Ed Next Book Club: Nate Levenson on Smarter Budgets, Smarter Schools

By Education Next 10/19/2012

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It’s not exactly news that America’s school systems are facing their greatest fiscal challenges since the Great Depression. For the first time in decades, real per pupil spending will decline this year, forcing school districts to make painful budget choices—providing fewer services with their diminished resources. Or so goes the conventional wisdom. Is it possible, on the other hand, that this economic downturn could be seized as an opportunity to rethink how education is delivered and to find approaches that are dramatically more affordable—and effective? Nate Levenson thinks so. He’s the managing director of the District Management Council, a former superintendent in Arlington, Massachusetts, and a former business executive. He joins the Ed Next book club today to talk about his book, Smarter Budgets, Smarter Schools: How to Survive and Thrive in Tight Times—and the reception it’s received to date.

Additional installments of our Ed Next Book Club podcast can be heard here.

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  • Rosemary Pearce says:

    Your position on librarians is flawed. School librarians, when used effectively, do far more than “check out books.” We also teach information literacy skills, scaffolding them over all the years included in our school buildings. We collaborate with classroom teachers to integrate these skills in every content area and on every grade level. We provide support materials for myriad changes in educational focus and catalog and circulate those materials with an eye on reducing costs. Who does that in a classroom library? In fact, most of those books are purchased in a bundle situation and do not represent the collection development expertise a school librarian would have.
    I personally have been involved with countless PD efforts in my district, most recently for the writing of Student Learning Objectives for the new APPR requirements in NY. Every teacher on every grade level in every content area as well as a few principals benefited. Librarians are district leaders in curriculum because of our exposure to all of them in our buildings. We work effectively with administrators, at least those who get it, to support their initiatives.
    No one else does all of this. Not reading teachers, not literacy coaches, not technology teachers. And most certainly not teacher assistants. As CCSS are implemented, the ELA writing standards for research to build a present knowledge fall logically to the school librarian. Not only do we teach that, every bit of it, we also help teachers across all content areas via collaboration develop a higher comfort level and greater expertise in those standards.
    Let’s talk lexiles, shall we. Our library catalogs can show lexile levels (Fountas & Pinnell also) of materials teachers use in their classrooms and students read for pleasure. Our databases can give lexile levels of articles students use in their research to build and present knowledge. When the admins require teachers to teach with documents of a particular lexile level to increase text complexity, we can help them find those materials. Before that happens, we will do professional development with the teachers to empower them to use these resources comfortably in their content area.
    Need I include a paragraph on technology integration? It would be pretty much the same as the previous ones. It is clear to school librarians and school library systems that we are the first ones on the chopping block. Our programs have been slashed using the rationale you so wrongly espouse in your book. If you want to lose all the above, follow your advice. If you want everything else you do in a school to be better, support your school library program. I would be happy to have a conversation with you about how to do just that most effectively. Perhaps you will write another book about what you learn in the process.

  • Arlington resident says:

    Funny to see that Nate Levenson wrote a book about efficiency and cost control in schools. He left a financial mess in Arlington when he left under dubious circumstances.

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