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Articles in the Online learning category

School boards encouraged by E-Rate modernization plan, but further improvements are vital

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) welcomes the decision by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to improve the long oversubscribed E-rate program, while also noting remaining funding gaps. This was reinforced by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, who announced that the FCC will consider added funding for E-rate in a future call for public input.

“The FCC made key revisions to its E-rate modernization proposal,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “Though we must solve for remaining funding gaps, NSBA is very pleased with the FCC’s commitment to advance WiFi and broadband in America’s public schools and libraries and its willingness to seek public input for future E-rate funding.”

For the past two decades, NSBA has proactively supported the goals of the E-rate program. As a member of the Education and Libraries Network Coalitions (EdLiNC), NSBA expressed concern about proposals that rewrite the program’s need-based dissemination of funds, which risks hurting school districts and libraries with the greatest need.

Gentzel calls for sustained focus: “Absent a meaningful increase in funding, NSBA has long argued that the future of E-rate is undermined. E-rate’s need and demand is double its current funding cap of $2.4 billion. Clearly the program must continue to be expanded to ensure that adequate bandwidth does not stop at selective schoolhouse doors, but rather reaches every classroom and student across our great nation.”

Alexis Rice|July 11th, 2014|Categories: Educational Technology, Federal Programs, Online learning, Policy Formation, School Boards|Tags: , , , |

E-Rate must expand, focus on neediest schools, coalition says

The E-rate program needs a major funding boost to meet demand and should continue its focus on high-need school districts and libraries, a letter signed by the National School Boards Association (NSBA) urges the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The FCC should permanently raise the E-rate’s annual funding cap, now at $2.4 billion, as annual demand is estimated to be double that amount, the letter states. Further, the program must be expanded to ensure adequate bandwidth reaches every classroom and student–not just the school building door, which was the program’s intent when it was first created to provide low-cost connectivity as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

The letter was sent to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and four other commissioners by EdLiNC, The Education and Libraries Networks Coalition, which advocates for the E-rate program on behalf of national education associations. It was signed by NSBA and 18 other organizations.

The lack of support for internal connections “is creating major roadblocks” for students and educators to have enough bandwidth to participate in activities such as online research or digital learning classes, the letter states.

The letter also urges the FCC to continue the E-rate’s poverty-based funding formula rather than proposed allocations that would spread funding by students, buildings, or school districts.

“A change to the current funding formula would undermine the E-rate program’s focus on equity for the nation’s underserved schools and communities, particularly those in rural areas,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “The E-rate has been tremendously successful in helping high-poverty and rural areas access technology, and the FCC should build on that success by increasing funding to meet demand.”

The FCC is considering changes to the program and is expected to issue a Report and Order to modernize E-Rate sometime this year. For more information, read NSBA’s Issue Brief on the E-rate.


Joetta Sack-Min|May 29th, 2014|Categories: Budgeting, Educational Finance, Educational Technology, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy, Online learning|Tags: , |

Blended learning showcased in District of Columbia schools

A small group of eighth-graders sit at a cluster of desks, staring down at their iPads. On their screens are diagrams of the interior of a slave ship. Their teacher, Tanesha Dixon, leads the discussion. She prompts them to consider what it was like on those ships. They enlarge the image for a closer look.

At another cluster of desks, students are discussing passages about the Atlantic slave trade on their iPads. The rest of the students are reading silently about the Fugitive Slave Act on their iPads.

From her tablet, Dixon can monitor all her students. An alarm sounds; the students working with Dixon move to the discussion group. The students working individually move to Dixon’s area.

Dixon is a social studies teacher at the K-8 Wheatley Education Campus, part of the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS). Her classroom is an example of blending learning, which integrates online technology and content with traditional face-to-face classroom activities. Her students have instant access to source documents and other resources electronically through their tablets through a service called Techbooks – digital textbooks with text, audio, video, and images.

Students have individual IDs and can log in on to any device – computer, mobile phone, or tablet.

“Digital textbooks are more engaging,” said John Rice, DCPS’s manager of blended learning. He recently took representatives from several national education associations on a tour of three district schools that were using blended learning in their classrooms.

The practice of blended learning is growing in schools across the country. Proponents say it allows students to practice simple or rote lessons online, freeing the teacher to do more small-group and individual instruction. DCPS uses blended learning in a variety of ways in its schools.

At the K-5 Randle Highlands Elementary School, all grades moved to a blending learning approached at the beginning of the school year. In one second-grade class, some students sit at classroom desktop computers, working on a program called ST Math. It allows them to work individually at their own pace, while their teacher works with another small group.

Other grades use a program called I-Ready, which includes language arts and math, for self-paced work.

Columbia Heights Education Campus houses a middle school and a high school. The high school, Bell Multicultural High School, features an early college program and classes taught exclusively in Spanish.

