Articles tagged with President Barack Obama

Following State of the Union, NSBA calls for prioritization of public education issues

The National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel issued the following statement following the 2014 State of the Union:

The National School Boards Association, working with our state school board associations and the 90,000 school board members across the country, looks forward to engaging with President Barack Obama and his administration on the education priorities raised in the State of the Union. We welcome the President’s proposals on early childhood education and high-speed Internet access for schools and we ask that the President work closely with local school boards as these initiatives are developed.

We share the President’s commitment to guaranteeing that every child has access to a world-class education and NSBA believes every community should have great public schools.

Public education must be a priority for the administration and the U.S. Congress. We are deeply concerned about maximizing federal investments in K-12 education. A lack of federal funding in tandem with cuts in state and local funding is jeopardizing local school district operations. This is having a devastating effect on our students by imperiling programs that directly impact student learning, including many programs that close achievement gaps; raise graduation rates; and improve teacher training, recruitment, and retention.

The U.S. Senate must take action on its bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the Strengthening America’s Schools Act. School board members from across the country are anxiously awaiting progress on this important legislation given that the U.S. House of Representatives passed their version of ESEA reauthorization last year. America’s school boards can’t continue to operate under a failed ‘No Child Left Behind’ system. Local school boards need the flexibility to create and implement innovative approaches to improve academic performance to prepare all students for post-secondary education or the workplace and ensure that the U.S. Department of Education does not encroach on community schools.

Alexis Rice|January 28th, 2014|Categories: Federal Advocacy, Legislative advocacy, No Child Left Behind, School Boards|Tags: , |

NSBA commends focus on education in State of the Union address

President Barack Obama called for a high-quality preschool education for all children in his State of the Union address on Feb. 12. He also announced a new program, based on the Race to the Top competitive grants, that would spur a redesign of the nation’s high schools, instill more science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects, and better prepare students for higher education and the workforce.

In response to the speech, National School Boards Association Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel released the following statement:

“We welcome President Barack Obama’s commitment to a high-quality education for all our students. We look forward to working with his administration on the priorities he brought forth, including early childhood education, rebuilding and modernizing school buildings, STEM education, and helping our students gain access to higher education.

“Like the president, we are deeply concerned about the federal funding cuts scheduled to take place next month. More than 700 school boards have passed resolutions advocating Congress to stop these across-the-board cuts, known as sequestration. The cuts to K-12 public education would total more than $3 billion this fiscal year. Furthermore, the cuts would continue over a 10-year period and have a devastating effect on our schools, eroding the base of funding for programs that directly impact student learning, including programs that close achievement gaps, raise graduation rates, and retain highly effective teachers. Many school districts would not be able to absorb additional budget cuts and provide an enhanced curriculum for all students.”

 

Joetta Sack-Min|February 12th, 2013|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation|Tags: , , , |

NSBAC analyzes presidential candidate’s education platforms

In anticipation of the upcoming presidential candidates’ debates this evening, the National School Boards Action Center (NSBAC), a new 501(c)(4) organization founded by the National School Boards Association (NSBA), has released “An Election Year Message to President Obama and Governor Romney.” The letter highlights the expectations and priorities needed for presidential leadership on education and specific action steps to prepare our students for success in college and careers.

Also, a new NSBAC report compares the presidential candidates’ positions on K-12 education policies. The in-depth analysis finds that President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney agree on holding public schools to high standards, supporting innovation, and expanding charter schools. But the candidates differ in some areas that are critically important to school boards, most notably on the federal role in education, school choice and funding.

“School board members want a president who will make a world-class public education system a top priority,” said Michael A. Resnick, Director of NSBAC. “Over the next four years, we must ensure our communities’ public schools are able to provide a high-quality education that will prepare students to succeed in life and boost our nation’s economy.”

The new publications will help school board members and the public understand the issues and advocate for strategies to boost student achievement in public schools. The reports are available at NSBAC’s website, www.nsbac.org.

The message to Obama and Romney advocates, “Having a world-class education that is second to none requires that all our people and all sectors of government, business, and civic life place a high priority on K-12 education. To provide the leadership that’s necessary, no person in America commands the attention of the nation more than the President of the United States. That’s why school board members believe that over the next four years, our President must make strengthening our nation’s schools a foremost priority and compellingly convey to the American people the urgency of the mission and their part to achieve it.”

A new NSBAC guide, “Ask Your Local School Board: Legislative Priorities for the 113th Congress,” is designed for local school board members to share with their candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate to ensure that the candidates are aware of the challenges facing our local public schools and to encourage them to respond in a supportive manner.

