October 31, 2007

Listen to Kim

Former NASBE President, Utah State Board Chairman, and advocate for Utahns for Public Schools, Kim Burningham, wrote a thoughtful editorial for the Deseret Morning News outlining the anti-voucher argument.

His five point analysis of the fundamental flaws in the voucher law provides voters with a clear argument against the referendum.

1. The voucher law provides little accountability
2. Voucher schools lack availability
3. Vouchers will have high costs for the taxpayer
4. Vouchers will not improve performance or reduce class size
5. Utahns are wiser investing in our public schools

We can only hope that the people of Utah listen to Kim. There are tremendous national implications of the decision made by Utahns next Tuesday.

October 30, 2007

Universal PreK Center Stage

Universal prekindergarten is a hot topic these days- presidential candidates, scores of governors, and many others are singing its praises.

The New York Times published
an article that outlines many of the main arguments in support of universal prekindergarten and discusses the implications of such a system on both low-income children and their more affluent peers. A worthwhile read.

October 29, 2007

New NAGB Members

Secretary Spellings has appointed five new members, including one state board member, to the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB), the panel that oversees NAEP. They are:


• Warren T. Smith, vice chair, Washington State Board of Education

• Steve Paine, state school superintendent, West Virginia Education Department

• Lou Fabrizio, director, Division of Accountability Services, North Carolina Department of Public Instruction

• Henry Kranendonk, mathematics curriculum spe­cialist, Milwaukee Mathematics Partnership

• Susan Pimentel, standards and curriculum special­ist, Hanover, N.H.


Their terms run through 2011.

Kentucky Commissioner Finalists Named

The Kentucky Board of Education announced the names of four of the five finalists for Commissioner of Education. (The remaining finalist’s name will be released after that individual is contacted and confirms his or her continued interest in the position.)

The vast majority of the candidates are current or former Kentuckians- something many members of the board were looking for after a previous search resulted in the candidate resigning amid questions about her experience.

The finalists are:

- Jon Draud, state representative for the 63rd District and a former superintendent of the Ludlow Independent school district

- Richard Hughes, a professor at Morehead State University and former superintendent of the Hardin County school district

- Larry Vick, superintendent of the Owensboro Independent school district

- Jim Warford, executive director/CEO of the Florida Association of School Administrators and a former chancellor for Florida’s public schools

The board's goal is to name a new commissioner by Nov. 13, but board Chairman Joe Brothers said some details may not be final by then. Brothers said the board wants the public and the media to help vet the candidates to avoid the problems it had with the last search. "We're counting on the entire state and those educators in our communities in the commonwealth to help us."

Déja vu all over again?

That’s what South Dakota Attorney General Larry Long said to describe a new education finance lawsuit filed against the state. Long was chief deputy attorney general when the state won against a similar lawsuit back in 1994.


“The state won across the board [in 1994] and you know what? The system didn’t collapse. South Dakota students aren’t flunking out of high school, and South Dakota students are able to get into college, and some are actually doing pretty well. None of the ‘sky is falling’ scenarios came to pass,” says Long now.


According to the Daily Republic, “The plaintiff in the new lawsuit is the ‘South Dakota Coalition of Schools, et al.’ — a group supported by some parents and students, 74 school districts and the SDEA. The suit claims that the Legislature is failing its constitutional obligation to adequately fund schools. A study that’s the basis of the current lawsuit claims that annual funding for K-12 education in South Dakota is falling short of needs by $134 million to $406 million a year.”


But now the State Board of Education is knee-deep in the issue. “Long’s ire had been raised by a Thursday Daily Republic news story. The story revealed that two members of the state Board of Education had said during depositions that the state is not providing adequate funding for education.


‘Here’s the deal,’ Long said Friday. ‘Members of the state Board of Education don’t have the power to give school districts a nickel, unless they pull it out of their own pocket and do it personally. It’s the Legislature that has the power to give K-12 education more money, and guess where the Legislature has to go and get it. They’ve got to come and get it from you and me.


‘Here’s what this lawsuit is all about,’ he continued. ’The school districts were unable to convince the Legislature to do that, so now they’re trying to convince courts to order the Legislature to do that,’” reports the newspaper.



October 26, 2007

State Board Member Named Ombudsman

D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty appointed state board member Tonya Vidal Kinlow as the first ombudsman for public education in the District. In an announcement Fenty commented that Kinlow “will be the city's face of customer service for education.”