Sebastian Kreindel teaches ninth-grade World History in Spanish. He uses Techbooks to find digital resources such as Spanish videos for his students.

Fellow World History teacher Kristen Whitaker’s students don’t have individual computers or tablets yet like they do in Tanesha Dixon’s class, but she’s found a low-tech solution: She prints out Techbook resources for her students, including information about Genghis Khan for a recent discussion on psychological warfare.

Discovery Education, which sponsored the tour, provides Streaming Plus – a collection of instructional videos, skill builders, games, audio files, images, writing prompts, and encyclopedia reference materials – to DCPS district-wide. The company also provides the science and social studies Techbooks to five district schools.

“We are pleased to share with representatives from some of the nation’s leading education associations the wonderful digital learning environments DCPS educators are creating each day,” said Stephen Wakefield, Discovery Education vice president of public affairs. “The district’s efforts to create classrooms that mirror how students are interacting with technology and digital content outside the classroom are helping to prepare a new generation of learners for college, careers, and citizenship.”

The tour was organized by the Learning First Alliance, a partnership of education organizations, of which NSBA is a member.

Kathleen Vail|May 13th, 2014|Categories: Educational Technology, Mathematics Education, Middle Schools, Online learning, STEM Education, Student Engagement|Tags: , , , , , , |

Call for proposals for NSBA’s 2015 Annual Conference

2015 NSBA Annual Conference

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is requesting proposals for breakout sessions to be conducted during our 75th Annual Conference in Nashville, Tenn., March 21-23. The conference will draw thousands of attendees, exhibitors, and guests representing nearly 1,400 school districts, and will feature distinguished speakers and hundreds of workshops, presentations, and other events that will help school board members develop leadership skills, boost student learning, and improve school districts’ operations.

If your school district or organization has an idea for a high-quality breakout session that focuses on a topic of critical interest to school board members for presentation at this conference, please complete a proposal online by the deadline of Monday, June 16 at 5 p.m. EDT. Only proposals submitted through the online process  will be considered. Breakout sessions will be 30, 45, or 75 minutes in length and will be scheduled throughout the conference.

Proposals are being solicited for the following focus areas:

• Innovations in District Management
• Legal and Legislative Advocacy
• Professional and Personal Development
• School Board/Superintendent Partnerships
• Student Achievement and Accountability
• Technology + Learning Solutions

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.



At international technology conference, NSBA discusses potential to improve U.S. schools

Ann Flynn, Director of Education Technology for the National School Boards Association, was invited to participate in the recent World Innovation Summit for Education, known as the WISE conference, in Doha, Qatar. This is the second time Flynn has been invited by the Qatar Royal Family to participate in the initiative by the Qatar Foundation. In this video, she describes her experience, the potential of technology to improve the U.S. education system, and the plights of countries with far fewer resources than the U.S.

Joetta Sack-Min|December 9th, 2013|Categories: Conferences and Events, Diversity, Educational Technology, Governance, Leadership, Online learning, STEM Education, Technology Leadership Network, Uncategorized|Tags: , , , |

NSBA’s Annual Conference Exhibit Hall offers one of the largest national showcases of education products and services

One of the most exciting places to be at the Annual Conference is the Exhibit Hall. This year, more than 290 exhibitors are waiting to show you their latest services and products, including more than 100 first-time exhibitors.

This year’s Exhibit Hall hours are Saturday, April 13 from 11:30 am to 4:30 pm, with exclusive hours from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm, and 2:45 to 3:45 pm. The Exhibit Hall will reopen Sunday from 11:30 am to 4 pm, with exclusive hours from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm.

“Even if you are a conference veteran, we’ve added some new features to the 2013 Exhibit Hall that you will not want to miss,” says Karen Miller, NSBA’s Exhibit Director. “Each year dozens of our conference attendees find new products and services from our exhibitors that save their school districts money and help streamline their operations, so we hope everyone will take advantage of the Exhibit Hall time.”

Be sure to take in a Learning Lounge session while you are here. Sponsored by OdysseyWare and Pearson, these informal 20-minute sessions give you a quick briefing on hot topics, from social media to legal issues and leadership skills. Check your conference schedule for a list of events and times.

The NSBA booth–No. 943–also has been expanded to show you the full range of NSBA services. You can meet some of the experts on NSBA’s staff, have your picture taken with a sign supporting school boards and public education for your social media account, and pick up some great deals on NSBA merchandise. Also, the booth is hosting book signings by authors Diane Ravitch, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Stacey Bess.

Don’t miss the new Technology Showcase Pavilion at Booth No. 543. This exhibit showcases the six winners of NSBA’s first Technology Innovation Showcase.

