Articles in the NSBA Annual Conference 2013 category

Ravitch: We can learn a lot from Finland — and from our own public schools

Diane Ravitch praised the Finnish schools in a recent speech in Washington, D.C. But it was another nation’s public education system — and the remarkable progress it has made over the past 40 years — that most impressed the celebrated author and education historian.

What country is this? The United States, of course. During that time, student achievement has increased overall, even as today’s student population has become more racially, economically, and culturally diverse. Graduation rates also are rising. And “dropout rates,” said Ravitch, a keynote speaker at NSBA’s 2013 Annual Conference in San Diego, “are the lowest they’ve been in history.”

But if you read some of the anti-public school literature out there, or watched some purportedly “balanced” news reports, you could easily be fooled into thinking something much different, said Ravitch, who spoke at the Economic Policy Institute about her new book on public school reform, Reign of Error.

As an example, Ravitch cited a 2012 report called “U.S. Education Reform and National Security,” by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former New York City Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein, now head of Rupert Murdoch’s strongly pro-voucher News Corp. The report claims, contrary to the evidence Ravitch cites in the Long-Term Trend report of National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), that U.S. schools are so bad they have “become a grave security risk.”

Ravitch devotes much of her new book to the high performing public schools in Finland, a place where she says teaching is a highly respected — and highly selective — occupation, where teachers and principals belong to a common union, and where public education of the highest quality is seen as a national obligation.

“They don’t have charters,” Ravitch said. “They don’t have vouchers. …. There is no Teach for Finland.”

U. S. schools are doing a lot right, too, Ravitch said. In fact, some of the highest-scoring nations on international tests — Singapore among them – are looking at how U.S. schools embrace creativity and teach problem-solving skills. Ironically, with the recent emphasis on high-stakes testing, she added, “We’re moving in the opposite direction.”

“And now we have kindergarten children taking bubble-in tests,” Ravitch said. “This is insane.”

Ravitch criticized the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program, which she said “has put $5 billion into the pursuit of higher test scores.” She said the money could have been put to better use in efforts to address the growing segregation of many public schools by race and income, particularly in the South and West.

“We’re not trying to solve the real problem, which is child poverty,” Ravitch said. “Poverty is the elephant in the room.”

Elaine Weiss, national coordinator for the Broader Bolder Approach to Education, and Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, also spoke at the event. Weingarten said budget cuts have harmed school systems across the country, opening them up to criticism and threats of privatization. However, studies consistently show that privatization does not lead to higher student performance while resulting, in many instances, in greater economic and racial segregation.

Lawrence Hardy|October 22nd, 2013|Categories: Curriculum, Charter Schools, Conferences and Events, Diversity, Privatization, School Vouchers, Comparative Education, Board governance, Student Achievement, 21st Century Skills, Student Engagement, School Board News, Race to the Top (RTTT), NSBA Annual Conference 2013|

Videos: NSBA leaders address the 2013 Annual Conference

Check out the speeches from National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) leaders from the 2013 NSBA Annual Conference:

2013-2014 President David A. Pickler:

Our new President, Pickler, discussed the “New NSBA” to create “the most relevant and responsive organization possible as we advocate in Washington, D.C., in state capitols across this country, and in service of our state association members.” Pickler noted that the NSBA Board of Directors has focused significant energies over the past few years to reform, restructure, and create a stronger national organization for school boards.

2012-2013 President C. Ed Massey:

Adaptive leadership was the theme of Massey’s presidency this year, and in his final address as President of NSBA, he reflected on the changes this leadership has brought about. Massey discussed his travels during his presidency; he made it to 26 states and two countries – Finland and Estonia. In those places, he said, he met many people “with a passion for public education and the interest of children.” And while Finland may top the U.S. education system in some ways, “they can’t match us in creativity,” he said.

Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel:

Gentzel discussed the “New NSBA” and plans for NSBA to have a more assertive role in advocating for local school board governance, noting that state and federal officials are increasingly encroaching upon decisions best left to local school leaders. Gentzel unveiled NSBA’s new logo launching this summer.

