Articles tagged with 21st century skills

Educator Sal Khan receives prestigious Heinz Award

Sal Khan, founder of the not-for-profit Khan Academy and the first celebrity advocate for NSBA’s national “Stand Up 4 Public Schools” campaign, has been named one of five recipients of the 19th annual Heinz Awards.

The awards, administered by the Heinz Family Foundation, were established in 1993 by Teresa Heinz to honor the work of her late husband U. S. Sen. John Heinz.

Khan is one of three celebrity spokesmen in NSBA’s national public advocacy campaign, Stand Up 4 Public Schools, where he will be joined by basketball legend and business mogul Earvin “Magic” Johnson and talk show host and celebrity spokesperson Montel Williams.

The idea for Khan Academy dates back to 2004, when Khan began remotely tutoring his young cousin, who was struggling with math, and began posting the videos on YouTube. Khan Academy houses more than 5,000 instructional videos and interactive lessons, and its resources are accessed by more than 10 million unique users per month, making it one of the most frequently used online education tools in the world.

“Salman Khan has been a pioneer in the use of online technology to promote personalized learning and to transform education,” Heinz, the foundation’s chairman, said in a written statement. “His Khan Academy is helping move education from a mass-production model where every student learns the same material at the same rate in the same way to an individualized model where students can learn and engage differently based on their personal styles of learning.”

Khan was given the award in the Human Condition category. The other award recipients are:  Abraham Verghese, M.D., Arts and Humanities; Jonathan Foley, Ph.D, Environment; Sanjeev Arora, M.D., Public Policy; and Leila Janah, Technology, the Economy and  Employment.

NSBA’s public advocacy campaign operates on a simple premise: “Who I am today began with public education,” paired with the rejoinder, “Today’s public schools are better than ever.”

In one of the advertisements featuring Khan, he notes that “People talk about college and career readiness, but both are just a means to an end. What we really need to talk about is life readiness.”

Lawrence Hardy|February 26th, 2014|Categories: Computer Uses in Education, Mathematics Education, Student Engagement, Uncategorized|Tags: , , , |

Common Core poses opportunities, challenges for English Language Learners

Imagine you’re a student being asked to demonstrate a level of knowledge and critical thinking never before demanded of the vast majority of students in the United States. That is what assessments for the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) initiative are asking — or will soon ask — students to do in at least 46 states and the District of Columbia.

Now imagine you’re being asked to demonstrate this high level of learning and cognitive ability in a language different from the one you grew up with at home.  If you were, say, a native English speaker and were asked to do this in Europe or Latin America, would your high school French or Spanish suffice?

That’s a little what the growing population English language learners in this country is being ask to do.  And whether these students succeed or not is critical to our nation’s future.

“English language learners represent the future majority of our student population,” said Rose Aronson, executive director of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc.  (TESOL).  “So whether you come from a district where English language learners are already in large numbers, or from a district where their numbers are growing rapidly, you are directly affected.”

Aronson and Patte Barth, director of NBA’s Center for Public Education, spoke last week at a webinar, now archived, called The Common Core State Standards and English Language Learners: Challenges and Opportunities for Academic Success, which was sponsored by NSBA’s National Hispanic Caucus of School Board Members.

On the “opportunities” side, the CCSS sets the expectation that all students — including English Language Learners — will meet rigorous performance standards. And, because of this, Aronson said, “it has the potential to raise academic achievement of ELLs and close the achievement gap.”

In addition, “CCSS and NGSS [the Next Generation Science Standards] give us an opportunity to reassess our assumptions, instructional approaches, and polices related to the education of ELLs” and to strengthen the role of teachers of English as a Second Language (ESL).

Among the biggest challenges is ensuring that ELLs “acquire and use the academic language necessary to access the rigorous content demanded by the CCSS,” Aronson said. And there is the challenge of ensuring that all teachers are prepared to teach in the academic language that CCSS requires.

School boards have a big role to play regarding CCSS, Barth said. They can help all students succeed in this initiative by setting clear and high expectations, creating the conditions for success, holding the system accountable, creating the public will to success, and learning as a board team about CCSS and what it requires.

Lawrence Hardy|January 14th, 2014|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Assessment, Center for Public Education, Common Core State Standards, Curriculum, Diversity, Immigrants, Student Achievement, Uncategorized|Tags: , , , , |

New details, deadlines for Race to the Top district grants released

The U.S. Department of Education has released the final requirements for Race to the Top-District (RTT-D) grant applications, a program designed to improve classroom instruction and teaching to directly impact student learning.

