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Articles in the Teachers category

Video: NSBA speaks out on school bullying

NSBA’s General Counsel, Francisco M. Negrón, Jr., was on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal on Saturday discussing school bullying.

Here is the video:

Last week, Earl C. Rickman III, President of NSBA, joined President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House Conference on Bullying Prevention and called for a united effort to address bullying in our schools.

Alexis Rice|March 14th, 2011|Categories: Diversity, Federal Programs, Multimedia and Webinars, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Student Achievement, Teachers|

The week in blogs

This week, education researcher Richard Rothstein takes Bill Gates to task for claiming in a recent Washington Post column on teacher development that student achievement has remained “virtually flat” in recent decades while per-student costs have “more than doubled.”

 Looking at NAEP tests since 1980 and 1990, Rothstein concludes that “American students have improved substantially, in some cases phenomenally.” As far as a doubling of K12 funding is concerned, yes that’s true, he adds, but the statistic begs to be qualified.

“The biggest single recipient of new money has been special education for children with disabilities,” Rothstein writes. “Four decades ago, special education consumed less than 4 percent of all K12 spending. It now consumes 21 percent.”

What can high schools do to help community colleges and their astronomical drop-out rates? Blogger Dana Goldstein offers a thoughtful analysis.

 “Why are people dropping out of community colleges en masse?” Goldstein asks. “In part, it’s the frustration of being academically under-prepared and thus being forced to pay tuition for credit-less remediation classes. But national surveys of community college drop-outs find that the most cited reasons for leaving school are work and family responsibilities.”

(Thanks to Joanne Jacobs for leading us to Goldstein’s commentary.)

Recent stories in the Washington Post have questioned zero tolerance policies in the Fairfax County (Va.) Public Schools. Read a sobering post by the Post’s Valerie Strauss on common myths about zero tolerance’s effectiveness.

 Lawrence Hardy, Senior Editor

Lawrence Hardy|March 11th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Assessment, Budgeting, Curriculum, Discipline, Dropout Prevention, Educational Research, Governance, Policy Formation, Special Education, Student Achievement, Teachers, Urban Schools, Week in Blogs|

Video from the White House Conference on Bullying Prevention

Yesterday, Earl C. Rickman III, President of the National School Boards Association (NSBA), joined President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House Conference on Bullying Prevention and called for a united effort to address bullying in our schools.

Approximately 150 students, parents, teachers, non-profit leaders, advocates, and policymakers attended the conference and discussed ways they can work together to make our schools and communities safe for all students.

“School board leaders and school officials are committed to safe educational environments for all students,” said Rickman. “With the right guidance and resources school leaders can meet the challenge of ensuring schools are a safe place for all students, free of bullying and harassment.”

Here’s the White House video from the conference:

As announced at yesterday’s conference, NSBA will launch a series of student conversations between school board members and students in middle and high school about the climate in their schools. The sessions will be guided by questions from the research-based school climate surveys developed by NSBA’s Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) and by the Pearson Foundation’s Million Voices project.

“As school boards across the country develop policies and initiatives to combat bullying, it is important they hear from students about the current realities they face in their schools,” said Rickman.

Alexis Rice|March 11th, 2011|Categories: Federal Programs, Multimedia and Webinars, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Student Achievement, Teachers, Urban Schools, Wellness|

More opinions than facts in debate about teacher impact in education reform

IMG_8381Many excellent points are made in “Why Blame the Teachers?” this week’s “Room for Debate” forum in The New York Times.  But a lot of these are just opinions, the kind of thing you would expect from this type of discussion.  

An exception is the essay by author Diane Ravitch, who spoke last month at NSBA’s Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. She backs up her argument that, yes, teachers are being unfairly targeted, with two disturbing facts.

#One is that No Child Left Behind’s goal of having every child rated “proficient” – truly proficient — by 2014 is, by nature, unattainable.

In a world where students come to school with differing backgrounds, abilities, and challenges, the only way to deem them all “proficient” would be to make the tests easy enough for all to pass.

Naomi Dillon|March 8th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Assessment, Policy Formation, Student Achievement, Teachers|Tags: , , , |

Collective bargaining process facing intense scrutiny in education field

1-1232472552P4L3The very high-profile moves to dismantle collective bargaining and curb the power of public employee unions—including teachers–in several states have generally been applauded by school boards.

After all, school boards and administrators should have more power to dictate working conditions that could significantly impact student performance, such as the length of the school day and year, as well as use factors other than seniority when layoffs occur.

But recently some board members have expressed concerns about the voracity that governors and lawmakers have pushed these proposals as they grapple with tight budgets—and whether their school districts would be hurt as well.

The Washington Post reports that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has announced a budget Tuesday that “envisions slashing aid  to local governments and school districts, which he has said could translate into 12,000 layoffs over the next two years.”

John Ashley, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards, has been watching a very ugly situation unfold in his state. In a Feb. 15 letter to the leaders of the legislature’s Joint Finance Committee,

Naomi Dillon|March 7th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Governance, School Climate, Teachers|Tags: , , , |

The week in blogs

Many, many years ago, my brother fought in The Battle of Nashville.