Alexis Rice|May 15th, 2013|Categories: School Boards, Multimedia and Webinars, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Legislative advocacy, Federal Advocacy, NSBA Annual Conference 2013|Tags: , , , , |

Thank You, NSBA Annual Conference Sponsors

NSBA acknowledges the following 2013 Annual Conference sponsors for their generous support. On behalf of NSBA, our state associations, and our Annual Conference attendees, thank you for all that you do.


Aramark Education


Cable in the Classroom

The College Board



McGraw Hill Education

NAMM Foundation


Sodexo Education




ICSA BoardRoom Apps North America, Inc.




Pearson 1:1 Learning 



Classroom School Uniforms


Knowledge Delivery Systems

North Carolina COSA

North Dakota COSA

Pearce & Durick

Success for All

Kathleen Vail|May 10th, 2013|Categories: NSBA Annual Conference 2013|

NSBA’s caucuses select new leaders

The National School Boards Association’s caucuses selected their new leaders last month at NSBA’s Annual Conference San Diego. NSBA’s three caucuses—the National Black Caucus of School Board Members (NBC), the National Hispanic Caucus of School Board Members (NHC), and the National Caucus of American Indian and Alaska Native School Board Members (NCAIAN).

The groups were founded to help school board members focus on narrowing the achievement gap and identifying promising practices that will improve achievement for all students, as well as address the particular challenges facing minority students.

“NSBA’s caucuses serve an important role in furthering our mission for equity and excellence for all students,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel.

Following are the names of the individuals elected to new leadership roles within each caucus.

National Black Caucus of School Board Members:

• The NBC selected Tawana Lynn Keels, President of the Princeton City (Ohio) School’s Board of Education, as Chair. In 1996 she was the first African-American woman to be elected to the Princeton school board, and later was the first selected as Vice President and President of the board. Keels is also a member of the Board of Directors of Great Oaks Institute of Technology and Career Development, and she was the 2009 President of the Ohio School Boards Association.

• Ellis A. Alexander of Hahnville, La., was elected to serve as Chair-Elect. He has been a member of Louisiana’s St. Charles Parish Public Schools board for the past seven years.

• Emma D. Turner of Spring Valley, Calif., was elected to serve as Secretary-Treasurer. She is a member of La Mesa-Spring Valley School District board in California.

• David Evans of Arizona’s Chandler Unified School District was elected as NBC’s Pacific Region director.

National Hispanic Caucus of School Board Members:

• Guillermo Z. López of Lansing, Mich., will continue to serve as Chair of the NHC. López is the President of the Lansing School District’s Board of Education. He was first elected to the board in 2001. He also works as an Equal Opportunity Specialist for the City of Lansing in the Human Relations and Community Services Department.

• Lillian Tafoya of Bakersfield, Calif. will serve as Chair-elect. Tafoya has served on the Bakersfield City School District Board of Education for 17 years. She is a former school administrator who was named Principal of the Year by the Association of California School Administrators in 1993.

• Lydia Hernandez of Phoenix, Ariz., will serve as secretary.

• Ruth Cruz-Roldan of Harrisburg, Pa., was elected to Northeast Region Director and Denise García of Phoenix, Ariz., was elected to Western Region Director.

National Caucus of American Indian and Alaska Native School Board Members:

• Roy Nelson, Treasurer of the Red Lake School District Independent School District #83 in Red Lake, Minn., was elected as NCAIAN Chair. Nelson also is a member of the Red Lake Bank of Ojibwe Indians.

• Sara Mae Williams, the board clerk for the Baboquivari Unified School District #40 in Sells, Ariz., was elected to serve as Chair-elect.

• Bob Cassa, President of the San Carlos Unified School District in San Carlos, Ariz., was elected as Secretary-Treasurer.

• The NCAIAN also elected Matthew J. Martinez of New Mexico’s Ohkay Ownegh School Board as its Western Region Director, Russell Havens of Louisiana’s Beauregard Parish Schools as its Southern Region Director, and Katrina Talkalai of Arizona’s San Carlos Unified School District as its Pacific Region Director.


