Posted by Naj Alikhan, Wednesday, May 24th, 2017 @ 11:17am
Today, President Trump released his Fiscal Year 2018 budget. More than $10 billion in cuts to education are proposed while investing $1 billion to create a new choice program.
Now more than ever the nation’s ability to remain a global economic, democratic and moral leadership depends on world-class public schools. The Trump Administration's plan to decimate federal investments in teachers and school leaders, high-quality early learning programs, career, and technical education initiatives, and other critically needed educational opportunities will harm students, families and entire communities.
NASS strongly urges Congress to reject this approach and make the investments needed to prepare every student for success after graduation. Working together, local, state and federal leaders can make a difference for economically struggling communities, but that collaboration must include an unparalleled commitment to equipping all students with the knowledge and skills required for academic, career, and life success.
We look forward to working with superintendents throughout the country to reverse these draconian cuts to our students, teachers and school leaders. NASS is offering a federal advocacy event as part of the 2017 NASS Leadership Conference. The conference is scheduled for October 1-3 in Washington D.C. with a day at the U.S. Capitol scheduled for October 3. The visit to Capitol Hill will include face-to-face meetings with key federal lawmakers, providing an opportunity for educators to advocate on issues impacting education locally and nationally.
To register for the advocacy event, go to NASS.us.
Posted by Naj Alikhan, Thursday, March 16th, 2017 @ 4:02pm
The Trump Administration has released an abridged version of the president’s Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Request. President Trump asked for a significant decrease ($9 billion or 13%) in the U.S. Department of Education’s budget, but the document does not describe in detail exactly how every program would be addressed. The full budget will be released in April or May.
This budget is not likely, as currently crafted, to be approved by Congress. Appropriations measures are subject to the filibuster in the Senate and therefore the president would need to secure 60 votes, including 8 Democrats, to secure passage of any spending bills. Nonetheless, it is instructive to review the request to better understand the administration’s spending priorities. The budget request as it currently stands, includes the following allocations for the U.S. Department of Education:
• U.S. Department of Education Aggregate - $59 billion ($9 billion less than the current continuing resolution)
• School Choice Initiatives - $1.4 billion increase, including $168 million for the Charter Schools Program; $250 million for a new private school choice program; and $1 billion increase for Title I with the goal to encourage school districts to adopt open enrollment models and funding portability systems.
• IDEA - $13 billion (level funding)
• ESSA Title II - $0 ($2.4 billion decrease)
• 21st Century Community Learning Centers - $0 ($1.2 billion decrease)
• GEAR UP - $219 million ($104 million decrease)
• TRIO - $808 million ($92 million decrease)
• The proposed budget also eliminates 20 other categorical programs. The document does not specify the full list of target programs, but does reference Striving Readers (~$190 million in FY2016), Teacher Quality Partnership (~$43 million in FY2016), Impact Aid Support Payments for Federal Property (~$66.8 million in FY2016), and International Education programs (~$72 million in FY2016).
We will continue seeking additional information on the administration’s plans. As has been the practice in recent years, we do not expect the budget to move through the full process until at least the end of the year, but the Senate and House appropriations committees will be busy working on it during the coming weeks and months.
Posted by Naj Alikhan, Tuesday, March 7th, 2017 @ 3:19pm
The National Association of School Superintendents is beginning the search for a National Superintendent of the Year in 2017.
“We had two incredible education leaders win the award in 2016,” said Dr. David Brown, NASS Executive Director. “This year we are searching for a student and community advocate that puts students first in terms of equity, proficiency, and college and career readiness.”
The 2016 winners of the National Superintendent of the Year award were Dr. Timothy Pernell of Somerville Public Schools in New Jersey and Dr. Cedric Gray of Jackson Public Schools in Mississippi. Past winners include Virginia superintendent Katrise Perera, Colorado superintendent Don Haddad, and Wisconsin superintendent Mike Richie.
Nominees for the award must possess important leadership skills, including evidence of productive innovations, effective communications, demonstrated success with student-growth; integrity in service, models of relationship building for the entire school district, as well as positive leadership with equity and social justice.
