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State of Illinois - Governor Blagojevich 

News Clips

News Clips – September 3–10, 2004


State board to award big pact amid protest / Chicago Tribune
School's no-braids policy has parents in a twist / Sun-Times
Dist. 128 to drop funding over No Child Left Behind / Daily Herald
Poor districts rely heavily on local funding / Peoria Journal Star
Antioch may revise school honors policy / Chicago Tribune
Watch and learn: New system helps track, address antisocial student behavior / Beacon News
Study: Schools could trim girls' obesity with more PE / Chicago Tribune
Teachers strikes are hurtful; state should make them illegal / Rockford Register Star
An education in putting kids first / Freeport Journal Standard
Healthy treats the new hot stuff on school menus / Sun-Times
Dist. 46 officials get schooled on FOIA / Daily Herald
Belleville West High sizes up uniform policy / St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Rally for dropout schools / Chicago Tribune, Metro Edition
Safety precautions / Pantagraph
Alleged abductors' bond set at $3 million / Peoria Journal Star
Gym is not optional in fighting childhood obesity / Chicago Tribune
Benefits of raising dropout age outweigh risks / Galesburg Register-Mail
Teachers hope new, smaller schools will make the difference / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Bush vows to make high schools a priority / Boston Globe
Are kids still left behind? No /
New York Daily News
Academic focus shoves PE aside /
Arizona Republic
Fewer schools falling short on 'No Child Left Behind' / USA Today
Houston may create school for immigrants only / Sun-Times
Law works against public schools / Oregonian
NCLB's science-based goals ignore arts' importance to children / Pasadena Star-News
An example in Philadelphia / Washington Times
Washington Times left facts behind / Media Matters for America
School psychologist shortage has impact /
New sex-ed texts that omit contraception debated / Houston Chronicle
Teachers find making house calls pays off / Sacramento Bee
Warner Plans Drive To Reform U.S. Schools /
Washington Post
State Backs School District Secession Bid /
Los Angeles Times




State board to award big pact amid protest
By Ray Long, Tribune staff reporter, September 3, 2004

SPRINGFIELD -- The Illinois State Board of Education voted Thursday to finalize a contract worth about $45 million with a standardized testing firm represented by a lobbyist who has close ties to the governor.

The decision came despite a strong protest from the current testing firm, which stands to lose the contract to conduct testing in schools throughout the state.

Board members ordered the staff to put the finishing touches on a five-year contract with Harcourt Assessment Inc., represented by lobbyist John Wyma, a former congressional aide to Gov. Rod Blagojevich who played a key role in his 2002 campaign for governor.

A Blagojevich spokeswoman insisted Wyma's role had nothing to do with the firm's selection, saying two other good friends of the governor were lobbying for other bidders and that the governor's office stayed far away from the evaluation process. Wyma had no comment.

The state's current testing firm, Pearson Educational Measurement, protested that the contract should be rebid because significant changes had been made in the state's testing requirements since the board asked for proposals last year.

Four of seven testing components were eliminated during the elongated budget fight that wrapped up in July, and Pearson said bidders should be given another 60 days to adjust their proposals to address the changes. The governor and the legislature agreed to cut $6.3 million for tests, prompting the changes.

Tests still will be performed in the core curriculum of reading, math and science. But the state eliminated various testing for writing, social studies, fine arts, and health and physical development, officials said.

The contract calls for two years of development and three years of performing future tests, officials said.

Pearson Vice President Michael Hussey argued the board should not be working out the final details with Harcourt when new bids are called for.

"It is likely, if not certain, that the state will not receive the best value on this contract by negotiating with only one vendor for the significantly reduced scope," Hussey said.

He further argued negotiations with only one bidder is a violation of
Illinois procurement law. Even though the board's staff said the actions were legal, Hussey said the disagreement created the "potential for litigation."

Citing the potential lawsuit, State Schools Supt. Robert Schiller stood behind the board's review but said he could not comment further.

A subcontractor with Pearson was represented by former Illinois Atty. Gen. Roland Burris, who lost to Blagojevich in the Democratic primary for governor but has retained a friendship with the governor, said Burris, who is now a lobbyist.

Dave Strickland, another former top staffer for Blagojevich while he was in Congress, represented a third bidder, CTB/McGraw-Hill, which also lost.

All of the firms added lobbyists in recent weeks, according to state lobbyist records.

Nevertheless, some of the governor's harshest critics, including board member Ron Gidwitz, a Republican, stood behind the choice of Harcourt and voted for it when it passed without dissent Thursday.

Before voting, the board had asked the governor's office for written concurrence to take action on a testing contract, particularly because the governor plans to sign legislation to dismantle the board.

Cheryle Jackson, Blagojevich's press secretary, stressed the governor's office merely said to move forward because timing was critical and did not pass judgment on which proposal was best.

Burris concurred, saying the administration had immediately pointed him to the state board.


School's no-braids policy has parents in a twist

Walter Hubbard says keeping his 9-year-old son's hair in braids is a matter of principle. But the principal at
Thea Bowman Leadership Academy, the Gary charter school where Antwuan Hubbard is a third-grader, says she doesn't want boys wearing braids at her school and is keeping him out until the braids go.

"He wore his hair in braids all last year, but now they say it's a distraction," Walter Hubbard says. "He can wear his hair in a ponytail or an Afro, but not braids. I don't understand the logic."

Hubbard got a phone message from school last week, saying Antwuan needed to get rid of the braids.

A student handbook distributed during registration last month didn't say anything about a ban on braided hair for boys. But an amended version of the handbook, dated Tuesday, makes clear: No braids for boys.

"We have the right to change the dress code any time we want to," says Michael Bakalis, president of American Quality Schools, the
Chicago company that oversees five charter schools, defending the action by Bowman Principal Gwendolyn Adell.

"One of the themes of the school is that it is a leadership academy that will deal with entrepreneurship in the corporate world. If we want to succeed in it, we must comply with rules. Ms. Adell specifically made this a part of her policy. She is an experienced educator in
Gary, and we are going to stick to it."

Also, Bakalis, a former
Illinois state schools superintendent, said Thursday, with braids, "Some of the designs can be gang-related."

Hubbard says he doesn't think his son's hair is a distraction. He says Adell told him it was.

"It's a self-esteem issue with Antwuan," Hubbard says. "He's a straight-A student. He gets awards all the time."

Antwuan's mother, Tinika, who teaches in a Gary Head Start program, said his braids are "straight back and have never been in a design."

"I am very outraged," Tinika Hubbard said.


Dist. 128 to drop funding over No Child Left Behind
By C. L. Waller, Daily Herald Staff Writer,
September 03, 2004

Libertyville-Vernon Hills Area High School District 128 is the first school system in
Lake County to say "no thanks" to federal money because of the strings attached.

Other districts in the county are examining their situations and may also balk at rules in the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Under the law, schools receiving Title I money for low-income students must meet testing standards over a period of several years.

For instance,
Libertyville High School is among 15 schools in the county that should offer those students a choice to transfer to another school because No Child Left Behind guidelines were not met for two years.

Other high schools that should offer a transfer choice are Grant,
Antioch, Mundelein, Highland Park and Zion-Benton.

District 128 did not qualify for Title I money until two years ago, when it received $92,000. The amount for the 2004-05 school year is $78,000.

Not taking the money means District 128 is not required to offer the No Child Left Behind choice.

Not only is the Title 1 funding amount shrinking from year to year, but meeting federal rules requires so much time it is not worth the money, said District 128 Associate Superintendent Catherine Finger.

"The amount of time and energy you need to spend that won't improve your program is counterproductive," Finger said, adding it is a "completely unfunded mandate."

Highland Park-Deerfield High School District 113 is accepting Title I money, but it also is clocking time spent to comply with the act.

"There is an increased level of paperwork associated with it," said Janelle Cleland, district learning director.

At Mundelein High School District 120, school officials are weighing the cost of compliance with dollars received from Title I, according to district spokeswoman Kelly Happ. The earliest the school board would consider a change is at its Sept. 14 meeting.

Compliance starts with
Illinois students taking tests. Results are grouped in 15 ways, including by ethnicity, to see if each school is meeting federal standards. If a school does not pass standards in any one group, the school fails overall, the federal law states.

Sanctions increase each year a school fails to demonstrate adequate progress. After seven years of failure, a school must find an alternate form of control, which may include turning the school over to the state. All
Illinois school districts must also comply with separate state standards.

The federal law forces schools to look at special populations. Finger said the district supports that concept and started a new analysis of its data because of it.

"To me, that's the power behind this," she said. "Not taking Title I dollars has no effect on accountability."

Cook County, Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 is refusing Title I money, and Evanston Township High School board is expected to vote on the issue next week.


Poor districts rely heavily on local funding
Some area school officials say they are not getting enough money from state for education
Karen McDonald, Peoria Journal Star,
Grade-schoolers at
Hollis Consolidated School District in Peoria have access to an indoor, heated swimming pool.
At Roanoke-Benson Junior High, on the other hand, administrators struggle to afford replacing a heating unit.
"We had to ask for a tax referendum," Roanoke Unit District 60 Superintendent Lynn Curtis said. "Just trying to keep up with the changes in technology is a struggle for us."
The contrast in those schools' finances can be seen in districts throughout the state. And many Peoria-area school officials at the low end of the financial stick say they aren't getting enough state money to fund education, forcing local taxpayers to carry the burden.
About 62 percent of school funding comes from local sources, including property taxes, while
districts receive 31 percent from the state and 7 percent in federal funding, according to statewide averages published by the Illinois State Board of Education.
"The state isn't funding a large enough percentage of education, therefore increasing the reliance on local property taxes," said Dave Marshall, regional superintendent of schools for Marshall, Putnam and Woodford counties. "The only place school districts have to go for extra funds is the local property tax payer."
Schools get local, state and federal money based on the wealth of the district, number of students and other factors.
The General State Aid formula is used to calculate the amount of aid each school district receives. Districts located in wealthy areas - with high property values - get less general state aid because they receive more money from local taxpayers than poorer districts.
Trier Township High School in Northfield, for example, had an assessed valuation of $711,433 per student, while El Paso District 375 (now consolidated with Gridley) had an assessed valuation of $100,343 per student in 2000, the most recent figures available. New Trier spent $14,900 per student while El Paso spent $7,900 on each student in 2001-02.
"Let's face it, right now the education you receive is somewhat dependent on your ZIP Code. That's why we have the inequities we do,"
Marshall said.
In New Trier, only 4 percent of 2001-02 revenues came from state coffers while nearly 95 percent came from local sources. By comparison,
El Paso received 39 percent of revenues from the state and 57 percent from local dollars.
In addition to general aid, schools receive state funding for poverty, special education, early childhood, breakfast and lunch programs, transportation and consolidation, among others. In
El Paso, that other funding totaled about $1.5 million, or 20 percent of the district's total revenues.
But as the costs of special education rise, school officials complain the federal government isn't keeping up with promised payments.
The 1975 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act mandates the federal government pay 40 percent of the cost of special education.
However, many local school districts report they are receiving less than 20 percent re-imbursement.
"If the federal government would pay what it is supposed to be paying for special education, many of our school districts would not be having the financial trouble they are,"
Marshall said.
For example, Metamora High School District 122 spent $541,000 last year in special education and received only about $82,000 in federal reimbursement instead of the $216,000 promised, Superintendent Ken Maurer said.
"We are being shortchanged by their own law," Maurer said.
"Eighty percent of school districts are deficit spending. Where would we be if the federal government had actually funded the program?"