Maybe I should qualify that: He helped re-enact the Civil War Battle of Nashville. And since we were from St. Louis, a nominally Yankee town, he was part of a ridiculously undermanned squad of union re-enactors that somehow managed to overcome a massive army of Confederates. (We’re talking Tennessee, remember?) But even re-enactors must be minimally accurate, so yes, the Yankees won.

Just who will win today’s Battle of Nashville — a battle for public opinion similar to those that have erupted in Ohio, Illinois, and Wisconsin — is hard to say. But as many as 10,000 teachers are gathering to demonstrate at the capitol in Nashville as I write, preparing to march against a bill in the Tennessee legislature that would limit teachers’ collective bargaining rights.


Lawrence Hardy|March 5th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Budgeting, Diversity, Dropout Prevention, Governance, Policy Formation, Student Achievement, Teachers, Week in Blogs|

Riffs cause rift between RI union and district officials

1194985021415637292axe_peterm__svg_medI just love a good fuss. There’s something truly entertaining about adults frothing at the mouth and blowing an issue all out of proportion.

That seems to be the case in Providence, R.I., where the teachers union is all up in arms over the school system’s decision to send out dismissal notices to all 1,926 teachers in the city.

School officials say the notices make sense. As Superintendent Tom Brady told the Providence Journal, state law requires the district to notify teachers by March 1 if there’s the possibility that their employment status could change.

And, confronted with a potential $40 million budget deficit next year, “a dismissal letter to all teachers was necessary to give the mayor, the school board, and the district maximum flexibility to consider every cost savings option, including reductions in staff.”

That makes sense to me. It would be a tad difficult to balance the budget if you tell only 100 teachers that they might lose their jobs—and then you need to lay off 150.

It also makes sense because, if there’s any flexibility in state law and the teachers’ contract, the sweeping dismissal notice allows school officials to avoid the first-hired, first-fired phenomenon that so often surrounds teacher layoffs.

Why lose a promising young talent or hard-to-find science teacher when there are less effective teachers who can go on the chopping block?

I like the idea that teacher layoffs might actually be determined by the educational needs of students.

Naomi Dillon|March 3rd, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Governance, Teachers|Tags: , , , , |

NSBA President: Getting real results to advance student achievement

By Earl C. Rickman III

The recent Conference on Labor-Management Collaboration in Denver showed that when school boards, administrators, and teachers work as a team to improve student achievement, we can greatly strengthen the quality of education we provide to our students and our communities.

I was part of the 12-person delegation of school board leaders from NSBA and state school boards associations participating in the event. I was proud to also represent Michigan’s Mount Clemens Community School District Board of Education, where I serve as board president. My school district was one of the 150 school districts from across the country that participated in the conference.

This first-of-its-kind conference, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, brought national and local school leaders to hear from other superintendents, school boards, and teacher leaders who are working together to redefine the labor-management relationship in their communities, and it highlighted the successes some districts have achieved and how they got there. Through the conference and online resources now on the Department of Education’s website, districts across the country will now be able to share information about their collaborative success and have the resources to design teacher compensation, incentive, and development programs that meet their unique local needs to reach their goals for raising student achievement.

We know a broad base of support is required to achieve successful labor-management relations that drive student success. School board members, administrators, and teachers must all come together to find new ways to focus on increasing student achievement and strengthen our schools. Also, districts must have their community’s support to improve their schools — something that is not a given, considering that 75 percent of adults don’t have children in the public schools.

Throughout our country, school board members understand the importance of increasing student achievement through developing collaborative relationships in the labor management process. No one suggested that tackling controversial issues such as tenure or teacher compensation would be easy and we know that conditions in some districts may not currently exist to adopt these types of approaches. Additionally, the collaborative successes produced in the districts featured at conference can also be achieved in other districts regardless of whether they engage in collective bargaining or whether specific agreements for raising student achievement are contained in the contract.

Local school leaders must rethink collective bargaining to focus on the most important priority —increasing student achievement. A recent NSBA report, “School Boards Circa 2010,” found that 37 percent of school board members surveyed felt that collective bargaining, under the way currently practiced, was a barrier to improving student achievement.

School districts and teacher leaders must create contracts that benefit students—taking into account factors such as the qualifications and evaluations of the teacher, the length of the school day, and the special needs of the students, the school, and the community. This takes guts and sometimes makes you unpopular, but it can be done.

We must change the culture from one of traditional confrontation over compensation and working conditions to collaboration to design those components around a shared vision for raising student achievement in that particular school district, including appropriate rewards and incentives for improvement.

An important part of advancing our public education system is developing successful teacher incentive compensation plans to reward success. NSBA has partnered with American Association of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, and the National Education Association to develop guiding principles for these plans.

These principles center on collaboration and support between school boards, administrators, and teachers leaders at the local level. If a local school district decides to create an incentive plan as part of its school improvement efforts, such a plan should be in line with the district’s mission and strategic plan, and should be integrated into other components including evaluations and training.

