Articles in the Teachers category

NSBA urges action to prevent across-the-board federal cuts to education

Federal funding for education faces significant across-the-board cuts of an estimated $4.1 billion on January 2, 2013 unless U.S. Congress takes action. The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is urging Congress to rescind the across-the-board cuts (sequestration) to education. Impact Aid would face cuts during this school year, and other education programs would face cuts beginning in July of 2013, affecting the 2013-2014 school districts’ budgets. See the U.S. Department of Education’s letter that details the timing. NSBA is encouraging school board members to contact their members of Congress, pass board resolutions, and send a letter to the editor about these drastic cuts to education.

Under the Budget Control Act of 2011 across-the-board cuts of 7.8 percent or more to education and other domestic programs will happen through a process called sequestration (the cancellation of budgetary resources), unless Congress intervenes.

Cuts would include:

  • A 7.8 percent cut to programs such as Title I grants for disadvantaged students would mean a cut of more than $1 billion, affecting nearly two million students.
  • Special education grants would be reduced by more than $900 million, impacting nearly 500,000 children with disabilities.
  • English Language Acquisition grants would be cut by approximately $60 million, affecting an estimated 377,000 students.
  • Sequestration’s budget cuts to these and other education programs would mean increased class sizes and less access to programs for children with special needs, as well as summer school, college counselors, early childhood education and after-school programming.

Most school districts have experienced significant budget cuts already in recent years, resulting in fewer course offerings, thousands of teacher and staff layoffs, four-day school weeks, loss of extracurricular activities, and reduced transportation services, for example. If further budget cuts from sequestration were to occur, several school districts would be forced to cut even more essential services over the long term.

As a school board member, utilize these talking points and background information and take a moment to customize this sample letter and send it to your senators and representative. Also consider customizing and adopting the sample board resolution, take the survey, and edit and send a letter to your local newspaper editor.

Please send NSBA a copy of your adopted resolutions on sequestration along with any published opinions that will help illustrate why Congress should reject sequestration and preserve funding for our schools.

Alexis Rice|September 12th, 2012|Categories: Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Student Achievement, Teachers|Tags: , , , , |

New poll finds strong support for local schools and teachers

The latest Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll on public education shows Americans continue to strongly support their public schools, want rigorous teacher evaluations, support Common Core standards, and are divided about the concept of school choice.

By a considerable margin, the poll showed that a lack of funding is viewed as the biggest challenge facing public schools, cited by 35 percent of Americans and 43 percent of public school parents. The survey’s authors noted that only 23 percent of Americans saw funding as a problem in 2002, the same year that 39 percent cited fighting, gang violence, and drugs as the largest issue in public schools. Only 14 percent of Americans cited those factors as problems in 2012.

Half of the Americans polled said they believe Common Core standards will improve the quality of education in their communities (including 46 percent of those identified as Republicans, 60 percent of Democrats, and 43 percent of Independents).

And for the first time in 10 years, support for charter schools dipped slightly, with 66 percent of Americans overall supporting the schools. But 44 percent of Americans approve of vouchers for private schools, a 10 percentage point jump from last year’s all-time low of 34 percent. And 70 percent of Americans favor giving parents of children in failing schools the option of mounting a petition to remove the administrators and teachers.

In a separate poll conducted by Gallup on the No Child Left Behind Act, more Americans said the law and its testing and accountability requirements have made education worse rather than better. Twenty-nine percent said the law has made school worse, 16 said better, and 38 percent said it hasn’t made much of a difference. Gallup’s annual Work and Education Poll, released Aug. 20, has shown similar results in recent years.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|August 22nd, 2012|Categories: Educational Finance, No Child Left Behind, School Vouchers, Teachers|Tags: , , , |

NJ School Boards Association commends new teacher tenure law

The New Jersey School Boards Association (NJSBA) praised Gov. Chris Christie and legislators for approving a new law that will reduce the time and cost of teacher tenure hearings.

Christie signed the law, called the TEACHNJ Act, on August 6.

“The new law creates an essential link between the tenure process and teacher performance.  It also calls for an objective evaluation system to help ensure consistency,” said Marie S. Bilik, NJSBA executive director, in a written statement. “We commend the bi-partisan effort, and hope to see further reforms in areas such as seniority, which would further strengthen school district leaders’ ability to ensure that the most effective teachers are in the classroom.”

