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February 8, 2012
AASA News of the Nation

Hot TopicsLeadership Matters
Superintendents in the NewsAASA News


  Hot Topics 


The Case for Partisanship in Rewriting ESEA
Education Week, Jan. 31
BETHESDA, Md. -- Why are Democrats wringing their hands over news from Washington that the Republicans are considering writing a GOP-only version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization? That is the question from Marcus Weaver-Hightower, an associate professor of educational foundations and research at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. Weaver-Hightower, a specialist in educational politics and policy, writes that there is fear afoot that partisanship will crush any attempt to update the controversial act, better known as No Child Left Behind. ‘To which I say: Bring on the games. Yes, bring on the partisanship. Maybe that way we'll finally see some real ideas for improving education that don't rely on testing kids into the ground,’ says the professor. ‘While partisanship has become a dirty word in political debate . . . the absence of partisan debate is not always the same thing as the achievement of moderation, or neutrality, or even compromise. Sometimes the lack of partisan politics is a sign of political capitulation.’

New Success Story: Lee's Summit School District
In 2006, David McGehee, new superintendent in the Lee's Summit School District, immediately helped lead an effort to take advantage of the significant senior population in Lee Summit by offering an innovative way of engaging them. The result is a group of enthusiastic and supportive community members who champion the school district's progress. Read story here. Submit your story here.

Texas Schools Chief: Testing Has Gone Too Far
The Texas Tribune, Jan. 31
AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas Education Agency Commissioner Robert Scott says he is frustrated and feels complicit in the state’s public schools testing system. Addressing 4,000 officials at a meeting of the Texas Association of School Administrators, he said testing and accountability in the Lone Star State has become a ‘perversion of its original intent’ and he looks forward to ‘reeling it back in.’ The words were Scott’s most forceful on the topic since the last legislative session, when lawmakers slashed funds for public schools by $4 billion. The cuts have spurred at least four lawsuits against the state from school districts arguing they have not received enough money to meet increasingly high state accountability standards. The cuts also come as Texas is rolling out a tough new student assessment system in the spring. ‘We have a huge opportunity to move kids farther and better than we ever thought possible,’ Scott said to applause. ‘And I do not want to blow that opportunity.’

Can GE Help Bring Common Core Standards to Life?
Time, Feb. 1
NEW YORK -- Corporate giant General Electric Co. has taken an $18 million jump into education reform with that donation to support state implementation of the new Common Core standards and to train teachers how to use them. Andrew Rotherham writes in Time Magazine that the company is thus taking a controversial stand on school reform. ‘It is sure to set off alarm bells among critics of education reform who worry that too many companies are trying to treat school productivity like a business problem,’ says Rotherham. ‘But the truth is the GE gift is a reminder of how rare meaningful corporate involvement actually is.’ The Common Core standards are the shared voluntary academic standards for elementary and secondary schools that 46 states have agreed to adopt. Because the standards will be shared across states — unlike the state-by-state standards currently in place — they should also help focus efforts to train teachers, support students, and measure student learning, according to the article.

John Kuhn on Education Funding in Texas: There is a Hole in the Bucket
Education Week, Jan. 30
PERRIN, Texas -- In 2006, legislators in the great state of Texas, ‘that beacon of compassion for the unfortunate,’ planted into statute a creation called the ‘Target Revenue System,’ blogs Superintendent John Kuhn of the Perrin-Whitt schools district here. Under TRS, writes, Kuhn, each of the state’s 1,029 or so school districts was assigned a dollar amount as its full share of state and local revenue. No more, no less. But, he adds, since schools in wealthier areas were accustomed to a certain standard of living, legislators decided they couldn't very well fund them at the same rate ‘as those unfortunate suckers in border towns, inner cities, or fading farm towns.’ So, different districts got different Target Revenues, which to this day differ. Kuhn charges: ‘In essence, some of Sam Houston's children get a higher allowance than others, depending of course on how black they are.’ And, it follows, the wagon’s wheels are falling off in some districts.

   Leadership Matters 


Florida Parent Trigger Bills Would Allow Parents To Fire Teachers, Turn Schools To Charters
Huffington Post, Jan. 30
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. –- Controversy is growing over bills introduced in the Florida legislature that would give parents power to demand sweeping changes at low-performing schools. One would allow parents to petition to fire school staff, have the principal replaced or have a charter school operator take over. Another would conversely require elementary school teachers to grade parents on involvement in issues like communication and student absence and tardiness rates. ‘The full intent . . . is to get parents engaged and involved in the turnaround process," said Republican State Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto of the first bill. But critics are speaking out. ‘This isn't about empowering parents,’ Mindy Gould, legislative chair for the Florida Parent Teacher Association, told The Miami Herald. ‘This is about handing over the neighborhood school to a private, for-profit corporation.’ Parent trigger laws exist in California, Texas and Mississippi. Some 20 other states have debated such legislation.