These grants will distribute nearly $400 million directly to school districts for programs that support teaching and learning and the goals of the Race to the Top state grants. The department is expected to award 15 to 25 grants ranging from $5 million to $40 million.

Qualifying school districts must serve at least 2,000 students with 40 percent or more qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch, or join with other districts that meet this qualification. Grants will support learning strategies that personalize education in all or a group of schools, within specific grade levels, or select subjects. Districts also must demonstrate a commitment to Race to the Top’s four core reform areas and the district superintendent or CEO, local school board president, and local teacher union president (or 70 percent of teachers in districts without collective bargaining) must sign off on the plan.

The department will conduct technical assistance webinars for school officials on Aug. 16 and Aug. 21, 2012.  Registration for the webinars is available at the Race to the Top website.

School boards should first evaluate the work needed to apply for the grant and the likelihood of receiving an award, advised Michael A. Resnick, the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) associate executive director for federal advocacy and public policy.

NSBA submitted extensive comments on the draft requirements for the RTT-D program urging federal officials to articulate and preserve local school board authority. NSBA’s lobbying efforts resulted in a big win for local school boards when a requirement that grantees evaluate local school boards was deleted.  Other provisions – such as required 10-day comment period for state education agencies and mayors – may prove too onerous for school districts, according to Resnick.

School districts and consortia interested in applying must notify the agency of their intent by Aug. 30, 2012.  The deadline for applications is Oct. 30, 2012 and grant awards will be made by the end of this year.  More information about the RTT-D Program is on the department’s website.

According to the department, “Grantees will be selected based on their vision and capacity for reform as well as a strong plan that provides educators with resources to accelerate student achievement and prepare students for college and their careers. Plans will focus on transforming the learning environment so that it meets all students’ learning abilities, making equity and access to high-quality education a priority. Teachers will receive real-time feedback that helps them adapt to their students’ needs, allowing them to create opportunities for students to pursue areas of personal academic interest – while ensuring that each student is ready for college and their career.”

 

Joetta Sack-Min|August 14th, 2012|Categories: Announcements, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy, Race to the Top (RTTT), School Reform|Tags: , , , |

In July’s ASBJ: An investment for a lifetime

What if I offered you a sure-fire investment that would pay $3 to as much as $16 for every dollar wagered? Would you think it was some kind of Ponzi scheme?

But wait! It gets better: This can’t-miss opportunity doesn’t just benefit you  — it benefits society.  We’re talking about preschool.  That $2 to $15 profit represents increased tax receipts over the lifetime of children who attended preschool, as well as reduced use of such things as social services, special education, juvenile detention centers, and prisons.

We don’t generally discuss raising our children in such crass commercial terms, but maybe we should. Because as I found out researching my July ASBJ story — Early Learning, Long-Term Benefits – all our sentimental talk about caring for children and their futures hasn’t spurred the nation into providing critical opportunities for many of its youngest and most vulnerable citizens.

According to the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers, state-level preschool funding fell by $145 per child last year and $700 per child over the past decade. Part of this is surely do to the poor economy over much of that period, but when that economy improves, as it must sooner or later, will the nation put up the kind of money it needs to match its rhetoric?

There are some positive signs. Throughout the country, forward-thinking school districts are putting new emphasis on the quality of their students’ lives before kindergarten. And they’re realizing that to be successful they don’t have to do this alone — indeed, that they must have the support of a wide community network, the creation of which promises dividends every bit as rich as the kind of numbers mentioned above.

For the July story, I visited one of these districts close to ASBJ’s home: the Montgomery County (Md.) Public Schools, a large, urban, highly diverse district where 90 percent of 12th graders graduate from high school and 77 percent of these graduates go to college.

Many other districts across the country that are doing the same thing and working to make preschool a seamless part of their now-PreK-12 curriculum.

You could say they’re doing it because “children or our future” or something equally heart-warming. Or you could just all it a smart investment.

Lawrence Hardy|July 13th, 2012|Categories: American School Board Journal, Curriculum, Dropout Prevention, Educational Research, Federal Programs, Preschool Education|Tags: , , |

In June’s ASBJ: California or Connecticut — when it comes to school leadership, a little humility goes a long way

Something felt different in Southern California, and I’m not just talking about the beaches, the palm trees, or the bird of paradise flowers that don’t generally sprout here in Washington.

I admit it — I love this place. Many years ago, I went to college out here, and I can still remember my freshman roommate muttering in his sleep one predawn morning as our room shook like it was tethered to a roller coaster:

“Go back to sleep; it’s just an earthquake.”

Just an earthquake.  It was — and here’s a California expression I learned that year — “No big.”

