Articles in the Public Advocacy category

“Myths and lies” threaten public schools, renowned researcher David Berliner says

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David C. Berliner  participated in a no-holds-barred interview with the Arizona School Boards Association.

David C. Berliner, Regents Professor Emeritus of education at Arizona State University (ASU) and co-author of the recently released book “50 Myths & Lies That Threaten America’s Public Schools,” recently spoke with the Arizona School Boards Association‘s (ASBA) Arizona Education News Service. Berliner discusses the policies, practices and popular beliefs that he believes are the greatest threats to Arizona’s public schools and shares his thoughts on how schools can better serve children. His co-author was Gene V. Glass, also a Regents Professor Emeritus of education at ASU.

The following question-and-answer session is republished with permission from ASBA.

Q: What three policies, practices and popular beliefs mentioned in the book affect Arizona’s public schools most?

A: The first and most important myth is that American students do not do well in international competition, which shows how poor our schools are. This is complete nonsense.

If you start to break up the scores of kids on the tests into five groups – one of which are kids that go to schools where less than 10 percent of the families are in poverty, and another group of schools where less than 25 percent of kids are in poverty –in the last big international test scores, the PISA, those kids actually scored among the best in the world.

In reading, they scored almost better than anyone else. Even in mathematics, which is not our strongest area in the U.S., they scored terrific.

It’s the other end of the spectrum – kids who go to schools where there are over 50 percent in poverty or at schools where there are over 75 percent of kids in poverty – they’re doing terrible.

The blanket statement that our schools don’t do well is factually incorrect.

The proper statement is that some of our schools are not doing well, and almost all of them are schools where poverty is endemic.

The second one that I would touch on is the absolutely stupid policy passed by our Legislature (Move on When Reading) to hold kids back if they are not reading well in third grade.

There is no better set of research in education than in that area. We know quite factually, as certainly as we know evolution and as well as we know global warming, that leaving a child back is a wrong decision for almost all of them. It’s a mistake.

The child who is left back has a much higher chance of dropping out of school. They don’t like school. When those students are interviewed, they call up the equivalent of wetting their pants in school, or losing a parent, or going blind. It’s a horrible occurrence for the family.

What’s more, the state has committed itself to putting in another approximately $8,000 because to leave that child back, means one more year of elementary school.

If they used that $8,000 for tutoring of the kid, you wouldn’t have to leave the kid back. The kid wouldn’t drop out of high school. The kid wouldn’t be a negative force in classrooms and wouldn’t be overage for their grade. You’d be much better off.

The third one I’d suggest is one promulgated by Arizona’s own Goldwater Institute, in which the president of the Goldwater Institute says early childhood education is no good.

She is factually wrong.

There are studies out showing that for all kids high-quality early childhood education makes a difference in their lives and for poor kids in particular it has really profound effects.

Those are three areas where Arizona, in particular, has got it all wrong.

Q: Which specific funding issues identified in the book need to be addressed most urgently and how?

A: There are a number of parts to this. Number one, teacher salaries in Arizona have gone way down. Other states, while they had to rescind some salaries during the recession, have restored them. During the recession, Massachusetts’ teachers’ salaries went up.

You cannot attract the best and the brightest to the field even if they want to be teachers, if you don’t pay them enough for the starting salary.

Maybe even worse for the long-term in Arizona is that state funding for the three state universities has gone straight down for the last 20 years while the demand for higher education and the demand for educated workers is up.

You can’t have a future in a knowledge economy without people possessing knowledge.

Also, we have not restored the funding that the state gives to school districts either. So we’ve had to cancel art and music classes, we’ve had to cancel a lot of special services for kids who need them, and after school programs, etc.

Not only have you hurt who you can attract to the field, but you’ve actually hurt the systems themselves.

Funding matters a lot. Other states are way, way ahead of us.

Q: You have identified a group of college-and-career ready “myths and lies.” What is the most prevalent issue related to this that you identify in the book?

A: We don’t think most people know what career- and college-ready means.