We’ve now seen great firsthand examples of how school leaders have come together to put their trust in one another and worked together as a team and made an impact on student achievement. These were real people, doing real work, and getting real results.

Going forward, we need to examine this teamwork further, ask some tough questions, and find ways we can replicate it in other communities and school districts with respect to local circumstances.

It’s time to rethink the relationship of teachers, administrators, and school board members in terms of the larger mission of the school system. Especially given the challenges and pressures that many districts face, collaboration along these lines may prove to be more productive than the traditional confrontational approach.

NSBA is looking forward to working with other national associations and the Department of Education to support local leadership and this collaborative approach as our labor management negotiations continue to evolve.

It’s time for education leaders to come together and do the right things for the children we serve.

Earl C. Rickman III is the president of the National School Boards Association and president of the Board of Education of Mount Clemens Community School District in Michigan.

Erin Walsh|March 1st, 2011|Categories: School Board News, School Boards, Teachers|

The education reform hype

Blogger, E.D. Kain, has a great commentary today on his blog stating “there are no silver-bullets in education reform.”

Kain notes:

School reformers create a seductive narrative for the media and lawmakers alike. Foundations are lured to support radical changes because they promise radical results. It’s much more glamorous, after all, to put money into shiny new charter schools than to give those dollars to school districts. School choice and accountability sound good on paper, and films like The Lottery and Waiting for Superman pull on our heartstrings and paint pictures of selfish teachers lobbying hard against their own students. These films ignore not only the external factors leading to school failure – including poverty, lack of funding, and other societal issues – they also gloss over the many failed charter schools and choice programs across the country. Advocates of choice and accountability and the modern charter-school movement brush off the wildly varying results found from one charter school to the next. Like traditional public schools, charter schools with a higher percentage of white and Asian students and lower numbers of ESL students and other disadvantaged students fair much better than those with more mixed populations.

Top-down reformers demonize teachers, shut down ‘failing’ schools, and attempt to implement reforms without the input or buy-in of teachers, parents, and the community. This is why Michelle Rhee and Adrian Fenty are no longer serving in Washington, D.C. It’s why Alan Bersin, who publicly fired school administrators and whose tenure saw the highest turnover of teachers and principals in San Diego history, was eventually removed in San Diego. And it’s why Mayor Bloomberg fights so hard to retain total authority over all education decision-making in New York City. Without support from the rank-and-file, school reform is impossible.

American public education is inherently democratic and decentralized, and no amount of dictatorial reform efforts will change that. It’s also about more than simply teaching kids how to take tests in reading and math. We cannot constantly compare American schools to those in other nations – American culture is different from Asian culture or Northern European culture. The accountability movement has shifted the focus away from American ingenuity and creativity in favor of strict testing regimes in an attempt to compete with Japan and Finland. This is the wrong approach. As our nation grows in wealth and technology, American public education should be a reflection of these changes. American schools may have been founded along industrial lines, but accountability efforts only entrench this attitude. If anything, we should be looking for ways to make education more creative and diverse, and to make American students more well-rounded and independent. The current reforms achieve just the opposite.

Let us know what you think?

Alexis Rice|February 28th, 2011|Categories: Comparative Education, Conferences and Events, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Programs, Mayoral Control, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Student Achievement, Teachers|

The week in blogs

Tripoli aside, the biggest story this week was the same as last: the extraordinary standoff in Madison, Wis., between Gov. Scott Walker and thousands of unionized teachers and other public employees. Pundits of all political stripes agreed that it marked a new chapter in labor-management relations.

For you pessimists out there (or is that realists?), Russell Walter Mead, of the American Interest, says the events in Wisconsin depict a national economy undergoing a wrenching change similar to the one that befell the proverbial buggy whip manufacturers in the early 20th century. But this time, he says, it’s not just laborers who will feel the distress.

“The US manufacturing sector has actually grown since 1973, producing more even as it has shed workers,” Mead writes. “There is no reason why the same thing can’t happen to lawyers, middle managers, government bureaucrats and many more white collar workers as computers get smarter and firms start outsourcing professional work overseas.”

For a more political take on the confrontation, see Understanding Government (“Scott Walker’s Union Dismemberment Plan”) which links to an earlier New Republic article on the efforts of several Republican governors to change the prevailing management-labor dynamic.

Moving further left, we have Mother Jones on how the billionaire,  staunchly anti-labor Koch brothers helped fund Walker’s gubernatorial campaign.

On the right, there’s the Heritage Foundation, with a sit down interview with Gov. Walker himself, and the MacIver Institute blog on how much protesting teachers could be costing taxpayers in missed classroom time. (Nine million-plus, it says.)

Finally, we have some relief in the form of Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert and his priceless interview with AFT President Randi Weingarten.

Lawrence Hardy, Senior Editor

Lawrence Hardy|February 25th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Budgeting, Governance, Policy Formation, Teachers, Week in Blogs|
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