Articles in the Student Achievement category

The week in blogs

At the more popular charter schools operating within the Los Angeles Unified School District, there are lotteries to see who gets to attend and waiting lists that are very long – 500 children long, in the case Larchmont Charter elementary school. But if you’ve got the money and the time, according to a revealing story in LA Weekly, you can go to the front of the line as “founding parents” — even though the school opened in 2004.

“Add something called a ‘founding parent’ to the long list of ways that charter schools are accused of manipulating which children get to enroll and who doesn’t,” writes Alexander Russo, who cites the story in his This Week in Education blog. But “before you go crazy…” he adds later, “remember that district schools also have all sorts of ways of letting students in through the back door …”

True …but, the scale of the Larchmont “program” and the amount of money involved – and how it bridges the increasingly blurry line between public and private schools – is truly amazing. And it backs up what charter skeptics have long said about charters tailoring their admission policies in various ways (for example, not accepting near as  many special needs children) but claiming a universal benefit for an area’s students.

Need something lighter? When I do, I turn to the Principal’s Page and Superintendent Michael Smith’s often amusing view of his job and life. This short piece is on his junior high school daughter’s unusual level of self-esteem, which is uncannily high for someone who has every right to be the brooding teenager.

My favorite line: “Her worst day ever was great.”

It reminds me of those brilliantly funny Dos Equis beer ads – yes, brilliant beer ads – featuring “The Most Interesting Man in the World,” played by the late Jonathan Goldsmith. (I love these two lines, especially: “When he’s in Rome, they do as he does.” And: “His Mother has a tattoo that reads, ‘Son.’” – both uttered with mock gravity by a reader who, in real life, does the ultra-authoritative voiceover for PBS’s Frontline.)

Enough fun. There are serious issues to consider. And Jay Mathews has taken on a weighty one in his Class Struggle blog, namely how well schools are addressing the needs of gifted students. Actually, Mathews is commenting on a much longer article by Rick Hess, of the American Enterprise Institute, who says “not very well at all.” But, like Mathews, I don’t think re-restricting access to Advanced Placement courses, because they’re presumably not as rigorous as in the past, is the way to go.

The final item is not a blog, but a piece Friday on NPR’s All Things Considered about how the recession caused a drop in the U.S. birthrate. (Scroll down to “US  Birthrate Dropped During Recession,” which refers to this Pew Research Center report.)

So what’s so bad about 300,000 or so less babies a year? Well, think of that in terms of the reduced number of parental Babies R Us visits, and you get an idea of the economic impact.

“Then, as we look further down the road, school enrollments will be begin to fall,” said Carl Haub, a demographer with the Population Reference Bureau who was interviewed on the radio show. “We would need fewer teachers….   A school board that looks at 15 percent fewer students has some tough decisions to make down the road.”

Lawrence Hardy|October 14th, 2011|Categories: Charter Schools, Student Achievement, Uncategorized, Week in Blogs|Tags: , , , , , |

Involving families in schools: addressing opportunities and challenges

It is common sense that family involvement in schools is essential to increasing student achievement.  Research also suggests it reduces risky behaviors and improves attitudes about school among students.

However, family involvement in schools doesn’t always come easy.  For one, schools and parents often have a different understanding of what that involvement should look like.  In addition, there can be cultural and language barriers and other issues such as lack of knowledge about how the school system works that make it difficult to get families involved.  So what can school board members do to seize opportunities and address challenges to involving families in schools?

A new National School Boards Association (NSBA) publication, Families as Partners: Fostering Family Engagement for Healthy and Successful Students, presents an interesting suggestion.   According to the publication, from a school district perspective, family engagement in health issues can be an excellent first step toward getting families involved in schools as they are often more willing to address health issues than potentially intimidating academic issues.  In fact, a recently published Center for Public Education (CPE) document shows a similar thread and relays that an effective means to getting families at the door can be a targeted involvement to solve a particular problem – like poor attendance or behavior.

At first it can seem overwhelming to involve families in schools as families comes with differing views and expectations regarding the school system and their children’s learning.  But the benefits outweigh the challenges and ultimately improve student achievement!  So in thinking of ways to address challenges and seize opportunities to involving families, BoardBuzz would like you to check out some important strategies outlined in the documents above:

  • Recognize that all families, regardless of income, education, or cultural background are involved in their children’s learning and want their children to do well;
  • Investigate how families want to be involved and how teachers want families to be involved;
  • Address family involvement through a coordinated school health framework, which includes a family involvement component;
  • Foster district-wide strategies including reviewing policies and procedures to effectively engage families;
  • Ask what families need to know to be involved and how well your district and schools are meeting those needs;
  • Build the capacity of your board and staff to strengthen family engagement; and
  • Continue to survey or track the effects of involvement.

