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ECS Governance Notes

EDUCATION COMMISSION OF THE STATES
National Center on Governing America's Schools
November 2003

Welcome to "Governance Notes," a bimonthly newsletter with links to key information about education governance.

Read these articles and cited materials: http://www.ecs.org/ecs/governancenotes

Guest Column
In this issue's guest column, Dan French of the Center for Collaborative Education describes a network of 19 small, innovative public schools in Boston. The Boston PILOT SCHOOLS, as they are called, have greater autonomy over their resources -- budget, staffing, curriculum, assessment, governance, policies and scheduling -- in exchange for increased accountability.

What States are Doing

On October 12, CALIFORNIA Governor Gray Davis signed Assembly Bill 1137, which specifies oversight duties of chartering authorities. It also requires charter schools to meet at least one of several academic performance criteria as a prerequisite to renewal of their charter, and requires them to provide quarterly financial reports to their sponsoring school districts.

On October 4, LOUISIANA voters approved a constitutional amendment authorizing the state board of elementary and secondary education to supervise, manage and operate -- or provide for the supervision, management and operation of -- public schools determined to be failing.

On April 28, IOWA Governor Tom Vilsack signed into law House Bill 549, which revises the state's open enrollment policy. It requires the state board of education to establish guidelines and a review process for districts that approve voluntary desegregation plans. hese guidelines must include criteria and standards for districts to observe when creating a voluntary desegregation plan. It also requires the department to lend technical assistance to any district attempting to adopt a voluntary desegregation plan.

Good Reads

The "2003 Accountability Report on Mayor-Sponsored Charter Schools" provides information about the first three CHARTER SCHOOLS that were approved by the mayor's office in Indianapolis, Indiana. According to the report, these three schools are serving a diverse group of children, many of whom are academically challenged. The report also provides performance data about each of the three schools based on multiple school visits, parent and staff surveys, test score analysis, school finance reviews and special education reviews.

As part of the Education Improvement Act of 1992, Tennessee designated local school boards as the sole authority in appointing SUPERINTENDENTS. Previously, superintendents were elected by the general public, appointed by a county commission or appointed by a school board. "Elected vs. Appointed Superintendents: Questions and Answers," by the Tennessee Office of Education Accountability, presents information on the effects of such changes on the superintendency in Tennessee.

According to the authors of "Baselines for Assessment of Choice Programs," the performance of CHOICE programs should be compared to the real ? as opposed to the idealized -- performance of the current public education system. The authors establish baselines for the performance of both the current system and choice programs on a variety of dimensions ? racially isolated schools, funding and human resource inequities, allocation of opportunity-limiting programs and misallocation of opportunity-expan ding programs.

According to "Keeping the Promise: The Case for Reform in the Pittsburgh Public Schools" by the Mayor's Commission on Public Education, the Pittsburgh Public Schools will not have a high-performance school district without fundamental structural change in the way that public schools are governed. In particular, SCHOOL BOARD members should be appointed by the mayor from a pool of candidates provided by a nominating commission whose members reflect the racial, geographic, professional and economic diversity of the city, the report says.

Test scores in CHARTER SCHOOLS lag behind scores of regular public schools in the 10 states that were studied in the "2003 Brown Center Report on American Education," but charter schools in those states registered significant gains in test scores from 2000 to 2002. The report also examined conversion charter schools in California, and found, among other things, that they produced average test scores despite serving students with demographics that are usually correlated with low scores. Lastly, the report looked at charter schools operated by educational management organizations (EMOs).

It found that compared to regular public schools and to charters serving students with similar socioeconomic characteristics, EMO-operated charters have much lower test scores. However, gains made from 2000 to 2002 in EMO-operated schools have been significantly higher than those of both non-EMO charters and regular public schools.

Highlighted Center Resources

The ECS National Center on Governing America's Schools recently completed the ECS State Policies for CHARTER SCHOOLS Database. From this database, you can generate profiles of the state policies for charter schools in individual states, create comparisons of specific types of charter school policies across several states and view predetermined reports on state policies for charter schools.

Upcoming Center Projects

With a two-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Public Charter Schools Program, the ECS National Center on Governing America's Schools, in partnership with Public Impact, recently launched a project that will work with states that choose to use CHARTERING as one strategy to meet the ambitious goals of the No Child Left Behind Act. There are several components of this project, including state policy summaries, "options briefs," "results briefs," state policymaker meetings and intensive policy assistance to three states.

The NATIONAL CENTER ON GOVERNING AMERICA'S SCHOOLS at the EDUCATION COMMISSION OF THE STATES collects and disseminates ideas about governing public education in an era of high expectations for all students. The center highlights data and research about what works, as well as raises ideas about promising policies and practices, in the governance of public education.

Media News Clips - Dec. 5 to 12, 2003

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  1. State school voucher law ruled unconstitutional / CNN.com
  2. Teacher background checks not enough / Galesburg Register-Mail
  3. School district put safety, kids first / Freeport Journal Standard
  4. Nevada attendance policy hurts sick kids / Boston Globe
  5. National effort emerging to halt bullying / CNN.com
  6. House Approves Vouchers For D.C. / Washington Post
  7. Generating Synergy With English and History / Washington Post
  8. Governance Notes / Education Commission of the States
  9. A Buddy System for Educators / Los Angeles Times
  10. Focus of federal education law too narrow, educators say / AP
  11. State ruling lets more schools pass /Dallas Morning News
  12. Consistent Instruction Said To Improve Schools /Palm Beach Post

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State school voucher law ruled unconstitutional

AP, December 3, 2003

DENVER, Colorado -- A judge declared Colorado's new school voucher law unconstitutional Wednesday, saying it illegally strips local school boards of control over education.

Denver District Judge Joseph Meyer said the voucher law, the first in the nation since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that voucher programs were acceptable, issued an injunction barring implementation of the voucher plan.

"I see no way to interpret the voucher program statute in a way that does not run afoul of the principle of local control," he wrote. "The goals of the voucher program are laudable. However, even great ideas must be implemented within the framework of the Colorado Constitution."

The court challenge was filed by a coalition of teachers, religious and education groups.