The ombudsman position is considered critical to Fenty's school reform effort and is responsible for investigating parental complaints. Kinlow currently serves as vice president for government relations at the District of Columbia Hospital Association and is an appointed member and vice president of the D.C. State Board of Education. She also is the vice chairman of the board of DC Voice, an advocacy group for schools. She will resign from the hospital association and the state board upon starting as the ombudsman.

October 25, 2007

Update on Kentucky State Board's Chief Search

“The board will meet Sunday to select three finalists and will announce those names. After background checks, the candidates will be interviewed Nov. 13. The board aims to name a commissioner that day,” reports the Lexington Herald-Leader.

October 22, 2007

Decline in School Junk Food

“Spurred by the growing crisis in child obesity, the nation’s schools have made “considerable improvements” in nutrition, fitness and health over the last six years, according to a new government survey that found that more schools require physical education and fewer sell French fries.


The survey, which is conducted every six years, shows that more schools than six years ago offer salads and vegetables and that fewer permit bake sales. More states and school districts insist that elementary schools schedule recess and that physical education teachers have at least undergraduate training. More states have enacted policies to prohibit smoking at school and to require courses on pregnancy prevention,” reports the New York Times.


October 19, 2007

Atta Board

The Kansas State Board gets an “atta board” from the Lawrence World-Journal editorial page.


“Improving public schools in Kansas isn’t purely a matter of dollars and cents, but the state school board is on the right track by focusing on increased funding for teacher salaries and full-day kindergarten…..”

CDC's School Health Education Resources (SHER)

CDC’s Centers and Divisions have developed a wide variety of science-based and other instructional materials that can help schools enhance existing health education curriculum and instruction. CDC’s School Health Education Resources (SHER) is a unique, user-friendly web tool that consolidates these resources in one convenient location. SHER helps Pre-K-12 classroom teachers, school nurses, counselors, curriculum directors, and school administrators easily locate CDC’s instructional resources.

SHER features instructional materials aligned with the National Health Education Standards, Second Edition, 2007, and CDC’s Characteristics of Effective Health Education Curriculum. The online database is searchable by:

  • Health education topics commonly found in a comprehensive school health education curriculum.
  • Four types of resources (curriculum and lessons, teacher instructional materials, student materials, and fact sheets).
  • Grade level groupings (Pre-K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12).

SHER provides the sole comprehensive, user-friendly place to browse and access these resources at CDC. It is available online at http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/SHER


October 17, 2007

Scott Named Texas Commissioner

Texas Governor Rick Perry appointed Robert Scott as education commissioner, a post he has had on an interim basis since Shirley Neeley stepped down this summer.

"Robert Scott is the right choice to lead Texas education system toward continued success and new benchmark achievements," Perry said in a statement. "With an unmatched record of service and commitment to Texas students, Robert has the experience and dedication needed to raise the bar in classrooms and make sure students receive a top-notch education that prepares them for success in and out of school."

October 16, 2007

NCLB Veto Threat

During a speech in Arkansas yesterday, President Bush threatened to veto any “weakened” version of NCLB. Read the excerpt below or click here to see the speech in its entirety. (Note: the NCLB comments were in response to an audience question.)

“There's a lot of objections to No Child Left Behind -- I understand that. People say, how dare you measure? My attitude is, you got to measure. To solve a problem, you got to understand whether or not we have a problem in the first place. People say, well, they're just teaching to test. Uh-uh. We're teaching a child to read so they can pass a reading test.

I happen to believe this piece of legislation is an important piece of civil rights legislation. If you're interested in making sure our society provides hope for everybody, then you want to make sure every single child in America has the capacity to read, write, and add and subtract at grade level. That's what you want if you're interested in having an America that holds out its promise for every single citizen.

And that's the basis of No Child Left Behind. I believe in local control of schools. That's up to you to chart the path to excellence. But it's up to us to make sure your money is spent wisely. You know, we have an achievement gap in America, and that means our -- the white kids are reading at a certain level here at -- in the 4th grade, and African Americans or Latino kids are reading down here. That's not good enough for our country. And that achievement gap is beginning to grow. It's amazing what happens when you raise standards and hold people to account.

And so my -- any effort to weaken No Child Left Behind Act will get a presidential veto. I believe this piece of legislation is important, and I believe it's hopeful, and I believe it's necessary to make sure we got a educated group of students who can compete in the global economy when they get older.”