So when I visited the Long Beach Unified School District last spring to do a story on why this highly diverse, seaside district is one of the top-performing urban school systems in the nation, I was predisposed to like the place. But it wasn’t just palm trees and nostalgia. After spending hours talking to teachers, administrators, and other school leaders, including the superintendent and a school board member, I concluded: These people are good: They’re engaged. They’re focused. Dedicated. Not in it for themselves, it seems, but for the district’s mission itself.

For lack of a better term, I referred to the atmosphere as one of “relaxed professionalism.”

Kimberly Hough, who has a piece in ASBJ’s June issue, has another word for what produces this kind of working environment: “humility.” It’s something we don’t often talk about, but it’s enormously important to being an effective school leader.

“Humble people are curious people,” writes Hough, an assistant superintendent with West Virginia’s Berkeley County Schools. “They feel comfortable admitting what they don’t know and with finding the answers. They are able to simultaneously recognize their own strengths and see their own weaknesses. They are open to feedback and making adjustments.”

Hough has done research that measures school leaders’ humility and its correlation with student achievement in math and English. She arrived at humility – or the lack thereof – by comparing leaders’ estimation of themselves with the estimations of those around them. Not surprisingly, the in-agreement self-raters (as opposed to the over-estimators and under-estimators) correlated with the highest student achievement.

Pretty interesting stuff – and it pretty much nails the leadership culture I saw at Long Beach Unified, which has been widely recognized for its success.

“One thing I appreciate about this school district – they celebrate,” says Long Beach school board President Felton Williams. “And then they go back to work.”

Or, as my roommate might have put it: “No big.”

Lawrence Hardy|June 8th, 2012|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Board governance, Data Driven Decision Making, Governance, Key Work of School Boards, School Boards, Urban Schools|Tags: , , , |

The week in blogs: Lost in cyber space?

NSBA has long been a leader in educational technology — and that’s no exaggeration. Through its Technology Leadership Network and its regular conferences and site visits, the association has championed technology in the classroom for more than 20 years.

So when NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant questions whether the explosion of online charter schools is causing “too many students to get lost in cyber space,” as she does in her recent Education Week blog, she’s hardly coming from Luddite territory.

“All this has taken place with no research to back it up,” Bryant writes. “In fact, what little research and anecdotal evidence exists on full-time virtual learning shows alarmingly low graduation rates, course completion and test scores.”

A new report from NSBA’s Center for Public Education, Searching for the Reality of Virtual Schools, says the biggest takeaway from its study of this burgeoning field — and market, for profit-making companies — is how little we know.

For example, what impact would increased enrollment in cyber schools have on real communities, many of which have long seen the public schools as key to maintaining strong ties between citizens?

Writes Gary Obermeyer, of Portland, Ore., in response to Bryant’s blog: “While I am a strong believer in and advocate for online learning, I do not support the notion of ‘virtual schools.’ My primary concern is for the health and vitality of communities. Schools should be grounded in communities, so that students’ learning experiences can be tied to local issues/concerns, through which they learn to care about and contribute to the community.”

In fact, technology intelligently used can actually help tie communities together by giving disadvantaged students the tools they need to become more active participants. As Ann Flynn, NSBA’s director of education technology, writes in a letter to the editor this week to the Washington Post:

“Public schools must provide the technology resources that level the playing field for all students, thus allowing them to excel in core content and develop media literacy,” Flynn writes in response to a Post story on the widely varying use of technology in area schools. “The skills supported through appropriate interactions with technology will define the literate person of the 21st century; those without such opportunities will be left behind.”

Lawrence Hardy|May 19th, 2012|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Charter Schools, Computer Uses in Education, Educational Technology, Technology Leadership Network|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: , , , , , |

Virtual Learning: Growing but untested, NSBA report says

Do K12 students benefit from taking some or all of their classes online? A new report by NSBA’s Center for Public Education, Searching for the Reality of Virtual Schools, says that while online education holds promise for 21st century learning, researchers know relatively little about the performance of virtual schools, and the studies that have been done are troubling.

“Virtual learning is the future. It’s increasing,” said Patte Barth, director of the Center. “But we don’t have a lot of information about its effect right now, so I would caution people to start slow and monitor it very closely.”

“Online learning” can refer to anything from a single class, such as an Advanced Placement class that is not available at a school or a credit recovery class, to full-time K-12 virtual schools, to a combination online and face-to-face instruction. Programs can be created and operated by school districts, states, non-profit or for-profit entities, as well as a host of other sources, which can blur the lines of accountability. 

