Articles in the Urban Schools category

Half-day pre-k + half-day kindergarten = big reading gains by third grade

Full-day kindergarten and half-day preschool both lead to significant academic gains — the research consistently bears this out. Put together, these programs offer students the best chance to achieve at high levels.

But what if your district can’t afford that combination yet still wants to provide a rich learning experience for young children? Would it be better, in terms of later reading proficiency, if your students got a half day of preschool and only a half day of kindergarten, or full-day kindergarten alone?

In a report released today entitled “Starting Out Right: Pre-K and Kindergarten,” NSBA’s Center for Public Education looked at both options and concluded that the half-and-half approach — half day pre-k plus half-day kindergarten — is more effective in boosting reading scores at the third grade level, which is often described as the grade in which students are expected to have largely moved from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.”

The Center’s conclusion is more than academic: It has practical implications in these tough economic times, when school boards are faced with difficult choices about which program to cut, and which to maintain or expand. According to the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), state funding for pre-k declined in 2010 for the first time in nearly a decade, leaving school districts to pay more of the cost. But the report suggests that cutting half-day preschool would be a mistake.

“Early education is vital,’ said Jim Hull, the Center’s senior policy analyst and author of the report. “With today’s release of the NAEP [National Assessment of Educational Progress] 2011 Nation’s Report Cards in Mathematics and Reading, this report gives us more information on how we can increase academic success in our schools by expanding access to high-quality pre-kindergarten programs.”

Here are some of the report’s key findings:

# Children who received a half-day of both pre-k and kindergarten were 3 percent more likely than those attending full-day kindergarten alone to comprehend words in sentence.

# These half-day pre-k, half-day kindergarten children were also 12 percent more likely than those in full-day kindergarten alone to be able to make “literal references” such as those expressed in the simile “Her eyes were as blue as the sky.”

# Children who received half-days of both pre-k and kindergarten were 18 percent more likely than those in full-day kindergarten alone to be able to extrapolate from their reading. That is, they were able to identify clues in a text and use those clues and their background knowledge to understand the contextual meaning of homonyms, such as whether a sentence containing the word “bear,” meant “to carry” or “an animal.”

In almost all cases, these results were more pronounced among African Americans, Hispanics, low-income students, and English language learners.

 

Lawrence Hardy|November 1st, 2011|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Assessment, Center for Public Education, Curriculum, Data Driven Decision Making, Preschool Education, Student Achievement, Urban Schools|Tags: , , , , |

Urban school boards, board member honored at New Orleans conference

CUBE Award Winner

Texas’ Mesquite Independent School District receives the Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) Annual Award for Urban School Board Excellence.

Three urban school boards were honored at NSBA’s Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) annual meeting in New Orleans on Saturday. Texas’ Mesquite Independent School District took top honors as the winner of the 2011 Annual Award for Urban School Board Excellence. Boston Public Schools and Nevada’s Washoe County Public Schools were named as finalists.

Mesquite Board President Kevin Carbo, board members Christina Hall and Cary Tanamachi, and Superintendent Linda Henrie accepted the award.

“We are very proud of our district’s accomplishments,” said Carbo. “This award is not just for the Board of Trustees, but for everyone in the district-from the administrators to the teachers to the auxiliary employees who day in and day out give our children their maximum effort.”

Henrie accepted the award on behalf of all of those across the country who are dedicated to public education. “This honor affirms that public education works and works well,” she said.

“This is just one more step in the right direction,” Carbo added. “We have more work to do, and CUBE just gave us a little more incentive to continue working toward a better future for our kids.”

The award recognizes excellence in school board governance, building civic capacity, closing the achievement gap (equity in education), and demonstrated success of academic excellence.

A 37,000-student school system located less than 20 miles east of Dallas, Mesquite has systematically made gains in student achievement and significantly closed achievement gaps while successfully rallying community support around the schools.

Eighty-four percent of students tested proficient in math in 2010, up from 67 percent in 2004. The percentage proficient in science grew from 52 percent in 2004 to 82 percent in 2010. Reading test scores rose from 82 percent to 91 percent proficient during the same time period, while social studies scores went from 86 percent to 95 percent passing.