Supporters say vouchers give poor parents a choice to take their children out of failing public schools and motivate those schools to get better. Opponents object to giving state support to religious schools and contend the plan will undermine public education by siphoning off students and the tax dollars they bring.

The Colorado law required publicly financed vouchers to be offered beginning next year to low-income children in kindergarten through 12th grade to help offset private-school tuition.

Under the law, 11 districts with eight or more schools that received low or unsatisfactory academic performance ratings were required to participate; other districts may choose to participate.

State budget officials estimated that a fully operational program would strip the 11 districts of $90 million per year.

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Teacher background checks not enough

Editorial by MICHAEL J. HOMCO, News Editor, December 5, 2003

Convicted felons have been found teaching in Illinois schools. Some have admitted their past transgressions, hoping their honesty will help them get a position in education. Others keep their criminal pasts secret.

How is that possible? In Illinois, it's relatively easy. The state has one of the weakest systems in the country for checking the backgrounds of prospective teachers.

In Illinois, one need only to have been convicted in another state and the chances of being found out are slim. The reason is most school districts in Illinois - including most in our area - rely solely on an Illinois State Police criminal background check on prospective teachers. The trouble with that is the State Police check only provides school districts with in-state felony and misdemeanor convictions, based on the person's name and other identification found on an application.

It does not look nationwide "through the FBI" unless a district requests it. Few do. Why would one suspect a particular individual? Besides, it costs an extra $24.

School districts hire new teachers on how well they will perform in the classroom. They check their references. They rely on the State Police to tell them about criminal problems. And the state is not doing enough.

A national criminal background check of ALL teacher applicants would go a long way toward safeguarding our children. The best way to conduct such a check is to fingerprint all teacher applicants. The FBI then cross checks the fingerprints with its massive database that includes felony convictions in every state, not just Illinois.

A conviction wouldn't necessarily preclude someone from a teaching position, but the nature of the transgression could be considered along with other factors. Each applicant should be judged individually.

An informal survey of local school districts found four that routinely fingerprint new teachers and forward them to the FBI. Costa Catholic School fingerprints all teachers, coaches and some volunteers. Roseville District 200 has been routinely fingerprinting all prospective teachers and teachers' aides for two to three years. Union District 115 fingerprints all new full-time employees. Southern District 120 has been fingerprinting anyone who would have contact with students, including janitors, for at least three years.

Mandating fingerprinting for ALL those who have contact with students - including present teachers - would be a tough sell. It is opposed by teachers' unions, who view it as a condition for continued employment.

State Police plan to lobby the legislature next spring to mandate fingerprinting and nationwide criminal background checks for all prospective teachers. That makes sense. School bus drivers, nurses, social workers and child care workers are already subject to fingerprinting and a nationwide background check.

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School district put safety, kids first

Freeport Journal Standard Editorial

The issue: A bus stop near a suspected drug house

Our view: The Freeport School District deserves kudos for its treatment of parental concerns.

When active parents send their kids off to school, they make sure the homework is done, book bags are packed and lunch money is pocketed. They might watch them head down the street to the bus stop. They might worry. But once their children are out of sight, other people become responsible for kids' welfare as well. People such as bus drivers, cops, teachers and school administrators.

And those people deserve a note of thanks for their quick response to the safety concerns of one parent last week.

It seems a bus stop was moved a few days before Thanksgiving to a new spot on Iroquois Street. The new stop was right in front of a suspected drug house, Richard Kort told the Freeport School District board Wednesday night. With two daughters who wait for the bus there every morning, Kort was uneasy about the security of children so close to possible illegal activity. Such as on Sunday night, when police arrested a man they allege tried to sell small bags of marijuana in the driveway of that suspected house.

School transportation director Patrick Allee double-checked the information, consulted police and by the end of the week announced the stop would be moved across the street. It was the right thing to do, and we're glad to point it out when someone does it.

The whole scenario begs the question: What is being done about drug houses in our neighborhoods? Kort's concerns reveal that these are problems we cannot afford to ignore because they occur "over there." Instead, we see that decent, law-abiding citizens are being affected by criminal activity.

Kort and other neighbors like him deserve kudos too for not ignoring the drug menace on their own street but reporting it instead.

Because of ongoing investigations, Freeport Deputy Police Chief Bob Smith wouldn't comment on the house in question. We hope that the investigations are fruitful. With all the attention, it seems unlikely this house will have much traffic from addicts and dealers for a while.

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Nevada attendance policy hurts sick kids

AP, 12/9/2003

RENO, Nev. -- Washoe County School District officials say a stricter state attendance policy may be prompting some sick students to show up for class when they should be staying at home.

For the first time, the new policy that went into effect statewide this year counts absences for illness as an unexcused absence. It says any student who fails to attend at least 90 percent of his or her classes cannot advance to the next grade, and specifically states that medical absences count against the 90 percent.

Washoe County school officials are emphasizing, however, that there is an appeal process in place to review any medical absence. "Don't let the attendance policy dictate your judgment," said Carolyn Fricke, student health services director. "The attendance policy is not designed to penalize children who are truly sick," she told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

Fricke said as soon as parents notice their children are ill -- particularly if there is a fever -- they should keep them home.

District spokesman Steve Mulvenon says that in order to keep a medical absence from being counted as a missed day, a parent must fill out a printed request for an administrative review by the school principal.

In the last three weeks, eight Washoe County schools each have reported that 10 percent of their student population has called in sick, primarily because of the flu.

"Typically, schools have an average of eight to 15 students off sick, but that has jumped to 30 or more now, and they were sick when they came to school," Fricke said. "We're still seeing large numbers of kids coming to the school health centers."

One Reno parent said that she and other parents think it's ridiculous not to exempt medical absences from the state attendance requirement, and they're confused about how many days their children can miss school.

"So a lot of parents are nervous about their kids staying home, and the flu is going through the schools like wildfire because they can only take so many days off," said Carolyn Hansen, president of the Parent-Teacher Organization at Westergard Elementary School.

