Articles in the School Reform category

National Coalition for Public Education offers sample Tweets on vouchers

The National Coalition for Public Education (NCPE) recently offered the following guide to using Twitter during National School Choice Week, Jan. 26-Feb. 1, 2014.  NSBA is a member of NCPE, which is made up of more than 50 education, civil rights, civic, and religious organizations that work together to fight vouchers and promote strong public schools.

Thank you for engaging in NCPE’S twitter campaign during National School Choice Week. This information should be of use to anyone in your organization who has a twitter account and is interested in helping NCPE successfully counter the pro-voucher messaging that will be a major part of National School Choice Week’s campaign.

Tip #1: School Choice Week will be using the hashtag #SCW. While it’s unnecessary to use this hashtag for every tweet, consider emphasizing and borrowing the #SCW hashtag some of your tweets. This will allow NCPE to disrupt the narrative the Choice Week organizers are putting out and will make our social media campaign a success.

Tip #2: Try not to overload your tweets with hashtags. If you’ve used #voucher, you don’t really need to add #voucherfail at the end.  The more concise the tweet, the higher the likelihood others will re-tweet you.

Sample Tweets

DC schools couldn’t account for more than 1 in 5 students given taxpayer-funded vouchers. #voucherfail  http://bit.ly/1bWbx5V

#Vouchers have helped spread the teaching of junk creationist “science.” http://on.msnbc.com/1eHJ8E7

DC’s voucher schools vary drastically because the system lacks basic quality controls. #voucherfail  http://wapo.st/1cBCCid

Taxpayer-funded tuition tax credits in Georgia fund schools with anti-gay policies and curriculum.  http://nyti.ms/1dwHHpH #schoolchoicefail

Test scores shows that students in Milwaukee public schools outperformed students in #voucher schools http://bit.ly/1ghHKJt

Voters don’t like vouchers: over 30 years, voucher ballot measures have been defeated every time they appeared on a ballot #voucherfail

#Voucher schools often discriminate against students with special needs http://bit.ly/1eHLKla

Religious freedom provisions in many state constitutions bar vouchers for religious schools http://bit.ly/1bSdf8q  #voucherfail

Florida voters rejected a constitutional amendment to funnel public funds directly to religious schools in 2012 http://bit.ly/1aIejvV #voucherfail

Public funds should pay only for public schools that are open to all children and accountable to the taxpayers. #voucherfail

Your taxpayer dollars shouldn’t fund #vouchers for schools that teach creationist “science” or debunked “Christian nation” history.

#Vouchers are ineffective, lack accountability to taxpayers, and deprive students of rights provided to public school students #voucherfail

Public funds for public schools! Tax dollars should fund education for everyone, not a select few. #voucherfail

Our public schools deserve support. They’re safe, neutral zones where students can learn free of discrimination #voucherfail

#Voucher schools use your tax dollars. So what do they teach? http://on.msnbc.com/1eHJ8E7

Sectarian #voucher schools can discriminate against students based on special needs, sexual orientation, and gender.

#Voucher schools don’t solve social inequality. They contribute to it: http://bit.ly/1er5YPU

In North Carolina, #vouchers give taxpayer money to homeschool families, too. http://bit.ly/1hwhHC0

Private school #vouchers don’t actually guarantee students a safe, quality education.

#VoucherFail Tumblr

Also, we welcome you to link to our #voucherfail tumbr at http://voucherfail.tumblr.com/.  We already have relevant articles posted there.  And, we have some funny memes from last year that you might want to direct people to again this year.  Keep checking it too, as we will continue to update it during school choice week.

Joetta Sack-Min|January 22nd, 2014|Categories: Charter Schools, Federal Advocacy, Governance, Legislative advocacy, School Reform, School Vouchers, Social Networking|Tags: , , |

Expanding School Choice: An Education Revolution or Diversion?

Patte Barth,  director of the Center for Public Education at the National School Boards Association, penned  the following column for the Huffington Post:

House majority leader Eric Cantor (R-Va) was speaking recently at the release of the Brookings Institution’s latest report on Education Choice and Competition. Calling these policies “an education revolution,” the House leader baldly stated, “school choice is the surest way to break [the] vicious cycle of poverty.”

