Articles in the Policy Formation category

NCSBA lawsuit challenges constitutionality of voucher law

The following story was written by the North Carolina School Boards Association (NCSBA):

A lawsuit filed on Monday, Dec. 16, 2013 in Wake County Superior Court challenges the constitutionality of legislation passed earlier this year that creates a private school voucher program using public funds. Under the legislation, which takes effect in the 2014-15 school year, a private school can receive up to $4,200 in public funding for each eligible student that it enrolls. The legislation does not require that a student struggle academically or attend a poorly performing public school in order to receive a voucher. It also does not require any assurance that public funds will be spent to provide students with an adequate education and one that is offered on a non-discriminatory basis.

The suit was filed by four individual taxpayers, three of whom have children attending public schools, and the North Carolina School Boards Association (NCSBA), a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership association that represents all 115 local boards of education in the state and the Board of Education of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation.

The legislation initially appropriates $10 million in public funds. The complaint alleges that public funding will rise to $50 million in future budget cycles.

“This challenge raises important questions about the use of public funds and our commitment to North Carolina’s students,” said Shearra Miller, president of the NCSBA and a member of the Cleveland County Board of Education. “By diverting funding from the public schools, vouchers have the potential to significantly damage individual school systems, particularly in smaller districts. As a local board member, I am concerned about the impact that will have on our students. In addition, the voucher program does not ensure that private schools that receive public funding will adhere to our constitution’s promise that students will have the opportunity to receive a sound basic education and will not face discrimination. Given all of these issues, the NCSBA Board of Directors felt strongly that the organization should raise these questions in court.”

The complaint asserts that the legislation violates the state constitution by:

• Using public dollars for a non-public purpose—private education opportunities outside of the constitutionally required “general and uniform system of free public schools;”

• Failing to require participating private schools to adhere to any substantive educational standards or practice non-discriminatory admissions;

• Diverting public dollars from the State School Fund, which is to be used “exclusively for establishing and maintaining a uniform system of public schools;” and

• Creating a system of selective secondary educational opportunities that denies students equal opportunities.

 

Staff|December 19th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Educational Finance, Policy Formation, School Boards, School Law, School Vouchers, State School Boards Associations|Tags: , , |

Sandy Hook tragedy teaches lessons on school security

Thomas J. Gentzel, the Executive Director of the National School Boards Association (NSBA), reflected on the first anniversary of the Dec. 14, 2012 school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. with this statement:

“The tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary one year ago shook the nation. Our hearts go out to the families and friends who lost loved ones and to all those in Newtown who were affected on that horrific day.

“One year later, the nation continues to memorialize the 26 adults and children who were killed at the school, support their survivors, grieve, and move forward. For school board members, the urgency of making schools around the country safer and more responsive to future threats is an ongoing imperative and legacy of the Newtown shootings.

“As part of their duties, school boards must ensure that school buildings keep children and school personnel safe without becoming fortresses. In cases of natural disasters and man-made situations, school buildings – equipped with high-occupancy gymnasiums and cafeterias – are often the first shelter, serving as community safe havens and command posts. School boards recognize that even the best emergency preparedness policy is perishable, and they are monitoring and improving their districts’ policies on a routine basis.

“School districts can ensure that parents and the community have a clear and actionable understanding of emergency response plans. One example is parental notification – to clear the path for first responders and their emergency vehicles, parents are often directed to a designated area away from the school where they can safely receive real-time updates.

“Since the Sandy Hook tragedy, there has been much debate on whether armed security guards should be used to protect the nation’s schools, or whether teachers or other school staff should be armed. In cases when a community deems school security is essential, NSBA believes that only sheriff’s deputies and police officers should be hired as school resource officers. Trained to deploy their weapons in the safest way possible and to take action that minimizes collateral damage, sheriff’s deputies and police officers have ‘qualified immunity’ that affords school districts the legal protection they need in case of any unintended consequences that could arise in carrying out their duties.