Hansen said she thought a medical excuse from the surgeon who removed her 7-year-old daughter's tonsils last month would automatically absolve the nine days of school she missed due to complications. "But it doesn't," she said. "I was told if she misses 10 days, she can be held back from second grade."

Another reason some parents probably send sick children to school is because they can't take time off from work to stay home with them, Hansen said. "I think child care is a big part of why younger kids come to school sick," she said.

Parents have complained since the Legislature changed the law this year to include medical absences in the maximum number of school days students can miss before being denied class credit or promotion to the next grade.

"Parents have called, angry because they think it's something the school board did," Mulvenon said. "When we talk to them about it, they're unaware of the appeal process."

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National effort emerging to halt bullying

AP, Tuesday, December 9, 2003

Off campus, Matt Cavedon doesn't mind the names he is called: helper, hero, dreamer.

Yet inside school, students for years have used uglier terms to taunt the 14-year-old, who is in a wheelchair because of a condition that prevents him from fully extending his limbs. It's bullying, he said, and it happens in different ways to children all the time.

"It just lingers on your mind," said the ninth-grader at Berlin High School in Berlin, Connecticut, who works with a group that creates playgrounds for kids with disabilities.

"You can't think clearly. You're preoccupied trying to figure out why they would say this," he said. "It can distract you from your school work, your community, even from your friends. It really does start to get to you."

Bullying was long shrugged off as an afterthought, chalked up to kids being kids. But in recent years, it has gained serious notice as a factor in deadly campus shootings. More and more states and schools have taken steps toward bullying prevention, from class discussions about peer relations to reaching out to parents about the kind of behavior that is expected in school.

But health and safety officials say the country still doesn't realize how pervasive bullying is, how it hampers learning and engenders violence -- and how it can be prevented.

In response, the federal government is planning a $3.4 million campaign to combat bullying, drawing support from more than 70 education, law enforcement, civic and religious groups. With an expected start next year, the effort will frame bullying as a public health concern, targeting kids and the adults who influence them.

The goal is to create a culture change in which bullying is not seen as cool, parents watch for warning signs, kids stand up for each other and teachers are trained to intervene.

Imbalance of power
Among the campaign's tools are a Web site, animated Web episodes, commercials and a network of nonprofit groups to help raise awareness and offer tips.

Bullying is aggressive and repeated behavior based on an imbalance of power among people. It ranges from slapping, kicking and other physical abuse to verbal assaults to the new frontier: cyberbullying, in which kids use e-mail and Web sites to humiliate others.

It's like a never ending cycle. (Bullying) just makes you feel really bad, and sometimes really angry.
-- Brielle McClain, seventh-grader

Millions of students -- about three in 10 -- are affected as a bully, a victim or both, according to a 2001 study of students in sixth to 10th grade. The research was done by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

And that does not include huge numbers of students who witness bullying, are fearful it may happen to them and are unsure what to do, experts say.

Students such as Matt Cavedon helped shape the upcoming prevention campaign, which will focus on children in the middle-school ages of nine to 13, when most bullying occurs.

Brielle McClain, a seventh-grader at Millikan Middle School in Van Nuys, California, also helped campaign leaders understand what bullying feels like. She has been belittled for being biracial, and in turn, she has tried to intimidate other girls by spreading rumors.

"It's like a never ending cycle," said Brielle, who turns 12 on December 14. "It just makes you feel really bad, and sometimes really angry. I even walked out of class one time I was so mad. You don't ever really get your mind off it."

'This isn't right'
Students who are bullied are more likely to be depressed and miss school, while bullies are more likely than other students to carry weapons, get into frequent scuffles and get hurt in fights, research shows.

"Bullying has been around forever, and I think the attitude among many adults is, 'Well, we survived it, and we're probably more resilient people for dealing with it," said Sue Limber, a Clemson University researcher who has helped the government campaign. "But if you look at research and listen to kids, there are good reasons to deal with this."

After the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, in which two frequently bullied students killed 13 people and wounded 23 others before killing themselves, the Secret Service led a study of school violence. It found that many of those who attacked others had been bullied in ways that would amount to assault or harassment if it happened in the workplace.

"You can't learn at high levels when you're being humiliated and thinking of how you're going to get your butt kicked in the boy's bathroom," said Bill Bond, a national safety consultant for school principals. He was principal at Heath High School in Paducah, Kentucky, when a freshman who had been bullied shot eight students, killing three of them, in 1997.

"The solution is, everyone involved has to have the courage to say, 'This isn't right,' " Bond said. "The biggest group that can stop it is the peers, if they just have the courage to say, 'Hey, leave him alone, that's not cool.' But you can't ask someone to tell a bully to leave someone alone unless the principal has shown the courage to take action, too."

At James H. Bean elementary school in Sidney, Maine, bullying has dropped significantly over the past five years, said counselor Stan Davis, a specialist in bullying prevention.

Among many other steps, the school created friendship teams, in which three students invite another one into activities to prevent the exclusion many kids dread. When students join the school, kids regularly volunteer to help them. Bullies face increasing consequences for repeat offenses but also get individual help in finding other ways to express themselves.

More parents must help, too, said Cara Mocarski of Shelton, Connecticut, whose son, Derek, was taunted, slapped and punched on a bus ride. Derek, trained in karate, did not retaliate. The bully later apologized on the behest of his appalled parents.

"A lot of parents won't get involved, or they'll say, 'Not my child,' " Mocarski said. "But you can't do that. There will just be continued violence."

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House Approves Vouchers For D.C.
Plan to Fund Tuition For Private Schools Faces Senate Fight

By SPENCER S. HSU, Washington Post Staff Writer, December 9, 2003

The U.S. House of Representatives approved taxpayer-funded vouchers for District children to attend private and parochial schools yesterday, including the program in a massive spending bill that faces resistance in the Senate.

School-choice advocates hailed passage of the five-year, federally funded education initiative as their most significant victory in years. Opponents have vowed to challenge the program in court.

Voting 242 to 176, the House approved a $328 billion catchall spending bill that includes private-school tuition aid for at least 1,700 low-income District students as part of the city's $5.6 billion 2004 budget. The measure's fate hangs on the Senate, which will consider the spending bill for 11 federal departments tomorrow but is unlikely to act until late next month.

