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Articles tagged with Thomas J. Gentzel

The “unintended consequences” of federal school meal regulations

Check out the National School Boards Association’s Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel’s reflecting on the real impact and the challenges that public schools still face on implementing federal school meal regulations in a commentary published by The Huffington Post:

When did a politically driven view of school nutrition begin to overtake visible realities? Trays of uneaten cafeteria food thrown in the trash. Hungry kids. Struggling school food-service programs. Peel back the good intentions and the celebrity-fueled support of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, and you’ll see the practical realities many school districts and students face. Legislation enacted without a practical understanding of its consequences truly fails America’s public schoolchildren.

That’s why the National School Boards Association (NSBA) is asking Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to address the unintended consequences of the Act.

The real story of school districts trying to put nutrition regulation into practice has been drowned out by the political noise surrounding the issue. Some have suggested that those who want to grant schools much-needed relief have partisan motivations. Others make the specious claim that local school officials do not want to do the work of raising nutrition standards.

It is time to set the record straight: School districts are committed to providing healthy meals to students, and NSBA has actively and long supported the federal school nutrition program.

At the time of the law’s passage in 2010, however, NSBA expressed concerns about the significantly higher costs likely to be associated with the new mandates. The stricter nutritional standards — as well as other new regulations issued by USDA — are cost-prohibitive for many already cash-strapped school districts.

It’s hard to imagine the law’s vocal supporters intended that it would result in student boycotts of school lunches, higher meal prices, food wasted or discarded, and school districts scrambling to identify funds to comply with unfunded regulations. Political outrage does not match up with “on-the-ground” reality: Declining participation in the meal programs means that many students are underserved, while others are simply going hungry.

The realities are clear to ordinary Americans in local communities: Unfunded mandates in the law are placing an untenable burden on America’s public school districts and America’s public schoolchildren. Even food outside the school meal program — including snacks in vending machines or cupcakes sold at school fundraisers — must adhere to costly new nutrition standards.

For many students, school lunch is their only meal of the day. We owe it to children, parents and communities to think through the practical aspects of how laws are implemented. Drawing attention to these issues is not part of a campaign by school districts to avoid complying with the law. Overly rigid and unrealistic federal mandates undermine the ability of school districts to do what the law intends: prepare and serve nutritious food that enables America’s public schoolchildren to grow, learn and thrive.

It is incumbent upon us to apply reason to the debate. This is why NSBA supports temporary waivers and other reasonable measures to restore local flexibility and authority to school districts struggling to comply with the rigid and unrealistic provisions of the law.

NSBA also applauds the USDA’s decisions to delay or waive implementation of some of the law’s more onerous provisions, and the recent effort by Secretary Vilsack to initiate an honest exchange of opinions among various national organizations with an interest in this key policy issue. This issue calls for thoughtful deliberation and compromise, not shrill political rhetoric.

Alexis Rice|July 30th, 2014|Categories: Federal Programs, Nutrition, Food Service, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Federal Advocacy|Tags: , , , , , |

NSBA: Do not force Washington schools to send school failure letters under NCLB

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is urging the U.S. Department of Education to exempt Washington’s education agency from the 14-day requirement to issue letters informing parents of school choice options for schools deemed “failing” under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

Many of Washington’s public schools will be labeled as “failing” this year from what are widely considered unfair and punitive NCLB sanctions this spring. Washington had received a waiver from the most punitive requirements, but the Department of Education revoked that waiver when state lawmakers refused to change the state’s teacher evaluation system earlier this year.

Forcing Washington’s public schools to issue such letters is counterproductive because many schools are making significant progress, and the action would erode residents’ trust in public schools, the letter warns.

“Imposing this requirement on Washington’s schools is a disservice that could hurt the morale of students, erode community confidence, affect support from business partners, impact the ability to attract and retain effective teachers and leaders, and reduce other resources that benefit the students,” NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel wrote.

For instance, the letters would negatively impact voting on bond issues and levies for capital improvement projects to improve school infrastructure and provide 21st century learning environments, and hurt schools’ abilities to sustain and build support from businesses and industry, the letter states.