October 15, 2007

David Driscoll Named NASBE Policy Leader of the Year

Recently retired Commissioner David P. Driscoll was honored for his more than four decades in education on Friday when he was named Policy Leader of the Year by the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE).


"David Driscoll has been the most forceful and effective advocate for the interests of children in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts over the past decade," said NASBE Executive Director Brenda Welburn. "His success stemmed from his ability to cross political lines and rally stakeholders and the public to support high academic standards and rigorous accountability for the ultimate benefit of students."

October 9, 2007

Florida Commissioner Named

Eric J. Smith, a former inner-city superintendent and College Board Senior VP, was selected as the new Commissioner of Education in Florida.

The Florida State Board of Education voted unanimously to select Smith after a second round of interviews with three finalists for the post.

"Smith has the skills and experience that Florida's education system needs, and I look forward to working with him in the future," said state board Chairman T. Willard Fair in a statement released by the state agency.

October 5, 2007

No Apparent Ad Policy at Ed Week

On page 8 of the October 3rd print edition of Education Week, alongside articles about college admissions and MacAurther Fellows grants, was a shocking ad from the "Citizens Commission on Human Rights" - a nonprofit group founded by the Church of Scientology.

The ad reads: "Fact: 20 million children are condemned for life to the hell of psychiatric drug addiction." The ad is a promotion for a
new DVD put out by the organization called "Psychiatry- An Industry of Death." The ad dominated the page with text that listed "facts" like: "An admitted 'success rate' of less than 1% - today psychiatrists claim that every second one of us could be 'mentally ill.'"

What kind of advertising and editorial policies does Education Week have that ads like this have a place in their publication? I'm curious to know what they were thinking when they accepted payment from an organization that uses such heated rhetoric, propaganda, and unscientific evidence to make their appeal.

October 4, 2007

State Education Leaders Call for Tobacco Ban in All Schools

Tobacco should be prohibited in all schools in order to protect the health of students and faculty and to help improve student achievement says the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) in a new set of school health policy recommendations being issued to state and local educational leaders.


State boards of education are being urged to make schools “tobacco-free environments” by strictly prohibiting the use of tobacco by anyone—students, staff, and visitors—in school, on school grounds, and at all school-related activities, according to NASBE’s recommendations in a new school health policy guide, Policies to Prevent Tobacco Use. In addition, schools are being urged to ban all tobacco-related promotions and institute educational prevention programs.


“Tobacco is a killer. Tobacco use among schoolchildren is especially evil because of their greater susceptibility to addiction and of the proven detrimental effects tobacco has on a student’s academic performance,” said Brenda Welburn, NASBE Executive Director.


“Educational leaders at every level have a moral obligation and an educational imperative to eliminate every student’s exposure to tobacco in the school setting. Schools must be proactive in discouraging students from first using tobacco and offering assistance to students already using to wean themselves from its grip. The stakes are too high, the risks to our children’s health too great to do anything less,” declared Welburn.


Tobacco use is the single most avoidable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 28% of high school seniors and 12% of middle school students are current smokers. One-third of all smokers have their first cigarette by age 14. In addition to the well-known health consequences, tobacco can affect students’ attendance and academic performance in school. A student’s use of tobacco is also considered a red flag of potentially other problems that could seriously affect school performance or their well-being


Welburn noted that “national concern over youth tobacco use has waned in recent years. Unfortunately, tobacco thrives as a lurking menace preying on children with such inattention. We must make tobacco prevention a priority once again precisely because of the life and death consequences and because it is so preventable with education and vigilance.”


Because it is easier to prevent a person from ever using tobacco than to try to get them to quit once they have begun, there are other strategies policymakers can pursue to discourage tobacco use beside a tobacco ban. Key policies in the guide include: prevention education programs, tobacco-use cessation and support programs, and links to community campaigns. Indeed, research has shown the most effective school anti-tobacco policies take a comprehensive approach in order to ensure that students receive consistent anti-tobacco-use messages from every direction.


Only five states—Arkansas, Delaware, Massachusetts, Mississippi, and Oregon—currently have a comprehensive tobacco-free schools policy. The recommendations include model tobacco-use prevention policies which are available at www.nasbe.org/HealthySchools/States/State_Policy.asp.