While all subgroups showed improvement, minority students enjoyed particular gains, and the test score gaps between white and minority students closed significantly in all subject areas.

For more information on the winning district and the finalists, go here.

Also at the CUBE meeting, Arizona school board member Eva Carillo Dong was honored with the 2011 Benjamin Elijah Mays Lifetime Achievement Award. Dong has been a member of the Sunnyside Unified School District Governing Board since 1999.

She was honored for her long-time dedication to the community and her strong belief that education can improve life for children in Sunnyside Unified, which serves more than 17,000 students.

President of the Sunnyside board three times in her 12 years of service, Dong has helped the district gain state and national attention for its innovative programs and initiatives to increase student achievement, reduce the dropout rate, and increase community engagement.

The Benjamin Elijah Mays Lifetime Achievement Award is given to individuals who demonstrate a long-standing commitment to the educational needs of urban schoolchildren through school board service. Benjamin Elijah Mays, whom the award honors, was a teacher, minister, author, and civil rights activist who served as president of Morehouse College and the Atlanta school board from 1970 to 1981.

For more information on the awards and CUBE, go to www.nsba.org/cube.

Kathleen Vail|October 11th, 2011|Categories: Announcements, Conferences and Events, CUBE Annual Conference 2011, School Boards, Urban Schools|Tags: , , , , , , , |

Analysis: NBC learned its lesson with this Education Nation

Glenn Cook, American School Board Journal’s editor-in-chief, attended NBC’s Education Nation summit in New York for the second straight year. Here are his observations.

You can’t blame traditional public school advocates if they were filled with dread when NBC announced that Education Nation would return this fall. Last year the network bought into the hype surrounding the documentary “Waiting for Superman,” inexplicably tying the event to a flawed film that exhorted charters as the pancea for public education’s ills.

Thankfully, NBC has learned its lesson. This year’s event took pains to correct past wrongs as it recognized the complexities school leaders face in managing a public system that is open to all.

Starting with a screening of “American Teacher,” a documentary that helped erase some of the “bad teachers” taste left by “Superman,” and ending with an appearance by former President Bill Clinton, Education Nation featured a strong balance of heavy hitters from education, philanthropy, and politics.

You also had a touch of celebrity — basketball player Lebron James, actress Jennifer Garner, and what amounted to a family reunion with former Gov. Jeb Bush and First Lady Laura Bush participating in sessions — but in this case, it fit the overall tone.

The key word here is balance. Last year’s programming was flawed because it exhorted simple antidotes to complex problems. This year, silver bullets were nowhere to be found, but calls for more effective teaching and improvements to early education were.

You can watch many of the sessions online at www.educationnation.com, but here is my list of highlights:

• Start with “Brain Power: Why Early Learning Matters,” a fascinating hour-long session featuring Nancy Snyderman, NBC’s chief medical editor, and three university professors. Held on Monday morning, it was the best, most concise presentation I’ve seen yet on why we need to reach children much, much earlier than we do.

• The dramatic rise in poverty rates was a focus throughout, especially in the session “What’s in a Zip Code?” moderated by Brian Williams. Poverty is reality for many people in today’s economy — Clinton was eloquent on this topic in the closing session — and communities must come together to do more.

• Education Secretary Arne Duncan was everywhere this year, participating in interviews with Tom Brokaw and responding to questions during various panels (a nice touch).

• We saw an entertaining back and forth between Geoffrey Canada, founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone and Diane Ravitch, author and professor of education at New York University. Their approaches are so different, but both made excellent points. Canada and Sal Khan, another Education Nation speaker, are scheduled to keynote NSBA’s 2012 Annual Conference.

• Teacher and student accountability, as you might expect, was a recurring theme. Michelle Shearer, the current National Teacher of the Year from Maryland’s Urbana High School, said teachers “want to be evaluated on things that really matter.”

“There are all sorts of different ways of looking at student growth,” she said. “Whatever evaluation looks like in the end, it has to be a system of multiple measures, because often what’s most important are those intangibles … that are tough to put on a check list.”

