Articles tagged with education reform

NSBA in the News: “Should children have to compete for their education?”

Mary Fertakis, a member of the Tukwila, Wash., school board and president-elect of the Washington State School Directors’ Association, wrote a column for the Washington Post’s Answer Sheet blog this week discussing competitive federal grant programs and the disadvantages many students and school districts face.

Fertakis posed the question, “Should children have to compete for their education?” to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at NSBA’s 2011 Federal Relations Network conference in February. Read the column and be sure to leave your comments.

Joetta Sack-Min|August 18th, 2011|Categories: FRN Conference 2011, Rural Schools, Educational Finance, School Reform, Race to the Top (RTTT)|Tags: , , |

The week in blogs

Here are two unsettling statistics on school discipline, based on an unprecedented study of nearly 1 million Texas secondary school students: Nearly 60 percent of these children were suspended or expelled over the course of the six-year study, and African-American students were disproportionately disciplined for infractions that the researchers described as “discretionary” — that is, the school had the option of not suspending or expelling the student but chose the harsher path.

As it turns out, it’s not as much the behavior of the students that leads to vastly different kinds of discipline, says the study by The Council of State Government’s Justice Center and Texas A&M University’s Public Policy Research Institute. It’s the policies of school leaders.

“The bottom line is that schools can get different outcomes with very similar student bodies,” Michael D. Thompson, a co-author of the report, told the Washington Post. “School superintendents and teachers can have a dramatic impact.”

To that list we should also add school board members, who hire the superintendent and, through their policy-making decisions, have significant authority over the way schools handle discipline.

The day after that report was made public, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder issued a new Supportive School Discipline Initiative that aims to dismantle the “School-to-Prison Pipeline” that pushes students into the juvenile justice system for school infractions that could be handled in other ways.

Citing the Texas report and the high number of suspensions and expulsions it found, Holder said, “I think these numbers are kind of a wake-up call. It’s obvious we can do better.”

In yet another critical look at school discipline, journalist Annette Fuentes, in her new book, Lockdown High, examines the heightened national concern about school safety – and its negative consequences – since 9/11 and Columbine.

“The Columbine scenario is terrifying, but the odds of it occurring in your hometown are about one in two million,” Fuentes told the Post.

In a later interview, she makes another point that is well known to most school board members: School is among the safest places for children and young people to be.

So how about those ultra-safe playgrounds, with nothing too high or too hard, too fast or too rickety? Not good for kids, says Ellen Sandseter, a professor of psychology at Queen Maud University of Norway. Yes, they may prevent a few physical injuries (and even that is open to debate) but the psychological toll – in children becoming more fearful because they’re not given the chance to adequately explore their world — outweighs the benefits, she says in a New York Times article.

So too safe is bad – psychologically. What about too extravagant, for example, the $248,000 playhouse a former CEO built for his grandchildren? Not a great idea, notes the Post’s Ruth Marcus. Could make for overly indulged, uncreative kids. Imagine that?

At least that’s one problem cashed-strapped school districts don’t have to worry about.

Lawrence Hardy|July 22nd, 2011|Categories: Uncategorized, Teachers, Week in Blogs, School Security, School Climate, Reports|Tags: , , , , , , |

The good, bad, and ugly of education research

One of the best things about the Bunkum Awards — the annual tongue-in-cheek prizes that the National Education Policy Center gives to research it deems less than worthy – are the titles.

For its 2010 honors, announced earlier this month, the University of Colorado-based group  offered: “The ‘F Double Minus’ Award,'” “The ‘Plural of Anecdote is Not Data’ Award,’ and, my personal favorite: “The ‘If I Say it Enough, Will it Still be Untrue’ Award.”

That last one went to the Heritage Foundation for its glowing report on how a number of educational “reforms” that, incidentally, the think tank strongly supports (like vouchers, charter schools, alternative teacher certification, and performance-based teacher pay) have caused a substantial narrowing of the racial achievement gap in Florida.

“The problem,” NEPC says, “is with the ‘caused’ part,” saying that “nothing in the data … comes even close to allowing for causal inference.”

For his part, a co-author of the report replied: “The change adverse may wish to quibble over the details, or agonize over just what reform did how much of what,” but in the end Florida’s fourth grade scores were way up. Of course, NEPC got the last word, quipping, as a kind of coda to the co-author’s statement: “And no research bound egghead is going to mess up his good causal story.”

