Articles in the School Board News category

NSBA president queries Romney on role of school boards

C. Ed Massey, president of the National School Boards Association (NSBA), queried GOP presidential nominee Gov. Mitt Romney this morning during a session at NBC’s Education Nation Summit.

C. Ed Massey

Massey asked for details about the candidate’s views on local school boards and parental involvement. Romney spent much of the session speaking about the need for parental involvement.

Romney used the question to further promote his beliefs that education begins at home and parents should be heavily involved in their child’s education. Romney has proposed a plan that would give students from low-income families or students who receive special education services—about 50 percent of all public school students, he estimates—access to the average per-pupil amount of federal funds under Title I or the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to use at any school that best meets their educational needs. Currently the funds are given to states to distribute to local school districts by formulas based on need.

After the session, Massey said he was pleased with the opportunity to meet Romney and be able “to make sure he knew that school board governance was the critical factor in meeting the needs of the local community.”

“What I liked about [Romney’s remarks] was he did recognize the importance of parental involvement,” Massey said. “What he didn’t say much about was how that’s correlated through school boards.”

Massey and NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant are attending the event, held Sept. 23 to 25 in New York City. Watch the video (Massey appears at position 32:06) or read a transcript of the exchange:

MASSEY: Good morning. Ed Massey from the Commonwealth of Kentucky. I serve as president of the National School Boards Association and sit on the National PTA board, as well. And I want to know a little more in detail how you view local school boards and parental involvement in the process of educational reform.

ROMNEY: Well, we have great organizations that represent the teachers. We have great organizations that represent the parents. But I’d like to see them have more clout. I’d like to see parents very much involved in evaluating the success of schools. If we had a more transparent system for evaluating the success of a school A through F, I think schools ought to have report cards the way they do in Florida. And if we had that, then if parents saw their school get a C or D or worse, those parents are going to be outraged. And they’ll want to gather together, become part of PTA organizations and talk about taking back the school. We can’t say and you have choice to go somewhere else. That’s a good thing to have that choice, but we also have to fix the school itself and parents are oftentimes going to be the impetus, the energy behind real change which must occur in a lot of our local school districts. I imagine you found the same thing. Is that right?

ED: I have. And sitting on a local school board for 16 years, I’ve found that the community engagement is so powerful, if you have parents in schools and you’ve engaged your community, the school will be successful. Regardless of the circumstances. That’s what I’ve found.

ROMNEY: That reminds me about the point about the Boston teachers who said if the parents show up at parent/teacher night, the kid will do just fine. And that just underscores the impact of parents. The idea that somehow schools are entirely separate from the home, from the economic circumstances of the home, from the social experiences of the home that’s just not reality. The home is an integral part of the education system and the best teachers in the world can’t possibly overcome a home pulling in the different direction. That’s why I propose in my state that the parents had to go to a training program to learn about the impact of education. I wasn’t able to get it done. It’s something I wanted to do and something that has merit. We have to pull the parents into education because they are an essential part of the education experience of their child.

ED: Thank you, governor.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|September 25th, 2012|Categories: 2012 Presidential race, Leadership, School Board News, School Boards, Uncategorized|Tags: , , , , |

NSBA announces Thomas J. Gentzel as new Executive Director

Thomas J. Gentzel

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) Board of Directors unanimously selected Thomas J. Gentzel to be the next NSBA executive director late last week. Gentzel is the executive director of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA).

“I am honored to lead NSBA at such an important time for the organization and for public education,” said Gentzel. “I am deeply committed to community ownership of public schools, which is the essence of school board governance. We will build on a strong foundation, taking an active role in shaping education policy and ensuring a quality education for all children in America.”

In his current role at PSBA, Gentzel represents and serves more than 5,000 school directors, administrators, and other officials from school entities throughout Pennsylvania. He joined the PSBA staff in 1980 as a lobbyist and, five years later, was promoted to head the organization’s Office of Governmental and Member Relations–a position he held until being promoted to Executive Director in 2001. He is also the Immediate Past Chair of NSBA’s Organization of State Association Executive Directors. Before joining PSBA, he served as the county administrator for Pennsylvania’s Centre County Board of Commissioners and, later, as Assistant Executive Director of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania.

