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Articles in the Urban Schools category

Council of Urban Boards of Education embraces White House initiative to address education success for minority males

The National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) is supporting a White House initiative to improve preK-12 education and post-graduation outcomes for boys and young men of color.

The program, an expansion of the White House “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative, will implement evidence-based strategies to better prepare these students for college and careers, including commitments from 60 of America’s largest school districts, philanthropists, and business partners.

On Monday, Van Henri White, Chair of NSBA’s CUBE Steering Committee and President of the Rochester City School Board in New York attended a town hall event with President Barack Obama along with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Prior to the town hall, White participated in a meeting with Duncan and other urban school leaders to address solutions to advance’s America’s urban schools.

Watch the video of the town hall:

“We are extremely encouraged that President Obama and his administration are focusing on equity, equality, and excellence in education,” said White. “As an African-American male and father, President Obama’s message at the town hall meeting resonated with me personally. As a member of CUBE, I am inspired by the goals of My Brother’s Keeper insofar as it has the potential to provide school districts, from across this country, with the tools necessary to accomplish this critical work.”

White also noted, “It is important to have supportive public private partnerships to bring light to the critical needs of our urban communities.”

The initiative addresses the disproportionately high dropout rate for boys of color, as well as the pushout crisis. NSBA released its “Partnerships Not Pushouts” guide in April to show how school boards are creating discipline policies to avoid excessive out-of-school suspensions that disrupt student learning and engagement. NSBA also has released a 2013 guide to out-of-school suspensions.

The White House plans for My Brother’s Keeper to focus on:
• A healthy start and entering school ready to learn
• Reading at grade level by third grade
• Graduating from high school ready for college and career
• Successfully entering the workforce

Also, boys and young men who commit crimes and are incarcerated should be given a second chance and receive counseling and other services to re-enter society, according to the White House.

As part of CUBE’s commitment to address African-American student success, and reflect on this year’s 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision, the group has partnered with Council of Great City Schools(CGCS) to improve educational outcomes for boys and young men of color.

White noted the critical importance of groups like CGCS.

“Because CGCS took the lead in coordinating this event, districts from across this country were in attendance and, as a result, the President and his cabinet heard the concerns of urban America,” said White. For decades this has been CUBE’s focus and we feel very fortunate that we were part of these focused conversations this past weekend in Washington.”

Alexis Rice|July 23rd, 2014|Categories: CUBE, Dropout Prevention, Student Achievement, Urban Schools|Tags: , , |

Urban school leaders convene in Chicago

Urban school district leaders will gather in Chicago to learn about best practices and new solutions for their public schools at the Council of Urban Boards of Education’s (CUBE) Summer Institute.

This year’s event will feature sessions on equity and access to STEM education, Common Core state standards, the “pushout” crisis, expectations for children living in poverty, parent engagement, and math and science education. CUBE is a service of the National School Boards Association (NSBA) that is dedicated to helping urban school districts find ways to close the achievement gap and give all students a high-quality education.
Notable speakers will be Tyrone Howard, Professor of Education at the University of California Los Angeles; Consuelo Castillo Kickbusch, Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army (Retired) and Founder and President of Educational Achievement Services Inc.; Valeria S. Silva, Superintendent of St. Paul Public Schools in Minnesota; and Jeff May, Program Facilitator for Roanoke City Schools in Virginia.

The conference will open with a half-day workshop on educational technology and defining equity led by Ann Flynn, Director of Educational Technology for NSBA. The session will include leading school technology experts and practitioners.

“The Summer Institute is an excellent opportunity for urban school leaders to find solutions to some of the challenges facing our public schools,” said Van Henri White, Chair of the CUBE Steering Committee and President of the Rochester City School Board in New York. “The myriad of ideas and insights exchanged during this event will inform CUBE’s work and will ultimately benefit students in urban districts across the country.”

CUBE hosts the Summer Institute as well as an annual conference and special programming at NSBA’s Annual Conference to provide educational opportunities to urban school board leaders.

