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Articles in the Student Achievement category

The week in blogs: A gentleman’s C?

Education Week’s Quality Counts 2012 came out this week and with it the annual State of the States report card.  So how did the nation do?

“Overall, the nation received a grade of C across all policy and performance areas, which remained the same as a year ago,” writes Jim Hull, senior policy analyst for NSBA’s Center for Public Education.

 That’s the average. But if you want to know whether that’s a half-full C or half-empty one, you’ll need to read the details, which Hull summarizes in his EDifier blog. The good news: states have been taking steps to improve their standards. The not-so-good news: states haven’t been especially innovative in terms of teacher policies.

One big teacher policy issue, value-added teacher evaluations, received a boost this week from a Harvard/Columbia study of teacher effectiveness, writes Hull in his second blog this week. For another look at the study, read Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times. And for background, see the Center’s report “Building a Better Evaluation System.”

One critic of value-added is education historian and former Assistant U.S. Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch, who says in a recent blog that they “never” should be used.

Also read Ravitch’s post “NCLB Death Star,” which you have to admit — however you feel about the federal law that turned 10 this month — has a great title.

The Big Questions kept coming this week with a rather brave post by Jay Mathews, of the Washington Post’s Class Struggle blog, who revisits the issue of Intelligent Design and says (for a second time) that he thinks it should be taught alongside evolution.

After his first blog on the subject, Mathews received 400 not-so-nice e-mails. “Seventy percent of them said I was an idiot,” Mathews quipped. “Many added that I was a dangerous idiot.”

However, Mathews has an interesting reason for wanting Intelligent Design included. And — as you might expect — his post sparks a lively discussion.



Lawrence Hardy|January 13th, 2012|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Assessment, Center for Public Education, Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Student Achievement, Week in Blogs|Tags: , , |

Ten years into NCLB’s backlash

It has been ten years since President George W. Bush was signed into law No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act.

Over the weekend, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan had an opinion piece in The Washington Post where he noted:

Unfortunately, the law is unintentionally creating barriers for these reforms. States that have chosen to raise standards will soon need to explain why student scores are dropping. Instead, they should be able to highlight students’ academic growth. School districts are stuck using NCLB’s definition of a highly qualified teacher based solely on paper credentials, without taking into account the teacher’s ability to improve student learning. And the law continues to encourage schools to narrow curriculum at the expense of important subjects such as history, civics, science, the arts and physical education. After 10 years of these flawed policies, our nation’s teachers and students deserve better.

NCLB has created a measurement framework that bases its assessment of school quality on a student’s performance on a single assessment and mandates a series of overbroad sanctions not always targeted to the students needing services, and, to date, has not yet proven to have a significant impact on improving student performance and school performance.

After ten years of enactment of the federal law, local school districts continue to struggle to comply with the language of the law at a time when the unintended consequences of this complex law are imposing far more dysfunctional and illogical implementation problems than had been anticipated by the sponsors of the legislation. Additionally, federal and state lawmakers have become increasingly aware that successful attainment of the desired national goals is very much dependent upon the capacity of the state departments of education and the capacity of local school districts.

In September 2011, the National School Boards Association was encouraged by the Obama administration’s announcement to waive problematic and burdensome regulatory requirements of NCLB but cautioning that the waiver process should not be viewed as an acceptable substitute for Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization.

Let us know what you think about NCLB. Speak out by submitting a comment.

Alexis Rice|January 10th, 2012|Categories: Assessment, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, High Schools, Legislative advocacy, Middle Schools, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Reform, Student Achievement, Teachers|Tags: , , |

Top Education Reads of 2011

The editors of American School Board Journal (ASBJ) have compiled their annual list  of the top 10 notable books in topics related to K-12 education from the last year in the magazine’s January 2012 issue.

“Our 2011 list reflects books on education that have a major impact on public opinion and are important to school leaders,” said Kathleen Vail, ASBJ’s Managing Editor.

Topping the list is Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America’s Schools, one of most talked-about education books of the year, which portrays unions as the primary obstacle to school reform.

“Teachers unions continued to take a beating in 2011 in the court of public opinion, and several books on our list certainly reflect their place on the firing line,” Vail said.

Check out the full list at

Alexis Rice|January 4th, 2012|Categories: Curriculum, School Boards, Student Achievement, Student Engagement, Teachers|Tags: , , , , |

The week in blogs: Center report on time in school elicits big response

Public education, like any discipline, has accumulated a lot of truisms over the years, most of which are, well … true.

