Articles tagged with U.S. Department of Education

More members of the House of Representatives join growing co-sponsor list for NSBA bill

Fourteen lawmakers from the U.S. House of Representatives have joined the 24 existing co-sponsors on the Local School Board Governance and Flexibility Act (H.R. 1386), since Feb. 2014. The bi-partisan bill recognizes the benefits of local school district governance and ensures that maximum local flexibility and decision-making are not eroded through U.S. Department of Education (ED) actions.

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) attributes this wave of legislative support to the dedicated work of the hundreds of school board members and state school boards association leaders who attended NSBA’s new Advocacy Institute, held Feb. 2-4, 2014 in Washington. In addition to building year-round advocates for public education and local school governance, the institute arranged Capitol Hill visits for attendees to speak with their members of Congress about protecting local school district governance from unnecessary and counter-productive federal intrusion.

Thirty-eight Congressional co-sponsors have now signed on to the bill. Introduced by Rep. Aaron Schock (R-lll.) on March 21, 2013, this legislation had as original co-sponsors Reps. Schock, Rodney Davis (R-Iowa), Ron Kind (D-Wis.), Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.), and David Valadao (R-Calif.).

H.R. 1386 would ensure that ED’s actions are consistent with the specific intent of federal law and are educationally, operationally, and financially supportable at the local level. This would also establish several procedural steps that ED would need to take prior to initiating regulations, rules, grant requirements, guidance documents, and other regulatory materials. The legislation is also supported by the AASA, the School Superintendent Association.

“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,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, NSBA Executive Director. “Public education decisions made at the federal level must support the needs and goals of local school districts and the communities they serve. The Department of Education should not be imposing its rules and priorities to our nation’s more than 13,500 school districts by trying to by-pass Congress and input from the local level.”

School board members are encouraged to contact their House members to become co-sponsors. Increased focus is now being directed to urge senators to introduce a companion bill in the U.S. Senate. School board members also are encouraged to contact their senators and urge them to sponsor similar legislation.

Staff|March 11th, 2014|Categories: Federal Advocacy, Legislative advocacy, School Boards|Tags: , , , , , , |

U.S. Department of Education issues guidelines on student data privacy

The U.S. Department of Education has issued new online resource guidelines to help school districts and educators interpret major laws for protecting student privacy and develop best practices for using online educational services.

The report, Protecting Student Privacy While Using Educational Services: Requirements and Best Practices,  issued by the department’s Privacy Technical Assistance Center (PTAC), noted that classrooms are increasingly employing technological advances such as on-demand delivery of personalized content, virtual forms of interacting with teachers and other students, and many other interactive technologies.

“Early adopters of these technologies have demonstrated their potential to transform the educational process, but they have also called attention to possible challenges,” says the report. “In particular, the information-sharing, web-hosting, and telecommunications innovations that have enabled these new education technologies raise questions about how best to protect student privacy during use.”

Examples of online educational services include online services that students use to access class readings, see their academic progress, watch videos, or comment on class activities, the report said. Complicating the issue is the fact that  “the diversity and variety” of these online educational services provide no single answer regarding which technologies, and which student data disclosures and uses, are covered by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

As is often the case with emerging technologies, the interpretation of existing laws such as FERPA and the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment are slower to evolve than the technology itself. These issues continue to be at the forefront of discussions among educators, software companies, legal experts, and others with a stake in student data privacy.

“Student data privacy has received a great deal of national attention in recent months, with many groups working to develop resources for their own constituents and collaborating with others to determine best practices,” said National School Boards Association (NSBA) Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “NSBA has been a part of this national conversation.”

NSBA’s Council of School Attorneys (COSA) formed a working group on student privacy this year, which will issue a guide for school attorneys this spring.  “We are producing a resource for school attorneys that will help them navigate the legal landscape and identify best practices for student data privacy protection that go beyond legal compliance,” said COSA Chair Allison Brown Schafer of the North Carolina School Boards Association. NSBA will issue guidance for school board members.