“Instead of supporting Washington’s schools and students, the Department would be damaging the very progress that Washington’s school boards, administrators, teachers and staff, parents, businesses and communities have achieved for their students,” Gentzel wrote.

Here’s the full letter:

Dear Secretary Duncan:

The National School Boards Association, representing over 90,000 local school board members through our state associations, urges your swift consideration to exempt the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) from the 14-day notice requirement regarding public school choice for the upcoming school year.

The letters that are currently required would convey a great level of ambiguity about the condition of many schools, labeling them as failing. Conversely, several schools have made significant gains in raising student achievement, from graduation rates and reading proficiency to parental involvement. In fact, the Department has acknowledged school districts in Washington for their success in improving educational opportunities and outcomes for their students. Hence, the 14-day letters would be counterproductive to the students, schools, and communities, especially when there are extremely limited school choice options in the state.

Imposing this requirement on Washington’s schools is a disservice that could hurt the morale of students, erode community confidence, affect support from business partners, impact the ability to attract and retain effective teachers and leaders, and reduce other resources that benefit the students. For example, several communities are slated to consider bond issues and levies for capital improvement projects to improve school infrastructure and provide 21st century learning environments. What good would the letters do in supporting these community efforts? They would discourage citizens and community support instead of fostering the very resources the Department encourages within states and communities. Additionally, what purpose would the letters serve in helping Washington’s schools sustain and build support from businesses and industry in securing partnerships for programs such as Career and Technical Education or arts and humanities? Would the letters influence these and other decisions?

Instead of supporting Washington’s schools and students, the Department would be damaging the very progress that Washington’s school boards, administrators, teachers and staff, parents, businesses and communities have achieved for their students.

Therefore, we urge you to exempt Washington’s school districts from this requirement. Please contact Reginald M. Felton, Interim Associate Executive Director, at (703) 838-6782, or rfelton@nsba.org, regarding any further information about this request. We appreciate your consideration and look forward to working closely with you throughout this process.

 

Sincerely,
/s/

Thomas J. Gentzel
Executive Director, NSBA

Joetta Sack-Min|July 18th, 2014|Categories: Federal Programs, Federal Advocacy, No Child Left Behind|Tags: , , , |

Urban school leaders convene in Chicago

Urban school district leaders will gather in Chicago to learn about best practices and new solutions for their public schools at the Council of Urban Boards of Education’s (CUBE) Summer Institute.

This year’s event will feature sessions on equity and access to STEM education, Common Core state standards, the “pushout” crisis, expectations for children living in poverty, parent engagement, and math and science education. CUBE is a service of the National School Boards Association (NSBA) that is dedicated to helping urban school districts find ways to close the achievement gap and give all students a high-quality education.
Notable speakers will be Tyrone Howard, Professor of Education at the University of California Los Angeles; Consuelo Castillo Kickbusch, Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army (Retired) and Founder and President of Educational Achievement Services Inc.; Valeria S. Silva, Superintendent of St. Paul Public Schools in Minnesota; and Jeff May, Program Facilitator for Roanoke City Schools in Virginia.

The conference will open with a half-day workshop on educational technology and defining equity led by Ann Flynn, Director of Educational Technology for NSBA. The session will include leading school technology experts and practitioners.

“The Summer Institute is an excellent opportunity for urban school leaders to find solutions to some of the challenges facing our public schools,” said Van Henri White, Chair of the CUBE Steering Committee and President of the Rochester City School Board in New York. “The myriad of ideas and insights exchanged during this event will inform CUBE’s work and will ultimately benefit students in urban districts across the country.”

CUBE hosts the Summer Institute as well as an annual conference and special programming at NSBA’s Annual Conference to provide educational opportunities to urban school board leaders.

“The Council of Urban Boards of Education is an important part of NSBA’s mission to ensure excellence and equity in public education,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “We appreciate the commitment of the urban leaders who attend CUBE events and contribute to the conversations about student achievement.”

