This is the third post in a series by guest bloggers who know first-hand the strengths and flaws of America's dominant form of education governance: the local school board. Each author will draw on their personal experiences to answer the question posed for the Board's Eye View Challenge: Can school boards improve schools?
Melanie Kurdys, who graduated from the University of Michigan with a BS in math and worked in Systems Development for IBM, AT&T, and Owens Corning Fiberglas, is a fulltime mom of three children, and has, for the last twenty years, lived and volunteered in schools in Michigan, Louisiana, Georgia, and California. She served on the Portage, Michigan, School Board from 2007-2011 and on the Portage Curriculum Committee from 2004-2006.
I was on my local school board, but lost my last election because I was part of a six to one majority that voted to pay off our superintendent to get her to leave before her contract expired.
A compulsory monopoly cannot be led, directed, bribed, or coerced into better performance.
When I started on the board, in 2007, I was in the minority, five to two. I am a fiscal conservative, strongly believe in using data to make decisions, and was relentless in my effort to show that the student achievement in our district was unacceptable—for hundreds of children every year and
On July 12, the South Carolina Board of Education decided to maintain the status quo at seven low-performing schools around the state, likely ensuring yet another school year marked by low achievement rates. The state board voted against a takeover or instituting any meaningful reforms of these chronically failing schools, abdicating its responsibility to ensure the best education for hundreds of children.
What these schools require are fundamental changes in school governance.
South Carolina is not alone in refusing to take bold action and intervene in lousy schools but its continual resistance to school-governance reform in the face of persistent low achievement indicates that a new model is needed in the Palmetto State.
The state school board did approve school improvement plans that include teacher evaluation (including, but not limited to, tying teacher employment and pay scales to student performance) and the consolidation and reorganization of schools. But these plans are merely a tweak to the status quo. The seven schools they apply to need more than tweaks—each received an “at-risk” grade for at least eight consecutive years. What they require are fundamental changes in school governance. Even members of the state board who voted for these reforms expressed doubt that those in charge will have much success turning these schools around: Member Barbara Clarke stated, “Yes, we’re making some gains [in our school report card]. But we’re not making all that much gain for the monies that’s being
One of the recurring themes at the recent Program on Education Policy and Governance conference on improving education was that the more you expand the franchise (i.e. allow people to vote), the better the education. Good education seems to be one of the first things people with voting power demand.
Good education seems to be one of the first things people with voting power demand.
This is why I tend to see America’s current education free-fall as a sign of a diminished democracy as much as it is a pedagogical failure. And this is why a fight in East Ramapo Central School District, a growing suburb of New York City (just twenty miles north of Manhattan), is so fascinating.
As the New York Times’ Peter Applebome describes it in Saturday’s paper, Orthodox Jews have taken over the district’s school board (they have seven of nine seats). The problem? Eighty-five percent of the students in the district schools are black or Hispanic. Even worse, reports Applebome, most of the Jews in the district send their children to private schools (where the enrollment is 19,000, compared to 8,000 students in the public schools).
Not surprisingly, a group called Padres Unidos has petitioned the State Education Department to remove the Jewish board members and, also not surprisingly, Ramapo board president David Schwartz called the group, in Applebome’s words, “chronic complainers.” The cultural, ethnic, and socio-economic divide problem is complicated by finance questions. Not only has
This post is part of a series by guest bloggers who know first-hand the strengths and flaws of America's dominant form of education governance: the local school board. Each author will draw on their personal experiences to answer the question posed for the Board's Eye View Challenge: Can school boards improve schools?
Guest blogger Dee Selvaggi served on the Matawan-Aberdeen (NJ) Regional School District board from 1990--1991, attended board meetings in the Holmdel (NJ) Township School District from 1991-1998 (as a parent), coordinating over 200 volunteers for the district’s Operation Get Out the Vote initiative and serving on multi-year district committees. She also coordinated a statewide (NJ) information network for board members and parents and engaged in advocacy as an individual at state board of education meetings and legislative hearings. She also served on the Monmouth Academy Board of Trustees, Howell, NJ, from 2005-2008.
What’s it like, trying to improve schools from the inside?
Perplexing, frustrating, and exhausting. Yes, I’ve taken on issues, but the idea of “winning” seems elusive—you’re defeated either by blatant digging-in-of-heels by opponents or by quiet subterfuge. Thus, I’m inclined to pass on an analogy made by a former board colleague, who said it was like walking on a beach and leaving footprints which are then washed away by the waves.
What’s it like, trying to improve schools from the
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About the Editor
Peter Meyer is an adjunct fellow with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Since 1991, Meyer has focused his attentions on education reform in the United States, an interest joined while writing a profile of education reformer E.D. Hirsch for Life. Meyer subsequently helped found a charter school, served on his local Board of Education (twice) and, for the last eight years, has been an editor at Education Next.
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