“The Council of Urban Boards of Education is an important part of NSBA’s mission to ensure excellence and equity in public education,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “We appreciate the commitment of the urban leaders who attend CUBE events and contribute to the conversations about student achievement.”

The conference hashtags are #CUBEvision and #Brownimperative.

Alexis Rice|July 17th, 2014|Categories: CUBE, Educational Technology, STEM Education, Student Achievement, Student Engagement, Technology Leadership Network, Urban Schools|Tags: , , |

PBS’s Frontline examines the resurgence of school segregation in America

PBS’s Frontline will feature upcoming programming about resegregation in America, “Separate and Unequal,” following the recent 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education. Tune in to PBS on July 15, 2014 (check your local listings for time) for Frontline’s two-part examination of what’s behind the growing racial divide in American schools, and the legacy of Brown.

Frontline will profile Louisiana’s East Baton Rouge Parish School District, which desegregated its schools in 1981 following a 25-year-long legal battle. Today, frustrated with the district’s many low-performing schools, a constituent group of mostly white, middle-class parents and business leaders have a bold plan to break away from the school district and Baton Rouge to form a new city with its own separate schools. If they succeed, the newly formed school district would be more affluent and predominantly white, and the East Baton Rouge Parish School District would be left essentially resegregated, with a student population of mostly black students from lower-income families.

Also, be sure to read American School Board Journal’s coverage of Brown’s legacy and future and National School Boards Association’s (NSBA)Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel reflection on the impact of Brown and the challenges that public schools still face in the Huffington Post. PBS had alerted us about the Frontline programming following NSBA’s recent coverage of Brown.

Margaret Suslick|July 14th, 2014|Categories: American School Board Journal, Urban Schools|Tags: , , |

Center for Public Education report finds no gains in mayoral control

Collaboration between mayors and school boards, not mayoral takeovers, can lead to better school governance and student achievement, according to a new report by the Center for Public Education (CPE) at the National School Boards Association (NSBA).

Toward Collaboration, Not A Coup: What the research says about mayoral involvement in urban schools,” explores the intersects between effective school boards and involved mayors. In its review of existing research on mayoral control, the report categorizes the various existing forms of mayoral involvement, examines benefits and challenges for school districts, then argues for effective relationships between school boards and mayors.

Through secondary analysis, CPE found that mayoral takeovers are “a rare, and largely urban phenomenon,” and out of more than 13,000 school districts in the U.S., only about 20 have come under formal mayoral control in the last 20 years. Researchers have been unable to determine conclusively whether the mayoral governance model actually improves academics and student achievement.

The report also found that mayors can provide great benefits to public schools in other ways, especially by enabling better integration and coordination of services for children and families.

“What this research suggests is that while the interest of mayors in public schools can bring benefits to public education, a mayoral takeover risks disengaging community interests and disregards the governance responsibility of elected school board leaders,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, NSBA’s Executive Director.

The report recommends several steps for mayors and school boards to work collaboratively to improve student achievement, including:

• Formal and informal processes for coordination between the mayor’s office, school boards and superinten¬dent.

• Clearly defined areas of responsibility for the school board, mayor’s office, and other agencies that are involved;

• Media coverage and community outreach to increase voter participation in school board elections; and

• Professional development for school boards and other leadership teams.

“Nothing indicates that students would necessarily benefit if public schools were run by mayors,” said CPE Director Patte Barth. “But takeovers come with a high risk of disenfranchising parents and other community members. A better approach for districts would be the collaborative involvement of mayors, school leaders and the communities they serve.”

Alexis Rice|June 11th, 2014|Categories: Center for Public Education, School Boards, Urban Schools|Tags: , |

In Huffington Post column, Gentzel calls for vigilance in Brown decision

To mark the 60th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, National School Boards Association Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel reflected on the impact of the decision and the challenges that public schools still face. The following commentary was published by the Huffington Post:


In the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a timeless and transformative message: All students deserve a great public education; separate systems are not equal.

