Articles in the School Boards category

Leadership Conference Starts with ‘Nine Shift’

NSBA’s Leadership Conference 2010 kicked off with a glimpse into how accurate one influential book’s look into the future and its forecast that a seismic shift in how people live, work, and learn in the 21st century were playing out.

“Even though they wrote this at the beginning of the 21st century, look at how on target they were,” says Katheryn Gemberling, an education consultant who presented the morning’s first session, basing it on the popular book, “Nine Shift,” by husband and wife co-authors, Julie Coates and William Draves.

In the book, the pair contend that some 75 percent of life as we know it would change between 2000 and 2020, mimicking a similar dramatic shift that occurred at the dawn of the 20th century, when the electric car replaced the horse-drawn buggy, and factories and industrial plants gained traction over working in the fields.

Whereas the automobile revolutionized the 20th century, the Internet has proved to have the biggest impact in the 21st century, says Gemberling, who serves as the project director for NSBA’s Gates Foundation grant to train school boards on using data to drive decisions, developing teaching effectiveness, and making sure all students are ready for college.

A decade into the 21st century and midway through the predictions they made in their book, Coates and Draves seem nearly clairvoyant.

Teleworking, once a rare practice, is becoming company protocol, reducing commuting time, cutting down on turnover, and allowing businesses to keep the best and brightest workers. Mixed-use neighborhoods and downtown revitalizations are becoming popular, with retail, schools, and transportation hubs clustered within walking distance of each other. And in schools, education becomes more Web-based, self-discipline replaces supervision, and collaboration is considered productive.

“This is going to kill most educators,” Gemberling says, half-jokingly. “The idea that you need to be alone to work is outdated.”

So is the idea that learning has to occur in a building. In the future, half of all learning will occur online, a format that supports students learning at their own pace, during their peak time.

“So what about the other half of learning, which will be face to face?” Gemberling asks rhetorically. “It can’t be done the same.”

Educators must help students put cognitive learning into context, advise them on which ways they learn best, and help students learn how to learn.

“In other words, schools will need to combine the high-tech with the high touch.”

Naomi Dillon, Senior Editor

Naomi Dillon|January 30th, 2010|Categories: Educational Technology, Leadership Conference 2010, School Board News, School Boards|Tags: |

Using data to drive reform

Ever since No Child Left Behind became law, we’ve heard a lot about student assessments and school ratings and the need for basic reforms in schools not making the grade. Data-driven reforms are one of the keystones of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  The Race to the Top grant program offers money to states to improve their ability to use data to drive student achievement.

In a recent press release, the U.S. Department of Education cites research findings from their report, “Use of Data at the Local Level” , that stresses the importance of viewing data-driven decision making as an ongoing process for improving school performance. The report states that data systems must provide relevant diagnostic information on students’ learning needs, with the data providing a direct connection to instructional practice changes. This report also points out that to be effective, data use must be combined with human and organizational supports – put simply, teachers must be given the time and the training to connect data to improved teaching practices.

Independent education consultant Kathy Gemberling, is a recognized expert on using data to drive school reforms. She is currently the project director of The Center for Public Education’s initiative to help school boards use data effectively in their decision making. This project is a partnership between the Center and state school board associations in Illinois, Michigan and California.  Gemberling will be addressing this topic in a workshop at the 2010 NSBA Annual Conference, April 10-12, in Chicago, where she will share more information related to data-driven reform initiatives.

BoardBuzz suggests you also check out the The Center’s, Good Measures for Good Schools, on which the data-driven decision making effort is based.  This practical guide identifies the key questions related to school assessment and pairs them with links to the relevant national and state data.

Barbara Moody|January 28th, 2010|Categories: Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards, Teachers|

Obama Pushes Education in State of the Union

The White House will focus on education as a crucial part of the nation’s economic recovery plan this year, with proposals to boost K-12 funding, expand federal prekindergarten programs, and make higher education more affordable and accessible to all students.

Although the economy and jobs were centerpieces of his State of the Union speech on Jan. 27, President Obama did not discount the importance of education as part of the foundation for long-term growth.

“In the 21st century, the best anti-poverty program around is a world-class education,” he said. “And in this country, the success of our children cannot depend more on where they live than on their potential.”

Many details of the administration’s plans will not be available until the budget proposal is released Monday. Until then, NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant said, it’s unknown whether Obama’s proposal for additional funds truly will be able to help public education meet the nation’s economic challenges.