Not “a solid education.”  School choice.

The Brookings’ report ranks 100 large districts on their school choice policies. Their report came out in advance of National School Choice Week whose organizers boast 5,500 scheduled events across the country beginning January 26, 2014. Both share a goal to drum up more support for funneling tax dollars into educational options — whether they be charters, magnets, private, or virtual schools.  The rationale is that a free marketplace will force schools to innovate in order to compete for students. Popular schools will equate with “good schools” and unpopular ones will close. And thus, in Brookings words, we will raise “the quality of the product.”

Unfortunately, that’s one mighty big assumption.

Most choice advocates defend their position by pointing to successful charter schools in New York City and elsewhere. Others extol the promise of virtual learning. What they all provide, for the most part, is anecdote, intuition and belief. When they do cite data, it basically shows that choice policies work in some places with some students some of the time.  Truth is, the evidence is much spottier than the champions for choice would have us believe.

Charter schools, for example, are the most studied “choice” reform.  Charter schools are public schools that have certain requirements waived so they can try out new ideas.  There is much to commend successful charters and what they are learning about effective practices. But according to a 2013 study from Stanford researchers, these are the exception. Only one in four charter schools outperforms its traditional public school counterpart in reading. About one in five performs significantly worse. In math, it’s nearly one in three.

The quality of research on voucher programs is notoriously uneven and often contradictory. Nonetheless, there seems to be general agreement that vouchers may have had a modest impact on some low-income and minority youth in some urban districts. But the findings are inconclusive as to their effect overall.  And the general efficacy of virtual schools is a big unknown, largely because districts lack the infrastructure to sufficiently track student performance in online environments.

Ironically, the Brookings report card itself illustrates the disconnect between choice policies on one hand and student performance on the other.  One does not necessarily follow the other.

Only three districts earned A’s on Brookings choice and competition rankings:  Louisiana’s Recovery District, Orleans Parish and New York City. Along with its Brookings “A,” Orleans Parish earned an “A” on Louisiana’s report card for district performance.  Yet the state gave the Recovery District an F. New York City’s A- from Brookings bears little relation to its math scores on NAEP, a national assessment. The city’s scores were at the average for large cities, and below average in terms of gains over the last decade.

Then there’s the low end of the rankings. Atlanta was given an “F” by Brookings. Yet the city boasts fourth-graders who perform above the national “large city” average in reading and posted more than twice the gains their peers made nationwide.  Charlotte, North Carolina, and Austin, Texas, are among the highest performing urban districts in both math and reading. Brookings gave them a C and D respectively.

see full data tables

 

So what does this tell us? That high-achieving, high-gaining districts can have “choice and competition” or not. Either way, it shows it’s a mistake to claim, as Rep. Cantor does, that choice is “the surest way to break the cycle of poverty.”

Contrary to popular perception, public schools have been steadily improving over the last twenty years. Math performance and graduation rates, in particular, are at all-time highs. Neither are public schools the monolithic creature some of the choice advocates make them out to be. Many districts across the country already offer alternatives in the form of charter and magnet schools, and continue to diversify instructional programs in traditional neighborhood schools, too. But parents and students need assurance that the choices they are offered are good ones, something choice for choice’s sake has not done, as the research shows.

In addition, it’s one thing to offer alternatives. It’s quite another to encourage public schools to compete with each other for students which could send the wrong messages. We need only look to our colleges and universities who, in their race to attract students, build football teams and state-of-the-art facilities at the expense of investments in teaching.  I really doubt that’s the kind of marketplace we want to create for public schools.

Far from an education revolution, the political attention given choice and competition is diverting us from the hard work of making sure public schools prepare every child for their next steps after graduation.  This means continuing to invest in those things that an abundance of evidence shows consistently work  – access to high-quality pre-kindergarten, effective teachers, rigorous curriculum and individualized instruction for students. It also means learning from successful schools — including schools of choice — about what works with different students in which situations, and bringing those practices to scale.  When we get that right, districts will earn the grades that really matter.

