Teaching About Origins
One of the most confrontational issues before American school boards and administrators is the effort by some Christian fundamentalists to have their views on life and its origins taught in science classes as a scientifically valid alternative to biological evolution. A scientist explains why intelligent design isn’t science.
Reform at the Table
When collective bargaining agreements and contract provisions run up against reform initiatives, the resulting debate can be impassioned. If you think collective bargaining agreements restrict school improvement, this new study says you should think again.
The Promise of Partnership
Critics argue that teachers unions are a fundamental threat to comprehensive education reform. But we believe school reform efforts can and must involve teachers unions as full and equal allies in change. When unions become partners in education reform, teachers become partners as well. Change becomes something teachers do, rather than something that is done to them. Here is one district’s story of union-management collaboration.
Wanted: School Board Candidates
When were you last on the stage of a high school auditorium? Were you a junior playing trombone in the band? Well, maybe it's time for a return visit to the stage of a high school auditorium—as a member of the board of education. Fed up with your school district? Join the board.
The Real Business of Boards
How did the issue of achievement get taken away from school boards? There are at least four reasons: failing to focus on results; fear or aversion about comparing our district’s results to others; not accepting responsibility for poor results; and a loss of focus about our mission.
Helping New Teachers and Principals
As all of us in the education community are painfully aware, the attrition rates of new teachers and principals are higher than those of any other profession—a sad trend considering most of these young educators enter the profession brimming with passion, optimism, and a desire to serve. Camden, N.J. is successfully tackling this issue by building an environment in which students excel, teachers inspire, and the community connects.
Four years ago, trouble was brewing in three school districts in the western tip of Texas. Concerned citizens and business leaders were embarrassed and at a loss to stop the board infighting, micromanagement, political agendas, and limited accountability that dominated the districts and the headlines. The headlines were not only symptomatic of serious problems in the schools, but also just plain bad for business.
School Boards Surrounded
Almost every week another judge, legislator, or bureaucrat dreams up another rule or regulation that intends to fix some perceived educational problem. And, in the process, each further constricts the freedom of local education institutions that historically have assumed primary responsibility for governing public schools. Would-be reformers are coming from nearly every direction, and they are coming all the time.
A Story of School Governance
When Alan Bersin steps down as superintendent of the San Diego City Schools this June—a year before his contract is due to expire—it will mark the end of a creative but tumultuous experiment in urban education. How governance issues played out between Bersin and the five-member elected school board has important implications for other school districts, especially urban ones.
A Long Journey to School Reform
The San Diego School System hired Alan Bersin to forge a new school system. Six tumultuous years later, with many successes as well as a few casualties, the district’s mission statement of “raising student achievement by supporting teaching and learning in the classroom” has come to life. The heroic efforts of teachers and principals, supported by classified staff and a revamped and much smaller central office, are paying off in reaching the vast majority of students.
The Real Lesson of San Diego
My erstwhile colleague Michael Usdan did his usual stellar job of describing the full panoply of issues arising in a recent large-city school board conflict that led to the dismissal of the superintendent [“A Story of School Governance,” April, 2005]. However, he erred in putting forth one of the “solutions” he claimed would obviate similar conflicts elsewhere in the future. Here’s what he got wrong.
Leader of the Board
President of the school board—it’s an impressive title, and it should be, since only a handful of people are elected to serve on a school board, and fewer still become president. Election to the office assumes the new president somehow automatically gains the leadership skills necessary to meet the responsibilities of the position. But few board presidents are prepared for the demands they will face. Serving as president calls for special skills.
The Board Member's Soundtrack
In difficult times, lines from the movies often provide good advice. I even wish now that during my six years on a local school board I had followed more closely the advice implicit in some of the lines that echo in my head. You might feel similarly once you hear them.
What Do You Teach?
School boards once made curriculum decisions simply by conferring with the administrators and content specialists in their districts. Those days, as you probably already know, are gone. Now, parents and community members increasingly want—and expect—a say in what and how schools are teaching their children.