The report, Policies to Prevent Tobacco Use, is the latest installment of NASBE’s comprehensive and nationally-acclaimed Fit, Healthy, and Ready to Learn: A School Health Policy Guide. The full guide or just the tobacco chapter can be purchased by calling (800) 220-5183 or via the Internet at www.nasbe.org



Governance Woes

The non-partisan Constitution Review Commission will be looking into the governance of the 15-member Utah State Board of Education. Currently the Utah Board is elected via a hybrid system: the governor appoints two candidates to each district ballot and then one of the candidates is elected by voters. The procedure for electing board members is not in the state constitution, the only regulation is that board members must be elected, not appointed.

The Commission, which is solely and advisory body, will study how, or, if the governance of the board should be changed and will issue a report to the 2008 Legislature. House Speaker Greg Curtis commented, “I don’t like the current hybrid system…we should just have direct elections.” State Board Chairman Kim Burningham welcomed the constitutional discussion despite what he believes originated the conversation- animosity from GOP leaders stemming from the board’s refusal to implement vouchers this past spring.

Read more here.

Homework for Everyone- Parents Included!

For parents of students in Mr. Frye's ninth grade English class, homework is now on the evening agenda...and there's no out, it's mandatory. Read more here.

“I think it’s great,” said Gerald N. Tirozzi, executive director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals. “It’s wonderful to involve parents in this way, very meaningfully, and directly related to the instruction the children are receiving in school.”

Get Congress Out of the Classroom?

Noted education scholar Diane Ravitch had an op-ed piece about the No Child Left Behind Act in yesterday’s New York Times. Entitled “Get Congress Out of the Classroom,” the opinion article had plenty of provocative lines. Among them:


“Despite the rosy claims of the Bush administration, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 is fundamentally flawed…No Child Left Behind should be radically overhauled, not just tweaked…under current law, state education departments have an incentive to show that schools and students are making steady progress, even if they are not…The leaders of the House and Senate Education Committees are fine men, but they do not know how to fix the nation’s schools…Congress should also drop the absurd goal of achieving universal proficiency by 2014. Given that no nation, no state and no school district has ever reached 100 percent math and reading proficiency for all grades, it is certain that the goal cannot be met.”


But Ravitch’s larger point on the next iteration of the No Child Left Behind Act is the need for national standards, though that phrase never appears in the piece. “We will never know how well or poorly our students are doing until we have a consistent national testing program in which officials have no vested interest in claiming victory…Washington should supply unbiased information about student academic performance to states and local districts. It should then be the responsibility of states and local districts to improve performance,” she argues.


It’s a compelling argument. But it does raise the question as to whether such a goal can be accomplished when even supporters of national standards are wary of using the precise words that are their main objective.

October 3, 2007

Bush Vetoes Child Health Plan

The fourth veto of the Bush presidency- a bipartisan bill that would have expanded the the successful Children's Health Insurance Program. The Senate approved the bill with enough votes to override the veto, but the margin in the House fell short of the required number.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid commented: "'Never has it been clearer how detached President Bush is from the priorities of the American people...By vetoing a bipartisan bill to renew the successful Children's Health Insurance Program, President Bush is denying health care to millions of low-income kids in America."

The State Children's Health Insurance Program is a joint state-federal effort that subsidizes health coverage for 6.6 million people, mostly children, from families that earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford their own private coverage.

October 2, 2007

Former NC member running?

Former North Carolina State Board member Eddie Davis appears ready to challenge State Superintendent June Atkinson in the next election, reports the Star News.

Our Schools Must Do Better

A great op-ed by Bob Herbert in the New York Times today- read it here.

"If American kids — all American kids, not just the children of the elite — are to have a fair chance at a rewarding life over the next several decades, we’ve got to give them a school system adequate to the times. They need something better than a post-World War II system in a post-9/11 world."

Alliteration Works (Hopefully)

We here at NASBE are keeping close tabs on the Utah voucher referendum vote (35 days until the election), so when Utahns for Public Schools, the anti-voucher group, posted their campaign ads we had to watch. Simple, direct, and to the point- "Full of flaws. Fails Utah families."

You too can watch them here.

Smith the Favorite in Florida

The Palm Beach Post is reporting that Eric Smith is the semi-finalist candidate with the inside track to become the next Florida Commissioner of Education. “The 57-year-old former superintendent in North Carolina, Maryland and Virginia, was the only candidate all seven members of the state Board of Education endorsed after interviews in September. Three board members wanted to hire him on the spot,” reports the Post. Current Florida Chancellor (and former Minnesota chief) Cheri Pierson Yecke and Joseph Marinelli are the other two candidates under consideration. The Florida State Board of Education will interview all three again on October 8.