Joetta Sack-Min|May 6th, 2013|Categories: School Boards, NSBA Annual Conference 2013|Tags: , , , |

Council of Urban Boards of Education selects 2013-2014 steering committee

The National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) has elected its Chair, Vice Chair, and new members to its Steering Committee.

School board members Minnie Forte-Brown, of North Carolina’s Durham Public Schools, and Van Henri White, of New York’s Rochester City School District, will begin a one-year term as Chair and Vice Chair, respectively. They began their service in these leadership roles in October 2012.

Forte-Brown is currently the Vice Chair of Durham Public Schools (DPS) Board of Education and has served on the board since 2004 and was the Chair from 2006-2012. Under her leadership, the DPS Board of Education participated in Reform Governance in Action training, a two-year program of the Center for Reform of School Systems. Forte-Brown is committed to engaging students, parents and the community. Forte-Brown was appointed by Gov. Bev Perdue to the North Carolina Council of the Status of Women and the Gang Advisory Task Force. She is the co-founder of the East Durham Children’s Initiative and serves on the Board of Directors of the North Carolina School Boards Association and National School Boards Action Center.

White is the Vice President of the Board of Education in Rochester City School District and has served on the school board since 2007. He is also an author, civil rights attorney, and founder of the Center for the Study of Civil and Human Rights Laws. White is an outspoken advocate for improving school safety, graduation rates, decreasing truancy rates, and attacking the problem of lead poisoning. He is the author of Frustration in America, which examines the impact of racism and responsibility of African American men and boys and Marching Forward by Looking Back: Fifty Years Since the March on Washington.

The following school board members were elected this year to serve on CUBE’s 16-member Steering Committee:

Ericka Ellis-Stewart of North Carolina’s Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools;
Verjeana Jacobs of Maryland’s Prince George’s County Public Schools;
Dr. Christina Saavedra of Texas’s Brownsville Independent School District;
David Stone of Maryland’s Baltimore City Public Schools;
Caroll Turpin of Michigan’s Pontiac School District; and
Ruth Veales of Oklahoma’s Oklahoma City Public Schools.

“CUBE’s new Steering Committee members bring years of experience in urban education and are strongly committed to aiding the work of urban school boards to advance student achievement,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, NSBA Executive Director.

CUBE, an organization guided by Steering Committee members, represents a diverse group of urban school board members dedicated to the needs of children in urban centers. CUBE represents nearly 100 urban school districts in 35 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The districts that comprise CUBE educate nearly 7.5 million students in over 12,000 schools, with a collective budget of approximately $99 billion. CUBE helps urban school boards find solutions to challenges at the local level and helps them to strengthen their policymaking effectiveness.

“As Chairman of CUBE’s Nominating Committee, I am pleased to have a democratic process that allows urban school board members to be a part of CUBE’s leadership,” said Lock P. Beachum, Sr., the head of this year’s Nominating Committee and Past Chair of CUBE. “CUBE will continue to be a leader in urban education to advocate for excellence and equity in public education.”

Alexis Rice|April 16th, 2013|Categories: Urban Schools, CUBE, NSBA Annual Conference 2013|Tags: , , |

Conference photos on Facebook

Check out photos from the NSBA Annual Conference on our Facebook page — Click on the “Photos” box and access albums from Friday through Monday. And while you’re there, “Like” us on Facebook to receive regular updates in your news feed!

Glenn Cook|April 16th, 2013|Categories: NSBA Annual Conference 2013|

Pickler: Let’s ‘change the conversation’ about public schools

School board members have watched the efforts to privatize public education through vouchers and charter schools, and they’ve seen the authority of local school governance eroded by the decisions of state and federal policymakers.

They’ve also watched public education put on the defensive in national debates—and heard the arguments that the nation’s public schools are failing and school boards are obstacles to reform.

But none of this will go unchallenged in the future, NSBA’s new president, David A. Pickler, told attendees at the closing General Session of the annual conference.