Although candidates may self-nominate, we are looking primarily for peer recommendations. A committee of five superintendents has been assembled to review the submissions and recommendations.
“Leadership is incredibly important as we see public education evolving nationwide,” Brown said. “It’s important that we recognize the educators who focus their attention on all students.”
Applications are due April 25, 2017. Click the attached PDF for nomination materials. The award winner will be announced May 15, 2017.
Posted by Naj Alikhan, Tuesday, February 21st, 2017 @ 12:39pm
NASS members are working closely with state leaders to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) by the next school year, with a focus on using the law as powerful tool for promoting educational equity. As this critically important local leadership unfolds across the country, Congress’s pending action to eliminate the entirety of the ESSA accountability, state planning, and data reporting regulations raises concerns.
We appreciate Secretary DeVos’ encouragement for states to “continue their work in engaging with stakeholders and developing their [ESSA consolidated] plans…” but urge Congress and the Department to work with superintendents and other stakeholders to develop targeted ESSA regulatory improvements, rather than completely eliminating the accountability, state planning, and data reporting regulations approved in November 2016.
NASS strongly supports superintendents’ efforts to use ESSA’s flexibility and resources to implement local innovations aimed at improving outcomes for all students. This work is consistent with NASS’s recently launched “Leadership for Social Justice Certification” initiative that will begin in October, 2017 and our commitment to preparing all students for success after graduation.
Posted by Naj Alikhan, Tuesday, February 21st, 2017 @ 12:02pm
The Internal Revenue Service, state tax agencies and the tax industry issued an urgent alert today to all employers that the Form W-2 email phishing scam has evolved beyond the corporate world and is spreading to other sectors, including school districts, tribal organizations and nonprofits.
In a related development, the W-2 scammers are coupling their efforts to steal employee W-2 information with an older scheme on wire transfers that is victimizing some organizations twice.
“This is one of the most dangerous email phishing scams we’ve seen in a long time. It can result in the large-scale theft of sensitive data that criminals can use to commit various crimes, including filing fraudulent tax returns. We need everyone’s help to turn the tide against this scheme,’’ said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.
When employers report W-2 thefts immediately to the IRS, the agency can take steps to help protect employees from tax-related identity theft. The IRS, state tax agencies and the tax industry, working together as the Security Summit, have enacted numerous safeguards in 2016 and 2017 to identify fraudulent returns filed through scams like this. As the Summit partners make progress, cybercriminals need more data to mimic real tax returns.
Here’s how the scam works: Cybercriminals use various spoofing techniques to disguise an email to make it appear as if it is from an organization executive. The email is sent to an employee in the payroll or human resources departments, requesting a list of all employees and their Forms W-2. This scam is sometimes referred to as business email compromise (BEC) or business email spoofing (BES).
The Security Summit partners urge all employers to be vigilant. The W-2 scam, which first appeared last year, is circulating earlier in the tax season and to a broader cross-section of organizations, including school districts, tribal casinos, chain restaurants, temporary staffing agencies, healthcare and shipping and freight. Those businesses that received the scam email last year also are reportedly receiving it again this year.
Security Summit partners warned of this scam’s reappearance last week but have seen an upswing in reports in recent days.
New Twist to W-2 Scam: Companies Also Being Asked to Wire Money
In the latest twist, the cybercriminal follows up with an “executive” email to the payroll or comptroller and asks that a wire transfer also be made to a certain account. Although not tax related, the wire transfer scam is being coupled with the W-2 scam email, and some companies have lost both employees’ W-2s and thousands of dollars due to wire transfers.
The IRS, states and tax industry urge all employers to share information with their payroll, finance and human resources employees about this W-2 and wire transfer scam. Employers should consider creating an internal policy, if one is lacking, on the distribution of employee W-2 information and conducting wire transfers.