“As an education community, we have to do a far better job of helping teachers and administrators understand technology and data issues so that they can appropriately protect privacy while ensuring teachers and students have access to effective and safe tools,” U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan said. “We must provide our schools, teachers, and students cutting-edge learning tools — and we must protect our children’s privacy. We can accomplish both — but we will have to try harder to do it.”

The report discussed several best practices schools should use to protect student privacy when using online educational services. Among them are: maintaining an awareness of relevant federal, state, tribal, or local laws; having policies and procedures to evaluate proposed online educational services; and being transparent with student and parents about how schools collect, share, protect, and use student data.

Read more in NSBA’s Legal Clips.

Alexis Rice|March 6th, 2014|Categories: Educational Technology, School Law|Tags: , , , , , |

Join our army of advocates

The following is NSBA President David Pickler’s column from the July/August issue of American School Board Journal.

This is a particularly exciting year to take the reins as NSBA President. I am excited and energized to work with our new Executive Director, Tom Gentzel, and see his vision for this organization take hold.

We are living in exponential times of change in NSBA, and the opportunities that lay ahead are incredible. You’ve probably already heard about what we’re calling the New NSBA in this column and at NSBA events. The NSBA Board of Directors has worked to restructure and recreate our organization. Under the leadership of Tom and our new Chief Operating Officer Marie Bilik, we are transforming NSBA’s internal operations to establish structure that is efficient, effective, and fiscally viable.

We now must transform NSBA’s external advocacy and outreach to meet challenges at the federal, state, and local level. Chief among these are efforts to privatize our nation’s public schools through charter school expansion and taxpayer-funded school vouchers.

Charters remain an unproven experiment. And while we embrace the right of each parent to have a choice for their child’s education, taxpayer-funded school vouchers represent a subsidization of private schools with public school dollars. Neither charter schools nor voucher programs require the same accountability that is imposed on our public schools. Another challenge is federal regulators’ growing encroachment into local school board governance.

Now is the time to change the conversation about public education and school board governance. We know our public schools are not failing — each of us witnesses their tremendous accomplishments taking place each day. As school board members and community leaders, we must take a stand for our public schools.

How can we do that?

If you share my belief that public education is a civil right and cornerstone of our democracy, then we must embrace our responsibility to be vigilant advocates. Failing to act will lead to the loss of this great American institution of public schools for all children.

At NSBA, we are working to strengthen our advocacy in Washington and in each state, aligning and focusing our resources and providing more relevant services to our state associations.

Our voice is already gaining resonance. We are going on offense in an effort to change the conversations about public education. NSBA wrote legislation, “The School Board Governance and Flexibility Act,” that would boost local school board authority and curb the U.S. Department of Education’s overreach. This bipartisan bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in March and now has 20 cosponsors.

We are creating advocacy strike forces to combat those who seek to privatize our schools or impede local decision making. NSBA worked with the Louisiana School Boards Association to provide legal, communications, and advocacy support during its recent lawsuit to stop the state’s taxpayer-funded voucher scheme. The state’s Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional in May, but we know that is not the end of the story. School choice proponents—backed by wealthy entrepreneurs and for-profit investors —are cooking up new ploys in Louisiana and several other states. NSBA and your state association will be there to stave them off.

While NSBA has been a visible player in Washington politics for years, we have yet to achieve our potential as an advocate and ambassador for public education. We must lead the conversation about public education and school board governance and fight for the futures of our more than 50 million schoolchildren.

To do so, we will create an army of advocates that will go to battle, though the courts and legislatures, for public education and school board governance. We will build strong partnerships with state association members, corporate stakeholders, and other national groups to increase our effectiveness.

We need your help. As a school board member, you are an influential community leader. Through your leadership, we will engage parents, educators, and community and business leaders as core stakeholders. We will move beyond issues that divide us and forge alliances around the opportunities that can unite us.

I encourage each of you to join our army of advocates. Never forget your significance as we move forward. Never forget the power of one person to make a difference in the lives of our schoolchildren.

Now multiply one by 90,000—the number of school board members in the U.S.

With this power, we will be that voice for public education to ensure that our public schools empower our nation to fulfill its potential — one child at a time. Together, we can.