The bill's fate in the Senate remains cloudy. Freighted with White House changes over media ownership, overtime rules and gun regulations, the package is under fire from minority Democrats as well as some fiscally conservative Republicans, who say the giant spending plan is larded with pork.

Nevertheless, House passage marked a milestone for conservative education reformers who since 1995 have tried to capitalize on GOP control of Congress and turn the District into a test case for public school competition. The House came closest to passing the first federal voucher program in 1998, before retreating in the face of a presidential veto threat.

"Today, Congress made history," said Rep. Rodney P. Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on the District, who like other supporters focused on the city's troubled public school system and argued that poor families deserve access to private schools similar to that of affluent families. "Parents need options, and children trapped in under-performing and failing public schools need other choices."

Advocates turned their attention to the final showdown in the Senate. "Low-income D.C. families are one step away from liberation from failing schools," said Virginia Walden-Ford, executive director of D.C. Parents for School Choice, which has support from national pro-voucher organizations.

Chip Mellor, president and general counsel of the Institute for Justice, which has backed the voucher program with the American Council for Education Reform and conservative think tanks, said further delay as a practical matter would complicate efforts to administer the voucher program and match eligible students and private schools in time for next fall.

Opponents noted that the voucher provision was jammed into the must-pass spending measure even though the Senate never voted on the plan because of a Democratic filibuster, and the House cleared it by a single vote in September when House GOP leaders twisted lawmakers' arms and held open a vote for nearly an hour.

"Unfortunately, the omnibus bill is endangered by the worse abuses of the democratic process in congressional history," said Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), who with other voucher opponents has said tax dollars should not be diverted from public schools at a time when national education reforms are going under-funded. "No wonder Republicans and Democrats in the Senate are balking."

The five-year measure includes $14 million a year for annual awards of up to $7,500 per child from families earning as much as 185 percent of the federal poverty limit, or about $36,000 for a family of four. The funds include $1 million for administrative costs for an organization to run the program. The organization will be selected by U.S. Education Secretary Roderick R. Paige with input from Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D). As a sweetener to the plan, federal officials also sent an extra $26 million this year to District public schools and public charter schools.

Opponents have pledged to file suit against the voucher plan, saying it would violate separation of church and state.

Overall for the District, Congress added $545 million in federal aid, including support for such ongoing programs as a $17 million college tuition program that helps District high school graduates attend out-of-state colleges at in-state tuition rates, and a $30 million installment for a sewer overflow construction project.

The spending bill included roughly $40 million in congressional earmarks to nongovernmental District projects. Members tucked away scores of aid packages to pet initiatives and favored nonprofit causes. Typical was $400,000 for abstinence education programs and $250,000 to the Best Friends Foundation, a pro-abstinence group founded in the District by Elayne G. Bennett, wife of former education secretary William J. Bennett.

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Generating Synergy With English and History

By JAY MATHEWS, Washington Post Staff Writer, December 9, 2003

At Wakefield High School in Arlington, students in Colette Fraley's American history classes study westward expansion in the early 19th century as an inspiring story of pioneer spirit. Later, they go to Bob O'Donnell's English class and read Emerson, Thoreau and other literary giants who argued that Manifest Destiny was not such a great idea.

So it goes in the Fraley-O'Donnell American Civilization course, a version of integrated history and English. Weaving together those academic disciplines is an increasingly popular approach in U.S. high schools, both helped and hurt by the new emphasis on passing state achievement tests, educators say.

Fraley and O'Donnell teach about 65 juniors in three classes, helping them discover how much the writers and doers of a historical era reacted to each other's thoughts. "We both believe that this combined approach is the absolute best way to get a true taste of American culture," Fraley said. "Students can gain an understanding of the politics that led Harriet Beecher Stowe to write 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' or to understand why Mark Twain's 'Huckleberry Finn' continues to stir up passions."

One reason for the push to integrate English with history is that colleges emphasizing interdisciplinary study like to see students try it in high school, said Dawn Abt-Perkins, who chairs the Education Department at Lake Forest College in Illinois and serves on the board of the National Council of Teachers of English.

More significantly, she said, average or even below-average students seem to understand history and literature better when the subjects are taught as a colorful mosaic. An exciting novel such as "The Red Badge of Courage" can ignite an interest in Civil War history, and a student keen on World War II history might be tempted to read "The Caine Mutiny."

"We have all been interested in putting greater emphasis on adolescent literacy," Abt-Perkins said.

But it is hard to do well, experts say, and teachers who must cover a number of topics for mandatory state tests say that pausing to show how history and literature relate to each other may throw them off schedule.

"Most of the teachers I talk to struggle to cover all of the prescribed content prior to state testing, and in order to make the deadline, they will forgo the enrichment activities that a humanities course is built upon," said Ken Bassett, curriculum supervisor for social studies in the Prince William County school system.

Still, Bassett said he believes that the approach can be very valuable, and he is happy that five Prince William high schools are using it. "Students learning about the Holocaust in history might also be reading 'Night' by Elie Wiesel in their literature class," he said. "This is a natural synergy that really ought to be part of how we approach curriculum design in these two fields most of the time."

At Osbourn High School in the Manassas school district, Margaret Kaminsky, the English Department supervisor, and Dave McGlothlin, her counterpart for social studies, report success with low-performing students assigned to interdisciplinary classes -- not just in their subjects but also in combined math and science classes.

"Over the past three years, these students in this program have definitely improved in both class grades and [state test] grades," Kaminsky and McGlothlin wrote in an e-mail.

John Porter, principal of T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, said he does not have integrated courses at the moment, in part because many students in the past felt that it complicated their schedules and limited their other class choices. But Alexandria officials are discussing having such courses in the future, he said.

Alexandria's ninth-grade school, Minnie Howard, has had an integrated world civilization and world literature course for all students since 1993. Wakefield and two other Arlington high schools, Yorktown and Washington-Lee, also offer a combined English-world history course to ninth-graders. Yorktown Principal Ray Pasi said the school has added seven integrated classes this year, at all grade levels.

