Articles tagged with American School Board Journal

ASBJ columnist has advice to promote public schools

A recent Gallup poll shows that most Americans think private, parochial, and charter schools do a better job educating students than public schools—but are those assumptions valid?

American School Board Journal (ASBJ) contributing editor Nora Carr writes about the notion—often based on false assumptions and incorrect data—that public schools are failing.

“In the battle for public education, charter schools are winning,” Carr writes in ASBJ’s August issue, which is available online. However, “Most public schools already offer what charters and private schools offer–and then some.”

Carr shows numerous examples—including marketing campaigns, community engagement strategies, and advertisements—that school boards can use to take back their message.

For instance, Texas’ Fort Worth Independent School District developed a new brand and an aggressive, multi-faceted campaign around its 50 choice programs and schools, Carr writes. The district’s “Gold Seal” campaign, which focuses on “college bound and career ready” students, advertises “a private school preparation without the cost” and promotes programs through the district’s website, www.fwisd.org/choice.

The Gallup poll showed 78 percent of Americans say children educated in private schools receive an “excellent” or “good” education, while 69 percent say parochial schools and 60 percent say charter schools do the same, according to Gallup. Only 37 percent said the same for public schools, and 46 percent made that statement about home schooling. (42 percent said public schools provide a “fair” education.)

Other sections of the Gallup survey showed that, similar to past years, the majority of Americans gave high marks to their children’s schools, while giving public education overall much lower grades.

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|August 30th, 2012|Categories: American School Board Journal, Board governance, Charter Schools, Public Advocacy, School Board News, School Boards, School Vouchers|Tags: , , , |

Are you ready for Common Core? Answer this technology readiness survey to find out

If you haven’t done so already and you’re in one of the 45 states, plus the District of Columbia, that signed on to participate in the Common Core State Standards Initiative, take a moment before the end of the month to see if your school’s technology infrastructure is ready to handle the electronic assessments that are also part of the project.

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, the two groups chosen to develop the online tests, have jointly created the Technology Readiness Tool– a detailed questionnaire that asks schools about the state of their IT program.

Along with hardware purchasing guidelines, the readiness tool helps districts see where they are and where they need to be, in terms of technology, when Common Core goes live in 2014-2015.

As a reminder, Common Core State Standards for reading and math were released in the summer of 2010. Internationally benchmarked and designed to be clearer and more rigorous than the patchwork of state standards, the standards are scheduled to be implemented, complete with new computerized assessment systems in two years.

Read ASBJ’s March 2011 issue for a great primer on the initiative and logon to take the technology readiness assessment by June 30. The consortia will use the answers supplied by districts to make decisions on how the implementation, such as how long to keep the testing window open.

Naomi Dillon|June 20th, 2012|Categories: American School Board Journal|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: , , , |

Joplin’s ‘amazing’ year

You never know who you’re going to bump into at the NSBA Annual Conference. But after a couple of days, I usually have a pretty good idea.

Each year, I meet a board member or superintendent early on, either on the shuttle bus or in line at the hotel. And over the course of the next several days, I seem to see that person everywhere.

Last year, that person was Randy Steele.

Randy is a school board member in Joplin, Mo., and justifiably, he was proud of the Magna Award grand prize that his district was receiving for a program called “Bright Futures.” Over the course of the three-day meeting, I saw him everywhere—in the hallway, in sessions, at the Magna luncheon. By the end of the week, it had become something of a running joke.

What happened in Joplin just six weeks later was no joke.

An EF-5 tornado cut a three-quarter mile path through the middle of this Missouri community, ultimately claiming 161 lives, causing $3 billion in damage, and destroying several of Joplin’s school buildings. Immediately, ASBJ’s staff reached out—via Facebook—to Steele and Superintendent C.J. Huff, asking if there was anything we could do.

This month’s cover story is the result.

Over the past year, we have followed a remarkable tale of resilience and recovery, of looking ahead when it is more tempting to look back. It’s a fascinating study of how tireless leaders—board members and administrators—turn crisis into opportunity as they work to protect students and staff and prevent them from having a lost year.

The first few paragraphs of this essay were taken from my editor’s note that appears in the print edition. Since we wrapped up the issue, which was distributed at this year’s annual conference, there are a number of things to update:

• Just after the issue went to press, voters narrowly passed a $62 million bond issue that will help in the district’s rebuilding effort. Joplin High School is the centerpiece of that effort; all of the pictures in the print edition are from the devastated building that is still being razed. (You also can find more pictures from the high school and the Joplin community that I took last year on ASBJ’s Facebook page — www.facebook.com/AmericanSchoolBoard.)