“As we approach this first anniversary, NSBA joins world and national leaders, state and local governments, community leaders, and people across the country in remembering those affected by the Sandy Hook tragedy. Times like these give us great pause because they remind us not only of the fragility of life but also of the bravery and resilience shown by Newtown’s teachers and school administrators, the students and parents, and the first responders on Dec. 14, 2012. Our nation’s 90,000 school board members will honor them as we continue our efforts to educate and protect our school children and school personnel who work in America’s public schools each day.”

 

Joetta Sack-Min|December 11th, 2013|Categories: Bullying, Crisis Management, Environmental Issues, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Policy Formation, School Buildings, School Climate, School Security|Tags: , , , , , |

U.S. Department of Education official discusses federal education priorities with NSBA

A top federal official outlined the U.S. Department of Education’s priorities and upcoming initiatives at the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) 2013-14 Board of Directors meeting on Dec. 6, 2013.

Deborah S. Delisle, Assistant Secretary for the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE), oversees more than 100 prek-12 programs, including early learning, accountability, mental health, literacy, civic education, and school safety; as well as programs for disadvantaged students, including Title I, and programs for homeless and migrant students.

Delisle emphasized the need for local control and flexibility as she spoke to the group of school board leaders and NSBA staff. She discussed topics including flexibility to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)—and noted that there currently there are 37 separate accountability systems. She also touched on college affordability and funding; the increasing number of homeless kids in college; and school climate and safety, including the agency’s Project Serve.

Delisle also discussed the disparate suspension rates among students living in poverty and students with disabilities, a topic of interest to NSBA. She referred to evidence in civil rights data collected by the agency–as an example she spoke of a school that suspended an African-American kindergartener for five days for pulling a fire alarm; a similar incident in another school resulted in a one-day suspension for a student who was white.

And Delisle pointed to the December 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., as an example of the need for enhanced mental health support.

The Department of Education also is examining ongoing “opportunity and expectation gaps,” and the ongoing need to deal responsibly with equity issues, she noted in her remarks.

NSBA is represented by Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel in bi-monthly meetings with top Department of Education officials and leading education organizations, which include AASA, the School Superintendents Association, National Association of Elementary School Principals, Council of Chief State School Officers, National Association of State Boards of Education, and the National Association of Secondary School Principals. The meetings serve as a platform for the groups’ executive leadership to convene to discuss various issues, share new policy and update the entire group on happenings within each organization.

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|December 6th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Leadership, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation|Tags: , , |

NSBA’s National Black Caucus hosts Dec. 5 webinar on school-to-prison pipeline

The National Black Caucus of School Board Members (NBC) will present a webinar on the “school to prison pipeline,” a disturbing national trend where children are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. The webinar will be held from 3 to 4:30 p.m. EST on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013.NBCclip_image001

Many of these children have learning disabilities or histories of poverty, abuse or neglect, and would benefit from additional educational and counseling services. Instead, they are isolated, punished and pushed out, according to the NBC.  The unintended consequences of “zero-tolerance” policies have led to the criminalization of minor infractions of school rules.  Students of color are especially vulnerable to push-out trends and the discriminatory application of discipline.

This webinar will outline the history of zero tolerance policies and how they led to the creation of the school-to-prison pipeline. It will also examine the impact that the school-to-prison pipeline is having on students, school districts, cities, and states throughout the country. And finally, the work that school districts are doing to address this issue will be highlighted and discussed.

NBC is presenting the event with the Advancement Project, a multi-generational civil rights organization. NBC is one of three caucuses within the National School Boards Association (NSBA) that is devoted to promoting and advancing equitable educational access and opportunities for African-American children.

Participants may attend the event online through this weblink, or by calling (619) 550-0003. The access code and meeting ID is 692-228-865.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|December 2nd, 2013|Categories: Bullying, Conferences and Events, Discipline, Diversity, Dropout Prevention, Multimedia and Webinars, Policy Formation, Urban Schools|Tags: |

White House announces new career education program

The White House announced a new $100 million competitive grant program this week that will help educators redesign high schools to better prepare students for high-tech and STEM careers.