 

Staff|July 10th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Federal Programs, Governance, Leadership, Legislative advocacy, Public Advocacy, School Boards|Tags: , , |

School boards ask Congress to revamp regulatory process and prevent overreach

More than 700 school board members and state school boards association leaders are meeting with their members of Congress today and urging them to co-sponsor legislation, developed by the National School Boards Association (NSBA), to protect local school district governance from unnecessary and counter-productive federal intrusion from the U.S. Department of Education. The leaders took part in NSBA’s 40th annual Federal Relations Network Conference and spent the final day, January 29, lobbying on Capitol Hill.

The proposed legislation would ensure that the Department of Education’s actions are consistent with the specific intent of federal law and are educationally, operationally, and financially supportable at the local level. This would also establish several procedural steps that the agency would need to take prior to initiating regulations, rules, grant requirements, guidance documents, and other regulatory materials. The legislation is also designed to more broadly underscore the role of Congress as the federal policy-maker in education and through its representative function.

“In recent years, the U.S. Department of Education has engaged in a variety of activities to reshape the educational delivery system,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, NSBA’s Executive Director. “All too often these activities have impacted local school district policy and programs in ways that have been beyond the specific legislative intent. School board leaders are simply asking that local flexibility and decision-making not be eroded through regulatory actions.

The proposal also is intended to provide Congress and the public with better information regarding the local impact of Department of Education’s activities through annual reports.

“We must ensure that the decisions made at the federal level will best support the needs and goals of local school systems and the communities they serve,” said Gentzel. “Local school boards must have the ability to make on-the-ground decisions that serve the best interests of our school districts.”

 

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|January 29th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, FRN Conference 2013, Governance, School Boards|Tags: , , |

ESEA Reauthorization key for NSBA this year

Urging Congress to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)—and seeking sponsors for a bill to shield local school board control from federal intrusion —are key initiatives of NSBA this year.

That was the message delivered by Reginald Felton, NSBA’s assistant executive director for congressional relations, at a Monday policy briefing at the Federal Relations Network (FRN) meeting in Washington, D.C.

When school leaders visit Capitol Hill this week to meet with lawmakers, they need to emphasize the importance of putting the ESEA reauthorization back on track, he told conference attendees.

“They need to know how intensely you want to move the bill forward,” Felton said. “You have to give them a reason to help them get moving.”

In response to intense criticism over the use of sanctions, as well as other flaws, in the No Child Left Behind Act—the last reauthorization of ESEA—the U.S. Department of Education has responded with waivers to ease some of the excesses of the law. But that’s not enough, Felton insisted.

“We don’t want a quick fix. We don’t want reauthorization to go away [as a priority]. We need a bill that addresses what we need done so the law is more effective.”

At least one audience member expressed frustration with lawmakers, who offer their support yet have repeatedly failed to advance a reauthorization bill to a vote. Felton acknowledged the problem but said that, if school board members don’t make their voices heard, lawmakers certainly will put reauthorization on the backburner.

But when school leaders are face-to-face with lawmakers, he warned, they should not settle for a general statement of support—what’s needed is a specific commitment, whether it’s a promise to co-sponsor legislation or lobby fellow lawmakers to support action.

“If they say, ‘I’m with you,’ then define what ‘I’m with you’ means,” he said.

Meanwhile, Felton also encouraged school leaders to seek co-sponsors for NSBA’s new legislative proposal to protect local school district governance from unnecessary and counter‐productive federal intrusion from the federal education department.

The bill would require the Education Department to establish that new regulations, grant requirements, and other regulatory material is consistent with the intent of federal law and are “educationally, operationally, and financial supportable at the local level.”

The bill is a response to the Obama administration’s increasing practice to guide local and state education policy by tying access to federal funds to new rules and regulations designed to advanced administration policies—and not based on federal legislation that, at least, is more subject to public and legislative deliberation.

“We don’t want local school board authority to continue to be eroded because of what’s happening at the federal level.”

Del Stover|January 28th, 2013|Categories: Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, FRN Conference 2013, Governance|Tags: , , , |

New details, deadlines for Race to the Top district grants released

The U.S. Department of Education has released the final requirements for Race to the Top-District (RTT-D) grant applications, a program designed to improve classroom instruction and teaching to directly impact student learning.