Steps Employers Can Take If They See the W-2 Scam
Organizations receiving a W-2 scam email should forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org and place “W2 Scam” in the subject line. Organizations that receive the scams or fall victim to them should file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3,) operated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Employees whose Forms W-2 have been stolen should review the recommended actions by the Federal Trade Commission at www.identitytheft.gov or the IRS at www.irs.gov/identitytheft.
Employees should file a Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit, if the employee’s own tax return rejects because of a duplicate Social Security number or if instructed to do so by the IRS.
The W-2 scam is just one of several new variations that have appeared in the past year that focus on the large-scale thefts of sensitive tax information from tax preparers, businesses and payroll companies. Individual taxpayers also can be targets of phishing scams, but cybercriminals seem to have evolved their tactics to focus on mass data thefts.
Be Safe Online
In addition to avoiding email scams during the tax season, taxpayers and tax preparers should be leery of using search engines to find technical help with taxes or tax software. Selecting the wrong “tech support” link could lead to a loss of data or an infected computer. Also, software “tech support” will not call users randomly. This is a scam.
Taxpayers searching for a paid tax professional for tax help can use the IRS Choosing a Tax Professional lookup tool or if taxpayers need free help can review the Free Tax Return Preparation Programs. Taxpayers searching for tax software can use Free File, which offers 12 brand-name products for free, at www.irs.gov/freefile. Taxpayer or tax preparers looking for tech support for their software products should go directly to the provider’s web page.
Tax professionals also should beware of ongoing scams related to IRS e-Services. Thieves are trying to use IRS efforts to make e-Services more secure to send emails asking e-Services users to update their accounts. Their objective is to steal e-Services users’ credentials to access these important services.
Posted by TONY BALDWIN, Thursday, December 15th, 2016 @ 11:51am
Superintendents from nearly 30 states have returned to work with new tools and support following the 2016 National Association of School Superintendents’ Leadership Conference in San Diego.
“This was a very powerful event,” said David Brown, NASS Executive Director. “Bringing together educators with diverse backgrounds into one room to learn from each other and our guest speakers was an opportunity very few student advocates get to be part of.”
Attendees listened to several guest speakers, including Wisconsin superintendent Joe Sanfelippo talking about building a district and personal brand, Sir Ken Robinson on the status of education, Linda Darling-Hammond on the teacher shortage, as well as Maryland superintendent Dr. Dallas Dance on how to impact district culture.
“In the absence of knowledge, people come to their own conclusions,” Sanfelippo told conference attendees. “Superintendents need to think about their story, their district’s story and how we move that into our communities.”
Robinson talked about the testing culture in our educational system.
“We have kids who want to learn and have problems being educated and it’s not the teachers or students that are the problem, it’s the system,” Robinson said. “The focus isn’t on teacher learning, it’s on testing and e can’t improve education is we keep testing our way out of it.”
Also included were panel discussions on successful school board relations and superintendents career readiness, as well as workshops on thinking patterns, and a Strategic Focus on Influencing Student Outcomes through Innovative Community Partnerships.
“The content has been incredibly impressive, especially when you think about how it can immediately help our members,” said Dr. Sonny Da Marto, NASS Assistant Executive Director. “I think our members will understand the NASS strategy, which is to provide valuable resources.”
The NASS Executive Committee met on day two of the event and approved former ACSA President Tom Armelino as the new NASS President. Pennsylvania educator Jim Capolupo was selected as Executive Committee chairman.
“I see a lot of potential with this organization,” Armelino said. “When you have the opportunity to share among the country’s educational thought leaders, you gain a greater respect for the successes we have and the challenges we face.”
Board members are currently in the planning stages for the 2017 Leadership Conference as they seek to increase membership and strengthen the nationwide reach of NASS. All ACSA members with “superintendent” in their job title also receive a free membership to NASS.
Posted by Naj Alikhan, Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016 @ 11:56am
Timothy Purnell, Superintendent of Somerville Public Schools in New Jersey, and Cedrick Gray, Superintendent of Jackson Public Schools in Mississippi, have been named Superintendents of the Year by the National Association of School Superintendents.