• A week after the construction referendum, former board chair Ashley Micklethwaite announced that she has accepted a job with Mercy Health Center in St. Louis and will leave Joplin later this year.

• The district has started working on plans for President Obama’s commencement speech on May 21 — the day before the first anniversary. The next day, ceremonial groundbreaking ceremonies will be held for the new schools.

C.J. Huff, who has done yeoman’s work in leading the district’s recovery efforts, told the Joplin Globe that he and other administrators know that May 22 will be a tough and emotional day for the community’s residents.

“Everybody is in a different place,” Huff said. “Those days will bring a lot of celebration and a lot of reflection. As we reflect on the past, we have to think about the future. It’s just another step in the healing process.”

The year has not been without its glitches. In fact, Joplin is facing a lawsuit from the out-of-state contractor hired to demolish the high school. People who remain unsettled by the storm were upset that their taxes would go up and voted against the referendum, which passed by a 57-43 margin.

But none of that should put a damper on the remarkable story that school leaders — anyone in a position of leadership really — can read in this month’s issue.

Just before the issue went to press, I asked Randy if I would see him at this year’s conference. The new board president said he wasn’t sure, and ultimately he did not go. The reason: The meeting conflicted with Joplin’s prom.

Two weeks ago, in Boston, I got onto a packed shuttle and headed toward the back. This time, I bumped into Ashley Mickelthwaite. She had been remarkably candid in our talks last November and again in March, talking about the loss of her home, the struggles of her community, the changes in her job — Joplin’s Mercy Hospital was destroyed in the storm — and the hard work going on in the district.

As we rode toward the convention center, she told me about her decision to resign from the board and leave her hometown (“It’s tough, but it’s time,” she said.) She also talked of the resilience — and the grind — that everyone continues to face.

“It’s been an amazing year,” she said.

Indeed.

— Glenn Cook, Editor-in-Chief

To read the story, go to http://www.asbj.com/MainMenuCategory/Archive/2012/May/Restoring-Joplins-Future.html

Glenn Cook|May 2nd, 2012|Categories: American School Board Journal, Crisis Management, Leadership, NSBA Annual Conference 2012|Tags: , , |

Free webinar for school leaders on technology innovation

As school leaders, you are responsible for creating technology plans and approving technology purchases. As you know, the potential for the Web to engage students and build personalized global learning models is incredible. With increased attention to online and blended learning models, the key to success for schools is to incorporate the Web and new technology in a way that is simple yet robust, manageable, and scalable.

Where to start? You can join American School Board Journal and Google for a free webinar, Scaling Technology in Education. In this webinar, you will discover the new roles of the Internet in schools, classrooms, and other education environments. How can technology and the Internet help students learn the skills they need to thrive in the 21st century? You will learn how to manage and scale that technology from the classroom to the entire school system.

The webinar will held Thursday, May 3, at 3 p.m. EDT. To register, go to http://lp.google-mkto.com/nsbj_registration.html

Kathleen Vail|May 1st, 2012|Categories: Educational Technology|Tags: , |

2012 Magna Awards honors Missouri, New York, and Pennsylvania school districts

Missouri’s Maplewood Richmond Heights School District, New York’s Monroe-Woodbury Central School District, and Pennsylvania’s Pittsburgh Public Schools have been named the grand prize winners in the American School Board Journal’s (ASBJ) 18th annual Magna Awards program.

The Magna Awards are supported by Sodexo School Services. Each of the grand prize-winning school districts will receive $4,000 in scholarship money during a special presentation at the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Annual Conference, to be held April 21-23 in Boston.

The Magna Awards recognize districts across the country for outstanding programs that advance student learning and encourage community involvement in schools. This year’s three grand prize, 15 first place, and 15 honorable mention winners were selected from three enrollment categories: less than 5,000 students, 5,000 to 20,000 students, and over 20,000 students.

“The Magna Awards exemplifies strong school board leadership, creativity, and commitment to student achievement in public education,” said Anne L. Bryant, ASBJ’s publisher and executive director of NSBA. “This year’s Magna Awards recipients truly showcase the best practices and innovative school programs that are advancing student success.”