At Mamaroneck High School in Westchester County, N.Y., ninth-grade English and world history courses have been integrated for a decade, with four two-teacher teams -- one English and one social studies teacher per team. When New York imposed new state tests, the world history course had to switch from a thematic to a chronological approach, taking the centuries in order from prehistory to the Middle Ages. But Mamaroneck Principal Mark Orfinger said teachers adjusted.

"English in the ninth grade has a lot more latitude in what they can do, so it has worked out," Orfinger said.

Several Fairfax County high schools have integrated courses, and Oakton High School Principal Charlie Ostlund said about 40 percent of his ninth- and 10th-grade English and history classes are combined. Eliot Toy, a sophomore at Oakton, shares a large classroom with about 50 other students and two teachers, one for social studies and one for English. "The teachers are successful linking literature and history about 75 percent of the time or more," Toy said.

Classmate Anna Laura Grant said: "We just finished studying the French Revolution and the events that led up to it. This was the perfect introduction to the book we were reading, 'Les Miserables.' "

Fraley and O'Donnell cannot teach their courses together because of scheduling and space limitations, but they hope to arrange to have the 90-minute classes one after the other. That way they could have a three-hour block of time for more creative teaching. "Last year, when we had one group of kids back-to-back, we could do library research and writing together," Fraley said.

It helps, she said, that each is comfortable with the other's subject and that they both favor stimulating field trips. "We both researched American art before the class trip to the National Gallery of Art," she said. "We both researched some of the musical history of America before assigning a project on spirituals. We are currently looking at period recipes and architecture to broaden the class a bit."

Mark Smith, a 16-year-old junior, said of his experience in the Fraley and O'Donnell classes: "It is a different way of doing it, but I think it works very well."

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Governance Notes
Education Commission of the States

Read these articles and cited materials at: http://www.ecs.org/ecs/governancenotes

GUEST COLUMN

In this issue's guest column, Dan French of the Center for Collaborative Education describes a network of 19 small, innovative public schools in Boston. The Boston PILOT SCHOOLS, as they are called, have greater autonomy over their resources -- budget, staffing, curriculum, assessment, governance, policies and scheduling -- in exchange for increased accountability.

WHAT STATES ARE DOING

On October 12, CALIFORNIA Governor Gray Davis signed Assembly Bill 1137, which specifies oversight duties of chartering authorities. It also requires charter schools to meet at least one of several academic performance criteria as a prerequisite to renewal of their charter, and requires them to provide quarterly financial reports to their sponsoring school districts.

On October 4, LOUISIANA voters approved a constitutional amendment authorizing the state board of elementary and secondary education to supervise, manage and operate -- or provide for the supervision, management and operation of -- public schools determined to be failing.

On April 28, IOWA Governor Tom Vilsack signed into law House Bill 549, which revises the state's open enrollment policy. It requires the state board of education to establish guidelines and a review process for districts that approve voluntary desegregation plans. hese guidelines must include criteria and standards for districts to observe when creating a voluntary desegregation plan. It also requires the department to lend technical assistance to any district attempting to adopt a voluntary desegregation plan.

GOOD READS

The "2003 Accountability Report on Mayor-Sponsored Charter Schools" provides information about the first three CHARTER SCHOOLS that were approved by the mayor's office in Indianapolis, Indiana. According to the report, these three schools are serving a diverse group of children, many of whom are academically challenged. The report also provides performance data about each of the three schools based on multiple school visits, parent and staff surveys, test score analysis, school finance reviews and special education reviews.

As part of the Education Improvement Act of 1992, Tennessee designated local school boards as the sole authority in appointing SUPERINTENDENTS. Previously, superintendents were elected by the general public, appointed by a county commission or appointed by a school board. "Elected vs. Appointed Superintendents: Questions and Answers," by the Tennessee Office of Education Accountability, presents information on the effects of such changes on the superintendency in Tennessee.

According to the authors of "Baselines for Assessment of Choice Programs," the performance of CHOICE programs should be compared to the real ? as opposed to the idealized -- performance of the current public education system. The authors establish baselines for the performance of both the current system and choice programs on a variety of dimensions ? racially isolated schools, funding and human resource inequities, allocation of opportunity-limiting programs and misallocation of opportunity-expanding programs.

According to "Keeping the Promise: The Case for Reform in the Pittsburgh Public Schools" by the Mayor's Commission on Public Education, the Pittsburgh Public Schools will not have a high-performance school district without fundamental structural change in the way that public schools are governed. In particular, SCHOOL BOARD members should be appointed by the mayor from a pool of candidates provided by a nominating commission whose members reflect the racial, geographic, professional and economic diversity of the city, the report says.

Test scores in CHARTER SCHOOLS lag behind scores of regular public schools in the 10 states that were studied in the "2003 Brown Center Report on American Education," but charter schools in those states registered significant gains in test scores from 2000 to 2002. The report also examined conversion charter schools in California, and found, among other things, that they produced average test scores despite serving students with demographics that are usually correlated with low scores. Lastly, the report looked at charter schools operated by educational management organizations (EMOs).

It found that compared to regular public schools and to charters serving students with similar socioeconomic characteristics, EMO-operated charters have much lower test scores. However, gains made from 2000 to 2002 in EMO-operated schools have been significantly higher than those of both non-EMO charters and regular public schools.

HIGHLIGHTED CENTER RESOURCES

The ECS National Center on Governing America's Schools recently completed the ECS State Policies for CHARTER SCHOOLS Database. From this database, you can generate profiles of the state policies for charter schools in individual states, create comparisons of specific types of charter school policies across several states and view predetermined reports on state policies for charter schools.

UPCOMING CENTER PROJECTS

With a two-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Public Charter Schools Program, the ECS National Center on Governing America's Schools, in partnership with Public Impact, recently launched a project that will work with states that choose to use CHARTERING as one strategy to meet the ambitious goals of the No Child Left Behind Act. There are several components of this project, including state policy summaries, "options briefs," "results briefs," state policymaker meetings and intensive policy assistance to three states.