While NJSBA had called for eliminating lifetime tenure and the “last in, first out” rules, the association is pleased with the changes made by this new law, particularly the bill’s emphasis on teacher evaluation and requiring four years of work instead of three before a school employee can initially earn tenure.

According to NJSBA, the legislation requires a superintendent to recommend the filing of tenure charges after consecutive annual evaluation ratings of ineffective.  The ratings are to be based upon an evaluation process approved by the commissioner of education. “This provision represents a major change in how the tenure laws have been applied up to now,” Bilik said.

“This new tenure law is an important step towards ensuring we have a great teacher in every classroom,” Christie, a Republican, said at the signing ceremony. “Now is the time to build on this record of cooperation and results to put in place further reforms focused on our students by ending the flawed practice of last in, first out and supporting both differentiated pay and banning forced placements of teachers.”

CNN reported that New Jersey has the oldest teacher tenure law on the books, first passed in 1909.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|August 8th, 2012|Categories: Educational Legislation, Governance, Legislative advocacy, State School Boards Associations, Teachers|Tags: , , , , |

NSBA: Fordham survey misses the mark on school funding

The National School Boards Association Executive Director Anne L. Bryant was asked to comment on a new survey by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation that shows how members of the public would cut funding for public schools. The survey found that many would prefer to downsize the ranks of administrative staff rather than teachers, freeze teacher salaries, or lay off teachers based on factors other than seniority. Bryant’s response is below.

Looking at the new Thomas B. Fordham Foundation’s survey, “How Americans Would Slim Down Public Education,” it’s abundantly clear that Americans are interested, engaged and supportive of their local schools. There is also an overriding sense that many of these hard choices must be made at the local level with a community’s input–thus showing clear evidence for the need for local school boards.

The authors have created a scenario of choosing between critical programs and staff for public schools—choices such as laying off teachers, instructional leaders, arts and music classes and extracurricular activities. However, this survey is about four years late–many public schools are already operating on a bare-bones administration and have been forced to make tough choices to lay off teachers and cut academic programs. And with the federal government looking to implement sequestration this January, K-12 programs may see further across-the-board cuts.

While reducing the number of administrators seems like the obvious answer, as 69 percent of respondents chose, many of these officials play key roles in developing curriculum, managing services, and performing other duties that are directly tied to student achievement. Like any business, school districts need officials to manage budgets and operations to ensure that students are safe and teachers and principals can focus on their jobs.

The public sent a clear message that they prefer forgoing raises or slight salary cuts for teachers and other staff in lieu of layoffs. We’ve seen many examples of school boards, administrators and union representatives working together to navigate these budget choices. For instance, school board members and officials in the Boone County Public Schools in Florence, Ky., worked with their teachers union on a plan to forgo raises in lieu of layoffs, so that student/teacher ratios could be maintained. The labor-management relationship “is truly a relationship built on trust, accountability and respect,” as school board member and current President of the National School Boards Association (NSBA) C. Ed Massey recently told me, and the board has brought in coaches to help all teachers improve their skills. That’s an investment that has paid off in continuous improvement in student learning and college and career readiness, as evidenced by average ACT scores that have climbed from 19.5 in 2008 to 20.9 in 2012.

Fordham should not be at all surprised at the tepid response for full-time cyber schools, as too many at-risk students are performing poorly, or simply not logging in. The Center for Public Education found in its recent report, “Searching for the Reality of Virtual Schools,”  that emerging research shows dismal results for some schools and there is little accountability for public funds.

One aspect of the survey is particularly flawed. The questions related to support for special education services show that, among other findings, 71 percent say programs should be evaluated on their effectiveness and “replaced” if deemed not effective.

The survey questions ignore the landmark 1975 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)  law that mandates a “free appropriate public education” in “the least restrictive environment” for every student identified with a disability. This was a major victory for students with disabilities who previously had been denied an education or received inferior services. Since the law’s passage the numbers of students with disabilities have increased tremendously, largely because of better diagnoses of conditions such as autism and in part because better medical treatments have allowed some severely disabled students to live and attend mainstream schools. More recent reauthorizations of the law have instilled new accountability requirements onto school systems to ensure that students with disabilities are meeting high expectations.

Yet the federal government has never come close to funding the 40 percent of excess costs for educating these students as lawmakers had promised in 1975. Each year NSBA and thousands of school board members and educators lobby the U.S. Congress to request full funding; however, funding currently stands at $11.5 billion, or about 17 percent, and is in danger of being reduced by $900 million through sequestration. This program has been a priority of both parties, as it frees up state and local funding to be spent on programs that each community deems to be its priorities.