There is, he said, a “new NSBA” in the works that will be “the most relevant and responsive organization possible as we advocate in Washington, D.C., in state capitols across this country, and in service of our state association members.”

The time has come, he said, “to change the conversation—to shape the debate, to challenge the convention wisdom, to confront those who seek to control the agenda, to privatize, to profit, and to usurp” the role of local school governance.

How will this happen? The NSBA Board of Directors has focused significant energies over the past few years to reform, restructure, and create your national organization, he said. The board has worked hard to ensure that NSBA will be more fiscally viable, organizationally efficient, and operationally effective.

That’s an early step to taking on a more decisive role in education policymaking in this country —to make the decision to act, he said. “We must decide the time is now.”

The next step is to “transform NSBA’s advocacy and member service culture to ensure that we are engaging our members with open, transparent, two-way communication—that we are aligning and focusing our resources to maximum impact.”

The nation’s 90,000 school board members are influential community members, each of whom has a constituency and political connections and access to more than 50 million schoolchildren.

“We must harness [this] power,” Pickler said. “Can you imagine the impact of an army of public education advocates representing over 100 million parents and family members, most of whom are registered voters? We could be one of—if not the—most significant political voices in America.”

NSBA doesn’t have that influence yet, but the first steps are being taken, he said. One early step is the Local School Board Governance and Flexibility Act (H.R. 1386), recently introduced in Congress, that seeks to limit the authority of the U.S. Department of Education to impose rules and regulations that usurp the rightful policymaking decisions of local school leaders.

Another step is plans to create a strike force “to battle legislative and legal issues in states across American [and provide] resources and personnel to partner with our state association members

Over the course of NSBA’s conference, attendees have had the opportunity to see—and be inspired—by the National 9/11 Flag that’s been on display—a symbol, Pickler said, of the nation’s ability to rise to any challenge. “It is a symbol of the indomitable American spirit.”

That spirit exists in school board members, he said. “We as public education leaders have a responsibility to join the fight for this unique American institution of public education … to fight for the civil rights of each child… to fight for local decision-making for local schools.”

The reality is that the critics of public education are wrong—public education is not failing, it is a success, he said. And now NSBA intends to make the facts clear. And it intends to have a seat at the table whenever there is a debate on the future of public education.

“NSBA will shape and lead the debate on public education, promoting our agenda to strengthen public schools and local school board governance, while actively opposing those who strive to privatize education,” Pickler said.

NSBA, he concluded, will be that strong “voice for public education—that relevant and significant change agent to ensure that our public schools empower our nation to fulfill our awesome potential. Together, we can change the world—one child at a time. Together, we can do it.”

Del Stover|April 16th, 2013|Categories: NSBA Annual Conference 2013|

Ravitch: Public schools facing ‘unprecedented assault’

Public education is under attack. Local school boards are under attack. Local governance is under attack.

That was the blunt message delivered by Diane Ravitch at the closing General Session of NSBA’s annual conference in San Diego.

A nationally recognized education researcher and author, Ravitch has become a fierce critic of many of the education reform models that, in the past decade, have been advocated by misguided state and federal policymakers, as well by wealthy ideologues. And she shared her criticisms and concerns with conference attendees.

“What I’m going to try to do today,’ she said, “is arm you with the facts you need to help you defend your public schools from an unprecedented assault.”

The repeated attacks on public education today—and the so-called reform proposals being touted as solutions—are both inaccurate and deceptive, Ravitch argued.

“These people who call themselves reformers, who say our public education system is obsolete, that it’s failing, that it’s broken … they’re wrong,” she said. “Our schools are not failing. Our system of public education is not broken.’

“Let me tell you what’s the problem—our federal education policy is broken,” she added. “Federal education policy is hurting our public schools. Federal education policy has abandoned the historic principles of federalism and is imposing mandates that are bad for children.”

The truth about public education and many of today’s reform ideas will be laid out in her upcoming book, Reign of Error: The Hoax of Privatization and the Danger to America’s Public Schools, she said.

