Articles in the School Boards category

New report finds teachers need more effective professional development to meet higher standards

Despite decades of research, teacher professional development is not adequately helping teachers to develop their students’ critical thinking skills and subject matter knowledge so that they can be ready for college and the workplace, a new report by the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Center for Public Education (CPE) finds.

Teaching the Teachers: Effective Professional Development in an Era of High Stakes Accountability,” reports that ongoing, dedicated time for collaboration and coaching is the most effective way to help teachers develop needed classroom skills, but most professional development exercises are one-time workshops that research shows have no lasting effect. An estimated 90 percent of teachers participate in some form of professional development each year, but the vast majority receive it in workshops.

“Effective professional development is a key factor in improving student achievement and better preparing our students for the challenges of the 21st century economy,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “We already see that public schools are facing greater accountability for their students’ learning, and now teachers in the states that implement the Common Core State Standards will be under intense pressure to teach their students critical thinking and problem-solving skills.”

The report notes that professional development that is ongoing, collaborative and connected to the teacher’s subject area produces the largest student gains. The biggest challenge for teachers, research shows, is implementing the skills they have learned in their classrooms.

The report also looked at effective practices and found that:
• Professional development is best delivered in the context of the teacher’s subject area;
• Working with a coach or mentor is shown to be highly effective;
• Although research on effective critical thinking strategies is lacking, teachers in some areas have established professional learning communities to create best practices and coach each other;
• Case studies show that some school districts may be able to reallocate spending to provide better professional development opportunities without spending significantly more.

Teachers’ time is the most significant cost consideration for effective professional development. Further, professional development is often one of the first areas cut in tight budget times.

“Teachers need embedded time for collaboration and support while they attempt to change their practices,” said CPE Director Patte Barth. “But time is money. When budgets are pinched, districts may be tempted to go with one-time workshops which cost fewer dollars. But a low price is still too high if there is no impact on student learning.”

Teaching the Teachers: Effective Professional Development in an Era of High Stakes Accountability,” was written by Allison Gulamhussein, a doctoral student at George Washington University and a former high school English teacher, who was a policy intern for the Center for Public Education.  View Gulamhussein’s analysis of this report in American School Board Journal.

Alexis Rice|September 10th, 2013|Categories: American School Board Journal, Center for Public Education, Center for Public Education Update, Reports, School Boards|Tags: , , |

LSBA: U.S. Justice Dept. action in Louisiana vouchers shows weakness of law

The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against Louisiana to stop a voucher program spending millions in taxpayer funds to send low-income students to private and religious schools, saying that the vouchers have impeded long-standing desegregation orders in many of the state’s school districts.

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) joined the Louisiana School Boards Association (LSBA) in a lawsuit last year challenging the legality of the voucher plan, which was pushed by Gov. Bobby Jindal and GOP lawmakers. The LSBA lawsuit ultimately prevailed when the state’s Supreme Court found the funding mechanism to be unconstitutional but the GOP-led legislature is attempting to keep the program alive through alternative funding sources.

LSBA has closely monitored desegregation litigation in Louisiana for many years. LSBA Executive Director Scott Richard noted that many school boards have spent millions of dollars in order to attain unitary status and freedom from federal oversight due to past discriminatory practices—and this latest round of legal problems with the Louisiana voucher program only exacerbates the issues raised in the recent state Supreme Court ruling that struck down the law and highlighted the program’s illegal funding schemes.

“The fact that the U.S. Department of Justice has to get involved at this point again punches holes in the flawed legislation,” Richard said. “It is irresponsible that state government in Louisiana, with all of the legal resources available, would move forward with this effort fully knowing that many school districts continue to be under federal desegregation orders – basically ignoring federal law.”

Proponents for the voucher plan have decried the federal government’s move and argued that the vouchers help low-income students “escape failing schools.” However, LSBA and other education groups have countered that the plan actually allows kindergarteners zoned for high-achieving public schools—those graded A or B—to receive vouchers as well.

Thirty-four school districts, of which 22 send students to private schools using voucher funds, would be subject to the Justice Department’s ruling, according to the New Orleans Times Picayune.