Who can challenge statements like: Parents are the first teachers. School boards should set policy, not run the district. Next to home influences, teachers are the most important factor in a child’s education.

Pretty self-evident stuff.

And then there’s this: U. S. students don’t do as well as their international counterparts because they spend less time in school. True? Well, plausible enough (and certainly repeated enough) that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan made a reference to it recently, saying that students in India and China “are going to school 25 to 30 percent longer than we are,” and adding, “Our students, I think, are at a competitive disadvantage.”

Such a deficit might indeed be a competitive disadvantage —  if it were true.  But NSBA’s Center for Public Education examined the claim and, using the best available evidence, concluded that it was not.

For the report Time in School: How does the U.S. Compare? Senior Research Analyst Jim Hull compared the hours required in school by several nations that compete with the United States with the those required from five of the more populous states. (States were used because they set minimum hour requirements.)

His conclusion? U.S. students attend about the same number of hours as students in most of these other countries, with some variations. (Less than in Italy, for example; more than in Finland.) Moreover, Hull said, a big issue for schools is often not how much time they require, but what they do with the time they’ve got.

The report took off in the blogosphere, being featured in Valerie Strauss’s Answer Sheet column in the Washington Post and several other places.

“Many modern school reformers have unfortunately maintained a narrow focus about the conditions that lead to academic success, including the notion that more time is necessarily better,” Strauss said.

In an EDifier blog, Hull said he appreciated the Posts citation, but he emphasized that “while simply adding more instructional time will not automatically improve student achievement. What gets lost is that adding time can be an effective tool to improve student achievement especially for students from low-income families.”

As they always say  — truism alert! – the devil is in the details.

The study was also picked up byThe Denver Post and U.S. News & World Report.

Lawrence Hardy|December 17th, 2011|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Center for Public Education, Educational Research, Student Achievement, Teachers, Week in Blogs|Tags: , , |

Align Pre-K and early grades, coalition says

High-quality preschool is essential for ensuring that all children — particularly disadvantaged children and English Language Learners — are launched onto a path of academic and career success, says a new report by the Pre-K Coalition, a group that includes NSBA and six other education organizations. Yet, as important as this advantage is, Pre-K is not some kind of educational “silver bullet,” and its successes must be built upon in early elementary school,

To get the most impact from Pre-K, the programs should be closely aligned with early elementary school (kindergarten through third grade) so gains made in preschool can be maintained and enhanced throughout the K12 years and beyond, says the coalition’s report, The Importance of Aligning Pre-k through 3rd Grade.

“Child development is a continuous process that must be fed and nurtured along the way,’ the report says. “Gains made in high-quality Pre-K programs must be sustained by quality education throughout the K-3 years. Likewise, skills developed in first grade must be reinforced and built upon in second grade.”

The report cites several impediments to aligning Pre-K with early elementary school, as well as strategies for addressing them. One issue is the lack of focus that policymakers have put on the early grades.

“Unfortunately, our education system is structured to pay the least attention to children’s progress during these critical years,” the report says. “Under current federal law, state and district accountability benchmarks focus primarily on student performance in grades three through eight. Intervention strategies and turn around models for schools ‘in need of improvement’ target these grades as well.”

While the new Common Core State Standards, which cover grades kindergarten through 12, will help states and districts focus on the entire K-12 continuum, schools need to provide “a continuous and well-aligned set of early learning experiences” in grades K-3 to achieve sustained success,” the report says.

School districts also have to work to finds ways to collaborate with community preschool programs, which may have different regulations, funding streams, and educational philosophies.

“To foster collaboration, some districts have implemented joint professional development opportunities for community-based early educators and teachers to come together to share experiences and align expectations,” the report says. “Other efforts may involve more formal program integration such as the sharing of program staff, space, or other resources between a public school and a Head Start provider.”

The report cites school districts in three communities that are successfully aligning Pre-K and early elementary school: Montgomery County, Md.; Nooksack Valley, Wash.; and Santa Maria Bonita, Calif.

In addition to NSBA, which is spearheading the coalition, the other members are: the American Association of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, Council of Chief State School Officers, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of State Boards of Education, and the National Education Association.

Successfully aligning Pre-K and early elementary school will take hard work and the cooperation of educators and policymakers at all levels, said NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant.

