Articles in the Student Achievement category

Sen. Inhofe receives NSBA’s Congressional Special Recognition Award

Sen. Inhofe

NSBA’s President Anne M. Byrne along with members of the Executive Committee of NSBA’s Board of Directors presented the award at a special event in Sen. Inhofe’s Capitol Hill office

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) honored U.S. Senator James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) today with the Congressional Special Recognition Award. Inhofe received the NSBA’s top Congressional award for his leadership to advance public education.

“We are proud to honor Sen. Inhofe with NSBA’s Congressional Special Recognition Award for his ongoing efforts to advance public education and his commitment to local school board leadership,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “In recent years local school board members and educators have become increasingly concerned that the local governance of our nation’s school districts is being unnecessarily eroded through over reaching federal policies and requirements established by the U.S. Department of Education. We thank Sen. Inhofe for his leadership on public education as we must ensure that public education decisions made at the federal level must support the needs and goals of local school districts and the communities they serve.”

NSBA’s President Anne M. Byrne along with members of the Executive Committee of NSBA’s Board of Directors presented the award at a special event in Inhofe’s Capitol Hill office.

Alexis Rice|June 5th, 2014|Categories: NSBA Recognition Programs, School Boards, Student Achievement|Tags: , , , |

Common Core implementation concerns raised

AASA, the School Superintendents Association, has newly released a survey of superintendents on the adoption and implementation of Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The survey, “Common Core and Other State Standards: Superintendents Feel Optimism, Concern and Lack of Support,” found that although superintendents were overwhelming optimistic about the new standards, a majority also expressed concern about a lack of implementation support at the local level.

Forty-six states and the District of Columbia have adopted CCSS, which establish grade-level expectations in math and English language arts for K-12 students. The standards go into effect next school year, with the first state-wide student assessments expected in the spring of 2015.

Of note in the AASA survey is that many superintendents expressed concern that their districts will not be prepared for implementation of the standards, especially the year-end assessments.

Other key findings in the AASA Common Core survey of superintendents include:

• Superintendents overwhelmingly (92.5 percent) see the new standards as more rigorous than previous standards.

• More than three quarters (78.3 percent) agree that the education community supports the standards, but that support drops to 51.4 percent among the general public.

• More than half (60.3 percent) of the respondents who had begun testing say they are facing problems with the tests.

• Just under half (41.9 percent) say schools in their states are not ready to implement the online assessment, while 35.9 percent say they lack the infrastructure to support online assessments.

Part of the problem has been finding and approving new curriculum and teaching materials aligned with CCSS. NPR recently reported on the “void” between the new rigorous standards and the curriculum materials available to help educators develop enriched lesson plans. Fears that teachers may “hit a wall” when asked to teach tougher standards without changes to materials have contributed to concerns about next year’s assessments.

The National School Board Association (NSBA) supports high academic standards, including CCSS when they are voluntarily adopted by states with school board input and when the standards are free from federal directions, mandates, funding conditions or coercion. NSBA has previously raised concerns about CCSS implementation.

“High academic standards are important for improving student achievement,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “For Common Core State Standards and other state standards to succeed, states and school districts must have the financial resources, infrastructure, and the necessary professional development for school personnel before implementation.”

For more information about CCSS, read NSBA’s Center for Public Education’sUnderstanding the Common Core.”

Alexis Rice|June 4th, 2014|Categories: Center for Public Education, Common Core State Standards, Student Achievement|Tags: , , , |

In Huffington Post column, Gentzel calls for vigilance in Brown decision

To mark the 60th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, National School Boards Association Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel reflected on the impact of the decision and the challenges that public schools still face. The following commentary was published by the Huffington Post:

 

In the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a timeless and transformative message: All students deserve a great public education; separate systems are not equal.

In marking the 60th anniversary of this landmark Supreme Court ruling, it is important to reflect upon the ongoing effect of Brown v. Board of Education on the work of America’s school boards and our nation’s public schools. Enshrining this decision as a historic relic does not serve the nine out of 10 school-age children who attend our nation’s public schools. To protect students’ rights, freedoms and ready access to a high-quality education, we must actively heed the central tenets of the Brown v. Board of Education decision.

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is particularly concerned about the unintended consequences of privatization through vouchers, charter schools not governed by local school boards, and other means that research indicates are leading to the re-segregation of public schools, mainly in high-poverty urban areas.