Antioch may revise school honors policy
Many protest state exam rule
Robert Channick,
Chicago Tribune
After getting an earful from parents and students frustrated by stringent new requirements to graduate with honors,
Antioch Community High School officials said they might revise the controversial policy.
"If what we've done is flawed, then it's flawed and we change it and we move forward," District 117 President Philip Delany told a crowd of more than 100 people who jammed Thursday's board meeting.
In March, Antioch became the first Illinois school to make success on the Prairie State Achievement Examination a key factor in determining who graduates with honors or cum laude.
The test, which is given to juniors statewide each spring, determines whether a school can be labeled as failing and face sanctions under No Child Left Behind, the federal education reform law.
About 200 of last year's 500 seniors, roughly 40 percent of the class, received honors by earning at least a 3.0 grade point average, or cum laude with a 4.0 out of a possible 4.5 GPA.
Under the new approach, only about 40 students are expected to make the grade this year, officials said.
Students now must meet the GPA requirements and also exceed state standards on three of five sections in the
Prairie State exam for honors, and four out of five for cum laude. The sections include reading, math and science.
"The colleges that I was looking at aren't going to be that interested anymore because I don't make the cut for the honor roll," said Leslie White, 17, of
Antioch, a National Honor Society member who ranks among the top 7 percent of the senior class.
Another student, Leslie Collins, will drop from cum laude to honors.
"We did our best and coming out of it, it kind of feels like you failed," said Collins, 17, who with a 4.18 GPA ranks 7th out of 519 seniors.
Since there are plans to reduce the
Prairie State exam from five sections to three, revisiting the issue is inevitable, officials said.
"It makes the policy an obsolete policy," said District 117 Supt. Jay Sabatino.
Several parents urged the board to rescind the honors policy, saying it was unfair to current seniors to change the rules so close to graduation.
"It has broken faith with our students because of the promise they had when they entered as freshmen," said Marty Kroeker of Lindenhurst, whose daughter Lianna, a senior, won't graduate with honors because of the
Prairie State exam.
Ellen Wright, another senior, has a nearly 3.8 GPA, but also came up short on the test.
"She deserves to graduate with honors, and I am appalled that someone would attempt to take that away from her based on one exam in three-plus years," said her mother, Pam Roncone.
The board plans to reconsider the policy Sept. 16.


Watch and learn: New system helps track, address antisocial student behavior
Targeting problems: Field tested in Indian Prairie,
Naperville schools
Tim Waldorf, Aurora Beacon News
NAPERVILLE — Research shows that teachers are 40 to 45 percent accurate at identifying bullies and their victims, according to Dr. Keith Avery.
That's one reason why he and his wife, Dr. Amy Avery, both
Naperville psychologists, developed a data-driven system that provides teachers in the Naperville and Indian Prairie school districts with a way to measure and rectify the growing concerns students, parents and educators have regarding the social and learning climates in schools.
The system, called Manners Matrix, was field-tested in
Naperville schools last year, and its success led to the spread this year across Naperville and Indian Prairie, where it was tested in four schools beginning last year.
The Averys developed Manners Matrix to give educators the ability to assess every student's perception regarding his or her social and learning environment. It gives educators data regarding the kinds of antisocial behavior happening at their schools, where the problems are occurring, who is involved in them and how students are responding to them.
Information comes from surveys of students, parents, teachers and bus drivers, and follow-up surveys allow educators to respond to current events and test whether their action plans are successful.
Keith Avery said most educators aren't using tools such as Manners Matrix in directing their efforts to address the social and emotional needs of students, such as the attempt to curb bullying.
"It's based on perception," he said, "and perceptions can be very inaccurate."
By including reports of students' experiences and opinions, Manners Matrix adds other points of view to the process of improving a school's social and learning climate.
"So you're going to get richer, wider data that is probably more accurate," Avery said.
Kitty Murphy,
Naperville's assistant superintendent for student services and special education, said the system provides a school-specific look at different problems.
"Now we can do much more targeted interventions," she said.
For example, one of the biggest problems
Kennedy Junior High School students noted on Manners Matrix surveys was pushing and shoving in the hallways, Principal Don Perry said. So Perry examined the sort of supervision provided students during passing periods. And fearing he might be filling his school's halls with too many kids at once, Perry adjusted the flow and patterns of traffic during those times.
Perry said Manners Matrix made it clear to him when and where problems are arising at Kennedy.
"People for years have been trying to alter student behavior," Perry said. "But they've had no way of knowing whether what they were doing was working or not because they didn't have the data."
Maplebrook Elementary School, the survey helped Principal Gwen Bockman strategically place lunchroom supervisors in areas where students said bullying was more likely to take place. Supervisors will spend more time watching the four-square games and less time watching the swings at recess, she said.
And when problems arise, Bockman said she has learned from the surveys not to rely on peer mediation to solve them. The peer mediation approach encourages students to pick one of their classmates to help them solve a problem they may have with another student.
"Kids didn't feel comfortable telling other kids their problems," she said. "They prefer to tell their teachers or their parents. They don't think other kids can help them."
So at Maplebrook, these problems are now addressed in weekly classroom meetings led by teachers. During these meetings, students talk about and resolve their problems with guidance and supervision of an adult that they trust.
"It's a way that the students problem-solve with the teacher during class time," Bockman said.
Manners Matrix results also provide schools with information on individual students. They are asked in a non-emotionally charged setting to tell their schools what happens to them, where it happens, who's doing it, how often it happens, how they respond and, ultimately, how these experiences affect them. Based on responses, schools are able to keep track of kids for whom their social and learning climates provide more challenges than they do the average student. This information is provided to counselors so they know whom to work with and how to work with them.
Avery said the data-driven approach of Manners Matrix will propel the
Naperville and Indian Prairie schools beyond the current state mandates regarding issues of bullying, school climate and the social and emotional needs of students.
"The most that most schools have been able to do is update their policies to say that they won't tolerate bullying," Avery said. "Well, that doesn't really do anything."

Study: Schools could trim girls' obesity with more PE
Rick Callahan, Associated Press/Chicago Tribune
Just an extra hour of exercise a week could cut obesity significantly among overweight girls, according to a study that researchers say could lead to major changes in the way schools fight the problem.
The study--the largest look yet at obesity among younger children--did not show the same results for boys, possibly because they generally get more exercise than girls.
Still, Dr. Rebecca Unger, a pediatrician at Children's
Memorial Hospital in Chicago, said the findings show the important role that schools can play to prevent obesity and its health ramifications. She said the study highlights the importance of funding daily physical education in the nation's schools, where about 15 percent of children and adolescents are overweight, according to government figures.
"This is incredibly serious if you consider the medical and emotional consequences of obesity," said Unger, who was not involved in the research. "The further along these problems progress, the more at risk these children are."
In the study of more than 11,000 children, researchers compared changes in the body-mass index--a measure of weight relative to height--of obese and overweight girls in kindergarten and 1st grade. They found that the prevalence of obesity and overweight among the girls fell 10 percent in schools that gave 1st graders one hour more of exercise time per week than kindergartners.
Based on that, the researchers believe that giving kindergartners at least five hours of physical education per week--the amount recommended by the federal government--could reduce the prevalence of obesity and overweight among girls by 43 percent.
"This has the ability to affect tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of children," said Nancy Chockley, president of the National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation.
The Washington, D.C.-based non-profit group recently released a research brief on the study and two others of childhood obesity.
The analyses were done by Rand Corp., a think tank that used data collected by the U.S. Department of Education as part of a long-term study of 11,192 children from about 1,000 schools who entered kindergarten in 1998.
The results released so far are only for those youths' kindergarten and 1st-grade years. Data on their 3rd-grade and 5th-grade years will be released later.
Yale University obesity researcher Kelly Brownell said the findings are significant because they demonstrate the importance of making sure children get adequate physical activity, in or out of school.
But he said exercise must be tied with better eating habits--including rethinking school lunch programs and the presence of school vending machines laden with high-calorie snacks--to fully address the nation's epidemic of childhood obesity.


Teachers strikes are hurtful; state should make them illegal
Rockford Register-Star Editorial
So, students went back to school in the
Harlem district Friday after being idled for nine days by a teachers strike.
Teachers and the district still had not reached a contract agreement, but both sides agreed to submit their final proposals for binding arbitration. Since the two sides could not come to a deal on their own, they allowed a neutral third party to unstick the sticking points on the contract.
In going to binding arbitration, both sides agreed to live with the arbitrator's decisions.
It was a good decision, albeit too late to prevent the damage that teachers strikes inevitably cause.
There ought to be a law against it in
Illinois, which is among only nine states that allow teachers to strike. Twenty-four states prohibit teachers from striking, and 12 states have penalties ranging from dismissal to imprisonment for teachers who refuse to work.
Well, prison might be a bit drastic, but something needs to be done, particularly as the vast majority of
Illinois' school districts face serious financial problems. More and more districts could find themselves facing strike threats as competition for dollars intensifies.
Illinois needs serious education funding reform to address the financial crisis and a no-strike law to keep teachers at their jobs. Illinois already has laws to prohibit strikes by workers essential to public safety and security, including police and firefighters.
When the
Harlem contract finally gets settled, who will be declared the big winner? Teachers got some of what they wanted. Management got some of what it wanted. Kids go back to school. Parents go back to their usual routines.
No harm, no foul?
No way.
Everyone lost. Teachers and administrators lost some of the trust and confidence the community places in them to handle the business of education maturely, fairly and in the best interest of the students. School districts exist for one purpose only -- to educate children. Providing salaries and benefits to teachers and administrators is a byproduct of the essential mission, not the mission itself.
Labor and management both failed by allowing the situation to get to this point. They squandered the opportunity to demonstrate how differences can be settled with communication and compromise without getting to the worst-case strike scenario.
The disruption, cost and inconvenience of a strike diminishes community tolerance for declining school quality and rising costs. They do, in fact, compound those problems by impairing districts' ability to pass tax referendums to improve quality and meet expenses.
The Hononegah district's tax referendum was defeated by a huge margin after the three-week strike there last fall.
Harlem has a tax referendum for education on the November ballot. The district faces an uphill battle selling it, especially now.
The damage goes into the classroom, too, on the respect front. When students return to school, some of them may look at teachers with a different perspective because of how the strike inconvenienced their families, affected the sports program and started the school year under a dark cloud.
The same situation looms if
Rockford contract negotiations turn contentious, as history and early posturing by both sides indicate they are likely to.
We would ask that the key players start talking now about how they can avoid a Harlem-Hononegah situation. Set a deadline well before the start of the 2005-06 school year as a hard and fast date by which to have a contract agreement.
If talks are stalled at that point with no movement in sight, the parties should submit to binding arbitration to be completed by the beginning of the school year and live with the outcome.
A strike in this district would do immeasurable damage, just at the time when there are signs that the quality and confidence declines are being reversed.
This lesson could not be simpler and obvious.


