Articles in the School Climate category

School security issues at the forefront of December ASBJ

Vandalism — destroying school property — remains a constant problem for many if not all school districts. Senior Editor Del Stover, in American School Board Journal’s December cover story, online now, looks at ways that districts combat the issue. Cameras, lighting, and extra personnel are all options. However, some districts are looking at how caring  relationships among adults and students can be the ultimate deterrent.

Also in the new issue: After a national report revealed that black and hispanic students are suspended at a higher rate than white students, many schools are backing off from rigid zero-tolerance policies. Senior Editor Lawrence Hardy chronicles how districts are working to decriminalize student discipline.

When you visit ASBJ online, take the Adviser Facebook poll on whether school security cameras work and check out our webinar offerings.

Kathleen Vail|December 4th, 2012|Categories: American School Board Journal, School Buildings, School Climate, School Law, School Security|

NSBA’s 2013 Annual Conference to feature Geena Davis, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Diane Ravitch

Registration and housing for the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) 73rd Annual Conference, to be held April 13 to 15 in San Diego, is now open. Join more than 5,000 school board members and administrators for an event with hundreds of sessions, workshops, and exhibits that will help your school district programs and help you hone your leadership and management skills.

General Session speakers include Academy Award winning speaker Geena Davis, who will be speaking about her work off-screen as founder of the non-profit Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. Davis works with film and television creators to reduce gender stereotyping and increase the number of female characters in media targeted for children 11 and under. She will explain how media plays a key role in children’s development, and how her organization is making a difference.

Television star Neil deGrasse Tyson, one of the world’s most engaging and passionate science advocates, will headline Sunday’s General Session. From PBS to NASA to Presidential Commissions, organizations have depended on Tyson’s down-to-earth approach to astrophysics. He has been a frequent guest on “The Daily Show”, “The Colbert Report”, R”eal Time with Bill Maher”, and “Jeopardy!”. Tyson hopes to reach “all the people who never knew how much they’d love learning about space and science.”

Monday’s General Session features acclaimed researcher and author Diane Ravitch, who has become one of the most passionate voices for public schools. Her most recent book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, makes the case that public education today is in peril and offers a clear prescription for improving public schools.

Learn more about the common core standards, new research on differentiated learning styles, and teaching “unteachable” children at the Focus On lecture series. Learn about new technologies for your classrooms as part of the Technology + Learning programs.

Special discounted rates are available for early registrants who sign up by Jan. 10, 2013. NSBA National Affiliate and Technology Leadership Network Districts save even more.

View the conference brochure for more details. Be sure to check the Annual Conference website for updates and more information.

 

 

More flexibility needed in bill regulating use of restraints on students, NSBA tells Senate

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is asking for more flexibility for local school officials in a bill designed to prevent the improper use of restraints and seclusion to manage students with disabilities.

In testimony submitted in anticipation of a hearing on July 12, NSBA is asking the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions to reconsider portions of the Keeping All Students Safe Act (S. 2020). The bill, which is supported by many special education and disability rights advocates, would ban certain types of restraints and require school districts to report incidents to the U.S. Department of Education.

“Local school boards want to be assured that federal legislation addressing the use of restraints and seclusion provides maximum flexibility and authority to states and local school boards in its implementation,” reads NSBA’s testimony.

NSBA asks that any requirements for teacher and staff training and certification “be structured in a manner that is reasonable, affordable and effective,” and that Congress ensures that data collecting and reporting requirements are minimized, given the limited capacity of school districts and the U.S. Department of Education to collect and analyze such data.

The testimony asks for specific changes to the bill, including:

  • Remove or rewrite the threshold for restraints, based on the definition of serious bodily injury adopted by IDEA in 2004, which is not feasible in emergencies and takes away other opportunities to train staff and prepare for its use;
  • Modify the requirement for a debriefing session within five days, as this is burdensome and costly to schools and would create conditions well beyond the control of the school. NSBA recommends that personnel should be allowed to submit information verbally, in writing and electronically since all parties may not be able to physically participate;
  • Ensure that the bill allows flexibility to address unanticipated threats to students’ safety;
  • Remove a stipulation that prohibits any reference to the use of physical restraints into a student’s education plan; and
  • Allow states that have successfully created policies dealing with restraints and seclusion to be exempt from new federal mandates.

