Articles in the NSBA Publications category

NSBA featured in major media on school choice concerns

After Republicans introduced legislation that would allow states to send up to $24 billion in federal funding toward school choice programs, National School Boards Association (NSBA) Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel offered a reality check on the performance of charter schools, vouchers, and other measures. Gentzel appeared on Fox News and was quoted in The Washington Post and The New York Times stories on the measure.

“We certainly haven’t seen any consistent evidence anywhere in the country that these kinds of programs are effective or producing better results,” said Gentzel, who appeared on a segment during Fox News’ Special Report with Bret Baier on the Senate proposal, introduced this week by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) has introduced legislation in the House that also would include some students with disabilities and use funds from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Watch the video segment.

In the New York Times article, Gentzel countered proponents of school choice who claim that traditional public schools have not improved fast enough, and that low-income families should have other choices.

“The big issue is really that lack of accountability,” Gentzel told the Times. “Frankly, our view is every child should have access to a great public school where they live.”

In The Washington Post, Gentzel discussed Alexander’s proposal, the “Scholarships for Kids Act,” which would allow states to create $2,100 scholarships from existing federal K-12 programs, including Title I, to “follow” 11 million children whose families meet the federal to any public or private school of their parents’ choice. The total cost would be $24 billion—41 percent of the current federal education allotment.

“School choice is a well-funded and politically powerful movement seeking to privatize much of American education,” he told the Post. “We’re not against public charters, and there are some that are well-motivated. . . . But our goal is that public schools be schools of choice. We need to invest and support public schools, not divert money and attention from them to what amounts, in many cases, to experiments.”

Reginald Felton, NSBA’s Interim Associate Executive Director for Federal Advocacy and Public Policy, also told Governing magazine that Title I would inevitably face cuts under Lamar’s plan, along with other programs that benefit disadvantaged children. For states that would choose not to opt into the proposed program, that means less money is available for their most vulnerable populations, he said.

“It’s hard for us to believe that a $24 billion reallocation could exist without drastically reducing funding for Title I students,” he told Governing.

The Ohio Schools Boards Association (OSBA) recently showcased how funding to choice programs hurts neighborhood public schools. In its December newsletter, OSBA notes, “Ohio Department of Education data shows traditional public schools will lose more than $870 million in state funding to charter schools in fiscal year (FY) 2014. That’s an increase of 5.4 percent over FY 2013, when approximately $824 million was transferred from traditional public schools to charters. This increase comes amid ongoing reports of charter school mismanagement, conflicts of interest and felony indictments and convictions.”

According to CREDO (Center for Research on Educational Outcomes) research on charters, states that empower multiple authorizing agencies are more likely to report the weakest academic results for charter schools. Local governance – enacted by local school boards – offers transparency and accountability along with a direct focus on student achievement versus profit.

In 2008, 64 percent of Ohio’s charter schools were on academic watch or emergency status, compared to 9 percent of traditional public schools, according to “The Regulation of Charter Schools” in the Jan./Feb. issue of American School Board Journal.

While the state changed its regulations in 2008, ASBJ cites the case of Hope Academy Cathedral, a K-8 charter school in Cleveland, as an example of the loopholes that exist in Ohio’s charter law. The school was ordered to close in 2011 after repeatedly being rated as in “academic emergency.”

Less than two months later, a new K-8 charter — Woodland Academy — opened in the same building, with 15 returning staff members, the same authorizer, and the same for-profit management firm, wrote ASBJ Senior Editor Del Stover. In its first year of operation, the new charter school also was judged to be in academic emergency.

 

 

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: 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|

NSBA Director writes about “Debunking the ‘reform’ agenda’” for ASBJ

In the June issue of American School Board Journal, National School Boards Association Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel writes about the importance of a strong public education system and the forces that make false promises  through “reforms” such as vouchers. Read his “Last Word” column here:

No human enterprise is perfect, and we all are capable of improving. That’s especially true when an institution faces continuing challenges and new demands. Such is the case with public education, which has undergone many

Thomas J. Gentzel

transformations since it was established — from its early agrarian roots, through the Industrial Revolution, two world wars, the cold war, and the Technology Revolution.