These grants will distribute nearly $400 million directly to school districts for programs that support teaching and learning and the goals of the Race to the Top state grants. The department is expected to award 15 to 25 grants ranging from $5 million to $40 million.

Qualifying school districts must serve at least 2,000 students with 40 percent or more qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch, or join with other districts that meet this qualification. Grants will support learning strategies that personalize education in all or a group of schools, within specific grade levels, or select subjects. Districts also must demonstrate a commitment to Race to the Top’s four core reform areas and the district superintendent or CEO, local school board president, and local teacher union president (or 70 percent of teachers in districts without collective bargaining) must sign off on the plan.

The department will conduct technical assistance webinars for school officials on Aug. 16 and Aug. 21, 2012.  Registration for the webinars is available at the Race to the Top website.

School boards should first evaluate the work needed to apply for the grant and the likelihood of receiving an award, advised Michael A. Resnick, the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) associate executive director for federal advocacy and public policy.

NSBA submitted extensive comments on the draft requirements for the RTT-D program urging federal officials to articulate and preserve local school board authority. NSBA’s lobbying efforts resulted in a big win for local school boards when a requirement that grantees evaluate local school boards was deleted.  Other provisions – such as required 10-day comment period for state education agencies and mayors – may prove too onerous for school districts, according to Resnick.

School districts and consortia interested in applying must notify the agency of their intent by Aug. 30, 2012.  The deadline for applications is Oct. 30, 2012 and grant awards will be made by the end of this year.  More information about the RTT-D Program is on the department’s website.

According to the department, “Grantees will be selected based on their vision and capacity for reform as well as a strong plan that provides educators with resources to accelerate student achievement and prepare students for college and their careers. Plans will focus on transforming the learning environment so that it meets all students’ learning abilities, making equity and access to high-quality education a priority. Teachers will receive real-time feedback that helps them adapt to their students’ needs, allowing them to create opportunities for students to pursue areas of personal academic interest – while ensuring that each student is ready for college and their career.”

 

Joetta Sack-Min|August 14th, 2012|Categories: Announcements, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy, Race to the Top (RTTT), School Reform|Tags: , , , |

NSBA leaders attend Labor-Management Conference

National School Boards Association (NSBA) President C. Ed Massey and Executive Director Anne L. Bryant will join school board leaders and educators from 41 states and more than 100 school districts for the U.S. Department of Education’s second Labor Management Conference.

The event, Collaborating to Transform the Teaching Profession, is designed to share innovative ideas and successful policies that strengthen the teaching profession, from recruiting new candidates to retaining talent already in the classroom. NSBA is a co-sponsor of the conference, to be held May 23 and 24 in Cincinnati.

The Education Department, joined by NSBA and other partners, produced a document, “Transforming the Teaching Profession,” which outlines steps that states, school districts, and the federal government must take to recruit, prepare, and support teachers through their careers. The document addresses conditions for successful teaching and learning, teacher compensation, professional development, and community engagement, among other strategies.

Bryant will speak about the formation of this document and on the school board’s role during the opening panel session on May 23.

“Teachers have a tremendous impact on student achievement and the overall school environment, and school boards across the country want new ways to improve the profession and attract the best candidates,” Bryant said. “NSBA is pleased to be a cosponsor again this year so that we can further these discussions and build on the work that we began during last year’s conference.”

Representatives from Massey’s school district, Boone County Schools in Florence, Ky., also will attend the conference. District officials recently negotiated a plan with its teachers union to forego raises to avoid layoffs.

“I am looking forward to collaborating with other school district leaders and national groups to share experiences and find ways to build better labor-management agreements that will benefit all students and school staff,” Massey said. “This conference provides a unique opportunity to meet with other colleagues and experts from around the country.”