In its most recent issue, NSBA’s flagship magazine, American School Board Journal, reports that the number of schools with a minority enrollment above 90 percent has climbed precipitously. Similarly, the Civil Rights Project at the University of California-Los Angeles also has reported that African-American and Hispanic students are increasingly segregated at the schools they attend.

Ironically, this comes at a time when America’s public schools are becoming much more diverse. The percentage of students who are white dropped from 61 percent in 2000 to 52 percent in 2010, and today stands at about 50 percent. Schools in the south and west now have a majority of minority students, according to the National Center on Education Statistics. And with more than half of babies born today falling into a minority classification, demographics will continue to diversify. At the same time, poverty and other risk factors also have increased.

Our lawmakers must continue to look at the entire public education system to ensure that we invest in our public schools and give them the support that is needed, rather than diverting scarce taxpayer dollars to voucher schemes and charter schools that lack local school district oversight. Today more than ever, it is essential that we continue to focus on ensuring that every child has access to an excellent and equitable education.

Data show public schools are educating today’s diverse student population to higher levels than ever before. We should be proud that our high school graduation rate is at an all-time high — about 80 percent of students graduate on time, and when late graduates are included, the graduation rate rises to more than 85 percent. The graduation rate of Hispanics, the fastest growing group of students in our nation’s schools, jumped from 61 percent to 76 percent between 2006 and 2012. And African-American students made significant gains during this period, improving their graduation rate from 59 percent to 68 percent.

Brown v. Board of Education honors a truth core to our nation’s democracy: to provide a strong education to each and every child who enters our nation’s public school system. We must stay focused on investing equitably in our public schools and students, ensuring that they have the resources and support they need, and we must not be diverted by programs that have the effect of re-segregating America’s public education system. We must honor Brown v. Board of Education‘s intention for every child to achieve, and we must insist that every child in America has access to a great public school where they live. No exceptions; no excuses.

Joetta Sack-Min|May 19th, 2014|Categories: American School Board Journal, Board governance, Charter Schools, Diversity, Privatization, School Law, Student Achievement, Urban Schools|Tags: , , , , , |

NSBA participates in the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards

Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director of the National School Boards Association (NSBA), represented NSBA at gala dinner reception in Washington, D.C., honoring student recipients of the 19th Annual Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.

The May 4 dinner at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History was the culmination of a four-day event that brought 102 state honorees — one middle level student and one high school student from each state and the District of Columbia — to the nation’s capital to be recognized for their outstanding volunteer service to their communities. Selected from a field of more than 30,000 student volunteers, the state honorees were personally congratulated by actor Forest Whitaker, and each given a $1,000 award.

Ten students from the group were named national honorees for community service initiatives that ranged from feeding the hungry to helping victims of the Boston Marathon Bombings. Each received $5,000 personal rewards and $5,000 grants from The Prudential Foundation for charities of their choice.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards are sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals. NSBA is proud to endorse these awards.

 

Lawrence Hardy|May 7th, 2014|Categories: High Schools, Middle Schools, Student Achievement, Student Engagement|Tags: , , |

National Survey of Science and Mathematics Education shows disparities in K-12 education

Science classes with mostly high-achieving students are much more likely to use advanced technologies such as microscopes and graphic calculators than those with mostly low-achieving students, according to the 2012 National Survey of Science and Mathematics Education.

The survey is the fifth major report in a series of studies that began in 1977 and are funded by the National Science Foundation. The research documents long-standing problems, such as inequities in instructional technology and teacher preparedness, as well as positive indicators, such as findings that mathematics is taught every day in elementary schools and that more than three-quarters of elementary mathematics teachers describe themselves as “very well prepared” to teach mathematics.

On the downside, only about one-fifth of elementary school classes teach science every day, and less than 40 percent of elementary science teachers feel that they are very well prepared to teach the subject.

The results come from a nationally representative survey of more than 1,500 schools and 7,752 science and mathematics teachers from across the country.

The 2012 National Survey of Science and Mathematics Education is “the only detailed, nationally representative snapshot of the K-12 science and mathematics education system, which comes at a critical time when the country is adopting new standards in these disciplines,” said Eric R. Banilower, the study’s principal investigator.