The bill was introduced in December but its chance of passage seems unlikely, given its lack of progress in the House and the lack of time remaining in Congress in an election year.

Joetta Sack-Min|June 27th, 2012|Categories: Crisis Management, Discipline, Educational Legislation, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation, School Climate, School Security, Special Education|Tags: , , , |

Managing board conflict

Trust and conflict are opposite sides of the same coin. That means managing conflict productively is much easier when boards first take steps to build trust, two experts from the New York State School Boards Association said at a Sunday session.

In a presentation called “Building Trust and Overcoming Conflict on Your Board,” NYSSBA Leadership Development Manager Darci D’Ercole-McGinn and Editor-in-Chief Eric Randall led board members through exercises to help them recognize types of conflict and practice tactics for dealing with it.

The stakes extend beyond the obvious goals of leading smooth, productive meetings, Randall said. He summarized research that found a correlation between high levels of trust among school leaders — including teachers, administrators, and board members — and improved achievement among students.

Trust also was one of five key emotions necessary among members of a superior work team, according to a NASA consultant who was hired following the Challenger shuttle disaster.

Randall likened trust for a school board to lubricant for a machine: It helps a group function efficiently and effectively because members feel comfortable that they can rely on each other to act and communicate honestly.

D’Ercole-McGinn said even simple, informal steps, such as social conversations and board seating arrangements that allow members to see each other when they speak, can help lay a foundation for trust.

The two presenters also pointed to more formal habits that invariably contribute to healthy decision-making and help boards avoid getting bogged down or side-tracked by conflicts, petty or otherwise:

# Use respectful and courteous body language. That means refraining from eye-rolling, heavy sighs, or constantly checking text messages.

# Use data, which can include statistics, research, or simple anecdotal examples, to make points. That should encourage other participants in the discussion to do the same.

# Don’t interrupt others when they are speaking. Acknowledge their points and don’t dismiss them. Disagree without being disagreeable.

# Follow parliamentary procedure, a tool for keeping meetings moving in a productive, respectful, and efficient manner, said Randall.

D’Ercole-McGinn urged boards to consider annual retreats, facilitated discussions, and new member orientation programs to help members build trusting relationships and establish good habits for working together. Almost any time a new member joins, she said, there’s a perfect opportunity to do that.

It’s wise to set trust-building as a high and early priority, she said, because “conflict is not an ‘if’ question, it’s a ‘when’ question.”

Cathy Woodruff

Erin Walsh|April 22nd, 2012|Categories: Leadership, NSBA Annual Conference 2012, School Climate|

New online at ASBJ.com: Dealing with adult bullying

A couple of years ago, I wrote an article for the American School Board Journal on bullying. It was a belated follow-up to a decade-old article I wrote in the wake of the 1999 Columbine shootings. The education world changed after Columbine, particularly in the area of student safety and security. I was pleased to find out in my research that school leaders, administrators, and educators were taking bullying and student aggression much more seriously than before the tragedy. 

I interviewed counselor and author Stan Davis for my article, and I’ll never forget what he had to say about bullying prevention.

All schools have an overt culture and a hidden one, he said. “Kids are paying attention to the hidden one. They will see if we welcome new staff, and if we will listen to hate speech.”

If adults are permitted to bully and mistreat each other, or their students, no program, assembly, or curriculum will have much impact.

I had his words in mind when I assigned Senior Editor Naomi Dillon ASBJ’s October cover story, “Adults Behaving Badly,” now online on ASBJ.com. Dillon looks at the phenomenon of work place bullying. Lean budget times, school layoffs, and high-stakes testing pressure have created a toxic environment in some districts. In some cases, the toxicity is fueled by social networking sites. If not addressed, bullying among adults will spread to students. As educators and parents all know, children are watching your actions more than paying attention to your words.

Also as part of our school climate coverage, Senior Editor Lawrence Hardy writes about how some districts are working to reduce racial, ethnic and cultural tensions while creating an environment where children can thrive. “How’s Your Climate?” is also available at www.asbj.com.

Take a look at what we have online this month and please feel free to comment.