An education in putting kids first
Freeport Journal Standard Editorial,
The issue: District 145 teacher contract
Our view: The decision by teachers and administrators to avert a strike in 2003 is paying dividends.
During a
7:30 a.m. meeting nearly a year ago, District 145 officials approved a deal with teachers, represented by the Freeport Education Association, that has had a lasting impact on the community.
In a sense, it's why our kids are in school today, on schedule, and not suffering through the long-term ill effects of labor strife that have dominated recent headlines.
Our friends in the
Harlem district, North of Rockford, can now attest to the level of that damage can be caused by a strike. And we're not just talking about having to make up school days or forfeit football games.
Strikes pit teachers against the administration, leaving parents and, especially students, caught in the middle. People, being people, say things in the heat of battle they regret later. And often kids don't understand why all the adults are fighting - each of them purporting to be doing so on their behalf.
Teachers have every right to strike - just as administrators are obligated to get the most out of every dollar spent on education. But when both sides participate in brinkmanship, and haggle over minutiae or some deeply held symbolic issue, little good comes out of the process.
The willingness of
Freeport teachers in 2003 to keep negotiating long past the allowable deadline for a strike shows that in Freeport, education is not a zero-sum game. Thankfully, in Freeport in 2003, calmer heads prevailed.
The three-year deal called for a salary increase of 3 percent the first year and 3.25 percent in the second and third years. That brought the base salary for a new teacher, with a degree and no previous teaching experience, to $26,706 - an amount that included a payment into the Teacher Retirement System. A teacher at the top of the scale earns $58,307 under the pact.
Though negotiations were long and tedious to be sure, the two sides also agreed on an equitable formula to cope with rising health-care costs.
The process revealed give and take on both sides, along with a healthy recognition of the economic environment in
Freeport. They got the job done.
Following approval of the 2003 deal, Paul Everding, president of the FEA had this to say of the process:
"I think that on the whole it's a contract that everybody can be satisfied with for this next three years. We realize that economic times are tough across the board, so we're please that we have a contract ..."
District 145 Superintendent Peter Flynn, meanwhile, thanked the teachers and bargaining team for their patience during the negotiations, calling the pact "a decent contract during a very difficult economic time."
Those are exactly the types of attitudes that we hope will continue into the next round of negotiations in 2006.
After all, object lessons on the damage wrought by labor strife in schools are all around us; just as the sight of our children trotting happily off to start another year - in schools we can all be proud of - remind us of the enduring value of compromise.


Healthy treats the new hot stuff on school menus
BY MONIFA THOMAS, Sun-Times Staff Reporter, 9/8/04

Flamin' Hot Crunchy Cheetos.

That's what students at
Lane Tech High School were looking for Tuesday when they popped their quarters into the vending machines at lunchtime.

But the chips, chocolate cookies and sugar-laden sodas are a thing of the past, now that the Northwest Side school has restocked its vending machines with healthier snacks and drinks as part of a larger Chicago Public Schools initiative.

The new snack options include rice cakes, fruit cups and a variety of baked chips. Carbonated drinks also have been replaced with bottled water and juice.

School store manager Michael Choffnes said he was glad to see the junk food go.

"The students didn't just buy one bag [of Cheetos]. They bought two at a time, and then they bought two cans of Sprite to wash it down," Choffnes said. "It was a nutritional disaster."

Though she'll miss the flaming hot cheese snacks, freshman Dee DeJesus said the changes are better in the long run because "they give us no choice but to eat healthy or nothing at all."

Shakira Bates, on the other hand, wasn't too pleased with the new vending machine options.

"I don't like all this baked stuff," she said. "I don't think people are going to eat it."

In the cafeteria, pizza, nachos and hamburgers are still on the menu, but a few healthy substitutions have been made. For instance, students get nachos with salsa instead of cheese, and the school now orders reduced fat ground beef for hamburgers and tacos, according to the school's new food service manager Charles Pikes.

Lane Tech's nutrition teacher, Carla Serantoni, said such small changes there and at other public schools are a good way to curb childhood obesity.

"It would be too overwhelming to tell kids to change every part of their diet," she said.


Dist. 46 officials get schooled on FOIA
By C. L. Waller, Daily Herald Staff Writer, September 09, 2004
Repeated calls to the Illinois Attorney General's office about Freedom of Information requests prompted an unusual training session this week for the Grayslake Elementary District 46 school board.

The situation was "unique enough to prompt one-on-one training with the board," said Terry L. Mutchler, assistant attorney general for the Freedom of Information Bureau/Policy.

District residents had told the attorney general's office they were denied copies of an audit report. District officials said they notified residents they needed more time to fill the requests because the report is hundreds of pages.

"Our goal is to get the public and the board to understand the act," Mutchler said.

She said the audit report situation fueled Freedom of Information calls from residents to the attorney general's office. The first week the office got five to seven calls, and since then it has received about three calls a week, Mutchler said.

Freedom of Information requests at the District 46 offices also started to accumulate. There were five in March, three in April, four in May, 10 in June, two in July and one in August. Five requests that took 28 hours of employee time to fill were never even picked up, according to the district.

Mutchler said the audit report is a public document, but under state law there is some information in it that would be properly excluded. The public, for instance, may have the right to know how much the district is spending for special education services for a student but it may not necessarily have a right to know who that child is, she said.

"What I have seen is compliance," she said.

Yet, she also told the board, "Members of the public have to look at what they really want."


Belleville West High sizes up uniform policy
By Alexa Aguilar of the Post-Dispatch, 9/08/2004
The clothing of the hundreds of students eating lunch at
Belleville West High School on Wednesday was as varied as the students: Some were clad in black, others wore jeans and T-shirts, some sported tiny skirts and sleeveless shirts or sports jerseys and baggy pants.

The scene could change by next fall, now that a school district committee is considering making uniforms mandatory at both the East and West campuses.

If the district adopts a uniform policy, it will join a handful of public high schools in the
St. Louis area that mandate what their students wear each day. They include East St. Louis, Cahokia and Vashon. While thoughts of plaid jumpers and skirts may spring to mind, most public school uniforms consist of khaki or navy pants or skirts paired with a solid-color shirt.

"It's more of a strict dress code than a uniform," said Cahokia Superintendent Jed Deets.

Cahokia has had its policy for four years. The first year was "like World War III," with parents picketing in front of schools, he said. Now, parents appreciate not having to spend money to keep up with the latest fashions, he said. And administrators say there's a marked increase in behavior problems when students occasionally are allowed to wear anything they like.

Nationally, some school districts adopted uniforms in the mid-1990s as they looked for ways to stem violence. The model was
Long Beach, Calif., the first big-city school district with uniforms. Crime dropped 22 percent there in 1994, the first year of the policy. Now, many of the country's large public school systems - including those in St. Louis and Chicago - have voluntary or mandatory uniform policies. Some smaller districts that were eager to try uniforms in the 1990s have abandoned them, finding the policy difficult to enforce, especially when optional.

Most suburban and rural high schools have largely ignored the issue. In
St. Louis County, for example, children wear uniforms in some elementary schools, but they are rare in public middle schools and high schools.

Belleville is considering them by request, said Superintendent Brent Clark. After the district adopted a mandatory physical education uniform this year, he said, parents asked administrators to "at least look at school uniforms."

Proponents say uniforms are cheaper, improve discipline, reduce peer pressure and keep kids focused on school. Opponents argue that uniforms have not been proven to raise academic performance or deter school violence, and they limit students' individuality.

Ed Yohnka, director of communication for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, questioned why, in a society that celebrates free thinking, young people should attend public school in uniform.

"My concern is, what message does it send when we say that the way to get by in school is to conform?" Yohnka said.

Others want to know what message is conveyed by exposed midriffs and drooping pants.

"There is a lot more distraction when children have body parts exposed," said Paul Seibert, director of development at
Governor French Academy, a private school in Belleville. Students at his high school must wear jackets, and the boys must wear ties.

Seibert said uniforms prepare students for adult life in the professional world. As for individuality, "if that were their only vehicle of self-expression, then I would be concerned," Seibert said.

Students at Belleville West High have mixed opinions on their pending wardrobe fate. Some said uniforms would ease the pressures of a culture in which the right shoes or shirt can determine what group of students you hang out with.

Freshman Kalia Miller and her friends said various groups of students adhere to their own dress codes: Nerds wear jeans that are too high, while "preps" wear "Abercrombie and stuff."

A group of seniors across the cafeteria said they are a lot less concerned with their clothes than they were four years ago. The group mostly wore T-shirts and jeans.

"If they had uniforms, nobody would be singled out by their clothing," said senior Brandon Lybarger.

"Uniforms would be lame," countered Anne Norris, a junior.

"If we were all wearing uniforms, we wouldn't be able to express ourselves," said sophomore Crystal Zehner. "You get an idea from someone about who they are from what they wear."

Vashon High School, sophomore Christopher Venuto, 15, says wearing uniforms "keeps the gangs down, and it keeps people from getting picked on for what they are wearing."

Junior LaToya Lewis, 16, has grown to like the uniform - polo shirts with the school logo, paired with khaki pants or skirts.

"It's cool, I like it," she said. "But I wish we could wear our regular clothes on Fridays."


Rally for dropout schools
150 urge funding of alternative sites
By Stephanie Banchero, Tribune staff reporter,

Frenchel Delgado dropped out of Senn High School two years ago because, as she tells it, she could not conform to the rules, had a tough time getting herself to classes and felt lost in the swarm of students vying for the teacher's attention.

But after a few weeks sitting at home contemplating her bleak future of minimum-wage jobs, Delgado decided to enroll at
Antonia Pantoja School, an alternative school for dropouts.

"It saved my life," recalled Delgado, now 18. "If it wasn't for the school, I'd probably be working at McDonald's or sitting at home watching TV."

Delgado was one of about 150 high school students who rallied at the
Thompson Center Thursday, urging state educators to restore funding for Pantoja and 10 other alternative high schools in Chicago that did not win competitive state grants this year.

Carrying placards with "We Need Money 4 Graduation Not Incarceration," the teenagers paraded around the plaza shouting "restore our money."

Three students hand-delivered a letter to Illinois State Board of Education officials asking the agency to reverse its decision.

"If they don't give us the money back, a lot of kids are going to end up on the street," said Lamont Matthews, 18, who attends
Community Christian Alternative Academy.

The Illinois State Board of Education decided earlier this year not to renew a $2 million grant to City Colleges of
Chicago, which administers the Alternative Education Consortium, a partnership of public, private and community-based organizations that run schools for high school dropouts. Members of the consortium said the grant represents about 30 percent of their budget and, if not restored, would force them to turn youngsters away.

The 11-school consortium enrolls about 600 students a year. About 4,200 dropouts have earned high school diplomas during the program's 18 years.