“Sodexo is proud to create learning-friendly environments that allow our partner districts to focus on doing what they do best—educating our children,” said Steve Dunmore, president of Sodexo Education-Schools. “We are honored to sponsor the Magna Awards and want to celebrate all school boards and communities that share in the commitment to further student well-being and achievement.”

Here is information on the grand prize entries:

• The Maplewood Richmond Heights School District in Maplewood, Mo., earned the grand prize in the under 5,000 enrollment category for its outreach program for homeless high school students. School district officials worked with local churches and community volunteers to create Joe’s Place—a shelter for homeless male high school students. The shelter provides students with counseling and a caring home environment. Of the 14 students served by Joe’s Place, 13 have graduated from high school or on track to graduate. Six former Joe’s Place residents are attending college, one has joined the Navy, and two more are employed full-time.

• The Monroe-Woodbury Central School District in Central Valley, N.Y., is being honored as the grand prize winner in the 5,000 to 20,000 enrollment category for an outreach program at an elementary school that serves a community with a large immigrant population. School district officials, with support from the school board, developed “English as a Second Language Family Night,” a program that provides literacy training for students and their parents twice a week. While the literacy skills of both parents and students improved, more parents volunteered for class activities. Parents also were more comfortable expressing themselves to school staff members.

• The Pittsburgh (Pa.) Public Schools are being honored as the grand prize winner in the over 20,000 enrollment category for its outreach program aimed at increasing the participation of fathers and other male role models in the district’s schools. “Take a Father to School Day” is an annual event which invites fathers, grandfathers, and other male role models to spend a day at their child’s school. Since 2007, the number of fathers attending the event has climbed from 3,669 to 5,964 in 2011. The event was founded by Pittsburgh Public Schools’ Board Member Mark Brentley as a “call to action” for men to become more involved in their children’s lives.

ASBJ initiated the Magna Awards in 1995 to recognize school boards for taking bold and innovative steps to improve their educational programs. An independent panel of school board members, administrators, and other educators selected the winners from 300 submissions. This year’s nominations came from 44 states.

In additional to the grand prize winners, these school districts are also being honored:

Winners – Category 1 – under 5,000 enrollment
Balsz Elementary School District #31, Phoenix, Ariz.
Blue Ridge School District, New Milford, Pa.
North Salem Central School District, North Salem, N.Y.
Sanborn Regional School District, Kingston, N.H.
White Pine County School District, Ely, Nev.

Winners – Category 2 – 5,000-20,000 enrollment
Alexandria City Public Schools, Alexandria, Va.
Blue Springs School District, Blue Springs, Mo.
Boone County Schools, Florence, Ky.
Southfield Public Schools, Southfield, Mich.
Southwest Independent School District, San Antonio, Texas

Winners – Category 3 – over 20,000 enrollment
Johnston County Schools, Smithfield, N.C.
Newport News Public Schools, Newport News, Va. – 2 programs
Polk County Public Schools, Bartow, Fla.
School District of Osceola County, Kissimmee, Fla.

Honorable Mentions
Amelia County Public Schools, Amelia Courthouse, Va.
Bridgehampton Union Free School District, Bridgehampton, N.Y.
Lumberton Township Schools, Lumberton, N.J.
Oak Park Unified School District, Oak Park, Calif.
Petersburg City Public Schools, Petersburg, Va.
Clover Park School District, Lakewood, Wash.
Henderson County Schools, Henderson, Ky.
Penn-Harris-Madison School Corporation, Mishawaka, Ind.
Topeka Public Schools, Topeka, Kan.
Williamsburg/James City County Public Schools, Williamsburg, Va.
Fairfax County Public Schools, Falls Church, Va.
Lafayette Parish School System, Lafayette, La.
Peoria Unified School District, Glendale, Ariz.
St. Tammany Parish Public School District, Covington, La.
Sweetwater Union High School District, Chula Vista, Calif.

The 2012 winners will be highlighted in a special supplement to the May issue of ASBJ, and will be formally recognized on Saturday, April 21, at the Best Practices for School Leaders Luncheon, which is part of NSBA’s 72nd Annual Conference.

In addition to the ASBJ supplement, all honrees will be posted on the Magna Awards website and added to the program’s searchable best practices database.