“We hope that his budget to be presented to Congress on Monday will reflect his commitment to pre-k through 12th grade education,” Bryant said after the State of the Union. “Without the resources to deliver on this promise, we will fall short.”

The White House leaked word of the president’s education budget plan the morning of the State of the Union address. If approved by Congress, education would receive a 6 percent increase for fiscal year 2011, an increase of up to $4 billion. That would include $1 billion to overhaul the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which Duncan vowed will be a legislative priority this year.

“With states in recession, with districts cutting staff, increasing class size just to make break-even budgets, it will be hard to deliver a world-class education,” Bryant said. “But with federal government support, we in public education can rise to President Obama’s challenge.”

The administration’s move to promote education is seen as a shift in strategy after its health-care reform plan was put in jeopardy and polls showed Obama and Democrats’ popularity slipping.

However, Duncan indicated in a Jan. 27 conference call with reporters that the administration is also interested in accountability and results from the increases in funding. Notably, he acknowledged a shift from discretionary funds to competitive grants in the forthcoming proposal. Already, Obama has announced plans to add another $1.35 billion to the Race to the Top program, which is being administered through competitive grants.

Those announcements came just before nearly 800 school board members and school officials gather in Washington for NSBA’s annual Leadership conference and Federal Relations Network conference. Representatives chosen by their state school boards associations will spend this weekend discussing the administration’s proposals, the federal role, budgets, and many other issues before meeting with members of Congress early next week. Duncan will address the FRN attendees on Monday afternoon, just after the budget is released.

Duncan stressed that Obama sees education “from cradle to career,” calling it the critical factor to our economy’s revival and the nation’s long-term success.

College access and affordability as well as prekindergarten education are among the president’s top priorities. Much of the funding for those initiatives would be financed by the direct lending bill, a measure currently being considered in Congress, that would shift all federal student lending to the federal government and save about $80 billion in fees to banks over the next decade.

Duncan also said six programs – all deemed duplicative or ineffective — will be eliminated and 38 others will be consolidated into 11. No more details on that teaser will be available until Monday.

Joetta Sack-Min, SBN online editor

Joetta Sack-Min|January 28th, 2010|Categories: Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, School Board News, School Boards|Tags: |

Higher-Level Courses Increase Chances of College Acceptance Letter

The Center for Public Education’s report, “Chasing the College Acceptance Letter,” gives students, parents, and school officials new information about the credentials needed to get into a competitive college in today’s environment.

The thousands of high school seniors sending off college applications this month might be surprised to know that taking harder and higher-level courses, especially in math and science, would do more to increase their chances of being accepted than would a higher GPA. A higher score on college entrance exams (such as the SAT or ACT) also beats out a higher GPA.

Who earns the right credentials? CPE researcher Jim Hull found that minority and low-income students are less likely to earn the credentials that will give them a 50/50 shot of being accepted into a competitive college. For instance, while 66 percent of white students earn these credentials, only 37 percent of minority students and 38 percent of low-income students do.

And low-income students’ situation has worsened. While there was almost no difference between the acceptance chances of low- and high-income applicants with the same qualifications in 1992, by 2004 high-income students were more than 20 percent more likely than their low-income classmates (80 and 66 percent, respectively) to simply get admitted into a competitive college.

The good news is that “the right credentials” doesn’t have to mean straight A’s, a perfect ACT score, or spending 50 hours a week on extracurricular activities. It just means students should earn decent grades, take college-preparatory courses, and perform well on their college entrance exams. According to the most recent national data available, the average applicant earned a 21 on the ACT, completed trigonometry and chemistry, and earned a 3.12 GPA. This translated into a 75 percent chance of being admitted into a “competitive” college (as defined by Barron’s Profile of American Colleges).

Other highlights:

  • If an average applicant was able to pass pre-calculus instead of stopping at trigonometry, his or her chances would have increased from 75 to 79 percent.
  • Lower-achieving applicants could increase their chances from 52 to 57 percent if they simply completed trigonometry instead of stopping math at algebra II — a greater increase than if the student earned a 3.0 GPA.
  • If minority students earn the same grades, take the same courses, and score the same on their college entrance tests, they have just as good a chance of getting into college as their white classmates. However, minority students are much less likely (15 percent versus 39 percent) to earn the credentials of the average applicant.
  • Only 16 percent of low-income students earn the credentials of the average applicant. Even if they do, they are less likely to be accepted than their high-income peers.