“Leadership is incredibly important as we see public education evolving nationwide,” said David Brown, NASS Executive Director. “Schools serve as the focal point of thousands of communities nationwide and we need educators that have put programs in place to put students first.”
Purnell is considered an erudite leader engaged in developing educators and initiatives to meet the needs of all public school students.
In order to promote stakeholder involvement, Purnell started #allin4theVille on Twitter and he hosts an annual Super's Bowl Community Investment Day to celebrate partnerships and bring the community together as one.
As a means of providing school leaders with statistical data to drive instruction and educational decisions, Purnell has implemented "Purpose-Driven Walkthroughs.” These walkthroughs assess the leader's progress towards achieving their "Wildly Important Goals" (WIGs). Stakeholders can visit the District Dashboard from the district homepage, which displays gauges that measure building progress towards each of the WIGs.
Another prominent achievement is the 3DPD, a three-dimensional professional development program. This professional development program is designed for teachers by teachers and features modeling of exceptional practices by in-district teachers.
“Classroom educators can share classroom best practices by uploading videos on a private channel,” Purnell said. “This portal allows teachers round-the-clock access to professional development.”
Purnell believes continuous education for his teachers, as well as recognizing the hard work of his employees, is incredibly important.
In order to meet the needs of all students in grades nine through twelve, the district launched a separate non-traditional, competency-based high school where students begin their day at 9:30 am with breakfast and educational experiences in a blended environment. The program is hallmarked by opportunities for credit recovery and graduation on a rolling basis.
Purnell also believes in providing students with opportunities to apply learning through real-world experiences as they plan for life after high school and college. A central focus of this experiential learning is to provide at-risk students with positive role roles; his approach pairs students with school and community members to support and mentor them.
He credits his wonderful team for the successes of his district.
“This award isn’t about me, it’s about the work of everyone in my district,” he said. “Ideas are great, but every great idea requires strategic implementation. For that, you need to #getoffyourisland and collaborate with stakeholders and community organizations. Public schools need to partner with outside agencies to assist in providing the optimal learning experience for every child."
Dr. Gray mantra of "Building Stronger Schools Together" has taken the Jackson Public School District to new heights. He is widely praised for leadership and guidance that have revived the district and given it a new focus. He’s known for an innovative and effective strategic direction process: "Wearing WIGs (Wildly Important Goals), having FITs (Focused Instructional Teams), and saying ABCs (Attendance, Behavior, Coursework)," which applies a research-based focus to school improvement and student achievement.
Despite a high level of poverty in the district, his innovative approach to instruction is credited for increasing the number of high-performing and successful schools in the District with 5 designated in the top 10 percent in the State.
“I have understood the value of good relationships and the impact of having high quality, loyal professionals on your team,” Gray said in discussing collaboration with teachers, administrators, parents and members of the community. “The superintendent can’t always be the smartest person in the room. Good people that are committed and loyal are essential.”
Under his leadership, the district’s state and national accreditation status has been restored to “accredited” and “in good standing”. His approach to instruction is credited for increasing the number of high performing and successful schools in the district, with five designated in the top 10 percent in the state. The district is enjoying its first-ever 1:1 digital initiative, providing high school students with a laptop computer and/or access to personal computing devices. He was pivotal in establishing a citywide collaborative effort to improve educational opportunities.
Gray also understands the importance of district operations. Under his direction, there have been numerous improvements, including district email migration to the “cloud”, the Food Service department received federal recognition for all 38 elementary schools, money saving green maintenance and energy management programs, as well as the hiring of 450 new certified teachers.
In addition, the district converted to online student registration for the first and Jackson’s operational and instructional management developed the district’s first-ever Balanced Score Card to showcase these achievements.
His love for students has been readily apparent. Students in Jackson Public Schools now have opportunities for their voices to be heard, with a Student Board of Trustees, a Student Gallup Poll and an exit survey of high school seniors for their feedback. The inaugural student board helped craft the district’s first ever “Cell Phone” Policy which allows digital technology on high school campuses with responsible use.