Joetta Sack-Min|January 22nd, 2014|Categories: Center for Public Education, Educational Legislation, Educational Research, Federal Advocacy, Governance, Legislative advocacy, Religion, School Law, School Reform, School Vouchers, Student Achievement|Tags: , , , , , , |

NSBA promotes new vision statement for future of public schools

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) has unveiled a new vision statement, “elevator speech,” and guiding principles, important aspects of a unified framework that helps education leaders become better advocates and boosts NSBA’s presence as a leading advocate for public education and school board governance.

A School Board Vision for Public Education

NSBA unveils ” A School Board Vision for Public Education”

The documents were written by NSBA’s Board of Directors to help NSBA members as well as members of the general public advocate effectively for public education.

The Board-approved unified framework aims to build NSBA’s ‘army of advocates’ and influence key federal legislative issues, NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel said in a video showcasing the new documents.

“School boards are different than any other player in the education community,” Gentzel said. “We are not a special interest, our local school board members are elected officials and they have a responsibility to stand up in the community and say ‘here’s what we think needs to happen.’”

Advocates can use the statement and principles in their messages to Congress and the public, as well as to aggressively pursue NSBA’s federal agenda, deal with an emerging environment in Congress, address critical priorities in education and school governance, and promote key strengths of NSBA.

A comprehensive statement entitled “A School Board Vision for Public Education,” lays out the vision and results that public schools should achieve. Those include accountability for the success of each child, closing the achievement gap, continuously meeting high expectations for student achievement and community satisfaction, and providing a safe learning environment that focuses on individualized instruction and protecting the civil rights of each child.

To do this, public schools need capacity to provide effective teachers, technology, and other resources; the necessary funding, research, and technical assistance to meet the educational demands of a dynamic world; active participation by parents and the community; locally elected school boards who work with the community and educators; and state and federal lawmakers who are committed to public education and the goals of their local schools.

A concise “elevator speech” highlights key tenets of the larger NSBA vision statement. NSBA also is printing pocket-size laminate cards for distribution at upcoming meetings and events.

The final part of the unified framework, “Guiding Principles for Implementation,” frames the development of specific resolutions in three key areas: Public Education, Local School Board Governance, and Equity and Excellence in Education.

Watch the video:

Joetta Sack-Min|November 7th, 2013|Categories: Announcements, Board governance, Leadership, Legislative advocacy, School Boards, School Reform|Tags: , , , |

Gentzel: School boards needed for strong American democracy

A strong public education system–governed by locally elected or appointed school boards–is necessary to continue our nation’s prosperity and our democratic society, National School Boards Association Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel told attendees at a symposium titled “Improving Schools through Board Governance.”

NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel speaks at the University of Georgia on October 22.

NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel speaks at the University of Georgia on October 22.

Gentzel was keynote speaker at the Oct. 22 event, which was sponsored by the University of Georgia and designed to bring together school board members, superintendents, community members and other educators to discuss school governance issues.

The nation’s 90,000 school board members are committed to student achievement and helping guide the next generation to fulfilling and productive lives, Gentzel said.

He also discussed NSBA’s framework, “The Key Work of School Boards,” which guides school boards toward better leadership skills and ways to improve student achievement through governance.

Gentzel also lauded the “Vision for Public Education Project,” which was created by the Georgia School Boards Association (GSBA) and the Georgia Superintendents Association. The project built a framework based on seven core principles for improving the educational experience for public school students. GSBA also has written standards for the state’s school boards, which have been adapted with some revisions by the state board of education.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|October 25th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Key Work of School Boards, Leadership, School Reform, State School Boards Associations, Uncategorized|Tags: , , , |

NSBA leaders bring local school boards message to NBC’s Education Nation

National School Boards Association (NSBA) leaders participated in NBC’s Education Nation Summit this week, bringing NSBA’s message that local governance matters to a wide audience that included governors, foundations, business leaders, researchers and practitioners.

This year’s summit incorporated a student-centered “What it Takes” theme, with panel discussions on how to ensure all students are prepared for success in K-12, higher education, and careers. NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel and President David A. Pickler were among the more than 300 attendees invited to the event.

“Innovation was a persistent theme at Education Nation,” said Gentzel. “Some of the best presenters were young people who, in demonstrating their creativity, also served as great testimonials for the public education system that provided the training and opportunities for them to explore and develop exciting new ideas.”