• At the same session, Khaatim El, a former member of the Atlanta school board, addressed the cheating scandal that has plagued the district he served for almost a decade. “We wanted to be the hype,” he said of the allegations, which are based on the state assessments. “We wanted to be the first to get it right so bad.”

But El noted the district also made huge gains in NAEP scores during that time, an achievement untouched but overshadowed by the scandal. “I would be remiss if I didn’t point to the hard work that many educators put in,” he said. “We focused on the basics. Literacy instruction in elementary school. Autonomy for principals. We invested in professional development. Those things were overshadowed by the cheating scandal. And they were good things for kids.”

The setting for Education Nation was not perfect — the big tent in Rockefeller Plaza is a good idea in theory, but the humidity and poor audio were ever-present distractions. And while this year’s session was far more substantive, future years should stop belaboring the problems and focus instead on how to solve them. Panels featuring districts that have been successful at “what works,” with ideas and content that are easily imitated and replicated, would be a valuable start.

Chances are good that will happen. The National School Boards Association (NSBA) had a strong presence in the planning and execution of the meeting. Anne L. Bryant, our executive director, met with NBC officials about the content and answered audience questions in a video Q&A format prior to the event. Mary Broderick, NSBA’s president, was featured in a panel session with the mayors of Albuquerque, Baltimore, and Newark.

“What we’ve heard from the last two days of this conference is that we need to come together around a sense of urgency,” Broderick said during her session, noting that it takes a shared vision between the school board, the mayor’s office, and the community. “The vision needs to be of excellence. If that cohesive message can be carried through our schools … there’s nothing off the table.”

Finalists announced in NSBA annual urban ed award

NSBA’s Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) is pleased to announce that Boston Public Schools, Washoe County Public Schools and the Mesquite Independent School District have been selected as finalists for the 2011 CUBE Annual Award for Urban School Board Excellence.

Identified by an independent panel based on data provided by the school district and their state school boards association, the finalists were chosen based on the following four criteria: excellence in school board governance, ability to build civic capacity, commitment to equity in education, and demonstrated success of academic excellence.

“All three of the finalists have made extraordinary efforts to reach students and increase student achievement,” said NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant. “The CUBE Award finalists are proof that diverse urban school districts can succeed, even during difficult economic times.”
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Naomi Dillon|September 8th, 2011|Categories: CUBE Annual Conference 2010, Diversity, NSBA Recognition Programs, School Boards, Student Achievement, Urban Schools|

Is NCLB leading to cheating?

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spoke out this week in The Washington Post on the recent standardized tests cheating scandals and noted that “testing and teaching are not at odds.”

But could No Child Left Behind (NCLB) be to blame on these high profile cheating scandals?

As Duncan noted “Now as NCLB’s deadline for 100-percent proficiency approaches and performance goals grow steeper, we learn of egregious, systemic cheating in Atlanta and suspected cheating elsewhere.”

Duncan stated that “poorly designed laws” are “part of the problem” and that “NCLB has created the wrong incentives for boosting student achievement.”

Duncan promoted the need for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and stated “we are working with Congress to fix the law by instead measuring individual student growth against college and career-ready standards.”

BoardBuzz thinks it’s time Congress moves forward on ESEA, but wonders when that will happen. Instead as the 2011-2012 school year is about to begin shortly, schools are stuck with a flawed accountability system.

Alexis Rice|July 21st, 2011|Categories: Elementary and Secondary Education Act, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Student Achievement, Teachers, Urban Schools|Tags: , , , , |

Urban school boards have role in closing achievement gap

There is no achievement gap among 1-year-olds. By the time those babies are 3, the gap is there. It’s firmly in place by kindergarten, when most children show up in public schools.

Ronald Ferguson, Harvard University economist and education researcher, talked to members of the Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) at its annual issues seminar in Memphis over the weekend about addressing and solving the black-white achievement gap in their districts.

Board members should look to three things: teachers, peers, and parents.

Successful teachers watch one another teach and talk about their students’ work together, said Ferguson. School board members can figure out if and how this is taking place at their schools by asking some strategic questions: “How are you organized? Do you have a professional learning community? Tell me how your teachers look at students’ work together?  If they aren’t doing it, if you ask, they will start doing it,” he said.