The conference hashtags are #CUBEvision and #Brownimperative.

Alexis Rice|July 17th, 2014|Categories: Educational Technology, STEM Education, Urban Schools, Student Achievement, Student Engagement, Technology Leadership Network, CUBE|Tags: , , |

NSBA names Michael C. Zola as head of federal advocacy and public policy

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) announced today that veteran education policymaker Michael C. Zola will join the organization as its Associate Executive Director, Federal Advocacy and Public Policy.

Zola will oversee NSBA’s legislative advocacy division, including the National School Boards Action Center, NSBA’s 501(c)(4) organization, and the Center for Public Education, NSBA’s research arm.

“We are very pleased that Michael Zola will lead the National School Boards Association’s federal advocacy initiatives,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, NSBA Executive Director. “Michael’s extensive experience in federal policy and government management will further strengthen NSBA’s relations with Congress and the White House on behalf of state school boards associations and the more than 90,000 school board members across the country.”

Zola comes to NSBA from Capitol Hill, where he was the Deputy Staff Director/Senior Counsel for the Education and the Workforce Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives. Zola previously served as Deputy Assistant Secretary in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs and has served as Chief Investigative Counsel for the Education and the Workforce Committee. He also has held several positions in the U.S. Government Accountability Office, including: Assistant Director and Certified Fraud Examiner, Senior Attorney, Legislative Advisor, Senior Foreign Affairs Analyst, and Investigator.

“It is such an honor to lead federal advocacy efforts at the National School Boards Association at such a vital time for America’s public schools,” said Zola.

Zola is a graduate of Catholic University’s Columbia School of Law, the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, and Rider University in Lawrenceville, New Jersey.

Joetta Sack-Min|July 10th, 2014|Categories: School Boards, Announcements, Federal Programs, Leadership, School Board News, Legislative advocacy, Federal Advocacy, National School Boards Action Center|Tags: , |

School boards call for more sensible school nutrition rules

school lunch

NSBA is calling on Congress and USDA to allow schools flexibility to meet new mandates

As school districts are bearing higher costs and more rigid requirements for school meals, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) is calling on Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to allow schools flexibility to meet new mandates.

New regulations for the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act that take effect July 1, 2014 will further restrict school districts’ abilities to offer a variety of palatable foods for their students. In a press teleconference yesterday, NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel noted that the layers of new federal regulations were hampering the goals of the federal school nutrition programs.

For instance, the 2010 law requires schools to increase and analyze the nutritional content of foods not only sold in school cafeterias but also vending machines and other school venues not a part of the federal school meal programs. The law also requires new training and educational standards for food service workers.

“We now see that new reporting and compliance requirements are unfunded and otherwise problematic,” Gentzel said. “School boards now are asking for relief from some of the most inoperable regulations and unintended consequences.”

“School boards across the country know the importance of a healthy school meal,” said NSBA President Anne M. Byrne. “Our schools see many students who do not get good nutrition at home and do not have a steady and dependable supply of healthy foods.”

Students whose families serve less nutritious, low-quality foods are more likely to be obese, added Byrne, a member of the board of the Nanuet Union Free School District in New York and a retired registered nurse. In Nanuet, elementary school students are wasting a lot of nutritious food, such as whole-grain bread, because they are unfamiliar with it, she said.

Byrne and Katy Smith Campbell, President of the Alabama School Boards Association, noted that the new regulations will ban chocolate milk, even though their schools serve low-fat versions. Both agreed they would rather children drink chocolate milk than go without.

“There are no provisions for extra servings,” said Campbell, a member of the Macon County Board of Education in Tuskegee, Ala. “In many cases that’s not enough, especially for athletes.”

The federal law is similar to state regulations, which Alabama districts found have taken several years for students to get used to eating healthier fare. However, Smith-Campbell noted that the federal regulations are more restrictive.