To learn more about steps to take to accomplish some of those strategies, view Families as Partners.  In addition, check out NSBA’s new Family Engagement in School Health webpage to access relevant resources such as sample policies, surveys, and tools created by NSBA to help school leaders better engage families.

How is your school district addressing family involvement?  What have been some of the outcomes?  Drop us a comment!

Daniela Espinosa|October 7th, 2011|Categories: NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Student Achievement, Wellness|Tags: , |

Steve Jobs’ edtech legacy

The death of Apple founder Steve Jobs has triggered an outpouring of worldwide support by individuals touched by the innovations he enabled. One reporter compared Jobs to the Thomas Edison of our generation, and indeed his vision has transformed the way we create, connect, and communicate much as Edison changed the lives of those in the past century. We take the contributions of Edison for granted now, rarely thinking of his innovations with electric lighting or the phonograph as “technology”. They were simply devices, that over time, changed the world. The collection of devices attributed to Jobs’ vision, from the early computers to the latest iPads, are already regarded for what they enable us to do to simplify day-to-day living and learning, rather than just being the newest cool gadget.

His innovations allow adults and children alike to interact with their world in ways only previously imagined in science fiction. Many adults recognize the convenience of having the power of the Internet in the palm of their hand, the ability to manipulate content with the touch of a finger, the option to carry a lifetime of favorite tunes, or download applications to simplify everything from airline schedules to paying for parking meters. Yet some of those same adults have not embraced the idea that these tools can have the same transformational impact on education for today’s youth. Jobs’ Apple was among the earliest technology companies to recognize that their devices could impact learning and invested heavily in research known as Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow. Those early studies paved the way for desktop hardware manufacturers from IBM to Dell and a host of software developers. Fast-forward to today, and we see Apple again paving the way in the education marketplace with innovative learning tools like the iPad. Parents of autistic students have said it is a device that it empowers their children, while the multitude of applications allow teachers to create engaging, real-world learning experiences for all students.

As an observer of education technology for 20+ years, I believe Jobs’ greatest legacy is the foundation he helped establish to transform how students learn. He provided the vision and the tools, now it is up to the rest of us to ensure they are implemented in such a way to become as seamless and effective as Edison’s contribution to electricity. Perhaps when devices like the iPad are accessible to all children, the next generation’s Edison will find his or her calling and we will see a new model for learning in our K-12 institutions.

Ann Flynn|October 6th, 2011|Categories: Educational Technology, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, STEM Education, Student Achievement, Student Engagement, Teachers|Tags: , , |

Pre-K Coalition calls for more federal support, greater integration, for early education

C. Ed Massey Photo

C. Ed Massey, president-elect of NSBA, addresses the Capitol Hill Pre-K Coalition Briefing

The National School Boards Association (NSBA)  and six other leading national education organizations are urging the federal government to take a more active leadership role in assuring that all children have access to quality preschool education.

At a briefing Tuesday on Capitol Hill, the group — known as the Pre-K Coalition — released a report titled Ensuring America’s Future: Policy Statements and Recommendations from National Education Organizations. It calls on local, state, and federal policymakers to “come together to design an early childhood financing system that ensures equity, supports quality and effectiveness, fosters collaboration, and does not take funding away from any other existing education programs.”

A major step in that direction is for Congress to expand the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to include early education practices and interventions, the report said. “The reauthorization of the ESEA offers a unique opportunity to update our nation’s primary federal education law to take full advantage of high quality pre-K,” the coalition said.

At Tuesday’s briefing, several speakers said preschool is an integral part of the education process, providing young children with critical social and academic skills that will influence their success in elementary school and beyond.

“We believe if we have them ready to learn in those important years, it will have a huge effect on the years they’re in the [K-12] system,” said C. Ed Massey, president-elect NSBA and a member of the Boone County (Ken.) Board of Education.

“Pre-K is not separate, apart from K-12,” Massey said. “It is a part of that process.”

The days when researchers and advocates had to explain why preschool is important are, for the most part, over. But despite groundbreaking programs in many states, several speakers said policymakers have a long way to go to create a nationwide system that truly integrates preschool into the broader education process. And that means creating an environment in which preschool teachers are looked upon as true peers of their counterparts in the K-12 system.