A strong public education system attracts and retains businesses that are essential to local economies. Public schools must have the resources to give our students the knowledge and skills needed for long-term global competitiveness. Our nation’s future economic success depends on how smartly and adequately all levels of government invest in public education today.

Erin Walsh|August 2nd, 2012|Categories: Educational Finance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards, Special Education, Teachers|Tags: , , , , , |

Watch inspiring speeches by NSBA leaders on YouTube

Videos of NSBA’s leaders’ speeches given during NSBA’s 2012 Annual Conference, held April 21-23 in Boston, are now available on NSBA’s YouTube channel.

Mary Broderick, NSBA’s 2011-12 President, detailed a letter to President Obama she had written during her term as president, calling for a greater focus on nurturing children’s desires to learn rather than an emphasis on testing.

Speaking at the Second General Session on April 22, Broderick cited examples of federal and state policies stifling children’s motivation and learning through an overemphasis on standards and testing. She called for more focus on motivational research on students, and she also emphasized the need for public education systems to attract and retain good teachers and administrators by giving them flexibility to do their jobs.

Broderick’s letter to President Obama elicited several news stories and hundreds of Twitter “tweets.”

NSBA President C. Ed Massey also engaged attendees with a speech on adaptive leadership and ways that school boards can position their schools to adapt to a constantly changing world. Rethinking the ways the system has operated can improve students’ learning, and ultimately, the nation’s economy, he said at the Third General Session on April 23.

Massey called on national leaders and school board members to “commit to public education as a civil and moral right” and to make education a top priority in policy and budget discussions.

The NSBA YouTube channel also features videos of speeches by leaders and presenters at previous NSBA conferences.

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|June 22nd, 2012|Categories: NSBA Annual Conference 2012, Teachers|Tags: , , , , |

NSBA signs shared vision for future of teaching

As part of this week’s Labor Management Conference, the National School Boards Association signed a “shared vision” for the future of the teaching profession that outlines seven elements to transform the field.

NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant participated in the opening panel of the conference, held May 23 to 24 in Cincinnati.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, the shared vision focuses on three goals, which include ensuring all students should be prepared for college, career, and citizenship; improving opportunities and access to higher education for less privileged students; and preparing all students to be globally competitive. The seven core principles to achieve these goals include:

• A culture of shared responsibility and leadership;

• Recruiting top talent into schools prepared for success;

• Continuous growth and professional development;

• Effective teachers and principals;

• A professional career continuum with competitive compensation;

• Conditions that support successful teaching and learning;

• Engaged communities.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and representatives from six other national education organizations also signed the document.

“The principles outlined in the document represent ways to strengthen and elevate teaching as one of our nation’s most valued and respected professions,” said Duncan.

In addition to NSBA and Duncan, co-signers of the document include the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, the American Association of School Administrators, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Council of the Great City Schools, and the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|May 24th, 2012|Categories: Professional Development, Teachers|Tags: , , |

NSBA leaders attend Labor-Management Conference

National School Boards Association (NSBA) President C. Ed Massey and Executive Director Anne L. Bryant will join school board leaders and educators from 41 states and more than 100 school districts for the U.S. Department of Education’s second Labor Management Conference.

The event, Collaborating to Transform the Teaching Profession, is designed to share innovative ideas and successful policies that strengthen the teaching profession, from recruiting new candidates to retaining talent already in the classroom. NSBA is a co-sponsor of the conference, to be held May 23 and 24 in Cincinnati.

The Education Department, joined by NSBA and other partners, produced a document, “Transforming the Teaching Profession,” which outlines steps that states, school districts, and the federal government must take to recruit, prepare, and support teachers through their careers. The document addresses conditions for successful teaching and learning, teacher compensation, professional development, and community engagement, among other strategies.

Bryant will speak about the formation of this document and on the school board’s role during the opening panel session on May 23.

“Teachers have a tremendous impact on student achievement and the overall school environment, and school boards across the country want new ways to improve the profession and attract the best candidates,” Bryant said. “NSBA is pleased to be a cosponsor again this year so that we can further these discussions and build on the work that we began during last year’s conference.”

Representatives from Massey’s school district, Boone County Schools in Florence, Ky., also will attend the conference. District officials recently negotiated a plan with its teachers union to forego raises to avoid layoffs.