We often forget that during most of our nation’s history, public schools were expected to provide basic instruction to all students while preparing some to move on to higher education and the professions. This system of sorting worked well when family-supporting jobs in factories and mills were plentiful. Today, lower skill jobs are hard to find, let alone capable of sustaining a middle class existence.

Now, public schools are expected to do something never asked of them before: educate all students to a very high level. This, of course, is a good and necessary development if our nation is to remain competitive in the global marketplace. Remarkably, America’s public education system has responded to these heightened expectations in ways that once would have seemed nearly impossible. Our commitment to educating every child is unparalleled, as is our effort to help each one reach his or her potential. No other country in the world even pretends to do what Americans demand of our education system. Perhaps not surprisingly, we spend more time focusing on what remains to be done and less on what already has been accomplished. That’s not altogether a bad thing, since it has the effect of pushing educators to continue to improve. Yet, it has had some serious negative consequences, too.

Some critics of public education have relentlessly assailed the institution for failing to educate all children at the levels now expected. Here, we must pause to acknowledge that, despite dramatic gains in student achievement we have witnessed in most places, some schools have not performed nearly as well as they should. These pockets of deficiency are a source of real concern, since they often exist in communities with the greatest challenges, generally. This is a major problem; in fact, it is one that must be addressed in order to ensure all children are prepared to become contributing members of society.

We should have a candid conversation about how to address these issues, and we must work to ensure that every public school in America, regardless of zip code, is an excellent school. We should do these things but, instead, in the current education policy debate, children in these struggling schools have become pawns in a larger effort coordinated by some well-funded interests with an agenda of their own. Many of these “reformers” have pushed hard – and, often, effectively – for solutions that are either untested or have demonstrated only limited success.

How else to explain the drive to create as many charter schools as possible, despite clear evidence that most do not outperform traditional public schools (and in fact, many fare much worse)? Although advocates of tuition vouchers and tax credits argue these measures could provide options for children “trapped” in poorly performing schools, they acknowledge their proposals would help only a small percentage of such students, and they have virtually nothing to say about what should be done for the many who would remain in those schools.

I believe some proponents of the school choice agenda are sincere in their belief that competition will help all schools to be better. Unfortunately, those people are not driving this debate. To be blunt, certain interests that stand to make a lot of money are the ones most actively promoting the privatization agenda. If they were sincerely interested in ensuring that every child in America had access to a great public school where they live, they would be supporting early childhood education, mentoring programs for new teachers, and other investments that have been demonstrated to be effective. That they so steadfastly refuse to do so speaks volumes about what they really want – and that has a lot more to do with them and their own bottom lines than it does with children receiving a great education.

Joetta Sack-Min|May 17th, 2013|Categories: American School Board Journal, Federal Advocacy, Legislative advocacy, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, NSBA Publications, School Boards, School Reform, School Vouchers|Tags: , , , |

Bonus online article answers the question: What do superintendents want?

Holiday bonus, bonus coupons, bonus items –a bonus is a gift, a little extra something that doesn’t cost you anything.

American School Board Journal offers a bonus, too – online articles on topics that help school board members and other school leaders do their jobs.

You can read these articles on our website even if you are not a subscriber to ASBJ.

You’ll find a treasure trove of information on school governance available online only. We’ve just posted “Educational Ecosystems: Identifying the Next Generation of Superintendents,” by Brian A. Sheehan, an instructional leader with Massachusetts’ Malden Public Schools.

In candid interviews, five Massachusetts superintendents talk to Sheehan about how well they were prepared – or not prepared – for their current jobs as school leaders. Their remarks will give you insight into how to hire and manage your superintendent, as well as some of the challenges facing the profession.