What we need is certainly a literate workforce, a numerate workforce, a scientifically literate workforce, but we’ve always needed that. I don’t think that’s anything new.

What we really need to save our state and our nation is a population that takes its role in citizenship seriously. We are more likely to lose our pre-eminence as a nation because of apathetic voters than anything else.

Q: How can schools better serve children?

A: Schools could be better if they were, in our more modern times, more encompassing of the child.

That means more after-school programs, because lots of families are not home for kids after school. It could be homework areas for kids with tutors, it could be sports, it could be music, it could be art.

There’s a fascinating study that says when people reach the age of 55 or so, which is usually around the peak earning parts of their lives, people who have studied the humanities out-earn people who have gone into business.

But what we see all over America is the cutting of the humanities – less government, less history, less art, less music.

What we’re doing is cutting off our humanities, when we need to keep them. We need the journalism club. We need the music classes. We need the art classes. That would make some schools better, but it also makes kids want to go to school.

I bet very few kids want to go to school to study mathematics. I bet lots of kids want to go to school to be part of the music program, the art program, and the sports program.

What you want are the hooks to keep kids in school, and those are the ones that we’re getting rid of. Every parent knows this, and every legislator doesn’t care.

Q: “Myths and lies” is a pretty inflammatory title. Why did you choose this as a way to discuss the serious issues facing America’s and Arizona’s public schools?

A: A good deal of what’s promulgated is self interest.

School uniforms companies tell everyone learning improves if you wear uniforms. Not true. Your laundry bill may improve, though.

Other companies sell iPads, and say it will help kids do better in school. Well, there’s no evidence of that.

Another part of it is simple failure to understand the research base. Like the passage of Move on When Reading.

(The interview was edited for length and clarity.)

Joetta Sack-Min|April 23rd, 2014|Categories: Assessment, Curriculum, Data Driven Decision Making, Educational Research, Governance, Policy Formation, Preschool Education, Privatization, Public Advocacy, School Reform, State School Boards Associations|Tags: , , , , , |

Pickler looks back on his presidency

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David Pickler, NSBA’s 2013-14 President, gave an overview of his year at the Second General Session on Sunday at NSBA’s Annual Conference.

“We said, nearly a year ago, that if we did not have a seat at the table, we could find ourselves on the menu,” he said. “We realized the power of our board members and stakeholders to stand up for public education and proclaim the real truth about public schools and the essential role of school board governance.”

He recalled the beginning of the Army of Advocates, which started out with about 3,700 members a year ago and now has more than 1 million members. “We have built a foundation to be a leading advocate for public education in America,” he said. “We are just getting started.”

Part of that foundation is NSBA’s national public advocacy campaign, “Stand Up 4 Public Schools“. Celebrity spokespeople such as Sal Khan, Montel Williams, and most recently, Magic Johnson, have brought the campaign to national prominence.

“Together, we will show the world the real voice of public education,” he said. “The power of partnership will become the power of possible.”

He pointed to NSBA’s partnership with the filmmakers of “12 Years a Slave” to distribute the movie to 30,000 high schools nationally at no cost to the schools. This partnership led director Steve McQueen to wear the signature Stand Up 4 Public Education red wristband while receiving his Academy Award for Best Picture.

State school board associations are recruiting their own local celebrities to personalize the campaigns for their states.

Pickler told the audience that NSBA was the only K-12 education group invited to testify in front of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee on the 2015 federal budget.

“We were truly at the table, engaging in direct dialogue with elected leaders who determine the budget,” he said. “This invitation is recognition of NSBA growing in influence and importance. It established this federation as the leading advocate for public education in the U.S.”

He reaffirmed his belief that publication education is a civil for our children. “It is the great equalizer. It makes sure our children can make a living and lead a life of limitless potential.”

Pickler closed with his signature line: “Together we can. Together we must.”

Kathleen Vail|April 6th, 2014|Categories: Federal Advocacy, NSBA Annual Conference 2014, Public Advocacy, School Boards|Tags: , , , , , , , |

Celebrities showcase public education in NSBA’s national campaign

In partnership with its state associations, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) has launched www.standup4publicschools.org, an all-new national campaign to highlight the success of public education. The campaign features advertisements with celebrity advocates and public school graduates to tell their stories of public education.