“I am looking forward to collaborating with other school district leaders and national groups to share experiences and find ways to build better labor-management agreements that will benefit all students and school staff,” Massey said. “This conference provides a unique opportunity to meet with other colleagues and experts from around the country.”

Participants from NSBA and state school boards associations include:

  • C. Ed Massey, NSBA President & Vice Chairman, Boone County Board of Education
  • Timothy C. Duffy, Executive Director, Rhode Island Association of School Committees
  • Patrice McCarthy, Deputy Director and General Counsel, Connecticut Association of Boards of Education
  • Nathan W. Burbidge, Counsel, Utah School Boards Association
  • Timothy Kremer, Executive Director, New York State School Boards Association
  • Renee Fambro, Deputy Director of Labor Relations, Ohio School Boards Association
  • Anne L. Bryant, NSBA Executive Director

The following participants are also attending as part of their state teams:

  • William G. Scott, Executive Director, Kentucky School Boards Association
  • Stephen R. Dale, Executive Director, Vermont School Boards Association

A complete list of participating school districts is available at: http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/2012-labor-management-conference-showcase-local-work-strengthening-teaching-prof

Erin Walsh|May 22nd, 2012|Categories: Board governance, Teachers|Tags: , |

NSBA comments on U.S. Chamber of Commerce report on school boards

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce may not agree on everything regarding K-12 education, but when it comes to basic recommendations for improving school board governance they can find some common ground.

Consider School Board Case Studies, a new report by the chamber’s Institute for a Competitive Workforce, which was released May 15 at a forum in Washington. Among the report’s findings:

  • School boards are most effective when they have clearly defined, and limited, responsibilities
  • Superintendents play a key role
  • Effective training and board development can make a difference
  • Caliber and commitment of individual board members matters

“Frankly, that’s what we call The Key Work of School Boards,” said NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant, one of several panelists asked to comment on the report. NSBA’s Key Work is a framework of eight interrelated action areas to focus and guide school boards in their efforts to improve student achievement.

The chamber’s report looks at case studies of 13 mainly urban school districts across the country that are experiencing varying degrees of success, from the internationally recognized Long Beach Unified School District in Southern California to more challenged school systems in Detroit and Newark, N.J. The report emphasizes the role that business can play to create — as panelist Andrew J. Rotherham, co-founder of Bellwether Education Partners, put it — “urgency and context for reform.”

Rotherham said that business leaders and other concerned parties need to encourage well-qualified people to run for school boards. He said recruiting the right people doesn’t mean finding someone who shares your political views as much as choosing citizens who are up to this increasingly complex job.

“The reality is — it’s the type of habits and skills that people have” that are important, Rotherham said.

Bryant agreed. But she pointed to the 2011 report by NSBA, the Iowa School Boards Foundation, and the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, School Boards Circa 2010: Governance in the Accountability Era to counter some of the claims in the report, including a claim that school board elections are driven by special interests that are pouring money into races. School Boards Circa 2010 found that nationally, 74 percent of school board members said they spent less than $1,000 on their most recent race, and 87 percent spent less than $5,000.

Bryant also noted that two-thirds of board members surveyed for the report saw an urgent need to improve student achievement. As a group, the board members were also well-educated; 75 percent had at least a bachelor’s degree. And they typically aren’t using the board as a stepping stone to other positions, as some critics charge. When asked what prompted them to serve on a school board in the first place, just over 50 percent of respondents reported that their first motivation was to ensure that schools were the “best they can be,” 22 percent said “civic duty,” and only 1 percent said “developing their role as a public leader,” according to School Boards Circa 2010.

Bryant emphasized the need for collaboration, but also warned that strong partnerships take time and work.

“ We know from experience that our most successful partnerships start by building a culture of collaboration,” Bryant said. “This is hard work and any business or local chamber of commerce needs to understand that it takes time not only to build partnerships but to recognize their schools’ strengths and challenges. We’ve seen many partnerships flounder when a business coalition comes in and tells a school what to do without understanding how schools work and what the levers of real long term change are.”

Another panelist, Don McAdams,  chairman and founder of the Center for Reform of School Systems, criticized the report and said the 13 case studies were used to advance opinions rather than represent a snapshot of national findings.

The audience also heard from former U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, now president of the chamber’s U.S. Forum for Policy Innovation. She said that business people need to have more of a presence at school board meetings, which she said are typically attended by vendors, teacher unions, and others with special interest in the proceedings.