Gentzel added that another significant theme that public schools are accomplishing great things but the expectations and needs are growing. However, he added, there needs to be more emphasis on the local leadership to make these achievements possible.

During an Oct. 8 panel featuring governors, Gov. Steve Beshear of Kentucky answered a question posed by Pickler, noting the role of local school boards in school improvement. Beshear also stated that charter schools should be authorized by local school boards, which can determine if those schools are needed.

Pickler also lauded the event’s emphasis on early learning and pre-K. In particular, he praised Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s response to a question from NBC’s Matt Lauer on what would be the single most important game changer to address America’s educational challenges. Duncan stated that the ultimate change should be on delivering a world class early childhood education, Pickler noted.

The three day Education Nation event took place October 6-8 at the New York City public library.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|October 9th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Conferences and Events, Governance, School Board News, School Boards, School Reform|Tags: , , , , |

Missouri businessman, MSBA announce $1 million incentive for Baldrige school district award

A Missouri couple will donate $1 million to the first public school district in their state that can win a Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, which recognizes organizations for achieving performance excellence. The award will be announced at the Missouri School Boards’ Association (MSBA) conference this weekend.

Larry Potterfield said he and his wife, Brenda Potterfield, are making the donation because they want to help improve public education in Missouri. “This is for the children,” he said. “We want to impact the educational system, to make the school districts more accountable, to better prepare and educate the next generation so that our nation can continue to compete in the global marketplace.”

The gift challenge will reinforce current efforts for measurable educational improvements among Missouri’s 520 school districts as they strive to achieve “role model status,” as defined by the Baldrige Education Criteria for Performance Excellence. Each year, the President of the United States honors American organizations in business, health care, education, non-profit, and government that win a Baldrige Award, the nation’s only award for performance excellence.

Anne L. Bryant, who sits on the board of the Baldrige Foundation and is a former executive director of the National School Boards Association, said that Larry and Brenda Potterfield’s million dollar challenge has called upon the entire state of Missouri to “show the way” by encouraging every school district across the state to consider taking up the Baldrige quality and excellence program.

“Like all Baldrige Award winners, a school district that goes through the process is demonstrating to its students, faculty, staff, parents and entire community that it wants to be the best,” Bryant said. “I watched my neighboring district, The Montgomery County Public Schools (MD) go through the process and reach the national award with such pride and excitement. It reinforced to the community and the entire state that this public school district could be an example for all.”

Moreover, Bryant said that the Baldrige community is “thrilled by the Potterfield’s generosity but, even more importantly, by their foresight to focus on education…which indeed is the cornerstone of a state’s economy and future.

The $1 million gift will be stewarded by the Foundation for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award until it is awarded.

“The million dollar unrestricted gift will be an obvious benefit to the school district that demonstrates outstanding performance,” said Potterfield, who is CEO of Midway USA, a company that sells hunting and gun supplies. “The school district will receive tremendous recognition for winning the Baldrige Award. Most importantly, the winner will have to demonstrate an improvement in educational outcomes because the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence are results-driven.”

The Potterfields’ official announcement will be made at the 2013 MSBA Annual Conference on Oct. 5, 2013. The conference is held in cooperation with the Missouri Association of School Administrators (MASA).

“We’re delighted Larry and Brenda Potterfield chose the MSBA Annual Conference to announce their gift,” said Dr. Carter Ward, the MSBA executive director. “MSBA strongly supports school districts interested in utilizing the Baldrige Criteria to create a culture of continuous improvement ultimately aimed at providing the finest possible education for the students in our public schools.”

Dr. P. George Benson, chair of the Board of Directors of the Baldrige Foundation, called it “gratifying” for the Potterfields to link their donation to the Baldrige National Award for Performance Excellence.

“It demonstrates the faith and confidence that Larry and Brenda Potterfield have in the Baldrige Program,” Dr. Benson said. “For 25 years, we helped organizations in the public and private sectors reach their peak level of effectiveness, and honored the very best with a Baldrige Award. With their generous donation, the Potterfields are challenging Missouri school districts to provide a better education to their students.”