Kathleen Vail|October 12th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Bullying, NSBA Publications, School Climate, School Security, Social Networking|Tags: , , , , , , |

October issue of ASBJ now online

While national attention and energy has rightfully focused on the phenomenon of peer-to-peer bullying, what’s been missing from the scrutiny is a hard look at the relationships and interaction among the adults in the school community.

Enter the October issue of American School Board Journal, which is now live and online. In the latest issue, you’ll find a collection of articles that examine the issue of school culture and climate, from a variety of perspectives and perpetrators.

It’s an important and timely read on a complicated issue that has real implications for school reform efforts.

Naomi Dillon|October 5th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, School Climate|Tags: , , , , |

NSBA releases family engagement resource

A new document by the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) School Health Programs, which was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), aims to cultivate the relationship between schools and families, with an eye toward nurturing healthy students and a healthy school environment.

Families as Partners: Fostering Family Engagement for Healthy and Successful Students, provides an overview of this critical component of student and school success and offers guidance, strategies, and resources for developing and implementing effective family engagement policies and practices.

According to the document, family engagement in schools has been shown to reduce risky behaviors and improve academic achievement and attitudes about school among students.

The publication also suggests that building connections around school and children’s health issues not only serves as a less intimidating entry point for families, but can reap multiple benefits.

“Family engagement is important to a positive school climate, as well as, to the development of promising school health policies and practices that benefit all students and prepare them for a healthy and successful future,” said Anne L. Bryant, NSBA’s executive director.

It should be noted that families come in all shapes and sizes, and the use of the word family is an all-inclusive generic term. Regardless of their makeup, according to the document, “families and school staff share the responsibility to counter unhealthy influences and help students lead healthy, productive lives.”

And coordinated school health—an eight-step model that the CDC developed— is a sensible way to address risky behaviors among students. Not surprisingly, one of the key components in the CDC coordinated school health framework is family involvement.

Families as Partners highlights a handful of well-regarded strategies to bolster family involvement, including the model developed by noted Johns Hopkins University sociology professor Joyce L. Epstein.

Among the steps a district should take is a review of their own policies on family involvement. Chances are districts can build on their existing efforts to address family engagement in health, nutrition, and safety.

In tandem with an internal review, is an external strategy to bring families into the fold, whether it’s through community meetings, surveys, standing committees, or other opportunities where two-way dialogue can occur.

Besides the Families as Partners document, more smart tips and best practices, including a fact sheet on health and learning, sample family engagement policies, and sample surveys to engage families, can be found on the new family engagement webpage on NSBA’s website.

 

 

Naomi Dillon|September 28th, 2011|Categories: Nutrition, School Climate, Student Achievement, Wellness|Tags: , |

Magna Award highlights California district’s strategies to improve elementary school

Each year American School Board Journal’s Magna Awards, sponsored by Sodexo School Services, honors school districts that show exemplary examples of innovation and excellence in school governance.

For the past 17 years, the Magna Awards panel of independent judges has reviewed programs that showcase school district leadership, creativity, and commitment to student achievement. Magna nominations are judged according to three enrollment categories (under 5,000 enrollment; 5,000-20,000 enrollment; and over 20,000 enrollment) with one Grand Prize Winner in each category that receives a $4,000 contribution from Sodexo.

This year’s deadline to nominate your district is Oct. 31, and only nominations made online using the online Magna Nomination form will be considered.

Here is an example of one of last year’s Grand Prize Winners, Moreland School District in San Jose, Calif.

In 2006, Moreland School District’s Anderson Elementary School was the lowest performing elementary school in Santa Clara County, Calif. The school’s Academic Performance Index (API) score was nearly 200 points below the California goal of 800, and far below the district’s highest-achieving school’s score of 915. Anderson’s student population was 81 percent Hispanic, 87 percent socioeconomically disadvantaged, and 78 percent English language learners. The school board and Superintendent Glen Ishiwata asked Anderson’s leadership to create a new approach to the schools’ teaching strategies to improve student achievement. Academic excellence for all students was the aim. With support from the board, administrators, and the community, Anderson’s leaders embraced the challenge. They developed an approach that uses current data to make decisions and trains teachers to use a standards-based method for instruction.

