Articles tagged with achievement gap

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: , |

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: , , , , |

NSBA webinar to explore Common Core challenges for English language learners

Join Patte Barth, executive director of NSBA’s Center for Public Education, and Rosa Aronson, executive director of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc., (TESOL) for a webinar 2:30 -4:40 p.m. Wednesday, titled  The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and English Language Learners: Challenges and Opportunities for Academic Success.

As school districts begin adjusting their programs to meet the expectations of the CCSS, they need to ensure that English Language Learners get the curriculum they need to meet the CCSS’s requirements and achieve academic success.

The webinar will outline the benefits and challenges of CCSS and provide practical solutions to these challenges for teachers, administrators and policymakers.

The webinar is sponsored by NSBA’s National Hispanic Caucus of School Board Members.

Space is limited. Reserve your Webinar seat here.

 

Lawrence Hardy|January 7th, 2014|Categories: Announcements, Student Achievement, Uncategorized|Tags: , , |

NSBA backs University of Texas in diversity case

The National School Boards Association, the College Board, and 11 other national educational groups today filed a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court strongly supporting the University of Texas’ use of race as one of multiple factors in admission decisions.

In January, a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously for the defendants in Fisher v. University of Texas. The plaintiffs then appealed to the Supreme Court, which accepted the case in February, thereby signaling its willingness to revisit diversity law. Legal experts say that a high court reversal of the earlier decision would represent a profound change in affirmative action law and a serious setback to school districts and universities seeking to diversity their programs.

“I think it’s ominous,” Lee Bollinger, the president of Columbia University, told the New York Times earlier this year. “It threatens to undo several decades of effort within higher education to build a more integrated and just and educationally enriched environment.”

The case is being closely watched by public school leaders as well. Among those groups joining NSBA in today’s brief are the American Association of School Administrators, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and the Texas Association of School Boards Legal Assistance Fund.

“The National School Boards Association is committed to the principle that diversity promotes the educational achievement of all students,” NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant said today. “Preserving the ability to develop sound, academically driven diversity policies is in the best interests of all students in our public schools and beyond.”

Bollinger was president of the University of Michigan in 2003, when the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Grutter v. Bollinger that the university’s use of race was constitutional as long as it was part of a “holistic” assessment of candidates that included other factors. It was that decision that has guided the University of Texas and many other educational institutions as they try to diversity their academic programs and prepare a workforce for the 21st century.

Under a 2004 state law, all Texas high school seniors in the top 10 percent of their classes are automatically admitted to the Texas state university of their choice — a requirement that accounted for 81 percent of the 2008 freshman class at the University of Texas, according to a recent College Board report. (The university limits out-of-state residents to 10 percent of the freshman class.)

The remaining in-state candidates are then evaluated on both academic and personal achievement indexes. Among the personal achievement indexes – which include socioeconomic status, and family status and responsibilities – is race. “No element of the personal achievement score is considered separately or given a separate numerical value,” the report said.

The College Board report was written by attorney Arthur L. Coleman, who wrote the court brief filed today. Coleman also collaborated with Katherine E. Lipper and NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón Jr. on the 2011 publication Achieving Educational Excellence for All: a Guide to Diversity-Related Policy Strategies for School Districts.

 

Lawrence Hardy|August 13th, 2012|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Diversity, School Law, State School Boards Associations|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: , , |

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: , , , , , |

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: , , , |

The week in blogs: Alleviating poverty, improving schools

Does “family income itself” determine whether or not a child learns? That’s what progressive educators believe, charges Harvard Professor Paul Peterson in a recent piece for Education Next.

Of course, Peterson is distorting the views of those in the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education coalition, who say that out-of-school factors such as a child’s health, nutrition, safety, and housing – all of which are influenced by a lack of adequate income — can have a big impact on that child’s ability to achieve  in school. Therefore, they say, we as a society need to address these out-of-school concerns.

This should be pretty well-accepted stuff by now – indeed, concepts that people like Coalition for Community Schools Director Martin J. Blank shouldn’t have to be called on to defend. Nonetheless, Blank does a admirable job of explaining the coalition’s position in “Education is a Both-and Issue” in the Huffington Post. The “both-and” refers, naturally, to improving both the schools and the conditions in which disadvantaged children live.

Bilingual education has taken a lot of hits of late from English-only supporters, but did you know that developing skills in two languages simultaneously can make you smarter? Read Joanne Jacobs, who links to a fascinating story in the New York Times.

Lawrence Hardy|March 26th, 2012|Categories: Student Achievement, Urban Schools, Wellness|Tags: , , |
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