 

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|August 28th, 2013|Categories: Educational Finance, Governance, Privatization, School Boards, School Law, School Reform, School Vouchers, State School Boards Associations, Uncategorized|Tags: , , |

NSBA’s Center for Public Education discusses professional development and teacher evaluation on Education Talk Radio

The National School Boards Association’s Center for Public Education (CPE) was featured on Education Talk Radio today. CPE’s Senior Policy Analyst Jim Hull was a guest on the show discussing CPE’s research on professional development and teacher evaluation.

Listen to the show:

Listen To Education Internet Radio Stations with EduTalk on BlogTalkRadio

 

CPE is a national resource for credible and practical information about public education and its importance to the well-being of our nation. CPE  provides up-to-date research, data, and analysis on current education issues and explores ways to improve student achievement and engage public support for public schools.

Alexis Rice|August 28th, 2013|Categories: Center for Public Education, Center for Public Education Update, Professional Development, School Boards, Teachers|Tags: , , , |

School boards concerned about federal proposal to expand school data collection

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is opposing a burdensome and confusing expansion of data collected on students and school districts proposed by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

NSBA questions whether some of the requested data would be relevant to OCR’s duties—as well as whether OCR has the legal authority to request certain data—in a letter  to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which has asked for public comment before it determines whether to allow the expansion. Such an expansion also would place an expensive and time-consuming burden on schools and create confusion between OCR’s interpretations of federal law and public school districts’ actual obligations under their own state laws, NSBA’s letter notes.

“The Office for Civil Rights does not have the authority to collect data in some of these proposed areas, nor should it need that data to conduct its job,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “By expanding the scope of inquiry further into a school district’s operations, the Office for Civil Rights is forcing a school district to expend time and resources on extracting and reporting data that won’t assist in the improvement of students’ educations or civil rights compliance by districts.”

For instance, OCR is asking to collect information on absenteeism rates, an item that NSBA’s letter notes may be valuable for other purposes but does not pertain to civil rights issues in the areas monitored by OCR.

Further, some of the definitions in the proposed data expansion raise concerns about the quality and integrity of the data to be collected because the categories are ill-defined and confusing. For instance, a category that would require school districts to report “incidents triggering discipline” directs schools to count “criminal act[s],” a definition that will engender divergent reporting due to variances in state criminal codes.

“This lack of clarity creates a subjective interpretation of the definitions of incidents, and would likely lead to misreporting or double counting of certain incidents because there is no guidance on the new categories,” said NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón, Jr. “The proposed changes imply that the agency is searching for data to support preconceived hypotheses about public schools.”

NSBA is also urging the OMB to reject a mandate that school districts provide OCR with the contact information for a district’s civil rights coordinator, and encourages OCR to engage in the better practice of working through a district’s attorney when carrying out enforcement obligations or investigating claims.

Alexis Rice|August 22nd, 2013|Categories: Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, School Boards, School Law|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: , |

House approves NSBA-backed local flexibility measure in ESEA bill

The U.S. House of Representatives began debate on H.R. 5, the Student Success Act, the House’s version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The National School Boards Association (NSBA) was pleased that an amendment on local school district flexibility that includes key provisions of NSBA’s bill, the Local School Board Governance and Flexibility Act, H.R. 1386, passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a 239-187 vote on July 18. The amendment was put forth by Reps. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) and Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.), and additional provisions of NSBA’s bill were included in the bill the Committee on Education and the Workforce took to the floor.

H.R. 5, with local school district flexibility amendment, focuses on specifically ensuring that the U.S. Department of Education does not encroach on local school board governance.

On Wednesday, NSBA sent letters to all House members to urge them to support H.R. 5.

H.R. 5, “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 stated.

NSBA is opposed to Rep. Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) Title I portability amendment as it would require school districts to reallocate Title I funds on a per-pupil basis and set up a system of public school choice. The vote on that amendment is expected on July 19.

NSBA wants to thank school board members for contacting their members of Congress. On July 19, please call your representative at (202) 224-3121 (Capitol switchboard) and follow-up with a letter to vote NO on the Cantor Title I portability amendment and YES for final passage of the bill. The consideration of additional amendments continues through Friday.

Alexis Rice|July 18th, 2013|Categories: Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Advocacy, No Child Left Behind, School Boards, School Vouchers|Tags: , , |

COSA panel: Design school diversity policies to meet educational goals

School district policies to promote diversity are still viable, and recent Supreme Court rulings have bolstered existing laws that allow narrowly defined diversity policies. Districts must be careful, however, to design policies that meet these standards.