Read these articles and cited materials at: http://www.ecs.org/ecs/governancenotes

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A Buddy System for Educators; Long Beach high schools have two principals each. If a division of labor can be worked out, the result is a hedge against burnout.

By DUKE HELFAND, Times Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times, December 11, 2003

At Polytechnic High School in Long Beach, everyone wants a piece of Principal Shawn Ashley.
They all also want a piece of Principal Gwen Mack.
One minute, a teacher is complaining about kids loitering in the halls. The next, an aide is hauling in a boy caught in the girls' bathroom. Then a custodian is griping about co-workers.
Ashley and Mack take it all in stride. Inside their office, with two gray cubicles and two names on the door, they divvy up a monster job usually heaped on the shoulders of a single principal.
Ashley tackles athletics, activities, student discipline and school repairs. Mack covers curriculum, counseling, testing and textbooks.
Together, this unlikely duo runs a campus the size of a dozen football fields, where the green lawns of the central quad get trampled each day beneath the feet of 4,300 teenagers.
"I couldn't do this by myself," said Ashley, 49, a Poly High graduate who high-fives football players on campus as if they're his pals.
Mack, 59, the quieter one who often speaks just above a whisper, added: "If we want to do a decent job, we need to divide our responsibilities."
This buddy system has transformed management in Long Beach's six high schools and turned California's third-largest school system into a laboratory for educators nationwide desperate to stem the flight of overworked and overwhelmed principals.
"I think what you're seeing in those high schools are prototypes for the future," said Michael Usdan, a senior fellow at the Institute for Educational Leadership in Washington. "It's an important story beyond Long Beach."
Long Beach has been using co-principals for a decade. Now other school districts, including those in Glendale and Redondo Beach, have taken a page from its playbook with the hope of freeing principals to spend more time in classrooms. School systems elsewhere in California and in Massachusetts, Vermont and other places are experimenting with the same approach.
It Doesn't Always Work
Not everyone is sold.
High schools in Pasadena and Santa Monica switched to co-principals a few years ago, only to abandon the idea because of concerns that lines of authority were confused. Some educators elsewhere say that having two principals creates unnecessary turf wars.
Even supporters concede that the management model depends largely on the personalities of the two school leaders and the way they get along with each other.
But in districts large and small, urban and rural, educators widely agree that something must be done to lighten the load on harried administrators.
While they handle such traditional chores as keeping their schools clean and making sure classes have enough textbooks, principals now face significant new state and federal pressures to raise test scores and keep their campuses free from drugs and violence.
They are literally expected to leave no child behind, as the nation's new education law commands. Failure can cost them their jobs.
Principals are often the first to arrive on campus and the last to leave; sometimes they work three or four nights a week, attending football games, banquets, plays, concerts and an assortment of other events. It's a marathon schedule that blurs into 70- and 80-hour work weeks.
"It burns people out," said George Manthey, who trains principals for the Assn. of California School Administrators. "To do the job well at a large high school is almost impossible."
That concern is magnified by the expectation that nearly half of the nation's 35,000 secondary school principals will retire in the next five years, according to the National Assn. of Secondary School Principals. The anticipated exodus has set off alarms among school district leaders across the country and spawned an array of recruitment, retention and training initiatives.
District officials in Long Beach say their home-grown reform offers a practical and relatively inexpensive solution.
Having two principals means someone is always available to answer questions, sign forms and make decisions, they say. It means two people are available to handle the thousand little decisions that land on a principal's desk at a school with 250 instructors and other employees.
Yes, most high schools have vice principals and assistant principals to handle mundane duties and respond to visitors. But parents, teachers and others often aren't satisfied with the second in command.
"Everyone wants the principal," Ashley said.
On a recent day, Mack and two of Poly High's four assistant principals were away at a meeting designed to bolster school efforts to increase student achievement.
That left Ashley in charge. And it was a busy day.
Even before Ashley put down his briefcase, a father appeared with his daughter to lodge a complaint about a boy who allegedly had exposed himself to the girl. Ashley interviewed the girl and the boy separately. Then he met with police, who were conducting their own investigation. (The boy was suspended and transferred to another campus. He also was arrested on suspicion of indecent exposure.)
The incident consumed Ashley's morning. In the midst of it, another parent called to ask how to get a bus pass for her daughter; a student stopped by to pick up a letter of recommendation for college; and a teacher approached Ashley to complain that a colleague was letting students go before the class period bell rang. Ashley promised to take care of the concern, and spoke to the offending teacher a few minutes later.
"I could be trapped in my office all day long," Ashley said, as he grabbed his sunglasses and made his way through knots of students to get a Diet Pepsi at the lunch pavilion.
The next day, Ashley was more than happy for Mack to return. After a morning spent on paperwork and meetings with administrators and counselors, the two finally had time for what they want most: to visit classrooms and talk with students and teachers.
"If you are a sole administrator and you're not in the classroom, how do you know if something's going wrong?" asked Marc Hyatt, a history teacher and the school's teachers union representative, who is pleased with the dual principal system. "It makes it easier to know when a teacher is having a problem."
Students aren't as clear about the division of labor -- or that two principals run the school. When asked to identify Poly High's principal, several students named Ashley, who has been at the campus for eight years -- six more than Mack. One student didn't know who Mack was. Most said it didn't matter whether the school had one or two principals.
"What is more important is having plenty of adult supervision on campus," said junior Samantha Heep.
Diverse Student Body
Ashley and Mack, who have worked together for two years and earn $117,000 each, oversee a sprawling and diverse campus, where about half of the 4,300 students are African American or Latino; whites, Asians, Filipinos and Pacific Islanders account for the rest. The principals also are in charge of a nearby satellite campus with an additional 400 students.
Poly High is solid academically, with test scores that place it among the top half of campuses statewide. It is known for its roster of celebrity graduates, including actress Cameron Diaz, baseball great Tony Gwynn and rapper Snoop Doggy Dogg.
It has a lesser-known claim to fame in education circles as the first campus in Long Beach to use multiple principals -- in 1992. The principal at the time, H.J. Green, feeling besieged by all his responsibilities, persuaded his bosses to let him share the position with two colleagues. "It made the job doable," Green, now retired, recalled. "It took a lot of pressure off." In subsequent years, the school system expanded the idea to all its high schools, although keeping it to two principals per campus. The change cost about $15,000 to $20,000 per school annually, mainly for replacing a vice principal position with a principal slot.
Not every pairing, though, has been a success.
One principal who had personal disagreements with her co-administrators at two separate high schools, and was said to be overly sensitive to criticism, was eventually transferred to an elementary school, officials said.
The case underscored the importance of having two principals who mesh well.
"A co-principalship is not a place for an ego trip," said Mel Collins, Ashley's partner at Poly High for five years, until the district asked him to fill a vacant principal slot at nearby Cabrillo High.
Complementary Styles
Ashley and Mack say their contrasting styles suit their duties in a school where some tasks depend on a soft touch and others require a forceful hand. She is comfortable interviewing candidates for a chemistry teaching slot or evaluating a Japanese language instructor from the back of a classroom. He is skilled at pushing workers to fix, for example, a malfunctioning filtration system that turned water murky in the school's indoor swimming pool.
"I'm more passive -- the quiet type," Mack said. "Shawn is more outgoing."
Although they operate in their own spheres, Ashley and Mack often talk late in the afternoons in their office, after the school empties, about their most difficult problems -- for example, how to write up a teacher who seems to be floundering or how to tighten security at nighttime football games.
The two never argue in public and say they resolve disagreements by deferring to each other's expertise. When the two debated recently about how to allot time after school for teacher training, Ashley let Mack make the final call.
"Shawn can't do everything and I can't do everything," Mack said.
This type of power sharing has caught on elsewhere. Glendale school officials, impressed by what they heard about in Long Beach, took the same approach in their high schools about seven years ago.
"It's like a professional marriage," said Kevin Welsh, the co-principal of Glendale's Hoover High School and the first of the district's administrators to divide the job. "It's sure nice when you have a partner you can trust."
But some who have tried the idea say it didn't live up to expectations.
In Pasadena, district officials abandoned the two-principal approach this year after trying it at two high schools during the last two years.
Supt. Percy Clark said he had received complaints from teachers, parents and students who said they were unclear about who was in charge.
"Theoretically it sounds like the magic formula, but I'm not sure this is something we can package and replicate as the model for transforming high schools," Clark said.
Officials also abandoned the co-principal approach at Santa Monica High School after a new superintendent arrived last year and decided that having two leaders left people confused. The school now has a chief educational officer and six assistant principals, each of whom oversees a portion of the student body.
"The notion of a singular point person responsible for the education in a school is very much the belief I come out of," said Supt. John Deasy. "It felt and worked better to have an ultimate point of responsibility."
District leaders in Long Beach acknowledge that their approach isn't suited for everyone. But they remain committed to their two-principal setup, in part because they believe it will add longevity to their principals' careers.
Ashley and Mack say the best part is that it allows them to get out of their cubicles more and keep in touch with what's really going on around campus.
As the lunch bell rang on a recent day, both principals grabbed their walkie-talkies and clutches of keys and headed out of their office to supervise the quad. Mack trained her eyes on a walkway where students seemed to be congregating and, in a preemptive move over her walkie-talkie, quietly directed an aide near the scene to check out the commotion. The gathering quickly dissolved on its own.
On the other side of the quad, Ashley milled around a group of football players.
"Hey, y'all," Ashley called out as he hugged one of the burly athletes and slapped another on the back.
"It's good to see a principal show some love," the football player said.