The truth, she said, is something you don’t see on the evening news or in the daily newspapers. In reality, test scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) are the highest in history. High school graduation rates are the highest in history. The nation’s dropout rates are the lowest in history.

Such positive news is drowned out, however, by the purposeful barrage of negative messaging by critics of public education, she said.

What’s more, she added, those that use low-performing schools as proof of public education’s failure always argue for reform models that ignore the root causes of struggling schools—that these schools are struggling to educate large numbers of students who live in poverty, speak little or no English, or are racially segregated.

But inconvenient facts don’t serve the needs of those with ideological or profit-minded agenda, she said. For these critics, the attacks on public education are part of their effort to expand the role of charter schools and vouchers—to privatize public education—so they can extract profits from public education funding.

Whether fueled by ideological or profit motives, these critics also are seeking to under-mine the authority of school boards, she warned. They encourage state and federal mandates to take more decisions out of the hands of local school officials, and they advocate for new state agencies to bypass the role of school boards as the authorizing body for charter schools.

In some cases, these advocacy efforts are similarly worded—based on model language drafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate-funded advocacy organization that has funded numerous charter and voucher initiatives across the country.

There’s a reason school boards have seen themselves under pressure in recent years, Ravitch said.

“You’re in the way. You are guardians of your public schools … that your school dollars are spent wisely,” she said. “It’s your responsibility to provide oversight and not hand off [schools and taxpayer dollars] to entrepreneurs.”

So you need to go.

There is “something unseemly unseemly about this rush to hand over public facilities, public access over education … to private entrepreneurs,” Ravitch said. But, if it’s a hard truth, the good news is that school boards can do something to stop about it.

“As members of local school boards, you are powerful—you have it in your power to stop this raid on public education … to use your power to support democracy, support public education, and protect your children.”

Del Stover|April 16th, 2013|Categories: NSBA Annual Conference 2013|

California superintendent: Develop positive relationships with charters

Whether you embrace the charter school movement — or see these schools as unwelcome intruders that steal your students and siphon off funding — it is in the best interest of your school board to develop a positive working relationship with your community’s charters.

That was the message delivered at a Monday workshop led by Francisco Escobedo, superintendent of California’s Chula Vista Elementary School District, and Peter Fagen and Melanie Petersen of Fagen, Friedman, & Fulfrost, a legal firm specializing in education.

Although it’s never too late to reach out to charter school operators, a great time to start work on that relationship is during the charter approval process, panelists said. That is especially true if the school board is the authorizing body and works closely with charter organizers to ensure that their business and academic proposals are likely to succeed.

Such communications also could limit the risks that your school board will have to pick up the pieces if the charter ultimately fails financially or academically.

Another opportunity to strengthen your relationship with charter organizers is to offer to provide payroll, food, teacher training, transportation, or special education services for a fee, Escobedo said. Such collaborative business arrangements can expand day-to-day interaction between district and charter leaders, and it can help the school district to recoup some of the state funding lost to the charter.

“The charters often find they can’t do it [provide the services] and … they need a larger entity or system to help them, he said. “So creating that relationship with them is a critical way to build ties.”

It also can be profitable. In Chula Vista, Escobedo said, several charter schools pay between $800,000 and $1.6 million annually for services provided by the district.

To make any relationship work smoothly, Petersen recommended that a school district assign a single administrator to oversee coordination—both to keep an eye on the charter’s progress and to “ask about problems before they get out of hand.”

With charter school laws varying across the nation, some school boards will face greater challenges in working with their local charter schools, panelists noted. But there really is no option but to try. The number of charter schools keeps growing, and your children are going to be attending these schools

“It’s not an us vs. them situation,” Peterson says. “These are our community’s students, even if they’re going to another school. It’s your obligation to see that they’re going to get the best education possible … in a program that’s sustainable.”

And, to do that, panelists said, your school board has to be engaged with those schools.

Del Stover|April 16th, 2013|Categories: Charter Schools, School Reform, NSBA Annual Conference 2013|
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