“We need to stop drawing this firewall between teachers who teacher preschool education and those who are in the K-12 arena,” said Brenda Lilienthal Welburn, executive director of the National Association of State Boards of Education. (NASBE), one of the coalition members.

And this will require concerted leadership from the top – at all levels of government: federal, state and local, several speakers said.

“We often talk about distributing best practices,” Welburn said. “We don’t talk enough about distributing model policies.”

In the past 10 years, preschool enrollment has grown by more than 70 percent and public schools are involved as never before. But even in model programs, such as the one at Washburn Elementary School in Bloomington, Minn., Principal Jon H. Millerhagen said it takes considerable effort to get all groups with a stake in early education to come to the table.  For example, curriculum directors need to collaborate with preschool teachers to ensure the most effective alignment of the preschool curriculum with the rest of the elementary school program, Millerhagen said at the news conference.

Another issue is the stability of funding. Washburn’s preschool program has been widely praised, and it is supported by grants from several foundations. But in order for all public preschool programs to be sustainable in the long run, they must have a reliable source of funding, Millerhagen said.

In addition to NSBA and NASBE, the coalition includes the American Association of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, Council of Chief State School Officers, National Association of Elementary School Principals, and the National Education Association.

Lawrence Hardy|October 4th, 2011|Categories: Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Preschool Education, Reports, Student Achievement|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: , |

Analysis: NBC learned its lesson with this Education Nation

Glenn Cook, American School Board Journal’s editor-in-chief, attended NBC’s Education Nation summit in New York for the second straight year. Here are his observations.

You can’t blame traditional public school advocates if they were filled with dread when NBC announced that Education Nation would return this fall. Last year the network bought into the hype surrounding the documentary “Waiting for Superman,” inexplicably tying the event to a flawed film that exhorted charters as the pancea for public education’s ills.

Thankfully, NBC has learned its lesson. This year’s event took pains to correct past wrongs as it recognized the complexities school leaders face in managing a public system that is open to all.

Starting with a screening of “American Teacher,” a documentary that helped erase some of the “bad teachers” taste left by “Superman,” and ending with an appearance by former President Bill Clinton, Education Nation featured a strong balance of heavy hitters from education, philanthropy, and politics.

You also had a touch of celebrity — basketball player Lebron James, actress Jennifer Garner, and what amounted to a family reunion with former Gov. Jeb Bush and First Lady Laura Bush participating in sessions — but in this case, it fit the overall tone.

The key word here is balance. Last year’s programming was flawed because it exhorted simple antidotes to complex problems. This year, silver bullets were nowhere to be found, but calls for more effective teaching and improvements to early education were.

You can watch many of the sessions online at www.educationnation.com, but here is my list of highlights:

• Start with “Brain Power: Why Early Learning Matters,” a fascinating hour-long session featuring Nancy Snyderman, NBC’s chief medical editor, and three university professors. Held on Monday morning, it was the best, most concise presentation I’ve seen yet on why we need to reach children much, much earlier than we do.

• The dramatic rise in poverty rates was a focus throughout, especially in the session “What’s in a Zip Code?” moderated by Brian Williams. Poverty is reality for many people in today’s economy — Clinton was eloquent on this topic in the closing session — and communities must come together to do more.

• Education Secretary Arne Duncan was everywhere this year, participating in interviews with Tom Brokaw and responding to questions during various panels (a nice touch).

• We saw an entertaining back and forth between Geoffrey Canada, founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone and Diane Ravitch, author and professor of education at New York University. Their approaches are so different, but both made excellent points. Canada and Sal Khan, another Education Nation speaker, are scheduled to keynote NSBA’s 2012 Annual Conference.

• Teacher and student accountability, as you might expect, was a recurring theme. Michelle Shearer, the current National Teacher of the Year from Maryland’s Urbana High School, said teachers “want to be evaluated on things that really matter.”

“There are all sorts of different ways of looking at student growth,” she said. “Whatever evaluation looks like in the end, it has to be a system of multiple measures, because often what’s most important are those intangibles … that are tough to put on a check list.”

• At the same session, Khaatim El, a former member of the Atlanta school board, addressed the cheating scandal that has plagued the district he served for almost a decade. “We wanted to be the hype,” he said of the allegations, which are based on the state assessments. “We wanted to be the first to get it right so bad.”

But El noted the district also made huge gains in NAEP scores during that time, an achievement untouched but overshadowed by the scandal. “I would be remiss if I didn’t point to the hard work that many educators put in,” he said. “We focused on the basics. Literacy instruction in elementary school. Autonomy for principals. We invested in professional development. Those things were overshadowed by the cheating scandal. And they were good things for kids.”