While the information on online learning is incomplete, several studies on the practice are not encouraging. For example, a Stanford University study covering the period 2007-2010 found that 100 percent of virtual charters schools in Pennsylvania performed significantly worse in math and reading than traditional schools in terms of student gains.

The research also shows that full-time K-12 virtual schools tend to show the least effective results in graduation rates, course completion, and test scores.  While full-time virtual schools enroll less than two percent of the nation’s public school population, that number is rapidly increasing, and much of the growth is with for-profit providers.

“A full-time experience is much different than one class, and the overall data for full-time virtual schools tends to be where the wheels fall off,” Barth said. “Most of the research we found raises serious questions about the accountability and monitoring of some of these schools.”

The report also examines the funding streams of four states: Colorado, Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania, and the researchers found that in most cases funding is not based on the actual cost to educate a child through virtual schools. Determining budgets—and sometimes, enrollments—of virtual schools is often difficult.

The report gives school board members and the public a list of questions to ask to ensure their taxpayer’s funds are being used by programs that produce better results for students.

The report was written by Barth, the Center’s Managing Editor Rebecca St. Andrie, and the Center’s Senior Policy Analyst Jim Hull.

 

Lawrence Hardy|May 14th, 2012|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Board governance, Center for Public Education, Charter Schools, Computer Uses in Education, Curriculum, Educational Technology, High Schools, Online learning, Privatization, School Board News, Student Achievement|Tags: , , |

The week in blogs: Who’s got the most determined students?

Here’s a little quiz about cultural norms, brought to you with the help of education blogger Joanne Jacobs. Match the three hypothetical comments – which have to do with how young people view luck, talent, opportunity, destiny, etc. – with students in North America, Europe, or China:

  1. 1.     “My father was a plumber, so I’m going to be a plumber.”
  2. 2.     “I’m [either] born talented in mathematics or I’m born less talented, so I’ll study something else.”
  3. 3.     “[My progress] depends on the effort I invest, and I can succeed if I study hard.”

If you said No. 3 must be North America because of its work ethic, democratic institutions, or social mobility – well, you would be wrong, according to Andreas Schleicher, who runs the international test known as PISA. The correct answer is China. (For the record, Europe is 1, and North America is 2.)

At least, that’s Schleicher’s opinion, expressed in a BBC article, China: The World’s Cleverest County, by Sean Coughlan.

We’ve heard about — and perhaps over-generalized about — the Asian work ethic. But Jacobs is skeptical that simply working hard and believing you can succeed is enough to get you ahead in an authoritarian nation where students, like everyone else, are routinely sorted, and where the well-connected have a distinct advantage over the poor.

Speaking of China and its education system, read the Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss on the latest efforts by ambitious Chinese students and teachers to raise standardized test scores: Hooking up students to IVs of amino acids, which they believe enhance memory.

Moving across the ocean: Was Mitt Romney a prep school bully some four decades ago? Does it matter? Read This Week in Education’s Alexander Russo about a provocative Washington Post article on the presidential candidate’s years at Michigan’s Cranbrook School.

On Tuesday, NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant will speak at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce forum on school boards and the role of businesses with them, notes Eduwonk

Lawrence Hardy|May 11th, 2012|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Assessment, Bullying, Comparative Education, High Schools, Student Achievement|Tags: , , |

The week in blogs: But can your principal do this?

Blogger Fawn Johnson mentions “hapless Principal Krupp” from the Captain Underpants series and “deliciously evil Principal Rooney” from Ferris Bueller’s Day off. But my favorite fictional school leader is Principal Skinner from The Simpsons, who, many years ago, as I recall, escaped from some nefarious crooks who had locked him in the school basement by using — what else? — fifth grade science principles. Pretty cool!

Real principals don’t have to be quite as heroic, but, as Johnson notes in her National Journal blog, the job involves a lot more in the way of academic leadership than it once did. Citing recent a recent report from NSBA’s Center for Public Education, Johnson says that principals can be the key to turning around low-performing schools — if they’re given enough years to do the work.

This Week in Education’s John Thompson takes a skeptical look at credit recovery in his blog, aptly titled “In Praise of Seat Time.” He’s commenting on two other critiques of the practice by the Washington Post’s Jay Mathews and Title I-Derland’s Nancy Connor. Also see “Course Credits on the Quick, in the March/April issue of the Harvard Education Letter.

Lastly, it’s college acceptance/rejection season, and. Time’s Andrew Rotherham has some sage words for high schoolers receiving “the thin envelop.”

Lawrence Hardy|April 28th, 2012|Categories: Center for Public Education, Curriculum, Educational Research, Governance, Urban Schools|Tags: , , , |
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