School districts must reach the highest level in the Missouri Quality Award, the state Baldrige-based program, to apply to the National Baldrige Performance Excellence Award Program. School districts will need to demonstrate performance results that are national benchmarks and better than their peer groups at comparably-sized school districts across the country. In so doing, they will be improving their budget and operations, as well as the education they provide in the classrooms.

“Schools and districts interested in pursuing a Baldrige award can access resources through the recently launched Missouri Network for Educational Improvement (MNEI),” says Daniel L. Clay, dean of the University of the Missouri College of Education. “The network will help schools and districts strategically coordinate continuous improvement efforts.”  The MNEI is led by the Hook Center at the University of Missouri College of Education, in partnership with MSBA, MASA and districts around the state.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|October 4th, 2013|Categories: Announcements, Board governance, Educational Research, School Board News, School Boards, School Climate, School District Reorganization, School Reform, State School Boards Associations|Tags: , , , , |

NSBA: Allegations of misused funds by charter school operators show need for school board oversight

According to The Washington Post, D.C. authorities filed a lawsuit Tuesday in D.C. Superior Court in which former senior managers and the board chairwoman of D.C.-based Options Public Charter School (OPCS) are accused of diverting millions of taxpayer dollars intended to fund student programs.

The lawsuit claims that improper payments of more than $3 million were made since 2012. The filing alleges a “pattern of self-dealing” in which large payments were made to for-profit companies that OPCS managers founded while running the charter school. The OPCS enrolls about 400 at-risk students in middle and high school, many of whom have disabilities, for which the charter school receives thousands of dollars in extra taxpayer-based payments because they have special needs. The OPCS board chairwoman is D.C.-based WUSA9 news personality J.C. Hayward.

“The alleged charges surrounding this local issue should spark national attention and concern,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director of the National School Boards Association. “While charter schools authorized by local boards of education assure the public of transparency and accountability, those solely in the for-profit sector without the oversight of a public school board offer a degree of risk that does not effectively serve the public interest. Strong local governance protects students’ interests. If these allegations are proven true, it is yet another case in point that local school boards are what best serve the public good.”

According to the D.C. Public Charter School Board (PCSB), Options Public Charter School opened in 1996 as one of D.C.’s first five charter schools. While the initial charter was issued by the D.C. Board of Education, oversight for the past six years (including the period during which the abuses are alleged to have occurred) has been the responsibility of PCSB, an appointed board with no direct accountability to the public.

NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón, Jr. noted that any misuse of public funds would ultimately hurt students and the public schools that serve D.C. families.

“The diversion of tax dollars from traditional public schools into charter schools lacking the oversight of a public school board serves neither students nor taxpayers,” said Negrón. “Diverting scarce monies into such programs limits the ability of traditional public schools to carry out their mission to educate all children.”

Joetta Sack-Min|October 2nd, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Charter Schools, Educational Finance, Governance, Public Advocacy, School Boards, School Reform|Tags: , , , , , |

More classrooms see return to “ability grouping,” NYSSBA reports

The following story was originally published by the New York State School Boards Association in On Board Online.

Ability grouping – a controversial approach in which teachers sort students into small groups based on their level of comfort with curriculum material – is back in classrooms.

Ability grouping became unfashionable in the late 1980s and 1990s, when critics said it was an unnecessary technique that sends negative messages to some students and highlights racial disparities.

“It was PC to criticize ability grouping,” Tom Loveless, a prominent education analyst with the Brookings Institution in Washington told On Board. But now ability grouping has resurfaced as way to differentiate instruction.

Seventy-one percent of fourth-grade teachers used ability grouping for reading in 2009, compared to 28 percent in 1998, according to a survey by the National Assessment of Educational Progress. For fourth grade math, 61 percent used ability grouping in 2011, compared to 40 percent in 1996.

Ability grouping is not the same as “tracking,” which Loveless said has been persistently popular in the crucial subject of eighth-grade mathematics. While ability grouping refers to the practice that teachers use to separate students within a classroom into smaller groups, depending on their proficiency with a subject, tracking is usually district-driven and focuses on making choices and placing middle and high school students into programs in which they study different curriculums.