The Center for Public Education, an initiative of NSBA, is a national resource for credible and practical information about public education and its importance to the well-being of our nation.

Erin Walsh|January 27th, 2010|Categories: Curriculum, School Board News, School Boards, Student Achievement|Tags: |

Obama Announces More Race to the Top Funds

Speaking at a Virginia elementary school, President Barack Obama announced plans to seek an additional $1.35 billion from Congress for his Race to the Top education grant program.

Forty states and the District of Columbia submitted applications for the initial round of grants to be awarded from $4.35 billion in Race to the Top (RTTT) funds approved as part of last year’s $787 billion economic stimulus plan.

The grant program is attempting to use additional funding to prod states and local school districts into enacting reforms favored by the Obama administration. Those include raising standards, improving teacher evaluation and compensation practices, making better use of data to track student achievement, new strategies for failing schools, and new state laws in support of charter schools and other innovations.

Speaking Jan. 19 at Graham Road Elementary School in Falls Church, a Washington, D.C., suburb, Obama said he wants the additional RTTT funding so more states have an opportunity to compete for school reform money.

The first grants won’t be awarded until April, but the lure of more money prompted several states to revise laws and regulations on charter schools to strengthen their chances in the grant competition.

But there also was some pushback by school districts worried that accepting state-distributed grant money would be accompanied by new mandates and by teacher unions opposed to White House support for tying student achievement to teacher evaluations.

In Texas, Gov. Rick Perry said earlier this month his state will not compete for grant money out of concern that new mandates would hamper state reform efforts.

In his remarks at Graham Road, Obama said he wants to use some of next year’s proposed funds for a similar grant program aimed directly at individual school districts. At NSBA, Michael Resnick, associate executive director for advocacy and issues management, said federal officials will be hearing more about the opinion of local school boards on this effort.

“Details of the district-level competition have not yet been developed in terms of the eligibility criteria and the selection process,” he said. “NSBA will continue to work with the U.S. Department of Education as it develops the RTTT district component and will provide updates as they become available.”

To learn more about the Race to the Top grant program and resources available to local school boards and state school boards associations, visit NSBA’s Stimulus Resource Center.

Del Stover, Senior Editor

Del Stover|January 26th, 2010|Categories: Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Federal Programs, School Board News, School Boards, School Reform|Tags: , |

Professional development is an investment

Planning to attend your state school boards association conference or NSBA’s Annual Conference this year? It’s a tough decision in today’s economic climate, but professional development is an investment in improving your district’s student achievement. Reno Contipelli, Board President from Cuyahoga Heights, Ohio, wouldn’t consider skipping either event.  Hear Reno’s thoughts on the importance of professional development, and see how he spent his time and what he learned at last year’s NSBA Annual Conference:

Barbara Moody|January 14th, 2010|Categories: Educational Legislation, Educational Technology, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards, Wellness|

What generation gap?

With music and art classes facing cuts by schools forced to deal with budget shortfalls, BoardBuzz has commented frequently on the importance of arts education. One fact we often hear cited by supporters of music education is that it improves math scores – but maybe that’s the wrong way to look at it. Renowned jazz musician Wynton Marsalis says instead that math classes help people with music. A strong proponent of arts education, Marsalis speaks often about the value of music education in our schools. In his 2009 address before a Congressional Committee on Arts Advocacy Day, he says “music is Superman” because it integrates everyone, no matter their age or background. In Marsalis’ view a strong education in the arts erases the generation gap and gives kids — and students of all ages — the ability to “converse and face the world with confidence.”

Take a look at this remarkable speech:


Wynton Marsalis will be the keynote speaker at the 2010 NSBA Annual Conference in Chicago on April 11, where he will not only share more thoughts on arts education but also give a special musical performance.

Barbara Moody|January 6th, 2010|Categories: Conferences and Events, Educational Legislation, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards|

Beef-it’s what isn’t in school lunches

While as a nation we collectively sigh a bit of relief after the holiday season and pull on a sweatshirt to hide the extra pound (or three) we gained, an article from the New York Times caught our attention last week.

In the infamous novel, The Jungle, Upton Sinclair gave America a behind the scenes look at the meatpacking industry.  The book upset the country so much that it prompted Theodore Roosevelt, our president, to push for food safety standards and what is now the FDA, among other agencies to watch over our food supply.  Sinclair’s quote about the impact of the book, “I aimed at the public’s heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach” is still studied by history students across the country.  Fast forward about 100 years, and you’ll find similar problems with our meat supply today.