Naomi Greene, spokeswoman for the state board, said the money for the program comes through a competitive grant and the City Colleges application ranked near the bottom this year.

The applications are ranked by outside evaluators based on a host of factors, including whether there is need for the program and whether the goals are well defined.

Chicago Public Schools also provides alternative schooling at three high schools.


Safety precautions
Many schools have ambulances present at football games
By Rebecca Loda, Pantagraph, 9/10/04
There have been ambulances at
Bloomington High School varsity football games as long as John Szabo has been athletic director.
There will be ambulances -- at a cost of $185 a game -- at
Normal Community High School games this year after a visiting player broke a leg last year, and not just at varsity football games.

Tri-Valley High School has emergency personnel and a rescue vehicle at all football games. LeRoy High School has an ambulance only at varsity games.

A Tri-Valley parent whose son was seriously injured at last year's junior varsity football game at LeRoy continues to question the response to his son's injury. The school defends its actions.

There are no requirements for safety personnel to attend regular-season games and districts have their own varying standards for which sports and levels of competition -- varsity, junior varsity, sophomore and freshmen -- have emergency personnel and vehicles.

Dave Gannaway, assistant executive director of the Bloomington-based Illinois High School Association, said individual schools are responsible for their safety policies.

"We do not have guidelines," he said, adding the association does recommend an ambulance be at playoff games. "What we have done is recommend, but they have to know their policy and response times."

Gannaway noted injuries can occur in practices and in other sports. If an ambulance is at a game, he noted, it also could be called away on an emergency call. "The schools have to have plans in place to deal with all situations," he said.

Gail Rafferty, administrator with the LeRoy Emergency Ambulance Service, echoed those points, noting more rural services have limited staffing.

"It would be impossible because where do you start that happening?" she said. "Do you start at fifth-grade intramurals?"

In her tenure, she noted, the service has transported more baseball and softball injuries than in any other sport.

An ambulance from Lifeline Mobile Medics attends all varsity football games at BHS and is present at lower-level games if available, said Szabo.

"We've always had an ambulance at every football game for varsity since I've been here. To me, that's the sport that has the most injuries or the most severe injuries."

"We're fortunate in Bloomington-Normal that we have that ability," he said, adding certified trainers attend all athletic events at the school.

Normal Community High School Athletic Director Mike Clark said the decision to have a Lifeline ambulance at every football game this year was prompted by last year's injury. The same policy also will be followed at
Normal Community West High School. Both schools also have three certified trainers on hand that are contracted with the Unit 5 school district.

Tri-Valley High School, Principal Paul Colba said there are individuals trained to handle injuries at all athletic events. There are EMTs, first-responders and firefighters on hand at all football games, regardless of the level, he said. A rescue vehicle also is present.

"There's always the possibility of an injury, especially in football," said Colba. "We certainly want to be prepared for the safety of our students."

Ryan Jones, now a Tri-Valley senior, was seriously injured during the game last September at LeRoy. He required brain surgery, a 78-day hospital stay and continues to recover.

His father, Dr. Jeffrey Jones, continues to question the response to his son's injury, claiming the school's response was disorganized and a 911 call was not made soon enough. Jones does not question the LeRoy ambulance response time.

LeRoy Superintendent Ed Coller, however, said he is confident in the district's response to the incident.

Coller said the school does have ambulances at its varsity football games because of the level of competition and the large crowds. There is no cost for the service, he said.

Rafferty said the service would try to attend junior-varsity games, but could not guarantee it.

Jones said if an ambulance does not attend all games, the ambulance service should have a schedule to know when games are being played. Someone from the school district, he said, should be assigned to call 911 if necessary.

"I think if you do those two things, you have 99 percent of the situations covered," he said.


Alleged abductors' bond set at $3 million
Creve Coeur reviews school bus stop safety
By ANDY KRAVETZ of the Journal Star, 9/10/04

PEORIA - After a night of drinking and using drugs, two Peoria men set out for East Peoria and Creve Coeur on Tuesday, looking for a woman - any woman - to abduct, said Peoria County's top prosecutor.

7:20 a.m., Kevin E. Dish- man and Scott L. Lindholm found their victim, an 11- year-old Creve Coeur girl who was waiting for a school bus.

Dishman allegedly grabbed her by her bookbag and hauled her into their van; Lindholm then drove off with the girl inside. The pair allegedly sexually assaulted her several times throughout the day before the girl escaped.

On Thursday,
Peoria County State's Attorney Kevin Lyons said Dishman and Lindholm's actions were the "crime of outrage of the year." Circuit Judge Stephen Kouri ordered each man held on $3 million bond.

Both are charged with two counts of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child, two counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault and aggravated kidnapping. All are Class X felonies and could potentially land the men in prison for up to 60 years.

"There's a special place in hell for people like this,"
Lyons said after the hearing.

Dishman, 37, of
619 Fairholm Ave. and Lindholm, 22, of 606 Fairholm Ave., who participated in the hearing through videoconferencing, appeared disheveled and morose.

Both answered Kouri's questions with short, terse answers. They will next appear in court Oct. 7 for a preliminary hearing, though it's likely the case will brought before a grand jury before then.

During the bond hearing,
Lyons recounted the events of that long day, starting with the pair drinking at the Adam's Apple bar in Downtown Peoria and ending with them being captured by police about 10 p.m. in a remote, wooded area near Keystone Steel & Wire Co. in Bartonville.

Based upon a videotaped statement given by Lindholm after his arrest, the kidnapping was set into motion the night before,
Lyons said in open court. The pair decided after a night of booze, marijuana and cocaine that they wanted to find a random woman and abduct her.

Age, it appears from
Lyons's statements, didn't matter.

"It was entirely random,"
Lyons said, noting there was no relationship between the alleged abductors and the girl's family.

The pair snatched the girl as she was waiting for her school bus at Stewart and Groveland streets, and then drove her to Bartonville, where by the girl's and Lindholm's accounts, the pair allegedly sexually assaulted her four to five times each over several hours, Lyons said.

The prosecutor said the pair even dozed off, trapping the little girl between them in such a manner that her movement would awaken them. A few hours later, they awoke and sexually assaulted the girl again.

The child made her escape when the two men stepped out of the van to go to the bathroom.

"In her estimation, she did not stop running for about 40 minutes. It was dark but she could eventually see lights and thought she could be OK if she could get to the lights,"
Lyons said.

She was found by Keystone security, who alerted police. The girl then led officers back to her abductors, who were found passed out in the van,
Lyons said.

To help prevent another child abduction, teachers this week at
Creve Coeur School District 76 advised students to be aware of their surroundings, Superintendent Jack Wilt said. They also were given suggestions on what to do if they are ever in a situation with a stranger.

Wilt hopes to implement a new safety program next fall.

For now, though, classroom discussions are all that the district can provide to its students, Wilt said, adding it can't afford to put an adult at each bus stop to monitor students' safety.

Wilt plans to meet with Creve Coeur Police Chief Mike Button next week to mull over possibilities of increasing safety at bus stops.

According to Peoria County Circuit Court records, this case is Lindholm's first contact with the judicial system. Dishman has a few past drug convictions, but no felonies.

Lyons said the little girl was doing as well as could be expected, given the circumstances. He also praised her courage and bravery, noting she remembered everything in such detail, down to the types of signs that were in the back of the alleged abductors' van.

"These two men, with evil on their minds, were caught due to the heroic acts of a little girl," he said.


Gym is not optional in fighting childhood obesity
Letter by Guy Leahy, Fitness assessment coordinator, Harper College, Wellness & Human Performance Division, Chicago Tribune, 9/10/04
Unfortunately, the author of the letter "Harmful gym" (Voice of the People, Aug. 21) misses the point regarding childhood obesity. Assigning blame for the childhood obesity epidemic to hypothyroidism or other genetic diseases does not explain why rates of overweight children have greatly increased over the last two decades. According to the
National Center for Health Statistics, the percentage of children ages 6 to 11 who are overweight has increased from 7 percent in 1980 to 15 percent in 2000. The increase in prevalence of being overweight in teenagers has tripled (from 5 percent to 15 percent) in the same time period.

Such increases in overweight children have led to an increased number of cases of diseases in kids that have been previously extremely rare, such as high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol. For example, a recent study from
Texas documented that nearly 20 percent of school-age children had high blood pressure.
Children are overweight for the same reasons adults are: They eat too much and don't exercise enough. A recent Canadian study that looked at the relationship between being overweight and behavior in 7- to11-year-olds found those children who participated in regular physical activities such as sports were far less likely to be overweight than children who engaged in sedentary recreation, such as TV watching and video games. Making gym classes optional is exactly the wrong solution to the problem, since overweight children who are in the greatest need of regular exercise would be the most likely to opt out of such classes.

The argument that "children who don't have a natural bent for gym-class functions can suffer permanent mental harm by being forced to attend gym" isn't logical, because (1) overweight kids suffer social stigmatization regardless of whether they attend gym class or not, and (2) depriving kids of an opportunity to become more physically active and lose weight simultaneously deprives them of an opportunity to improve their self-esteem as a result of being more physically fit. In addition, a growing number of innovative PE programs emphasize fitness activities and lifetime physical activity, rather than "organized sports or forced calisthenics." An excellent example of this "new PE" can be found at
Madison Junior High School in Naperville. More information about this and other "new PE" programs can be found at

The benefits of regular physical activity also extend into the classroom. For example, a recent California Department of Education study found significant correlations between physical fitness scores and reading and mathematics scores on standardized tests for middle school children. Those children who scored highest on the physical fitness tests also scored highest on the standardized tests. Rather than making physical education classes optional, as the author of "Harmful gym" suggests, we should redouble efforts to strengthen PE class curriculum in schools.


Benefits of raising dropout age outweigh risks
Editorial by Tom Martin, Editor, Galesburg Register-Mail,

One year may help. Sixteen-year-old students who plan to drop out of school will have to wait another year, according to a new set of
Illinois laws. The laws, aimed at getting more students to graduate high school, require students to stay in school until age 17.

That year could make a difference for 16 year olds who think dropping out of school is the answer for them.

Illinois had not changed its age requirements for attending school (ages 6-16) since 1883. The change is part of a nationwide trend.

With dropout rates nationally holding steady - fluctuating between 10.9 to 12.5 percent - over the last decade, states are beginning to raise the age students must attend school.
New Mexico, Connecticut, Louisiana, New York, Texas and Vermont recently raised their attendance age. While its 4.9 percent dropout rate is far below the national average, Illinois has joined the movement, although it's not a leader. Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Ohio do not allow students to quit school until age 18.

Locally, dropout rates averaged over the past three years fall below the state average, with the exception of
Galesburg School District's 6.9 percent from 2000-2003. ROWVA School District has the area's lowest dropout rate during that period at 1.3 percent.

The cons of dropping out of school are well documented, according to the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory, which provides research to educators and policymakers in
Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin.

High school dropouts earn an average of $6,415 less per year than those who graduate high school. A study in 1998 found unemployment among dropouts was 28.2 percent.

Will requiring students to stay in school a year longer help?