Kathleen Vail|May 8th, 2013|Categories: American School Board Journal, Leadership, NSBA Publications, Professional Development|

Q and A with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, featured speaker at NSBA’s annual conference in April

Neil deGrasse Tyson isn’t going to tell you how to run your schools, or even how to teach science. The astrophysicist and director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City says school board members probably have a better handle on these things.

“I’m just sort of a STEM person at large,” said Tyson, former host of “NOVA scienceNOW” and one of the keynote speakers at NSBA’s Annual Conference in San Diego in April. “It’s a report from the field, a report from the depths of our society and culture.”

It’s a society and culture, says Tyson — a frequent guest on television talk shows like “The Daily Show” and “Real Time with Bill Maher” — that needs to pay more attention to what’s going on in the worlds of astronomers and microbiologists. He talked recently with ASBJ Senior Editor Lawrence Hardy.

Are we as scientifically literate as we should be?

No. The nation is becoming profoundly absent of scientific literacy. Now I don’t want a law saying someone has to be scientifically literate. I want people to want to be scientifically literate because they feel empowered by it, enlightened by it, and it’s something that will stimulate a curiosity in them that they once had, or never knew they had, in their youth.

So we don’t know much about evolution or the asteroid belt.

It’s the combination of being a scientifically illiterate person and gaining cultural or political power. That’s a combustible combination because then you end up making decisions that affect countless other people based on ideas and thoughts that are missing the fundamentals of how the natural world works.

A few years ago your planetarium declared Pluto “not a planet,” thus upsetting the cosmological certainty of countless elementary school students. Were there repercussions?

Essentially, a file drawer of hate mail from third-graders. One of my favorite letters is, “Dear Scientest” (spelled T-E-S-T). “Why did you make Pluto not a planet anymore? It that’s people’s favorite planet, then they’ll no longer have a favorite planet. And if there’s people on Pluto, then they’ll no longer exist.” [People] thought we just got rid of Pluto.

And the media reacted?

Oh, my gosh. The subtlety of the argument didn’t make it into the headlines. In fact, the New York Times reported on it, [writing] “Pluto not a Planet? Only in New York.” That was the headline on Page One. I wrote a whole book on this. It came out in 2007. It’s called The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America’s Favorite Planet.

I hear you also messed with America’s Favorite Movie (at least among teenage girls in the 1990s). Something about the night sky being wrong in Titanic?

I complained publicly only because so much of the marketing platform of that film was on how accurate it was. If authenticity is important to you, you should have gotten the sky right.

You said director James Cameron was annoyed but eventually reconsidered and, for the release of the IMAX 3-D version, changed the sky in a key scene to the way it would have looked that night in the North Atlantic.

The most important scene is the sky straight above Kate Winslet’s head when she’s singing deliriously, floating on that plank. So I gave him that sky. In fact, I gave him a little latitude because the exact overhead sky wasn’t as good as the one a little to the left. You can fudge that and say she wasn’t looking exactly overhead, but was looking at an angle. You want to give people artistic space to work with.

And they used it.

Lawrence Hardy|February 5th, 2013|Categories: NSBA Annual Conference 2013, NSBA Publications, STEM Education|Tags: , , , |

Nominate your district for a Magna Award – deadline extended to Nov. 9

The Magna Awards 2013 program is extending its deadline for nominations to November 9 because of the widespread power outages in the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, and eastern portion of the Midwest following the recent storms in those regions.

The Magna Awards is a national recognition program co-sponsored by the American School Board Journal, NSBA, and Sodexo School Services that honors school board best practices and innovative programs that advance student learning. Three grand prize winners each receive a $4,000 contribution from Sodexo.

Learn more about the Magna Awards and nominate your program.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|November 1st, 2012|Categories: American School Board Journal, Announcements, NSBA Publications, NSBA Recognition Programs|Tags: |
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