Service-learning: A garden and a future

Columbus took the spotlight this summer and showed how community engagement can change students’ lives. Beechcroft HS teacher Tori Washington and her students presented in Atlanta to NEA delegates the story of their community garden, one of many service-learning projects funded by a three-year grant in partnership with NEA, CEA and OSU. The presentation was part of the new “Raise Your Hand” campaign.

Students Rendell Buckhalter, Taryn Lewis-Smith, Chelsey Rodgers and Christian Scase took the stage. Rendell tearfully recounted how the project instilled in him a confidence he didn’t know he had. “I didn’t know what my purpose was in life,” he said. “Was I going to go to college or not? Community is now a big aspect of my life that I need to carry on. My teacher, Ms. Washington, empowered me and helped me look past the statistics about black males not graduating. Now I get up every morning and look at success right in the eye.”

The “Raise Your Hand” campaign features dynamic and respected teachers sharing ways to boost student success and achievement. NEA strongly believes that educators-not politicians or self-proclaimed “reform” experts-know what works. They are the ones to lead and act for student success.

“Our members are coming together to help lift up our good ideas, our smart policies and our successful programs and spread them to every corner of the country,” says NEA President Dennis Van Roekel.

Go to to see videos from the event.

Budget watch: It’s in ink

On Sunday, June 30, 2013, Governor Kasich signed House Bill 59, the $62 billion budget bill for Fiscal Years 2014 and 2015. Prior to his signature, Kasich vetoed 22 items, including a requirement on how schools spend gifted-education funds and an exemption for charter school special-education teachers from taking examinations of content knowledge.

The good: Many other negative provisions were eliminated. For instance, we will maintain control over the salary schedule. The Ohio Board of Education will not revise operating standards this year. The state superintendent will not seize control of school districts with questionable student data reports. Two good additions: Teachers won’t be held accountable for the progress of students who are gone from school a minimum of 45 days. Charter schools now face stricter oversight and greater penalties for noncompliance.

The bad: The budget fails to restore more than $515 million of the $1.8 million in direct school support cut during the last budget cycle. It expands the voucher program; and, as of 2016-17, allows parents to use them if their schools don’t improve K-3 literacy at required levels. It gives charter schools $57 million more money than in the last budget cycle.

Mixed: Money from the K-3 literacy component was shifted to provide resources for students living in poverty. Districts must use this funding to extend the school day, provide reading intervention and instructional technology and implement dropout prevention measures and several other requirements. We are unsure if districts all will have the resources to fulfill these requirement.

Go here for the full summary.

It wasn’t always this way

Aug. 26 is Women’s Equality Day. At the behest of Rep. Bella Abzug (D-NY) in 1971, the date was selected to commemorate the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote. It’s a great opportunity to teach your students about one of the seminal struggles for civil rights, massive, peaceful movement by women that began in 1848 at the world’s first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, N.Y.

On this day we commemorate the passage of the 19th Amendment, and we also call attention to women’s continuing efforts toward full equality. That includes schools. In 1915, five years before they got the vote, female teachers were tightly scrutinized. They had to promise, for instance, “not to keep company with men; to be home between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. unless in attendance at a school function; not to loiter downtown in ice cream stores.”

In 1965, the Utah Supreme Court upheld the right of a school board to fire a teacher because she became pregnant. For many years, teachers could be fired for joining a professional organization or labor union.

But Margaret Haley, of the Chicago Teachers Federation, sought change. She became a leading voice in national education politics. Haley promoted a more professional approach to teaching, and she fought for traditional bread-and-butter issues: pensions, salary increases and other benefits for teachers. She was the first woman to be on the agenda of the NEA Representative Assembly, speaking on “Why Teachers Should Organize.” In this speech, she introduced issues that continue to be debated by teachers’ unions and the public today.