November 30, 2007

They Like Me, They Really Like Me

An interesting new study found that parents value student satisfaction over teacher performance when selecting their child's teacher.

The study looked at which teachers parents in one Western U.S. school district requested and what qualities those teachers possessed according to their principals. Parents in the district are allowed to request certain teachers.

When given the choice between a teacher with high satisfaction ratings and an average teacher, parents in wealthier schools were likely to choose the high-satisfaction teacher 65 percent of the time. They weren't, however, much more likely to choose a high-achieving teacher over an average one. Meanwhile, at poorer schools, the results were almost reversed. Parents at poorer schools weren't any more likely to choose the high-satisfaction teacher over an average one. They were, however, more likely to choose a high-achieving teacher than an average one - that is, if they made requests at all."

To read more about the study, read this.

November 27, 2007

The Value of Social Capital

A study of Pittsburgh Public Schools by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Business, found that schools in schools where teachers talked to each other and principals stayed in touch with the community, math and reading achievement was higher. In fact, the researchers found that these communication networks had a greater impact on test scores than the experience or credentials of the staff.

The economic phrase for these relationships among teachers and between principals and the outside community is "social capital," while measurements of experience and training are called "human capital."

The bottom line of the study, according to lead researcher Dr. Carrie Leana, is that social capital "is a more powerful predictor" of success than human capital, and "if you had to invest in something, you'd be better off investing in social capital than human capital."

Many schools do not provide ample opportunity for teacher collaboration, especially elementary schools. Dr. Leana recommends that principals encourage "interaction and connections among the faculty."

Read more here.

November 26, 2007


“They're not mentioned under No Child Left Behind. They're not assisted by federal funding or programs.

Gifted students in Pennsylvania must rely on the state Department of Education to make sure public schools challenge them intellectually.

So with changes proposed to the state's gifted education regulations, known as Chapter 16, a network of parents and advocates are weighing in,” reports the Allentown Morning Call.

November 20, 2007

Too Much Testing?

“A state commission agreed today on a draft report saying ‘there is too much time spent on testing’ and that several exams should be eliminated or no longer counted in the state’s testing program,” reports the Charlotte Observer.


“The Blue Ribbon Commission on Testing and Accountability agreed to recommend to the state Board of Education that the fourth-, seventh- and 10th-grade writing tests and the eighth-grade computer skills tests be eliminated.”

“Phil Kirk, vice president of external relations for Catawba College and chairman emeritus of the State Board of Education, has been elected chair-elect of the Public School Forum of North Carolina. He will succeed Sen. Katie Dorsett of Guilford County as chair of the Raleigh-based organization.


The Public School Forum of North Carolina was organized more than 20 years ago to work for the improvement of public schools in the state. The board of directors is composed of representatives from business, education and government.


Kirk has previously served as the president and CEO of North Carolina Citizens for Business and Industry,” reports the Business Journal.

Reading at Risk, says NEA (and NASBE!)

A new report from the National Endowment for the Arts, To Read or Not To Read, found that Americans are reading less and their reading proficiency is declining at troubling rate.

The NEA analysis found that scores among elementary school students have been improving, but scores for among middle school students are flat and slightly declining among high school seniors.

"We are doing a better job of teaching kids to read in elementary school. But once they enter adolescence, they fall victim to a general culture which does not encourage or reinforce reading. Because these people then read less, they read less well. Because they read less well, they do more poorly in school, in the job market and in civic life," said NEA Chairman Dana Gioia.

For the last several years, the NASBE has supported states in improving adolescent literacy achievement, particularly though our State Adolescent Literacy Network. To learn more about NASBE's efforts to improve adolescent literacy achievement, please visit our website.

November 19, 2007

Texas AG Gets Appeal Regarding State Board Textbook Rejection

“The State Board of Education is violating the law by censoring what information will be in school books, a watchdog group said Friday, asking the state attorney general's office to intervene.

The complaint stems from a vote earlier in the day in which the board rejected a proposed mathematics book for third-graders. State law allows the board to reject a textbook only if it fails to cover the state's curriculum standards, has factual errors or does not meet manufacturing requirements,” reports the Associated Press. Click here for the full story.


Pest Removal

“The ill-conceived idea of making election to the Utah State Board of Education a partisan affair is similar to that squirrely head that keeps popping up in the old arcade game of Whack-A-Mole. Reasonable legislators whack it down in one legislative session, but it just pops up in the next. Next time this power-grabbing-by-politicizing the public school system appears as a formal bill - and that could be in 2008 - the pest should be decapitated once and for all,” says a Salt Lake Tribune editorial.

November 16, 2007

What's It Cost?

What’s it cost to educate a student with no special needs in a large school district with an average cost of living to “proficiency?” Pennsylvania has just completed a “costing-out” study and pegs the expense at $8,003 per year based on its academic standards.


But when students living in poverty, the number of limited English proficient (LEP) students, special education and gifted students are also factored in, the average cost rises to $12,057.


Based on that figure, 474 of the state’s 501 school districts spend less than that. Indeed, as the Post-Gazette reports, “The state and school districts spent an average of about $9,512 per student during the 2005-06 school year, the most recent year for which the state has data…state and local governments would need to spend about $4.81 billion per year more on education than they do today, the study concluded,” with Philadelphia needing more than $1 billion of that money.