Rocky Ahner of Lehighton Area School Board in Pennsylvania noted that his district began offering low fat, low sugar foods in 2010, and saw their lunch totals tick upwards. However, when the more stringent federal requirements went into effect, the district lost $110,000 because students who were eligible for free- and reduced-price lunches no longer wanted them.

“We are concerned about the kids who don’t buy lunches,” he said.

Joetta Sack-Min|June 24th, 2014|Categories: School Boards, School District Reorganization, Nutrition, Legislative advocacy, Federal Advocacy|Tags: , , , , , , , |

Sen. Inhofe receives NSBA’s Congressional Special Recognition Award

Sen. Inhofe

NSBA’s President Anne M. Byrne along with members of the Executive Committee of NSBA’s Board of Directors presented the award at a special event in Sen. Inhofe’s Capitol Hill office

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) honored U.S. Senator James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) today with the Congressional Special Recognition Award. Inhofe received the NSBA’s top Congressional award for his leadership to advance public education.

“We are proud to honor Sen. Inhofe with NSBA’s Congressional Special Recognition Award for his ongoing efforts to advance public education and his commitment to local school board leadership,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “In recent years local school board members and educators have become increasingly concerned that the local governance of our nation’s school districts is being unnecessarily eroded through over reaching federal policies and requirements established by the U.S. Department of Education. We thank Sen. Inhofe for his leadership on public education as we must ensure that public education decisions made at the federal level must support the needs and goals of local school districts and the communities they serve.”

NSBA’s President Anne M. Byrne along with members of the Executive Committee of NSBA’s Board of Directors presented the award at a special event in Inhofe’s Capitol Hill office.

Alexis Rice|June 5th, 2014|Categories: School Boards, Student Achievement, NSBA Recognition Programs|Tags: , , , |

Common Core implementation concerns raised

AASA, the School Superintendents Association, has newly released a survey of superintendents on the adoption and implementation of Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The survey, “Common Core and Other State Standards: Superintendents Feel Optimism, Concern and Lack of Support,” found that although superintendents were overwhelming optimistic about the new standards, a majority also expressed concern about a lack of implementation support at the local level.

Forty-six states and the District of Columbia have adopted CCSS, which establish grade-level expectations in math and English language arts for K-12 students. The standards go into effect next school year, with the first state-wide student assessments expected in the spring of 2015.

Of note in the AASA survey is that many superintendents expressed concern that their districts will not be prepared for implementation of the standards, especially the year-end assessments.

Other key findings in the AASA Common Core survey of superintendents include:

• Superintendents overwhelmingly (92.5 percent) see the new standards as more rigorous than previous standards.

• More than three quarters (78.3 percent) agree that the education community supports the standards, but that support drops to 51.4 percent among the general public.

• More than half (60.3 percent) of the respondents who had begun testing say they are facing problems with the tests.

• Just under half (41.9 percent) say schools in their states are not ready to implement the online assessment, while 35.9 percent say they lack the infrastructure to support online assessments.

Part of the problem has been finding and approving new curriculum and teaching materials aligned with CCSS. NPR recently reported on the “void” between the new rigorous standards and the curriculum materials available to help educators develop enriched lesson plans. Fears that teachers may “hit a wall” when asked to teach tougher standards without changes to materials have contributed to concerns about next year’s assessments.

The National School Board Association (NSBA) supports high academic standards, including CCSS when they are voluntarily adopted by states with school board input and when the standards are free from federal directions, mandates, funding conditions or coercion. NSBA has previously raised concerns about CCSS implementation.

“High academic standards are important for improving student achievement,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “For Common Core State Standards and other state standards to succeed, states and school districts must have the financial resources, infrastructure, and the necessary professional development for school personnel before implementation.”

For more information about CCSS, read NSBA’s Center for Public Education’sUnderstanding the Common Core.”

Alexis Rice|June 4th, 2014|Categories: Center for Public Education, Student Achievement, Common Core State Standards|Tags: , , , |

NSBA calls for research, not mandates, to help public schools serve ELLs

The National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel participated in a National Roundtable on English Language Learners at the U.S. Department of Education this week, where he discussed the needs of students whose primary language is not English.