Naomi Dillon|February 22nd, 2011|Categories: Educational Research, American School Board Journal|Tags: , |

British educator provides insight on how and why education must change

Noted education and creativity thought leader Sir Ken Robinson goes back to the drawing board, literally, to explain the global forces that have driven education reform both in the past and the future.

Naomi Dillon|October 20th, 2010|Categories: Educational Research, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , |

Fenty’s loss puts urban school reform in limbo

Yesterday’s unsuccessful bid for reelection by D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty was hardly a surprise. For months, there had been signs Fenty’s hard-charging style, insular politics, and perceived aloofness had rubbed Washingtonians the wrong way— much like his appointed schools chief, Michelle Rhee.

In the three years she’s been in D.C., Rhee has alienated many, whether it was with her now infamous Time magazine cover, her decision to shutter dozens of schools, or her mass firing of hundreds of teachers. Still, it wasn’t so much what Rhee has done that’s been so polarizing, but what she hasn’t: included stakeholders in these decisions.


Naomi Dillon|September 15th, 2010|Categories: Student Achievement, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , , , |

Rhetoric around America’s biggest issues don’t always fall along party lines

alice-wonderland“Curiouser and Curiouser” – those words from Alice and Wonderland  popped into my mind today as I read page A8 of Monday’s New York Times.

First there was the story about the head of a major political party, who said of the war in Afghanistan: “This is not something the United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in…. “that’s the one thing you don’t do, is engage in a land war in Asia.”

Green Party Platform?  Musings of the (new, old, resuscitated) Left? No. Michael Steele chairman of the Republican National Committee, letting his thoughts run on. And on. His GOP colleagues, understandably, were not amused.

Then, on to education and to Column Five:

“Today our members face the most anti-educator, anti-union, anti-student environment I have ever experienced,” Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, said at the union’s annual conference in New Orleans.

Naomi Dillon|July 6th, 2010|Categories: Governance, Policy Formation, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , , |

Year one, Obama; Year seven, NCLB— where, when will the two meet?

1209_ASBJ_ndLast Tuesday I wrote about ASBJ‘s December forum, which features seven education experts commenting on the Obama Administration’s ambitious agenda for the public schools.

It’s titled “Year One,” for obvious reasons, and perhaps by the time we get to “Year Four,” or possibly, “Year Eight,” we’ll have a better idea of whether those policies were successful.

I also want to point you to a sidebar (at the end of the main forum) that examines, among other things, No Child Left Behind. Somehow “Year Seven” doesn’t sound as dramatic as “Year One,” but the fact is that the Bush administration’s seven-year-old initiative, while still a work in progress, is having a big impact on policy at the state and district level.

What do our pundits think of the law? Well, we quote several, including a pragmatic Eric Hanushek, of the Hoover Institution, who offers four ways to improve it; and a downright pessimistic Diane Ravitch, of New York University. Here’s what she has to say:

“When President [Obama] ran for office, he promised ‘change,’ and I assumed that he would change the punitive nature of NCLB. Since he assumed office, little has been said about the future of NCLB. At some point, the Obama administration will have to draft its plan for reauthorization. I hope that they will do so with the intent of supporting and helping struggling schools instead of punishing and closing them. However, given the administration’s rhetoric about closing 5,000 low-performing schools, I am not encouraged about their willingness to abandon the tough-guy stance.

Naomi Dillon|December 1st, 2009|Categories: Policy Formation, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , |

New on

1209_ASBJ_ndBill Clinton created Goals 2000. George W. Bush launched No Child Left Behind. Now, nearly one year into his first term as president, Barack Obama is embarking on perhaps the biggest expansion ever of the federal role in public schools.

Led by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, the administration is asking states and school districts to experiment, to challenge long-held assumptions about teaching and learning, and to innovate — and it is putting up nearly $5 billion in “Race to the Top” (RTT) funds and other incentives to prod them to do it.

Will they be successful? This month, ASBJ puts that question, and several others, to seven authorities in the field of public education. Read what they have to say in this month’s cover story, now available online.

Naomi Dillon|November 30th, 2009|Categories: NSBA Publications, American School Board Journal|Tags: , |
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