Local administrators had mixed responses to the question in a Register-Mail story published Saturday. Monmouth School District Superintendent Don Daily expects the number of expulsions to increase because of the new age requirement. And that appears to be the downside of the new requirement. Students who want to drop out at age 16 but can't might simply cause trouble one year longer, creating a distraction that saps time from teachers and principals, therein inhibiting the learning of other students.

However, getting problem students out of school often simply sends the problems into society for a lifetime. The National Dropout Prevention Network reports that 80 percent of prisoners in
America are high school dropouts.

And dropouts don't bear their burdens alone. A 1987 study found dropouts are more likely to have health problems, engage in criminal activities and become dependent on welfare and other government-related programs. A 1985 study by J.S. Catterall at
Stanford University estimated each year's class of dropouts will cost the country over $200 billion during their lifetimes in lost earnings and unrealized tax revenue.

The issue of dropouts is complex and won't be solved by simply raising the dropout age. But raising the age could help. Sixteen year olds are not adults. Though we do trust them to drive, we don't allow them to vote, drink or fight for their country. We shouldn't trust them with a decision as important as whether to stay in school; the consequences are too great.

Students who want to drop out of school often suffer from a lack the parental guidance. Keeping potential dropouts in school another year increases the odds that they will find the guidance missing in their lives, maybe from a teacher, a coach, a principal or another student.

Keeping potential dropouts in school one year longer makes sense and could help more students reach graduation.




Teachers hope new, smaller schools will make the difference
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 9/1/04

The classrooms at
Community High School evoked a business start-up in the days leading up to Wednesday's opening. Teachers dubbed one space "the war room." Instructors brainstormed in small groups. Not all the furniture was in place.
The five teachers working to launch this new school hope their passion for non-conventional education will carry them through the inevitable glitches that await in the weeks ahead. Their curriculum will take kids into the community through a variety of service projects while continuing to teach them the basics.

Dartel De La Rosa, who started at Community High Wednesday, thinks the teachers can pull it off.

"They have a lot of energy," the 14-year-old said. "I think they are young at heart."

Over the next two years, hundreds of new, small high schools are expected to open across the country, many of them founded upon a similar youthful idealism. The national movement has taken root in
Boston, Cleveland, Baltimore, Chicago, San Diego and many other cities and states.

Milwaukee alone, dozens of schools will open over the next five years, with several taking the place of large, comprehensive high schools. Educators believe this more personalized approach will keep more kids in school.

For the district, though, the challenges continue to mount:

Where will all of them be located? How can they offer diverse courses and extracurricular activities? How can so many new high school administrators be trained? Even if you can split a large school into pieces, how do you transform the culture?

And how do you enlist the critics - the ones who have seen other reforms come and go - and who doubt the staying power of the idea?

Those concerns do nothing to dampen the optimism found on the bustling floor at Community High. Roxane Mayeur, an art teacher, said she is grateful for the districtwide effort that helped nurture her school.

Otherwise, she said, "It probably would have remained a dream."

Other small schools

About 250 new high schools are opening in 30 states this fall, according to officials at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which helps foot the bill for planning the new schools in
Milwaukee and many other cities.

Milwaukee, three new programs created last year in North Division opened as fully autonomous schools this week for freshmen and sophomores. Washington High will organize into three "academies" this year, which will become separate schools in the fall of 2005. South Division will take a more moderate approach, creating three academies for students that will remain under the same administrative umbrella for the next few years.

Other small schools scheduled to open over the next couple of years will focus on subjects as varied as sign language, the science of aviation and sports education and management.

"When we submitted our proposal for funding, we suggested opening 61 schools in five years," said Dan Grego, who is leading the effort to provide support for many of the new schools. "Some people thought that was crazy. But we are only one year into it and are working with 30 groups."

De La Rosa, who chose
Community High School over Bay View, said the smaller size was a selling point. "It's easier to communicate with people and you can bond with more of them," he said.

But Christian Albouras, a 17-year-old who attends
South Division High School, said he hopes the three programs at South never become separate schools.

"I think it would feel weird if there was only like a hundred kids in my academy," he said. "It seems more fun and diverse to be in a big school instead of saying, 'You have to stay in this little hallway.' "

Weaving social issues

Community High, at
234 W. Galena St., was born out of a series of conversations between teachers at Vincent and Rufus King high schools. The teachers had been talking for some time about how to weave social issues into the high school curriculum; two of them had run an after-school program together.

"We had to do all of it outside of school," Mayeur said. "We wanted an environment where we could do it consistently."

Teachers hope the freshmen starting at Community this fall will participate in projects like getting voters to the polls or in a program called Street Law, where they will learn how to conduct trials.

"We want them to walk away empowered to make changes, to understand that they have the capability to change their own future and enrich the lives of people around them," Mayeur said. "I think other high schools can do this, but small schools have the opportunity to get to know students better and help them make decisions that are tailored to them."

Community has about 90 students and five teachers. Through the Gates Foundation, the school received grants totaling $200,000. Community, a charter school, is structured as a teacher cooperative, meaning the teachers make all of the decisions together and each has administrative duties.

"Every day we find out things that we don't know about, but need to understand," Mayeur said. "We've been learning the politics behind starting a school and trying to stay one foot ahead of the game."

Finding a space for the school was one of the hurdles. The teachers wanted to be close to downtown, but in a diverse neighborhood. The school will only be at the
Galena St. location for a year.

"We really risked the school not happening," Mayeur said. "We had to hang in there and get a site that matched our vision."

A few officials worry that, districtwide, the vision is moving too fast. Tom Balistreri, a School Board member, said he supports trying reform with "a reasonable number of schools," but not dozens. Balistreri also believes most high schools need at least one experienced administrator.

"The schools have not been set up for success, and there's no evidence that they are going to have a higher level of achievement," he said.

And some are concerned about what may be given up.

John Schissler, a retired teacher from
Marshall who coordinates the school's alumni association, said that "obviously having taught at Marshall for 32 years, and having so many fond memories, I would prefer to see the status quo."

About five new schools are scheduled to open in the
Marshall building in fall 2005, although they will continue to play together on the athletic field. The teams will keep the Marshall name.

"I have a sneaking suspicion this is going to cost more money," Schissler said. "I know they've tried it in
New York and a few other large cities, but after 32 years teaching in MPS, all the new programs they've tried to implement, unfortunately, have gone awry, especially as soon as the money dries up."

But Charles Siebert, the principal of South Division, said MPS administrators have allowed schools to try different approaches. "This wasn't something that was rammed down anyone's throat," he said.

The change certainly wasn't forced on Meg Stahler. After attending
Greendale public schools, the 14-year-old chose to transfer to Community High this fall using the Chapter 220 program, which allows minority students in the city to attend suburban schools, and white students in the suburbs to attend schools in Milwaukee.

"I really wanted to be at
Community High School," she said. "I think it's totally different than any other school."

Stahler said she is looking forward to the hands-on curriculum and a combined art and English class.

"It will make you think instead of just giving you pages to read," she said. "Not everyone is made for a suburban school. I don't mean offense. Some people do well in them. But not everyone is made to be standardized."


Bush vows to make high schools a priority
By Ben Feller, AP Education Writer, September 3, 2004

WASHINGTON -- President Bush is promising to make secondary schools a priority in a second term, broadening an education agenda that critics say has left high schools behind.
Bush, who made raising achievement among young children the centerpiece of his domestic agenda, is putting new emphasis on the preparation older students get for college or work.

"In our high schools, we will fund early intervention programs to help students at risk," Bush said Thursday in accepting his party's nomination at the Republican National Convention in
New York City. "We will place a new focus on math and science. As we make progress, we will require a rigorous exam before graduation."

Bush announced he wants to require states to test students annually in reading and math in grades three through 11. That's an expansion of the law he signed in 2002, which requires those tests in grades three through eight, and at least once during grades 10 to 12.

The two additional years of tests would come with $250 million a year, Bush said.

The idea, part of the second-term vision Bush outlined, reflects his recent campaign message of giving a high school diploma more meaning. The focus on high school grades is a natural extension of the No Child Left Behind law, Bush aides say, which called for higher achievement of all students, but particularly younger ones, minorities and poor children.

Bush's move also comes as education officials are sounding the alarm that high school -- the gateway to college or work -- has been overlooked.

His rival, Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, has campaigned on high school reform and criticized Bush for failing to enforce his own law's monitoring of graduation rates.

"They should be focusing on high schools," said Kati Haycock, director of the Education Trust, a nonprofit that advocates for poor and minority children. "It's the part of the education system that's been least well attended to by federal policy and by the states."

Among Bush's new proposals:

--$500 million for states and school districts to reward teachers whose students show increases in achievement.

--$200 million for schools to use eighth-grade test data to develop performance plans for students entering high school.

--$125 million to expand community college programs, including dual-enrollment courses that allow high-school students to earn college credit.

Kerry's campaign responded by accusing Bush of breaking his word on education by requesting $27 billion less than his education law authorized. Such shortfalls have prevented schools from meeting the law and drawn protests nationwide, the campaign says.

A string of studies has raised awareness recently about high school woes, describing students without skills for college or work, graduation exams that lack clarity or rigor, and graduation rates that are far less rosy than the ones the government reports.

"We need to radically rethink what we're doing at high school," said Naomi Housman, coordinator of the National High School Alliance, a coalition of 46 organizations. "We have to think about what the purpose is. If we just improve it in isolation of what the work force needs and what higher education is looking for, that's ridiculous."

Bush is promising more money for the State Scholars program, which requires tougher high school courses, and college aid money for poor students who enroll in it. He's also proposing programs to help students struggling with math, to expand Advanced Placement access for poorer students, and to lure private-sector workers into teaching math and science.

Bush's approval rating on education is the lowest since he took office, according to the Gallup Tuesday Briefing, a subscription service run by the polling firm.

Gallup found 47 percent of adults approve of the way Bush is handling education, down nine percentage points since January and 18 points since shortly after he took office in 2001. Those attitudes may reflect more about political polarization in the country as the election nears than they do views about Bush's education plan, the Gallup briefing said.