More than 40 states have adopted the Common Core State Standards in mathematics and literacy. In addition, 10 states and the District of Columbia have signed on to separate science standards developed by the National Science Teachers Association. Improving science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education has also been a major objective of the Obama administration and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

The report’s data on the uneven distribution of instructional technology document part of a larger problem with ensuring that all students have access to equal educational opportunities. The report found that 39 percent of classes composed of mostly high-achieving students had graphing calculators, compared to 23 percent of classed that had average achievers or a mixture of students at various levels of achievement. Just 18 percent of the classes with mostly low achievers had graphic calculators.

A similar disparity was found in access to microscopes, with 82 percent of the classes with mostly high achievers having access, compared to 63 percent of classes with mostly average or mixed achievers, and 59 percent of classes with mostly low achievers.

Among the positive findings were that 81 percent of elementary school teachers considered themselves “very well prepared” to teach reading and language arts, and 77 percent said they were “very well prepared” to teach math. However, these levels fell to 47 percent for social studies and 39 percent for science.

Just 29 percent of elementary school teachers said they were “very well prepared” to teach life sciences. The rates of high preparedness were 26 percent for earth science, 17 percent for physical science and 4 percent for engineering.

Lawrence Hardy|May 7th, 2014|Categories: Curriculum, Educational Research, Professional Development, Student Achievement, Student Engagement, Teachers|Tags: , , |

Call for proposals for NSBA’s 2015 Annual Conference

2015 NSBA Annual Conference

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is requesting proposals for breakout sessions to be conducted during our 75th Annual Conference in Nashville, Tenn., March 21-23. The conference will draw thousands of attendees, exhibitors, and guests representing nearly 1,400 school districts, and will feature distinguished speakers and hundreds of workshops, presentations, and other events that will help school board members develop leadership skills, boost student learning, and improve school districts’ operations.

If your school district or organization has an idea for a high-quality breakout session that focuses on a topic of critical interest to school board members for presentation at this conference, please complete a proposal online by the deadline of Monday, June 16 at 5 p.m. EDT. Only proposals submitted through the online process  will be considered. Breakout sessions will be 30, 45, or 75 minutes in length and will be scheduled throughout the conference.

Proposals are being solicited for the following focus areas:

• Innovations in District Management
• Legal and Legislative Advocacy
• Professional and Personal Development
• School Board/Superintendent Partnerships
• Student Achievement and Accountability
• Technology + Learning Solutions

School board leadership DOES matter

An editorial by Robert Rader, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education:

The Fordham Institute, whose president, Chester Finn, has called the school board “an aberration, an anachronism, an educational sinkhole” that should be put “out of its misery,” recently published a report, “Does School Board Leadership Matter?

It definitely contradicts the spirit of Finn’s previous comments.

The document lists information that we have known ever since the original Iowa Lighthouse Initiative was released: School boards, particularly their attitudes on student learning, are an important element of student success. Other information points us to what we must do to ensure that boards are relevant, effective, and beneficial.

The report comes at a critical time for executive directors from state school boards associations who have been involved in attempting to discern what the board of tomorrow will be like. It gives us an idea of what boards need to do to accomplish their primary goal: increasing student achievement and growth.

I believe it also implicitly supports the idea of boards of education, with all of their warts, is the most effective way in which to govern almost all school districts.

Report authors Arnold F. Shober and Michael T. Hartney started with information from “a national [2009] survey of 900 school board members situated across 417 unique school districts.” They combined this information with demographic and student achievement data for the same districts.

Here’s what they found. The bolded sentences below indicate findings from the study. Other comments are mine.

1. Board members, by and large, possess accurate information about their districts and adopt work practices that are generally similar across districts. But there is little consensus about which goals should be central.

The fact that board members have good information about their districts is a hugely significant fact. Without such data, whether provided by the administration or by other board members or from the community is central to making good decisions.

Unfortunately, while the report states that in school finance, teacher pay, collective bargaining, and class size board members have “reasonable knowledge of district conditions,” they “appear less knowledgeable about the rigor (or lack thereof) of academic standards in their respective state.”

2. Districts that are more successful academically have board members who assign high priority to improving student learning. School boards that comprise a higher proportion of members who have an academic focus are, all else being equal, more likely to govern districts that “beat the odds”—that is, districts whose students perform better academically than one would expect, given their demographic and financial characteristics.

Thirty years ago, the focus of boards across the country was on issues such as collective bargaining, the termination of underperforming teachers, and fiscal matters. Today, more focus is on student achievement, measured in standardized test scores and in other ways. However, we still have not identified what those “other ways” are. The public basically only sees and reacts to the test results.