 

 

Lawrence Hardy|May 15th, 2012|Categories: Board governance, Data Driven Decision Making, Governance, Key Work of School Boards, Student Achievement, Teachers, Urban Schools|Tags: , , , , , |

Respect is key to teaching and learning

When Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot talks about respect, she doesn’t mean the deference you might show to someone with power or authority, the kind of deference that’s given to avoid punishment, shame, or embarrassment.

No, the Harvard professor and winner of a MacArthur Prize for her writings and research is talking about something deeper and more basic, something like the kind of respect her late father exuded.

“He commanded respect without even asking for it,” Lawrence-Lightfoot said Sunday at the National Black Caucus luncheon, recalling her brother’s poignant eulogy at the memorial service. “It was a month later that I realized Dad’s secret: He got respect by giving it.”

It is this kind of respect that Lawrence-Lightfoot said we should all foster in our relationships, and because this was an audience of school board members, she focused a lot on the quality of respect we show to students, and to other adults, in school.

Lawrence-Lightfoot is the author of nine books, including Respect: An Exploration and The Good High School: Portraits and Culture. She has visited many schools and talked to countless schoolchildren. To a question such as, “Why do you think Mrs. Brown is a good teacher?” the answer is invariably. “Because she respects us.”

The importance of respecting and not stereotyping minority students cannot be overstated. Lawrence-Lightfoot contrasted this kind of recognition with the feelings of anonymity expressed in Ralph Ellison’s autobiographical novel Invisible Man.

To foster respect, we need to concentrate on several ideas, Lawrence-Lightfoot said. These include symmetry (rather than hierarchy), relationship, civility, storytelling, language, a recognition of family origins, and silence.

“I feel that, at their core, teaching and learning are deeply relational” activities, Lawrence-Lightfoot said.

Lawrence Hardy|April 23rd, 2012|Categories: NSBA Annual Conference 2012, Teachers|Tags: |

National Teacher of the Year changing perceptions of her profession

Changing the perception of teachers is among the most important challenges facing public education, said Michelle Shearer, the 2011 National Teacher of the Year, at a Sunday afternoon session.

“The conversation always comes back to the teacher,” said Shearer, who teaches Advanced Placement chemistry in Frederick, Md. “We know parents have the greatest power and community support makes a huge difference, but it’s the teacher who is in the trenches on a daily basis.”

And while teachers are charged with shaping the next generation, they are often under-resourced and more importantly, under-appreciated.

“We have this amazing ability to talk out of both sides of our mouths,” Shearer said. While society wants the best and brightest to teach, it often discourages the best and the brightest from going into teaching.

Shearer knows this firsthand. Growing up, she always wanted to be a teacher, but her aspirations were met with a tepid response from her family. When she went away to college, her roommate asked flatly, “You came to Princeton and all you want to be is a teacher?”

The less-than-inspiring comments chipped away at Shearer’s self-confidence, causing her to question her career path and settle on a degree in chemistry. She figured she could always volunteer to teach, which she did at the Maryland School for the Deaf.

“Something about that environment really drew me in,” said Shearer, who attributes many of her teaching philosophies to her time at the school. Indeed, it gave her the courage to pursue teaching in spite of the naysayers that she continues to encounter.

Shortly after being named Maryland’s teacher of the year, Shearer was out having dinner with her family when a woman kept looking over at their table. After confirming Shearer’s recent accolade, the woman leaned over to Shearer’s father and whispered something in his ear.

“He got this strange look on his face,” Shearer said. “She’d told him, ‘All that education just to be teacher.’ This is someone in my own community. But that perception is very real.”

And that perception is sometimes perpetuated by the very people who want to enter the teaching ranks.

Traveling around the world in her official capacity, Shearer hears people say teaching is their backup plan or that teaching is a prelude to their real career. One even shared that teaching would allow him a break before he headed to law school.

Shearer maintained that good teachers ultimately must possess three critical traits: unconditional love for students, boundless energy, and staying power.

“No matter how we try to engage or entertain, we are always in danger at every moment of losing our students. That’s a very real challenge for teachers,” she said. “In my world, when a student crosses that line between excitement and exasperation, it shows up in a physical form called a drop slip … at that moment, it doesn’t matter that I have a degree in Princeton, or what the policy says or curriculum dictates. All that matters is if I have a relationship with that student and I better hope that relationship runs deep.”

Naomi Dillon|April 22nd, 2012|Categories: NSBA Annual Conference 2012, Teachers|Tags: |
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