“Today’s superintendent is a motivator, innovator, and visionary responsible for district progress, community engagement, positive board relations, as well as district employee morale and scholar academic performance and achievement,” he said. “Oftentimes we are also a counselor, doctor, pastor, legislative aide, and statesmen. We have to be truly multifaceted.”
The Lexington Institute, a not-for-profit public policy think tank focused on education reform, has announced 10 new members who will join the third cohort of personalized learning fellows. Based on the success of the leaders in the first and second cohorts. Lexington opened applications for a third cohort of 10 in February. These 10 leaders were selected from a highly competitive field of applicants.
Jill Gildea, NASS Executive Committee member and Superintendent of Fremont 79 School District in Illinois, is one of the 10 new members.
The LELA fellowship is an exciting and highly selective 6-month program designed to expose district leaders to personalized learning and facilitate the first steps to implementation. The first and second cohorts of 10 fellows each represented leaders from districts across the country including UT, IA, NE, NJ, CA among others. (For a reflection from a current LELA fellow, see here). The members of the third cohort will both join this distinguished group of district leaders and benefit from the experience of those in the first two cohorts. The 9 other fellowship winners are: Donald R Bavis (Marion Central School District, NY), Scott Todd Feder (Millstone Township School District, NJ), Jill Gildea (Fremont School District 79, IL), Alicia Henderson (Bellevue Union School District, CA), Dr. Brian Lane (Mehlville School District, MO), Dan Lawson (Tullahoma City Schools, TN), Irene Parisi (Greenwich Public Schools, CT), Tara Paul (Estherville Lincoln Central CSD, IA), Quiauna Scott, Ed.D (New Haven Unified School District, CT) and Chris Summers (West Oso ISD, TX).
“The LELA fellows in the first two cohorts have gone on to make substantial strides in personalized learning. We are so excited to welcome these 10 distinguished leaders into the third cohort.” said Don Soifer, Executive Director of the Lexington Institute. “Every application we received was impressive and this group of fellows even more so. It is wonderful to see the commitment to supporting student learning expressed by every leader. We’re excited to see how these leaders develop with the intensive support provided by the fellowship.”
“The LELA fellowship gave me and my district a unique opportunity to develop a strong personalized learning vision for District 197. Exchanging ideas and learning with other superintendents and fellowship mentors made the experience especially valuable. These are all people with whom I will continue to share ideas and from whom I will continue to learn.” said Nancy Allen-Mastro, Superintendent of ISD 197 in Minnesota and a member of the first cohort of LELA fellows.
Irene Parisi, a member of the third cohort and Assistant Superintendent of the Greenwich school district in Connecticut noted, "I decided to pursue the LELA fellowship as I felt it was a great networking opportunity for Greenwich; not only to share the incredible work we have accomplished, but also to learn from other district leaders across the country. It is refreshing to know that district leaders experienced with personalized learning serve as mentors to the fellows furthering the adult learning opportunities. The practical application in schools help any district to move forward and re-imagine their district. I am very excited and honored to be accepted into the LELA Fellowship. I expect the learning and relationships to be long-lasting."
The 10 fellows of the third cohort will join the Lexington Institute at the Personalized Learning Summit in San Francisco this month and will participate in a specialized track and special networking opportunities. They will also spend six months learning from each other and receiving support from Education Elements, the personalized learning consulting organization selected by the Lexington Institute to provide technical assistance and work closely with each of the fellows on articulating their vision for personalized learning and developing a strategic framework for a district implementation.
“Education Elements has provided excellent support to the first and second cohorts by acting as mentors, guides and facilitators, and helping each of them to move forward with personalized learning. We are fortunate to be able to work with them again,” said Soifer.
“Working with the first two cohorts of the LELA fellowship has been terrific. It is wonderful to see all the progress each leader made during their fellowship and to look at how far the first cohort has come since graduating in October,,” said Amy Jenkins, who supported the LELA fellowship at Education Elements. “We have learned a tremendous amount from each district leader and we are honored to be selected to work with the next cohort.”
