Articles tagged with education reform

NSBA urges La. Supreme Court to strike down vouchers

In a closely watched Louisiana Supreme Court case that began today, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) is urging the court to rule that the state’s voucher program violates the state constitution because it diverts taxpayer funds to private schools.

NSBA has filed an amicus brief in the case, Louisiana Federation of Teachers v. State of Louisiana, which could have national implications for the school choice movement. The lawsuit brought by the Louisiana School Boards Association (LSBA) and other education groups challenges the constitutionality of several measures adopted by the Louisiana State Legislature in 2012, including a law that provides vouchers to students in low-performing schools. Under the law, a centerpiece of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s education agenda, the state board of elementary and secondary education is required to pay funds to private schools, including religious schools, as “scholarships” to cover the tuition and fees of students whose parents choose to remove their children from “failing” public schools and send them to a participating private school.

The trial court ruled in favor of the education groups and school districts, and the State of Louisiana now seeks an expedited review by the Louisiana Supreme Court.

The voucher program undermines this country’s longstanding commitment to public education and harms the state’s children by depriving poorer school systems of scarce resources, NSBA writes in the brief. Further, most of the private schools receiving public tax dollars under the program are not subject to the same accountability requirements as public schools.

“These vouchers have allowed tax dollars to be diverted from public education to private individuals and entities that are not subject to the same academic, operational, and accountability standards as public schools,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “These laws are part of a national campaign by special interest groups to promote a narrow political agenda over the needs and well being of the schoolchildren of Louisiana.”

The program allows parents to use vouchers for their children as early as kindergarten, even if the child never attended a public school or the school is highly ranked.

“Louisiana already has a system of school choice through community public schools and charter schools, and we need our elected officials to ensure that our state has the best public school system available to all of its families,” said LSBA Executive Director Scott Richard. “Local school boards are responsible to provide public schools to their communities that are open to all students and reflect community needs. Vouchers have taken away critical state and local funding from Louisiana’s public schools, which the vast majority of our students attend.”

Joetta Sack-Min|March 19th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Budgeting, Educational Legislation, Policy Formation, School Law, School Vouchers|Tags: , , , |

“Won’t Back Down” misses that turning around a failing school is everyone’s business

NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant is attending NBC’s Education Nation event this week in New York City, and part of the exclusive event included a red-carpet screening of the new film “Won’t Back Down.”

The film, which conveys a fictional story of a mother who seeks to enact a parent-trigger law on her daughter’s underperforming school, seeks to elicit more discussion about that type of law. However, Bryant cautions that research shows different strategies may be more effective in a Sept. 24 blog for Transforming Learning, a blog by members of the Learning First Alliance that is hosted by Education Week.

“While we wouldn’t expect a Hollywood production about public schools to be grounded in research-based facts, there are many reasons to be concerned about the images of educators portrayed in the movie and the fanfare surrounding this type of law — which so far has only been used in one instance but has piqued the interest of legislatures in several states,” Bryant writes. “While ‘parent involvement’ always sounds agreeable, we have research showing that certain parental strategies work much better than others — and parent trigger laws are far from being a proven methodology.”

What works, she notes, are school boards that hold administrators accountable for student performance and engage parents and community members. Bryant also discusses research from the Center for Public Education that shows which parental involvement strategies show the most impact on their children’s learning.

Read more at Education Week’s website.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|September 25th, 2012|Categories: Announcements|Tags: , |

NJ School Boards Association commends new teacher tenure law

The New Jersey School Boards Association (NJSBA) praised Gov. Chris Christie and legislators for approving a new law that will reduce the time and cost of teacher tenure hearings.

Christie signed the law, called the TEACHNJ Act, on August 6.

“The new law creates an essential link between the tenure process and teacher performance.  It also calls for an objective evaluation system to help ensure consistency,” said Marie S. Bilik, NJSBA executive director, in a written statement. “We commend the bi-partisan effort, and hope to see further reforms in areas such as seniority, which would further strengthen school district leaders’ ability to ensure that the most effective teachers are in the classroom.”

While NJSBA had called for eliminating lifetime tenure and the “last in, first out” rules, the association is pleased with the changes made by this new law, particularly the bill’s emphasis on teacher evaluation and requiring four years of work instead of three before a school employee can initially earn tenure.