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Focus of federal education law too narrow, educators say

Associated Press Newswires, English, December 10, 2003

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) - The federal No Child Left Behind Act is forcing schools to adopt a narrow focus on testing, shifting attention away from individual students, a congressman from Indiana told teachers.
U.S. Rep. Baron Hill, D-Ind., voted for the law. But he told about 30 Indiana University education professors and school teachers that the law places too much emphasis on test scores.
"Learning is an idiosyncrasy that can't be formalized the way members of Congress want to do," Hill said Tuesday. "I'm not against accountability. It's just that there's too much emphasis on it right now. It's all about accountability."
Hill said he voted for the No Child Left Behind Act because it included his Smaller Learning Communities initiative, a five-year plan to support smaller schools and "schools within schools."
Hill said he would rather see state and local governments setting standards, not the federal government. He worries that Congress is not giving states enough money to carry out No Child Left Behind requirements.
Several teachers said Hill's complaints are well-founded.
Peter Cowan, a language-education professor, said the federal law is restricting the way children learn to read and write at the same time educators are discovering new ways children learn to communicate.
"The things we're being mandated to do aren't going to help these kids," he said. "We're not resisting accountability, but we're very frustrated. There are a lot of impediments to doing our best."

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State ruling lets more schools pass U.S. checking TEA's interpretation of law on student testing.

