Articles in the Teachers category

Parental (over)involvement?

The term “helicopter parents” isn’t new, but are teachers reaching a breaking point in dealing with, dare we say it, too much involvement on the part of some parents? (Hat tip: Eduwonk). Virginia schoolteacher Steven Rothman‘s commentary is well worth your read.

Let me be clear: The vast majority of parents with whom we deal are wonderful and supportive. However, a rapidly growing minority is having a real, negative impact on schools, and the teaching profession, by being too involved in their children’s lives.

Erin Walsh|May 19th, 2008|Categories: NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Teachers|

Seeing the “sites” (again)

BoardBuzz told you before about the TLN Site Visits. Well, they’ve wrapped up for the spring, with the final one in Batavia City School District in New York last week, which was, by all accounts, a rousing success.

Ann Flynn, NSBA’s director of Education Technology Programs, who attended the visit, had this to say

I couldn’t agree more with Tom Lambeth of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation who said “the path to economic development begins at the schoolhouse door.” He could have been talking our most recent Technology Leadership Network site visit host, the Batavia City School District in western New York.

In driving around the community, I noticed that new commercial development was underway and after meeting the students, teachers, district staff, and board members, it was clear how the quality of the district’s schools must surely contribute to that growth. Sixty-seven educators from 10 states joined me last week to gain a deeper understanding about how Batavia developed its vision and found the funding to create student-centered classrooms. A great example was seen during the visit to a middle school social studies class that had students working in three areas of the room: one group completing work sheets by listening to pre-assigned segments of campaign speeches on iPods; another group using an interactive white board with the instructor; and the remaining students working in pairs on a WebQuest with computers located in the rear of the room.

Throughout the visit, we saw excited, engaged students focused on their assigned tasks that encouraged them to think rather than simply recite facts. Although many factors impact an area’s economic well being, the visit to Batavia, reminded me how critical it is for school board members to understand the role public schools play in a community’s long-term economic health. It is evident that the city of Batavia is now reaping the benefits from years of thoughtful planning by school leaders.

To get an inside look at what it takes to put all the pieces together, consider participating in an upcoming visit. A one-day site visit is planned to the Lake Washington School District in conjunction with NSBA’s T+L Conference in Seattle on Monday, October 27, and longer visits are planned in Missouri, Alabama, and Louisiana next spring. Check the TLN website at for the most up-to-date information.

Erin Walsh|May 13th, 2008|Categories: Educational Technology, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards, Student Achievement, Teachers|

The Super Bowl of science

BoardBuzz was excited to see this story of some high school students who really know their stuff. This team of four high school students placed first in the National Science Bowl by correctly answering six graduate-level questions.

The event, sponsored by the Department of Energy, is a “competition among teams of high school students who attend science seminars and compete in a verbal forum to solve technical problems and answer questions in all branches of science and math.” Like the spelling bee, but with science questions instead.

The winning team, from Santa Monica High School in California, beat out 66 other schools.

“They did not crack under pressure,” said Coach Ingo Gaida, a science teacher at the school. “I’d been telling them all year long they had the potential to do this. This was the strongest team we’ve ever had.”

The team began preparing for the bowl in September, and since January had been practicing daily in the fields of math, earth science, astronomy, biology, chemistry and geology. The level of difficulty of some questions in the final round was equivalent to graduate school, Gaida said.

The question that clinched the win: “For the Maclaurin series of the function e2x, what is the coefficient for the x4, in the simplest form?” Answer: 2/3.

“There were some close games, but I always felt like we had a good chance to win,” said Dimitry Petrenko, 18, a senior who has been on the team for three years. “I feel satisfied, almost relieved like I’ve done my job and can graduate.”

The other team members are Alexandre Boulgakov, 16, Marino Di Franco, 16, and Ian Scheffler, 17. The team won a trip to the International Youth Science Forum in London this summer, $1,000 for the school’s science department and a 6-foot-high trophy.

To say that BoardBuzz is impressed would be a gross understatement! Congrats to the team. We can’t wait to see what you’re up to next!

Erin Walsh|May 7th, 2008|Categories: Announcements, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Student Achievement, Teachers|

Get your learnin’ on

October will be here before you know it and along with that comes NSBA’s T+L Conference. Registration opened today for what promises to be a conference chock full of great learning opportunities.

Held in Seattle from October 28-30, this year’s conference boasts an impressive lineup, including keynote addresses from Stanford University professor and futurist Paul Saffo; education “revolutionary” Joe Caruso; and educator David Warlick.

You can read all about it on the T+L web site and in NSBA’s press release.

We’re also looking for leaders in education technology to be recognized as the latest group of “20 to Watch”. You can learn more about it and submit an application here. Check out last year’s group here.

Erin Walsh|May 6th, 2008|Categories: Announcements, Conferences and Events, Educational Technology, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards, Teachers|

Credit where credit is due

This is always one of BoardBuzz‘s favorite times of the year. No, not because the sun has finally come out and it appears that summer is right around the corner (although that helps). No, what really charges us up is the announcement of the Teacher of the Year, which happens every year right about this time.