According to NJSBA, the legislation requires a superintendent to recommend the filing of tenure charges after consecutive annual evaluation ratings of ineffective.  The ratings are to be based upon an evaluation process approved by the commissioner of education. “This provision represents a major change in how the tenure laws have been applied up to now,” Bilik said.

“This new tenure law is an important step towards ensuring we have a great teacher in every classroom,” Christie, a Republican, said at the signing ceremony. “Now is the time to build on this record of cooperation and results to put in place further reforms focused on our students by ending the flawed practice of last in, first out and supporting both differentiated pay and banning forced placements of teachers.”

CNN reported that New Jersey has the oldest teacher tenure law on the books, first passed in 1909.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|August 8th, 2012|Categories: Educational Legislation, Governance, Legislative advocacy, State School Boards Associations, Teachers|Tags: , , , , |

Editorial discusses the importance of school boards

What does your community know about your school board and the work school board members do?

Two members of California’s Fresno Unified School District’s school board recently penned an editorial for the Fresno Bee detailing the importance of their jobs. Cal Johnson and Valerie Davis urged their community members to pay attention to the candidates running for the school board because it has such a crucial role in guiding the community’s education system.

“School boards set direction for the district; we advocate for public education as well as needed improvements; we are currently maintaining the financial stability of our districts under some of the worst economic conditions in modern history; and, most importantly, we keep a laser-like focus on improving student achievement,” the authors write.

Davis and Johnson discussed some of the challenges facing the Fresno Unified School District and others in the area, including extreme concentrations of poverty that impact students’ abilities to attend school and learn.

“Schools cannot solve these problems alone, so they seek the community’s help to alleviate the scars that poverty inflicts on so many of the children and families in our Valley,” they write. “Everything from land-use decisions to policy approaches to public safety, mental health, and recreation impact our challenge.”

Read the column at the Fresno Bee and learn more about ways to communicate with your community from American School Board Journal’s columnist Nora Carr in “Telling Your Story.”

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|July 19th, 2012|Categories: American School Board Journal, Governance, School Board News, School Boards|Tags: , , , , |

Michigan State report finds strong support for local governance

Americans support local control of their schools and school board governance, according to a new study by researchers at Michigan State University.

Analyzing data from Gallup/Phi Delta Kappa polls and existing research, the study’s authors found that local school governance is seen as critical to the day-to-day operations of schools. It notes that the public believes federal, state and local governments should be involved in education, and that the public favors decisions related to equitable funding and standards across all schools to be made by federal and state officials.

“A lot of policymakers today think they can just go around the local boards; that the federal government can create a policy that goes directly to the schools or works around the existing institutions,” Assistant Professor of Education Rebecca Jacobsen said in a press release. “But that’s not going to work in the long run, because local control is not dead. People still feel it plays an important role.”

Jacobsen concluded that the findings are important particularly given the recent efforts put into dismantling local control in favor of a greater federal presence.

“Some argue that local school governance is a ‘dinosaur’ that needs to be replaced, but local leaders are going to be the ones implementing these federal policies,” Jacobsen said. “So if they’re going to have a major hand in how these policies get shaped at the local level, then we better pay attention to their resources, their capabilities, and not just dismiss them.”

The analysis was published in Public Opinion Quarterly.

Joetta Sack-Min|July 18th, 2012|Categories: Board governance, School Board News, School Boards, School Reform|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: 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: , , , |

The week in blogs: When the numbers don’t add up

Sarah Wysocki, a fifth grade teacher at McFarland Middle School in Washington, D.C, was worried about how she’d fare under the district’s IMPACT teacher evaluation, writes Bill Turque in a disturbing article in The Washington Post.

Her main concern was this: Fourteen of Wysocki’s 25 students had attended Barnard Elementary, which had five times the number of advanced fourth-grade readers as the district average. Yet Wysocki said that some of those so-called “advanced readers” could barely read.

Were the scores –the scores from which Wysocki’s “value-added” evaluation would be derived — inflated? Despite the high number of erasures on Barnard’s test papers and a subsequent investigation, a district spokesman told Turque that “it’s just not possible to know for sure.” And so, despite glowing evaluations, and even suggestions that she share her teaching methods with colleagues, Wysocki got the low score she feared and was dismissed.