Are kids still left behind? No
Thomas W. Carroll And B. Jason Brooks,
New York Daily News
The federal No Child Left Behind Act authorized the greatest expansion of educational opportunity for low-income and minority students in 50 years. Among its dramatic reforms, the law gives students previously trapped in chronically failing schools the right to transfer to higher-performing schools. This ticket out of bad schools applies to more than 12 million students nationwide and 400,000 students in
New York City.
To help make this a reality, President Bush increased federal education funding dramatically - a staggering 69% in
New York State.
The law and its transfer provision represent a great move forward. Parents are impatient with school bureaucrats who plead endlessly for more time and more money. They shouldn't be expected to sacrifice their children a single day longer.
Yet three years after the law was approved, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein has decided he simply is not going to comply. Last year, the Department of Education authorized just 7,000 children to transfer to better schools, out of an eligible pool of 400,000. This year, rather than increasing the number of students getting transfers, Klein has artificially - and illegally - capped transfers to fewer than 1,000 students.
What no one is admitting is that the better public schools do not want the tougher-to-educate children and have been pressuring Klein to stop the transfers. So, after decades of "public" educators accusing charter schools and private schools of "creaming" the best students, their own dirty little secret is out. The district school recipe for success apparently is hoarding the good students and, like modern-day Orville Faubuses, they stand in the doorway, blocking new entrants.
By refusing to switch students out of failing schools into better schools, the city is marking each one of them for educational failure. In a sense, the city is shipping off these children to an educational
For the sake of these trapped children, the chancellor should reverse himself and let the transfers go forward. It's the right thing to do. If Klein refuses, New York Education Commissioner Richard Mills should intervene.
Carroll is president and Brooks is senior research associate of the Foundation for Educational Reform and Accountability, based in

Academic focus shoves PE aside
Karina Bland, The
Arizona Republic
Less than a quarter of students in
Arizona high schools attend physical education classes daily.
At the state's elementary schools, children go to PE class an average of twice a week, not every day like when their gym teachers were kids.
Getting kids up and moving
900: Hours per year that the average American youth spends in school.
1,023: Hours per year that the average American youth watches television.
5%: American children who were seriously overweight in 1964.
13%: American children who were seriously overweight in 1994.
4 hours, 41 minutes: Average time per day American children spent in front of a screen of some kind.
1 in 12: Chance that an American parent requires children to do their homework before watching TV.
54%: 4- to 6-year-olds who, when asked, would rather watch TV than spend time with their fathers.
Source: TV-Turnoff Network in
Washington, D.C., 2000
Educators and health officials blame the decline in PE, and other electives such as music and art, on the pressure for schools to score better on standardized tests and to do well in state and federal rankings. Some schools are even cutting recess so kids have more time for academics.
"My feeling is, we're going to have a bunch of kids with their heads filled with all sorts of facts, and they'll read beautifully, but they'll all be dead at the age of 50," said Robert Pangrazi, an
Arizona State University professor emeritus and creator of the popular P.L.A.Y. program, or "Promoting Lifetime Activity for Youth."
With the lack of PE coupled with hours spent glued to TV and easy access to junk food, it's no wonder kids are so fat.
About 15 percent of kids ages 6 to 19 are considered overweight, three times as many as in 1980, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in
"We've got to get them moving," said Curt Jablin, a PE teacher at North Canyon High in
Phoenix and PE coordinator for the Paradise Valley Unified District.
He is among the growing number of PE teachers nationwide, many of them trained by Pangrazi, who have given up dodge ball, wind sprints, and the Presidential Fitness Test in favor of activities that will last kids through their adult lives.
Now kids are learning about nutrition, karate, yoga, skating, jumping rope and tennis. There's little of the stuff today's parents remember from their childhood gym classes: agonizing rope climbs, square dancing or waiting anxiously to be picked for a team and praying not to be last.
"Team sports are great but how many people participate in team sports as adults on a regular basis? Not many," said Jablin, president-elect of the Arizona Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.
But the change in thinking about PE and the way it's taught is reaching its peak at a time when fewer kids are getting the chance to try it out.
The state requires health and PE education in kindergarten through Grade 8 and such education is needed to graduate from high school, said Holly Mohr, program director of school health and nutrition services at the Department of Education. The state does not mandate the number of classes per week or the number or credits given. That's up to school districts.
Because the state standards are so vague, PE offerings vary from district to district, said Renae Cunnien, program manager for obesity prevention at the Arizona Department of Health Services.
"At the junior high and high school level, it has become an elective class for a lot of kids," she said. And many schools allow kids to opt out of PE if they are involved in other activities.
Physical activity guidelines written for the National Association for Sport and Physical Education by Pangrazi and fellow ASU Professor Charles Corbin recommend at least 150 minutes per week of PE for elementary students and at least 225 minutes per week for middle and high school students.
Cutting gym classes

Educators and health officials agree that children who are physically active are more alert in class, feel better about themselves, eat healthier and are less likely to abuse drugs.
But, "the push is on academics, and schools have to respond to that," said Rob Barnes, an assistant principal at
Central High School in Phoenix.
He thinks it's a shame that fewer students take electives because of the emphasis on academics, a phenomenon occurring nationwide.
Barnes encourages kids to take advantage of the school's gym and weight room, telling them that grown-ups pay a lot of money for gym memberships. Not many students do.
Sometimes, the students don't have a choice. When school budgets are tight, Cunnien said, often the first things to go are elective courses: art, music, PE.
Pangrazi said most
Arizona schools have good PE programs with well-trained instructors but the children don't get to go often enough.
"We're taking the most active element of our species - the little folks - and making them sit forever," he said. "It's contrary to the organisms."
In 2003, 22 percent of
Arizona high school students reported that they attended a daily PE class, according to the state's Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Thirty-six percent attended gym class one or more days during the week.
Officials do not track that same information for
Arizona elementary schools. But, nationwide, 8 percent of elementary schools and 6 percent of middle and high schools offer PE daily. Only Illinois requires daily PE for all kids.
In June, President Bush signed a bill that, in part, requires all schools have a wellness policy that includes physical education by 2006-07.
Arizona is in a good position to comply with the requirement. Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne has ordered districts to adopt wellness policies by July 2006, as part of his healthy school environment initiative.

Fewer schools falling short on 'No Child Left Behind'
Greg Toppo,
The number of U.S. schools "in need of improvement" under President Bush's education law is smaller than forecast, but experts question whether that means the children got smarter or the rules got easier.
The No Child Left Behind law, enacted in 2002, demanded that all schools show "adequate yearly progress." Scores on state tests must gradually improve until 2014, when all students in grades three through eight and one grade in high school must read and do math proficiently. Schools also must show progress for poor, disabled and minority students.
Many observers predicted that as standards rose, the number of flagged schools would rise to 50%. But this fall, as states report scores, the number of schools "in need of improvement" is actually shrinking in many states.
Nationwide last year, 32% of public schools made the list, which triggers requirements to offer free tutoring or transportation to another public school. Some schools might even be restaffed or shuttered.
In his speech last week at the Republican National Convention, Education Secretary Rod Paige said results show that "No Child Left Behind is working. All across
America, test scores are rising."
But some officials say credit for the dropping number of schools "in need of improvement" doesn't just go to rising achievement. Other factors include a focus on test-taking skills, new regulations that allow schools to exempt more students' scores, and more students taking required tests. Some schools were deemed inadequate because not enough students took exams.
"This is not really a result of an increase in student performance," says Scott Young of the National Conference of State Legislatures, which is compiling the state totals.
In many states, school districts took advantage of changes last spring that allowed them to exempt the test scores of more disabled students and those with limited English skills.
"We appreciated the flexibility," says Tom Watkins,
Michigan's Superintendent of Public Instruction.
But where some see flexibility, others see political maneuvering.
Jack Jennings of the Center on Education Policy, a
Washington advocacy group, and others note that the changes coincide with the presidential race.
Bush administration officials deny that election considerations softened the rules.
"From Day One we have been in a position where if you show too much flexibility you're watering down the law (and) if you don't show too much flexibility it's 'one-size-fits-all,' " Education Undersecretary Eugene Hickok says. "The bottom line is, kids are learning. We think it's very good news."


Houston may create school for immigrants only
Pam Easton, Sun-Times, 9/8/04
HOUSTON -- Houston school officials have proposed a school designed specifically for immigrants, including flexible yearlong schedules, accelerated credit programs and weekend classes.
''Many of these students walk into our high schools and know little or no English,'' interim Houston Supt. Abe Saavedra said Tuesday at
Lee High School, where students from 70 countries speak 42 languages. ''Immigrant students need more support than conventional schools can provide.''
The proposed school, which will be voted on Thursday by the
Houston Independent School District's board, would offer weekend classes, customized instruction and ''whatever we have to do to make sure these kids graduate,'' Saavedra said.
Antonio Cruz, a 17-year-old who arrived from
Mexico two years ago and who left school to help his family, is just the kind of person Houston educators have in mind. Cruz now works the overnight shift as a janitor.
''They are not making enough money to make ends meet,'' Cruz, speaking in Spanish, said of his relatives. ''I would like to continue to study. I am happy this new school will open up soon.''
Cruz said the new school would allow him to attend classes in the afternoon and evening before going to work. He hopes to earn his diploma and eventually become a police officer.
The school would open in 2005 to about 125 students, eventually growing to about 250, Saavedra said. The
Houston district has about 12,000 immigrant students.
Texas, students may attend public schools through age 21, and Lee High principal Steve Amstutz said it is the older immigrant students who could most benefit.
Schools elsewhere in the country have experimented with similar ideas, including in
New York and Chicago, which traditionally have had flexible high school schedules for immigrants, according to Lou Desipio, an associate political science professor who specializes in immigrant issues at the University of California at Irvine.
Last month, the Texas Education Agency restored the
Houston district's ''academically acceptable'' rating. The rating is based on dropout rates and standardized test scores and reflects whether schools are performing adequately. The district had lost its accountability rating a year earlier when an investigation by the Texas Education Agency found improperly reported dropout data.


Law works against public schools
Letter by Jonathan Steinhoff, elementary school teacher in
Northeast Portland, Oregonian, 9/8/04
As the school year begins, let's remember some news from this summer. Statewide school report cards came out with mixed results. Shortly thereafter, available data from charter schools came out. They were far worse.

Charter schools are the proto-public schools that are promoted in the No Child Left Behind law as one of the remedies for saving "failing" public schools. Now we see that they cannot live up to NCLB standards.

Ironically, charter schools are not mandated by the federal law to hire "highly qualified" teachers or even test their students as the regular public schools must. Those that administer state tests are required to do so by the districts that approve their charters.

Yet, Rod Paige, secretary of education, who has stated that "placing a highly qualified teacher in every classroom is one of the cornerstones of No Child Left Behind," now defends charter schools.

In saying that charter schools need time to prove themselves and that there are many ways to evaluate their successes other than test scores, Paige uses the very arguments that public school defenders use when criticizing NCLB. With double standards like this, it is becoming increasingly obvious that this law is setting up our schools for "failure."


NCLB's science-based goals ignore arts' importance to children
Opinion by Edna Teller, an arts advocate, music educator and freelance writer who lives in
Monrovia, Pasadena Star-News, 9/8/04

THE No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) was signed into law
January 8, 2002. Its stated purpose is to ensure that all students attain proficiency in reading by the third grade, and in mathematics and science by the eighth grade.
Each state creates standards in these subjects, and all students are tested each year in grades three through eight in reading and mathematics. Students are also tested in science three times during their school years, including once in high school.

These goals are to be achieved using "scientifically based' programs and strategies.

Sounds good, doesn't it?

A nation of literate high school graduates, skilled in math and science, well prepared to enter college, striving for high-tech careers in our complex society.

But where are the arts? Did they fall off the face of the Earth? Are music, art, dance, and drama merely "fluff,' nice to have in the schools, but certainly not necessary for a child's education?

As an arts advocate with two degrees in art history, I believe that NCLB's exclusion of arts education, especially in the elementary schools, does our children a grave disservice. It assumes that all children learn the same way and at the same pace, through "scientifically based' programs.