In marking the 60th anniversary of this landmark Supreme Court ruling, it is important to reflect upon the ongoing effect of Brown v. Board of Education on the work of America’s school boards and our nation’s public schools. Enshrining this decision as a historic relic does not serve the nine out of 10 school-age children who attend our nation’s public schools. To protect students’ rights, freedoms and ready access to a high-quality education, we must actively heed the central tenets of the Brown v. Board of Education decision.

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is particularly concerned about the unintended consequences of privatization through vouchers, charter schools not governed by local school boards, and other means that research indicates are leading to the re-segregation of public schools, mainly in high-poverty urban areas.

In its most recent issue, NSBA’s flagship magazine, American School Board Journal, reports that the number of schools with a minority enrollment above 90 percent has climbed precipitously. Similarly, the Civil Rights Project at the University of California-Los Angeles also has reported that African-American and Hispanic students are increasingly segregated at the schools they attend.

Ironically, this comes at a time when America’s public schools are becoming much more diverse. The percentage of students who are white dropped from 61 percent in 2000 to 52 percent in 2010, and today stands at about 50 percent. Schools in the south and west now have a majority of minority students, according to the National Center on Education Statistics. And with more than half of babies born today falling into a minority classification, demographics will continue to diversify. At the same time, poverty and other risk factors also have increased.

Our lawmakers must continue to look at the entire public education system to ensure that we invest in our public schools and give them the support that is needed, rather than diverting scarce taxpayer dollars to voucher schemes and charter schools that lack local school district oversight. Today more than ever, it is essential that we continue to focus on ensuring that every child has access to an excellent and equitable education.

Data show public schools are educating today’s diverse student population to higher levels than ever before. We should be proud that our high school graduation rate is at an all-time high — about 80 percent of students graduate on time, and when late graduates are included, the graduation rate rises to more than 85 percent. The graduation rate of Hispanics, the fastest growing group of students in our nation’s schools, jumped from 61 percent to 76 percent between 2006 and 2012. And African-American students made significant gains during this period, improving their graduation rate from 59 percent to 68 percent.

Brown v. Board of Education honors a truth core to our nation’s democracy: to provide a strong education to each and every child who enters our nation’s public school system. We must stay focused on investing equitably in our public schools and students, ensuring that they have the resources and support they need, and we must not be diverted by programs that have the effect of re-segregating America’s public education system. We must honor Brown v. Board of Education‘s intention for every child to achieve, and we must insist that every child in America has access to a great public school where they live. No exceptions; no excuses.

Joetta Sack-Min|May 19th, 2014|Categories: American School Board Journal, Board governance, Charter Schools, Diversity, Privatization, School Law, Student Achievement, Urban Schools|Tags: , , , , , |

Coalition urges Senate to keep funding bond program for school renovations

The Rebuild America’s Schools coalition is supporting legislation to extend the Qualified Zone Academy Bond (QZAB) program, which helps give low- or no-interest financing to school districts for school renovations and upgrades.

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is a member of Rebuild America’s Schools, a coalition of national education and civil rights groups and 42 large-city school districts that works to create federal support to help local communities build, renovate and modernize schools.

“QZABs and other low-cost federal financing programs provide crucial assistance to budget-conscious school districts so that they may provide better facilities and technology upgrades that help foster student achievement,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel.

A bill in the U.S. Senate would extend the authorization of QZABs, which began in 1997, for another two years. In a May 12 letter to leaders of the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Finance, Rebuild America’s Schools notes that QZABs are being used by school districts in every state.

QZABs and a similar program, the Qualified School Construction Bond, “are helping repair, renovate and modernize America’s school infrastructure and stimulating and creating jobs in Oregon and every state,” according to the letter written by Rebuilding America’s Schools Chairman Bob Canavan to Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. “These jobs are generated in the construction industry among suppliers, ranging from architects and engineers to roofing, heating and cooling contractors and other skilled construction workers who modernize, renovate and repair schools. Modern, energy efficient schools are helping local communities increase opportunities for all students to develop the educational skills necessary to achieve and succeed in the 21st century workforce.”