November 13, 2007

Grade 'Em All

Merryl H. Tisch, vice-chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents, wrote an editorial published in today's New York Post about New York City's new school-report-card initiative, which assigns A-to-F grades to all public schools. Tisch calls for the inclusion of charter schools in the grading initiative in order to "validate the importance and integrity of charters."

Tisch continues, "As the new school-report cards debuted last week, I was among a group of seasoned educators in Queens. Sitting between two principals, whose schools had gotten an A and a B, I listened as they spoke of the grading system and made plans to visit with each other and share their experiences. This is what the report cards were intended to produce: sharing of ideas, leading to enhanced learning environments. Why leave charter schools out of this exchange? Why work to further the distance between charter schools and their totally public counterparts?"

Read more here.

November 8, 2007

Congrats Ms. Reina

Tamara Reina, who teaches English and U.S. history at the East Mesa Juvenile Detention Facility, was named on Monday as one of five California teachers of the year.

"I'd like to use this opportunity as a discussion point about kids, about their potential, about keeping kids engaged in the educational process, about preventing the kinds of stories I have in my classroom," Reina said. "I think [the award] acknowledges that positive proactive education can go on anywhere."

"Ms. Reina is not only an outstanding, thoroughly committed teacher, she is mentor, counselor, confidante, and, sometimes, parent to young men - many of whom are serious juvenile offenders," said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell. "Yet she is a steadfast supporter of her students and a true believer in their potential. Beyond the razor wire and sliding steel doors, Ms. Reina gives books to students who've never read one and hope to those who've never had any."

NASBE congratulates Ms. Reina and commends her for her steadfast dedication to the children society too often gives up on.

Utah Voucher Defeat

Utah voters have once again reaffirmed their confidence in their public schools by decisively rejecting the state referendum on private school vouchers. The 2-1 margin against vouchers is testament to the satisfaction Utah families, educators, and the public have with their schools.


Whenever the issue of vouchers has been put before the public for a vote, vouchers have lost overwhelmingly. The public in states ranging from California to Michigan and now Utah inherently understands the community benefits of public education. No matter how much advertising millionaire dot com tycoon voucher ideologues buy to try to convince them to the contrary, voters are able to see through the false promises of vouchers and disregard the scurrilous attacks on their public schools.


The leadership role of Kim Burningham, chairman of the Utah State Board of Education, for his support of public education should also be noted. Kim’s energy, vision, and eloquence, were a source of inspiration and confidence to many during this election campaign. Utahns are fortunate to have a state education leader of Kim Burningham’s commitment and passion working on their behalf, and we are certain that Kim and the entire Utah State Board of Education will continue their tireless efforts to implement real reforms that, unlike vouchers, are proven and effective to improve Utah’s public schools for all its children.”


November 7, 2007

Utah Voters Crush Vouchers

Yesterday, more than 60-percent of Utah voters rejected what would have become the nation's first universal voucher program. The vote ended an 8-month, multi million dollar campaign that attracted national attention. Governor Jon Huntsman Jr. and Republican legislative leaders supported the law, which was passed by a single vote in the Legislature. Voucher opponents, led by the Utah Education Association teachers' union, gathered 124,000 signatures to force it into a voter referendum. Their hard work and dedication to Utah's children paid off.

"Tonight, with the eyes of the nation upon us, Utah has rejected this flawed voucher law," said state School Board Chairman Kim Burningham. "We believe this sends a clear message. It sends a message that Utahns believe in, and support, public schools." chief executive Patrick Byrne, who contributed $3 million to support vouchers, called the referendum a "statewide IQ test" that Utahns failed. "They don't care enough about their kids. They care an awful lot about this system, this bureaucracy, but they don't care enough about their kids to think outside the box," Byrne said.

November 6, 2007

A Child’s Day (3 Years Ago)

A Child’s Day: 2004 examines the well-being of children younger than 18 and provides an updated look into how they spend their days. Published by the U.S. Census Bureau, the report (summary here) is based on the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) and addresses children’s living arrangements, family characteristics, time spent in child care, academic experience, extracurricular activities and more.

Main points: Parents are more active in raising their children and children get less television time.

Other highlights:

- About half of all children 1 to 5 are read to seven or more times a week.

- The percentage of children participating in lessons, such as music, dance, language, computers, or religion, went up for 6- to 11-year olds, from 24 percent in 1994 to 33 percent in 2004 .

- From 1994 to 2004, the percentage of children who changed schools went down for 6- to 11-year-olds, from 30 percent to 26 percent. For 12- to 17-year-olds, the percentage of children who changed schools dropped from 52 percent to 42 percent .

- From 1994 to 2004, the number of children 12 to 17 who repeated a grade declined from 16 percent to 11 percent. For children 6 to 11, the rate remained the same at 7 percent.

November 1, 2007

All Eyes on Utah

Although his arguments are flawed, Washington Post op-ed columnist George F. Hill made one very true point in his column today:

"In balloting more important to the nation than most of next year's elections will be, Utahans next week will decide by referendum whether to retain or jettison the nation's broadest school choice program."

And George...listen to Kim.