In a recent paper published by Brooking’s Brown Center Report on American Education, Loveless suggested that the return of ability grouping was linked to the accountability requirements of No Child Left Behind, as well as the increased use of technology in the classroom, which enables teachers to personalize instruction more readily.

The debate about ability grouping – when, whether, and how to use it – involves disagreement about the best way to deal with one of public education’s perennial problems – the “achievement gap.” Middle- and upper-income students, who are usually white or Asian, consistently outscore low-income, usually African-American or Hispanic students, on standardized tests.

In New York, only 16.1 percent of African-American students in grades 3-8 met or exceeded the ELA proficiency standard in 2013, compared to 39.9 percent for white students. Racial and economic gaps widen as students get older; 94 percent of students from low-need districts graduate from high school, compared to 65 percent of students from high-need districts.

Educators say they are taking a second look at ability grouping as they strive to make all students college- and career-ready. “We are seeing more of a trend to go back to specifically working with students in ability groups,” said Ken Eastwood, superintendent of the Middletown school district, who added that he is uncomfortable with the term “ability” and would rather say “proficiency groups.” Starting this fall, Middletown will offer a two-year kindergarten class “for kids who are not cognitively ready for kindergarten,” which represents about a quarter to a third of the class.

Ability grouping isn’t limited to less proficient students, Eastwood added. “There’s a push around rigor, where kids can accelerate,” he said. “Your best readers and writers have to be challenged. I like the concept of personalized learning, when we push kids individually.”

This fall Middletown is also adding two mastery classes in third grade. “We’re taking the highest learners and building a curriculum around their capabilities,” said Susan Short, principal of Presidential Park elementary school. “The sky is the limit. There will be a lot of project-based learning, with the teacher as facilitator.”

For many teachers, ability grouping reflects classroom realities. “When there’s a heterogeneous classroom, you’re still grouping students based on their ability level,” said Nicholas Sgroi, who taught fifth grade at Carter Elementary School in Middletown. “As lessons start going on, you see what they know, and see where they need support or push them further. It goes on all year long. The groups are pretty fluid.” Even students who stay in the lower group are “still growing at their own pace.”

In a lesson on fractions, for example, Sgroi has students who need more practice with the material adding like denominators. To challenge others, he’d offer a problem of adding fractions with different denominators or ask them to develop word problems on their own. “They’re not just doing work sheets,” said Sgroi.

But what happens when the kids in different groups are predominantly of different races? That’s something many districts with diverse populations want to avoid.

“We’re wrestling with big issues of equity,” said Laurence T. Spring, Schenectady superintendent. “Race, economics and disability cannot be predictors of students’ achievement. We need to think of lots of other things to do in the classroom. Most educational services should have a heterogeneous environment, especially in elementary school.”

He pointed to the district’s inclusive admissions process for the high school’s IB (International Baccalaureate) program as reflecting the goals of the district. As Spring said, “We want more kids in IB, to take the challenge.”

While ability grouping raises few eyebrows in the early grades, some worry that it might lead to tracking later on. These critics say that creating different groups for younger students to learn a given curriculum can create a culture that leads to older students being assigned to entirely different curriculums.

As Cathleen Chamberlain, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction in Oswego, said, “Some of the problems with tracking is that we can actually be determining a student’s future when we are making tracking decisions. Some tracks point to a future in college while others send students directly to a career path and we may be inadvertently closing doors that are options for students. Again, we have to be mindful that we are not typecasting students.”

“I’m horrified that tracking is coming back,” said Carol Burris, a principal at South Side High School in Rockville Centre, Long Island, who was named principal of the year by the School Administrators Association of New York State. Her district has “accelerated all kids in math, including special needs kids, completely de-tracked ninth and 10th grade, and offered IB English to everybody in 11th grade,” she said.

With 15-16 percent of the district’s students eligible for free or reduced lunch, and a minority population of 21 percent, the district has 100 percent of graduating students receiving a Regents diploma and 80 percent having a Regents degree with advanced designation.

“We level the field,” said Burris, who has a book coming out on de-tracking in math. “We closed the achievement gap in terms of earning a Regents diploma. “We’re in the process of leveling up, to give the best curriculum we can. The tone of the building improves when you’re not isolating lower performing students.”