And this year is no exception. The Council of Chief State School Officers has named Michael Geisen of Oregon as 2008 National Teacher of the Year. According to CCSSO’s Web site,

Geisen, a science teacher at Crook County Middle School in Prineville, Oregon, is the 58th National Teacher of the Year. He will begin a year as a full-time national and international spokesperson for education on June 1, 2008.

“A great teacher,” he says, “is a unifier of ideas, a unifier of people, and a unifier of ideas with people. In my teaching I strive to bring together creativity and science, to unite my students into a community, and to help each person in this community connect with the big ideas of science.”

Working to keep textbooks to, as he describes it, 97 percent colorful wall decoration and 3 percent reference materials, this seventh-grade teacher strives consistently to keep all of his curriculum, labs, assignments, activities and evaluations hand-tailored.

As Geisen explains, “By doing so, I’m able to correlate them exactly with the Oregon standards, incorporate multiple levels of cognition, revise them when needed and keep them up to date with emerging science. Some of them are based on ideas that colleagues or students have shared with me, but many of them I simply dream up while in the shower or while driving to work. However they originate, I try to put a bit of myself, a bit of Prineville, and a good dose of humor and creativity into each activity, project or assignment. In fact, students even laugh during tests in our class.”

And that’s no laughing matter! Be sure to check out the full press release and the CCSSO’s Web site for more information about what makes this teacher a stand out. You can also check out the teacher’s of the year who were recognized in each state.

Erin Walsh|May 5th, 2008|Categories: NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Teachers|

How’s your school climate?

Have you ever wondered what people are really thinking? As a principal, counselor, administrator, school board member, or teacher, a lot of faith is put into the idea that we are doing a good job and the people we work with feel the same way. But sometimes those perceptions are wrong, sometimes our perceptions aren’t those of our key stakeholders, and sometimes the educators need to be educated.

NSBA’s Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) recently conducted a study led by Dr. Brian Perkins (along with recommendations from the PTA) regarding school climate. What We Think, surveyed more than 10,000 urban parents in 17 different states to find out their opinions about bullying; teacher/student respect; safety; and expectations, to name a few of the topics.

NSBA and CUBE have previously examined student perspectives on school climate (Where We Learn) and teacher and administrator perspectives (Where We Teach). The third study came to some interesting conclusions, including:

~ Slightly more female parents (76.7%) indicated visiting the school to support its activities than did their male counterparts (72%).
~ Parents overwhelmingly believed that their child was capable of high performance on standardized tests (84%).

~ Most parents felt respected by the teachers at their child’s school (87%).

~ Parents with children in the middle grades (6-8) indicated that their children were bullied at least once per month more than parents at other grades (13%).

~ Generally, parents who used self-experience as their primary source of information about their school held more positive views about safety (76.1%), while parents who used the newspaper as their primary source of information about their school held more negative views about safety (12.5%).

Take a look for yourself. The study (as well as the first two) is available on CUBE’s website and the results are sometimes surprising. Our friends at Education Daily and Public School Insights already have, and there’s no disputing the fact that parents have an important insight into our schools and are crucial to their success.

Erin Walsh|May 1st, 2008|Categories: Announcements, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards, School Security, Student Achievement, Teachers|

Gentlemen (and ladies) start your engines

It was bound to happen. Someone found a way to make NASCAR educational. BoardBuzz kids you not. So for all you speed freaks out there, pay close attention to this story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. It seems that Alpharetta High math teacher Jane McAlister has found a way to make math “fun as well as educational” all by using NASCAR as a guide.

The course description in the 2008 Spring catalog reads: “If you think this is a simple-minded sport for rednecks, you are in for the ride of your life.”

The class embraces all things speed, and looks at the big picture in a mathematical context.

Classroom discussions include the dimensions of a track, the measurements of a race car and how the two can work for or against the driver.

Keeping up with the NASCAR Chase for the Cup, and who is up or down in the complex points system, is all part of the curriculum. Homework assignments include watching Speed TV and weekend NASCAR and Indy car races.

The class is part of Alpharetta High’s Talented and Gifted (TAG) program. Students take the class in addition to their regular course work, but don’t get a letter grade for the extra seminar. Students who complete the class get a “gifted participation” designation on their high school transcripts, McAlister said.

The early inspiration for the class came when McAlister was still teaching math at nearby Milton High School. Michelle Theriault was a student.

“She’d come to me every now and then and ask for three weeks worth of assignments because she was going racing,” said McAlister. “And I thought, ‘If she’s interested in this there have to be other teenagers interested.’ ”

Theriault, who started racing long before she had a driver’s license, competes in various NASCAR and ARCA events and dreams of becoming a NASCAR champion.

McAlister said Theriault’s passion for her sport made her wonder if a class that studied racing would work.

And the rest, as they say, is history. It’s innovative programming like this that keeps kids engaged and makes them want to learn. What kinds of creative curricula do you have in your district? Tell us about it by leaving a comment.