The NSBA Health Fair is back, and will be featured once again in the Health and Wellness Pavilion (Aisle 1500) Demonstrations are scheduled for both days, from 12:30 to 3:30 pm, on topics such as Nutrition, exercise, tobacco use, and relaxation. You can also have your blood pressure checked and speak with health-care professionals.

The Green Zone (Aisle 500) will show you how to advance green initiatives in your schools and improve student achievement.

Music & Arts Main Street (Aisle 200) is one of the most popular features, with numerous exhibitors showing ways to strengthen your schools’ music and arts programs. Be sure to stop by and see a student performance at the designated times, below:

  • Saturday, noon: McMichael Phoenix Singers, Dalton L. McMichael High School, Mayodan N.C.
  • Saturday, 3 pm: “OPUS” – San Diego Youth Symphony, 4-5th grade String Ensemble, San Diego
  • Sunday, noon: McKay Chamber Orchestra, McKay High School, Salem, Ore.
  • Sunday, 1 pm: Mariachi Chula Vista, Chula Vista High School, San Diego

Look for the NSBA Exhibit Exam Challenge inside the Exhibit Hall Addendum/Pavilion Guide or at the NSBA Information booth. Visit the participating exhibitors, get the answers to questions about their companies, then drop your “exam” in the raffle bin in the Health and Wellness Pavilion (located in Aisle 1500) by 3 pm on Sunday for the chance to win exciting prizes!

The NSBA Marketplace is a special area in the rear of the hall where exhibitors are allowed to sell their products and services.

And when you need a break, stop by the upscale College Board Lounge, at Aisles 300-400. The lounge features comfy seating, refreshments and even a TV.

NSBA Booth Schedule (# 943)


11:30 am -2 pm – Take your picture and stand up for public education!

2:30 – 3:30 pm – Kathryn Wege– Healthy students, healthy schools;

2:45-3:15 p.m.– Kathleen Branch, Reggie Felton, Deborah Rigsby – Legislative advocacy at the federal level;

3:30 – 4:30 – Marie Bilik and Debbie Finkel – Meet NSBA’s new Chief Operating Officer.



11:30 am – noon – Patte Barth — Learn the latest findings from The Center for Public Education;

12:30 – 1:30 pm – Kathleen Vail and Glenn Cook – Meet with NSBA publications staff;

2 – 4 p.m.– Take your picture and stand up for public education!

3 – 3:30 pm – Kanisha Williams-Jones answers your questions about NSBA Caucuses and Leadership Services.


Joetta Sack-Min|April 12th, 2013|Categories: NSBA Annual Conference 2013, Nutrition, Online learning, School Boards, School Buildings, School Security, STEM Education, Student Achievement, Student Engagement, Teachers, Technology Leadership Network, Urban Schools|

Education Talk Radio previews NSBA’s 2013 Annual Conference

Kanisha Williams-Jones, Director of Leadership & Governance Services at the National School Boards Association (NSBA), was a guest today on Education Talk Radio providing a preview of NSBA’s 2013 Annual Conference. Thousands of school board members, administrators, and other educators will be coming to San Diego to take part in the April 13-15 event.

Listen to the broadcast:

Listen to internet radio with EduTalk on Blog Talk Radio

The conference will feature more than 200 sessions on timely education topics, including federal legislation and funding, managing schools with tight budgets, the legal implications of recent court cases, new research and best practices in school governance, and the Common Core State Standards. A series of sessions will focus on school safety and security.

Expanded education technology programming will include site visits to the University of San Diego and Qualcomm’s Mobile Learning Center to explore its research laboratory on mobile learning; Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography to examine the technology in science education and STEM; Encinitas Union School District to view its One-to-One Digital Learning Program; and the San Diego Zoo to learn about the cutting-edge learning tools used to teach at-risk students. U.S. Navy SEALs will show leadership and team building skills during another workshop.

The meeting also includes one of the largest K-12 educational expositions, with some 300 companies showcasing their innovative products and services for school districts.

General Session speakers include Academy Award winning speaker Geena Davis, who will be speaking about her work off-screen as founder of the non-profit Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. Davis works with film and television creators to reduce gender stereotyping and increase the number of female characters in media targeted for children 11 and under. She will explain how media plays a key role in children’s development, and how her organization is making a difference.

Television star Neil deGrasse Tyson, one of the world’s most engaging and passionate science advocates, will headline Sunday’s General Session. From PBS to NASA to Presidential Commissions, organizations have depended on Tyson’s down-to-earth approach to astrophysics. He has been a frequent guest on “The Daily Show”, “The Colbert Report”, R”eal Time with Bill Maher”, and “Jeopardy!”. Tyson hopes to reach “all the people who never knew how much they’d love learning about space and science.”