“For me, the problem really lies in not stepping back and saying ‘what is ability?’” said Amy Stuart Wells, professor of sociology and education at Teachers College, Columbia University. “With accountability and high stakes testing, the definition of ability has gotten more and more narrow. The return to ability grouping is so hierarchical because it’s competitive about very narrow measures. The perception of kids factors into the tracking process. We need to question what’s happening.”

For all the focus on data driven results, it’s unclear that ability grouping ultimately achieves its stated goals. “We don’t have good evidence that it helps or hurts kids, except for the highly advanced, high achiever, by giving them different curriculum,” said Loveless.

Despite questions about the value of ability grouping, Loveless expects to see more of it in elementary and middle schools as districts strive to improve results.

“It’s not going to go away,” he said. “It comes back under a different name.”

Joetta Sack-Min|September 13th, 2013|Categories: Curriculum, Data Driven Decision Making, Educational Research, Policy Formation, School District Reorganization, School Reform, State School Boards Associations, Student Achievement, Student Engagement, Teachers|Tags: , , , , |

NSBA President: Effective school boards will improve students’ success

David A. Pickler, the 2013-14 president of the National School Boards Association (NSBA) and a member of Tennessee’s Shelby County School Board, wrote this column for the October 2013 issue of American School Board Journal.

How can school boards become more effective?

Through our work at NSBA and the state associations, we’ve seen many good examples of school boards that function well and show results through student achievement. We’ve learned through NSBA’s Center for Public Education (CPE) that school boards in districts with high student achievement are different than school boards in low-achieving districts.

So this would seem to be a fairly straightforward matter of identifying what makes school boards work effectively. But teasing out the tangible areas where school boards can make a difference is still an emerging area of research, and the question is more complex than it initially appears.

I recently spoke at a media event in Seattle, hosted by the Alliance for Education. This nonprofit group is working with the Seattle school board to improve academic achievement and guide student success in the district — and to sustain those actions over time. We talked about CPE’s recent report, “Eight Characteristics of Effective School Boards,” as well as other research by the Iowa School Boards Foundation and NSBA’s Key Work of School Boards. Researcher Thomas L. Alsbury, a professor at Seattle Pacific University, also discussed the important role that a school board holds as “one of the few remaining vestiges of accessible democracy.”

So what do we know about effective school boards — those that are making progress in student achievement across all sectors of their student population? CPE’s research shows that some of those characteristics include:

  • An ability to set goals reflecting high expectations for students and monitoring progress toward goals, an understanding of student data and how it can be used
  • A relentless focus on student achievement and spending less time on operational issues
  • A comprehensive understanding of the needs of the school district, and strong relationships with the superintendent, other administrators, teachers, and other key stakeholders, and
  • Perhaps most importantly, everyone in the district is committed to success.

More information about the eight characteristics can be found at CPE’s website.

Student success should be the core mission for any school board. We cannot focus on a single issue but must be committed to a comprehensive plan that will support all our students and their needs, Alsbury noted. Board conflict and turnover ultimately will harm student achievement. We must not get mired in micromanagement and organizational details.

As school board leaders, we must lead, and we must model these characteristics for the district staff, students, and the community. We must ensure that every child is prepared for the 21st century and beyond. We know that we are living in exponential times of change—in just the last few years technology has changed our work and our lives in ways we never imagined. The generation of students that we are now educating will be taking on jobs that don’t yet exist.

This work becomes even more important in light of the new landscape of education policy, where we as school boards are being forced to justify our existence more frequently.

Not every school board has an organized group like the Alliance for Education to monitor our work, so we must take it upon ourselves to learn from this research, taking a hard look at our inner workings and continuously striving for improvement. We also could look for community and business partnerships with like-minded groups such as the Alliance. If we use our ability to lay a foundation and set the culture for the school district, our students will benefit for years to come.

Our students need—and deserve—the best we can give.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|September 11th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Center for Public Education, Educational Research, Governance, Key Work of School Boards, Leadership, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Reform|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: , , |
Page 2 of 1312345...10...Last »