For more information, visit NSBAC’s website at www.nsbac.org.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|October 3rd, 2012|Categories: 2012 Presidential race, Announcements, Board governance, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, National School Boards Action Center, Reports, School Board News, School Reform|Tags: , , , , |

Letter to Obama by NSBA’s President

April 17, 2012

Dear President Obama:

The night of your election, in Grant Park, you said, “I will listen to you especially when we disagree.” We are all committed to the best educational future for the children of America. Yet, as the nation prepares for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), school board members and top educational thinkers overwhelming urge abandoning the current “command-and-control” federal educational oversight. America’s treasure lies in unleashing the creativity of our youth. Though well-intentioned, the current federal direction is ignoring and working against much of what we know about student motivation and achievement. Instead, the federal government should support local efforts to ignite curiosity, creative potential, and a drive for excellence among students and staff.

Throughout my presidency of the National School Boards Association, I have travelled to many states and written for our national journal and asked for input to this letter. School board members and educators across the country have contributed their thinking here. We share your sense of urgency: We must give every child, no matter their circumstances, the opportunity to excel. We must ensure high quality experiences so each child develops fully. Our major disagreement comes from how we go about this task.

We want for each American child the same things that you and Michelle want for Sasha and Malia—inspiration, aspiration, creativity. I know you don’t want an overemphasis on testing. I have heard you say it.  Experience in schools and communities, supported by research, tells us that relentlessly focusing on standardized tests erodes our national competitiveness and deadens curiosity and drive. Clearly, we need some testing to gauge student learning, and we have no problem with appropriate accountability. But we have swung to a far extreme that is significantly hurting children. “Students are numbing over testing for testing’s sake…. We can’t test this country into excellence.” (Sonny Savoie, LA)

Other countries that traditionally focus on testing recognize the shortcomings of their systems and come to our shores to learn how we inspire a spirit of innovation. And decades of work by motivation theorists, such as Daniel Pink, help us understand why a focus on testing and standards may not cultivate the learners we want. Others have found that such narrow focus restricts our views of what is possible, and even causes unethical behavior, such as the rash of testing scandals here and abroad.

By contrast, Finnish schools are now “exemplars of many of the success indicators we … want to see in American schools. Achievement is consistently high. Students are self-motivated and engaged in their learning. Schools have wide latitude to decide on their own programs, and there are no intrusive sanctions.” (Jill Wynns, CA)

The focus on strict quantitative accountability has never worked for any organization, and it has not worked with No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. Teachers are trying to meet the mandates of those programs and consequently “our children suffer and are not getting educated to their individual potential.” (Carolyne Brooks, IL) Teachers’ focus on tests is undermining their potential and initiative, making it more difficult to share a love of learning with their students.

Our students will never be first in the world on standardized tests. We never have come close. Nor is that something toward which we should aspire! We simply are not a compliant people willing to absorb facts without challenge. But we have had the most innovative workforce in the world (and now vie with Finland for that top position). Though intended to encourage equity, our current policy is, in fact, driving us toward mediocrity. Our students may be becoming better regurgitators, but what we need is excellent thinkers.

We have significant challenges in many of our communities, especially those that are underserved, yet we continue to boast some of the best schools in the world. We have models of excellence from which we should all be learning. Our vision should be to empower excellence—to draw out the best in each and every individual in our schools. We should recognize that our children’s brains are our most important resource. We should aspire to having children take responsibility for their own learning. We can have a common curriculum as a guide, but leave it to our local “civic labs,” as Thomas Jefferson envisioned them, to find optimal ways to inspire learning.

That said, we won’t achieve any vision without significant teamwork.  Finland’s process may offer a model: They spent years developing national consensus about the essentials for successful education and, hence, the nation. Collaboration can promote independent thinking and action.

As a nation, rather than inspiring people toward a vision of excellence, we have been blaming some for blocking student achievement. It is time to inspire all toward a pursuit of excellence for each of our children.

The work world our children inherit will be significantly different from the one we have known. Jobs in the 20th century were mostly algorithmic or routine. According to McKinsey & Co., most such jobs have already evaporated because of automation and outsourcing. Future work will be more complex, so we had better prepare students differently than through standardized tests.

As the nature of work changes, so too must motivators. Carrots and sticks, which worked with routine jobs, actually impede efforts when the work is more complex, Daniel Pink says. Instead, the rewards of learning and challenges of the work itself must now be the primary motivators.  Adults learn best, experts say, if they feel competent, autonomous, and a sense of belonging.

Much in our current school systems works against these, and our new national focus on teacher evaluation will continue that trend. As a result of ignoring innate needs, our schools too often are not innovative hubs. Yet to meet the challenges of our future, we must cultivate a spirit of innovation and inspiration. We will only succeed in preparing for our future if we empower all in our schools to think through complex problems and processes and generate solutions.  Rather than laboring over bureaucratic compliance problems, let’s engage students and teachers (even board members!) in solving problems of teaching and learning.

Our schools will never become great through threat or intimidation. Schools must be safe places to take risks, where staff members and students feel valued for their ideas and talents and empowered to fail so that they can grow. Students will learn what they see, experience, and enjoy.