The extension for QZABs is part of S. 2260, the Expire Act, which would extend federal tax credits and deductions for a wide variety of programs.

Joetta Sack-Min|May 15th, 2014|Categories: Budgeting, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Educational Technology, Federal Programs, School Buildings, Uncategorized, Urban Schools|

Call for proposals for NSBA’s 2015 Annual Conference

2015 NSBA Annual Conference

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is requesting proposals for breakout sessions to be conducted during our 75th Annual Conference in Nashville, Tenn., March 21-23. The conference will draw thousands of attendees, exhibitors, and guests representing nearly 1,400 school districts, and will feature distinguished speakers and hundreds of workshops, presentations, and other events that will help school board members develop leadership skills, boost student learning, and improve school districts’ operations.

If your school district or organization has an idea for a high-quality breakout session that focuses on a topic of critical interest to school board members for presentation at this conference, please complete a proposal online by the deadline of Monday, June 16 at 5 p.m. EDT. Only proposals submitted through the online process  will be considered. Breakout sessions will be 30, 45, or 75 minutes in length and will be scheduled throughout the conference.

Proposals are being solicited for the following focus areas:

• Innovations in District Management
• Legal and Legislative Advocacy
• Professional and Personal Development
• School Board/Superintendent Partnerships
• Student Achievement and Accountability
• Technology + Learning Solutions

Sign up for Promise Zone Initiative webinars

Join federal government experts for one of three webinars by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development next week on the Promise Zone Initiative, President Barack Obama’s plan to partner with and invest in communities to create jobs; increase economic security; expand educational opportunities; increase access to quality, affordable housing; and improve public safety.

The webinars will occur on April 29 and 30 and be separated into three groups of school districts: tribal, urban, and rural. Webinar topics will include: the public comment period for the second round of applications, eligibility criteria, best practices from the first round, the timeline for the second round, and other details about the president’s Promise Zone Budget Proposal.

The deadline to register any of these webinars is 5 p.m. EDT, on Friday, April 25.

Here is the webinar schedule and the links for registration information:

Promise Zone Initiative Tribal Stakeholder Webinar on Tuesday, April 29, 2014, 2-3 p.m. EDT

Promise Zone Initiative Urban Stakeholder Webinar on Tuesday, April 29, 2014, 3:30-4:30 p.m. EDT

Promise Zone Initiative Rural Stakeholder Webinar on Wednesday, April 30, 2014, 3-4 p.m. EDT

Lawrence Hardy|April 23rd, 2014|Categories: Federal Programs, School Boards, School Buildings, Urban Schools|Tags: , , , |

CUBE elects new leadership at NSBA Annual Conference

The National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) has elected new leaders and members to its Steering Committee.

Van Henri White of New York’s Rochester City School District was elected Chair and Harium Martin-Morris of Washington’s Seattle Public Schools was elected Vice Chair. Minnie Forte-Brown of Durham Public Schools in North Carolina, who served as 2013-14 Chair, is now Immediate Past Chair.

“I am humbled to have this opportunity to advocate and organize on behalf of the urban families, students, and staff of this nation,” said White. “While we have made some significant strides forward, we still have a ways to go to ensure that every child has access to a quality public education. The Council of Urban Boards of Education is committed to that end and we will not rest until that goal is realized for every child.”

White is the President of the Board of Education in Rochester City School District and has served on the school board since 2007. He is also an author, civil rights attorney, and founder of the Center for the Study of Civil and Human Rights Laws.  White is an outspoken advocate for improving school safety, boosting graduation rates, decreasing truancy, and addressing the sources of lead poisoning and the impact it can have on children’s brain development. He is the author of Frustration in America, which examines the impact of racism and responsibility of African-American men and boys and Marching Forward by Looking Back: Fifty Years Since the March on Washington.

