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Should master’s degrees matter?

Spring 2011 • Volume 9 • Issue 2

In K-12 public education, master's degrees matter. New York State requires teachers to obtain master's degrees to earn permanent certification, and school districts in New York and across the country typically offer higher pay to teachers with these advanced degrees.

However, two of the most influential people in K-12 education – U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and billionaire entrepreneur and philanthropist Bill Gates – are among those who contend paying premiums for master's degrees is irrational and ought to be stopped.

Could it really be that, in the field of education, additional education is not worth all that much?


Why they cheat

Winter 2011 • Volume 9 • Issue 1

When a student takes a test, educators presume that the results will reveal what the learner knows and is able to do. Test results morph into "data" that administrators and school board members use to make decisions that affect the district and its community. But when students – or their teachers – cheat to boost results, the function of education and its accountability mechanisms are both undermined.

Equally disturbing are the social aspects, as cheating is viewed by its many perpetrators as morally acceptable. A survey by Who's Who Among American High School Students discovered that 76 percent of high-achieving teens cheated because it "didn't seem like a big deal." Once one gets past the moral issues, cheating appears to have a favorable cost-benefit balance; 90 percent of respondents to the Who's Who survey who admitted cheating said they had never been caught.


Timing Is Everything: Should School Board Elections Be Moved to Coincide With November Voting?

Fall 2010 • Volume 8 • Issue 3

By law and tradition, New York citizens stride to the polls each May to elect or reelect school board members. Many other states similarly host spring ballots to select who sits on boards of education.

But turnout is chronically low, prompting critics to ask whether school elections are a meaningful democratic process. Turnout was14.2 percent in school elections statewide in May 2006, according to a study by the Local Government Education Committee, a municipal training organization based in Oneida County,N.Y. In the same year, 40 percent of eligible votersin New York State turned out to vote for governor,and 63 percent participated in 2004 voting for president.


Balancing act: How big should reserve funds be?

Spring  2010 • Volume 8 • Issue 2

In every budget season, school board members must do more than balance expenses with revenue. They must determine if the district is saving enough. It is never easy.

Indisputably, maintaining reserve funds is part of sound financial management, but school districts find criticism no matter how they handle them. To starve them is to gamble, to fund them modestly can violate accounting standards and risk lower bond ratings, and to fund them to the accounting profession's specifications would break state law and bring accusations of hoarding from politicians and special interest groups.


No thanks, Officer Krupke: Shutting down the school-to-prison pipeline

Winter  2009 • Volume 8 • Issue 1

 

More than 60,000 inmates - a population roughly the size of Schenectady - inhabit 67 correctional facilities within New York State. Many are individuals who first got in trouble when in school.

Research shows that a child who has been suspended or expelled is more likely to fall behind in school, be retained a grade, drop out of high school, commit a crime and become incarcerated as an adult. Critics say many students - often poor and from minority groups - are “pushed” into the criminal justice system in a phenomenon called “the school-to-prison pipeline.”

In studies of the relationship between school discipline and incarceration, school boards are usually cast in the role of the villain. Analysts say students’ downward spirals often begin with school districts’ zero tolerance policies and the suspensions and expulsions they trigger. Advocates for change in school discipline and juvenile justice say children are being denied their right to an education as a result of school and government policies and practices.


Teacher retirements: Education’s climate crisis?

Fall 2009 • Volume 7 • Issue 3 

More babies were born in 2007 than in any year in American history, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. A steady stream of births and waves of both legal and illegal immigrants promise to flood the nation’s schools at the same time that many baby boomer teachers retire, prompting many experts to predict a major teacher shortage for public schools. Shortages will be particularly acute in science, math, and other specialty subjects, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Special education and urban school districts are expected to suffer heavily.


Destination graduation: A growing challenge for school boards

Summer 2009 • Volume 7 • Issue 2 

From the time a child enters kindergarten, expectations for 13 years later are plain: the student must learn to read and write, become mathematically literate, comprehend what American citizenship requires, and demonstrate a level of mastery in both history and science. Such achievements are symbolized in a single piece of paper called a diploma.

Yet, three of every 10 children who enter kindergarten in the United States will not stroll to the clichéd salute of “Pomp and Circumstance,” nor clutch the coveted rolled parchment. For non-white children, about half will fail to graduate.


LGBTQ: Students’ sexual orientations raise legal and policy challenges

Spring 2009 • Volume 7 • Issue 1 

At the start of the 2008-09 school year, seventh-grade student Kaz Felix-Hawver walked into his Maryland middle school with a T-shirt that would cause.

It read: “Homosexuals, lesbians, bisexuals, gays, transgenders: All are cool with me.” controversy.


The four-day school week: A fuel’s paradise?

November 2008 • Volume 6 • Issue 3

With fuel and energy costs again devastating school budgets, districts around the nation are resurrecting the four-day school week, or considering that option for the first time.

Districts in New York State might be tempted by the idea. The 62 city school districts endure a constant cash crunch; suburban school districts strain with depleted dollars to save prized programs; and rural school systems incur higher fuel costs from long bus routes.


Professionalizing school board service

August 2008 • Volume 6 • Issue 2

As the 21st century unfolds, school board members face an escalating array of challenges that require them to make decisions about academic improvement strategies, long-range construction plans, legislative lobbying, investment and financial commitments, as well as delicate issues involving the management, training and deployment of personnel.

It’s a daunting list, and it raises questions about who is qualified to assume such a responsible, crucial role. After all, students, teachers and administrators are all being asked to meet higher standards of achievement or professional standards. What about school board members? What can be done to raise their quality and professionalism?

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