In addition, Gentzel has served as Vice President at Large for the National School Public Relations Association and as a member of the Outreach Advisory Board for The Pennsylvania State University. He was appointed by Gov. Tom Ridge and reappointed twice by Gov. Edward Rendell to the State Advisory Panel on Special Education. In 2009 he was named by Rendell to the Pennsylvania Early Learning Council. He previously chaired the Pennsylvania Coalition for Public Education and was founder and coordinator of the Alliance for a School Aid Partnership.

NSBA President C. Ed Massey noted that NSBA’s search committee had undertaken a comprehensive selection process to choose Gentzel, who received the committee’s unanimous recommendation before the board’s vote.

NSBA’s Executive Director reports directly to  the organization’s Board of Directors and is responsible for guiding the development and implementation of the strategic plan, programs, policies, and practices of the association. The Executive Director is responsible for the management and development of nearly 100 employees and an annual budget of more than $20 million.

NSBA’s current Executive Director Anne L. Bryant said, “Tom Gentzel brings extraordinary insight into NSBA. He will not only have 100 percent support from our state associations across the nation, he has the vision for the leadership role of school boards and school board governance in public education.”

Gentzel will begin his new role on December 1. Bryant is retiring at the end of this month after more than 16 years as Executive Director.  Joseph S. Villani, NSBA’s Deputy Executive Director & Chief Operations Officer, will serve as Interim Executive Director from Oct. 1 to Nov. 30, 2012.

Joetta Sack-Min|September 24th, 2012|Categories: Announcements, School Board News|Tags: , , , |

ASBJ columnist has advice to promote public schools

A recent Gallup poll shows that most Americans think private, parochial, and charter schools do a better job educating students than public schools—but are those assumptions valid?

American School Board Journal (ASBJ) contributing editor Nora Carr writes about the notion—often based on false assumptions and incorrect data—that public schools are failing.

“In the battle for public education, charter schools are winning,” Carr writes in ASBJ’s August issue, which is available online. However, “Most public schools already offer what charters and private schools offer–and then some.”

Carr shows numerous examples—including marketing campaigns, community engagement strategies, and advertisements—that school boards can use to take back their message.

For instance, Texas’ Fort Worth Independent School District developed a new brand and an aggressive, multi-faceted campaign around its 50 choice programs and schools, Carr writes. The district’s “Gold Seal” campaign, which focuses on “college bound and career ready” students, advertises “a private school preparation without the cost” and promotes programs through the district’s website, www.fwisd.org/choice.

The Gallup poll showed 78 percent of Americans say children educated in private schools receive an “excellent” or “good” education, while 69 percent say parochial schools and 60 percent say charter schools do the same, according to Gallup. Only 37 percent said the same for public schools, and 46 percent made that statement about home schooling. (42 percent said public schools provide a “fair” education.)

Other sections of the Gallup survey showed that, similar to past years, the majority of Americans gave high marks to their children’s schools, while giving public education overall much lower grades.

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|August 30th, 2012|Categories: American School Board Journal, Board governance, Charter Schools, Public Advocacy, School Board News, School Boards, School Vouchers|Tags: , , , |

New voucher study doesn’t live up to hype, NSBA says

A new study released today by the Brookings Institute and Harvard University researcher Paul E. Peterson shows that low-income students who participated in a three-year voucher program in New York City in the late 1990s overall fared no better in college enrollments than their peers in public schools. However, the study found that African-American students did attend college at higher rates than those who did not receive vouchers.

Although the study was relatively small and narrowly focused, the authors and voucher proponents are using it to lobby for expanding voucher programs across the country. Peterson and researcher Matthew M. Chingos published an editorial in The Wall Street Journal calling on the Obama administration to support the voucher program for students in Washington D.C. Their claims have been challenged by the National School Boards Association (NSBA).

“The grandiose statements made in the executive summary are not substantiated by the data,” said NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant. One undetermined factor, she added, is the level of parental involvement with a child’s education, which research shows makes a significant difference in the child’s academic achievement.

“Clearly the parents who chose this program were dedicated, and parent involvement is key,” Bryant said.