Monday’s General Session features acclaimed researcher and author Diane Ravitch, who has become one of the most passionate voices for public schools. Her most recent book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, makes the case that public education today is in peril and offers a clear prescription for improving public schools.

Learn more about the common core standards, new research on differentiated learning styles, and teaching “unteachable” children at the Focus On lecture series. Learn about new technologies for your classrooms as part of the Technology + Learning programs.

It’s not too late to register, visit the Annual Conference website for  more information.

Expanded K-12 privatization on the horizon

School board members can expect continued political activity to promote charter schools, vouchers, school choice options, and to expand the privatization of K-12 education.

That was the message of Roberta Stanley, NSBA’s director of federal affairs, who gave a political update on these issues Monday at the Federal Relations Network (FRN) Annual Conference in Washington, D.C.

The charter school movement currently dominates efforts to redesign the traditional public school system, she told conference attendees. At least 1.8 million children—or 4 percent of the K-12 student population—currently are enrolled in publicly funded charter schools.

“Charters are the big name in the game today,” Stanley said, noting that they enjoy strong political support from some urban mayors, governors, state lawmakers, and such federal officials as Education Secretary Arne Duncan and President Obama.

Helping fuel this policy push is money from several large foundations, as well as private entrepreneurs who see the opportunity to tap into billions of dollars in education funding.

NSBA policy isn’t to oppose charter schools but to insist that their authorization and their accountability be the responsibility of school boards, so that the future of children’s educational opportunities remains under the control of the local community, she said.

Accountability is an issue that’s going to continue to surround the charter school movement in the years ahead, Stanley said. More data is needed on the academic performance of these schools, and state and federal lawmakers will need to address better procedures for closing down poor-performing charters.

Although school voucher advocates still are active, school board members will find that a more fast-growth phenomenon is the “explosion of cyber, virtual, and online schools,” Stanley said.

Enrollment in virtual schools is growing at a rate of about 3 percent annually, yet some studies suggest these schools aren’t successful for all students, she said.

That’s not to say that online schools have no future role in K-12 education, Stanley added.

“I understand one of the best [roles] for cyber schools is credit recovery, working with kids who lag behind or are homebound or sick,” or to expand course offerings in smaller or rural schools, she said.

Where school leaders need to watch carefully is in states where state policymakers are too eager to push all-day online learning or seek to use virtual schools as a cheap alternative to brick-and-mortar schools.

“Students need oversight. Students need to be taught to be civic-minded, to learn teamwork-building skills,” Stanley said. “We don’t get that with a child sitting in his or her bedroom at a computer.”

To strengthen its advocacy efforts on these issues, NSBA works with a coalition of 60 education and civil rights groups to broaden the message that serious issues remain to be addressed regarding school choice, she added. This coalition also seeks to block poor policy decisions that will hurt public education.

“This is as sharp a coalition as I’ve ever worked with,” Stanley said. “And we are right on top of it, so we can try to nip these things in the bud.”

Del Stover|January 28th, 2013|Categories: Charter Schools, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, FRN Conference 2013, Governance, Legislative advocacy, Online learning, Privatization, School Boards, School Reform, School Vouchers|Tags: , |

Facts on vouchers to counter National School Choice Week

As the National School Choice Week begins, the Voucher Strategy Center at the National School Boards Association (NSBA) recommends several resources to counter arguments for vouchers and the privatization of K-12 education.

Patte Barth, director of NSBA’s Center for Public Education (CPE), recently wrote an editorial for the Huffington Post outlining many of the problems with vouchers and other forms of choice that do not hold private and parochial schools accountable for their students’ learning. In  “School Choice Does Not Mean All Choices are Equal,” Barth  discusses recent research that shows many school options have not lived up to their promises, and instead merely drain resources and funds from each community’s public schools.

Barth also wrote a blog for CPE’s EDifier this week discussing recent allegations that a cybercharter school in Pennsylvania inflated enrollment numbers to gain taxpayer funds.

Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (AU) is promoting a Twitter hashtag, #Vouchersfail, to share stories where school vouchers have proven problematic.

The AU has also set up a website,, with research debunking propaganda being put forth by voucher proponents.

“No matter their motivation, these organizations share the same goal: shifting as many tax resources as possible from the public school system, which serves 90 percent of America’s schoolchildren, to private academies that play by their own rules and aren’t accountable to the taxpayer. Proponents of ‘School Choice Week’ would rather not talk about the many problems inherent in voucher programs,” the website states.

The Voucher Strategy Center also has resources and articles on the evolving field of school choice.

Joetta Sack-Min|January 26th, 2013|Categories: Budgeting, Center for Public Education, Charter Schools, Conferences and Events, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Educational Research, Federal Advocacy, Governance, Online learning, Policy Formation, Privatization, Public Advocacy, Religion, School Vouchers|Tags: , , , , |
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