The Post story is one of several this week that call into question the kind of “value-added” teacher evaluation programs that are becoming increasingly common across the country. Of course, many of the previous evaluation systems weren’t so great, either. In a New Republic article titled The False Promise of the New York City Teacher Evaluations, author Simon van Zuylen-Wood notes that, under a previous evaluation system that relied solely on classroom observations, 97 percent of New York teachers were judged “satisfactory.” But the new system has apparently substituted new errors for old ones.

There’s more. Read the essay by William Johnson in the New York Times titled “Confessions of a ‘Bad’ Teacher.” Then see how some liberal parents — many concernebout what they consider a misplaced emphasis on testing and evaluation– are joining their conservative counterparts in the home schooling ranks, thereby removing some of the most high-performing students from public school.

With all this — as well as massive budget cuts and staff reductions — is it any wonder that, according to the latest MetLife Survey of the American Teacher,  teacher job satisfaction has fallen by 15 percentage points since 2009, and nearly a third of teachers are considering leaving the profession?

I didn’t plan to make this column so negative, but I think these things are important to point out. Certainly, most school districts value their teachers and treat them like professionals. But even with the best of intentions, grand ideas concerning testing, evaluation, and accountably — when applied clumsily — can end up harming the very professionals we need to support.


Lawrence Hardy|March 11th, 2012|Categories: Assessment, Data Driven Decision Making, School Reform, Teachers, Urban Schools|Tags: , |

New Center report looks at ways to boost high school rigor

Advanced Placement courses, rigorous math curriculum, dual high school-college enrollment, and early college programs can all increase the rigor of America’s secondary schools, according to Is High School Tough Enough?, a new report by NSBA’s Center for Public Education.

While the report noted that more in-depth research is needed, it said that school boards interested in applying these four strategies need to consider issues such as funding, data collection, and increasing access for low-income and minority students.

“In today’s education landscape, many are beginning to re-think the high school experience,” said Patte Barth, Director of the Center.  “From Advanced Placement courses to dual enrollment, early college high schools, and even high-level math, the aim is to expose students to concepts, curricula, and ideas that will help them succeed in college or lead to a productive career.”

Barth said this emphasis is reflected in many policy trends, including an increasing “PreK-16” perspective as well as the recently developed Common Core State Standards in math and language arts, which most states have adopted in order to help produce college-ready and career-ready high school graduates.

Still, there is wide variation in secondary school rigor across the country, the report noted. It said that — while the term “rigor” is not easily defined — “many low-income schools lack access to a rigorous high school curriculum by any definition.” For example, according to a 2011 report by U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) 3,000 high schools serving nearly 500,000 students offer no classes in Algebra II, a gateway to higher math, college, and career readiness.

In a survey issued Tuesday, OCR expanded on that issue, noting, among other things, only 29 percent of high-minority high schools offered Calculus, compared to 55 percent of schools with the lowest black and Hispanic enrollment. In addition, the report found that teachers in high-minority schools were paid $2,251 less than teachers in low minority schools in the same district. It also noted that African American students, particularly males, were far more likely to be expelled or suspended from school than their peers.

“The power of the data is not only in the numbers themselves, but in the impact it can have when married with the courage and the will to change,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “The undeniable truth is that the everyday educational experience for many students of color violates the principle of equity at the heart of the American promise.  It is our collective duty to change that.”

Exposure to advanced courses can have a big impact on the educational success of low-income and minority students, the Center for Public Education report said.  

“For example, Hispanic students who passed an AP exam were nearly seven times more likely to graduate from college than their non-participating counterparts,” the Center’s report said. “Such findings buttress the argument that exposure to higher-level courses can translate into long-term gains for underrepresented students.”

Moreover, the Center report said that taking AP courses can improve students’ chances for success even if they don’t pass the AP exam. It said that only 10 percent of African-American students who did not take an AP course graduated within five years, compared with 37 percent who took an AP course and did not pass the exam, and 53 percent who took an AP course and passed.

 

Lawrence Hardy|March 7th, 2012|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Board governance, Center for Public Education, Curriculum, Data Driven Decision Making, Discipline, Diversity, Educational Research, High Schools, Student Achievement|Tags: , , , , |
Page 1 of 3123