The Test Score Hypothesis
Education Next, Feb. 1
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Boosting America in the world via the use of standardized testing of public school students is a very valid hypothesis, no matter the controversy that it has drawn over school reform, according to nationally-prominent education analyst Michael Petrilli. ‘Is stronger academic performance related to better life outcomes for kids and better economic outcomes for nations?’ he asks in an online article on Education Next. ‘In a word: yes.’ Petrilli adds that a recent study on economics of the issue also demonstrated the importance of teacher effectiveness in the testing mix. ‘They (teachers) also have an unusual effect on the likelihood of students going to college, going to a good college, earning a good living, living in a nice place, and saving for retirement,’ he writes. ‘In other words, whatever the limitations of standardized tests may be, test-based value-added scores do, in fact, provide valuable information about the things most people care most about.’

Climate Change Debate Brewing in American Classrooms
Wall Street Journal, Jan. 27
WASHINGTON -- Climate change is becoming the new battleground in public school science education in the United States, according to a report by Oregon Public Broadcasting. It doesn’t have the religious implications of evolution vs. creationism, but has prompted state legislatures and local school boards to get involved. State boards of education in Texas and Louisiana have established standards to require presentation of climate change denial as a valid scientific position. Legislators in Tennessee, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Kentucky have drawn up bills to mandate equal classroom time for climate change skeptics. Resistance to climate change is greater in the South and regions where ‘livelihoods have been built on extractive industries’ of fossil fuels, notes the Los Angeles Times. The fight is just beginning, since new national science standards for grades K-12 are due late this year and are expected to include climate change. That’s likely to increase resistance at local and state levels in some areas. The legal fight will then surely intensify.

Erin Brockovich Reps Ordered Off LeRoy School Grounds
Democrat and Chronicle, Jan. 29
ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Accusing representatives of environmental crusader Erin Brockovich of ‘grandstanding,’ officials of LeRoy Junior-Senior High School ordered them off school grounds along with a group of reporters. It came in an episode connected to a cluster of students there with unusual neurological symptoms. Brockovich earlier had said she would have a representative in the Genesee County town to collect soil samples. No one was arrested, but a statement from the LeRoy Central School District denounced the sample collection as ‘grandstanding’ and said any samples gathered would have ‘no scientific value.’ In its statement, the district said it summoned police because the presence of the sample collector and TV crews was disrupting a planned musical event involving students from 22 schools. The encounter reflected growing attention by environmental and health groups and national media to some students exhibiting tics, twitches, verbal outbursts and other symptoms sometimes associated with Tourette's syndrome.

   Superintendents in the News 


Tight Budgets Put Some Superintendents on Part-Time Status
Education Week, Jan. 31
BETHESDA, Md. -- A growing number of America’s smaller school districts are hiring part-time superintendents, sharing superintendents with neighbors, or having those leaders also serve as principals. ‘When times are tight fiscally, you look at all opportunities to maximize your money,’ according to Dan Ernst, a senior executive in Nebraska’s Council of School Administrators. Arrangements in which district chiefs perform double duty are not new, says Executive Director Daniel Domenech of the American Association of School Administrators. What is new, he adds, is the trend of districts toward shared leadership because of budget pressure. Such partnerships, Domenech warns, may face a bumpier road because the step is new and may not even be a best option. ‘It's not for all districts, it's not for all boards, and it's not for all superintendents,’ says Bill Fisher, who for four years has served as superintendent(s) of Wisconsin’s 375-student Elcho district and 213-student White Lake district. ‘You do save money, but you have to give up some things.’

Firm Won't Hold Stakeholder Session Prior to Superintendent Search
Fort Lee Patch, Jan. 30
FORT LEE, N.J. -- Despite concern voiced by some parents and town residents, the Fort Lee Board of Education says a firm hired to help pick the district’s new school superintendent will not hold public meetings. ‘They always had open meetings where you could come some night and talk about the qualifications or what you think the vision should be and contribute to the process,’ said Fort Lee resident and parent Paula Colbath. ‘But [the board] went out of their way to eliminate that.’ Board president Arthur Levine said, however, that the board had already taken broad public comment. ‘We heard what the public had to say,’ he said in response to complaints that an offer by the firm Leadership Advantage to meet with ‘stakeholders’ was erased using whiteout. But Colbath said it’s not just public input that she’s concerned about, but that of groups like the PTA, teachers and administrators who have to work directly with the superintendent.