A panel of prominent education attorneys gave their advice on how build policies and programs that meet the current legal standard during a July 16 webinar organized by the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Council of School Attorneys (COSA).

A ruling last month in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin upheld a 2003 decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, which permitted the use of race in university admissions if such policies were narrowly tailored. That decision, as well as a 2007 ruling in PICS v. Seattle School Dist., has made diversity a more complex—but not impossible–area for school districts to navigate.

“Diversity is still in place and still very much supported by the federal government,” Anurima Bhargava, Chief of the Educational Opportunities Section at the U.S. Department of Justice, told the audience of school attorneys.

NSBA was pleased with the Fisher ruling because schools are able to put into place diversity policies that advance students’ educations and did not erode the existing laws, said NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón, Jr.

The panelists offered advice to help clarify the new ruling and how to create policies that will support student learning in a diverse environment. The first step, all agreed, is clearly defining the desired outcomes.

“As school districts consider voluntary diversity policies, it’s important to articulate why you have an interest in diversity,” said Negrón, who added that research shows a diverse student body can improve student learning and test scores. NSBA and the College Board filed an amicus brief in the Fisher case that noted diversity could promote 21st century education goals and that policies considering many student characteristics, including race and diversity, are essential for achievement.

School leaders also need to shift their thinking and view diversity as a means to their educational goals, not the district’s demographics or quotas, panelists said.

And institutions must be prepared to show very clearly that they considered race-neutral alternatives before instituting a race-conscious policy—they have to be clear that none of the race-neutral alternatives would work as well, the panelists said.

School districts also must periodically review their policies, particularly considering changing demographics and enrollments, noted John W. Borkowski, a partner with the Hogan Lovells law firm in Washington, D.C.

“You can’t have a policy that is permanent,” he said.

But the Fisher case is not the end of the story. Diversity policies also will be impacted by the Supreme Court’s 2013-14 term through Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, a case from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit that will determine the fate of a proposal to amend the Michigan constitution to prohibit discrimination in public agencies, including public schools and universities. NSBA will argue in an amicus brief that the measure would restrict a school district’s abilities to use race-conscious policies to achieve diversity.

 

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|July 17th, 2013|Categories: Conferences and Events, Council of School Attorneys, Diversity, Governance, School Boards, School Climate, School District Reorganization, School Law|

Join our army of advocates

The following is NSBA President David Pickler’s column from the July/August issue of American School Board Journal.

This is a particularly exciting year to take the reins as NSBA President. I am excited and energized to work with our new Executive Director, Tom Gentzel, and see his vision for this organization take hold.

We are living in exponential times of change in NSBA, and the opportunities that lay ahead are incredible. You’ve probably already heard about what we’re calling the New NSBA in this column and at NSBA events. The NSBA Board of Directors has worked to restructure and recreate our organization. Under the leadership of Tom and our new Chief Operating Officer Marie Bilik, we are transforming NSBA’s internal operations to establish structure that is efficient, effective, and fiscally viable.

We now must transform NSBA’s external advocacy and outreach to meet challenges at the federal, state, and local level. Chief among these are efforts to privatize our nation’s public schools through charter school expansion and taxpayer-funded school vouchers.

Charters remain an unproven experiment. And while we embrace the right of each parent to have a choice for their child’s education, taxpayer-funded school vouchers represent a subsidization of private schools with public school dollars. Neither charter schools nor voucher programs require the same accountability that is imposed on our public schools. Another challenge is federal regulators’ growing encroachment into local school board governance.

Now is the time to change the conversation about public education and school board governance. We know our public schools are not failing — each of us witnesses their tremendous accomplishments taking place each day. As school board members and community leaders, we must take a stand for our public schools.

How can we do that?

If you share my belief that public education is a civil right and cornerstone of our democracy, then we must embrace our responsibility to be vigilant advocates. Failing to act will lead to the loss of this great American institution of public schools for all children.

At NSBA, we are working to strengthen our advocacy in Washington and in each state, aligning and focusing our resources and providing more relevant services to our state associations.

Our voice is already gaining resonance. We are going on offense in an effort to change the conversations about public education. NSBA wrote legislation, “The School Board Governance and Flexibility Act,” that would boost local school board authority and curb the U.S. Department of Education’s overreach. This bipartisan bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in March and now has 20 cosponsors.