Participants from NSBA and state school boards associations include:

  • C. Ed Massey, NSBA President & Vice Chairman, Boone County Board of Education
  • Timothy C. Duffy, Executive Director, Rhode Island Association of School Committees
  • Patrice McCarthy, Deputy Director and General Counsel, Connecticut Association of Boards of Education
  • Nathan W. Burbidge, Counsel, Utah School Boards Association
  • Timothy Kremer, Executive Director, New York State School Boards Association
  • Renee Fambro, Deputy Director of Labor Relations, Ohio School Boards Association
  • Anne L. Bryant, NSBA Executive Director

The following participants are also attending as part of their state teams:

  • William G. Scott, Executive Director, Kentucky School Boards Association
  • Stephen R. Dale, Executive Director, Vermont School Boards Association

A complete list of participating school districts is available at: http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/2012-labor-management-conference-showcase-local-work-strengthening-teaching-prof

Erin Walsh|May 22nd, 2012|Categories: Board governance, Teachers|Tags: , |

The week in blogs: High school reports spark more discussion

Two reports on high school rigor, which came out within hours of each other last week, have sparked an online discussion about the need to make secondary school more relevant for all students. 

“Are Disparities Creating an Educational Caste System?” the provocative title of Maureen Downey’s Get Schooled blog in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, quoted reports on the status of high school from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, and NSBA’s Center for Public Education. Among the more striking statistics from the government report — 3,000 high schools serving almost 500,000 students don’t offer algebra II – a gateway course to college and career success.

“Without algebra II, you probably don’t go to college,” Center director Patte Barth told Downey and other reporters. “If you go, you are probably going to end up in remediation. Without it, you don’t become an auto mechanic. You don’t get into one of the growing service jobs in growing fields like communications.”

The Center’s report notes that a rigorous math curricula, Advanced Placement courses, dual high school-college enrollment, and early college programs can all enhance the curricula of American high schools.

Moving on, we turn to a blog we missed last week but is too important to let slide: Diane Ravitch, who recently addressed the Louisiana School Boards Association, speaking on Gov. Bobby Jindal’s truly draconian plan to privatize education.

And lastly, concerning the latest skirmishes in the parenting wars, we’ve written about “Tiger Mothers” and the new homeschooling trend among progressives (or is that “mini-trend?”). Now it’s time to consider the French. The French? Well, do they do parenting any better over there? Apparently not, writes blogger Joanne Jacobs, who links to a new commentary in the Atlantic magazine.

 

Lawrence Hardy|March 16th, 2012|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Center for Public Education, High Schools, Privatization, School Vouchers|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: , , , , |

The week in blogs: Obama’s education budget (abridged)

Want to get the high points of President Obama’s K12 budget — that is, without sifting through all the numbers and the fine print? Read the Quick and the Ed post by Rikesh Nana on the “three key takeaways” from the Administration’s proposal. It’s an excellent synopsis of what the president is proposing and what it all means.

So what are those takeaways? In order: consolidation of Department of Education programs (something that’s been tried in past budgets but never adopted): continued funding of Race to the Top and other competitive grant programs; and — in the absence of congressional action — an administration-sponsored overhaul of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

OK, sports fans, this next column is not about Jeremy Lin. (But if we find one on the New York Knicks sensation that has to do with K12 education, we promise to include it next week.) Instead, Eduwonk’s Andrew Rotherham looks at the firing — and quick rehiring by another team — of NHL hockey coach Bruce Boudreau and what that says about the importance of professional “fit.” Hint: It applies to teaching as well as big-time sports.

Been to Cleveland recently? Even if you haven’t, or have no plans to do so, you’ll want to check out another interesting Quick and the Ed blog on the city’s “portfolio” system of managing schools. Schools would operate with greater or lesser autonomy depending on their performance. “Charter schools as well as district-operated ones would participate,” says the blog by Richard Lee Colvin, “with the goal of giving families a real choice among several good options in every neighborhood.”

Lastly, check out Mark Bauerlein of the Chronicle of Higher Education on the attitudes and academic habits of college freshman. Here’s an interesting paradox (actually a bunch of paradoxes): more than 70 percent of students placed their academic ability in the “highest 10 percent” or “above average,” but only 45 percent felt that confident about their math ability, and just 46 percent believed they were that stellar in writing.

Lawrence Hardy|February 17th, 2012|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Budgeting, Charter Schools, Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, School Reform, Student Achievement, Teachers, Week in Blogs|Tags: , , , , , , , , , |
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