We have the knowledge and experience to do this at the national, state, and local levels. However, the present narrow focus on accountability and trend of demonizing those in public education, arrogantly focusing on “failing schools,” is diametrically opposed to fostering excellence.

Again, we can learn from Finland: It holds teachers in high regard (appealing to competence). Teacher training includes a strong feedback loop; professional development is embedded in the work, through coaching and ongoing support (appealing to belonging). People are willing to try new approaches and ideas (appealing to autonomy).

Innovation requires investment. Retired school superintendent Jack Reynolds noted that under the original ESEA we had a national system for identifying, supporting, and sharing excellent, vetted educational ideas. We should return to such a system of research, development, and diffusion, using technology to share teaching and learning approaches. Further, Ohio school board member Charlie Wilson suggested we encourage and fund our universities to conduct empirical research on the considerable experimentation that does occur in our schools.

Some board members suggested that we benefit from broad, guiding curriculum principles. Wyoming’s David Fall encouraged you to continue your work with the National Governors’ Association to refine core standards. However, our children would be best served if the standards were guides, but decision-making remained local.

Across the nation, I have heard growing support for an emphasis on the early years. To close achievement gaps, we need to provide rich early learning environments for children born with the least. We need to teach their parents how to encourage their learning. Please continue to support states’ early childhood efforts.

Mr. President, public education in the U.S. is on the wrong track. As we have moved decision-making farther from teachers and children, we have jeopardized our competitive edge and keys to our national success: our ingenuity, our openness to innovation, and our creativity.

I urge you to convene a national dialogue, not made up of politicians, but including the breadth of educational opinion, to reconsider our educational direction. I would love to help you do this. Let’s ensure that each child has the tools to be successful. Let’s marshal the nation’s brain power and tap into the research, proven practice, and demonstrated evidence of excellence.

Please bring your parent hat to determining our new direction for public education. Your daughters, like all of our children and all of our teachers, don’t need more tests designed to identify weaknesses. They need excited, motivated, passionate teachers who feel challenged, supported, and encouraged to try new approaches, who share with their students a learning environment that is limitless. If we work collaboratively on a shared vision of excellence, if we foster team development, encourage innovation, and care for the growth of our teachers, our children will lead us into the future with confidence. And public education will remain the cornerstone of our vibrant democracy.

Thank you, Mr. President.

 

Sincerely,
/s/
Mary Broderick
National School Boards Association President

Alexis Rice|April 22nd, 2012|Categories: Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Legislative advocacy, NSBA Annual Conference 2012, Policy Formation|Tags: , |

NSBA: NCLB waivers are not enough

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) was encouraged on Thursday by President Barack Obama’s announcement to waive problematic and burdensome regulatory requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) from ten states.

However, NSBA cautions that this is not enough and is calling for Congress to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary School Education Act (ESEA).

“The NCLB waiver program will give ten states additional flexibility but also imposes new conditions and program criteria on states and school districts requiring them to engage in activities that do not necessarily improve student achievement.” said Anne L. Bryant, NSBA’s Executive Director, who was at the White House for the announcement. “The waiver process should not be viewed as an acceptable substitute for ESEA reauthorization, as all U.S. school districts must be free of unnecessary or counterproductive federal mandates that hinder our goals of increasing student achievement. Congress cannot continue to delay, now is the time to reauthorize ESEA and fully replace the current accountability system that neither accurately nor fairly reflects the performance of students, schools, or school districts.”

The first ten states to receive the waivers are Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. The next submission deadline to request waivers is February 21, 2012. As of February 6, 2012, the U.S. Department of Education reports that 28 additional states, D.C., and Puerto Rico have submitted an intent to request waivers for the February deadline. For those states that do not choose to apply or whose application is rejected, their local school districts will continue to suffer under the existing NCLB regime.

Bryant additionally noted, “If Congress waits until next year to reauthorize ESEA and decides not to include these conditions or decides on a different set of requirements, school districts could have spent unnecessary time and financial resources to comply with the waivers.”

Where state applications are approved for waivers, local school boards will be offered far greater flexibility in the use of federal funds to address their own unique needs. Of great significance to local school boards experiencing declines in their own revenue streams is the elimination of requirements to set aside 20 percent of Title I funds for public school choice and supplemental tutorial services. While local school boards may continue to fund additional tutorial and open enrollment programs, these funds may be used to support school improvement strategies that can more effectively address local conditions.

Additionally, the waivers allow states to request relief from NCLB’s other badly flawed policies and regulations. This includes an accountability system requiring all students and groups of students to be 100 percent proficient by 2014 and a one-size-fits-all system of punitive actions against schools and school districts such as the firing of principals and teachers or closing of schools that rarely resulted in consistent improvement in student achievement.

Alexis Rice|February 10th, 2012|Categories: Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Policy Formation, School Boards, Teachers|Tags: , , , |
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