The ten district leaders included in the each of the first two cohorts end the fellowship having made significant leaps from where they started. Not only does each district has a clearer vision for personalized learning, but many districts have laid the groundwork for school and district-wide implementations, considered how to support teachers and leaders, and begun the process of thinking about classroom designs and digital content selection. Equally important, the fellows in each cohort have developed a strong network of like-minded colleagues and keep in touch and continue to share with, and learn from, one another.
Applications for the next class of LELA fellows will open in Fall 2016. Please email lela(at)lexingtoninstitute(dot)org to be notified when applications are open.
About Lexington Institute: The Lexington Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy think headquartered in Arlington, Virginia. Founded in 1998, its major areas of focus include education, national security, energy and logistics. Please visit lexingtoninstitute.org/category/education/ to learn more.
About Education Elements: Education Elements is a nationally recognized company that helps districts develop and implement personalized learning strategies through its consulting services and personalized learning platform, Highlight. Education Elements' services help districts to create strategies, design instructional models and support teachers in integrating technology and instruction. Our platform, Highlight, provides students, teachers, and administrators each with a single entry point to access digital content and the actionable data they need to guide instruction and learning. This innovative cloud service offers simple and accessible data visualizations with insights for users of all types.
Education Elements has worked with more than 300 schools in more than 50 districts.
Posted by Naj Alikhan, Thursday, April 28th, 2016 @ 3:22pm
Boston, MA- Dr. Reza Namin, former Westbrook School Superintendent has been recognized as the 2016 Outstanding Educator by the Massachusetts Coalition for Adult Education. Dr. Reza Namin is currently the Chief Academic Officer for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Office of the Sheriff. He served as the superintendent of schools in Westbrook, Maine, Spencer East Brookfield Regional School and Ralph C. Mahar Regional School District in Massachusetts. The award will be presented during the MCAE Award Luncheon at the Network Conference on Friday May 13, 2016 at the Best Western Royal Plaza Hotel in Marlborough, Massachusetts. He is a resident of Old Orchard Beach and serving as the Chair of the Town of Old Orchard Beach Finance Committee.
Namin was among five education leaders in the United States who were the 2012 semifinalists for the National Superintendent of the Year by the National Association of School Superintendents (NASS). His impressive accomplishments including the Outstanding Achievements in the Field of Education- Worcester State University Alumni Award , 2011 National Superintendent of the Year Award Finalist, 2010 Maine Superintendent of the Year Nominee, and the recipient of the 2010 Maine Public Utilities Commission, Efficiency Maine’s Hastings Award.
Namin has also impressive athletic accomplishments including the 1991 NCAA New England Coach of the Year while serving as the Head Coach of Soccer at the Holy Cross College, inducted to the Worcester State University Athletic Hall of Fame, Second Team All American Soccer Player, and New England All Star Soccer Player. A former Professional Soccer Player who played for Boston and was drafted by the Dallas MLS Soccer Team. He is currently the Highest Scorer in the history of Worcester State University Soccer since 1984.
Dr. Namin has the Professional Certification as a School Superintendent (in Grades Pk-12) in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and New Jersey. He has a PhD in Math and Science Education with focus on Curriculum and Technology; Certificate of Advanced Studies in 3D Geometric Modeling from Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island; Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies in Leadership and Educational Administration, MEd and BS in Chemistry and Mathematics from Worcester State University, Worcester, Massachusetts. Dr. Namin completed his Post-Doctoral Studies in Leadership at Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Posted by Naj Alikhan, Monday, April 25th, 2016 @ 11:57am
Idaho Press-Tribune — Imagine a student sitting down one-on-one with a teacher to discuss the day’s lesson, except the day’s lesson is what the student has planned out for himself, not what the teacher would traditionally prepare.
Personalized learning driven by the student — that’s one potential aspect of an innovation school.
The Nampa School District is considering applying for two of its schools to be classified as “innovation schools” as defined by legislation signed into law March 30.