The U.S. Department of Labor is collaborating with the U.S. Department of Education to give 25 to 40 Youth CareerConnect grants, part of President Obama’s State of the Union and budget proposals to provide industry-relevant education and skills high school students will need for successful careers. The funding comes from the H1-B visa program.

NSBA is reviewing the details of the programs to assess the operational impact on states and local school districts. Additional comments will be provided as the information becomes available.

According to the White House, the Youth CareerConnect schools will strengthen America’s talent pipeline through: Integrated academic and career-focused learning; work-based learning and exposure to the world of work; robust employer engagement through mentoring and engagement; individualized career and academic counseling; and integration of postsecondary education and training into the high school curriculum.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|November 21st, 2013|Categories: Educational Research, Educational Technology, Federal Programs, Policy Formation, STEM Education, Student Achievement, Student Engagement|Tags: |

U.S. students doing quite well compared to international peers, CPE director writes

Even though the United States does not rank number one—or even close—in subjects on international tests, that doesn’t mean that our schools are failing, Patte Barth, director of the National School Boards Association’s Center for Public Education, writes in an online column for the Huffington Post.

In “The Kids are All Right-er,” Barth analyzes recent international test results to show that U.S. students, particularly in the early years, are doing quite well. It’s adults, actually, who really could use some improvement.

“In many ways, the popular storyline that U.S. students get crushed in international comparisons is a distortion of the actual record,” she writes. “Truth is, our fourth- and eighth-graders consistently score above average, and do especially well in reading and science. Even our high school students are slightly above average in those subjects, falling below in math only.”

She notes that the recent NAEP-TIMSS Linking Study also found that if Massachusetts and Vermont were their own countries, they would stand with the highest-achieving nations.

Read more of her analysis in the Huffington Post.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|November 12th, 2013|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Assessment, Center for Public Education, Curriculum, Diversity, Mathematics Education, Policy Formation, STEM Education, Student Achievement|Tags: , , |

More classrooms see return to “ability grouping,” NYSSBA reports

The following story was originally published by the New York State School Boards Association in On Board Online.

Ability grouping – a controversial approach in which teachers sort students into small groups based on their level of comfort with curriculum material – is back in classrooms.

Ability grouping became unfashionable in the late 1980s and 1990s, when critics said it was an unnecessary technique that sends negative messages to some students and highlights racial disparities.

“It was PC to criticize ability grouping,” Tom Loveless, a prominent education analyst with the Brookings Institution in Washington told On Board. But now ability grouping has resurfaced as way to differentiate instruction.

Seventy-one percent of fourth-grade teachers used ability grouping for reading in 2009, compared to 28 percent in 1998, according to a survey by the National Assessment of Educational Progress. For fourth grade math, 61 percent used ability grouping in 2011, compared to 40 percent in 1996.

Ability grouping is not the same as “tracking,” which Loveless said has been persistently popular in the crucial subject of eighth-grade mathematics. While ability grouping refers to the practice that teachers use to separate students within a classroom into smaller groups, depending on their proficiency with a subject, tracking is usually district-driven and focuses on making choices and placing middle and high school students into programs in which they study different curriculums.

In a recent paper published by Brooking’s Brown Center Report on American Education, Loveless suggested that the return of ability grouping was linked to the accountability requirements of No Child Left Behind, as well as the increased use of technology in the classroom, which enables teachers to personalize instruction more readily.

The debate about ability grouping – when, whether, and how to use it – involves disagreement about the best way to deal with one of public education’s perennial problems – the “achievement gap.” Middle- and upper-income students, who are usually white or Asian, consistently outscore low-income, usually African-American or Hispanic students, on standardized tests.

In New York, only 16.1 percent of African-American students in grades 3-8 met or exceeded the ELA proficiency standard in 2013, compared to 39.9 percent for white students. Racial and economic gaps widen as students get older; 94 percent of students from low-need districts graduate from high school, compared to 65 percent of students from high-need districts.

