights, and statutory rights, such as services under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. A typical lawsuit, he added, can cost tens of thousands of dollars to defend and distract from a school official’s job and personal life. A concern about lawsuits can drive some employees away from the field.
A wide range of school employees, including nearly all teachers and administrators, have “qualified immunity” created by federal and state laws or court decisions that apply in particular circumstances.
In general, these laws are only for public duties and the official capacity of their jobs. The laws require employees to exercise some sort of reasonable judgment”You can’t know what you’re doing is wrong and still have protection,” Teeter noted.
A relatively new law, the Paul D. Coverdell Teacher Protection Act, was included in the No Child Left Behind Act in 2002. It was designed to give school employees additional tools to do their jobs without retribution. Teeter said he was hopeful the law will be invoked in more court cases, which would benefit school districts. While the law offers more protection that state immunity laws, it still does not provide immunity for gross negligence or recklessness, he added.
Teeter’s firm represented a school district that was sued in a case where a special education student, who had been expelled for violent behavior at a charter school, enrolled in a public high school in Kansas City and attempted to slit another student’s throat in the cafeteria. In Dydell v. Taylor, student Craig Dydell sued the Kansas City superintendent for $1 million for negligence, saying that school leaders should have been warned of the attacker’s violent past. The trial court found the superintendent was eligible for immunity and rejected Dydell’s arguments that the Coverdell Teacher Protection Act was unconstitutional. The state’s high court upheld that verdict. (Legal Clips covered this ruling on Feb. 8, 2011. Read more here.)
The decision was particularly important for defining the scope of the requirements of that law, Teeter said.
To provide more information about school law issues, The Council of School Attorneys (COSA) will host a three-part series of webinars designed by its labor committee to assist school board attorneys facing collective bargaining in difficult economic times:
- Bargaining with no Money June 14
- Bargaining in the Midst of Changes to State Law July 12
- Tying Teacher Evaluations to Student Achievement August 9
The webinars will be held at 1 to 2:30 p.m. EDT. Cost is $175 for all three webinars for COSA members and $275 for non-members. For more information or to register, please go here.
NSBA is showcasing the Newport News Public Schools in Virginia as one of our Technology Leadership Network site visits this April. They are truly using technology to transform “business as usual”…take a peek at their video!
To register, visit: www.nsba.org/tlnsitevisits
While it’s widely acknowledged that technology has the power to transform education, some districts wonder: in what ways? A recent webinar sponsored by NSBA’s National Affiliate and Technology Leadership Network offered some specifics and hopefully inspiration to other educators wondering how they can dramatically improve student achievement without dramatic financial investments.
Literacy and reading comprehension continues to be one of the fundamental challenges schools face. Milton Chen, a senior fellow and executive director emeritus of the George Lucas Foundation, said student reading levels have basically remained flat since 1992–and demographic shifts will only exacerbate the problem.
Chen pointed to a January report from the Foundation for Child Development, which called the need to improve English Language Learner instruction critical. Though demographic projections estimate the ELL student population will balloon to 40 percent by 2030, only 6 percent are currently reaching reading proficiency levels by fourth-grade.
In many ways, this was the same scenario California’s Escondido Union School District found itself in. Located in the state’s southern interior valley, the K-8 district serves some 18,000 students–half of whom are second language learners. And that diversity certainly led to huge disparities in reading levels across the district.
“When you look at the challenges our kids face, we have kids from poverty and very limited English spoken at home, we couldn’t keep throwing text-based material at them,” said Kathy Shirley, the district’s technology and media service director. “It’s really important we harness the power of multimedia and these devices do it better than others.”
Those devices happen to be iPods, which Escondido first began experimenting with in 2006-2007, providing a handful of reading specialists with the handheld tool to help students improve their fluency.
“Why did we focus on fluency? Well, we know that is that gateway skill to reading comprehension,” Shirley explained. “If you are using all your working memory to just get through words you will not comprehend what you’re reading.”