Alexis Rice|April 12th, 2012|Categories: American School Board Journal, Board governance, Educational Technology, NSBA Annual Conference 2012, NSBA Publications, NSBA Recognition Programs, School Boards, Urban Schools|Tags: , , |

What would you do if …

The American School Board Journal’s monthly Adviser Poll asks what would you do if:  A member wanted the board to switch to tablets, even though teachers don’t have them yet?

A member asked his board to consider switching from laptop computers to tablet devices for meetings and to conduct board and district business. The other board members were concerned of the impression it would give the community if they had the technology first before classroom teachers. What should the board do?

To vote or comment visit our Facebook question here

Naomi Dillon|February 2nd, 2012|Categories: American School Board Journal, Board governance|Tags: |

Follow the money trail in Feb. issue of ASBJ

Hundreds of new charter schools will open this year—clear evidence of the growing momentum behind the charter school movement. But it’s worth noting that today’s support for charters didn’t just happen. It was bought and paid for.

That’s the contention of “Money Talks,” a package of articles in February’s American School Board Journal by Senior Editor Del Stover details an often-overlooked political reality: Advocates for charter schools have poured millions of dollars in private funds to sell the idea of charters to state and federal policymakers, as well as the general public.

With its pages, ASBJ offers up a brief glimpse of how this money is influencing education policymaking today. For example:

  • An Ohio for-profit operator of charter schools donates approximately $4 million over a decade to state politicians—and convinces legislators to introduce controversial legislation on behalf of the charter school industry.
  • The Walton Foundation awards nearly $75 million in school choice and charter-related grants, providing “venture capital” that helps hundreds of charter schools open and supporting the advocacy efforts of state charter school groups.
  • Advocacy groups in Wisconsin spent thousands on ads and fliers against candidates opposed to school choice and charters. These ads blame candidates for a variety of wrongdoing—but never actually talk of charter schools or education in general.

 

As ASBJ makes clear, it’s important for school board members to understand that this money is being spent—because, in politics, money talks.

And since up-to-date information and insight is a public servant’s best weapon, read the companion piece from respected planning consultant, Kelley Carey, on how to address charter school growth before it happens.

Read these features and more in the latest issue of ASBJ.

Naomi Dillon|February 2nd, 2012|Categories: American School Board Journal|Tags: , , |

New online at ASBJ.com: Dealing with adult bullying

A couple of years ago, I wrote an article for the American School Board Journal on bullying. It was a belated follow-up to a decade-old article I wrote in the wake of the 1999 Columbine shootings. The education world changed after Columbine, particularly in the area of student safety and security. I was pleased to find out in my research that school leaders, administrators, and educators were taking bullying and student aggression much more seriously than before the tragedy. 

I interviewed counselor and author Stan Davis for my article, and I’ll never forget what he had to say about bullying prevention.

All schools have an overt culture and a hidden one, he said. “Kids are paying attention to the hidden one. They will see if we welcome new staff, and if we will listen to hate speech.”

If adults are permitted to bully and mistreat each other, or their students, no program, assembly, or curriculum will have much impact.

I had his words in mind when I assigned Senior Editor Naomi Dillon ASBJ’s October cover story, “Adults Behaving Badly,” now online on ASBJ.com. Dillon looks at the phenomenon of work place bullying. Lean budget times, school layoffs, and high-stakes testing pressure have created a toxic environment in some districts. In some cases, the toxicity is fueled by social networking sites. If not addressed, bullying among adults will spread to students. As educators and parents all know, children are watching your actions more than paying attention to your words.

Also as part of our school climate coverage, Senior Editor Lawrence Hardy writes about how some districts are working to reduce racial, ethnic and cultural tensions while creating an environment where children can thrive. “How’s Your Climate?” is also available at www.asbj.com.

Take a look at what we have online this month and please feel free to comment.

Kathleen Vail|October 12th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Bullying, NSBA Publications, School Climate, School Security, Social Networking|Tags: , , , , , , |

October issue of ASBJ now online

While national attention and energy has rightfully focused on the phenomenon of peer-to-peer bullying, what’s been missing from the scrutiny is a hard look at the relationships and interaction among the adults in the school community.

Enter the October issue of American School Board Journal, which is now live and online. In the latest issue, you’ll find a collection of articles that examine the issue of school culture and climate, from a variety of perspectives and perpetrators.

It’s an important and timely read on a complicated issue that has real implications for school reform efforts.

Naomi Dillon|October 5th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, School Climate|Tags: , , , , |
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