Articles in the School Buildings category

Turning America’s schools “green”

The U.S. Department of Education announced this week that 33 states and the District of Columbia have submitted intents to nominate schools for the new Green Ribbon Schools awards program launched this past September. Schools nominated by state education agencies are eligible to receive the award.

Participating states, as well as the District of Columbia, to date are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. The Department also received intent to nominate from the Department of Interior Bureau of Indian Education school district.

The program asks states to nominate schools in their jurisdiction that come closest to achieving the high bar that Green Ribbon sets: net zero environmental impact of facilities, net positive health impact on students and staff, and 100% environmentally literate graduates.

Participating states are currently posting applications for schools in their jurisdictions, and will submit nominees to the Department by March 22, 2012. The Department will announce winners in April, 2012 and will host the first national U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools ceremony in Washington, D.C., in late May 2012. The national ceremony will be followed by local ceremonies at each of the winning schools in fall 2012.

BoardBuzz likes this and is proud that the National School Boards Association is part of the executive committee of the Coalition for Green Schools. To learn more about greening your school district, check out the resources from the Center for Green Schools.

Alexis Rice|December 8th, 2011|Categories: Environmental Issues, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Buildings|Tags: , , , |

The week in blogs

President Obama’s “American Jobs Act” – part of the $477 billion legislative package he proposed to Congress Thursday night – includes $30 billion in new funds to prevent more teacher layoffs and  another $25 billion in school construction money that could help rebuild 35,000 schools.

Sounds great. But is it too good to be true? Afraid so, writes Alison Klein in Education Week’s Politics K-12 blog:

“There’s almost no chance that Republicans—who generally think the $100 billion for education in the stimulus was a giant waste of money—will rush to support this,” Klein writes. “Remember, the administration had a very tough time getting Congress to approve $10 billion for the Education Jobs Fund back in the summer of 2010, when Democrats had healthy majorities in both chambers.”

For a simpler, graphic representation of the above analysis, see Tom Toles’ cartoon Friday in the Washington Post.

But do schools really need that $25 billion in construction funds. Well……yes, writes the Post’s Valerie Strauss. She notes that decades of research have shown a link between the condition of buildings and student health, attendance, teacher recruitment, and, most critically, student achievement.

Speaking of student achievement, read Peg Tyre’s critique of standardized testing on Freakonomics. (Thanks to This Week in Education for highlighting it.)  You no doubt have heard a lot of arguments against standardized tests, but Tyre’s is the most unique — and intriguing — that I’ve read in recent months.

Of course, there’s another side. And that’s part of what makes education policy so interesting and, sometimes, maddening. For a positive reassessment of testing, see “Putting Myself to the Test,” by Ama Nyamekye, in Edweek.

Lawrence Hardy|September 10th, 2011|Categories: Budgeting, School Buildings, Teachers, Uncategorized, Week in Blogs|Tags: , , , |

Life in Real Time

201323_10150163939134893_26415584892_6473475_7572509_oLast month, everywhere I looked during NSBA’s Annual Conference, officials from Missouri’s Joplin Public Schools were talking about Bright Futures. The district won this year’s Magna Award grand prize for the program, which works to build partnerships among schools, community members, businesses, and agencies to serve students in need.

Today, the immediate future is not looking as bright, and the entire Joplin community is in need.

On Sunday, a massive tornado struck this town of nearly 50,000, killing at least 116 people and injuring more than 1,100. It is the highest death toll from a single tornado since 1953.

The event was the latest in a series of devastating spring tornados that have pounded communities across the Southeast and through the Midwest. Just four weeks ago, 315 people were killed when a series of tornadoes struck in five states: Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi, and Virginia.

According to news reports, the late afternoon twister destroyed three schools, leaving two others and the central office seriously damaged as it ripped through the middle of this city 160 miles south of Kansas City. Graduation ceremonies for Joplin’s Class of 2011 were wrapping up at Missouri Southern State University when the tornado struck around 5:30 p.m. The high school itself was destroyed.
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Kathleen Vail|May 24th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Dropout Prevention, Governance, NSBA Publications, School Buildings|

ED announces Green Ribbon Schools program

You’ve heard of Blue Ribbon Schools, now the U.S. Department of Education is launching a new program, Green Ribbon Schools, that will recognize the efforts and intiatives of schools that adopt, promote, and teach environmental sustainability.

From graduating environmentally literate students to reducing their carbon footprints, schools that best exemplify America’s move toward a sustainable economy will be awarded this prestigious honor — and in the process protect and save valuable resources.
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Naomi Dillon|April 27th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Curriculum, Governance, School Buildings, School Climate|Tags: , |

Go green to save some green

recycle-greenWe all know that embracing energy efficiency is better for the planet, but did you know it could also be better for your school’s budget?

Last week, two 17 year-old environmental activists from California traveled clear across the country to speak at the Power Shift conference in D.C. and meet with Aneesh Chopra, the Chief Technology Officer in the White House.

Shreya Indukuri and Daniela Lapidous, both members of the Alliance for Climate Education’s youth advisor board,  emphasized the importance of energy efficiency in schools, explaining that burning fossil fuels and using excess energy emits additional carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which helps to trap heat on Earth. Such human activities are some of the main causes of global warming.  

After The Harker Upper School in San Jose, Ca., was awarded an ACE grant in 2009, the students initiated the installation of a Smart Submeter system on their campus. The resource measures energy usage in each building throughout the day and creates a corresponding visual map, so administrators can see where and when activities are highest.   