“Great public schools reflect the will of local communities and the strong governance of local school boards dedicated to advancing student achievement,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “This is an excellent vehicle for NSBA and our state associations to connect to share the great things happening in America’s public schools.”

Sal Khan ad ad

Sal Khan, founder of the not-for-profit Khan Academy, is a campaign advocate

Sal Khan, founder of the not-for-profit Khan Academy, is the campaign’s first celebrity advocate. Two other household names have joined upcoming phases of the campaign: basketball legend and business mogul Earvin “Magic” Johnson and talk show host and celebrity spokesperson Montel Williams. State school boards associations will be highlighting local celebrities in their campaigns as well, and more celebrities will be joining the national campaign over the next year.

“NSBA’s campaign intends to counter the aggressive, well-funded attacks on public education with national and local outreach that supports local school board governance and honors the achievements of America’s public schools,” Gentzel said.

The campaign operates against a simple premise: “Who I am today began with public education,” paired with the rejoinder, “Today’s public schools are better than ever.”

In one of the advertisements featuring Khan, he notes that “People talk about college and career readiness, but both are just a means to an end. What we really need to talk about is life readiness.”

The campaign website, www.standup4publicschools.org, includes more details on the campaign and how individuals can get involved and take action to support public schools.

Joetta Sack-Min|February 19th, 2014|Categories: Announcements, Leadership, Public Advocacy|Tags: , , , , , |

NSBA, AASA back Employment Non-Discrimination Act in U.S. Senate

A bill that passed the U.S. Senate barring workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity has been strongly supported by NSBA and AASA: The School Superintendents Association.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) passed the Senate today by a 64 to 32 vote.

In a Nov. 1 letter to each senator, NSBA and AASA noted that they “have long prioritized the elimination of discrimination in schools, for both students and employees.”

“By voting to support ENDA, you will affirm and strengthen the American ideal that individual employees are hired, evaluated and promoted on the basis of their ability to perform their job, and not an arbitrary act of prejudice or discrimination,” said the letter, which was signed by AASA Associate Executive Director Noelle Ellerson and NSBA Associate Executive Director Michael A. Resnick.

While the bill passed the Senate easily, it confronts a tougher road in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, which includes many social conservatives who are opposed to the measure, the Washington Post said. But for the moment, those in the Senate majority could celebrate an historic vote.

“Let freedom ring,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, the bill’s chief sponsor, before the vote.

Lawrence Hardy|November 7th, 2013|Categories: Bullying, Diversity, Federal Advocacy, Public Advocacy|

Lisa A. Bushey to lead NSBA’s Communications and Public Advocacy team

Veteran communications professional Lisa A. Bushey has joined the National School Boards Association (NSBA) as Associate Executive Director, Public Advocacy & Communications, the organization announced.

In the new position for NSBA, Bushey will be responsible for overseeing NSBA’s communications, marketing, and editorial services departments as well as a major public relations campaign designed to promote the value of school boards and public education.

“I am delighted to welcome Lisa to the NSBA family,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “NSBA has reorganized to better serve its state association members as well as be more visible in its legal, legislative, and public advocacy efforts, and Lisa’s expertise will be a tremendous asset.”

Bushey has more than 20 years of experience in executive-level communications, marketing, brand analysis, and education research. She has worked in a variety of sectors, including K-12 and higher education, government, and business.

“I am privileged to be part of an association that upholds the promise and potential of public education,” said Bushey. “The NSBA focus on local school board governance connects the will of local communities to the education of every child.”

Prior to joining NSBA in September, 2013, Bushey was managing director for Qorvis Communications in Washington, where she managed major accounts for education, corporate, association, and government clients. She also was a Vice President for Widmeyer Communications in Washington and Director of Communications for The George Washington University’s Center for Equity and Excellence in Education.