Districts that are “punching above their weights” (my phrase), are those that have embraced raising student achievement as the central goal of the board. While all boards are affected by such factors as politics, funding, and other issues, those that focus on academics do the best, which is what the original Lighthouse study taught us a decade ago.

On the other hand, the study is based on the 2009 survey. I would hope that today, with all of the discussion of Common Core and five more years of discussion of increasing student achievement, there would be an even stronger recognition of the importance of increasing achievement.

3. Political moderates tend to be more informed than liberals and conservatives when it comes to money matters; educators and former educators are less informed.

This is a particularly interesting finding. While the report found “strong evidence that both knowledge and focus are shaped by board members’ occupational background and political ideology,” which is no surprise, it also found that political liberals “are more likely than moderates or conservatives to place less focus on improving student learning, believing instead that schools serve many goals.”

On the other hand, conservatives “do not subscribe to either an academic or plural focus, suggesting that their priorities may lie in financial stewardship (or other matters) rather than in student learning or other outcomes.”

4. At-large, on-cycle elections are associated with districts that beat the odds.

This would appear to be good news for Connecticut, where almost all school board elections occur in conjunction with general elections. The report did not examine the effect of board members running on political lines, which comes with its own benefits and disadvantages.

This study indicates a need to keep our eye on the prize: higher academic achievement for all of our students. It reminds us that board members must become as knowledgeable as possible on understanding relevant data, as well as best practices and current education trends.

In most cases, board members do not join boards as experts in education and, as the study shows, those who do, do not necessarily focus on student achievement. But, the board members who are determined to learn more and, I would add, get involved in regional and statewide opportunities for learning, provide their districts with the value that will make their boards and their students even more successful than they are now.

And in this competitive world, every little bit helps.

Staff|April 29th, 2014|Categories: Board governance, Key Work of School Boards, Leadership, State School Boards Associations, Student Achievement|Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Stand Up 4 Public Schools unveils Magic Johnson ads

A new “Stand Up 4 Public Schools” ad featuring legendary basketball star Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Jr. debuted today in Businessweek magazine.2014-201_nsbaStandUp_JohnsonAd.indd

Stand Up 4 Public Schools is the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) public advocacy campaign that celebrates the good things happening in public schools. In the ad, Johnson notes, “Who I am today began with public education,” the campaign tagline.

He also states, “I developed a strong work ethic at home in Lansing, Mich. My father was an assembly worker and my mother was a school custodian. I developed my mind and body at public school—that’s where the ‘Magic’ began.”

The ad, along with several other versions featuring Johnson, is downloadable at the Stand Up 4 Public Schools website. Other celebrity spokespersons include Khan Academy founder Sal Khan and television host and actor Montel Williams.

Johnson spoke about the campaign and the importance of public education earlier this month at NSBA’s Annual Conference in New Orleans. Watch a video of the presentation and a question-and-answer session with NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel on NSBA’s You Tube channel.

Aside from his professional basketball career with the Los Angeles Lakers, Johnson also is considered the most successful African-American businessman in our nation. Having left the basketball court for the boardroom, Johnson is Chairman and CEO of Magic Johnson Enterprises (MJE), which provides high-quality products and services that focus primarily on ethnically diverse and underserved urban communities through strategic alliances, investments, consulting and endorsements.

His business portfolio includes: ownership of the Los Angeles Dodgers of Major League Baseball and the WNBA team Los Angeles Sparks; a $500 million private equity fund; ASPIRE, an African-American television network; MAGIC Workforce Solutions, a staffing company, and SodexoMAGIC, a food service and facilities management company, among many other entities.

His philanthropic work includes the Magic Johnson Foundation, which he founded in 1991 to develop and fund programs addressing HIV/AIDS prevention, HIV testing, and effective treatment for persons living with HIV/AIDS. It runs five HIV/AIDS Clinics that assist all patients regardless of their ability to pay and have tested more than 40,000 individuals.

The foundation also runs a scholarship program that currently has 160 students. It also helps fund and build Community Empowerment Centers to help bridge the education gap by providing ethnically diverse urban communities access to resources and programming that educate, empower and strengthen individuals through the innovative use of technology. Currently there are 18 empowerment centers.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|April 25th, 2014|Categories: Announcements, Public Advocacy, Student Achievement|Tags: , , , , , , |

NJSBA report proposes statewide plan for improving special education

A new report from the New Jersey School Boards Association (NJSBA) calls for statewide efforts to reduce special education classification by diagnosing children’s learning problems early and intervening with multi-tiered levels of support.