Addressing student attitudes and paying attention to how they treat each other is another piece of the solution. “A majority of students say they aren’t trying hard when they are. Sometimes, it’s better to look lazy than stupid,” he said. “We have to get them to give one another permission to high achievement. Launch a conspiracy against your own youth culture.”

Parents are another important component, said Ferguson, not just parent involvement and engagement with the schools, but also parenting. He acknowledged that the topic of parenting is a sensitive topic, but differences in the way people parent account for some of the achievement gap before kindergarten.

“Black people don’t want white people come to their community and say, you don’t parent the way we parent,” he said. “We have to create a safe space to talk about these things.”

Ferguson said that school leaders, educators, and advocates need to think of closing the achievement gap as a social movement. “Inside a social movement, not everyone agrees, but they have the same sense that they need to move in the same direction.”

“There’s a lot of work to do,” he continues. “Keep it simple enough to wrap your mind around it, but not so simple that you blur the distinctions.”

Board members should not micromanage, he said, but “you guys can ask the questions and compare the notes on answering those questions. Get the ball rolling on things.”

For more information on CUBE, go to www.nsba.org/cube.

Kathleen Vail|June 27th, 2011|Categories: School Boards, Urban Schools|

Urban board members meet around advocacy issues

Members of the Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) gathered in Memphis this week to hone their skills in advocating for urban schools and their students.

CUBE’s annual issues seminar included workshops on National Common Core Standards, sessions on best practices in the Memphis and Nashville school districts, and updates on the current top federal advocacy issues.

“We are working well with NSBA and our state associate to put the faces of our children in the forefront,” said Sandra Jensen, CUBE chair and president of the board of the Omaha Public Schools.

NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant outlined the successes that the organization has had recently with Congress and with getting regulatory relief from No Child Left Behind for school districts. “We’ve had victories, and victories feel good in this environment,” she said.

One of those victories was getting language added to the Child Nutrition Act, passed in the FY 2012 agriculture appropriations bill in June. NSBA warned that some of the demands of the act could cost school districts millions of dollars. “We were at the table advocating reasonableness,” Bryant said.

Another victory: NSBA, along with the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), asked Secretary of Education Arne Duncan for relief for school districts facing sanctions under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Duncan has indicated that he would consider this.

Both organizations had solicited support for a petition to remove the regulatory and reporting requirements of NCLB. “That’s the kind of power you have,” Bryant told attendees. “You are so articulate. You speak passionately about kids.”

Reginald Felton, NSBA’s director of Federal Relations, Advocacy, and Issues Management, gave attendees an overview of the current federal advocacy picture in Washington, D.C.

“Most of that stimulus money is gone,” said Felton. “It was important to get it, but we are approaching a funding cliff – you can’t sustain it.”

Congress’ intent is to cut money, and the education community will be affected. NSBA is concerned about the shift from formula-based funding to competitive grants, said Felton.

Felton also referenced the Child Nutrition Bill, saying that NSBA’s position was based on whether it was appropriate for federal government to create unfunded mandates instead of leaving those decisions to state and local officials. “It’s not about us wanting our kids to be healthy,” he said.

Attendees also heard about what they can and cannot do with student assignment plans after the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Seattle and Louisville, Ky., decisions in 2007.

NSBA General Counsel Francisco Negron and Jay Worona, general counsel of the New York State School Boards Association, told CUBE members about the implications for other districts of the two cases.

Racial balancing is “no longer permissible,” said Negron. “To the extent that you want to do student assignment, the only legally permissible reason is academic.”

Just using student assignment to avoid racial isolation will no longer stand up in the Supreme Court, said Worona.

“We are living in a post integration society,” said Negron. “Get rid of those words. You shouldn’t even think in those terms.”

For more information about CUBE, go to www.nsba.org/cubeAmerican School Board Journal will focus on how school board members can become better advocates in its September issue at www.asbj.com.