At BoardBuzz we try to stick to the topics that face America’s students, so you may be wondering why we are “going Oprah” on beef.  In this most recent case exposed by the Times, the meat that is being served to school children in many parts of the nation is being injected with ammonia which has been cleared by the FDA to kill E. coli.  But the ammonia is not listed on the ingredients on the packaging and according to the beef company, helps to save money for school districts, which means this processed beef gets the lowest bid and is fed to schoolchildren.  In fact, a Georgia prison sent beef back from this company because the frozen beef had an odor of ammonia that was so strong that they alerted officials.  Since ammonia was not on the label, the cooks at the prison thought that there was something wrong with the beef.

We know there are many issues facing education today, but when we think about the students eating this food, and in some cases the only “good” meal students get in a day comes from free and reduced lunch programs, we have to stop and think about the pressures faced by schools to meet the nutritional needs of children with limited resources and the increased need among newly eligible students due to the economic downturn.

The federal government is looking into the issue of contaminated food reaching schools. A recently issued General Accountability Office (GAO) report identified standards and procedures to help reduce the risk of school children consuming recalled food purchased as commodities to use in school meals. The report specifically focused on eliminating contaminated food provided to schools through the commodity food program for use in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) school meal programs.

We hope that as you read the NYT  article, you also consider those children and parents who don’t know about this problem, can’t speak up, or trust the school leaders to make the best decisions on their behalf.  The Child Nutrition Act is up for reauthorizaton by Congress this year, giving school leaders an opportunity to voice their priorities for providing healthy meals to children so they are ready to learn.

Kevin Scott|January 4th, 2010|Categories: NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards, Student Achievement, Wellness|

Closing the achievement gap is a principle responsibility of…principals

With the introduction of S 2896,  the “Principal Recruitment and Retention Act,” Senators Al Franken (D-MN) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) hope to close the achievement gap by assuring that high need schools have highly qualified principals who can improve instruction, assessments and the use of data, and can recruit and retain effective teachers.  Representatives Susan Davis (D-CA 53rd) and Todd Platts (R-PA 19th) introduced a companion bill in the House (HR 4354). 

Research shows that school leadership is second only to teacher quality among school-related factors in its impact on student learning – that’s why the Minnesota School Boards Association and NSBA are on the record supporting the legislation.  The bill creates a grant program for school districts (and to other entities, such as non-profits and universities, that establish partnerships with school districts) for high-quality training programs that prepare principals to improve student academic achievement in high-need schools.  Each grantee will recruit, train and support aspiring and/or current principals who commit to serving at least four years in high-need schools. 

However, “We cannot expect schools to go it alone,” Senator Franken stated on the Senate floor. “We also need to improve social services in low-income communities to help students address the numerous challenges they face outside of the classroom that make it difficult to learn. At the same time, we cannot absolve schools of their responsibility to improve considerably.” 

BoardBuzz wonders – What is the balance of school and community responsibility for academic success?  And aren’t school board members part of both groups?  As school and community leaders, school board members are uniquely positioned to foster healthy schools and communities for the benefit of all.

Lucy Gettman|December 23rd, 2009|Categories: Educational Legislation, Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards|

Redesigning public education

We’re all struggling to do more with less these days. As budgets are cut and traditional resources are shrinking, we face the demand for new and innovative ideas. But innovation needs to be much more than an idea – it needs to produce real results. The challenge in public education is to identify which new initiatives make the best use of limited resources – time, money, and energy.

In the January issue of American School Board Journal, author and founder of the Leadership and Learning Center, Douglas Reeves, outlines his plan for how school boards can redesign public education. In his article, The Board’s Role in Innovation, Mr. Reeves calls for school districts to join the dialogue and share their success stories, and he outlines the steps needed to make real progress in these tough times. For starters, school boards need to deal with “initiative fatigue” – too many priorities, spread too thin. School leaders must also identify sound practices that don’t rely on budget-draining single programs or products. BoardBuzz would like to hear from you – does your board have a success story to share with our readers?

Mr. Reeves will delve deeper into this topic at the 2010 NSBA Annual Conference in Chicago, where he will share more ideas on what works and what doesn’t and outline how school leaders can improve student achievement by sharpening their focus.

Barbara Moody|December 17th, 2009|Categories: Conferences and Events, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards|
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