Loaded with apps like an interactive dictionary and a dictation program that allows students to practice enunciation, the iPod devices proved so powerful major academic gains were seen in just the first year, prompting district officials to expand the iRead program, as it’s known, each year. Currently, 3,000 iPod devices are spread throughout 160 classrooms, with 70 of them being 1-to-1 iPod classrooms, and six of them operating on 1-to-1 i-Pad initiatives.
“We used to get asked, why do you do this, aren’t these just toys, do kids just play games,” Shirley said.
But as several recent district assessments have shown, these devices are clear game-changers for struggling readers and ELL students.
In one 1-to-1 iPod classroom, the students made almost two years worth of academic gains in reading as compared to the control group of similarly at-risk students. But iPods can also be a benefit to talented and gifted students. Kids in one of the district’s highest performing fifth-grade class still gain about a year’s worth of growth between the fall and spring.
“My message is it’s not the stuff, it’s not the technology, it’s what you do with it,” Shirley said. “[And what you can do is] provide differentiated content, increase engagement, excitement, the projects, all those things the possibilities are limitless, it seems.”
NSBA’s General Counsel, Francisco M. Negrón, Jr., was on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal on Saturday discussing school bullying.
Here is the video:
Last week, Earl C. Rickman III, President of NSBA, joined President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House Conference on Bullying Prevention and called for a united effort to address bullying in our schools.
Yesterday, Earl C. Rickman III, President of the National School Boards Association (NSBA), joined President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House Conference on Bullying Prevention and called for a united effort to address bullying in our schools.
Approximately 150 students, parents, teachers, non-profit leaders, advocates, and policymakers attended the conference and discussed ways they can work together to make our schools and communities safe for all students.
“School board leaders and school officials are committed to safe educational environments for all students,” said Rickman. “With the right guidance and resources school leaders can meet the challenge of ensuring schools are a safe place for all students, free of bullying and harassment.”
Here’s the White House video from the conference:
As announced at yesterday’s conference, NSBA will launch a series of student conversations between school board members and students in middle and high school about the climate in their schools. The sessions will be guided by questions from the research-based school climate surveys developed by NSBA’s Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) and by the Pearson Foundation’s Million Voices project.
“As school boards across the country develop policies and initiatives to combat bullying, it is important they hear from students about the current realities they face in their schools,” said Rickman.
President Barack Obama was at TechBoston Academy in Boston yesterday and warned that cutting funds for education is irresponsible and harmful to our nation’s long-term economy noting, “There’s nothing responsible about cutting back on our investment in these young people.”
View the video of Obama’s speech:
The National Association of Broadcasters Education Foundation has announced that it is spearheading a “Let’s Move! Flash Workout” featuring 16-time Grammy Award winner Beyoncé to demonstrate support for First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative aimed at curbing childhood obesity.
The event, produced in partnership with the National School Boards Association, National Middle School Association, and the American Association of School Administrators, calls for middle school students across the country to participate in a pre-choreographed “Let’s Move!” dance exercise routine at an identical time — Tuesday, May 3, at 1:42 p.m. Eastern Time.
Beyoncé will be the exclusive featured performer for the “Let’s Move! Flash Workout.” She has re-written and re-recorded one of her songs and is providing an instruction video demonstrating the dance/exercise routine. The Beyoncé video will then be distributed to participating schools.
BoardBuzz commends the “Let’s Move” initiative and this workout event to combat widespread childhood obesity.
The U.S. Senate Budget Committee held a hearing today and received testimony from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan about the President’s FY 2012 education budget.
View the video below of committee chairman, Senator Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), opening remarks and questions for Duncan.
BoardBuzz believes in these extremely challenging economic times, we can’t lose sight of the federal government’s responsibility to support and fund the efforts of local school districts to achieve the necessary reforms and innovations to advance public education. Additionally, as school districts are struggling to maintain key programs, Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in particular, larger funding increases are necessary to prevent school districts from cutting other important programs to meet these federal mandates.