But children are unique, and they learn in their own way, whether it be visual, auditory, or kinesthetic. Studies have shown that children who play a musical instrument are more skilled in mathematics.

Art teaches concepts of color, shape, depth, line and balance. Dance puts children in touch with movement, patterns and coordination. Drama students learn language and public speaking skills.

Schools that have unilaterally included arts education in addition to NCLB have seen a significant rise in their children's test scores.


I think not.

Granted, the absolute need to teach our children to read and be proficient in math and science should be paramount. What I object to is the attitude that the arts are "nice to have' but certainly not necessary to graduate an educated person.

NCLB's approach is too narrow and totally focused on the sciences. We need a more balanced approach, where the arts are an integral part of the curriculum, contributing to and enhancing the admirable goal of leaving no child behind.


An example in
Times Editorial, 9/9/04

Education, the domestic cornerstone of the Bush presidency, has been a constant source of debate. When George W. Bush campaigned for the White House in 2000, he used the phrase No Child Left Behind to describe his education-reform initiative. After that initiative became law, congressional Democrats, teacher's unions and some governors accused the president of failing to sufficiently fund his own proposal. There were other criticisms as well — despite the fact that NCLB was developed to increase student achievement, mandate accountability, offer states more flexibility in spending and grant parents more options for their children. While NCLB was not designed to spend more federal money on schools, the Bush administration has done precisely that, increasing overall funding by 48 percent since fiscal 2001 (including a 75 percent increase in special education programs and a 52 percent rise in funding for disadvantaged students). More importantly, though, NCLB is producing the academic effects that the Bush administration had intended.
While school districts around the country are taking small steps,
Philadelphia is taking big leaps. Consider this brief timeline: In 2000, then-Gov. Tom Ridge brought in a private company to help redirect Philadelphia schools. In 2001, Philadelphia launched the largest school-reform project in modern history. In 2002, a new reform panel identified scores of schools with low test scores. In 2003, more than 200 of Philadelphia's 265 schools failed to meet the yearly progress standards set by No Child Left Behind. In 2004, school authorities managed, in one short school year, to produce significant academic progress: 160 schools met the mark or surpassed academic goals.

How did Philadelphians do it? First, they turned their backs on the status quo and figured out how to finance their school reform plans by leveraging state and, most importantly, federal dollars. They implemented plans that were historically unprecedented in that they turned 45 schools over to the hands of for-profit and not-for-profit groups. The results: Not only did a majority of schools utilize NCLB to push for — and achieve — greater percentages of students scoring proficient or above in reading and math, but there was also a decrease in the percentage of students scoring below basic.

As for claims by Democrats and the National Education Association that NCLB is an unfunded mandate, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact,
Pennsylvania and other states and local school districts failed to spend $5.7 billion in federal school money in fiscal 2000, 2001 and 2002. Pennsylvania reportedly had nearly $44 million in unspent Title I funds alone.

Philadelphia is arguably the best example of what Mr. Bush meant when he first said that wise spending and effective leadership can help ensure that no child is left behind. The fact that states had so much federal school money on their hands and that they could not even spend it all should debunk the myth that No Child Left Behind is an unfunded federal mandate.


Washington Times left facts behind
Media Matters for
America, 9/10/04

A Washington Times editorial published on September 9 misleadingly claimed that under President George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind (NCLB) education program, "
Pennsylvania and other states and local school districts failed to spend $5.7 billion in federal school money in fiscal 2000, 2001 and 2002."

Federal regulations regarding the appropriation of money for education make the appearance of overfunding nearly inevitable, but much of the $5.7 billion that the Times claims was returned to the U.S. Treasury Department may yet be spent. As Media Matters for
America noted on August 10, after FOX News Channel host Bill O'Reilly made a similar misleading claim about education funding, the law gives states at least 27 months to spend federal education money. According to a July 12 press release from the House Committee on Education and the Workforce Democratic staff, states spent 99.5 percent of federal K-12 education money allocated for fiscal year 1998, the most recent year for which all relevant deadlines for state expenditures of federal education money have passed.

Moreover, the Times' assertion that the apparent surplus "should debunk the myth that No Child Left Behind is an unfunded federal mandate" ignores the budgetary shortfalls that have occurred as a result of the legislation. As MMFA has noted, a House Committee on Education and the Workforce Democratic staff report shows that the president's budget for 2005 provides $9.4 billion less for NCLB programs than was authorized for them by Congress. According to the report, this would be the "3rd straight time" that NCLB programs would be denied "promised resources" since the act was signed into law two years ago. The National Education Association estimates that fully funding the burdens placed on local educational agencies by NCLB would cost $18 billion more than Congress appropriated in fiscal year 2004.


School psychologist shortage has impact
Rural schools particularly hard hit
September 6, 2004 
DAYTON, Ohio -- Ken Smith spends hours on the road, sometimes skips lunch and works at home in the evening to catch up with paperwork.

That's the life of a school psychologist who serves 30 elementary and secondary schools.

"There has been a shortage of school psychologists in southern
Ohio," said Smith, 43, who works in two rural counties around the southern Ohio city of Portsmouth. "We definitely need more. Day to day -- that's what we're dealing with."

The problem isn't limited to

Kathy Cowan, spokeswoman for the National Association of School Psychologists, said there is a serious shortage of school psychologists nationwide, especially in rural areas.

An association survey done in 2000 found there were between 25,000 and 30,000 school psychologists. The group estimated in 2002 that only about one-third of the nation's school districts had at least one psychologist for every 1,000 students, the minimum the association recommends.

As a result, experts say the shortage of school psychologists in rural areas is making it tougher for districts to meet federal academic standards. They say school psychologists help students with learning disabilities and those who respond to different teaching styles or techniques.

"One of the main jobs of school psychologists is to find ways to help students not able to achieve academically," said Sawyer Hunley, assistant professor of psychology at the
University of Dayton. "Without that assistance, teachers are pretty much left on their own."

But attracting people to rural areas is difficult.

Peter Currer, an assistant superintendent for
Modoc County in rural northern California is looking for a school psychologist to help the other two who travel the county's 5,000 square miles. One drives three hours a day to spend five hours with students.

"I started looking for a credentialed psychologist and I will be lucky to find a student intern," Currer said. "It's hard to make a match with someone who wants a rural, remote lifestyle. We're 100 miles from a Wal-Mart. We're 100 miles from a McDonald's."

That translates into less support for children and their families, Currer said.

"When you're dealing with a child with significant behavior problems and their behavior is interfering with their ability to make progress, the school psychologist is the best resource," said Ruth Fodness, who spent 14 years working as a school psychologist in rural
South Dakota, driving up to 200 miles a day to meet with students at different schools.

Attracting and retaining school psychologists became such a problem in northwest
Ohio's rural Mercer County that officials came up with a creative fix three years ago.

"We weren't finding good people that wanted to be in rural
Ohio," said Superintendent Eugene Linton.

So officials identified people with local roots who worked in the schools and were interested in becoming school psychologists. The district paid part of their tuition at the
University of Dayton in exchange for their agreement to intern at Mercer County schools and then work there for at least five years.

"Most of them want to stay here anyway, so the five-year commitment is no problem," Linton said.

The shortage in southeast
Ohio has prompted three universities to join forces to establish a training center there. Marshall University, the University of Dayton and Shawnee State University will begin offering a psychology program in Portsmouth next year.

Ken Smith said he would welcome a fresh supply of school psychologists to boost his five-person staff. He's sure teachers would too.

"There is no one else out there that has the training we do as far as testing and assessment," he said. "And I do very little counseling because the testing requirements of the job do not give me any time."


New sex-ed texts that omit contraception debated
Houston Chronicle, 9/9/04

AUSTIN - High school students in Houston and elsewhere may not learn about preventing pregnancy and disease in proposed new textbooks that teach abstinence exclusively.
The proposed new books were the subject of emotional debate Wednesday during the final of two public hearings before the State Board of Education. More than 300 people signed up to speak about the books, which will be voted on by the Education Board in November.

Critics of the books, which will replace 11-year-old texts, said that they lack a discussion of condoms and contraception in violation of the curriculum requirement that health books "analyze the effectiveness and ineffectiveness of barrier protection and other contraceptive methods."

For example, Holt, Rinehart and Winston's Lifetime Health lists 10 steps for students to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases. The use of latex condoms is not one of them. Students are advised, however, to get plenty of rest.

Supporters of the books said that local school districts have the option to use supplemental materials that discuss ways for sexually active teens to protect themselves from pregnancy and disease.

Houston Independent School District has an "abstinence-plus" program, which means that classes discuss contraceptives and birth control in middle and high schools, officials said.

The main high school textbook, Making Life Choices, and the teaching stress that abstinence is best to prevent HIV infection, sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancy. But students are instructed on various contraceptive methods, reliability rates of each and how to access other resources.

HISD emphasized that parents have the right to remove their child from any part of the district's human sexuality instruction.

The district is considering adding or expanding four after-school sex education programs, including one called "Sex Can Wait." Some of the programs are abstinence-only and others are abstinence-plus.

Austin hearing featured testimony from parents, students, doctors and teachers. One speaker prayed for the removal from office of public officials who support comprehensive sex education.

Outside the state office building where the hearing was held, a dozen people held signs urging motorists to "honk for sex ed."

Several lawmakers were among those testifying.

Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, praised the books for omitting information about contraceptives. He said those decisions should be made by local school boards as the "best way to have parental involvement."

Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, urged the education board to reject all four proposed books as not meeting curriculum requirements.

"It is a sad day in our state when we rank first nationally in the number of teenage pregnancies but we are on the verge of approving health textbooks that do not mention contraceptive methods," Farrar said.

Citing statistics from the Texas Department of Health, Farrar said there were more than 16,000 births to teenage mothers in 2002.

Supporters of abstinence-only programs said they need to be given time to work.

"Years of comprehensive sex education have failed. A double message blurs the direct abstinence approach," said Anne Newman, director of policy for The Justice Foundation, a San Antonio-based group that supports limited government and parental rights.


Teachers find making house calls pays off
By Erika Chavez, Sacamento Bee Staff Writer,
September 9, 2004

Katrina Ramos had difficulty keeping her class under control when she first started teaching at
Hiram Johnson High School three years ago.
Her students were defiant and talked back to her, making it difficult to teach, the special education teacher said. So she opted to take advantage of a local program, receiving the training necessary to make individual home visits.

The result: Her classroom's behavior turned around in no time.

"I think home visits help to form a partnership between families and their schools," said Ramos. "It helped us to make a connection."

Thanks to a $60,000 donation from the national and state teachers unions, Sacramento City Unified's innovative Home Visit Project kicked off its eighth year Wednesday with school board members and administrators accompanying teachers on after-school visits.

School board President Jay Schenirer said home visits are integral to improving student achievement, especially in struggling schools.

"Parent engagement is an important factor in student success," he said.

The Home Visit Project was founded in 1996 as a joint effort by Area Congregations Together, the
Sacramento City Unified School District and the Sacramento City Teachers Association.