“There must be a culture of shared responsibility among all partners (local, state, and federal as well as parents to support a comprehensive continuum of learning from pre-K to grade 3,” Bryant said. “We are asking the federal government to become a true partner with states and local communities to ensure that students receive a high quality start to learning.”

Lawrence Hardy|December 7th, 2011|Categories: Center for Public Education, Curriculum, Educational Research, Governance, National Standards, Preschool Education, School Board News, Student Achievement, Student Engagement|Tags: , , , , |

The week in blogs

Depending on your point of view — and your experiences with high-stakes testing — No Child Left Behind was either a critical first step toward school accountability, a good idea with some major flaws, or a colossal flop. (And there’s probably a myriad views in between.) Will the Common Core State Standards Initiative be any better? As you might expect, the views expressed by a number of experts on the National Journal’s education blog are all well-reasoned — and all over the map. Nobody said this was going to be easy.

Alberta has one of the best school systems in the world, writes the provocatively-named blog Dangerously Irrelevant, and it doesn’t look too kindly on what’s happening to its south. Thanks to This Week in Education for pointing out this eye-opening critique of why Canada seems to be getting things right in school reform – and much of the U.S. is getting it wrong.

Another must-read is the review of a new Department of Education report on school inequity from Raegen Miller of the Center for American Progress.  Then, on the same site, see Robert Pianta’s proposals for improving teacher development.

Finally, a non-education story, strictly speaking, but one that says a lot about what it takes to be an effective leader – including a leader in a school district. Yes, it’s a sports column (by the Washington Post’s Sally Jenkins) and yes it deals with recent coaching changes on two of Washington’s pro teams, which, most of you I would imagine do not care a whole lot about. ( I live here, and even I don’t care that much.) But — trust me here — Jenkins’ message about the kind of leaders people follow goes beyond mere games.


Lawrence Hardy|December 2nd, 2011|Categories: Board governance, Educational Legislation, Educational Research, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Governance, Leadership, National Standards, Professional Development, School Reform, Student Achievement, Teachers, Uncategorized|Tags: , , , , |

NSBA commends the educational contributions of “It’s Academic”

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) recently recognized the high school quiz show in Washington, “It’s Academic,”  for its educational value. Earlier this month it was announced that after hosting the quiz show for 50 years, Mac McGarry, 85, has decided to retire.

The Guinness Book of World Records has recognized “It’s Academic” as the longest-running television quiz show in the world and the winner of eight Emmy Awards. Here is the letter NSBA recently sent on the education value of “It’s Academic” and the retirement of McGarry :

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) commends Mac McGarry for challenging young minds as the host of the television quiz show “It’s Academic” for the past 50 years. Under McGarry’s insightful guidance numerous high school students have showcased their considerable scholastic skills every Saturday morning on WRC-TV in Washington, D.C.

NSBA is, and continues to be, a proud champion of “It’s Academic” because it gives students a platform to prove to their peers that being intelligent is a valuable asset. Cheered on by their parents, classmates, cheerleaders, and sometimes members of the school band, the quiz show always has remained true to its vision of asking students to meet and surpass their own educational expectations.

As the host of the nation’s longest-running television quiz show, McGarry has undoubtedly shaped the minds of countless students. As we acknowledge McGarry’s retirement this month, we also would like to congratulate Hillary Howard as she takes over as the host of “It’s Academic.”

We sincerely look forward to the future of “It’s Academic.”

With gratitude,
Anne L. Bryant
Executive Director
National School Boards Association

Alexis Rice|November 16th, 2011|Categories: Student Achievement, Student Engagement, Teachers|Tags: , , , , , |

NSBA’ s president discusses school climate on Education Talk Radio

Mary Broderick, president of the National School Boards Association (NSBA), recently appeared on Education Talk Radio and discussed school climate and NSBA’s Students on Board initiative. Broderick talked about how school boards are addressing  and finding solutions to improve school climate.

Listen to internet radio with EduTalk on Blog Talk Radio

In August, Broderick discussed school climate on Comcast Newsmakers, check out the video.

Alexis Rice|November 8th, 2011|Categories: Arts Education, Bullying, Center for Public Education, Diversity, Dropout Prevention, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards, Student Achievement, Student Engagement, Teachers|Tags: , , |

Half-day pre-k + half-day kindergarten = big reading gains by third grade

Full-day kindergarten and half-day preschool both lead to significant academic gains — the research consistently bears this out. Put together, these programs offer students the best chance to achieve at high levels.