By KIM BREEN (Collin County Bureau), The Dallas Morning News, December 10, 2003

Nearly half of the Texas schools designated in September as failing to meet national education standards are now passing, after a Texas Education Agency decision to relax the rules on student participation in testing.
The U.S. Education Department, in response, is studying whether Texas' new calculation complies with national education law.
Statewide, 563 schools remain on the final "needs improvement" list, down from the 1,000 named during the first weeks of the school year.
The final tally: 81 percent of Texas schools met the new national standards set by the No Child Left Behind Act, up from the previously reported 74 percent.
The changes affect more than 80 schools in districts across the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
This is the first year Texas schools were rated in the new federal system. Students are expected to make annual progress in reading and math so that every child is proficient by 2013-14. Schools that don't make progress would face sanctions that could include allowing students to transfer to other campuses.
The changed ratings in Texas speak to the biggest gripe from districts when the first list came out: one or two absent students can prevent an otherwise successful school from earning a passing grade.
That's no longer the case for hundreds of schools statewide.
Criss Cloudt, the state's associate commissioner of accountability and data quality, said the education agency changed participation requirements to make them statistically valid. She said changes could have been avoided with earlier notice of participation requirements from the U.S. Education Department.
She said the TEA believes it was within its rights to make the changes. The state agency has sent details of its new ratings to Washington at the request of the federal department.
"We're reviewing that to determine if it meets the requirement of the law," said U.S. Education Department spokeswoman Susan Aspey.
Avoiding sanctions
Federal law says schools must meet standards in performance and participation on state tests, as well as on graduation and attendance rates, to avoid sanctions.
Nationally, states are revising passing rates and criteria for standards, said Kathy Christie of the Education Commission of the States, a nonprofit policy group based in Denver. Last week, the Hawaii Department of Education, for example, announced an increase in its passing rates as a result of appeals by schools there. In Minnesota, education officials decided to give more leeway in attendance and graduation rates to alternative schools.
Ms. Christie said the natural tendency would be to perceive changes such as those in Texas' as lowering the standards. But some states are simply working out first-year kinks, she said.
"You can't say it's totally OK; you can't say it's totally wrong," Ms. Christie said. "It's kind of trying to change a tire while you're driving down the street."
TEA spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson said the agency did not lower standards but simply corrected an oversight it did not have time to catch while racing to meet deadlines to notify schools about their passing or failing status.
"Because we were so short on time, it didn't get done in the beginning, and it should have been," Ms. Culbertson said.
No Child Left Behind requires participation rates of 95 percent on the tests. The rate not only applies to overall participation but also within various demographic groups, including special-education students and students from different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. The intent is to make sure students who might not perform well are not excluded on test day.
States' decision
States decide how big a group should be for statistically valid results. In Texas, demographic groups with 50 or more students were counted for this year's standards.
To earn a 95 percent participation rate, only two students in a group of 50 could be absent from school on the day of the test. The TEA changed the requirement to say that in any group, up to nine students could be absent. In a group of 50 students, that would change the minimum passing participation rate to 82 percent.
But Dr. Cloudt said that only one school bumped to passing had a rate that low. Of the more than 500 schools added to the passing list because of the change, 95 percent had participation rates of at least 90 percent. Fifty percent had participation rates of 94 percent or higher.
Students took the tests in February and April. At that point, Texas education officials had not been told whether their proposal for standards were accepted, Dr. Cloudt said.
They had asked that the participation rates be phased in over time. They did not find out that was rejected until June.
But Ms. Aspey, U.S. Education Department spokeswoman, said the law was clear that participation rates were not negotiable.
Most other states, Dr. Cloudt said, either offer makeup dates or provide a window of time in which students can take the test. That way, schools are not penalized because of one day's attendance. Texas did not have that system in place. Schools did not find out until months after the test was taken how important attendance had been, she said. At Texas high schools, where the average attendance is 94.1 percent, the requirement hit hardest.
The TEA received 151 letters of appeal, representing a total of 243 campuses and districts. Most were related to participation. Schools sent notice that some students were in the hospital in comas, and one said a student was at home waiting for a liver transplant.
In many cases, one to three students made the difference between passing and failing.
Instead of making judgments about absences, the TEA put in the changed attendance rule.
Dr. Cloudt said her understanding was that states have discretion when it comes to appeals. Ms. Christie said that although states have discretion in how they process appeals, it will be up to the federal department to decide whether it is in compliance.
Plano's appeals
The Plano Independent School District successfully appealed the status of each of its five "needs improvement" schools. Although the schools far surpassed performance standards, they barely missed the 95 percent participation standard among certain groups of students, including, for example, those enrolled in special education.
Priscilla Kimery, director of research and evaluation for the Plano district, said the state simply corrected an error.
She said school principals are pleased with the change.
"It makes them feel validated. They knew they were doing well."
This year, Texas will allow time for makeup exams.
Whit Johnstone, director of planning evaluation and research for the Irving Independent School District, said that should help most schools that were on the cusp of success.
Irving lost its appeal to change the "needs improvement" status of Nimitz High School. At Nimitz, 94.1 percent of Anglo students took the math test used for the standards. Even though just a few students ultimately made the difference, more than nine total were absent.
Dr. Johnstone said one day's attendance should not decide whether a school is branded "needs improvement."
"Once we get past that, hopefully the rating will reflect really what it's supposed to reflect."
In several districts, results from appeals were mixed.
In the Dallas Independent School District, four schools were taken off the "needs improvement" list, but an appeal for a change at a middle school was unsuccessful.
Twenty-two schools remain on the list, including 19 high schools.
District spokesman Donald Claxton said schools have been keeping close track of student performance all year.

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Consistent Instruction Said To Improve Schools

By KIMBERLY MILLER, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer, The Palm Beach Post, December 9, 2003

Consistency is the key to better performing schools, said district officials who touted a plan Monday that asks all teachers to use the same rules and lessons in the classroom.
The plan, called "single-school culture," ensures that academically and with discipline issues, teachers are on a similar page.
Without it, teachers in the same school can vary greatly on classroom rules, discipline and academic standards.
"Teacher A lets you chew gum, teacher B doesn't, and teacher C says, 'What the heck, it's Friday,' " said Alison Adler, director of the district's Safe Schools Center, using an example of how students can receive mixed messages.
Last year, more than $500,000 was spent training teachers on using the method, which requires them to meet weekly to work on lesson plans and classroom rules.
Officials said Monday during a school board workshop the plan helped bring up the grades of at least three F-rated elementary schools. West Riviera, Lincoln and Bethune elementary schools in Riviera Beach raised their F's to C grades after making discipline and academics consistent.
This year, Adler's office received $1.2 million in grants for training and to focus on streamlining the academic portion of the program, which asks teachers to have common lesson plans.
Already, 38 schools identified as low performing are required to use the program this year. Another 40 schools have volunteered to use it.
"We haven't as a system gone back since the 1980s and reevaluated what is expected in the classroom," Adler said. "We are going back to reteach ethos and fairness."
Part of the program requires teachers to spend between 50 minutes and two hours a week working together to review lesson plans and align them with rigorous academic standards.
Superintendent Art Johnson said early results from the single- school culture approach were successful enough he'll consider making it mandatory in all of the county's 160 schools.
"I don't think you could meet No Child Left Behind without using it," said Johnson, referring to the federal law that requires all students to be performing on grade level by 2014.

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