As a result, the school has seen a 250 percent return on investment, and a 13 percent decrease in energy over the course of the past two years, Lapidous said.
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Naomi Dillon|April 25th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Curriculum, Governance, School Buildings, School Climate|Tags: , |

The week in blogs

Many years ago, when I was a college senior in Southern California, I took a child development class connected with a wonderful campus preschool that was all the things you would expect a ‘70s-era preschool to be – discovery oriented, child centered, creative, and fun.  It guess you could call it “open classroom” as well,  seeing as the kids had the run of a multi-room former home; of course it helped, in terms of classroom control, that – in addition to having a wonderful director – there was a ratio of roughly one college student helper for every two children.

Flip ahead two years, and I was one of the teachers in a Head Start program for minority students in Boston’s South End. This was also “open classroom,” but by necessity: There was some structural problem in one classroom that forced us to combined two classrooms of 20-some students each into a mega-class of four teachers and more than 40-something children.

Yes, it was bedlam. There were just too many students – and too much noise – for much real learning to occur.

I thought about those two schools this week after reading about an experimental elementary school in Brooklyn founded by a former principal and Harvard graduate student who was trying to replicate the small discussion groups at Phillips Exeter Academy. This is analogous to my California school. But, according to a New York Times story on the project and Joanne Jacobs’ subsequent blog, instead of organizing several small groups (which may not have been possible) the founder put 60 first graders in a class with four teachers, and the results were …. yes, as the Times strongly implies, bedlam. The same thing I experienced in Boston.
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Lawrence Hardy|January 15th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Assessment, Curriculum, Diversity, Educational Research, Educational Technology, Governance, Policy Formation, School Buildings, School Climate, Student Achievement, Teachers, Urban Schools|

Annual conference shows green movement steadily building in schools

A Gold Certified LEED elementary school in South Florida

A Gold Certified LEED elementary school in South Florida

Some 20,000 people, including representatives from NSBA, attended the 2010 annual meeting of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Greenbuild Expo in Chicago last week. The conference showed how far the movement has come in just the past decade and the potential the industry has in the future of this country’s economy.

In the past 10 years, green buildings have moved from being a novelty to being the norm. And not every school has to have its own windmill or geothermal heating and cooling system to qualify as a green building—there are simple ways to include mechanisms to make new schools more environmentally friendly and sustainable. More school districts are finding ways to incorporate sustainable design into their renovations and existing buildings—after all, reusing and recycling is a the heart of the environmental movement.

In its March 2009 issue, ASBJ showed some examples of how school districts can harness the movement, from small changes like setting up a recycling program to earn extra cash to rebuilding a new LEED-certified high school, and reusing discarded materials from the demolished building as the foundation for the new building’s road and parking lot.

The USGBC has also launched a Center for Green Schools to give school board members and administrators the most up-to-date information and guidelines for going green. Its goal is to ensure every student has access to a green facility during their academic careers.
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Naomi Dillon|November 23rd, 2010|Categories: American School Board Journal, School Buildings|Tags: , |

Designing change

Here’s one of the latest TED talks, this one featuring designer Emily Pilloton, who was invited by the superintendent of a rural district in North Carolina to take a design approach to transforming the failing school system. Watch how that turned out:

Naomi Dillon|November 22nd, 2010|Categories: American School Board Journal, School Buildings, School Climate|Tags: , , , |

Evidence mounting K-8 model works best, but space and funds remain flat

untitled1Does your community have middle or junior high schools? A new Columbia University study suggests your students might do better academically if you switched to K-8 schools.

That assumes, of course, your school board can afford to make policy decisions based on research rather than available classroom space.

Even before this recent study, some school districts were big fans of K-8 schools. It’s increasingly accepted that the elementary school model works well for young adolescents, who are not always developmentally ready for the more regimented and anonymous structure of middle or junior high school.

What’s more, studies have shown that some students show a drop in test scores after their transition to a new school. A K-8 set-up eliminates one of those transitions.

The Columbia University study certainly backs that up. How and Why Middle Schools Harm Student Achievement found that students entering New York middle schools suffered a drop in math and English test scores in their first year, compared to students who attended a K-8 school. Absenteeism also was higher in middle schools.
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Naomi Dillon|September 2nd, 2010|Categories: American School Board Journal, Educational Research, School Buildings, School Climate, Student Achievement|Tags: , |

Emerging trends in education becoming more entrenched

freeimages.co.uk workplace imagesIn less than a week, the September edition of ASBJ will appear online, bringing with it a dynamic cover package on the phenomenon, promise and peril of the school turnaround from my esteemed colleagues, Del Stover and Larry Hardy. While equally intriguing, my assignment was a little more nebulous: look into the future and forecast  the issues that will become increasingly critical and impactful for educators, districts and schools.

You’ll have to wait until next week to get the full scoop (though if you’re a print subscriber, you’ve already read, re-read, and highlighted sections of our latest installment). But I can’t resist gleefully showcasing how accurate one of my predictions was.

Ok, ok. I admit, I’m not some super seer, with visions of the future, so please don’t call me to ask whether your upcoming bond referendum will pass. I am, however, a keen observer. And after following months and months of news articles and speaking to various individuals, I determined … our economy isn’t doing so well. Ok, bad joke but the recession-out-of-recession-back-into-recession economy is and will continue to be a predictor of future decisions.

Take for example, the burgeoning practice of partnerships and consolidation. In my article I listed several examples of districts and states joining forces to get better deals, more efficiency, and more leverage. Yet even I hadn’t imagined all the ways and manner in which educators can come together to get a big job done on a restricted budget.
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Naomi Dillon|August 18th, 2010|Categories: American School Board Journal, Budgeting, Governance, School Buildings|Tags: , , , , |
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