Pritchett Talks Superintendent Search
The Notebook, Jan. 30
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. -- The city’s School Reform Commission intends to cast a wide net in order to snag the right new school superintendent, according to Commissioner and Search Committee Chairman Wendell Pritchett. But in a detailed interview with The Notebook, he made clear that he is looking for candidates who will embrace existing district initiatives --Renaissance Schools, the facilities master plan, and the Great Schools Compact -- that have already begun reshaping public education in Philadelphia. ‘We have lots of different kinds of schools. That’s the world we live in,’ Pritchett stressed. ‘And so the next superintendent is going to have to . . . help us manage, understand, and move forward with a portfolio of schools.’ The committee is beginning with a series of community forums convened by the United Way and facilitated by the Penn Project for Civic Engagement. The committee wants feedback and names of potential candidates from parents, students, teachers, business leaders, and others.

Oshkosh School Board Searching for New Superintendent
Post Crescent, Jan. 30
OSHKOSH, Wis. -- The Oshkosh school board has begun its search for a new superintendent and is likely to wind up recruiting its own candidate rather than choosing from a pool of applicants, according to a specialist with an education search firm. The board has held meetings with Senior Associate Bill Attea of Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates to discuss the parameters for the search as well as ways to improve the retention of district administrators. The board has not yet hired the Illinois-based firm in its quest for someone to replace departing Superintendent Don Viegut. But Attea advised that members must decide on qualifications and how wide a net it will cast. ‘I encourage boards . . . not to worry about the number but to worry about the quality (of candidates),’ he said. ‘My hunch is that with your next superintendent you have a 60 to 80 percent chance that he or she is going to be recruited rather than come from an applicant pool.’

  AASA News 

One Week Left! Build Your Network at the National Conference on Education in Houston
Tip of the week from the National Conference on Education. A robust set of contacts gets you better connected — networking, collaborating, and sharing ideas with peers facing similar challenges delivers a wealth of knowledge and new ideas. Last chance to register!
Don't forget! The Conference Daily Online
The Conference Daily Online site is updated each day at the AASA National Conference on Education. Its purpose is to provide an individual and unique outlook on the various conference proceedings at the National Conference on Education. Includes coverage of four days of key speakers, award winners and AASA governance activities, plus photo and video galleries, of the national conference. It is also an outlet for AASA members to share their conference experiences. The live coverage will be available online starting Feb. 14, 2012.
We Give Books Campaign
The Pearson Foundation will launch "Read for My School," a special month-long We Give Books campaign on Feb. 14 and continue through March 14. Through this campaign, We Give Books is donating 150,000 new children’s books to public elementary schools. Your members’ schools can earn up to 500 brand new books for FREE! For every book read on behalf of a school, that school will receive one new book. After a school has earned 500 books, readers can assist other schools in meeting their goal. Books can be given to any public elementary school in the United States and its territories. Go to the We Give Books website to learn more and to pre-register at
AASA Offering Professional Learning Around Strategic Compensation to help school leaders build understanding around strategic compensation as an educational-improvement strategy and provide districts that are considering these reforms with a framework to inform discussion and guide the implementation of a compensation model that works to advance their improvement goals. More ...
School Success for at-Risk Kids
Innovative work around the country is highlighted as part of a series of brief articles in the American Psychological Association's February 2012 Monitor. The Center at UCLA's framework for a unified and comprehensive system to address barriers to learning and teaching and re-engage disconnected students is highlighted in the article entitled "Helping at-risk students succeed." The description of the UCLA work underscores examples of efforts at state departments of education and in districts and notes the Center's collaborations with Scholastic, the American Association of School Administrators and the National Association of School Psychologists.
AASA Magazine Announces Upcoming Themes
School Administrator magazine has released its editorial calendar for the second half of 2012. These are the themes that will be explored in those issues.
  • August: Strategic Staffing and Dropout Prevention
  • September: Global Connections and International Baccalaureate Program
  • October: Religion in the Schoolhouse
  • November: Family Dynamics of the Superintendency
  • December: Common Core Standards The editors welcome story ideas and manuscript drafts for any of these themes. Keep in mind that decisions about major articles are completed six months in advance of the publication date. Contact
  • School Administrator's February issue focuses on 1-to-1 laptop initiatives. Mark Edwards, a pioneer in the area, promotes a fundamental rethinking of teaching and learning to successfully implement a program. Our coverage also includes an in-depth look at how districts are financing laptop initiatives and the surprises you may encounter during the startup of a 1-to-1 program. In addition, AASA Executive Director Dan Domenech outlines what AASA is doing to provide direct support for school-age children in need. Members can expect to receive the print edition in the mail in mid-February.

    AASA Media Center

    Educating the Total Child Gets Animated

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    Support Our Youth from Cradle to Career
    What if over the course of 21 years all the individuals, services and systems that support youth from cradle to career worked together toward a common, big-picture goal? Watch this video to learn about an idea, a call to action and a set of strategies and recommendations that school leaders can use to ensure that children and youth will be Ready by 21:

    • Ready to succeed academically
    • Ready for a productive career
    • Ready to navigate life’s challenges with resilience

    View video here [2:40]. Read additional information about the Ready by 21 National Partnership.


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