Kathleen Vail|June 25th, 2011|Categories: Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Nutrition, School Law, Urban Schools|

The week in blogs

It’s summer — time to break the routine. So, in that spirit, let me begin this column with a subject that is truly dear to my heart:

Interesting Facts About Your Week in Blogs Editor

Readers, did you know that:

A) I’m a champion swimmer*

* in the struggle-across-the-pool category

B) My wife says I have distinctive taste when it comes to home decorating*

* distinctively bad taste

I could go on, but, you get the point: Place a qualifying asterisk (*) after almost any assertion, and you can pretty much claim anything. It doesn’t make much difference when the subject is my swimming ability or home decorating prowess. But if I did the same with, say, a piece purporting to compare the relative advantages of charter school start ups to traditional public school turnarounds, the consequences might be  greater.

To his credit, Mike Petrilli does indeed qualify his assertion in a Fordham Institute blog entitled Charter start-ups are 4 times as likely to succeed as district turnarounds* (Note big asterisk). But that doesn’t stop him from making sweeping policy pronouncements based on data from just 19 schools. That’s the number of schools (in 10 states studied)  in which 1) the start up charter was near a traditional school with state reading and math proficiency in the bottom 10 percent, and 2) either school subsequently increased its performance to above the state average.

Those 19 schools further break down to 15 charters and just four traditional schools, meaning, Petrilli concludes, that serious questions must be raised, “about the wisdom of the federal government pumping $3 billion into school turnaround efforts instead of using some of the money to replicate and scale up successful charters.”
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Lawrence Hardy|June 10th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Budgeting, Curriculum, Diversity, Educational Research, Governance, School Reform, Student Achievement, Teachers, Urban Schools, Week in Blogs|

The week in blogs

Living in the Washington, D.C., area can make you feel like a real mover and shaker — even if the only moving and shaking you do is on the dance floor. Case in point, watching my 9-year-old daughter’s soccer game one weekend, I couldn’t help but overhear a parent from the other team talking rather loudly and importantly on his cell phone, saying something about “our position regarding the European Union.”

Which, of course, made me think: “What’s my position regarding the European Union — and do I need to phone that in?” No, actually, it made me think: “What a cool place to live — a place where Big Things are being decided.”

In truth, most of us here spend more time talking about those Big Things than deciding them — or being around the people who decide them. An exception occurred last December, on the deadest of Friday afternoons before the Holidays, when I attended a small seminar in a nondescript building off Dupont Circle in the District.

The subject: common core standards.
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Lawrence Hardy|May 20th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Assessment, Curriculum, Diversity, Dropout Prevention, Educational Research, Governance, Policy Formation, Student Achievement, Teachers, Urban Schools, Week in Blogs|

The week in blogs

Have you heard the news? Well, it’s all over the Internet, so it must be true.

Here’s the headline:

Budget Mix-Up Provides Nation’s Schools With Enough Money to Properly Educate Students

The story “quotes” prominent Washington politicians, falling over one another to apologize for the error.

“Obviously, we did not intend for this to happen, and we are doing everything in our power to right the situation and discipline whoever is responsible,” said a House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, (R-Wis.) – but not really. His “quote” and the headline – along with statements from chagrinned Democrats as well – appear in The Onion, the satirical daily that seems to get all its facts wrong but still manages to come up with the truth.

Would that a little budget “slip up” could fix everything regarding school funding, but in the real world of public education it was not the case, as battles raged on over just how to define equity in education and in society.

In the Fordham Institute’s “Flypaper” blog, Peter Meyer charged that protesting New York teachers and their sympathizes, who marched this week on Wall Street to protest Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to cut more than 6,000 teaching positions, were fomenting “a class war.”  (Yes, we’re horrified too.)

“Even if one sympathized with  these folks’ sentiments about the financial ‘inequality crisis’ or believed for a second or two that it was the big banks that ‘crashed our economy,’” the question is where the big unions – and their contrail of sympathizers — have been during the inequality crisis in education the last thirty years,” Meyer writes. “Their silence in the face of crushing inner city educational failures has been deafening.”
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Lawrence Hardy|May 13th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Budgeting, Curriculum, Governance, Policy Formation, Teachers, Urban Schools|
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