The setting for Education Nation was not perfect — the big tent in Rockefeller Plaza is a good idea in theory, but the humidity and poor audio were ever-present distractions. And while this year’s session was far more substantive, future years should stop belaboring the problems and focus instead on how to solve them. Panels featuring districts that have been successful at “what works,” with ideas and content that are easily imitated and replicated, would be a valuable start.

Chances are good that will happen. The National School Boards Association (NSBA) had a strong presence in the planning and execution of the meeting. Anne L. Bryant, our executive director, met with NBC officials about the content and answered audience questions in a video Q&A format prior to the event. Mary Broderick, NSBA’s president, was featured in a panel session with the mayors of Albuquerque, Baltimore, and Newark.

“What we’ve heard from the last two days of this conference is that we need to come together around a sense of urgency,” Broderick said during her session, noting that it takes a shared vision between the school board, the mayor’s office, and the community. “The vision needs to be of excellence. If that cohesive message can be carried through our schools … there’s nothing off the table.”

Watch NSBA’s President on Education Nation today

Update: The video for “Going Local: What A City Can Do For Its Schools,” is now archived at educationnation.com.

This week, NBC News is hosting its second annual Education Nation Week and Summit. NBC News is promoting the 2011 Education Nation as a way to, “address the developments, challenges, and progress of the past year, as well as identify and explore new, exciting opportunities to reinvent America as an Education Nation.”

The National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) President Mary Broderick and Executive Director Anne L. Bryant are representing NSBA at the Education Nation Summit. Broderick will be on the Education Nation panel, “Going Local: What A City Can Do For Its Schools,” scheduled for today, September 27 from 1 – 2 pm EDT. Broderick will be joined by mayors and community leaders to discuss how they’re addressing education.

NBC News’ Lester Holt will moderate this session. The Twitter hashtag for this session is #LocalEdNat.

Mary will be a panelist in the second part of the session with:

  • Mayor Richard Berry of Albuquerque
  • Mayor Cory Booker of Newark
  • Mayor Angel Taveras of Providence

The first part of the session will feature:

  • Michael Brown, CEO & Co-Founder of City Year, Inc
  • Marguerite Kondracke, President and CEO of America’s Promise Alliance
  • Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia
  • Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake of Baltimore

 

The session is scheduled to be live web streamed on the South Stage feed.
View it here:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Additionally, during Education Nation, Bryant will serve an education expert on EducationNation.com.  Bryant will be answering users’ questions. To ask her a question or to view questions Bryant has already answered, go to the Ask an Expert page .

Alexis Rice|September 27th, 2011|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Announcements, Board governance, Key Work of School Boards, School Board News, School Boards, Student Achievement, Teachers|Tags: , , , , |

Is NCLB hurting top students?

The following post was originally posted on the Center for Publc Education’s blog The Edifier.

It’s déjà vu all over again. Back in 2008 the Fordham Institute claimed in this report that our nation’s best students were being hurt by current education reform efforts, particularly No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Fast forward to earlier this week where Fordham released another report to once again try to show that our education reforms are being targeted at our low performing students at the expense of our top students. The similarities don’t end with both studies examining the performance of high achieving students, in both reports Fordham’s conclusions don’t fit what their own data says.

In the 2008 study Fordham argued our top students were being left behind because their gains were not as large as the gains low performing students made post-NCLB. I argued then that their own data didn’t fit their claim. Once again, Fordham claims that our top students are being left behind don’t fit their own data. As a matter of fact, according to Fordham’s report the gap in math scores between low- (those scoring below 10th percentile) and high-performing (those score above the 90th percentile) did not significantly change as students moved from 3rd to 8th grade or from 6th to 10th grade. The good news is that all students made consistent gains, unfortunately for low-performing students their performance still lagged way behind. The story is a bit different in reading where gaps did close between the lowest and highest performing students. However, Fordham sees this gap closing as a negative even though high performing students continued to make significant gains between the 3rd and 8th grades. It was just that low-performing students made even greater gains during that period.

Just as I argued in 2008, this is how gaps should be narrowed, where everyone improves but the lowest performers improve at a faster rate. However, Fordham didn’t agree with me then and I’ll safely assume they won’t agree with me now. We will just have to agree to disagree because I don’t believe the data shows our best students are being short changed simply because our lowest performers are making more progress than our highest performing students. Now that doesn’t mean our schools or our education policies should focus solely on our lowest performing students. Educators and policymakers need to ensure that ALL students have an opportunity to reach their highest academic potential before they go onto college or the workplace. Yet, neither Fordham study provides compelling data that our schools are short changing our highest performing students.

