Articles in the Urban Schools category

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 www.nsba.org/cube.

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: , , |

NSBA Executive Director tours successful schools, community partnerships in Cleveland

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel saw firsthand the successes of an urban school district during a tour of  high-performing schools in Cleveland last month.

Gentzel met with Cleveland Municipal School District (CMSD) CEO Eric Gordon and CMSD Board Chair Denise Link in addition to CMSD board members Willetta Milam and Robert Heard. Milam also sits on the steering committee for NSBA’s Council for Urban Boards of Education.

Gentzel was particularly impressed with the school district’s emphasis on student achievement and its innovative programs.

“I toured schools in an urban district that clearly is achieving significant gains in student achievement, thanks to a reform plan that enjoys broad community and political support,” said Gentzel. “I was especially impressed with the district leadership’s commitment to being held accountable in very public ways for their work.”

One school even had a “countdown clock” for student achievement, he added.

Other exceptional programs included dual-language elementary programs, a partnership with Cleveland State University, and the district’s pioneering partnership with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

Gentzel toured the museum with Ohio School Board Association Executive Director Rick Lewis to learn more about its curriculum, which integrates rock n’ roll into prek-12 lessons, from business to technology to English/language arts. A lesson might ask students to build a persuasive argument for their favorite band to be admitted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame or teach business and contract management skills.

Lewis, for one, noted that  “a feeling of excitement and optimism for the future flourishes throughout the CMSD.”

“The Board of Education and community have collaborated to create several standout schools and programs that offer assurances for higher student achievement,” he said. “As you walk through the halls of these schools, you can’t help but feel the contagious spirit of faith and energy. The results of their transformational plan show that excellence is possible even in an urban district with enormous socio-economic challenges.”

Gentzel toured two top-performing schools, Buhrer Dual Language School and Campus International School on the campus of Cleveland State University.

Buhrer Dual Language School is a K-8 school with the first dual language education program in Ohio. All classes are taught in English and Spanish, and Buhrer students become proficient in both.  Students earn high school credit in Algebra I and Spanish I.

Situated on Cleveland State University’s downtown campus, Campus International School, is the only International Baccalaureate candidate school in the CMSD and prepares students in grades K-6 for international citizenship with a rigorous and comprehensive global curriculum. Each year the school adds a grade level until it will become a K-12 school.

“Our Board members and our CEO appreciated the opportunity to meet with Tom to discuss our school district’s ongoing transformation plan and our efforts to increase the number of high-performing schools in Cleveland,” said Link.

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|April 2nd, 2014|Categories: Assessment, Curriculum, Dropout Prevention, Governance, High Schools, Urban Schools|Tags: , |

National survey of high schools shows wide discipline disparities

 

A comprehensive survey of more than 72,000 K-12 schools serving 85 percent of the country has found that nearly one out of every five black male students received at least one out-of-school suspension during the 2009-10 school year — a rate three and a half times that of their peers.

The report, released this week by the Discipline Disparities Collaborative, headquartered at Indiana University, added more data to support the $200 million, five-year “My Brother’s Keeper” project, which was announced by President Obama last month to address the multiple problems facing young black men. At the same time, it highlighted what a number of forward-thinking schools and school districts across the country are doing to reduce the number of students they suspend and expel.

“When you suspend a student, what you’re basically saying is, ‘You’re not entitled to receive instruction,’” said Ramiro Rubalcaba, principal of Azuza High School northeast of Los Angeles, who spoke Thursday at news conference on the report.

Years ago, when he was a high school administrator in the Los Angeles Unified School District, Rubalcaba was a self-described “skeptic” of disciplinary alternatives who once suspended 600 students in one year. But over several years at LAUSD’s Garfield High School and now at Azuza, Rubalcaba has helped change disciplinary policies, resulting in a sharp drop in the number of out-of-school suspensions. Last school year at Azusa High School, for example, there were more than 70-out-of-school suspensions: So far this school year there have been three.

“Schools have the power to change these rates of suspension and expulsion,” said Russell Skiba, director of Indiana University’s Equity Project, of which the collaborative is a part. He and other experts emphasized that the higher suspension rate of black students – as well as Hispanics, disabled students, Native American students, and LGBT students – is not because of higher rates of infractions by these groups. “The research simply does not support this belief,” he said.

NSBA is taking a leading role in the effort to reform school disciplinary procedures and reduce out-of-school suspensions. Last March NSBA  and its Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) — along with its Black, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native caucuses — issued Addressing the Out of School Suspension Crisis: A Policy Guide for School Board Members.

“School boards must take the lead in ensuring that out-of-school suspension is used as a last resort in addressing violations of school codes of conduct,” NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel, said in the report. He also noted that school boards were already in the forefront of addressing these issues.

The collaborative’s report made several points about school discipline reform. The first is that improving schooling overall does not necessarily lead to a reduction in disciplinary disparities. Indeed, as Dan Losen, director UCLA’s Center for Civil Rights Remedies said at the news conference releasing the report, “You can’t close the achievement gap unless you close the discipline gap.”

NSBA’s National Black Caucus of School Board Members hosted a webinar in November 2013 titled Dismantling the School to Prison Pipeline. On April 7, at NSBA’s Annual Conference in New Orleans, the caucus will also be hosting a breakout session titled We Can Do Better: Reforming School Discipline and Accountability. The session will highlight the work of Buffalo (N.Y.) Public Schools and the Broward County Public Schools in Florida.

Lawrence Hardy|March 14th, 2014|Categories: CUBE, Discipline, Dropout Prevention, Educational Research, High Schools, School Reform, School Security, Uncategorized, Urban Schools|Tags: , |

NSBA encouraging school districts to weigh in EPA fluorescent lighting proposed regulations

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering requiring school districts to remove a group of harmful chemicals—Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)—from facilities. PCBs are commonly found in old fluorescent lighting fixtures in public buildings built before 1980, including schools. This proposed regulation could pose significant financial and operational challenges to schools, which would be responsible to identify, inspect and upgrade light fixtures that were installed prior to 1980 to ensure PCBs are eliminated.

The National School Boards Association; AASA, the School Superintendents Association; and the Association of School Business Officials International are collaborating to make sure that the full impact of this proposed regulation is recorded as part of the discussion; we kindly request your assistance. Please take this short survey about district facilities and PCBs by March 17, 2014. Results of the survey will be forwarded to EPA for their consideration.

Alexis Rice|March 7th, 2014|Categories: Policy Formation, Rural Schools, School Buildings, Urban Schools|Tags: , , , , , |
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