Educators say they are taking a second look at ability grouping as they strive to make all students college- and career-ready. “We are seeing more of a trend to go back to specifically working with students in ability groups,” said Ken Eastwood, superintendent of the Middletown school district, who added that he is uncomfortable with the term “ability” and would rather say “proficiency groups.” Starting this fall, Middletown will offer a two-year kindergarten class “for kids who are not cognitively ready for kindergarten,” which represents about a quarter to a third of the class.

Ability grouping isn’t limited to less proficient students, Eastwood added. “There’s a push around rigor, where kids can accelerate,” he said. “Your best readers and writers have to be challenged. I like the concept of personalized learning, when we push kids individually.”

This fall Middletown is also adding two mastery classes in third grade. “We’re taking the highest learners and building a curriculum around their capabilities,” said Susan Short, principal of Presidential Park elementary school. “The sky is the limit. There will be a lot of project-based learning, with the teacher as facilitator.”

For many teachers, ability grouping reflects classroom realities. “When there’s a heterogeneous classroom, you’re still grouping students based on their ability level,” said Nicholas Sgroi, who taught fifth grade at Carter Elementary School in Middletown. “As lessons start going on, you see what they know, and see where they need support or push them further. It goes on all year long. The groups are pretty fluid.” Even students who stay in the lower group are “still growing at their own pace.”

In a lesson on fractions, for example, Sgroi has students who need more practice with the material adding like denominators. To challenge others, he’d offer a problem of adding fractions with different denominators or ask them to develop word problems on their own. “They’re not just doing work sheets,” said Sgroi.

But what happens when the kids in different groups are predominantly of different races? That’s something many districts with diverse populations want to avoid.

“We’re wrestling with big issues of equity,” said Laurence T. Spring, Schenectady superintendent. “Race, economics and disability cannot be predictors of students’ achievement. We need to think of lots of other things to do in the classroom. Most educational services should have a heterogeneous environment, especially in elementary school.”

He pointed to the district’s inclusive admissions process for the high school’s IB (International Baccalaureate) program as reflecting the goals of the district. As Spring said, “We want more kids in IB, to take the challenge.”

While ability grouping raises few eyebrows in the early grades, some worry that it might lead to tracking later on. These critics say that creating different groups for younger students to learn a given curriculum can create a culture that leads to older students being assigned to entirely different curriculums.

As Cathleen Chamberlain, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction in Oswego, said, “Some of the problems with tracking is that we can actually be determining a student’s future when we are making tracking decisions. Some tracks point to a future in college while others send students directly to a career path and we may be inadvertently closing doors that are options for students. Again, we have to be mindful that we are not typecasting students.”

“I’m horrified that tracking is coming back,” said Carol Burris, a principal at South Side High School in Rockville Centre, Long Island, who was named principal of the year by the School Administrators Association of New York State. Her district has “accelerated all kids in math, including special needs kids, completely de-tracked ninth and 10th grade, and offered IB English to everybody in 11th grade,” she said.

With 15-16 percent of the district’s students eligible for free or reduced lunch, and a minority population of 21 percent, the district has 100 percent of graduating students receiving a Regents diploma and 80 percent having a Regents degree with advanced designation.

“We level the field,” said Burris, who has a book coming out on de-tracking in math. “We closed the achievement gap in terms of earning a Regents diploma. “We’re in the process of leveling up, to give the best curriculum we can. The tone of the building improves when you’re not isolating lower performing students.”

“For me, the problem really lies in not stepping back and saying ‘what is ability?’” said Amy Stuart Wells, professor of sociology and education at Teachers College, Columbia University. “With accountability and high stakes testing, the definition of ability has gotten more and more narrow. The return to ability grouping is so hierarchical because it’s competitive about very narrow measures. The perception of kids factors into the tracking process. We need to question what’s happening.”

For all the focus on data driven results, it’s unclear that ability grouping ultimately achieves its stated goals. “We don’t have good evidence that it helps or hurts kids, except for the highly advanced, high achiever, by giving them different curriculum,” said Loveless.

Despite questions about the value of ability grouping, Loveless expects to see more of it in elementary and middle schools as districts strive to improve results.

