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Remember Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million gift to improve public schools in Newark? According to a recent article in USA Today, $99 million of it is still in the bank.  

The article offers some reasons why there have been problems getting school improvement efforts off the ground in Newark. For example, the city’s public schools have been without a superintendent since February.

But most of the article describes what seems to be a disconnect between those in charge of these efforts and those who must implement them – parents, students and teachers. Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who is charged with making changes and has raised $43 million in trying to match Zuckerberg’s funds, has been criticized for not revealing ...

Edweek recently featured a story on two cases coming before the Supreme Court next month that deal with proper protocols of police and school officials in questioning students. School officials are concerned that the court’s decision could put them in an untenable gatekeeping position between police and students. Thus, the National School Boards Association—an LFA member—has filed a court brief outlining concerns with the issues the case brings up that implicate administrators.

The first case—Camreta v. Greene—deals with an incident in 2003 when a state child protective services caseworker and a deputy sheriff in Oregon interviewed a 9-year-old girl at school about suspected sexual abuse by her father. The mother claims that after denying abuse for two hours the girl finally told investigators what they wanted to hear (though charges against the father were later dismissed), and that the interrogation violated the girl’s Fourth Amendment right to freedom from unreasonable seizure. A lower court ruled in favor of ...

Like many education stakeholders, I appreciate President Obama’s budgetary commitment to education (even though he found an inhospitable audience in the House). Despite tough financial times, it’s commendable that he is taking a far-sighted approach to the health of the country by focusing on education. However, with his budget, we’re left facing the same problem we’ve faced over the past couple years - over-emphasis on competitive funding programs like Race for the Top.

Perhaps in examining the issue of competitive funding, we should consider largely philosophical roots of competition ideologies. Libertarianism is the poster-child for competition and privatization, but most would agree that this philosophy breaks down in certain categories: some needs simply are not fulfilled well relying on the private sector, and some of these needs—like education—comprise areas where we simply can’t afford market failings.

Maurice Elias recently blogged on this issue on edutopia. He wrote, “it is difficult for me to understand why we want, need, or should tolerate competition for a public function such as education. We don’t have competition for police and fire services. These are required to be uniformly excellent and equitable. They are not always, but ...


Tomorrow begins a Conference on Labor-Management Collaboration in Denver, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, National School Boards Association, American Association of School Administrators, Council of the Great City Schools, and the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. The conference aims to highlight examples of collaborative approaches that ease friction between administrators and union members, expedite education reforms, and lead to better results for students.  

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, and AFT President Randi Weingarten announced plans for the conference in October while celebrating an innovative labor agreement in Hillsborough County, Florida.  

In the past several months, there have been numerous negative depictions in the media of teachers and teachers’ unions—including Waiting for “Superman,” some segments of NBC’s Education Nation summit. The messages indicate that

February is National School-Based Health Care Awareness Month, so I wanted to discuss school-based health centers (SBHCs) as beneficial models for communities nation-wide. The National Assembly on School-Based Health Care explains that SBHCs are comprised of partnerships between schools and local health care organizations to deliver health care (physical and mental) to students on a school campus. Currently, schools with SBHCs predominantly serve low-income students who historically experience health care disparities (although even schools with different student demographics could benefit from the SBHC model.) And while SBHCs serve the student and faculty population at the school where they are housed, many also open their doors to students from other schools, as well as to other members of the community. SBHCs can be funded from both government (local, state, and federal) and private groups, depending on the model each community develops. Currently, there are more than 1,900 SBHCs in 48 states and territories.

There are many compelling benefits to SBHCs. Besides providing care for populations that otherwise might not receive it, research indicates they increase school attendance and academic performance, decrease school drop-out rates, and ...