Anderson’s administrators use benchmark assessments to collect data to shape classroom instruction. The principal and assistant principal worked collaboratively with teachers to establish a system to analyze classroom data and identify concepts to address. To support this new system, the board approved the request to purchase an electronic assessment management program. Teachers then created curriculum maps to guide their instruction. This initial work with data and standards provided a focus for all future professional development and decisions about instruction, which is at the core of this program. Developing a testing cycle and feedback loop allowed teachers to get instant feedback about their students’ progress before moving on. By using flexible groupings, and small group instruction coupled with targeted intervention, teachers were able to address the deficiencies highlighted in the testing cycles. Using their community contacts, board members reached out to volunteers to support the small-group work. In additional to being a highly effective program for low performing subgroups, it has proven to be effective at raising the academic achievement of students of all levels.

The first goal of the district’s strategic plan is to close the achievement gap while raising the achievement of all students. After the 2006 API scores were released, the board made it clear that an all-hands-on-deck approach was necessary to transform student achievement at Anderson. The first step was to make staffing switches to support the aggressive goal, including hiring a new principal and assistant principal. Next, the board directed resources to support new methods, including additional professional development time and the purchase of targeted instructional programs. The board backed up its directive by frequently putting updates on the board agenda and scheduling site visits to see the new methods and talk with teachers.

By listening to Anderson teachers, board members heard the need for classroom volunteers. Using their role as community leaders, they reached out and found volunteers to support the small-group instruction in the classroom. The program consists of residents, retirees, church members, and district parents. It provides more than 80 volunteers annually who work up to three hours a week.

Learn more about how these programs dramatically boosted student test scores for Anderson.

Also, don’t forget to take a look at our new, searchable Magna Awards Best Practices Database, where you can browse through past Magna winners and other high-scoring programs for innovative best practices, proven and practical solutions, and new ideas.

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|September 6th, 2011|Categories: Diversity, Professional Development, School Board News, School Climate, Teachers, Uncategorized|Tags: , |

Video: NSBA discusses school climate and bullying on Comcast Newsmakers

BoardBuzz recommends you check out Mary Broderick, President of the National School Boards Association (NSBA), recent appearance on Comcast Newsmakers.

Broderick discusses school climate, bullying, and cyberbullying, and promotes NSBA’s Students on Board: A Conversation Between School Board Members and Studentsproject to get school board members across the country to start talking with students about school climate.

Alexis Rice|August 18th, 2011|Categories: Bullying, Center for Public Education, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards, School Climate, Student Achievement, Teachers|Tags: , , , , , , , |

New NSBA guide helps school officials discuss bullying, climate issues

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) has launched board-student conversations to help school board members better address bullying and harassment issues in their schools and facilitate conversations with students.

Dubbed Students on Board: A Conversation Between School Board Members and Students, the project focuses on practical, straightforward guidance to help engage students. A brochure created by the Center for Public Education outlines ways to set up a meeting with students, school board members, and other school staff and what questions to ask to encourage a conversation about school climate.

In addition, a new website, www.nsba.org/studentsonboard, compiles existing resources from NSBA and other groups.

“To address school climate, local school boards must listen to students and create an environment to analyze root causes and generate solutions that work for their community,” said Mary Broderick, President of NSBA and a member of Connecticut’s East Lyme Board of Education.

Research has continuously shown that schools where students are safe, academically engaged, and supported by the adults in the building are more likely to have fewer dropouts and higher student performance. One-third of students aged 12 to 18 report being bullied at school with the most common form of bullying being verbal, either through insults, ridicule, or being the subject of rumors.

Unfortunately, a survey by NSBA’s Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) found that most teachers and administrators believe students are being bullied at least once a month in schools and classrooms. Bullying appears to be the most prevalent in middle schools, based on CUBE’s surveys and data from the National Center for Education Statistics. However, about three-quarters of teachers and administrators say they are able to discourage bullying.

“Students on Board helps school board members incorporate practices that ensure they hear directly from the young people their schools serve,” said Mark Nieker, President and CEO of the Pearson Foundation, which funded the project. “Research-based surveys can provide an immediate, detailed snapshot of their own school climate. With this baseline, schools can take concrete steps to improve their students’ experience—and they can provide similarly focused and informed support for their classroom teachers.”

Joetta Sack-Min|August 10th, 2011|Categories: Bullying, Center for Public Education, NSBA Publications, School Climate|Tags: , |
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