The “Local Innovation Schools Act” allows public schools to operate outside some state and district regulations to provide a more innovative learning environment for their students. This could look like a school using technological devices different than the rest of the district, not participating in traditional district assessments and teaching-based, non-traditional curriculum, according to assistant superintendent Nicole MacTavish.
“It’s part of a larger movement in Nampa to really lean into innovation,” MacTavish said.
The Nampa School District, the principal or superintendent and a majority of the teachers at the school applying to be an innovation school has to write up and sign an agreement with the district’s board of trustees and then submit it to the State Board of Education. The earliest the district can apply for one or several of its schools to be innovative schools is July 1.
Only 10 schools can be accepted by the State Board of Education as innovation schools per fiscal year according to the legislation.
While this application process is on a “first-come, first-served basis,” according to Blake Youde, spokesman for the State Board of Education, the board will make sure the district’s submitted agreement meets the legal requirements as described in the legislation.
The two schools the Nampa School District is considering for application to be innovation schools are Union High School, an alternative school, and a brand new school with the working name Empowerment High School.
EMPOWERMENT HIGH SCHOOL LEADS INNOVATION
The Nampa School District has tentatively drawn up plans for a new high school to be focused around leadership-based education where the students will impact their communities through projects. The projects will incorporate service and entrepreneurial elements which will provide the students opportunities to learn leadership skills.
Students will also create and work on their own educational goals throughout their education and their teachers will serve as more of a mentor than a traditional teacher. The school would also be a “blended-learning school,” so students would receive instruction through both a digital device and a teacher.
Because Empowerment High School would be a public school, funded by the state and deviating from traditional curriculum, it needs to be classified as an innovation school.
INNOVATING UNION HIGH SCHOOL
The district is still considering whether or not to move forward in applying to make Union High School an innovation school, but Superintendent David Peterson said the district is thinking it might.
While Union High School already has non-traditional education approaches, Peterson said it faces challenges regarding staffing requirements, defining the amount of time a student spends in their seat learning and how credits are counted. Graduation requirements and a more advisory approach could also be looked into if the school were to become an innovation school.
“It is extremely difficult to do everything that we are trying to get done in that school under current rules,” Peterson said.
The agreements the Nampa School District and other districts create and sign with their schools and trustee boards must be for a minimum of three years and provide a detailed description of how the school and the district will track the academic progress of the students in the innovation school.
Peterson emphasized that if a school wants to be an innovation school it must provide a concrete plan of how and why it plans to be innovative. MacTavish said that while a school will have more autonomy within the district as an innovation school, it will also have increased responsibility and accountability regarding the success of its students. For example, this means a 100 percent graduation rate for Empowerment High School.
Peterson and MacTavish said they anticipate Empowerment and Union high schools to have a “year zero” for preparation where staff will develop curriculum and lesson plans before it is taught to the students. After year zero the first one to two years will be a bit bumpy while the schools get used to their new aspects but academic improvement will still be tracked.
MacTavish and Peterson agreed as long as the schools continually show improvement, their innovation schools agreements will remain in effect. Peterson also said if a school violates part of the agreement there are provisions in the agreement stating it could be discontinued as an innovation school.
There are also parameters in place that if district administration or board trustees were to change and those stepping in did not support the innovation school, the school could not lose its innovation agreement solely on the desire of the new administration or board members.
Peterson and MacTavish emphasized that while these two schools may become innovation schools, they will still be public schools. The schools will be funded through the districts and will reflect the diverse demographics of the city of Nampa. Peterson and MacTavish are looking forward to offering more schools of choice.
“Some of the really successful urban high-needs community schools (like KIPP or Summit schools) have significant philanthropic support on an ongoing basis, and that’s one of the reasons innovation in those circumstances doesn’t find its way into the regular public schools,” Peterson said. “(The schools) are sometimes operating with two or three times the resources of the schools that are next to them. We want to demonstrate that (innovation) can happen in a school district, it can happen on regular funding and for regular kids.”