I was anxious to read the December/January issue of the Phi Delta Kappan because the cover promised a focus on how we can use technology to improve teaching and learning, a field I’ve been immersed in for some time. But once I delved into the issue, while the technology articles were interesting and represented a variety of viewpoints, I was really excited to see the article on the Kalamazoo Promise. Full disclosure here: my good friend and colleague, Jim Bosco, professor emeritus in the Education Department at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, had told me about this project several years ago as it was kicking off. The article details the progress of a project that promised a fully paid college education for any Kalamazoo public school student who graduated with an academic record strong enough to be selected for admission to a state-supported institution of higher education. Jim was excited about the project and his enthusiasm was infectious. Here was a community that focused first on the outcome they wanted….every student proceeding to post-secondary education….not how the school district was going to ensure students took advantage of the “carrot.” ...

Community support for schools is a crucial issue, especially in light of the current negativity toward public schools by the media, and severe funding limits on the national, state, and local level. It is timely then that during a recent meeting, members of the Learning First Alliance heard from Jamie Vollmer—head of Vollmer, Inc., a public education advocacy firm—who discussed ideas from his most recent book, Schools Cannot Do It Alone: Building Public Support for America’s Public Schools. He focused on the idea of local level community engagement for building school support.

Clearly educators face many challenges and have to work under numerous limitations (money, time, and demographic realities of schools, among others). But Vollmer argues there is a largely unexploited factor that can work to schools’ advantages: the malleability of local communities to accepting area educators as legitimate forces for good.

He asserts that by effectively targeting community members and informing them on how it is in their own self-interest to have good public schools, educators can gain the community support that is so vital to school issues.

To do so, Vollmer proposes that educators reach out using two tracks: a formal track that focuses on community groups, and an informal one that takes place through every day interactions. The formal track should take place “on the communities’ turf and ...

Isn't it incumbent upon those who hold the public trust--and I include both educators and political leaders in this group--to speak with discretion and a commitment to peace?

So wrote Nancy Flanagan yesterday over at Teacher in a Strange Land, in musings on the weekend tragedy that left six dead and several – including Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords – wounded.

I doubt anyone would disagree. But I would add another party to her list of those who hold the public trust and need to be more careful in how they use it – the media. These days media can mean so many things. Here, I would include, along with newspaper and television reporters, those in the “new media” – those who blog, tweet, and post thoughts on Facebook about the state of the world.

In the past, this blog has called on the media to take a more measured approach to reporting on issues of education policy. Some education reporting has become quite polarizing, creating false dichotomies that hide the shades of gray inherent in any debate of substance. It has contributed to ...

Education Week recently wrote about a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on student mobility in this country, done at the request of Senators Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Christopher Dodd (D-Connecticut) to help lawmakers prepare for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The report found that about 13 percent of children change schools four or more times before enrolling in high school, and that 11.5 percent of schools had high rates of mobility (meaning that more than 10 percent of students left by the end of the school year). As is almost always the case when considering education statistics, this mobility is not spread evenly throughout the student population. It disproportionally impacts students who are poor, African-American and from families that do not own their home. Schools serving a mobile population also have larger percentages of students who are low-income, have limited English proficiency and receive special education services.

The report also reviewed evidence on the effect of mobility on student achievement. Not surprisingly, it is negative. Students who change schools frequently have lower standardized test scores than less mobile peers, and they tend to drop out of high school at a higher rate.

According to teachers interviewed for the report, some of the challenges that schools face in educating this population include differences in ...

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Moving Beyond the Blame Game

Media coverage of the recent Associated Press-Stanford University Education Poll has tended to focus on one thing: Blame. Just look at these headlines:

While the media and some policymakers have recently tended to blame teachers for the problems that ail American public schools, this poll finds that the public doesn’t buy it. Instead, the poll shows that just 35% of respondents believe that teachers deserve a great deal or a lot of the blame for the problems facing this country’s public schools. In fact, the public believes that teachers are least deserving of the blame for these problems. Check out how all the stakeholders fared:

  • Local School Administrators – 53% (of respondents believe they deserve a great deal or a lot of the blame for the problems facing this country’s schools)
  • State Education Officials – 65%
  • Federal Education Officials – 59%
  • Teachers – 35%
  • Teachers Unions – 45%
  • Parents – 68%
  • The Students Themselves – 46%

Okay. So teachers are not to blame. It is good to hear (and what many of us already knew), but now what? Educators certainly cannot just ...

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