But what if your district can’t afford that combination yet still wants to provide a rich learning experience for young children? Would it be better, in terms of later reading proficiency, if your students got a half day of preschool and only a half day of kindergarten, or full-day kindergarten alone?

In a report released today entitled “Starting Out Right: Pre-K and Kindergarten,” NSBA’s Center for Public Education looked at both options and concluded that the half-and-half approach — half day pre-k plus half-day kindergarten — is more effective in boosting reading scores at the third grade level, which is often described as the grade in which students are expected to have largely moved from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.”

The Center’s conclusion is more than academic: It has practical implications in these tough economic times, when school boards are faced with difficult choices about which program to cut, and which to maintain or expand. According to the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), state funding for pre-k declined in 2010 for the first time in nearly a decade, leaving school districts to pay more of the cost. But the report suggests that cutting half-day preschool would be a mistake.

“Early education is vital,’ said Jim Hull, the Center’s senior policy analyst and author of the report. “With today’s release of the NAEP [National Assessment of Educational Progress] 2011 Nation’s Report Cards in Mathematics and Reading, this report gives us more information on how we can increase academic success in our schools by expanding access to high-quality pre-kindergarten programs.”

Here are some of the report’s key findings:

# Children who received a half-day of both pre-k and kindergarten were 3 percent more likely than those attending full-day kindergarten alone to comprehend words in sentence.

# These half-day pre-k, half-day kindergarten children were also 12 percent more likely than those in full-day kindergarten alone to be able to make “literal references” such as those expressed in the simile “Her eyes were as blue as the sky.”

# Children who received half-days of both pre-k and kindergarten were 18 percent more likely than those in full-day kindergarten alone to be able to extrapolate from their reading. That is, they were able to identify clues in a text and use those clues and their background knowledge to understand the contextual meaning of homonyms, such as whether a sentence containing the word “bear,” meant “to carry” or “an animal.”

In almost all cases, these results were more pronounced among African Americans, Hispanics, low-income students, and English language learners.


Lawrence Hardy|November 1st, 2011|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Assessment, Center for Public Education, Curriculum, Data Driven Decision Making, Preschool Education, Student Achievement, Urban Schools|Tags: , , , , |

Law gives schools flexibility on location of special services, NSBA says

Federal law requires school districts to provide students with disabilities a free appropriate public education, but it is up to the district to decide where that requirement can best be met, NSBA and the Kentucky School Boards Association (KSBA) said in a brief filed for R.K. v. Board of Education of Scott County, Kentucky recently in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The case was initiated in 2009, when “R.K,” a student with Type I diabetes, was in kindergartener in Scott County, Ky. Initially, R.K. needed insulin injections during the school day, but later he began using an insulin pump that required accurate input of certain dietary information.

The NSBA-KSBA brief noted that the Kentucky Board of Nursing had advised schools not to delegate the responsibility for monitoring insulin pumps to other staff. With this recommendation in mind, the district told R. K.’s parents that he could attend one of two elementary with onsite nurses. However, the parents said the district had an obligation to educate R.K. at his neighborhood school, and sued.

A district court judge ruled in June that R.K. had no “absolute right” to attend his neighborhood school, and the parents appealed the decision to the 6th Circuit.

The NBSA-KSBA brief says there is a fundamental difference between an “educational placement” decision, concerning the types of services and supports offered to a student, and the “physical location” where those services are provided.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) requires that students be educated in “the least restrictive environment,” the brief says. However, in the Kentucky case, NSBA and KSBA said, “the student does not allege he has been removed from education with his non-disabled peers; his sole allegation is that he was denied assignment to his neighborhood school.”

NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón Jr. said Section 504 does not require districts to educate children with disabilities in their neighborhood school.

“The court should not read into Section 504 a requirement that a school district be required to provide all disability-related services to students in their neighborhood schools,” Negrón said.

“In addition to minimizing the role of the individualized education program staffing process, such a ruling could needlessly increase costs by minimizing the flexibility of school districts in managing limited resources.”

NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant said a decision against the school district threatens the “common practice of deploying the districts’ resources in a many that is both fiscally responsible and educationally sound.”

Lawrence Hardy|October 20th, 2011|Categories: School Law, Special Education, Student Achievement, Wellness|Tags: , , , , , , , , , |
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