She also has worked for the American Educational Research Association, the Fairfax County (Va.) government, Eastern Research Group, and Booz Allen Hamilton. Bushey completed all coursework toward the M.A. in Journalism from the University of Maryland and earned a B.A. in English and History from Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa.

Alexis Rice|October 9th, 2013|Categories: Public Advocacy|Tags: , |

School leaders: Tell your story and ‘saddle up’

We have a story to tell, Reginald Felton, assistant executive director for Congressional Relations for NSBA, told urban school board members gathered this week to attend NSBA’s Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) annual meeting in San Antonio, Texas. The meeting ends Saturday.

Felton, a keynote speaker on Friday, urged board members to tell their story of public school success. “We are in crisis,” he said. “We are under more attack than in the past. Every bad example that can be publicized is publicized. Communities would rather believe our urban schools provide no opportunities for advancement, but we know that’s not true. We have a story to tell. We can’t back off telling that story if we want to get out of crisis.”

He discussed the importance of school board members getting involved in the political process – including advocating for public education to their state and federal representatives. This is crucial now when federal government “believes that it can tell us at every level what needs to be done to succeed. We say, you can establish the ultimate goal, but you’ve got to let us work for our kids,” he said. “We need to have the flexibility but we need to tell our story. Some in Washington believe we don’t have a story to tell. Except for the one on the 6 o’clock news.”

Felton told the audience: Having a strong relationship with members of Congress promotes value of public education and enhances member accountability.

CUBE Steering Committee Chair Minnie Forte-Brown also spoke at the conference on Friday. She talked about the temptation as a board member to “get tired” – feel exhaustion in the face of what seems like insurmountable obstacles, especially the societal difficulties that many students face.

It’s this temptation to give up on the system, she said, that drives parents and communities to try charter schools or support vouchers.

However, she said, board members must fight this temptation. “On this day, these decisions that damage our schools will not tempt me to be tired. We will be fired up and take this back, energized and ready to fight,” she said.

Forte-Brown, a member of North Carolina’s Durham School Board, closed by encouraging her fellow board members. “Nobody said it was going to easy. School board leadership is not for sissies,” she said. “You have been chosen. I want you to saddle up and let’s go.”

 

Kathleen Vail|October 5th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Conferences and Events, CUBE, CUBE Annual Conference2013, Federal Advocacy, Public Advocacy, School Boards, Urban Schools|

NSBA: Allegations of misused funds by charter school operators show need for school board oversight

According to The Washington Post, D.C. authorities filed a lawsuit Tuesday in D.C. Superior Court in which former senior managers and the board chairwoman of D.C.-based Options Public Charter School (OPCS) are accused of diverting millions of taxpayer dollars intended to fund student programs.

The lawsuit claims that improper payments of more than $3 million were made since 2012. The filing alleges a “pattern of self-dealing” in which large payments were made to for-profit companies that OPCS managers founded while running the charter school. The OPCS enrolls about 400 at-risk students in middle and high school, many of whom have disabilities, for which the charter school receives thousands of dollars in extra taxpayer-based payments because they have special needs. The OPCS board chairwoman is D.C.-based WUSA9 news personality J.C. Hayward.

“The alleged charges surrounding this local issue should spark national attention and concern,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director of the National School Boards Association. “While charter schools authorized by local boards of education assure the public of transparency and accountability, those solely in the for-profit sector without the oversight of a public school board offer a degree of risk that does not effectively serve the public interest. Strong local governance protects students’ interests. If these allegations are proven true, it is yet another case in point that local school boards are what best serve the public good.”

According to the D.C. Public Charter School Board (PCSB), Options Public Charter School opened in 1996 as one of D.C.’s first five charter schools. While the initial charter was issued by the D.C. Board of Education, oversight for the past six years (including the period during which the abuses are alleged to have occurred) has been the responsibility of PCSB, an appointed board with no direct accountability to the public.

NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón, Jr. noted that any misuse of public funds would ultimately hurt students and the public schools that serve D.C. families.

“The diversion of tax dollars from traditional public schools into charter schools lacking the oversight of a public school board serves neither students nor taxpayers,” said Negrón. “Diverting scarce monies into such programs limits the ability of traditional public schools to carry out their mission to educate all children.”