We are creating advocacy strike forces to combat those who seek to privatize our schools or impede local decision making. NSBA worked with the Louisiana School Boards Association to provide legal, communications, and advocacy support during its recent lawsuit to stop the state’s taxpayer-funded voucher scheme. The state’s Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional in May, but we know that is not the end of the story. School choice proponents—backed by wealthy entrepreneurs and for-profit investors —are cooking up new ploys in Louisiana and several other states. NSBA and your state association will be there to stave them off.

While NSBA has been a visible player in Washington politics for years, we have yet to achieve our potential as an advocate and ambassador for public education. We must lead the conversation about public education and school board governance and fight for the futures of our more than 50 million schoolchildren.

To do so, we will create an army of advocates that will go to battle, though the courts and legislatures, for public education and school board governance. We will build strong partnerships with state association members, corporate stakeholders, and other national groups to increase our effectiveness.

We need your help. As a school board member, you are an influential community leader. Through your leadership, we will engage parents, educators, and community and business leaders as core stakeholders. We will move beyond issues that divide us and forge alliances around the opportunities that can unite us.

I encourage each of you to join our army of advocates. Never forget your significance as we move forward. Never forget the power of one person to make a difference in the lives of our schoolchildren.

Now multiply one by 90,000—the number of school board members in the U.S.

With this power, we will be that voice for public education to ensure that our public schools empower our nation to fulfill its potential — one child at a time. Together, we can.

 

Staff|July 10th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Federal Programs, Governance, Leadership, Legislative advocacy, Public Advocacy, School Boards|Tags: , , |

NSBA pleased with Obama administration’s decision to delay Affordable Care Act employer mandate

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) today applauded the federal government’s decision to delay the implementation of IRS rules for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) until January 2015, based upon the “complexity of the requirements and the need for more time to implement them effectively.”

On March 18, 2013, NSBA filed a comprehensive response  to the IRS’s proposed rules implementing  ACA to apprise the agency of the “unanticipated impact certain provisions of the proposed rule may have as public school districts across the country wrestle with questions” ranging from calculation of service hours to the so-called “large employer” determinations.

NSBA Executive Director, Thomas J. Gentzel said, “We are pleased that the IRS has heard our concerns about the need for clarification on the Affordable Care Act before the rules become final to minimize any adverse impact on the nation’s schools and students’ educational outcomes.”

In its comments to the IRS, NSBA raised concerns about the challenges the proposed rules would have on school employment arrangements such as long vs. short term teaching substitutes with consecutive assignment, independent contractors, additional extra-curricular duty providers, re-hired retired employees, and even pay for school board members.

NSBA General Counsel, Francisco M. Negrón, Jr. added, “We believe the IRS has made a prudent choice with regard to implementation of the Affordable Care Act.  School districts are in particularly challenging situation as employers, because of the unique part-time and full-time employment configurations they utilize.  We look forward to further clarification from the IRS that will help school districts effectively navigate this new legal framework.”

Governing highlighted NSBA in their story today Obamacare-Mandate Delay to Have Little Impact on Public Employers. The article noted:

Some groups, however, said they were pleased with the White House’s action. The National School Boards Association (NSBA), which represents school districts that collectively employ more than 6 million people nationwide, had submitted lengthy comments to the Treasury Department, asking for clarifications on issues specific to the public school sector. For example, substitute teachers who teach at different schools or part-time employees who perform additional duties, such as coaching, raise some unanswered questions about the initial guidance for calculating full-time employment, says Francisco Negron, general counsel for NSBA.

Tuesday’s announcement should allow the federal government, the school boards and other employers to continue the dialogue about these issues, he says, without the health reform law’s penalties looming in 2014.

“We were glad to see they have taken what we think for the time being is a prudent approach, to slow things down in response to our concerns,” Negron says. “This seems to suggest that they heard those concerns, and we can continue to work to make sure we are in compliance with the law.”

Education Week’s District Dossier also covered the delay announcement and what it means to school district in, Affordable Care Act Delay Means Reprieve for Districts, and cited NSBA.

Alexis Rice|July 3rd, 2013|Categories: School Boards, School Law, Teachers|Tags: , , , , |
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