The school district paid interested teachers their regular hourly wage to conduct the home visits after school and on weekends. The goal: to get to know parents and students on a more personal level so that all sides would feel comfortable communicating if problems or issues cropped up.

Principals reported improved attendance, behavior and test scores at schools that opted to participate.

The program flourished and became a statewide and national model.
Sacramento teachers have trained more than 1,000 fellow educators throughout California and 10 other states, said Carrie Rose, director of the nonprofit Home Visit Project.

In 2000, state Sen. Nell Soto, D-Pomona, authored legislation that allocated millions to fund teacher home visits; however, that funding fell victim to this year's budget cuts, Rose said.

The National Education Association stepped in with a $30,000 donation to pay for the continued training of teachers nationwide; the California Teachers Association matched the donation with $30,000 to pay the wages of local teachers who conduct home visits.

Marcie Launey, president of the Sacramento City Teachers Association, said she is glad to see the Home Visit Project continue.

Teachers in the district have worked hard to align class curricula to rigorous academic standards mandated by the state, and schools have seen improvement, she said.

But recent test scores indicate that progress has reached a plateau, Launey said.

"The next step is to bridge the gap between home and school because teachers cannot do it alone," she said. "We need cooperation from families."

Studies have shown that regardless of socioeconomic factors, students in schools with high rates of parent involvement do better academically, Launey said.

"Teachers say that home visits help them know their school community in a way that they haven't before," she said.

For parents, having a teacher in their home helps dispel some of the mystery and fear associated with school, said Jocelyn Graves, a single mother of two and member of ACT who helped found the Home Visit Project.

"Schools were a battleground, with parents blaming teachers and teachers blaming parents for any problems,"
Graves said. "Home visits helped accomplish communication and make the parents co-educators."

Graves credits home visits for helping her son graduate from high school.

"I found out he was failing, but because of home visits I knew how to connect with the teacher," she said. "I wasn't afraid to find help, and figure out how to get him the credits he needed to graduate."

Home visits helped teacher Shana Amerine relate to her students at
Fern Bacon Middle School on a different level.

"It allowed me to understand their home environment and get to know them as people, not just students," she said.

For many students, seeing their teachers make an extra effort encourages them to try harder, said teacher Ramos.

"I think many of the students feel that if we're coming to their house, we must really care about them," she said.


Warner Plans Drive To Reform
U.S. Schools
As Head of Group, Governor Urges Changes in 12th Grade
By Rosalind S. Helderman and Michael D. Shear,
Washington Post Staff Writers, 9/10/04

Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) said yesterday that his major initiative as chairman of the National Governors Association will be a campaign to reform American high schools and make the senior year more meaningful.

Speaking at
Fairfax County's George C. Marshall High School, Warner called 12th grade "one of the most important transition years in education" but said too many seniors slack off and waste the time.

As one cure for "senior slump," Warner said, seniors should be allowed to receive college credit, thus saving some of their college tuition and trimming states' higher education budgets. He said he expects to announce a deal soon in which
Virginia's public universities will accept credit for a set of common classes offered at community colleges.

In addition, Warner said better partnerships between schools and business groups would allow more students to gain industry certifications in high school if they plan to go directly to work.

"Whether you're college-bound or career-bound, we need to make sure the senior year is much more valuable," he said.

Warner, who took over as head of the bipartisan governors association in July, plans to hold town hall meetings on high school reform in the next year and convene an education summit with U.S. governors in February. By the time the association has its annual meeting next summer, he said, the group will have surveyed 10,000 high school students about their thoughts on reform.

Besides providing an outline of his plans, the announcement was another chance for Warner to take the national stage as the clock runs out on his four-year term as governor.

He is prohibited by law from serving two consecutive terms. His political allies say he could be tapped for a Cabinet position if Sen. John F. Kerry wins the White House. Warner could run again for the U.S. Senate. He lost his first Senate race in 1996.

As chairman of the governors association, Warner hopes to export his reputation for bipartisan, businesslike governance on a wider scale. It has worked in
Virginia, where his successful collaboration with moderate Republicans during this year's tax fight boosted his soaring approval ratings.

Advisers say the governor's push to reform the senior year of high school gives him the opportunity to do what he does best: apply common sense ideas to a vexing problem. He said yesterday he hopes to bring "tangible, real solutions that can be implemented in a short period of time" to high school reform.

The largely nonpartisan issue also allows Warner to play down politics. He will be joined by two Republicans -- Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Ohio Gov. Bob Taft -- as well as Maine Gov. John E. Baldacci (D) on a task force to flesh out his ideas. President Bush also has called for raising performance in high schools, letting Warner declare that the issue will be a focus in
Washington no matter who is elected in November.

Gerald Tirozzi, executive director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, said he is thrilled that Warner is putting a national spotlight on high schools, which he called the "stepchild of the school reform movement."

Warner made his announcement to an audience of educators, policymakers and students. Marshall High School is the alma mater of his wife, Lisa Collis, and before he left, a school official cracked open a high school yearbook so Warner could see her senior photo.

He fielded questions from about 30
Marshall seniors, whose suggestions ranged from reserving more spots at top public colleges for in-state students to implementing a high school nap time.

He told the students that
Marshall, with its array of advanced courses as well as an in-school academy aimed at students enrolled in career and technical education, represents the best of Virginia schools. His education initiative also allows him to continue courting poor and rural communities, where such varied programs for seniors don't exist. Warner's success in wooing those parts of Virginia helped him win the governorship in 2001.

Robert G. Templin Jr., president of
Northern Virginia Community College, said giving students access to higher education earlier -- which could allow many to graduate from college in less than four years -- is a practical necessity as experts predict that far more students are preparing to apply to college than space will allow.

"The question looms before us," Templin said, "where will our children go to college?"

A plan to expand college credit sounded like a good idea to Robert Carlson, 17, one of the students who spoke with Warner. He fears that his top choice colleges, including
Duke University and the University of Virginia, will not honor the advanced classes he is taking at Marshall. "I'm doing six hours of homework a night and getting five hours of sleep, and there's no college credit for it," he said.


State Backs School District Secession Bid
Panel OKs a local vote on a neighborhood's proposal to split from
Centinela Valley
By Jean Merl,
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer, 9/10/04

The state Board of Education handed a key victory to leaders in a small
South Bay elementary school district Thursday by authorizing a local vote on their effort to split from the Centinela Valley Union High School District.

The board's vote, unanimous except for one abstention, gives voters in the 2,000-student
Wiseburn School District, just south of Los Angeles International Airport, the final say in whether to add a high school to their strong-performing system, which spans kindergarten through eighth grade.

"This means we can provide our children with a better opportunity," John R. Peterson, one of the leaders of the secession campaign, said shortly after the board's vote.

The election will be held in March, and, if voters approve the measure, officials expect to open a high school for Wiseburn no later than fall, 2006. Officials said they could start with a campus currently leased to a youth soccer organization and decide later whether to build a facility.

The racially diverse district includes the Holly Glen neighborhood in western
Hawthorne and the unincorporated communities of Del Aire and Wiseburn.

The vote disappointed
Centinela Valley officials, who had argued that residents of the entire high school district, not just the Wiseburn portion, should be allowed to cast ballots. The high school district is made up of three other elementary systems in addition to Wiseburn — Hawthorne, Lawndale and Lennox.

"I'm very discouraged," Centinela Valley Supt. Cheryl M. White said, noting that Wiseburn provides a large chunk of the tax base for the entire high school district. Its departure would slice deeply into the remaining district's ability to pass bond measures for repairing campuses and building schools.

Wiseburn leaders said they were tired of waiting for major achievement gains in the 7,500-student
Centinela Valley district, which, though improving, still lags state and county averages on the California testing system. Wiseburn's four small schools test well above the average.

Both sides sent contingents to
Sacramento to argue their positions at Thursday's meeting. In the end, the board followed the Department of Education staff's recommendation to allow the election and to limit it to Wiseburn voters.

A crucial factor in limiting the voting to within the Wiseburn district was the secession leaders' promise that their district's property owners would continue paying their share of a $59-million bond measure passed in 2000, even though the newly reconfigured district would take none of the schools or other buildings belonging to Centinela Valley.

Both sides agree that limiting the election to Wiseburn district voters strongly enhances the proposal's chances at the ballot box. But getting an election, even one with favorably drawn boundaries, does not guarantee success.

In the
South Bay city of Carson, backers of a drive to secede from the sprawling Los Angeles Unified School District won state permission for a local vote. But, underfunded and poorly organized, they saw their measure trounced in November 2001 when United Teachers Los Angeles bankrolled a well-run campaign against it.

In the Wiseburn case, the high school district's teachers are expected to fight the split, while Wiseburn teachers are in favor of it.

For Peterson and other leaders in the secession drive, Thursday's vote marked one of the final hurdles in a three-year campaign to bring the issue to voters.

"It took a lot of time away from my marriage and my kids," Peterson said as he and other leaders prepared to take some Wiseburn students on a post-vote tour of the Capitol. "I'm just grateful my wife has been so supportive — and that I'm still married to her."



ED REVIEW / September 10, 2004
Ed Review is a bi-weekly update on U.S. Department of Education activities relevant to the Intergovernmental and Corporate community and other stakeholders


The next "Education News Parents Can Use" broadcast (September 21, 8:00-9:00 ET) marks the beginning of the third full school year under the No Child Left Behind Act, and, already, the benefits to America's school children are evident.  Indeed, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading tests are well above levels recorded in 1998 and 2000; African-American, Hispanic, and low-income students account for the most significant improvement in NAEP scores; and students in the largest urban school systems showed significant improvement in reading and math in the initial year of the law.  This good news will be the focus of the broadcast, as the program explores why the first and most important goal of education should be to ensure that every child develops proficiency in reading.  The live discussion and videotaped reports will examine ways schools and families can help students develop the knowledge, skills, and habits needed to master literacy skills, as well as underscore the critical role of highly qualified teachers in improving reading achievement. 
 (As always, you can watch live and archived webcasts of each show at



Caught up in the money?  "Federal Support for Education: Fiscal Years 1980 to 2003" provides a comprehensive picture of total federal financial support for education since the U.S. Department of Education was created in May 1980.  Excluding tax benefits, federal support rose to $171 billion in fiscal year 2003, an increase of $108.2 billion, or 172 percent, since fiscal year 1990.  After adjusting for inflation, federal support rose 102 percent.  Notably, the Education Department accounts for less than half the "on budget" federal funding for education. 


A record 37 percent of the 1.4 million college-bound seniors who took the SAT exam last school year were minorities -- up from 31 percent in 1994 -- and the percentage of first-generation college-bound seniors grew to 38 percent of all testers, 53 percent of black testers, and 69 percent of Hispanic testers.  In addition, despite this challenge, the average score remained unchanged from 2003: 1026 out of 1600.  At the same time, minority students did not keep pace with their white peers, whose 2004 score was 1059, 20 points higher than in 1994.  African-American students' scored 857, an eight point improvement over the decade.  Mexican-American students' scored 909, a three point improvement over the decade.  After Asian students, American Indian students showed the best 10-year improvement: 28 points. 
 (Secretary Paige's statement is available at



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