Gentzel emphasized the need for the federal government to focus on providing technical assistance and disseminating best practices rather than imposing new mandates on school districts.

“Changing demographics are affecting school districts of all sizes in every part of the country,” Gentzel said after the discussion, which included representatives of nearly a dozen national and statewide organizations, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and several other officials from the Department of Education.

The U.S. student population is growing in diversity, and about 10 percent of students are ELLs, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). In schools in southern and western states, more than half of students in prekindergarten through 12th grade were minorities, according to 2011 data from NCES. And that same year, the U.S. Census reported that, for the first time, the majority of children under one year old in the United States were minorities, which will further impact diversity in public schools.

To continue to meet the needs of these students, local school districts will require greater collaborative support from other federal, state and local state agencies to ensure these students and their families have the appropriate support to succeed.

Joetta Sack-Min|May 28th, 2014|Categories: Diversity, Federal Programs, Educational Research, Federal Advocacy|Tags: , |

Gentzel calls for school board oversight of charters in USA Today letter

Thomas J. Gentzel, executive director of the National School Boards Association (NSBA) said that federal legislation on charter school law should recognize the need for accountability for student performance in charters, given the low performance of the majority of charter schools. His letter to the editor was published in the May 21, 2014 issue of USA Today.

Gentzel wrote, “In 2013, Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes revealed that only 25% and 29% of charters outperformed traditional public schools in reading and math assessments, respectively. These low percentages were actually an improvement over the 2009 data. CREDO attributed many of the improvements to the actions that authorizers — key among these local school boards — are taking to close down ineffective charter schools.

“Strong local governance matters. It cannot and should not be excluded from education reform initiatives. To give America’s schoolchildren strong accountability centered on student outcomes, the National School Boards Association calls for local school boards to serve as the sole authorizers of charter schools.”

USA Today also published comments from Twitter related to charter schools. Read more.

Joetta Sack-Min|May 21st, 2014|Categories: Charter Schools, Educational Legislation, Federal Programs, Privatization, Educational Research, Board governance, Policy Formation, Legislative advocacy, Federal Advocacy|Tags: , |

House funding bill gives school relief from nutrition mandates

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) successfully supported language in the U.S. House of Reprepesentative’s fiscal year 2015 funding bill for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to grant flexibility and relief from certain requirements for school meals and competitive foods standards.

The bill, approved by subcommittee this week, would require USDA to establish a waiver process for schools that cannot comply with national nutrition standards without incurring a net loss in the food operation. NSBA is supporting additional flexibility provisions when the bill is considered by the Appropriations Committee next week.

“Students need healthy meals and adequate nutrition to achieve their potential in school, and school board members are committed to ensuring all students are prepared to learn,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “However, school boards cannot ignore the higher costs and operational issues created by the rigid mandates of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.”

In a May 19 letter to the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies, NSBA urges revisions to federal requirements for school meals and competitive foods, including:

  • Retaining the current requirement that 50 percent of grains offered for lunch and breakfast be whole grain rich rather than further increasing the requirement to 100 percent;
  • Retaining the July 1, 2014, Target 1 sodium levels, and suspend implementation of further reductions of sodium levels unless and until scientific research supports such reductions for children;
  • Eliminating the requirement that students must take a fruit or vegetable as part of a reimbursable breakfast and/or lunch, in order to reduce plate waste and program costs;
  • Allowing any food item permitted to be served as part of a reimbursable meal to be sold at any time as a competitive food, in order to eliminate unnecessarily complex and duplicative standards for food items sold in schools.

NSBA also is supporting the Reducing Federal Mandates on School Lunch Act, HR 3663, sponsored by Rep. Kristi Noem of South Dakota. The legislation would provide options for school districts struggling to comply with some of the more problematic mandates of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.

Joetta Sack-Min|May 20th, 2014|Categories: Federal Programs, Obesity, Nutrition, Food Service, Federal Advocacy|Tags: , , , , , |
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