Martin-Morris, a former classroom teacher, was elected to the Seattle School Board in 2007 and is a member of the school board’s Audit and Finance Committee. He also is the Chair of the Washington State School Directors Association’s Urban Suburban Task Force. Martin-Morris has served on the CUBE Steering Committee of since 2009.

“While the road ahead is long and hard with many turns, I am excited to take on the role as Vice Chair,” said Martin-Morris.  “We truly are in a battle in this country to provide excellence and equity for all students.”

The following school board members also were elected this year to serve on CUBE’s 16-member Steering Committee:

  • Bruce Alexander (incumbent) of Ohio’s Akron Public Schools;
  • Willetta Milam (incumbent) of Ohio’s Cleveland Municipal School District;
  • Nandi Seko of the U.S. Virgin Island’s Board of Education;
  • JulieMarie Shepherd of Colorado’s Aurora Public Schools;
  • Patsy Taylor of Texas’s Fort Bend Independent School District.

“The leaders of the Council of Urban Boards of Education have strong experience in advancing urban education, and we are proud of their deep commitment to aiding the work of urban school boards so that all students can succeed,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director of NSBA.

CUBE supports urban school boards and fosters effective leadership for excellence and equity in public education, with a specific focus on underrepresented students. CUBE provides educational opportunities that engage urban school districts and district leaders, working through their state school boards associations, while addressing challenges in urban centers. CUBE represents nearly 100 urban school districts in 35 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The districts that comprise CUBE educate nearly 7.5 million students in over 12,000 schools, with a collective budget of approximately $99 billion.

“Every American citizen should have the opportunity to be a part of the American dream,” said Ruth Veales, the head of this year’s CUBE Nominating Committee and a school board member from Oklahoma City Public Schools. “To achieve this dream, it is imperative that we empower every school with the proper tools to give their students the quality education that they so deserve. The Council of Urban Boards of Education’s new Steering Committee consists of dedicated urban school board leaders throughout our great nation who will aid in our work of ensuring that all students get a quality education, so that they too can be included in the American dream.”

For more information on CUBE, please visit

Joetta Sack-Min|April 10th, 2014|Categories: Board governance, CUBE, Leadership, Urban Schools|Tags: , , , , |

NSBA and coalition members preview pushout crisis policy guide

According to research, every student who leaves high school without a diploma costs society hundreds of thousands of dollars over the student’s lifetime in lost income. Despite impressive gains in U.S. graduation rates recently, far too many young people, mainly students of color from educationally and socioeconomically disadvantaged groups and communities, are leaving school without a high school diploma or severely underprepared for college level work.

During one Saturday’s sessions at the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) 2014 Annual Conference, entitled “Using Data and Community Partnerships to End the School Pushout Crisis,” speakers touched on the pushout crisis—when students leave school before graduation because of a system and community that is not committed to their success. In the session, experts previewed a policy guide for school board members on not only how to identify the warning signs for students at risk of dropping out but also how to engage various community partners in developing opportunities and support strategies.

The session is a joint endeavor of NSBA’s Council of Urban Boards of Education, National Black Caucus, National Hispanic Caucus, and National Caucus of American Indian/Alaska Native.

Presented by Patte Barth, Director of NSBA’s Center for Public Education; Judith Browne-Dianis, Co-Director of the Advancement Project; and Sandra Kwasa, Director of Board Development for the Illinois Association of School Boards, the session was aimed at explaining the evidence on the pushout crisis and illustrating the role of individualized learning plans, often called Personal Opportunity Plans (POPs), and community school designs as a way to deliver more personalized and tailored resources directly to students.

The guide, to be released later this month, will provide school board members with a blueprint for better-coordinated support and opportunity systems for children and families, in partnership with key stakeholders, so all children can benefit from a POP. School board members can help lead a policy vision for public schools, in partnership with community partners, school administrators, and teachers unions, placing student learning and growth at the center of communities, from cradle to career.

Alexis Rice|April 5th, 2014|Categories: Leadership, NSBA Annual Conference 2014, School Boards, Urban Schools|Tags: , , |
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