“It’s not going to go away,” he said. “It comes back under a different name.”

Joetta Sack-Min|September 13th, 2013|Categories: Curriculum, Data Driven Decision Making, Educational Research, Policy Formation, School District Reorganization, School Reform, State School Boards Associations, Student Achievement, Student Engagement, Teachers|Tags: , , , , |

NSBA urges House to approve ESEA bill this week

In anticipation of a vote by the U.S. House of Representatives later this week, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) has written to all House members to urge them to support the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization. Specifically, NSBA is supporting an amendment that would  give school districts greater input in the development of federal regulations, and it would prohibit the U.S. Department of Education from extending its authority to make regulations outside specific legislative authority.

NSBA also has concerns about the funding authorizations included in the bill, H.R. 5. It has urged House members to support the reinstatement of Maintenance of Effort requirements to ensure that schools receive adequate state funding in an era of tight budgets.

Finally, NSBA announced its opposition to an amendment that would require school districts to reallocate Title I funds on a per-pupil basis and set up a system of public school choice. “Title I portability would cause irreparable harm to high-needs schools and the students they serve,” the letter states.

H.R. 5, also called The Student Success Act, “makes significant improvements to restore greater flexibility and governance to local educational agencies that will enable these agencies to better meet the unique needs and conditions of their local schools and students. It also re-affirms the appropriate roles and responsibilities between the Executive and Legislative Branches of government that are vital to the representative decision-making at the federal level that under girds public education as a democratic institution across all three levels of government,” the letter states.

Joetta Sack-Min|July 17th, 2013|Categories: Charter Schools, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Advocacy, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation|Tags: , |

NSBA lauds House ESEA bill, but calls to eliminate funding restraints

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) offered support for a House bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which the Education and the Workforce Committee passed June 19. But NSBA is concerned that its funding provisions would stifle federal and state education funding.

This week NSBA sent a letter to Chairman John Kline and Ranking Member George Miller that praised the legislation’s provisions that would help restore local governance and give local school districts more flexibility to improve student achievement based on local needs.

“H.R. 5 builds on the constructive features of [the No Child Left Behind Act] and eliminates many of those requirements that have negatively misdirected the federal role,” the letter states. “However, in supporting passage of the bill out of committee, we strongly urge that the state maintenance of effort (MOE) provisions be reinstated and the hard freeze on authorized funding levels over the six-year duration of the legislation be raised.

The letter also asks that H.R. 5 include the language of the Local School Board Governance and Flexibility Act, H.R. 1386, which is the NSBA-backed bill that would establish a framework for improved recognition of local school board authority when the U.S. Department of Education acts on issues that impact local school districts unless specifically authorized in federal legislation.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|June 18th, 2013|Categories: Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation|Tags: , , , |

CPE discusses resurgence of “Ability Grouping” in video chat

The Center for Public Education’s (CPE) Director Patte Barth joined the Huffington Post today for a video chat on “’Ability Grouping’ in Schools.”

The segment discussed the classroom practice of “ability grouping,” often known as clustering, of students by their strengths and abilities. The practice declined in the 1980s and 1990s because of concerns over inequalities, according to a recent article in Salon magazine, “The Return of Ability Grouping,” that inspired the video chat. The online chat asked, “Why are we revisiting a teaching method that we abandoned back in the 1990′s?”

Barth noted that two decades ago, students usually stayed in the same “track” that they started from first grade through high school, and the track became “a self-fulfilling prophecy.” However, the standards-based reform movement and mindset that all children need to achieve at high levels changed the landscape, she said, adding that teachers now know that they cannot let struggling students falls behind.

“All of these children are able, but the grouping needs to be dynamic” so that the structure does not become too rigid, Barth said.

 

Watch the archived chat at HUFFPOST Live.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|June 12th, 2013|Categories: Announcements, Assessment, Center for Public Education, Curriculum, Data Driven Decision Making, Educational Research, Mathematics Education, Policy Formation, Teachers|Tags: , , , , , , |
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