The study examined longitudinal data from the privately funded New York School Choice Scholarships Foundation Program, which offered three-year scholarships of up to $1,400 each year to as many as 1,000 low-income families. Those vouchers were primarily used at Catholic schools, and in most cases parents also paid a portion of the tuition. However, 22 percent of the students who were offered a voucher never used it, and most of the students returned to public schools for reasons unknown, some after the first or second year, noted Jim Hull, senior policy analyst for NSBA’s Center for Public Education.

Several of the report’s methodologies are particularly troublesome, he noted:

  • The study neither isolates the impact of private schools nor school choice on students going to college;
  • The study never took into account what happened to those students who left the voucher program to return to the public school;
  • Results do not show that expanding vouchers programs will necessarily result in higher college going rates for low-income students in urban schools, even black students;
  • While the findings about African-American students appear impressive, the actual impact may in fact be minimal due to a large margin of error. An offer of a voucher may only increase a black student’s chances of going to college by as little as .4 percentage points but could be as large as increasing their chances by 13.8 percentage points. A more robust study is needed to more precisely determine the true impact that a voucher offer has on the enrollment of black students in college;
  • The more years a student uses a voucher does not necessarily mean a student is more likely to go on to college.

NSBA opposes publicly-funded vouchers for private schools because such programs abandon public schools, which are required to serve all students regardless of abilities, and eliminate public accountability for those tax dollars. Read more in NSBA’s issue brief.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|August 23rd, 2012|Categories: Budgeting, Center for Public Education, Center for Public Education Update, Federal Advocacy, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation, Reports, School Board News, School Vouchers|Tags: , , , , , , |

Editorial discusses the importance of school boards

What does your community know about your school board and the work school board members do?

Two members of California’s Fresno Unified School District’s school board recently penned an editorial for the Fresno Bee detailing the importance of their jobs. Cal Johnson and Valerie Davis urged their community members to pay attention to the candidates running for the school board because it has such a crucial role in guiding the community’s education system.

“School boards set direction for the district; we advocate for public education as well as needed improvements; we are currently maintaining the financial stability of our districts under some of the worst economic conditions in modern history; and, most importantly, we keep a laser-like focus on improving student achievement,” the authors write.

Davis and Johnson discussed some of the challenges facing the Fresno Unified School District and others in the area, including extreme concentrations of poverty that impact students’ abilities to attend school and learn.

“Schools cannot solve these problems alone, so they seek the community’s help to alleviate the scars that poverty inflicts on so many of the children and families in our Valley,” they write. “Everything from land-use decisions to policy approaches to public safety, mental health, and recreation impact our challenge.”

Read the column at the Fresno Bee and learn more about ways to communicate with your community from American School Board Journal’s columnist Nora Carr in “Telling Your Story.”

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|July 19th, 2012|Categories: American School Board Journal, Governance, School Board News, School Boards|Tags: , , , , |

Michigan State report finds strong support for local governance

Americans support local control of their schools and school board governance, according to a new study by researchers at Michigan State University.

Analyzing data from Gallup/Phi Delta Kappa polls and existing research, the study’s authors found that local school governance is seen as critical to the day-to-day operations of schools. It notes that the public believes federal, state and local governments should be involved in education, and that the public favors decisions related to equitable funding and standards across all schools to be made by federal and state officials.

“A lot of policymakers today think they can just go around the local boards; that the federal government can create a policy that goes directly to the schools or works around the existing institutions,” Assistant Professor of Education Rebecca Jacobsen said in a press release. “But that’s not going to work in the long run, because local control is not dead. People still feel it plays an important role.”

Jacobsen concluded that the findings are important particularly given the recent efforts put into dismantling local control in favor of a greater federal presence.

“Some argue that local school governance is a ‘dinosaur’ that needs to be replaced, but local leaders are going to be the ones implementing these federal policies,” Jacobsen said. “So if they’re going to have a major hand in how these policies get shaped at the local level, then we better pay attention to their resources, their capabilities, and not just dismiss them.”

The analysis was published in Public Opinion Quarterly.