Erin Walsh|April 29th, 2008|Categories: Curriculum, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Student Achievement, Teachers|

A tarnished silver anniversary?

This month marks the 25th Anniversary of A Nation at Risk, the government study that examined education and what needs to be changed to improve American education. The study was put together by a team of educators including school board members from urban districts, rural districts, state associations, presidents of universities, principals, a Nobel Laureate, and a teacher of the year (to name a few). It’s widely regarded as “the” report on education, but for many of us in the daily grind of working in the world of education, we were merely school kids ourselves when the report came out.

USA Today took one side of the issue in Friday’s edition, essentially saying that while we have a long way to go, there are improvements in education that should be emulated. In the other corner, Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute, pits the problems in schools against other American problems such as poverty, the credit debacle, and a loss of industrial jobs.

Nothing in America operates in a vacuum, and education’s problems often trickle down to other aspects of society, but can the schools solve a credit crisis? How about health care? Poverty? Shall we go on? Yes, education is the answer to many of our ills, but educational innovations are the key to the future. So much has changed, yet so much has stayed the same as the America we knew in 1983. Look at the facts–economic uncertainly in the U.S.–check. Uncertainty in the international community and it’s view of the U.S.–check. Wages being stagnant–check. “Crisis” in education–check.

So what’s a teacher, administrator, school board member, superintendent, or most importantly, a student to do? The ideas are out there, but just like those days in school in 80s, you’re gonna have to do some homework (and the internet wasn’t even being used by regular people yet). NSBA has some innovative ideas through the National Affiliate program, CUBE, TLN, and your state school boards association is always willing to help. Dig in. You’ll find that the best answers are often in the depths of the web pages, but what’s most important is that as we read about all the flaws and comparisons to the last 25 years, we realize that we still have work to do, and it is possible to have positive results.

Erin Walsh|April 21st, 2008|Categories: NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards, Student Achievement, Teachers|Tags: |

Leading by example

Do as I say not as I do? Not for the teachers at one Michigan high school. BoardBuzz is excited and inspired by a group of teachers at Orchard View High School who have implemented a wellness plan. This according to a posting on the Muskegon Chronicle’s blog.

About a dozen teachers have banded together this school year to promote the importance of exercise and diet. Their efforts so far have included forming an after-school teachers’ running club and successfully lobbying for healthier cafeteria food. They also hope to start a similar running club for students this spring.

As motivation for themselves, the teachers decided to compete in the Fifth Third River Bank Run, a popular race scheduled for May 10 in Grand Rapids.

“The first thing we did was form a health committee,” said history teacher Nicholas Cole, one of four teachers who formed the committee last fall. “We realized that we had no programs directed at health and fitness for staff.”

Nothing like leading by example! What’s more, “With the support of the high school’s food service director and a registered dietitian, new, healthier food was added to the school’s menu. For example, whole wheat, whole-grain breads took the place of less nutritious ‘sub buns.’ Cookies and cheeses were replaced with reduced-fat versions. And lower-sodium recipes were created.”

What’s especially exciting about this is that the teachers have taken this initiative on their own. And that’s what good leadership is all about. Run on, Orchard View, run on!

Erin Walsh|April 15th, 2008|Categories: NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Student Achievement, Teachers, Wellness|

Gates advises Congress on education, immigration

BoardBuzz isn’t sure where to begin. Let’s start with the facts. Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates paid a visit to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to testify before the House Committee on Science and Technology. He presented a wish list that you may recognize from last year. Gates wants more money for math and science education, more funds for research, and more visas for skilled foreign workers. His testimony focused much on global competitiveness and the need for the U.S. to drastically reform its immigration program. As the Washingont Post reports:

In his last scheduled testimony to Congress before he retires, Gates said those provisions are necessary for the United States to maintain a competitive edge in technology innovation. He said some of the most talented graduates in math, science and engineering are temporary residents and cannot get the visas they need to take jobs with U.S. companies.

This perspective has incited much debate about immigration and the “offshoring” of jobs. However, Gates brings up an interesting point. “U.S. innovation has always been based in part on foreign-born scientists and researchers,” he said. “The fact that their smartest people have wanted to come here has been a huge advantage to us, and in a sense, we’re kind of throwing that away.”

BoardBuzz is reminded that some of “America’s” greatest minds were in fact foreign nationals at one time. Albert Einstein probably being the most prominent. However, there certainly is a difference between seeking to incorporate great minds into our workforce and simply sending jobs overseas.

The debate over this issue surrounds Gates’s demand to increase the number of H-1B visas issued annually. Currently, only 65,000 visas may be issued, and that number is generally filled within the first day the visa process opens. H-1B visas allow employers to hire foreign workers with specific skills. Last year, Microsoft was not able to get visas for about one-third of its prospective foreign employees, claims Gates. Microsoft even went so far as to establish a Canadian outpost for these workers just across the border.


Erin Walsh|March 14th, 2008|Categories: Curriculum, Educational Technology, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Teachers|
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