“Special Education: A Service, Not a Place” says such early interventions – which can often focus on students’ needs within the general education classroom – have proved to be effective in reducing the number of students later classified as needing special education services.

The report was written by NJSBA’s Special Education Task Force, which spent more than a year studying ways public schools could reduce special education costs while maintaining the quality of programs and services. The task force report makes 20 recommendations addressing such issues as funding, staff training, and the importance of early intervention.

In recent years, New Jersey school districts’ special education costs have increased much faster than the costs of general education, something Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod, NJSBA’s executive director, said has “often divided school communities into two opposing camps: special education and general education.”

“That’s not a healthy situation for any of our students.” Feinsod said.

Two major trends affecting special education costs since 2007 are “frequency of classification” and “severity of classification,” the report said. For example, between school years 2008 and 2012, the number of students receiving special education services increased 4.9 percent, while total public school enrollment fell by 1 percent.

To help school districts more accurately assess children’s needs and avoid over-classifying those requiring special education services, New Jersey should develop a multi-tiered system of supports that includes programs such as Response to Intervention, Intervention and Referral Services, and Positive Learning Supports, the report said. These types of programs would help school district identify children’s learning needs at an early age and provide strategies for intervening in the general education classroom.

Echoing the title of the task force report, Feinsod said school districts need to view special education as part of a range of services public schools provide to students, not a “place” where children are assigned.

“Public education should not be viewed as two separate systems – general education and special education – but rather as one continuum of instruction, programs, interventions, and services that respond to individual student needs,” Feinsod said.

Lawrence Hardy|April 23rd, 2014|Categories: Special Education, Student Achievement|Tags: , |

NSBA develops guide for school boards on boosting student success through community partnerships

Cover of "Partnerships, Not Pushouts: A Guide for School Board Members on Community Partnerships for Student Success"

Cover of “Partnerships, Not Pushouts: A Guide for School Board Members on Community Partnerships for Student Success”

A new guide released today details how school board members can build partnerships to secure a high-quality education, from early learning to graduation, for students in their districts. “Partnerships, Not Pushouts: A Guide for School Board Members on Community Partnerships for Student Success,” demonstrates how school boards can work with other community partners to provide seamless services and engage community members to improve their schools.

Every student who leaves high school without a diploma costs the U.S. hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost income over the student’s lifetime. Despite the recent gains in U.S. graduation rates, far too many young people, mainly students of color from educationally and socioeconomically disadvantaged communities, are leaving school without a high school diploma or are severely underprepared for college-level work.

“As advocates for equity and excellence in public education, school boards play a key role to build a student-centered environment that addresses the academic, social, and emotional needs of all students in their school district,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director, National School Boards Association (NSBA).

“School board members are local leaders who understand the needs of their students, teachers, and school staff, and this guide shows how to tap into community resources to further enhance and strengthen their community’s schools.”

NSBA led the effort to develop this guide with a group of school board members from NSBA’s National Black Caucus of School Board Members, National Caucus of American Indian/Alaska Native School Board Members, National Hispanic Caucus of School Board Members, and the Council of Urban Boards of Education.

The guide serves as a blueprint for school board members to build a better-coordinated system of supports for children and their families. By partnering with key stakeholders and local service providers, school boards can ensure that all children benefit from a “Personal Opportunity Plan” that guarantees access to out-of-school resources each child needs to succeed in school and in life.

One such example is the Schools Uniting Neighborhoods (SUN) Initiative in Oregon, as featured in the guide. This school community partnership helps create a seamless learning environment. A cohesive collaboration between the school districts, the city, and county, it includes more than 70 schools within the Portland-Multnomah County Area. SUN partnered with various partners such as libraries, parks, local health clinics, churches, and businesses to provide in-school and wraparound support to students and their families. The collaboration is guided by an inter-governmental among between all three entities that outlines that processes in which they will work together in creating a shared vision and common goals to support the schools within the initiative.

NSBA partnered with the Alliance for Excellent Education; American Federation of Teachers; Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning; Coalition for Community Schools; National Education Association; Opportunity Action; National Opportunity to Learn Campaign; and Rural School and Community Trust to release the guide.

Alexis Rice|April 22nd, 2014|Categories: Dropout Prevention, Reports, School Boards, Student Achievement, Student Engagement, Teachers|Tags: , , , , , , , , , |
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