Joetta Sack-Min|July 18th, 2012|Categories: Board governance, School Board News, School Boards, School Reform|Tags: , , , , |

Thirty years after Plyler, immigrant students still face obstacles

If you want to see how the nation’s views on undocumented immigrants have hardened in recent years, you don’t have to read the majority opinion in Plyler vs. Doe, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that said public schools must educate all children regardless of their immigration status.

 Just read the dissent.

 “Were it our business to set the Nation’s social policy,” dissenting Chief Justice Warren Burger began, “I would agree without hesitation that it is senseless for an enlightened society to deprive any children — including illegal aliens — of an elementary education.” 

Burger goes on to say, however, that whatever “folly” may have existed by the State of Texas’ decision to refuse to educate undocumented children, that decision was not unconstitutional. Such sentiments are a far cry from the prevailing view in the 2011 Alabama House Bill 56, part of which requires school districts to report the number of undocumented children in their schools, said Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Saenz was one of six speakers at a Washington forum Monday titled Plyler v. Doe at 30 years: Keeping Public Schools Open to All of America’s Children. He said he wants people to read both Plyler’s majority opinion and the dissent to get a sense of the values expressed at the time. Also speaking at the event, sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union, was Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez, the U.S. Justice Department’s chief civil rights enforcement officer, who was a keynote speaker the Council of School Attorneys (COSA) School Law Seminar in Boston.

Before Plyler could take effect, the justice department, joined by civil rights and religious groups, succeeded in securing a temporary court injunction on the part of the law that concerns school reports on students’ immigration status. But by then, Perez said, the damage had been done. Hispanic students were missing school and dropping out.

“We must never lose sight of the fact that this is about real people with real dreams,” Perez said.

That fact was underscored by William Lawrence, principal of Foley Elementary School in Foley, Ala. Soon after word of the new law reached Hispanic families, there was tremendous fear in the community that they would be targeted.

“The scene at the school was chaos,” Lawrence said. “There was crying and wailing” both from the Latino students and their non-Latino friends. Within weeks, 64 students would be withdrawn.

Ironically, 96 percent of the Hispanic students at Foley Elementary were born in the United States, Lawrence said. 

“It became clear to me that these children — American-born, U.S. citizens — were facing the brunt of the law,” said Lawrence, “a lifelong conservative Republican” who was nonetheless distraught over the measure that Alabama’s Republican majority pushed through the state legislature. 

If Lawrence’s political affiliation was ironic, there was irony in the actions of the Obama administration as well. Laura W. Murphy, the event’s moderator and director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office, praised Perez and Russlynn Ali, the U.S. Department of Education assistant secretary for civil rights, for their work on behalf of immigrants’ rights. But she said that if an official from the Department of Homeland Security had addressed the group, the reception would have been much different.

Last October, the Obama administration reported nearly 397,000 people were deported over the past 12 months, the third straight year of record deportations. Although the administration has initiated reviews of more than 410,000 deportation cases over the past seven months, fewer than 2 percent have been closed, leaving immigrant rights groups frustrated, according to the New York Times.

Perez’s office and the Department of Education have taken a much different course, investigating cases in states such as Indiana, North Carolina, and Alabama, where immigrant students have encountered roadblocks to school registration. In most instances, Perez said, school districts have been helpful.

“When we work with school districts, we explain the dos and don’ts,” Perez said. “They’ve been very receptive, because teachers want to work with kids.”

Lawrence Hardy|June 12th, 2012|Categories: American School Board Journal, Assessment, Council of School Attorneys, Diversity, Immigrants, School Board News, School Law|Tags: , , , |

Virtual Learning: Growing but untested, NSBA report says

Do K12 students benefit from taking some or all of their classes online? A new report by NSBA’s Center for Public Education, Searching for the Reality of Virtual Schools, says that while online education holds promise for 21st century learning, researchers know relatively little about the performance of virtual schools, and the studies that have been done are troubling.

“Virtual learning is the future. It’s increasing,” said Patte Barth, director of the Center. “But we don’t have a lot of information about its effect right now, so I would caution people to start slow and monitor it very closely.”