Joetta Sack-Min|October 2nd, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Charter Schools, Educational Finance, Governance, Public Advocacy, School Boards, School Reform|Tags: , , , , , |

School boards push for ESEA reauthorization

National School Boards Association (NSBA) and our state school boards associations are continually advocating for the passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization in the U.S. Congress.

Michael A. Resnick, NSBA’s Associate Executive Director for Federal Advocacy and Public Policy, posting on the Learning First Allianceblog promoted the need for Congress to move forward on ESEA noting:

In the 12 years since the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) was enacted, we’ve seen firsthand how the federal role in education has expanded substantially, particularly by unilateral decisions made by the U.S. Department of Education to transform the educational delivery system through initiatives such as its waiver program.

Now, we have an opportunity to change this course through the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The National School Boards Association (NSBA) applauds Congress’ overall goal to ensure through legislation that all students are ready for college and careers. NSBA also is pleased to see that Congress is turning its attention to the growth of the federal role, including where it may adversely impact states and local schools.

Resnick continued:

NSBA believes that local school boards and educators have the know-how to meet local needs and conditions, and they are committed to the schoolchildren they serve to get the job done without the burdens and less effective top-down approaches. Ultimately, ESEA will be written in a House-Senate conference committee where, hopefully, the differences between the two bills can be worked out. Only time will tell if this can happen, but it’s an effort that Congress has a responsibility to make.

Along with many other education groups in Washington, we look forward to a new law that will support public education and our students.

Additionally, David Baird, Interim Executive Director of the Kentucky School Boards Association and Durward Narramore President of the Kentucky School Boards Association and a member of the Jenkins Independent School Board published an op-ed in the Lexington Herald-Leaderr urging the U.S. Senate to take up ESEA, noting:

The Senate’s bill to reauthorize ESEA, Strengthening America’s Schools, S. 1094, has yet to come to the floor for a vote. Our local communities have a great opportunity to reach out to our senators and urge them to:

■ Restore greater flexibility and governance to local school boards consistent with the House bill.

■ Schedule S. 1094 for a floor vote in September.

■ Include provisions in the Senate bill that would continue maintenance of effort requirements and eliminate any arbitrary caps on the federal investment in education.

We need Kentuckians to call Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul to urge Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to schedule the floor vote on S. 1094 for September. Local school boards want ESEA reauthorization now.

 

Alexis Rice|August 13th, 2013|Categories: Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Advocacy, Legislative advocacy, No Child Left Behind, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Public Advocacy, School Boards, State School Boards Associations|Tags: , |

New national grassroots public education network launches

Friends of Public Education, a new national grassroots network launched by the National School Boards Action Center (NSBAC), will bring together local leaders and concerned citizens from across the country to speak out on federal legislation to strengthen public education. The network, which can be accessed NSBAC website’s, www.nsbac.org, will help bolster support for a strong public education for all students.

“Federal legislation has direct policy and financial impact on local public schools and students,” said NSBAC Director Michael A. Resnick. “With the Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization and other legislation being considered by Congress this year, it’s critical that our Washington lawmakers hear from their communities.”

By joining Friends of Public Education, members of the public will receive information on important federal education legislation, and they will be asked to contact their members of Congress at key times during the legislative process so that lawmakers will better understand how proposed policies would affect community schools.

“This is an important time for public education, and members of the public need a platform to speak out on national issues that are impacting the education of America’s schoolchildren,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, the executive director of the National School Boards Association (NSBA). “NSBA is pleased that Friends of Public Education will be a strong voice to support our nation’s public schools.”

NSBAC is a not-for-profit organization founded by NSBA to advocate at the federal and national levels for the advancement of public education, local school board leadership, and excellence and equity in our nation’s public schools. Across the nation, 90,000 local school board members are responsible for governing nearly 14,000 school systems serving 50 million public school students.

Alexis Rice|August 5th, 2013|Categories: Federal Advocacy, Legislative advocacy, National School Boards Action Center, Public Advocacy|Tags: , , |
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