Yes, educators and policymakers need to focus on our highest achieving students as international test scores show we have a much smaller proportion advanced students than the leading countries such as South Korea and Finland but the same international tests show we also have a much larger proportion of very low-performers than most other industrialized nations. And students with such low achievement have little chance to go onto any sort of postsecondary education or find a good job that pays a living wage and offers benefits. So we need to at least sustain the gains our highest achievers are making since many will be our country’s future innovators, policymakers and business leaders. At the same time we need to accelerate the gains our lowest achieving students are making so they at least have the minimal skills necessary to either go onto earn some sort of postsecondary degree/certificate or find a good job. Doing so is not a zero-sum game. If we provide our teachers with the training, resources, and support they need, they can improve the performance of all students.

Jim Hull|September 23rd, 2011|Categories: Center for Public Education, Educational Research, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Reports, School Reform, Student Achievement, Teachers|Tags: , , , , |

The week in blogs

The College Board didn’t make a big deal about falling SAT scores when it released the annual results this week: It chose, instead, to emphasize that nearly 1.65 million students had taken the nationwide test, the largest and most diverse group in history.

“The good news is we have more students thinking about college than ever before,” James Montoya, a College Board vice president, told the Washington Post. “Anytime you expand the number of students taking the SAT and expand it the way that we have — into communities that have not necessarily been part of the college-going culture — it’s not surprising to see a decline of a few points.”

Still, the headline on the Post’s story – SAT Reading Scores Drop to Lowest Point in Decades – was pretty stark. Was this mainly the result of the expanding pool of test-takers or evidence of a more general decline? Bloggers were all over the map on that.

Still blaming poor SAT scores on test-takers?” wrote Robert Pondiscio on the Core Knowledge Blog. He said that argument “was effectively dismissed by E. D. Hirsch [Core Knowledge’s founder] when scores were announced last year.”

“What changed,” Hirsch wrote back then, “has less to do with demographic data than with “the anti-intellectual ideas that fully took over first teacher-training schools and then the teachers and administrators they trained.”

Bill Tucker, of the Quick and the Ed, had a different take on the data –and the response. He called the latter “SAT score hysteria” and pointed out that the College Board itself said, in a news release, that “a decline in mean scores does not necessarily mean a decline in performance.”

Perhaps the most measured approach to the data was from Jim Hull, a policy analyst with NSBA’s Center for Public Education.

“No matter the reason, the drop in SAT scores over the past several years is a cause for concern,” Hull wrote. “Yes, more students are taking the SAT than ever before — which is a good thing — but that can cause scores to drop. Yet, more students are also taking the ACT and those scores have increased. With no clear national explanation, it is important for districts and individual schools to examine their own ACT and SAT results to gain a better understanding of how prepared their students actually are for college.”

Other important postings this week included the Post’s Valerie Strauss on new national statistics showing that 22 percent of American children are living in poverty, and a telling graphic of what it really costs a poor family to eat in This Week in Education. (In short: Just because you have a refrigerator, doesn’t mean you’re not poor, as some commentators have claimed.)

Also on Strauss’ site, read a guest post by Dana Smith, a member of the board of directors of the New York State School Boards Association, on what it was like to be bullied in school.

Lawrence Hardy|September 16th, 2011|Categories: Center for Public Education, School Boards, Student Achievement, Uncategorized, Week in Blogs|Tags: , , , , |

Finalists announced in NSBA annual urban ed award

NSBA’s Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) is pleased to announce that Boston Public Schools, Washoe County Public Schools and the Mesquite Independent School District have been selected as finalists for the 2011 CUBE Annual Award for Urban School Board Excellence.

Identified by an independent panel based on data provided by the school district and their state school boards association, the finalists were chosen based on the following four criteria: excellence in school board governance, ability to build civic capacity, commitment to equity in education, and demonstrated success of academic excellence.

“All three of the finalists have made extraordinary efforts to reach students and increase student achievement,” said NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant. “The CUBE Award finalists are proof that diverse urban school districts can succeed, even during difficult economic times.”
(more…)

Naomi Dillon|September 8th, 2011|Categories: CUBE Annual Conference 2010, Diversity, NSBA Recognition Programs, School Boards, Student Achievement, Urban Schools|
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