“Online learning” can refer to anything from a single class, such as an Advanced Placement class that is not available at a school or a credit recovery class, to full-time K-12 virtual schools, to a combination online and face-to-face instruction. Programs can be created and operated by school districts, states, non-profit or for-profit entities, as well as a host of other sources, which can blur the lines of accountability. 

While the information on online learning is incomplete, several studies on the practice are not encouraging. For example, a Stanford University study covering the period 2007-2010 found that 100 percent of virtual charters schools in Pennsylvania performed significantly worse in math and reading than traditional schools in terms of student gains.

The research also shows that full-time K-12 virtual schools tend to show the least effective results in graduation rates, course completion, and test scores.  While full-time virtual schools enroll less than two percent of the nation’s public school population, that number is rapidly increasing, and much of the growth is with for-profit providers.

“A full-time experience is much different than one class, and the overall data for full-time virtual schools tends to be where the wheels fall off,” Barth said. “Most of the research we found raises serious questions about the accountability and monitoring of some of these schools.”

The report also examines the funding streams of four states: Colorado, Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania, and the researchers found that in most cases funding is not based on the actual cost to educate a child through virtual schools. Determining budgets—and sometimes, enrollments—of virtual schools is often difficult.

The report gives school board members and the public a list of questions to ask to ensure their taxpayer’s funds are being used by programs that produce better results for students.

The report was written by Barth, the Center’s Managing Editor Rebecca St. Andrie, and the Center’s Senior Policy Analyst Jim Hull.

 

Lawrence Hardy|May 14th, 2012|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Board governance, Center for Public Education, Charter Schools, Computer Uses in Education, Curriculum, Educational Technology, High Schools, Online learning, Privatization, School Board News, Student Achievement|Tags: , , |

House committee approves two ESEA bills favoring local control

The House Education and the Workforce Committee approved two bills to reauthorize portions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The committee approved each of the measures on a 23-16 party-line vote, with Republicans in favor, on Feb. 28.

NSBA supported the measures, which would give school districts much more flexibility in meeting accountability guidelines. The first, the Student Success Act, would end the adequate yearly progress (AYP) requirements for subgroups of students and give states authority to build their own accountability systems.

The second bill would require states and districts to create teacher evaluation systems and would give block grants to states and districts in lieu of several smaller education programs.

NSBA sent a letter to Committee Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.) noting that the proposed ESEA bill “will advance student achievement by promoting high standards, rigorous assessments, effective accountability, disaggregated data for informed local decision making, and improved practices in teaching and school leadership in a manner that will enable the state and local levels to effectively perform their roles to achieve the laudatory federal goals and framework set forth in this legislation.”

 

Joetta Sack-Min|March 1st, 2012|Categories: Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Programs, School Board News|

NSBA sees common ground in Obama’s State of the Union

NSBA was pleased that President Barack Obama showed a commitment to advancing public education and appeared to share several of NSBA’s goals in this week’s State of the Union speech.

In his Jan. 24 address, Obama said his education reform plan would offer more control for schools and states. Obama also praised the teaching profession, calling for more flexibility for local schools to offer differentiated pay and other incentives in exchange for accountability.

“Teachers matter. So instead of bashing them, or defending the status quo, let’s offer schools a deal. Give them the resources to keep good teachers on the job, and reward the best ones,” Obama said. “In return, grant schools flexibility: To teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test; and to replace teachers who just aren’t helping kids learn.”

NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant noted that stable funding is also critical to school districts’ success. School boards must be able to maintain high-quality education services for students without sacrificing effective programs that are raising student achievement, said Bryant.

“We must support America’s students and communities and prevent additional cuts to education funding,” she said. “It is vitally important that the president and Congress find long-term solutions to adequately fund education that will help ensure student success and prepare our next generation with the 21st century skills needed compete in the global economy. Now is the time for the president and Congress to support their local school districts.”

Further, Bryant called on Congress to finish the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. A bill has passed the Senate’s education committee and House Republicans have released a draft of a bill that is expected to be voted on this spring.

Congress “needs to pass a bill that supports local flexibility to increase student achievement while eliminating counter-productive requirements contained in current flawed law,” she said.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|January 26th, 2012|Categories: Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation, School Board News, School Boards|
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